Tuesday, 3 June 2008

There's a hole in my blog...

It struck me yesterday that I have been lax in my blogging. During April and May I only did a couple of entries. I used the excuse that not much was happening that was worth recording, while in fact all the dramatic stuff was going on. Here are a few highlights.
Big Climb
After my horrifyingly bad first attempt at climbing, I did, in fact manage a surprising and very pleasing jaunt up the Campie Hills a couple of weeks later. On that fine Saturday in April, I only meant to go a few miles up the hill, but in fact, more through stupidity and not knowing where I was going, ended up doing a lot more climbing than that I thought I was capable of.
On that same ride, I also clocked up a total of 38 miles. I was truly goosed at the end of this 2 hour 50 minute ride, but I was well pleased, because for the first time, actually started to believe that I could complete the Etape Caledonia, and stopped worrying so much about how many miles I’d have to spend in the ‘broom wagon’ (which sweeps up the casualties – get it). In fact, I even managed to get out on the Sunday also and clock up a further 25 miles. That was a good weekend.
The flu
– not man flu. I was ill. No sooner had I convinced myself that my training was going perfectly, than I came down with a virus. I wasn’t depressed or upset about this at first, I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to be depressed. That set me back 2 weeks in total, and left my training plan in ruins. For 12 days I did no cycling, and lost no weight (it’s not sensible to diet when you’re ill, I know than much). On May 2nd I tried to ride to work as I (mistakenly) thought I was mostly better. It did not go well. I got there, but it was a painful and tiring 9 miles. Oh dear, I thought, I’m screwed.
Thankfully, over the next week my fitness came back quickly and I got back into the swing of things. I didn’t have much time left, my weight was higher than I wanted and I still hadn’t ridden half the distance I needed to.
New friends.
On Thursday 8th May, while out on a fast short ride, I met up with Falkirk Cycling Club. There were about 50 of them. I met a guy, Brian I think his name was, and was riding along chatting. It turned out that he was just heading to the start of the clubs training run. I knew they trained on these roads, but I was hoping to avoid direct contact for the moment (they are very fast and very serious about their cycling) Once I get slimmer/fitter and faster, I fully intend joining these guys, but there’s work to be done first. Anyway, he said I should have a go, and me being me, I said way not. Idiot.
I managed to stay with the slowest group for about 5 miles, but they got the better of me no a hill, and my inexperience in groups was a real killer. Anyway, this brief group ride gave me a taste for company, so I decided to have another go on their ‘Sunday run’, which is supposed to be a slower, more social affair. Since the meeting point for this is at the bottom of my street, I thought ‘what’s the harm?’ Unfortunately there were only 6 of them on the Sunday, and they all looks fit; everyone else was away racing or something! I introduced myself, got my apologies in early and waited for the torture to begin. Surprisingly, other than the hills, we clipped along at steady 18 mph. It is a wonderful thing to sit at the back of a group of cyclists as the effort is very much reduced. It’s a great feeling.
I stayed with them for about 25 miles before deciding to head off myself back in the direction of home. I got the feeling I was beginning to hold them back a little, and that was only going to get worse. It was exactly a week to the big day, and I wanted to stretch myself, but not kill myself. One of the guys suggested a route back to the Kincardine Bridge, which I took. I wasn’t worried about getting a little lost, I wanted to do about 60 miles, so there was certainly some scope for detours. Anyway, I had a great time riding along quiet roads and through cracking little quiet villages. The Forth estuary was always on my left, so that kept me right. The scenery was spectacular, with the calm water, the two bridges and the beautiful countryside. The ride had a sense of adventure about it.
In total I rode 65 miles, which although not particularly mountainous, was hilly enough for me to feel it. WhenI finished I realised I could do no more, the training was essentially over, bar a couple of shorter rides during the week it was time to let the legs recover and wait for Sunday to come.
Anyway, I didn’t blog about this stuff at the time for several reasons; laziness, illness, tiredness and being pretty busy. I regret it now and am going to make an effort to not let it happen again. Sometimes you think things are pretty static and unchanging, but it never really is, time roles on, and things are always changing.
Today’s weight is 16 Stone 2 lb (102.5 kilos)

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 Caledonia cycle on May 18th. There was just no way I was going to miss that, so I had to start training in earnest. My thoughts turned from solely being focused on my weight, to more and more obsess about how I was going to do such a long distance on a bike.

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

Etape Caledonia.

Two thousand bobbing cycling helmets was all you could see on Pitlochry main street at 7am on Sunday morning, and I’m glad to say that one of them belonged to me.

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

The perfect (bike) ride

Ah, life is good.

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 I was restless and before I knew it, I had the gear on and was heading out the door. I had an exact route in mind, 24 miles in total over a course that I had done with Donald a couple of weeks ago. It's a great route, but with a small change it would be even better.

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.

The result of all of this was a joyfully satisfying ride. It was great, I disregarded the wind and my speed, and just motored along. I don't remember being out of breath at any point. My heart rate only rose above 150 bpm once and my average speed was exactly the same as yesterday, 15.4 mph.

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.

Back on the Trek

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

My weight loss (TM)

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)

Keep on rollin'

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.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The comfort zone

Today, I weigh 16 stone 10.5 pounds. This is both good and bad. It’s bad because that is what I weighed most of last year, and the year before that. It's also good, because, whatever the reasons for the rise, it’s a good 16 pounds less than I weighed on the 14th January. So, looking forward, I can see that I am able to loose weight, and that my struggles over the last bazillion years, all the thoughts of there being something wrong with me, etc, don’t matter any more, because if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’m going to continue to loose weight. And the more weight I loose, the more I’m going to enjoy, and look forward to, exercising and getting fit.

But today, as I contemplated the future, the thing I am most looking forward to is drilling into those god damned numbers. I wand to be 16-8, then 16-4, then 15-whatever. But it's not really about the numbers, it's what I'll be able to do better then than I can now. I love my bike, but I hate the handicap my weight is imposing on me, the pain of climbing is more than is should be.

As for the title of this entry: I feel that I’m about to start this thing for real. I’m loosing weight, and soon I’m going to start seeing some numbers I’ve not seen in a long time, and hopefully start getting into some clothes I haven’t worn in a long time. I getting fitter, and with it, options are going to open up as to what I’m going to do with my spare time. So where is my comfort zone? Is it where I am now, my current weight, where I’ve struggled the past two months to get to, but where I was stuck for the past several years? Is than my comfort zone? No chance. It’s time to blast on through. It’s time for the second stage.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Eventful weekend

What a mixed bag this weekend has been. I’ve finally taken the final step (or steps) to being a cycling nut. On Saturday I willingly went out in what could mildly be called ‘adverse’ conditions. And today, my spiral into insanity continued. The forecast was wind and hail. I’ve never known ‘hail’ to be the forecast for the whole day before, so I was a little worried by that.


Anyway, back to Saturday. I stacked up 100 miles on the indoor trainer last week, and was feeling pretty good. I had been looking forward to getting out on the bike, either to work, or over the weekend. Unfortunately the weather has been miserable and various events transpired against me (this means that I made various excuses not to get of my backside and get out). So on Saturday I looked on the trusty internet for the weather forecast, hoping for blue skys and no wind or rain. The actual forecast was for rain, hail, wind (lots of wind), the possibility of snow, and then some more rain. Damn, I’d have to leave it, I thought.

Just as that thought scudded across my mind I heard a thud of something hitting the hall floor. With something worryingly like excitement I realised it was my Cycling Plus magazine. Oh well, I thought, at least I can read about cycling, even if I’m not going to actually do any. I scanned the front page, and with even more excitement, noticed that there was an article on the Etape Caledonia. I read the article while eating my breakfast, drinking in the description of the empty roads and imagining me on them (well, me and 3499 other cyclists, that is), thinking of the views across the lochs and the mountains in the distance, or me speeding along effortlessly on a sunny May day. That’s when the panic set in. Sunny, maybe...maybe not; windy, probably; 81 hilly miles, definitely: I had to get training, on roads, in the wind, maybe even in the rain.

So, trying not to look out the window, I went upstairs and got ready. Now, me getting dressed to go cycling take as much time as an astronaut getting dressed for a shuttle ride, but finally I was ready. I stepped out the front door only to be hit by the first icy drops rain that would shortly develop into a downpour. I shuddered, mounted the bike and pushed off. I was going to take it easy, I decided, just my usual flat route to Airth then back via the quiet back-roads. This means I headed along Bellsdyke road for a fair distance. This is a wide straight road, good to get warmed up on as it heads east, ever so slightly downhill, and in that direction, usually with a tail-wind. I fairly belted along it as the rain starting to come down. This was fun, the water under my wheels adding to the sense of speed, but not actually bothering me. But, you can only go east for so long, and as I was clipping along at 28 mph, that was not going to be long at all. Soon enough I turned left towards Airth.

Now I was riding into the wind, not head on, but with a 45 degree cross wind, into the rain. After a moment of struggling and regretting coming out, I got used to the change in conditions and found that I could just go down a few gears and keep the pedals spinning in a nice cadence. The rain was easing too so it was not so bad after all. It was not until I was through Airth that I felt the full force of the wind. If you don’t know this part of Scotland, I can easily describe it: it’s flat, billiard table flat. It’s good arable land with quiet lanes. The problem with it is that, after Airth, there’s very little shelter, so if there’s a wind from the west, and it seems that there always is, there’s no getting away from it. Oh dear, I said to myself (or something like that) as I was almost blown to a standstill. I was in the god damn granny gear, on the flat, doing 8 mph! Oh dear indeed. Anyway, there’s not much more to say about that, I had 7 miles to go, with 5 of them into a 35 mph headwind, but at least the rain had gone off. I just resolved to concentrate on my legs, not worry about speed at all, and try to relax. Soon enough I was home, none the worse for ware and surprisingly, I had thoroughly enjoyed myself.


Alas, today didn’t go so well. Buoyed by yesterdays success, I decided to head west today, to where the Campsie Hills are. The weather was fine, despite the forecast of hail. I was a bit nervous about the hills, but it’s what I need. I spend a lot of time doing steady pace stuff on the flat and on the trainer, so I need some hills. Boy, did I get them. The Campsie Hills are a fairly major feature on the landscape around here, very much in keeping with the ‘hilly’ reputation Scotland has. They run east to west for about 30 miles before petering out just west of Larbert. I figured that, with them just ‘petering’ out, if I went up from east to west, the rise would be fairly gentle. How wrong I was, how very wrong indeed!

Between Larbert and Dunipace (where the hills begin properly, or peter in, if you like), the road was quiet and rolling. I felt good, despite the headwind, and just took each incline as it came. I'd never cycled this route before so it was an adventure. Six miles alone the road I took the fateful right turn that pointed me directly at the Campsies. I looked at them, and they frowned back at me. Now, there is a main road which runs alone the full length of the hills, but I decides to avoid that, because I wasn’t intending going that far, and the road I had picked was a quieter country lane. I know the main road quite well, and didn’t fancy some of the ‘features’ it has (long, steep features). In hindsight, that may have been a mistake, because the route a chose had other features; short and very steep ones. Well, I had to walk up two of these, and at one point I was so knackered I was contemplating turning back. I sat on a rough wall, sucking alternatively on an energy gel and water bottle, trying not to keel over in exhaustion, staring left up a friggin lane that seemed to wind forever towards the heavens.

But I had a plan. I knew the road a little further up. I was nearly at the point where I would turn left and head down again, and once I was down on the main road, I’d have a clear run along flat(ish) straight roads with the wind at my back. I struggled back onto the bike and started up the hill again. I wasn’t long before I reached the crossroads that indicated the end of my torture and the beginning of the descent. Relieved, I turned the cranks to the top of the last incline and was then rolling freely again. I wish I could say that I let the bike go, enjoying the wind in my hair as I belted down the hill. I can’t, because I didn’t. The road was steep, very steep, and windy. I spent a lot of time clutching the breaks.

Then I made a mistake. I wend straight where I should have gone right. No big deal, both roads lead down onto the same main road, and the one I was on was shorter. Unfortunately, in this case shorter also means steeper. Have you ever ridden down a 25% gradient that is covered with gravel, rotten leaves, muck, and has a stream running down the middle? I hadn’t. I saw the sign and thought how lucky I was to not be going up it. Then I saw it. I was already on about a 15% gradient when the road in front of me dipped alarmingly and turned to the left round a blind corner. I was breaking hard already and had no idea what was ahead, or more importantly, how long the slope was. I refused, in much the same way a horse will refuse a fence. I stopped as best I could, got my left foot unclipped from the pedal, then fell over to the other side into the mud, gravel and water.

I get myself back to my feet and walked down the hill, not easy in itself, my bike making a worrying grinding noise as I wheeled it along beside me. Thankfully the hill was short. When I got to the bottom I inspected the bike. I had bent the rear derailleur into the spokes, but I managed to bend it back enough that I could select at least some of the gears. I got back on and continued, wet, mucky, sore, embarassed and angry. It turned out that the main road was only a short distance further down the hill, so I was soon on it, heading home, with the wind. Despite my spill and bent bike, being on the flat again and making good speed cheered me up. I felt good, and made good time getting home, even taking a slightly longer detour at the end.

I’d like to end by saying no harm done, but unfortunately there is. My right shoulder hurts. I think I’ve strained something, probably no big deal, but annoying all the same. Also, my bike’s rear derailleur hanger is bent, and it will either have to go into the shop to get straightened, or require a new one. I’m going to order a new one tomorrow and have a go fixing it myself. We’ll see how that goes.

But on a plus note, I felt good when I finished today. I certainly needed the wake-up call about my hill climbing ability. Dragging 238 pounds up a hill is never going to be easy, so the weight has to keep falling, and I’m going to have to do some higher intensity training also.

Anyway, enough already. It’s late.

Today’s weight is 16 stone 11.6 lb (235.6 lb)

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Business as usual

It’s kinda quiet around here. Things seem to have settled down as far as my weight loss is concerned. I’m loosing weight, but not as much as I wish I was. I’m pretty comfortable with my diet, which is radically different from what it used to be. On a typical day I’ll have the following.

  • Fruit smoothy for breakfast (or a yogurt with crunchy granola bits)
  • A piece of fruit mid morning
  • A cup-a-soup, some nuts & raisin mix and a few dates for lunch
  • More fruit mid afternoon
  • Some sort of soup (or a salad or something) for dinner, followed by a small kit-kat and a cup of tea
  • A snack about 9pm if I need it.
  • As much water/tea/coffee/diet juice as I need.

Depending on how you read that, it can sound like quite a lot, or not very much at all. Roughly it’s between 1200 and 1500 calories I reckon. For a normal active 240 lb adult I’d say that’s about 1000 calories short of what could be termed ‘maintenance intake’ (or the amount you’d need to keep you weight stable). But for me, with this super efficient, easy on, hard off weight gaining machine that is my body. I’d say I’m only about -500 calories a day short. Roughly, that equates to about 1lb loss a week.

That’s not enough. So to compensate, I’m going to do 45 minutes to an hour of easy spinning on my exercise bike every night before bed. That should work off about 500 calories per day, or another pound per week. I now have my wee room set up perfectly, with the bike, a 26” hi-def TV and DVD, three series of Deadwood, the last couple of years worth of Star Gate and maybe, if I can bear it, the whole of the current run of Battlestar Galactica (maybe it won’t be so traumatic second time round).

But that’s not all; I’m going have to get out on the bike more. After all, I’ve got an 81 mile cycle to do in May. As I mentioned previously, I’m determined to use the bike to commute to work at least twice a week, which is a 17 mile round trip. This week I’ll try for Wednesday and Thursday if the weather gods are kind (there’s the possibility of sub zero temperatures and even some snow). But above that, I need to set the time aside to do a longer weekend ride, at least 30 miles to begin with, building up to 50 as my weight falls. I’ll maybe work out some targets for this later this week and publish them here. I’m sure that once I start exercising seriously my diet will have to expand a little to compensate, but obviously not as much as to negate the intended weight loss!

Today’s weight is 16 stone 12.4 lb (236.4 lb)

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Launched the Pinnacle

I have cold, again. No need to say any more about that. It has been frustrating, because I was desperate to try our the Pinnacle between here and the office. I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend that kind of money and not use the thing, not this time.

So, I had given up on the idea of going to the office as I felt miserable, so I tried to get some work done. That wasn’t working either, so I banged a DVD that came free this month with Cycling Monthly into the computer. It’s about preparation for a Sportive cycle event, and showed a group of (fit) guys doing the course that this years Etape de Tour covers. It wasn’t a long video, but it was eye opening. I thought, wholly shit, I need to start training for the ride in May, now. right now, cold or no cold.

I looked outside. It was sunny, but I knew it was windy, and a bit cold. I also knew that it is going to be very stormy, literally blowing a gale. So I thought, to hell with it, I’m going now. And I went. I took the new bike to Cumbernauld, which is straight west, and also straight into the teeth of the wind. It was hard work, but I liked the feel of the bike under me: not too different to the road bike, but a bit kinder over the bumps.

The way back was great, and fast enough that I decided to stay on the road the whole way, instead of using the canal path. Traffic was no bother at all. 43 minutes out and 27 minutes back, and the outward leg was a lot harder. Don’t you just love the wind?

Tuesday, 26 February 2008


I was getting a bit frustrated lately. I looked over my checklist.

  • Hungry…check
  • Eating very little…check
  • Eating health stuff…check
  • Not drinking…check
  • Weight falling…er, not much guv.

I seemed to be doing all that I could, but over the last couple of weeks, the scales have been reporting a stubborn tendency to still read over 17 stone. My weight would go down, a little each day, then it would jump back up, inexplicably. I don’t know about loosing weight, but I’d be damned if I was doing anything that could account for gaining!

But over the weekend something clicked, and instead of one of those wildly infuriating rises, the falls kept on coming, and yesterday morning I finally saw the magic number…16. Being under 17 stone again is great, a milestone. No doublt I’ll see a few 17’s again, but soon enough they’ll be a distant memory. So that’s six weeks so far, and I’ve unloaded 13 lb. Not bad, not as much as I was aiming for, but not bad at all. I reckon that’s just under a quarter of my goal achieved, which should be around 14 stone or a little less. I’m happy about this, mainly because I’m fairly comfortable about what I’m doing, and the results I’m getting only reinforce this. Ok, I’m hungry a lot, but that’s just fine as long as the scales are telling me it’s for a reason.

So it’s full steam ahead. I’ve got a bit of a cold just now, which is a bit of a pain, but it the weather’s half way decent I’m taking my new bike to the office tomorrow.

Today’s weight: 16 stone 13.4 lb

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Quest for a commuter bike.

About a year ago I bought a Trek hard-tail mountain bike. The main purpose of this bike was to commute from home to the office. Why a mountain bike? Well, about 2/3rd of the distance is a dirt toe-path along the side of the union canal between Falkirk and Castlecary, with the rest being road. I also had the notion of trying the old mountain biking malarkey every now and again.

Unfortunately, reality did not match my ambitions and over the course of the year I’ve probably made the trip on the bike less than 10 times. There are several reasons for this (other than the overriding one, which is sheer bloody laziness), with the main one being that I don’t really like the mountain bike as much as I thought I would. Compared to my Trek 2000 road bike, it’s a tank. It’s a good bike, but on the road, it feels slow and the riding position awkward. On the toe-path, the ride feels bouncy. The funny thing is that I fully expected the riding position to be more comfortable than the road bike, not less. I also didn’t much like the handle bars: the grips seemed to far apart, and whereas on the road bike (with drop bars) you can move your hands around to various positions, with the mountain bike there was no possibility to move around like this.

So, in typical John fashion, I went out today any bought another bike to do the same job. You see, to my thinking, I needed a road bike that could stand a bit of abuse. I thought about getting a hybrid, it being closer to a racer than the mountain bike. But all the hybrids I looked at had straight handlebars like the mountain bike, seemed heavy and all together seemed somewhat upright and tame.

I was stuck, and because it’s winter, I didn’t really care. Until a week ago, that is. So what happened a week ago? I was reading a cycling magazine, that’s what, and in it was an article about a mad cycling variant called Cyclo-Cross (picture idiots covered in mud, riding, (or carrying) what is essentially a road bike through fields and forests) and there it was, the perfect bike for my purposes. A tough road bike with wider tyres (but not mountain bike wide), drop bars, more sensible gearing for the commute than an out an out speed machine, and a riding position which is pretty close to the road bike, but not so aggressive.

Well, the light went one last week, and as is typical with me, I own one this week. Today I bought a Pinnacle Expede 2007 Cyclo-Cross (the bottom picture is of the 2008, but looks the same to me...other than the colour) I swapped the knobbly tyres for a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus's (which are smoother and more puncture resistant) and added lights.

I had a wee go on it when I got it home this aftenoon and I must say I’m quite excited about it. The ride position is comfortable, it roles along very nicely, just like a road bike should, and the gearing is more suited to a commuter pace, so it should be comfortable on the road and the toe-path.

But, and it's a big but, none of this means squat if I don't use it for the purpose it is meant. So barring meeting I can't re-arrange, illness and severe weather, I’m committing to 2 commutes per week,and more once the weather improves. It so happens that this week I need the car 4 days out of 5 (sigh), but with a wee it of juggling I should be able to manage Monday and Thursday, or Wednesday and Thursday. We'll see.

Todays weight, 17 : 0.6 (238.6 lb)

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Graph day.

I use Excel to track my weight loss (or gain). I weigh myself every morning just after getting out of bed. This guarantees the most consistency in the numbers from day to day. Also, as a mini target, I look to my weight on Monday morning as a judge as to how much I am loosing weekly.

So, what good is this obsessive relationship with the scales doing me? Well, the main one is that it keeps me focused at the task at hand. I know every day, as I contemplate whether to exercise, what to eat or whether to have a beer, that tomorrow morning I’ve going to stand on the scales of truth. If I only weighed myself weekly, I could see me saying to myself I can have that curry, I have time before Monday to make up for it, I’ll just try harder tomorrow. If I’m weighing in daily, there is no room for delusions like these.

As well as recording the numbers, I’ve created a couple of graphs to help visualize what’s going on.

Here’s the first one, which is concerned with where I’ve been. (click on it for a detailed view)
That is, it highlights how my weight changes from day to day, and the cumulative result of these daily changes. I think the daily change bar chart really highlights how much things can change day to day. Falls in weight tend to be small and frequent, whereas any gains tend to be whopping large ones, on two cases, over a 2 lb rises (that hurt). Now I don’t imagine that all these fluctuations are actual changes in the amount of excess fat I’m carrying, they’re not. Rather, they’re mostly to do with hydration and, er, what’s currently working it’s way through me, if you know what I mean. For instance, the larger swings in weight are almost always related to whether I’ve been drinking alcohol. In such an case, my weight usually takes a drop (unless I was drinking beer) then takes a huge jump. After about 3 days, this works itself out and I can see my actual weight again.

The second graph I created is more forward looking. (Again, click on it for a detailed view.)
It still shows my progress, but it is focused on where I’m headed. As well as my progress so far, it also shows projections into the future for 2, 2 ½, and 3 lb per week weight loss. This shows me whether I’m meeting my targets or not and whether I need to try harder or not. This is the graph that helps with my incentive to keep going, as I can see where I’m going to end up in the not to distant future. You see, 2 ~ 3 lb per week, or ~0.3 lb per day weight loss means nothing to me; I need to see the big result, whether I magically drop to 180 lb sitting here right now, or it takes me until June, I don’t care, but I need to see it. And this graph lets me see it.
I’m going to post the graphs every week, as a further incentive to stay away from the dark (chocolate) side.

Today’s weight was 17 stone 0.8 lb (238.8 lb)

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Oh dear…

Today is the worst day I’ve had since starting to loose weight. My weight has taken a huge jump upwards for some reason, on top of one earlier in the week that I hadn’t quite recovered from.

This is where the daily vs. weekly weigh in issue is tested. If after gaining 2 lb over Friday morning’s weight is going to make me give up, even temporarily, then I see the point of going weekly. But the thing is, despite being disappointed, I am close enough to the event to look for reasons. If I waited to Monday to find that I had made little (or reverse) progress, then I would think back, remember nothing particularly unusual and feel really bad. On top of that, I’d have to wait a further week to find out if the slippage was continuing.

No, daily is better. I am a bit fed up by this result, but I am not deterred by it. You see, I was drinking last night, not a lot, just a couple of beers and a couple of whiskeys, and I had already noticed that although I had been drinking quite a lot of water during the day, I wasn’t going to the toilet much at all. So in these terms, the jump is not so much of a shock. I have a big body, and in the grand scheme. 2 lb is less than a 1% variation. I don’t think for a moment that I laid down 2 lb of fat yesterday, so I’m not too distressed. Either this will work itself out of my system (literally) or I was dehydrated anyway and needed more liquids. I’ll keep to my regime and see what happens over the coming days.

The other factor in all this is of course exercise. I have exercised every day this week, and I am a somewhat tired and achy today. So I’m going to have today off, and possibly only go for a long walk tomorrow (I’ll see how I feel before deciding on that in the morning). One thing I am quite sure of is that exercise certainly complicates weight loss for me. I’m hungrier, which makes it harder to be strict about what I eat, and I drink a lot more, making the daily weigh in much more unpredictable. But so be it, you’ve got to drink as much as you need to; the day you start seeing water as a bad guy is the day you need to see a psychiatrist.

Today's weight: 17 stone 3.8 lb (241.8)

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Do not accept the inevitable.

Aging is inevitable, or so I’ve heard. But the thing is, I don’t actually feel particularly worse than I felt 20 years ago. Ok, I wasn’t particularly fit when I was 19, but despite being over seventeen stone now, I can confidently say that I am considerably fitter than I was then. It sounds hard to believe, but it’s true. I drink less, I eat less, and I exercise more, and once I loose this weight, I’ll be able to kick my nineteen year old former self’s ass in every way; so to hell with aging.

The reason I say this is that I read a blog every day called The Fat Cyclist. Eldin is a funny, intelligent guy who can be relied upon to inject a bit of humour and insight into my day. He stole my idea for a blog site name, but since he has been using it for years before I had the idea I’ll forgive him.

Anyway, Fatty got some worrying news about a medical test. Go to his site and read about it for more details, and it got me thinking. Doctors are not gods. In fact, in general, I have never had a wholly satisfactory encounter with one. Most appointments I’ve had, I’ve left shaking my head in disbelief or resigned to a course of treatment that I fully expect to make little or no difference to the condition I have/or had. You see, doctors don’t listen. It is not their fault, they are only human, and they are busy with lots of other patients as well as me.

If something goes wrong with my body, I spend a lot of time thinking about it, more time researching the problem, and more time still coming up with ideas of what might be wrong. But I go to the doctor, sit down, spend 30 seconds explaining the symptoms (inaccurately at that) and then stare at him. I could tell him my well thought out theory, but I don’t want to tread on his toes or hurt his feelings (after all, he has access to large needles). He’s the expert and he's on the spot, so what does he do? Not much, generally. Certainly no more than write you a prescription for something you probably don’t need and will make you worse in some interesting way.

I have a condition called Dermatitis (according to Wikipedia, a blanket term, but thats as close as I've ever come to a diagnosis). It’s very mild and doesn’t give me much bother, but every time I get a new doctor, I have to ask for a prescription to deal with it. The doctor invariably asks a few questions, which I answer. It’s under control so they seem happy. Then I usually ask what precisely causes these infrequent but disturbing episodes of sudden skin disintegration/inflammation that I suffer from? The doctor looks at me blankly. He doesn’t know, and further more, because it’s under control, he doesn’t care. Damage limitation is the name of the game. After all, an appointment only lasts 10 minutes and there's probably someone far sicker next in the queue.

I’ve had this ailment for over 20 years, in which time I’ve perhaps had ten tubes of cream (Betnovate) to treat it, so right enough, not a big deal. But what if civilization breaks down? What if China decides to kick our asses, or global warming swallows all the Pharmacists? What then? Well, not only will I be sitting in a nuclear wasteland or on a makeshift raft, but I'll also have an itchy skin condition, that’s what then! Not good, not good at all.

I shouldn’t accept the blank looks and disinterest from the medical men. But on the other hand, the more time you spend in the company of doctors, the more likely they’re going to find something that they want to treat, and then you’re in real trouble. So best leave well alone, I suppose.

Anyway, the whole point of this rant is, DO NOT accept what doctors say at face value. Use your head, be skeptical, ask for explanations, get them to explain the mechanisms of what is wrong with you. They are only human, and they (and science in general) know far less about medicine and the human body than they would have you believe.

Exercise and Dieting

First off, I hate the word ‘dieting’. I reminds me of when I was a boy, when the only time you heard the word was when an old person (30's or 40's, hah) was screwing their faces up as they contemplated the Rivita with cottage cheese topping they were about to eat. So, dieting equals pain (and Rivita) for me.

Anyway, I don’t ‘diet’ as such. I try to eat less and what I do eat I try to make healthy(ish). I don't analyze everything for fat and carb content, a rough idea is enough, and generally you can tell by the taste: the better it tastes, the worse it is for you. Carry out takeaway curry with rice and nan bread: bad, but tastes really good, chicken salad sandwich with wholemeal bread: good, but not very exciting at all.

The problem I’m currently experiencing is that I’ve ramped up the exercise. This week I’ve been out on the bike twice, been swimming once, and spend about 2 hours on the indoor bike. This sounds good, and it can’t be bad but it makes me VERY HUNGRY, and as you should be able to appreciate, when you are VERY HUNGRY, it is more difficult to control what you eat. When I'm that hungry, I feel like putting my head in the fridge and not coming out until it’s totally clean, not even a wrapper left.

During January, I decided for the first four weeks to concentrate on my eating habits, generally cutting down, eating better and drinking less. This worked, and my weight came down steadily. Now I’m exercising more, controlling the eating is harder. No doubt I should be able to eat more, as I’m more active and burning more energy. But I’m not burning as much as my stomach is convinced I am. Last week at this time I was thinking, this isn’t so bad, I’m loosing weight, I’m eating well, and I’m not suffering too much. But today, my stomach is shouting, FEED ME, PLEASE, HAVE PITY, FEED ME. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that I just had my lunch an hour ago. Oh dear.

So what to do about it? I’ll probably tweak what I’m eating to see what happens, more oaty thinks maybe. Nuts and raisins tend to reduce my hunger, but you need to be careful of them, one small packet had enough energy in it to power a small town for a month. If you don’t believe me, check the back of the packet, the energy is not measured in kilo-calories, but in mega-calories, no kiddin. Anyway, I’ll try a few things and see how it goes.

This morning, my weight was 17 stone 2.6 lb (or 240.6 lb)

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Advice I'll be ignoring

Only weigh yourself once a week.

I weigh myself every day, always in the morning just after waking. I sometimes weigh myself during the day, often at night before bed, and occasionally before and after having a crap or a pee. I’ll weigh myself before and after meals just to see the difference, and sometimes I’ll weigh myself with my clothes on then take them off to see how much they weigh! (6 lb today).

This may seem excessive, and somewhat obsessive, but hey, I’m interested. It amazes me to see that my weight can vary by up to 5 lb during the day. It adds a sense of perspective.

Anyway, why are you only supposed to weigh in once a week? My weight will fluctuate from day to day, they say, and I’ll get all depressed if it goes up some days. Of course it will go up some days; a glass of water weighs over half a pound! I am not an idiot, I understand this. The important thing is that the trend over several days should be downwards, and any good statistician will tell you that the more samples in your data, the better.

Now, if I was going to break down in tears and give up the first time my weight increased over a 24 hour period then I could see the point in only weighing in weekly. But then again, I’d probably give up after week 1 because I wasn’t really motivated anyway.

I need feedback. I can handle setbacks, but if my weight rises three days on the trot, then I know that something is amiss. If there is a problem, I can ask questions like…

  • Did I have a night out drinking?
  • Did I cave in and empty the fridge in the middle of the night?
  • Have I had a cold or been unwell?

If there is a reason, note it and move on. If there is no reason, find one, because this is not magic, I’m doing something wrong or there is something I don’t understand.

You should only aim to loose 1 lb per week.

Oh, there’s a generalisation if ever I read one. At that rate I will be 14.5 stone by this time next year, if I stick to it. Supposedly any more than that and you loose muscle mass. I intend doing a lot of exercise over the coming months: cycling, swimming, walking (and running once my weight’s down a bit), so what happens then? I never hear any mention about the level of activity in connection with this magic number. If I’m loosing and gaining, fine, I’m using energy anyway. I believe that my body will adapt. If I were to sit on my backside and simply starve myself then I could accept that my body will ditch muscle, but if I’m using it, I’m not so sure.

Even if I do loose some muscle mass initially, I plan on being far more active once my weight is at a level where exercise it fun again. I defy any 12 stone cyclist to put 6 stone of extra weight on their bike and still find a four hour ride fun. Just now, I can go out on the bike for about an hour and enjoy myself, but after that my backside hurts (a lot), my arms hurt, my legs hurt, and I’m tired. It’s a lot of effort dragging this amount of poundage up a hill.

So, I’m aiming for 3 lb per week. That’s a lot, and will take saintly diligence and lots of will power to achieve. If I don’t manage it, I’ll loose more that 1 lb anyway, which is good.

By the way, I do not recommend anyone try any of my ideas out for themselves. For a start, if you do, I want money from you, at least £100 per pound lost. This is mainly to pay for the lawyers that I’ll need when you are diagnosed with liver failure or something and decide to sue me. Secondly, everyone should do their own thing. I don’t think there’s a quick fix for being overweight, everyone’s body, lifestyle, personality and eating habits are different, and all these things have an impact on what’s going to work for you. Use you head.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

The story so far.

Not much of a story. I’m overweight, and for years now I have been getting more overweight. Until now - I am now loosing weight. But it’s not just about the weight, it can’t be. It’s about fitness, lifestyle, living longer and living well. But first, in these early days, it’s about loosing weight.

From my starting point in January, I needed to loose about 70 lb. Some questions I asked myself were.

  • How to go about loosing this?
  • How long will it take?
  • How quickly can I do this?
  • How much am I going to suffer?

These are not easy questions to answer, and if you do some reading, impossible to answer in a way that can’t be contradicted by about fifty 'experts', all quoting their own 'facts'.

To do anything, I need a target. My wife (hi Mairi) despairs at some of the goals I come up with. On this occasion it’s not so bad, I think, but still quite a challenge. It just so happens that there is a cycling event called the Etape Caladonia which takes place not too far from here. It’s an 81 mile mass participation event over closed roads, through beautiful scenery in a very pretty part of Scotland. This is happening on the 18th May, and while it’s going to take me longer than that to get to my ideal weight, it should be possible to get a lot done before the middle of May. So I’ve signed up. At the moment I can cycle for about 2 hours at about 16 miles per hour. At my current level I could manage about a quarter of it before toppling over. I need to be thinner, fitter and faster if I'm to avoid humiliation.

How much weight can I loose? My ultimate target is about 13 stone 5, but more sensible would be to work on a weekly target. In January I needed to plan out a steady program, a week by week plan that I could monitor so that I had feedback as to how well I was doing. So I fired up Excel and started banging in some numbers. OK, if I could loose 3lb per week, I could get to about 14 stone before the Cycle event, an ambitious goal. If I settle for 2lb per week, I’m still going to be well over 15 stone by the event. I don’t fancy spending 6 plus hours dragging that much weight over 81 miles of hilly country lanes, but if I have to I will. So those would be my limits, between 2 and 3 lb per week. I would aim for 3lb per week, but would not accept anything less than 2lb per week.

Now for the tricky question: how exactly am I going to do this? First I am ignoring all advice. There is simply too much bullshit out there on the subject of weight loss, and as well as loosing weight, I need to train. I am an intelligent(ish) guy, and the problem seems simple enough: I’m fat. A lot of people have a lot to say on the subject of weight, some of them make a lot of money out of the subject. But where are the results? Most fat people were fat years ago, and despite all the advice and a lot of effort, are just as fat or fatter today (me included). Well, forget your low carb, high protein, low fat, high fibre, no hunger guaranteed, detox, bla, bla BULLSHIT!!!, I’m going it alone.

Here are a few simple FACTS I believe...

  1. Fruit and vegetables are good for me. Eat more of them.
  2. I don’t know what’s in processed foods. Eat less of them.
  3. Pay some attention to calories. 100 calories of chocolate has the same energy as 100 calories of apple. Use calories as a guide only, don’t obsess.
  4. Cut down on portion size. It I’m full and still eating, I’m over-eating.
  5. If I’m loosing weight I should be a little hungry fairly often (but not REALLY HUNGRY)
  6. No big meals before bed. This is really important.
  7. In fact, no big meals at all. Smaller meals, often; stops the REALLY HUNGRY thing.
  8. Don’t go to bed REALLY HUNGRY. If I’m that hungry, admit defeat and eat something, but just enough to take the edge off. A slice of bread and butter/jam/tuna and a small glass of milk does the trick.
  9. Eat lots of soup. This seems silly, but I really like soup and I don’t know of an unhealthy flavour (well, I do, but none that bad). It’s hot, filling (with a slice of wholemeal bread dunked in), and it’s tasty. The perfect food. Yum.

For the first four weeks I planned on weight loss only. Being that heavy was depressing and shocking, and as it was January, I didn’t see the opportunity to get out on my bike anyway.

It is now the 12th February, so how did I do? Yesterday morning I weighed in at 17 stone 3 lb: a loss of 10 lb in 4 weeks or 2.5 lb per week. I did this by overhauling my diet, cutting back on alcohol (but not as much as I would have liked), and doing some walking when the opportunity arose. I think I did OK (which is better than 'ok', by the way)

At this point I will confess to something. I meant to start this blog on the 14th January when I began this journey, as a threat of public humiliation if I didn’t stick to it. I didn’t do it then because I couldn’t cope with the idea of, er, public humiliation. But I also didn’t do it because I had nothing to say. Sort of like releasing a movie after you’ve finished the opening credits. Not much point in that, is there?

Anyway, now that it’s started I’m going to commit to an update at least once a week. That update will be on a Monday, after the big Monday Weigh In.

What it Seventeen Thirteen?

The title above, although a little strange, is what kicked me into action on this, my final attempt to get fit. I could have called in 255, or even 114 but 17-13 has a nice rhyme to it. In case you haven’t guessed yet, all these numbers represent my weight: specifically, my weight on 14th January 2008. 17 stone 13 pounds, or 255 pounds, or 114 kilograms, whatever way you say it, it’s a lot, far too much.

Carrying so much weight stops me enjoying a lot of thing that interest me. I love cycling, both doing it myself and following the big events like the Tour de France. I’d love to join a club, and I intend too once I stand a chance of keeping up. I used to run, but at thirty nine, and carrying five stone of ballast, that would be a recipe for a heart attack. Actually, I’m not that unfit, just very heavy, and I’m not afraid of exercising hard. It just hurts much more than it should.

So what’s this blog all about? Well, primarily it’s a journal of my efforts to attain the holy grail of fitness. I want to do an Olympic distance triathlon, and do it well. I want to do the L'Etape du Tour, or some such event, and not struggle unduly. But most of all, I want exercise to be a fun, social part of my life, not a weapon in my desperate, loosing battle against weight gain.

So enough of that, time get started...