Sunday, 5 April 2015

You shouldn't have to pedal down hill!

You shouldn't have to pedal down hill!

That was what I was thinking after 4 hours of cycling up and down the Meon Valley in the wind and rain last Sunday 29th March!

Once again the British weather got it completely wrong on the day. The previous couple of weeks had been beautifully lulling me into a false sense of hope that I would be able to smash my time, and put to bed my disappointment from 2 years ago.

Yes, the Meon Valley Riser sportive had come round again.
This is the write up of my attempt two years where I had just missed the 4 hour mark, finishing in 4:07.
I wanted to smash 4 hours this time.

During the week leading up to the event the weather was slowly turning worse, with rain and strong winds forecast for the weekend. Regular checks of every weather website I could think of made no difference, it was going to be bad.

To make matters worse I was due to be sharing some of the pain with Nick, but sensibly he got food poisoning a few days before and opted for the shelter of his en-suite.
His brother Chris was doing the event, but was going with his even madder mate and doing the 104 mile route.

The event is quite small, with usually only about 300 riders taking part, so when I turned up I was quite surprised to see so few cars. As it turned out only just over 100 people were stupid enough to battle 30mph winds.

Check-in was nice and easy, I didn't have any of the porridge on offer as I had already eaten. While I was getting my bike ready Chris and Rob turned up. I thought about waiting for them so we could set off together but decided there was no point as they would disappear into the gloom as soon as we hit the first of many hills.

The dream was to fall in with a group of riders, all going at a similar pace, so we could all share the work load, but it never really happened. I managed to hitch a ride every now and then, fully prepared to do my bit at the front, but I always got left on the hills.

After about 22 miles you come to the feed station. On the 47 mile route there is only one, on the longer routes there are 3. As I said it is a small event, and the feed station consisted of a couple of old blokes on a village green, with a table handing out bananas, flapjacks and sports drinks. I was more than happy with this, but Chris did mention that by the third feed station he was bored of the same choice. Another criticism is that there weren't any toilet facilities, which meant you had to make another stop somewhere on the course.

As the name suggest, the Riser is quite hilly, combined with strong winds, which, as always, seem to be head winds, it was relentless. I had to stop to stretch a few times, but I still thought I was in with a chance of beating my previous time of 4:07.

I actually seemed to get stronger towards the end, and even started over taking some people. I have been doing quite a lot of strength work in the gym at work, and that seemed to be helping.

But then I got the dreaded back wheel wobble.
Yes, I had a puncture. It's not surprising as there was so much rubbish and flint on the road. It happened right out side a farm, which had a proper, smell of nature which meant I was gagging while trying to change my tyre.

It didn't take too long, and I set off with about 5 miles left to go, including Crooked Walk Lane, which is an horrendous hill.
There was someone in front of me, and I had to fight the urge to try to catch him, and settled down to a nice, slow, steady rhythm. I find that counting out the pedal turns to ten seems to work for me, and just focus on the road directly ahead.
I did look up and saw that the person in front had just got off at the steepest part.
This wasn't going to happen to me.

I've done the hill before, it hurts, but I know where the end is.

1, 2, 3, shut up legs, 3, 4, 5, bloody headwinds, 6, 7, 8, is that the end? 9, 10 yes it is I'm at the top

Well chuffed!

Only a couple of miles left, most downhill so should be easy.

The wind had other ideas.
The last bit is along the top of Portsdown Hill so very exposed, and this is where I had to pedal to keep moving down hill.
The route turns right half way down the hill, but I didn't have to brake to slow down for the junction, just stop pedaling and the wind did the rest.

Eventually got to the finish line, heard the reassuring beep that my timing chip had worked, and went to get my time.
A lot slower than two years ago.

I put my bike away and then went to hand my bits in. I wasn't planning on having any of the food provided, but there wasn't a queue, so why not.
So I was sat in a school hall, on a chair a bit too low for a adult, eating beans and toast from a polystyrene burger box, with a plastic spoon and drinking a hot, sweet coffee from a plastic cup.
One of the best meals I've had in ages!

The company does a few other events throughout the year. I would recommend them. Similar to the Wiggle events, but a few hundred riders rather than a few thousand

Part of me is gutted about my time, but another part of me is impressed that I made it round at all considering the conditions.

There is always next year.


Sunday, 22 February 2015

The power of crystals

I know a lot of people believe in the power of crystals but it wasn't these type of crystals that stopped me cycling as much as I would have liked in January, and gave me a big headache in February.

I was stopped by Ice Crystals and Uric Acid Crystals.

In December I came off my bike on some black ice and it seems to have shook me up a bit, so it was just the excuse I needed not to cycle into work that often. I only managed 2 commutes compared with 11 last January.

For those of you luckily enough not to know about Uric Acid Crystals, they are more commonly known as gout, which is horrible. I don't get it too bad, but this attack was in my big toe on my left foot. Walking was painful and the thought of putting on a tight fitting cycling shoe was unthinkable.

50 Miler a Month Challenge.

While out on New Year's Eve I came up with the idea of riding at least one ride of more than 50 miles each month of 2015. I got the idea from a few people who did a 100 mile ride a month last year, maybe next year.

Because of the gout I left it till the last Saturday of January, which wasn't the nicest of days.

I managed to rope in Chris and his brother Nick, who I did the trip around the Isle of Wight with last year.

I got to Chris' house about 9 'clock and shortly afterwards Nick turned up on his mountain bike, as he was concerned about his brakes on his new road bike. After convincing Chris to put on another layer we set off.

Within a couple of miles we realised that Nick, not only had fat tyres, but he hadn't pumped them up and it was making it real hard work for him. We decided to pop into Peter Hansford bike shop, and they kindly pumped up his tyres, which made a massive difference.

The clearer weather I had seen forecasted never really materialised and it was cold and wet most of the way around.

Nick battled on for about 20 miles but then decided to head home. Fair play to him, he go up Old Winchester Hill and then turned round.

Chris and I carried on and stopped at The Sustainability Centre on the top of Old Winchester Hill for a well earn pot of tea and cake.

When we set off it was freezing, and the first few miles were down hill so we couldn't do any hard pedalling to warm up. I was wearing a thin head scarf, but because it was wet it really hurt my head. Eventually it we got to the bottom of the hill and could start peddling again.

We went through a village called Hambledon, and even though it was freezing it was a lot nicer than when we last went though.
The previous time was last year during all the floods. Cycling through the High Street was like cycling down a stream and virtually every house was flooded with pipes coming out of windows and letter boxes to clear the water. Very depressing.

Once we were over Portsdown Hill we had warmed and the temperature was rising so it was quite a nice ride back till the last couple of miles along the seafront at Lee on Solent.
You come around the corner to a lovely view of the Solent, but we hit a monster head wind, not what you need for the last couple of miles of a big ride.
Chris was being mad as usually and had decided to do the whole ride without changing gear. He was paying the price a bit by now, so I dropped down a gear and dragged him home in my rather large slipstream.

Overall it was a good ride, a bit stop start especially considering the conditions, but good fun.

More Icecapades

My plan is to write a post at least once a month, reviewing the previous month, so this is a bit like a footnote as I had started writing this post a few weeks ago.
It has been quite an emotional week for myself and my family, and I didn't want to dig it all up again next month.

Last Tuesday I decided to cycling into work again for only the first time in February. Big mistake.

As I was walking out to the garage I noticed it was a bit icy and did think about going the short route along the busier roads, but opted for the more scenic route. I noticed a couple of times when my back wheel was twitching a bit but still carried on.

Two hours later I was a home, unsure what had happened in the last two hours.

From what I can work out I came off hard on black ice. I would expected to have sore wrists or elbows but I think my helmet took the full brunt of the fall.

This is what I've been told or can work out from phone records and paperwork, but I have no recollection.
I called my wife and that I stopped Strava on my phone, not sure which order though. I then waited about 20 minutes for an ambulance, and spent the best part of an hour in that. By this time my wife had turned up, and when the paramedic was happy, she took me home. It was half term so my daughter was at home, but I didn't recognise her, so my wife call on a friend to look after her.
I then started asking questions, and then asking the same question many times, much to my wife's annoyance.

Don't worry the bike is ok, a slight buckle in the front wheel.

I am shaken up. I have been knocked out before, once on a bike, but more times on the rugby pitch. But they were all in my youth when I didn't have other people to think about. The thing that upset me the most was that I really upset my daughter when I didn't recognise her.

I have ordered a new helmet, so I will be back on the bike soon, but not rushing things. From know on it there is ice on the car windscreens, I will be taking the car not the bike.

Unfortunately it will probably mean that I won't be able to do a 50 mile ride in February, so might have to double up one month when it is warmer.

Because of my helmet I have walked away, albeit a bit wobbly to start off with, with a few cuts and bruises and the loss of a couple of hours of my life. I don't really want to think how I would have been if I wasn't wearing a helmet.
They aren't that flattering, but are a lot nicer than those hospital gowns that do up at the back and I'm sure I would have been wearing one of those for a while if I hadn't been wearing a helmet.

Please always wear a helmet!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Guest Writers Wanted

I'm looking for guest writers for my blog, have you got a story you want to share?
Where's the best place you've cycled to?
What's your greatest achievement? How did you do it?
What great things are you going to do this year?

I don't mind if you're a fellow blogger, I'm happy to add links back to your own blog, or someone who's got a great message but doesn't know how to share it.

It doesn't have to be cycling related but needs to be funny, motivational or inspiring. No sales pitches please.

I'm doing this to boost the content on this blog as I don't always have the time or ideas to post as often as I would like.
I will have the final say in what I post but I won't do any editing without your permission.
The ideal length would be so that it only takes a few minutes to read, if it is longer I might post it in two parts.

I'm not asking for anything in return, I just think we can learn from everyone if we are ready to just listen.

"Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on."
Louis L'Amour

Email me your stories

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Review of my 2014

Looking back it's been a good year for cycling. 
190 miles more than last year (the table includes my short lived affair with running). It is just dampened a bit by the last couple of months due to injury.

Drive or Ride?

The figures clearer show which month we got our second car. 
In January to March I had little choice but to cycle to work, but in April I had a choice and I'm ashamed to admit it I chose the car more often than I should have. It is mad that I cycled to work more in March that I did in the nicer summer months.


The best ride has to be the BHF Goodwood Ridecheck the link for more details, where I got to ride with family and friends around Goodwood race track. They haven't released dates for the event this year, but we're keen to do it again.

The next best was the one around the Isle of Wight. It is my longest ride to date at 85 miles and it was a great day out.

I did manage to go out for a few rides with my brother, one was up in Dulwich Park on Banana Bikes. 

This was considerably nicer than the cliff he tried to get me up. 
It was a short road in north Devon, I don't know how the tarmac stuck to the hill it was that steep. I had to stop and walk, it wasn't just my legs screaming at me, even my ears were hurting.

And then the wheels came off

In November I decided to do some weight training to help with my power to weight ratio. I started doing the Stronglifts 5x5 program where you add a small amount of weight each workout.
It was all going well till my right knee went wrong, so I decided to rest up to give it a chance to get better. This obviously effected my monthly figures for November and December.
It is still a bit sore but nearly right, and I got bored and started cycling which hasn't made it worse.
My brother suggested trying some yoga, especially the pigeon pose. 

This is what it is meant to look like

But this is probably more how I look at the moment.

It does seem to working, but it has highlighted how inflexible I am, especially on my right side.

The scales of justice

I weighed myself for the first time in two months on January 1st and I've gone up to 121kg, from 111kg at my lowest last year. 
I wasn't that surprised as I've had a relaxed Christmas, but the build up wasn't helped by being injured.
Now I know I should have kept doing some sort of exercise, it was only my knee that was sore, but I was really enjoying doing the squats and dead-lifts so got a bit fed up and did nothing instead.


I still think getting down to sub 100kg is still possible, it is less than half a kilo a week which is achievable.

I'm going to cycle into work as much as possible, just need to man up more often.
I plan to do a 50 mile bike ride at least once a month.
I will go to the gym at work Monday, Wednesday and Friday as long as I am in the office on those days.

Paleo or not Paleo, that is the question?

Whatever the answer, diet is the most important part of losing weight. 
You can't out train a bad diet. 
An average cyclist will burn about 600 calories an hour, that is the same as a 6" pizza, and who eats one that small?

If you're ensure the Paleo diet is going back to eating like a caveman, so meat and vegetables. Two people at work have lost a lot of weight but it just feels a bit too extreme for me. I have also suffered from gout so I am concerned about eating too much meat.

I do agree with the basics that we eat too much processed foods, so I'm going to try to cut out bread and pasta, which did make up a large part of my diet. However I am going to still eat rice and potatoes, which aren't on their lists, but much smaller portions. I will also try alternatives like quinoa as it a good source of protein and fewer carbs and calories than rice.

It is more of a change of mindset, I still eat how I did when I was playing rugby and carbs were in fashion.

This year I'm going for a balanced diet of natural foods and be more active.

As always thanks for your comments and support.

I hope that 2015 is all that you want it to be.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

How far have you come?

2 years ago it felt like it nearly killed me, but now I realise it is completely the opposite!

Yesterday as I was walking out to the garage for an easy bike ride along the coast I suddenly changed my mind and decided to go up Portsdown Hill to Fort Nelson.
I then decided to see how far I have come in the last two years.

February 2012

Haribo Joe had finally convinced me to go for a bike ride with him and let me choose the route. I decided to push myself my going up Portsdown Hill which overlooks Portsmouth. I wanted to keep it interesting for him as he was doing a lot of cycling at the time.

It is a 12 mile round trip, with a "mountain" to climb to get to the half way point.

The total time was 1 hour 47, but the total riding time was 1 hour 22. I needed a very good rest at the top of the hill. This is where my profile photo was taken.

I came back a broken man.

But is was the start.

October 2014

I have done the route in 54:45 so I knew I had to really push it to beat this time. I really focused on getting back up to speed after junctions etc.

"It never gets easier, you just faster."

It hurt!

Normally when I get back into Stubbington I ease off to cool down, but not this time I was pushing all the way as I had a time to beat.

My time was 53:00!
This is the segment on Strava for more details Fort Nelson Segment

While looking at the results it did hit me that I have cycled from fat to fit as the title of the blog promises.

That first ride didn't nearly kill me, it started me on a great journey to become a lot fitter.

As you can see I have started running.

I decided to do this as I wanted to mix things up. Cycling is great but you are stuck in one position all the time, not working all the stabilising muscles.

I'm doing the couch to 5k program, using the NHS podcasts. The music is very cheesy but it is simple, you don't have to worry about timings.
You run a bit and then walk a bit and repeat, doing the same run 3 times a week and then the next week the amount of running increases a bit.

The first two weeks went ok, but it stirred things up in my hips/pelvis where I have had previous issues. 
I expected this and should have done a lot more stretching to compensate.

On Friday afternoon my right ankle started hurting and I could hardly walk, but I knew with a lot of stretching it would be sorted. Saturday it was feeling a lot better, Sunday is was nearly right.

However I was so focused on sticking to the plan of doing 3 runs a week that I went for a run on Sunday when I really shouldn't have.
It was also the first run of week 3, with quite a big jump up in the amount of running.
It was feeling ok, but then I felt something go.
Yes I should have stopped and walked home, but for some stupid reason I didn't which probably made it worse.

It is on the mend, and I will repeat some if not all of week 2 again when it is ready. There is no rush.

My weight is stuck at 112.5kg.
My heaviest was 134kg, so I am really pleased with a loss of over 21kg, but I need to lose more.
I'm going to start using the MyFitnessPal app seriously again to track my food, and even look at reducing carbs as I do know they make up too much of my calorie intake.

I'm in a much better place than I was two years ago, what will the next two years bring?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

BHF Goodwood 2014

"Bike ride on my birthday, yeah"

Now if I had said this it would be a good thing, unfortunately it was my daughter's views about doing the BHF Goodwood 2014 ride on her birthday.
Not impressed having to exercise on her eleventh birthday.

Tough, we're doing it.

The ride is something I had read about where you can ride around the famous motor circuit at Goodwood to raise money for BHF. It hasn't happened for a few years so most of us were pleased to see it was happening again.

We managed to get 3 other families signed up so there were 8 adults and 7 kids.

This is my poor effort at photo editing for the Just Giving page. I got bored.

As it was Lilly's birthday, and she was soo keen, we didn't want to get up too early so we got there at 11.
On the way over Lilly said she would aim to do 4 laps of the 2.4 mile circuit, but wouldn't enjoy it!

The event starts at 10 so it was already busy with cyclists of all shapes, sizes and ages whizzing around the track.
They ranged from athletes on time trial bikes and pointy helmets to toddlers with stabilizers.

So we set up our Feed Station and then set off.

As you can imagine it is a beautiful surface to cycle on, no pot holes, lovely sweeping bends and no #bloodymotorists.

We all settled in to our own rhythm, doing laps with different people at different speeds. Stopping for a drink and a feed and then carrying on when ready.

We made the mistake of taking a BBQ, wasted cycling time!

I did a couple of fast laps with Chris and Richie. It was great to be able tuck in behind someone without having worry about them swerving to miss something. We got some good speeds.

I also did some great laps with Lilly. The whole event really helped her confidence on a bike, she actually learnt how to ride no handed.
There was one lovely corner, slightly downhill with the wind behind you where you could really get some speed up.
On one lap Lilly and I decided to go for it and she got up to 24mph which she was really pleased about.

My wife Kate, had suddenly decided she could bake and made some amazing scones for a nice cream tea. She also brought Lilly's favourite, profiteroles which meant we had the best Feed Station ever.

Team Sky could learn a thing or two!

The track closes at 4 so there was a mad rush to get in an extra lap. They did let one person do an extra lap so that he could break the 100 mile mark for the day.

Between us we did about 500 miles with some impressive distance covered by the kids.

I only did 15 laps. Part of me wishes I had done more but then I loved the laps I did with Lilly, it was real quality time together which we both needed.

On the drive home I asked Lilly how she did against her target. She did 11 laps or 26.4 miles and she actually enjoyed it and wants to do more laps next year!

It is a geat event, really well organised with all the support you'd expect. Yes you are going round in circles but the views are nice and we were lucky enough to see a WW2 plane take off and land a few times.

We are planning to do it again next year but aim to get there earlier so we can smash our distances.

The is the link to the girls Just Giving Page if you would like to support BHF.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Five Ferries And A Lot Of Hills!

Which jacket should I take?

This is what was running through my head at 4 o'clock in the morning, listening to the rain hammer down. In the end I should have been worried about what factor sunscreen to wear.

This was the morning of Saturday 12th June, the day we had chosen to tackle the Isle of Wight.
At first it was just myself and Chris, but then Nick, his brother, and Ritchie signed up for the pain as well.

Chris is mad
At the end of last year he started joining me for rides and we were equally matched. Only problem was that he was only on an old mountain bike. He then stopped feeding his kids for a few months so he could buy a new road bike.
Things aren't so equal any more.
He now loves hills, so much so that he decided to do the Strava climbing challenge in one day. This involved going up and down the same hill 25 times for 7 hours for a little badge on Strava.

Nick rides an old mountain bike, things are equal at the moment.

I hadn't ridden with Ritchie before but I knew he was pretty fit so I wasn't expecting much equality here.

It worked out quite well on the ride. We stuck together most of the time but every now and then Chris and Ritchie would shoot off, leaving myself and Nick to plod along, which was to our advantage at one stage .

The Grand Depart

We met at 8 and set off to Gosport to catch the first of our five ferries. We were worried about extra numbers of festival goers on the Portsmouth to Fishbourne ferry but once we had got past the Hi-viz Hitler we sailed on.
It was on the ferry that the clockwise/anticlockwise discussion started. Apparently Ritchie struggles turning right.
We decided to follow Chris's new garmin, a bit of a mistake.

We disembarked and set of up the first of many hills.
At the top of the hill, at the lights the signposts said right but Chris and his garmin were shouting left, so we went left.
I had been advised not to go into Ryde as it is tricky to get out of but I hadn't mentioned this to Chris and his garmin route started from and more importantly finished at Ryde.
So we followed Chris down into Ryde where his garmin congratulated us for completing the course. He couldn't work out how to start it again, to be honest we didn't give him much chance, only a load of abuse.

We then decided to go low tech.
Keep the sea on our left and guess.

I wish I had studied a map before hand so I had some sort of idea of where we were but all I know is that it is a great place to cycle.
There are some good climbs but you are rewarded with stunning views.
The roads are all in pretty good condition and on the whole traffic free. I'm sure the official route is even quieter, maybe next time.

Boys will be boys

At one stage Chris and Ritchie felt the need for speed and shot off. Like responsible adults Nick and I told them to follow the signs.

As we were going along I suddenly saw a sign telling us to turn left. It was half way down a nice long gentle slope, the sort of slope down which you could really go for it.
Straight away we knew they would have missed the turning.

Do we phone them and wait or carry on and let them catch us up?

After about an hour and a few phone calls they finally caught us up.
They had got lost again.

We then stopped for lunch at The Sun Inn in Hulverston. We had gone nearly forty miles by then so we all needed it. Good honest pub food.

Must we?

This is how we all felt getting back on our bikes after lunch. It was tough.
Luckily it was quite a gentle stretch to start with but then you get onto Military Road where the road snakes along the side of a cliff.
Amazing views but a lot of climbing.

Someone then had the great idea to "pop" down to the Needles. Stranglely even though you are heading to the end of the Island it is up hill.
Even stranger is that it is up hill on the way back.

Once again our lack of planning cost us.
We knew the route tooks us along the coast from Yarmouth to Cowes so we ignored the signs taking us inland. Little did we know that the official route cut back across the road we chose.
I got a sudden burst of energy and went to the front and pushed on, dropping Chris and Nick. I don't know where it came from but it didn't last. If it wasn't for a big bag of jelly babies I would have been in trouble.

The road we chose took us into Newport and then down to Cowes. It was busy, boring and up hill.

We had a nice wait for the Cowes chain ferry, which is free for pedestrians and cyclists so it gave us a chance to re-group for the final, up hill stretch to Fishbourne.

Once again Chris and Ritchie shot off, but when we got to the port there was a ferry ready to leave but no Ritchie.
He's a nice bloke but I wasn't going to wait for him.
Luckily he turned up just in time.

After another long sit down on the ferry we had to cycle back from Gosport. I've done the 7 mile route loads of times but this was the hardest.

Nearly an ice bath!

Ritchie did text me later that evening with some advice as I had been suffering from cramp.
He recommended drinking 3 or 4 lires of water.
Unfortunately it was a bit late, I was already on the cidre by then!

Would I do it again?

But I would be a bit more prepared and follow the signs.

The total ride was 85 miles. Strava shows 95 as it includes the ferries. 14 of the miles are to and from Gosport this side. It is a lovely place to cycle. Fairly quite roads, challenging hills but rewarding views.

I hope you get a chance to give it a go!