Dealing with weight loss

A 3 part series dealing with the topics of body image, emotions and maintenance. Check it out.

Ride Like a Pro

Harwoods Jaguar, Ride Like a Pro Event, West Sussex

My Weight Loss Story

My story of fat to fit by bicycle

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A year of centuries 2/12

Having completed my first century of the year in January the plan was to complete the second in February.

With having to fit a big ride around other family commitments, it meant that it was either 7th or 21st Feb. With the forecast for 7th being good a few days before I decided to get it over and done with, just two weeks after the last century.

Having learned a few lessons from century number 1, I chose a smaller more convenient lock for the bike and had a fuelling strategy. I got out of the door just before 7 and followed the route on my Garmin.

The route I chose was one I had done 18 months previously. The reason for this was lack of time for route planning and familiarity. Keeping to roads I was familiar with meant I was mentally prepared for what was coming every step of the way. This is important if spirits get low later in the ride.

The ride starts off flat and easy. 5 miles in however I realised I hadn't eaten the breakfast I made myself! Not to worry. It wouldn't be long before I could stop at a shop and get some extra sustenance.

As I headed further inland the narrow country lanes were littered with ice patches. This was generally not a problem as I could just move to the other side of the road. The first 'moment' though was when I was riding up a hill and had a car coming the other way. I had to slowly wait for him to pass and move to the opposite gutter and ride in the running water to avoid sliding off my bike. As I moved across, the back wheel slipped but I maintained control. Phew! As the ride progressed and the temperature increased the ice disappeared.

Having climbed several hills, I was finally at the highest point of the ride, Brightling reservoir. I stopped for my second food stop and had a wee before continuing. Knowing the route, I had a long steep descent coming up followed by and very steep incline. Being a stubborn bloke, I wouldn't dare use my granny ring on my triple chainset so the lowest gear available to me was a 39x23t. I was huffing, puffing and grinding my way up the hill.

After another long descent, it was back into a climb. This time it was a longer more gradual climb and by the time I got to the top, it was a right turn to start heading east. Once I reached Flimwell, it was a short southerly detour down the A21. I stopped at a petrol station and with the thought of a quick coffee and a snack I was feeling good. However, the vending machine was out of order so I consoled myself with a chocolate bar.

Back onto less busy roads, I arrived in Peasmarsh just past the halfway point and was ready to stop at the Cock Inn for lunch but it didn't look open so I carried on. As I left Rye and entered East Guldeford I saw a cafe and considered stopping there for lunch. Instead I decided to press on to Camber and thought about having fish and chips instead. However, the prospect not being able to sit in relative comfort eating fish and chips in the cold was not a good one. Camber was my most easterly point and the only way back west was to go via East Guldeford and Rye. This meant I could stop at the cafe I'd passed. As I turned into the cafe car park, which is next to a farm shop, I saw signs saying it was closed. Luckily, the farm shop did food so I went inside and ordered a bacon bap and a much needed coffee.

Back on the road I now had a tail wind and as I headed into Rye Harbour the riding was fast and easy. Heading back onto roads the wind was still behind me as I flew along through Winchelsea Beach and into Pett Level. Next up was the climb I was dreading. Chick Hill is a 25% climb which is a challenge at any time but more so 75 miles into a ride. With a not so low gear I was grinding away at the pedals and cursing all the way. At the top it levels off before a very gradual climb up to the A259.

I entered Hastings briefly before heading downhill towards Westfield. I stopped at a convenience store and bought some water, and another snack. It wasn't long before the last proper climb of the ride, back into Hastings from the north on the A21 again. I then headed to Crowhurst which has a series of fast descents before a short climb out of the village. Skirting Hastings for the final time it was downhill before heading back home via Bexhill courtesy of a tailwind.

The ride finished at 102.1 miles and I hit a magical 25,000 miles since I started cycling in 2010. That's the same and circling the Earth!

I was suffering a little knee ligament pain during and after the ride. I think this was due to pushing too hard a gear. I don't think I'll do the same next month.

Brightling reservoir

Monday, 26 January 2015

1st century of the year

I somewhat foolishly decided to set myself the challenge to ride a single 100 mile ride every month in 2015.

Riding 100 miles isn't necessarily a difficult task if you're a fit regular cyclist. The challenge however is riding it early in the year. It's hard for a couple of reasons. Firstly, cycling fitness tends to be low in the winter as you ride less when it gets cold and dark. Secondly, the weather and light is poor in the winter and the conditions can make or break you when you get out there.

Choosing the date for January's century was pretty much decided for me. The first weekend in January I rode 25 miles. The second weekend I rode 50. The third weekend I didn't ride so I had fourth weekend or the final Saturday. As the forecast for the final full weekend was good, I decided I had to go for it.

Choosing where to ride for my first century was fairly easy. I had an ulterior motive as I wanted to visit the Giant Concept store in Shoreham-by-Sea, as the next bike I'm planning to get is a Giant, and I wanted to find which frame size I needed. As Shoreham is only 35 miles away I knew even with a few detours I'd need to go a bit further. With that in mind I planned to ride past Shoreham and onto Worthing before heading back.

Preparation is the key to a successful long distance ride. Bike, clothing, equipment and nutrition must be right. I always prepare my stuff the night before and check I have everything before I go to bed. A couple of additions to this ride thanks to the guys at 2pure was a POC Essential cycling cap and some Osmo sports nutrition. I made up the drink in my bottle and put the cap with my clothing for the morning.

I got up at 6am, had breakfast and donned my cycling gear. After forgetting to fix the mount for my front light to the bike, I finally got out of the door at 7.17am. It was cold and dark outside, 4c according to my Garmin. Apart from my feet, which always suffer in the cold, I was appropriately clothed for the conditions.

I started off by doing a loop via Normans bay. By the time I got to Eastbourne Pier, about 13 miles in, I had to stop and do a bit of a dance to try and get the blood back to my feet. With the wind chill, the temperature was about 0c. About 23 miles in I stopped in Seaford for an energy gel and a wee. The cold often makes me need to go!

About 30 miles in, I stopped at Subway for a second breakfast and a coffee and a chance to warm my feet back up again. Back on the road again I headed into Brighton. I had no time to hang around and continued to Shoreham. When I arrived in Shoreham I spotted the Giant store but decided to continue on to Worthing and stop in Shoreham on the way back.

By the time I arrived in Worthing my legs were feeling a little tired. I think it was riding into a headwind that was the reason and I was about to turn around so wasn't overly concerned at this point. Having never been to Worthing seafront I stopped to take a picture of the pier as the weather was so nice.

Worthing pier. Wish you were here!
Soon enough I was back in Shoreham and headed for the Giant store. As you'd expect being a concept store, they have everything Giant. I was interested in the Defy 0 and the helpful assistant in the store showed me the bike and helped me find which frame size was right for me. Whilst there I bought a couple of energy gels and some glueless patches.

I got back on the bike and headed in search of some lunch. I didn't have to go far. I grabbed a bottle of water with lunch and filled my bidon back up. I was soon rolling into Brighton again and using the cycle lanes I was overtaking the cars that kept getting caught at the traffic lights. It wasn't long before I was back in Peacehaven and passing Subway where I noticed I was two thirds of the way into my ride.

When I got back to Seaford, I split to take a different route back home to get the extra miles in. I headed north through Alfriston and then north east to Hailsham. When I got to Hailsham I stopped at the local Tesco to get more water and checked the route to see if I was on target for 100 miles. It seemed I would be a little short if I went straight home so I needed to make a little detour first.

Heading down Hailsham high street at almost 20 mph my front light fell off my bike and rolled down the road bouncing as it went! I picked the light up, checked it over and after the relief that it was still working I fixed it back onto my bike.

As I turned on to Rickney Lane heading to Pevensey the roads were waterlogged and muddy. The first I'd had all day. Several miles of this ensued but I wasn't too bothered and neither were my tyres. As I headed back to Normans Bay the level crossing gates were just closing. The crossing attendant said they'd be closed for about 8 minutes so with tired legs and the air getting colder I thought it better to turn around and take a new route back home. I was on the home straight and the finish was in sight. I pulled up outside my house with 100.47 miles on the Garmin.

January DONE!

What I learned from my first century of 2015 is this;
  • 100 miles after such a long break from endurance riding is more a mental challenge than physical
  • Have a nutrition plan and stick to it
  • Cycle lanes are as much a convenience as an inconvenience
  • I must change hand position more often as my hands started to go numb and tingly
  • Road surfaces are always bad no matter where you ride

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Training for 12 centuries

Having set myself the challenge to ride 12 centuries this year, I need to get the right training in to be able to complete it.

Although I ride 5 days a week to work and back, 20 miles a day isn't enough to comfortably ride 100 miles in a day. With the first ride due before the end of the month, January's training will be short and sharp. My first ride of the year was 25 miles so the second training ride was going to be double.

With the weather being wet, windy and often cold in January, choosing a suitable window for riding is a challenge. I ride in all weather, but when you ride in all conditions as often as I do, leisure riding should be a tad more enjoyable.

I decided to ride on Sunday, rather than the Saturday as there was no rain forecast and the wind wasn't as strong. Based on the wind however, I decided to do two anti-clockwise loops of my beachy head training circuit.

Riding for an hour or so is fine without any extra fuel as the body stores about 1,500kcal of energy in the form of glycogen. Once this is used up, your body can use fat to provide energy but not when working at high intensity. To keep your energy stores topped up, you need to fuel as you go. The nice guys at 2pure sent me some Honey Stinger waffles to test out. These are a little different from my normal ride fuel of gels or bars. The waffles are like soft chewy thin biscuits. The're fairly easy to open even with thick gloves on and are easy to chew unlike some energy bars. They taste great too. The only negative is that they are a little wide and don't easily fit in all jersey pockets. Each waffle is 142kcal and 20g carbs.

Along with fuel, hydration is also critical. When it's cold outside the temperature of your drink can drop dramatically. Fortunately the guys at Nathan Sports have come up with a drinks bottle that's double wall insulated to keep your drink at the right temperature. On the flip side, it keeps your drink cooler for longer on hot days. The bottle has a great wide mouthpiece that allows a fast flow of fluid. It took a little getting used to though. Another neat feature is the insulated insert has a 360 degree reflective design that is great to keep you more visible on those dark mornings and nights through the winter. You can see it glow in my photo.

Riding on top of Beachy Head was much windier than I was expecting. I stopped to take a picture and my bike kept blowing away! The wind did have a couple of bonuses though, It was behind me up the biggest hill and when I got to the top I was a little warm so it helped cool me down.

I think I may just get another 50+ mile training ride in before the first century. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

First ride of the year

Having treated myself to a new Garmin Edge 500 bike computer, it was time to test it out on the first ride of the year. The nice peeps at 2pure sent me the Barfly 2.0 Garmin mount from Tate Labs. It works with all Garmin Edge quarter turn devices and puts the GPS unit ahead of the handlebars, rather than on the stem. Because it's securely screwed tight to the bar, there's no risk of the unit hitting the ground.

Having not been on the bike since Christmas Eve, I was wondering how the hills would feel. I was doing my small training loop around Beachy Head so there are a couple of decent hills. The good part about slogging up the hills is that you get to go down the other side - fast! Having the Garmin mounted out front, meant that when I was on the drops, I could still see the screen by just moving my eyes and not my head. A bonus when you're travelling at 35mph!

It was a little frosty out on the ride but apart from my feet getting a little cold I was actually too warm on the climbs. It was nice cooling down on the descents. Having a newer Garmin that actually records the outside temperature meant I knew how cold it was when I got back home. Between 2-3c it seems.

It appears Strava have updated their achievements system. As well as getting a KOM for the fastest time on any segment, you can now get a KOM for the fastest time on any segment this year. I didn't realise this until I saw I had 3 KOMs on my ride. I'm really not that fast I thought. It appears I'm not :-(

I suppose it keeps people striving for improvement.

24.8 miles done. 5,975.2 miles to go.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

2014 Summary

2014 was never supposed to be big or special but there were a few goals.

Firstly I wanted to match my 2013 mileage for the year at 6,000. Secondly I wanted to complete the South Downs Way 100. Thirdly I wanted to see if I could go the whole year without using my car to commute to work. We'll see how I got on with these goals later.

Having not used my car to drive to work since 3rd May 2013 I planned to see how far I could go into 2014 doing the same. To be fair, the weather in 2014 was pretty mild. There weren't many days with frost and the wind definitely wasn't as bad as I've experienced in the past. The hardest part about trying to ride every day isn't the mindset or the equipment it's planning. Planning what you need and when and how you intend to transport it is the key. Checking the weather regularly helps. Occasionally I needed to get bigger stuff to or from work that I couldn't carry on my bike. This meant planning transporting that stuff on my days off. I completed this goal with ease. I've definitely got past the mental phase of getting out and on to the bike in any weather. However this isn't always the case for leisure riding.

In March I got to train with and meet gold medal winning olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill. I won't go into details here. You can read my report here.

Nothing important happened ride wise until April. April was #30DaysofBiking. If you're not familiar with the event, it's basically an excuse to get out on your bike every day in April. It doesn't matter what for or what distance. It just matters that you get on your bike and ride. I'm normally joined by one or both of my kids for this and my youngest son, aged 10, managed to break his record from last year and ride 140 miles.

April was also the month I took part in my first G+ community ride. This one was in the New Forest. It was a pretty wet day for cycling but it was great to meet and ride with others from the online cycling group. I also got to meet the legend that is Dave Holmes. Not only did he do the 60 mile ride with us, he rode there from London and back again. A total of 235 miles in 23 hours!

Also in April, I had the pleasure of sharing my story with Mens Health magazine and was featured in their May issue.

In June I took part in my 5th BHF London to Brighton Bike Ride. This time I encouraged a couple of people that had never done it before to take part. I also took part in the Eastbourne Cycling Festival sportive. When an event is held in your home town, it's be rude not to!

In July I took part in the Dunwich Dynamo. If you're not familiar with it, it's a 120 mile night ride from London to Dunwich in Suffolk. I had the pleasure of riding with the legendary Dave Holmes and Hamish Gaunt. We'd spoken about the event back at the G+ ride in April. Only a couple of weeks before, it was suggested that we try and ride back to London after rather than get the train. I said I was up for giving it a go but made no promises I'd be able to do it. On the night the conditions were great. It was a warm evening with rain ahead of us for almost the whole ride. We never got properly rained on until Dunwich. Having not done any century rides in 2014 and the lack of sleep, I was finding the going tough for the ride back. Because of how long it would take us, Hamish and I decided to split from Dave and head for the train at Ipswich. Having completed a total of 156 miles it became the longest ride I've ever done. I couldn't have done the last bit without the help from Dave and Hamish. Thanks guys.

Due to moving house I was unable to take part in the BHF South Downs Way 100. I was a little disappointed but it's on my list for 2015.

In September it was time for the Tour of Britain. On 7th I took part in the Harwoods Jaguar Ride Like a Pro event which was held on some of the route that the Tour would cover. It was a hard ride but I got to ride on some very nice roads. The hospitality was top notch too.

On 13th, the Tour came to my home town for stage 7. The organisers of the Eastbourne Cycling Festival put on a hill climb the morning of the stage that covered the KOM to Beachy Head. I volunteered as a marshall. The Tour was televised on a big screen for us to watch and being on the route we watched as they raced past at phenomenal speed!

For the rest of the year I didn't get much extra curricular rides in due things getting in the way, including the bad weather.

However, my final ride of 2014 was on Christmas Eve with my youngest son. We took part in an organised ride along Eastbourne seafront. We were all lit up like Christmas trees. It was pretty cold but we all enjoyed ourselves. Can't wait to do it next year but with more lights on my bike. I definitely had light envy!

I completed the year with the highest commuting miles ever, even though my total mileage was just over 750 miles down on last year. You can see from this graph that I was ahead of last year's millage until the end of August.

In 2015 I plan to ride a century a month as inspired by Hamish. Wish me luck.

2014 Totals
Total rides: 482
Longest ride:  156.65 mi
Total time: 382h 34m 12s
Avg Speed:  13.7 mph
Max Speed:  46.9 mph
Calories burned: 287,136
Bikes owned: 5
Punctures: 3

Commuting miles: 4,337.39
Leisure miles: 895.92
Total mileage: 5,233.3

Total days driven to work: 0
Total car mileage: 5,800