Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Sunday, 1 June 2008
OK, time for a rethink and some re-focusing.
I feel a bit out at sea at sea moment. From January, I had the shock of being the size of a whale motivate me. With this motivation I made some radical changes to my diet and exercise levels. Thankfully my weight fell quickly, adding to my motivation. As the following couple of months passed, the weight was falling almost despite what I did (or so I thought, but in reality I think I had just changed my habits enough to make the difference).
Into March my focus started to shift onto the goal of the 81 mile Etape
Training and weight loss are two balls that are harder to juggle than I thought. The harder I worked at the cycling, the hungrier I was, and the more slack I gave myself as to what I could eat. So while I managed to ditch over a stone in the first six weeks, I only lost a further eight pounds from the middle of March to the Etape on 18th May, even though I was cycling my ass off, literally. When I rolled up to the start line on May18th I weighed in at a still hefty 16 stone 4lb. I had mixed feelings about this, as my target was a good 10 to 12 lb lighter than that. Weight makes a huge difference to cycling; people pay hundreds or even thousands on bikes that are lighter than the average by onto a kilogram or so. I was carrying maybe 16 kilos extra than a normal person would, or 20 kilos more (44 lb) than a serious cyclist would. That made me nervous. But my training had gone well; I had completed a 65 mile training ride, and could easily do 25 the 30 miles on an evening, so I wasn't too worried (maybe 5 out of 10 on the panicometer). I think I am as fit or fitter now than I have been at any time in my life, so I had that to balance out with falling short on the weight target. On the whole, I’m well pleased.
But the thing is, the Etape is now in the past, but the job has not been completed. The weight loss has to continue. This is a war in which I have won a significant battle, but there is no point in stopping now. I need to have a healthy lifestyle; I want to be cyclist, not a ‘fat cyclist’, or a fat runner or a fat swimmer. I need to loose another 2 stone to loose the ‘fat’ prefix, 3 stone to replace it with ‘fit’.
So I need to reboot my training program. I need another goal far enough away that I can start again, focus on my weight again for a couple of months; but with a goal looming in the future to add the glue that will keep me motivated. So I’m looking at a few things which I’ll write about later, something in September or October would be best I think.
Meanwhile, its time to get serious again about loosing weight. I’ve got a new powerfu weapon, fitness. But is it a weapon for good or evil? On the bike, I feel compelled to try and improve my times (average speed mostly; it used to be 14 mph, now its 17mph). So when I go out I tend to try hard, and not surprising, afterwards my legs hurt. I was out yesterday and despite planning to take it easy and enjoy the weather, I ended up blasting (well, kinda) up the hills, and soon enough I was working pretty hard. All well and good, you may think, but because of that, I didn’t go out today because my legs were sore and tired; not productive at all really. Weight must be my priority, and consequently, speed must take a back seat for a while.
But how the hell do I stop myself from trying so hard? Answers on a postcard please.
Anyway, tomorrow is reboot day. Excel comes back out, the scales come back out, the soup comes back out. Let the obsession re-commence.
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
The last five weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster. The training was going well, I had completed a 38 mile cycle over hills and everything was looking good. Then I caught the flu (not man flu, proper flu), and that was that until 2 weeks ago. I pretty much didn’t go near the bike for 3 weeks. So 14 days ago I found myself hardly capable of riding the 10 miles to work, never mind the 81 miles I needed to complete on Sunday. Thankfully the fitness I had built up was still lurking under the surface, and by last weekend I had managed 65 miles over flattish terrain in just over 4 hours. It was the best I could manage.
Sunday morning was really cold. My fingers were numb before we started, so I was a bit nervous about whether I was dressed warmly enough. The sky was clear and the sun was shining, so I couldn’t complain too much. Before I knew it, my group was waved to the start line and after a bit of a struggle we were ready to go. It really was something to look back down the street and see nothing but bikes, helmets and every colour of lycra you could imagine. The tension in the air was electric. There was no gun or flag; just a shout of 'GO' and away my group of 100 went. We rolled up the hill out of Pitlochry, took a sharp left after a mile or so and headed west. I shook my head and wondered what the hell I was doing, 80 miles to go.
It didn’t take me long to realise that my legs were anything but fresh. Oh dear. My left thigh felt particularly fatigued. The first 20 miles are quite hilly, but after that you get 30 miles of virtually flat riding. I knew I could do the first 20, regardless of how my legs felt, and with a long flat after that, I’d just wait and see how things shook out.
As the miles passed, I didn’t feel any worse. But while I rode I couldn’t help thinking about the main climb of the day, up Schiehallion, which started about mile 47. It seemed a long way away, and somewhat impossible. I tried to put it out of my mind, I had to get there first.
At mile 20 the small group I had got into rolled through Kinloch Rannoch. There was a fair number of people cheering us on at the roadside. I smiled and waved as we went by, but I couldn’t help but think that all the shouts of ‘well done’ were a little premature as we had only covered a quarter of the course. But the thought was appreciated. As we rode out of the village, the view over the Loch was stunning. There was hardly any breeze, so the water was like glass. We could see ten miles up the glen to the far end, with nothing but spectacularly rugged lush countryside to look at all the way. That was where we were going, up the north side of the Loch then back down the south shore, all along perfectly quiet, flat and windy roads. Wonderful.
I forget about the tiredness in my legs for a while. I slotted in behind number 933 and let him do most of the work (thanks 933, much appreciated!). We zoomed along the meandering road that hugged the waters edge, taking the corners without fear of the cars or coaches that would normally be found in these quiet little roads. Larger, fitter groups came up behind us, swallowing us for a second, before spitting us out the back of the pack again. In turn, we caught a few stragglers and our group grew a little. The miles rolled by easily.
Once we reached the end of Loch Rannoch we turns back and headed East again. In the distance grew the ominous shape of that big ‘hill’, Schiehallion. My stomach turned at the thought of the pain I was soon going to be climbing that. I passed the halfway mark (mile 41) without noticing, thinking only of how I was going to tackle the climb ahead. At mile 45 someone passed me, and just as the road tilted slightly upwards and disappeared round a bend, he shouted the immortal words ‘here we go!’ I knew exactly what he meant.
I eased off a little and let the group leave me behind. I needed some room. I picked a low gear and made my way up the gentle rise. My legs didn’t feel much worse than when I’d started, and I’d made sure to eat and drink over the preceding few miles, but I honestly didn’t know if I would have enough in the tank to climb the next 3 miles. I can actually climb OK if I take it slowly and steadily, but when things get too steep I can’t keep the momentum up and I grind to a halt. I find it next to impossible to get going again once I’ve stopped on a slope.
Anyway, I cruised round the bend and there it was, the first kick towards the heavens. I gritted my teeth, changed down to my easiest gear and started churning up the slope. It was hard, but I made it over the first crest. The road levelled out, not flat, but easier, and snaked through the trees. Another kick and another slow slog up. I was being passed by what felt like hundreds, but I didn’t care, I was just thinking about getting to the top. At the top of that kick I could see we were reaching the tree line. I needed to stop for a minute, but luckily nature was also calling (if you know what I mean) so using that as an excuse (to myself, no-one else cared) I pulled over before the next steep section and went for a walk in the trees.
Once I was back on the bike my legs felt better for the stretch and I attacked the next looming incline through the tree line with renewed gusto. That lasted for about 10 metres. I changed down to the easies gear again and resumed the agonising slog. Thankfully, I was just about over the worst of it. The road levelled out and although it continued to wind upwards as the landscape turned to boggy moorland and looming cliff faces, the incline was gentle enough for me to feel more comfortable. I took me 20 minutes to cover a little over 2 miles.
I caught my breath and took it easy for the next mile or so, glad that the worse was over. Strangely, I felt good. I was coming up on mile 50, the big climb was behind me and for the first time, I was sure I was going to finish. My legs no longer felt tired. It all seemed so effortless, weird.
The feed station was at mile 50. When planning how I was going to ride the Etape, I though I would stop there for a good 10 minutes to catch my breath and stretch my legs; but when it came to it, once I slowed to a stop and dismounted, all I wanted to do was get going again. I refilled my water bottles and went back to my bike. Just as I was getting ready to set off, there was a crash right in front of me as two riders came together, one trying to get to the feed station from far side of the road , the other zooming up the inside, intent on passing it by; a bit silly of both of them really. That held me back for a minute or two as they were untangled and dragged off the road. OK, I could have gone round the throng that had gathered to help, but it was too damned interesting not to watch.
So, off I went eventually, looking forward to my reward for making it to the top: the descent. A few miles of flat first, then the road tipped downwards. It was exhilarating and scary. A road bike is a finely balanced piece of kit, built for lightness and speed, but also having to support its rider. I’ve never been quite sure that mine was ever meant to hold a 230 lb rider. Well, we were about to find out. The only time I took my eyes off the road to look at my cycling computer it read '38 mph'. It was fun, and really something I would never attempt without closed roads. I got to use the whole road, with no fear of ploughing into a car or a tractor.
Soon enough the descent was over and I was back on the flat. Once I started having to work again, the good feeling in my legs quickly started to fade. By mile 60 I was feeling tired, but I managed to hook up with a guy who was happily spinning along at 20 mph. That was good enough for me. I tucked in behind and unashamedly let him pull me along in his draft. Actually, we got talking on and off, and while he did most of the front work, I took the odd turn. He was much stronger than I was.
At 70 miles the end seemed to be in sight (figuratively, anyway). 11 miles: the same distance from Stirling to Larbert, a distance I am well used to; and the road was flat enough that the hills were not a concern. I looked at my time; I was heading for 4h 40m. Before the start, I’d have taken 5h 30!
The miles just seemed to pass. At 74 miles I smiled for a photographer. I was tired, and I really should have had something to eat, I hadn’t had anything since the other side of Schiehallion, more than an hour and a half before. But it was only seven miles to the finish, easy.
Not easy at all, it turned out. There is a serious sting in the tale of this course. At Logierait, the flat road went straight on, but we were directed left, a sharp blind turn. I could see there was a rise, but I didn’t have time to sort my gears for what was round that corner. ‘The Cemetery hill’ a local later called it laughing as I told him what had happened to me. There may have actually been a cemetery there, but it was aptly named for how I felt about it. I ground to a halt and put a foot down 15 metres up its very steep rise. A spectator shouted that it wasn’t long, only over the crest and it flattened out again. That was good, because it was too steep for me to get going again. I was faced with walking back to the flat, getting going again in a better gear and having another go, or walking up it. Option two seemed stightly less humiliating, so I started walking.
Right enough, it was only about 100 metres to the crest. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but over the next 3 miles, there were another five similar hills. This was one of those quiet single-track roads that followed a straight line between two points, ignoring the contours of the landscape, forging a path regardles of terrain. I was either going up steeply or down steeply, and worryingly, I passed three guys who had punctured. I felt the frown forming across my forehead. I looked at my time and decided anything under 5 hours would do, so I would just work on getting to the finish carefully and in one piece. I was too tired for this terrain. I should definitely have had something to eat about 10 miles back, stupid really. Oh well, I’ll know better next year.
With 1 mile to go the road flattened into a nice long descent. I could see Pitlochry in front of me. I got to coast for a bit and catch my breath for the finish. The road into Pitlochry is up a hill, but as I approached it I didn’t care. It felt surreal, there were people shouting encouragement all along the road, and at the top, after cresting onto the finishing straight, I saw Mairi, Elena and Donald waving and cheering me in. What a feeling. I crossed the finish line and coasted into the finish area.
81 miles in 4 hour 54 minutes, and 6300 calories.
I looked at my watch, just after 12 pm. Time for lunch.
Monday, 7 April 2008
Today I had my best ride, ever. I wasn't even going to go out; I had work to do and I felt tired. And it was cold, with snow forecast for tonight!
I went out anyway, because I wanted to try a few things. You see, I went out yesterday and a few things annoyed me that I was determined to do something about.
- I had a squeaky bike. A liberal dose of lube seemed to do the trick here.
- I had a sore knee last night. I hate knee pain. I though about adjusting the cleats on my cycling shoes, but instead just loosened the peddle adjuster, making the shoes easier to clip in and out of, and giving them a bit more play when attached.
- I wanted to try a ride where my heart rate is about the same as it is on the exercise bike. In fact I wanted to try and mimic these conditions as closely as possible to see where I was at.
So today was a ride of discovery. I left the house and ambled along the road, took a right and headed towards the quiet roads. The funny thing about where I live is, if you can survive the first 500m or so, your pretty much safe, but in that 500m there's a dodgy junction, a shop with lots of cars parked outside on the street, some of which look like they have been abandoned in the middle of the road, then a busy roundabout that requires a right hand turn. I won't go into it know, but some day I'll mention what I feel about the practice of planners slapping roundabouts all over the place.
Anyway, I got off fine, and got down to the business of letting my heart rate and cadence take control. It's funny, but after spending so much time on an indoor exercise bike, spinning at about 95 rpm, with my heart rate about 140 bpm, my legs know what this feels like. So I found the whole process quite easy. If my legs felt too much resistance, I'd switch down a gear, it they were spinning to freely, I'd move up one. On hills, I'd gradually switch down to an easy gear. I'd allow my cadence to drop to 80 and my heart rate to rise a little, but make sure to give myself time to recover once I'd crested.
As for my fixes, the squeak is gone, and the shoe adjustments seem to have done the trick with the knee pain (although I'll still have to keep an eye out there). I also stopped a couple of times and made adjustments to my seat angle, and fingers crossed, that seems also to have made a big difference.
So all in all, a very good day on the bike.
I went out for a ride on Saturday on my newly repaired Trek bike. I went out in the late afternoon, mainly because I knew the traffic would be very quiet. I headed to my usual haunt, the flat land between Larbert and Airth. Now, as I have mentioned before, I’m talking flat, as in pancake. There is a hill, not a big one, but a hill none the less, and there is also a handy little circuit that you can do, about 3 miles, that incorporates this hill, over pretty much the quietest, bike friendly roads you are ever likely to find.
So I went looking for my hill. As well as the hill, there was a strong wind gusting in from the north, which meant it was cold. I was expecting quite a workout. I only had about 2 hours before it got dark, so I was fine with that. I used the few miles on the way to the circuit to warm up my legs, keeping a steady cadence of about 90 rpm, not worrying about speed, but keeping the resistance on my legs fairly light. Where would be plenty of time for pain later.
Where I start my circuit just so happens to be pretty much where the hill is, so the way it works out, I do a big effort followed by a couple of miles recovery, which is pretty good. The hill itself is fairly gradual, but before it there is a bridge which goes over nothing. I kid you not, it’s got grass under it and everything. I think there used to be a railway track there, but today there is nothing, other than the bridge. Not wanting to waste such an opportunity, I decided to use this steep little bridge for practicing getting out of the saddle and standing on the peddles, so I picked a tree, and as I passed it, clicked down a few gears and stood up, concentrating on keeping my pace and effort steady, and just as importantly, keeping the bike going in a straight line. Once over the bridge, I had a couple of hundred metres to get myself together before the hill. The idea is to ascend steadily, keeping my legs spinning. After topping the hill, it’s pretty easy going back round to the start.
I decided to go round 4 times. I was happy with my effort and performance, and finished off the 4 without incident. I was mildly aware that anyone looking out from the few cottages along the way, especially the two that line the hill, may have wondered about the sanity of the overweight guy decked out in a bright yellow top and black lycra that seemed to be perpetually passing by, always climbing the hill, but never coming back down. Oh well, I never claimed to be sane.
Once I had finished my four laps I still felt quite fresh. I contemplated doing a couple more, but decided instead to go home the long way, via Airth. I’m glad I did, because on the way back I realised that my bike had an incredibly irritating squeak. Like all squeaks, it sounded like it came from everywhere and nowhere. My backside was hurting a little too, and after only an hour. That would also need to be addressed before May. On the way back, I determined that I needed to sort these things out.
Anyway, when I got home I felt pretty pleased with myself. The training is going well, I thought. I plugged my Garmin 305 into the computer and downloaded my data to have a look at it. This was the first time in over a year that I’ve managed to get the 305 to record my heart rate for more that 5 minutes before packing in. It seemed to have worked fine, except it was saying my average heart rate over the session was 167 bpm. That was a surprise, and a shock; I never thought I was pushing particularly hard, and I was never really out of breath. Also, on the exercise bike, that heart rate would be almost impossible to sustain. More worryingly though is the fact that I can’t imagine sustaining that for 5 hours or more. I wasn’t feeling so good any more. I had just done 21 miles over fairly flat terrain, averaging 15.4 mph and my heart rate was too high. Then my knee started hurting. Great.
Thursday, 3 April 2008
How to loose weight…
Here’s my recipe for weight loss….in case I need it in the future.
- Graze. No big meals for me.
- A fruit smoothy in the morning, some grapefruit juice and a multivitamin.
- As much mixed nuts and raisins, dates, water, and fruit during the day as I like.
- Every now and again, a Borders panini, a piece of granola bar and a big cup of coffee for lunch. Otherwise maybe some soup for lunch to go with the fruit if I think I need it.
- Soup for tea, with bread, and a biscuit (Kit Kat or similar) with a cup of tea.
- If I’m hungry later, a sandwich (single slice of bread)
That doesn’t sound like much, and I’m sure if I stuck to it rigidly I’d be loosing weight faster than I am. I aim for about 1500 calories per day. The thing is, this is no longer hard. I can do this most days without any problem. In fact, I feel pretty damned good, and have lots of energy.
If I’m intending on doing a lot of exercise I eat more, possibly have some porridge for breakfast if I’m going out for a longer ride. Also, if I’m on the exercise bike at night, I make a point of having something to eat once I’m finished. I am aware that I need to strike a balance between loosing weight and getting ready for the 81 mile cycle in May.
I listen to my body. If I’m tired and ache, I’ll lay off the exercise for a day, or maybe two. I’ll also swap the soup at night for scrambled eggs on toast, or something else a bit higher in protein. Sometimes, if my resolve crumbles and I need to have take-away food, I order a small chicken tikka kabab, which is pretty healthy really.
So, that’s about it: my diet in a nutshell.
The final thing to mention has to be the dreaded drink. Alcohol is a real demoraliser if you weigh yourself daily. The weight swings are torturous. It is to be avoided in any amount that means that you feel it in the morning. If you wake up with a sore head or thirst in the morning, you’ve had too much, Johnny boy.
Anyway, by sticking to this plan, I’m never really full, but also, never too hungry. I’m mostly OK, or a little hungry. As long as I’m not uncomfortably hungry, I’m fine, because after all, I am trying to loose weight here. And the best of it is, it's working.Todays weight 16 stone 5 pounds (229 pounds, 103.9 kg)
It’s been a couple of weeks since my last entry, so what’s been going on? Well, my weight is still falling, and I’m spending more time on the bikes. That’s about it, no revelations, no drama, just steady progress; dead boring really. I can feel a shift towards more exercise, more training, but it’s funny because it’s more of a compulsion than a deliberate plan.
As for the weight, I’m now getting into feel good territory. My current wardrobe is no longer tight, everything fits properly, and my weight is lower than it’s been for several years. I’ve always been one for denial with clothes, getting into them until it’s almost impossible, and since I put on so much weight over Christmas I didn’t have many trousers that actually fit in a sense that any sane person would measure such things. Needless to say, I refused to buy new, bigger stuff; as long as I could get that trouser button fastened, they fitted. But now 22 lb lighter, everything fits properly. I’m pretty happy about that.
Of course, that’s not enough. If I want to meet my target, my current wardrobe will have to be consigned to the rag and bone man, as most of it will be way too big for me. Buying all those new clothes is an expense I’m looking forward to.
Fitness wise, everything seems to be going well also. I’m not struggling so much on the bike, and even after an (almost) 2 hour ride a few days ago, I felt fairly comfortable, although tired of course. The problem with the Etape Caledonia will be as much to do with my aching backside, arms, shoulders and back, is it will be to do with my tired legs: 5 to 6 hours is a long time to spend on a bike. But for now, I’m as happy as I can be with the training.
Now that the clocks have gone forward the evenings are going to be lighter, so I’ll be able to get out a couple of nights a week, which is going to be really good.