Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Look Mum No Hands...

Look Mum No Hands, is a new cycling themed restaurant bar recommended to me by a work college, who is also one of the biggest cycling enthusiast I know, second to Terry Rawlinson! This is all part of my immersion into the cycling culture which has took off since the beginning of this year! 
  I have lived in London for the best part of 1.5 years now and prior to 2012 have become lazy and too transfixed with XBox, something which I am not proud of. I have always been fairly active, or at least had stints of going to the gym for 2-3 months, however something always breaks the cycle - namely booze! I used to do a fair bit of cycling around Wales, recreational cycling on a Trek mountain bike which compared to my new toy handled like a tractor with four flat wheels! For the first year of living in London, my girlfriend and I were confined to what could only be described as a converted garage where we saw out her Masters degree. Having graduated and secured a job we moved into a one bedroom apartment with a garden - with enough room for my bike. This was the first thing I did, get the bike to London to swap hot sweaty mornings on the tube with hot sweaty mornings amidst traffic chaos. I much prefer the latter! 
  I didn't start commuting properly until after Christmas, I set myself some goals I wanted to achieve in 2012. 1) Ditch alcohol (for at least a month) 2) Become more motivated 3) Get out more! I wanted to find a sport which I enjoyed and didn't see as a chore. I still see going to the gym a chore, I dislike it, I understand the benefits of it, but there is nothing more monotonous and tedious than running on a treadmill looking at a digital clock to tell me how far I have gone. I enjoy weight lifting at the gym but don't have a training partner and fear my technique is rubbish. I decided at first to join the local archery club, not in a bid to get fit but just to meet new people with my girlfriend, that doesn't start until Easter though. So after much consideration (even evaluated my chances at amateur boxing!) I decided to just carry on with my sporadic gym trips. That was until I was told I could get a brand new bike with a decent discount through a work related scheme. My old mountain bike wasn't cutting it with my commute, it was sluggy and as much as I enjoyed cycling, being overtaken by everyone on route home isn't fun. So I decided to apply for the scheme and grab myself a road bike.

 Fast forward a month and I am completely hooked, to the point where I am dreaming about cycling. My new bike is great, Specialized Allez Sport Compact in white and blue. It is super quick now I am certainly not the slowest on the road. It took a bit of getting used to, I fell off with my cleats and the dropped handlebars seem to be causing hell with my neck, but aside from that I can;t get off the thing. 
  I cycle 12 miles a day but have started upping that now as I want to start cycling sportives and doing longer rides.I am keeping a log on endomondo and since January have increased my mileage exponentially, I set myself weekly goals, initially it was to double my mileage every week, I now need to clock over 200 miles this week to meet the target. Unfortunately seen as I am going to Saudi this Friday this wont happen, but my motivation is there! I have also been off the booze since January 1st, I am sure this qualifies me for a chip now. I don't have a reason to not drink other than I want to get fit! So by mid February I have already ticked off all three goals, something which I intend to build on throughout the year.
  So what does the rest of 2012 hold for me...? Cycling, cycling and more cycling, hopefully with my buddy Terry! 

Monday, 23 January 2012

My first glimpse at a bad day

Well, I think it's best to admit that yesterday's cycle of 60 miles was not my best cycle ever.  And while I would not go so far as to say that it was a bad cycle - because I didn't give up, and I did not cry - it was not my best.  I'll be honest, I found it hard.

The good news is that I know exactly why I found it hard: I was ill, and I had not prepared.  Before Christmas I managed to get up to this distance fairly easily, and had virtually no pain anywhere.  But before Christmas I was cycling mid-week as well as at weekends.  Now, if you just think about it logically, is it fair to expect a weak and flabby and rather snotty body to do such a big distance when it's been existing on a diet of chocolate and tea, and when the most exercise it's had is the lifting of the kettle?  Not really.  So would it perhaps be better to give the weak and flabby body some fair warning, and allow it to adjust by degrees and build up to the big distances, by letting it have a couple of practice goes in the week?  Yes, I think it would.

These are the things that I had to learn how to deal with yesterday - and let me just say that, actually, it was good to experience them, even though they were not very nice, because it's all part of the learning:

  • Knee pain.  Pain around the side of the right knee, to be a little more precise.  It hurt, quite a lot, and was a little bit scary.  I did think that my knee cap was going to snap off every time I pushed down on the pedal.  It's still sore today, but I can walk just fine, so in actual fact it looks like I might have been a bit wussy about the knee yesterday.  We shall see; if it drops off during the week I'll let you know.  This is one of those things that, although perhaps scary at the time, turns out to be nothing much, just a consequence of doing bigger distances, and something that the body gets used to.  Eventually it will probably stop.  (I have come to this conclusion from gauging the unsympathetic looks from Terry and Kev - their faces both say 'stop whining'.  However, they are not experts, and neither am I, so if you are experiencing knee pain, perhaps you might consider consulting a physiotherapist.)
  • Back pain.  Now this is my own fault, and comes from me not taking care of my back over the past couple of weeks.  I have mostly been slouching of an evening - nothing worse for a lower back problem.  So, I can sort this one out; and indeed, I am sorting it out now by working at my desk, rather than lounging on my couch to type.  I know this back pain clears up quickly once I start taking care of myself again.  Good-o.
  • Nausea.  Now, the nausea yesterday didn't arrive until we were on the journey back, so that's a good thing.  If it had started on the outward journey then it might have been a lot more horrible.  As it was I felt sick almost the whole way down the A6 (about 20 miles).  I think it was my body telling me that it had just had enough, and could I please pull over and call for a taxi with a big boot to put the bike in.  Poor body, all flabby and weak.  It won't feel sick next week (though actually, it might, as Terry wants to do hill training!).
  • Being on the verge of tears.  This is a new one, and I didn't particularly like it because it used up some valuable energy.  Plus it's repulsively girly, and I'm supposed to be 'manning up', like I said in some earlier post.  There was absolutely no need to be on the verge of tears, because I was only doing 60 miles - entirely doable, even with a weak and flabby body.  Now, if I'd been faced with 170 miles, and feeling sick and ill, then fair enough - anyone might expect tears.  But not when I only had a few miles left to ride.  So I give myself a figurative slap for that one.  Nonsensical.
  • Battling the wind.  I mean the actual wind, not the stuff that comes from one's bottom.  It was quite a windy day yesterday.  On normal days, when I'm fighting fit and all that, it doesn't really bother me.  Yesterday's gusts fought us for quite a big stretch, and that probably didn't make me feel any better.  But really, what can you expect when you live in the UK?  We get lots of breezes, and we just have to put up with it.  You can't not cycle just because of the weather.
But what did I gain from yesterday's cycle?  Lots of things actually.
  • A good sense of achievement, on account of completing a cycle that I did not enjoy all that much.  (I did enjoy the first 34 miles actually - it was very pleasant.)  I didn't give up, and I don't see how I ever could give up, unless I had a serious injury.  I haven't given up on any of the cycles that Terry has planned for me yet.  I would be too scared to stop cycling before I got to the end, because that would always make it easy to give up in the future - if you quit once, then you're more likely to quit again, I'm absolutely sure.  That may not apply to everyone, but I know what I'm like - a bit of a loser at heart!
  • I gained the knowledge that I can battle on through a bit of pain and mental torture.  Those thoughts that I've had before of 'I hate cycling, I'm selling my bike!' occurred to me again around the 45 mile mark yesterday.  But they were balanced and held in check by the thoughts that 'this feeling will pass, and I will be itching to cycle again in a couple of days'.  And the more positive thoughts were right - in fact I'm ready to cycle again today.  I'm not going to because I think that would be stupid, with my knee being a bit dodgy.  But I will be cycling tomorrow, just a gentle 20.
  • I found out that I was right about my mental stamina.  I had a suspicion that I would be alright once I hit a bit of a wall - and yes, let's call it that: yesterday I hit a wall - I had a suspicion that I would be able to get over any walls.  I did it.  
  • I discovered that it's best to admit to the bad bits, to the bits you've got wrong.  How can you fix things, if you're too afraid, or too stubborn, to admit that you've messed up?  I've admitted that I've not been looking after myself properly, and haven't been putting in the necessary preparation, and now I can move on, and take all of this a bit more seriously again.  
  • It was also good to have a taste of all the nastiness to come!  It's about time I started finding it difficult!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

What it is...

I was going to write about returning to training from a long illness.  I started writing it and realised that I was bored.  If I was bored writing it then it was almost certainly boring to read, so I deleted it and am starting again.

My sister is beating me at posts, she has done about 4 or 5 and I have done 1, and this just won't do.  The problem is that she, as well as being a top endurance cyclist trainee, is an actual proper writer.  I have never written anything in my life and therefore find it difficult to make myself write, I can't even do proper grammar and puntuation most of the time;..!

But this has nothing to do with cycling, so let's get on with it.

When I first mentioned to my big sister that I was going to attempt a second long distance cycling challenge and that she should get involved, I didn't really mean it.  Well I did, but I didn't for one second think she would actually do it because she has an allergic reaction to physical activities. 
As it turns out she must have slipped getting out of the bath and banged her head, because she suddenly decided that she was going to get off her considerable arse and try some cycling.  This came as a surprise, but a good surprise.

I selected a nice easy beginner ride, something with pretty things to look at so she didn't get bored, and off we went.  So far so good, she actually seemed quite excited about cycling.  But I wasn't convinced, not yet.  It would take more than a flat, sunny 20 mile jolly to make me believe she would actually stick with it.

Time and miles passed, and a new bike was bought.  My confidence in my sister's ability grew, so far she had only fallen off once and she didn't cry when it rained.  I started to believe in her newborn wobbly-legged lamb of determination.  She was hitting all the targets I had set for her and more.  Strange, I had always believed that I was born with all the good genes and she was born with all the bad ones, maybe she had sneaked a few of the good ones before I could get to them.

Linda and I have always been close, but as the miles ticked over I started to feel a new bond form between us.  I actually started to feel proud of my big sister, this was a new thing because as far as I'm aware she's never done anything good (apart from creating 3 handsome boys who all take after their awesome uncle in various ways).  When she managed to get to the top of Jubilee Tower for the first time I almost felt as though we should hug it up or something (sick!).

It's been about six months or so since we started this adventure and I finally see her as a serious, amateur endurance cyclist trainee.  At this moment in time I have no doubt that at the end of August this year she will be standing right next to me on the start line of our 340 mile, 48 hour test of body and mind, looking proud, confident and mighty, just like a Cycling Titan should do!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Here is a post somewhere else about what I think about cycling!

I wrote this piece today, and it's all about the start of my cycling career.  I'm allowed to share it, but I'm not allowed to copy it anywhere, which is why I'm posting a link to it, rather than just pasting it in here.  Do feel free to read it.

I Want to Ride my Bicycle, I Want to Ride my Bike ...

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Aaaand, we're back to square one

You know how I said that you were joining us at the end of the beginning?  Well, we're actually back at the beginning of the beginning.  Terry's been ill, with something respiratory and green.  I've been only a bit poorly, and have used Terry's illness as an excuse to be lazy.  So, we are back down to shorter distances for a while, until my poor little brother can use his lungs properly again.

So he's going to tell you all about his mucus, and I'll tell you about the cycles that we've tried lately.

For a few months we had been planning to have a really nice Christmas cycle, a nice fifty miler, with some tinsel on.  But that turned out not to be possible, on account of Tezmond's lungs not working.  So we just did a very short little ride, that was actually tremendously fun, from my house to Silverdale: just twenty miles.  It was on one of those windy days that we had over the holidays, when roads were closed in Scotland, and everyone's recycling was being blown up and down the streets.  I didn't really realise how windy it was, and was surprised when we got back and friends said 'you went out in that weather??  You must be mental!'  I think they were being dramatic - it wasn't that bad.  I mean, yeah, my front wheel got blown about a bit when we were on the coastal roads, but I didn't come off the bike, and I came back alive, which is always a bonus.

So, it was a nice leisurely ride to Silverdale and back, with a nice coffee and cake stop at Leighton Moss.  That's a lovely cake stop, the only shame of it being that it's not a bit further away - it'd be a perfect mid-point for a longer ride.  But there are plenty other little treasures to find, so we'll not dwell on that.

When we did this particular ride, I think it had been two weeks since we'd been out.  And I think I remember being told a few years ago that if you stop training for two weeks (that was when I was 'running') you're really starting again when you go back out.  I didn't really think that that would be true, but now I've seen that at my level of unfitness it is the case.  I hadn't built up enough reserves of muscle, hadn't increased my lung capacity sufficiently, to enable me to do big distances again after a two week break.  The Silverdale cycle is very easy, and even with the very windy wind, it didn't take long.  But I was back to being tired again.  (Mind you, at one point I hared off down a nice straight road and left Terry for dust - that's never happened before, and probably never will again!)  The fifty- and the sixty-milers that I'd done before Christmas had been good for me, and I'd noticed that I wasn't getting tired the day after a cycle any more.  That tiredness has returned a bit, which is a little annoying as I'd been doing so well.  But this time I know it'll pass quickly, so I'm not deterred or demotivated by it.  In fact, quite the opposite: I'm eager to crack on and cycle more so that I'll build my energy levels up again nice and quickly.

Anyway, we tried another smallish cycle at the weekend, just a leisurely thirty-five.  Actually, it was quite hard work.  Where did we go?  Oh, my brain, I can't remember anything lately.  Oh yes, Kirkby Lonsdale, to a nice little, err, coffee shop *sheepish grin*.  You might notice that we punctuate our cycling with cups of tea, cake, Haribo, and often with nice lunches at nice cafes.  It's not that we're not serious about our cycling, it's just that we like to chat, and chatting is best over a cup of tea and a goat's cheese and caramelised onion bruschetta from that nice vegetarian cafe in Kendal.  What can you do?  Fuel must be taken on for the return journey - might as well chat whilst filling up.

I think that, really, I should be talking more about the cycling and the performance of my bike, and whether or not anything on the bike is clicking that shouldn't be, and whether I got cramp anywhere, and where I got my base layer from, and how waterproof my jacket is.  But in all seriousness, there's not much to say at these short distances.  My body isn't really hurting yet - I'm eagerly awaiting the start of the pain, that I know will come soon enough - I've not suffered any injuries, my bike is performing beautifully, and nothing has dropped off it yet, I haven't had a puncture to deal with, and my base layer is nice and warm as a base layer should be, and so on.

More cycling will be done this weekend.  I wonder whether we might see if we can do a fifty without collapsing.  I think it will be good - I'm looking forward to getting on with some proper training now.  There's a lot to do, and now, because we've had a break, it feels a little bit like we're running out of time.  We want to do our coast-to-coast-to-coast in about August, so we need to be getting up to those bigger distances quite soon if I'm to stand any chance of being fit enough to complete the distance (340 miles, in case you didn't read earlier posts) in 48 hours.

I don't know what's happened to me, but usually I'd have given up by now and have made up my mind that it's all just too difficult - none of that this time; cycling must suit me.

So, let's get on with it.

Monday, 5 December 2011

60 miles!

Now, there's a major problem when you're writing a cycling blog, and it's to do with photos.  Now, if we had sophisticated technology at our disposal, we would have amazing cameras that we could attach to our handlebars, Terry and I, and we would be able to take photos of each other's bottoms for something hilarious to post on this 'ere bloggage.  We might also be able to shoot super-quality video in the same way, and you would then be able to hear what it sounds like when I am wheezing my way up a 'hill'.  But we a'n't got any of that.  So for the time being, all we can show you is what we look like when we stop for a butty:

Or perhaps what we look like when we see something amusing (or rather, should I say, something that amuses us?):

These splendid snapshots were taken just over a week ago, when I did my best distance so far (although, almost every distance I do now becomes a personal best), of 60 whole English miles!  60 miles, I tell you.  Not 6.  60.  Now, I don't mind telling you that I'm pretty damned proud of myself for that; also proud of my trainer for pushing me.  Pushing me, in the sense that he makes me do longer distances than I think I'm capable of, rather than actually physically pushing me, because that would probably be impossible because I am heavy, and he might fall off his own bike (which is a Trek - Terry, tell us about your bike).

And let me tell you something else: that 60 miles that I did, was, in actual fact ... quite easy!  This is what I'd been told, by people who work at the Power Station who cycle, that when you pass the 50 mile milestone things get a little easier.  I didn't really believe them, because how could things get easier when they're actually getting more difficult?  But they're quite right - though also, at the same time, quite wrong.  Things are easier, because I'm fitter; things are also much more difficult because Terry is a hard task-master: he said he was thinking of rewriting my training schedule because it now looks too easy (what with me actually being a cycling TITAN!).

So, that 60 miles, in brief, took us from Lancaster, round some lanes near Oakenclough and that, crossing back and forth over the motorway, and into Preston.  Actually, to the far side of Preston, to a picturesque park that I didn't even know was there.  Then it brought us down the A6, and home.  60 miles, on the dot.  I still had energy left afterwards, and was dancing - yes, dancing, to the tunes on Terry's iPod.  I'll be taking my own iPod next week.

Next week I would like to write all about our cycle straight away, so that I don't forget things.  As it is, this week, I can't tell you much because it's all disappeared, leaked out of my ears and nose.  I can tell you, though, that we live in a beautiful part of the world, of the country, and every time I go out on the bike I see something gorgeous, something breathtaking, something that makes me smile and be glad to be alive.  We'll get some photos of these astounding sights over the next few months.

For now, erm,  до свидания (goodbye, in Russian).

Monday, 28 November 2011

Let me take you back ...

What maketh a man a man?  Mountainous pecs, thunderous biceps, wealth and women?  No, I tell thee, nay do these things maketh a man.  Spunk, grit, awesomeness.  These are the makings of a real man.  I have all these qualities, in very small quantities (ha, tities).  Before I cycled Land's End to John O't Groats I had none of these attributes.  When I set off from Land's End on that slightly-chilled, slept-on-the-front-seat-of-an-Astra morning, I was but a shadow of the man I am now.

What followed was the bestest, worstest, hardest, awesomest, most eye-opening experience of my young life.  Let me give you a very quick run down of the events of those nine days:
Day 1 - Hills and miles
Day 2 - Hills and miles  
Day 3 - Miles and miles  
Day 4 - Miles and miles and miles
Day 5 - Miles, hills, Scotland and miles
Day 6 - Hills, hills, hills and miles and hills
Day 7 - Miles and miles and hills
Day 8 - Pain
Day 9 - Hills and miles and smiles

Woah, woah, woah, I hear you cry, that's a lot of miles.  You're right: about 920 to be almost exact.  How does a budding man prepare himself for such an olympic-sized task?  The answer is cycling, as much cycling as you can muster, or in my case about half as much as I should muster.  Not to worry, I had a secret weapon, blind optimism.  As it turns out that's all you need.  A man can cycle himself fit, but if you're lacking in mental strength you'll never make it.

You experience many emotions on a journey such as this.  I experienced mostly anger, anger because it was too hot, too cold, too windy!  Wind is the cyclist's worst enemy, wind of the sky and wind of the bottom.  Sometimes a man needs a poo, the worst place to need a poo is on a bike, but we'll talk about that later.

You would have thought it enough to cycle the length of the UK; but no, I'm not satisfied.  My soul is hungry and it must be fed.

So what's next?  More of the same?  Nay, for we must strive to push ourselves further and further, both physically and mentally.  I hear tell of a mystical journey from sea to murky sea and back again.  A mere mortal would look on this and say 'Pah, three days says I, be the time betwixt whence to complete such a challenge'.  But we are no mere mortals Lady Wordsmith and I, we are Titans.  Thusly, we WILL complete this challenge in no more than 48 hours.

As you might have gathered from this introductory post, I'm no writer (my big sister checks my grammar and spelling for me).  But I have tales to tell and advice to give, and tell and give I will.

As a great man once said:

'Live strong, die hard'.