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.