Physiotherapy & exercise

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Climbing For Life 2013: The day I succeeded at climbing the Col du Galibier

The 31st of August 2013 will remain as an epic day for me: the day I succeeded at climbing the Col du Galibier.

Not only that day itself, but also the months of preparation, this challenge required of me. This period, for me, stands for "gaining control." 

I was in search of a challenge for 2013, since I was ‘forced’ to look for a new (less challenging) job which had a lower impact on my health and subsequently on my social life. I came across an article about Climbing for Life: a physical challenge to ride the Col du Galibier by bike, something that was new to me.

After a selection procedure, the project started under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Dupont and Energy Lab, a training center for (non-) professional cyclists and runners. It gave me confidence that professionals would be following us.

The first step in the program was a physical test to get a look on my fitness. The results were bad, which meant I wouldn’t be able to reach the top of the Galibier. Nevertheless, I started training with my dad with a program set out by Energy Lab, the program was specifically catered to my needs, to get me ready to be able to reach the top.

Monitoring my heart was the key to building up my fitness and soon I was training more than 8 – 10 hours a week. During the weekends we went to different areas in Belgium, in search of some hills. Our group contained my family and friends, which made the experience not only one of physical hardship, but also of great fun and fond memories.

We also had a few training sessions with the other CF patients, a bunch of positive and driven people with the same goal.

After two months I took a second test, my fitness was better but still not good enough to reach my goal. I continued to train even more, which resulted in an inflammation in my knees. I also felt tired and my resistance was weakened, since I had to combine a full time job and constant training.

On the other hand, I felt so amazing on my bike: I had more energy when I was cycling, with the sun, the wind and the rain in my face. At the beginning of August I had my third and final fitness test: exciting but also terrifying. The results were better than expected: my fitness was great and theoretically I should be able to conquer the Galibier.

After a tiring drive to Valloire, we reached the small town which had one theme: Climbing for Life. The atmosphere was positive. On Friday we did a test drive with the CF patients, which was confronting for me. My heart rate was through the roof, I was nervous and I was tired after 6 (out of the 18) kilometers. After a good night sleep I was calmer than ever and ready to start. This was no sprint, but a marathon. 

I cycled on my own pace and my heart rate was within the right range. After 10 kilometers (of not seeing the top of the Galibier), my dad and I reached Plan Lachat and I felt good. At this point, the top was visible, with its various hairpin turns and plateaus filled with cyclist. Above the clouds I was able to see the top, where my family and friends were waiting and cheering. After a little bite I was ready to go. We went on, kilometer by kilometer, taking a sip at every turn. The view was amazing and we were surpassing the clouds.

The last 3 kilometers were very difficult since the air was very thin, which made it a little difficult to breath. I was getting closer and closer to my goal, for which I have been working for months. Only 450 meters to go and I could hear my friends: time for the sprint! Reaching the summit was exhilarating. This was the crowning achievement of my hard work.

When I got home I went to the hospital for a check-up: my long capacity was 11% more than it was before I started cycling. This is the icing on the cake and the reason why I will continue cycling from now on.

The next Climbing for Life will take place at the Tourmalet in France: I hope to see you all there!

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Climbing For Life 2013. WikiCF was there!
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