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)