Friday, 26 February 2010

Grinding halt

Stopped short. Everything's coming to a grinding halt.

So far this week, I've done absolutely no training whatsoever. After the highs of last week, the contrast couldn't be greater. In fact, I've had almost no exercise at all, which is criminal really.

And my excuse? The weather. It's been dismal from Sunday onwards, which meant my high-minded ideas of getting out and about more often have been derailed. Back to the turbo trainer, then? Well, no. I did managed to change the tyre back with less difficulty than the first time I tried, but the wheel still sits forlornly in the hall with no bike attached.

What concerns me is that I haven't even bothered to even put the wheel back on. This is slacking right out of the top drawer. In my defence, I did go out on Wednesday night to sample a bottle of 32% stout. The best I can say about it, though, was that it wasn't as undrinkable as I imagined it would be.

On a brighter note, I have lost a little more weight, tipping the scales at just under 12 stone (76 kilos) earlier this week and keeping it off until this morning, when I was back to 12 stone on the dot.

I've also managed to set up my Justgiving site and have already raised the princely sum of £75. If you fancy throwing some pennies my way, you can do so at You have a choice of donating to the Macmillan Cancer Care charity via that site or clicking on the link therein and putting some cash the way of Coral Cay Conservation, who unfortunately don't have a Justgiving account.

As punishment for this week's shirking, I'm going to be giving myself a hard time on the turbo for the whole of next week. It's the least I feel I can do.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Regal progress

Slow as it's been here on the blog, in the outside world, things are moving on majestically.

Areas with royal connections have had their part to play in this. On Thursday last week, I went for my bike fitting in Windsor. The friendly and generous souls down at Swim, Bike, Run were offering free fittings last week, so I thought I'd take advantage and find out what geometry, size, etc., I should be looking for.

I now have two pieces of paper that tell me exactly what length of top tube, seat tube, down tube and head tube are best suited to my measurements. Armed with these, I should in theory be able to track down the perfect bike for me. Turns out none of the bikes I've been looking at are exact, but the CAAD9 isn't a million miles away, so that's still top of the list. The Boardman Pro Carbon is emerging on the horizon as a potential candidate as well.

As for actually buying one, that's still a long way off. Flat isn't sold, so I wait and covet instead. Mind you, having taken the old faithful off on its first outing of the year round Richmond Park on Saturday, I'm not sure I need any of your fancy new-fangled bikes. I did four laps of the park in just under and hour and a half, which is an average of around 18 miles an hour. And that on a comparatively old bone-shaker at that.

Many was the time I passed people on far more advanced and expensive bikes, but I'll reserve judgement as it's entirely possible they'd already done a fair few laps before I got there, while I stayed relatively fresh.

Having said that I did take a huge slice of pleasure passing sleek carbon racing machines ridden by Assos-clad fashionistas on my old wreck.

Rather annoyingly, that was the first and last outing for the trusty steed. My planned Sunday morning foray was stymied by dismal weather. And with the forecast set poor, it looks like it's back to the turbo.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Reach for the thigh

Measure for measure, drop for drop and pound for pound we're taking stock.

Yes Ian McCulloch, you miserable Scouse git, we are indeed. Or rather, I am. Some bright spark suggested I include a 'Thigh-o-meter' in the blog to track how 'monstrously girthed' (don't Google it) I'm becoming.

I'm no graphics wizard, so there's absolutely no chance of anything clever appearing on the sidebar, but what I will do is commit to measuring my thighs every week and posting the measurements on here. You'll no doubt be delighted to know that pictures won't be accompanying said stats.

Of course, nothing is ever simple in life. The only tape measure in the house is one of the metal snap-back variety, more usually employed in routine DIY operations than press-ganged into limb-measuring detail. Now if you've never tried bending sharp-edged metal tape around the top of your thigh, especially near the sensitive inner parts, let me counsel against it right now.

Luckily, after a couple of frankly futile attempts, I have the (as I see it) inspired brainwave of using a piece of string and measuring that instead. And how long is a piece of string? Well, in this instance exactly 60 centimetres, which by amazing coincidence also happens to be the circumference of the top of my right leg. And my left too in a reassuring piece of symmetry.

This week's turbo torture sessions are somewhat misleadingly titled 'Stairway to Heaven'. They're designed to build hill strength (yes, I looked at the internet to find them) and consist of warming up for 10 minutes.

You then flip to the big chainring and pedal at a reasonably high cadence for three minutes. Then you change up two gears, maintaining the same cadence, for two minutes, then up two sprockets again for one minute. You're allowed two minutes 'rest' on the small chainring, then do the lot again. I repeat four times in a session, then spend a further five or six minutes spinning at the highest cadence possible in a fairly hefty gear before warming down for another 10 minutes.

It's ruddy hard. I don't think there's necessarily more exertion involved than what I was doing last week, but it's the sudden jumps in resistance that really take it out of you. But although it hurts while I'm doing it, recovery seems to be a lot quicker than before. Proof positive I'm getting fitter.

So perhaps it's not all about thighs after all.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Sprocket man...

... burning out his fuse up here alone

It's a solitary lot, that of a turbo trainee. Nobody to speak to, shoved away in the corner, only you providing the motivation. Still, it's probably for the best as I can't imagine I look all that appealing puffing, wheezing and sweating like a maniac for an hour or so. My guess is I don't smell all that clever either.

While it does seem to be having an effect, I'm itching to get out on the road proper. This morning's commute in was fantastic - crisp, clear air, bright sunlight and barely any traffic. All the way in, I was imagining what it would have been like to have been climbing the foothills of Crystal Palace a few hours earlier on a twitching, taut, race-bred two-wheeled steed. Even this evening's slog up Pepys Road was far from unpleasant.

This against the backdrop of having been given the all-clear by the doctor. Her only comment was that I could do with losing a few pounds (well, duh) and that my cholesterol level was marginally high, but nothing to worry about. Optimism abounds.

So with legs freshly warmed up by a breezy ascent of Pepys Road, I took to the turbo with the idea of doling out a bit of punishment. I haven't been disappointed. Did some interval sprinting, some hard gear-crunching and some out-of-the-saddle 'climbing' in the smallest sprocket. This last torture was performed every five minutes. Managed to work my way through a litre and a half of water in the process.

None of this is particularly structured though, so I think I'm going to have to consult someone who knows what they're doing to find out how I ought to be using these hour-long sessions.

That or just search the internet.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Kilo to go

OK, so it's only a bag of sugar, but for me it's a significant milestone.

I have, as I found out this morning, lost a whole kilogramme since my training began. This puts me down to a measly 77kg and an eighth of the way to my target of 70kg by July. I feel a bit leaner too and I could have sworn my jeans were easier to put on this morning.

Since I last updated this blog, I've put in four further stints in on the turbo trainer and have begun to build a hill into my commute home. It's a mere bump in the grand scheme of things, but it is a start. For those of you who know New Cross Gate, it's Pepys Road - two-thirds of a kilometre and rising from eight metres above sea level to a dizzying 45 metres. So around a five per cent incline, then. It feels way more than that on the lumbering workhorse and with a three-kilo full courier bag on my back.

In terms of turbo training, I'm grinding up the virtual hills still. Big chainring from five minutes into the session, 50-60 minutes of increasingly difficult gearing until I reach the smallest cog, a minute or two out of the saddle every 10 minutes, then a five-minute warm-down. In my mind's eye, I'm climbing a steadily rising gradient of around six or seven miles every night. In reality, it's not as simple as that. I have no wind resistance to contend with and I can control how fast or hard I pedal, two luxuries not commonly afforded one on genuine mountains. Grappling with some real hills is becoming more of a necessity as time draws on and that will mean some serious tyre changing or, more preferably, a new bike.

Speaking of which, I'm booked in for a free bike fitting on Thursday week. It's more than likely I'll buy my new steed from the shop when the time comes as they stock what I'm after, but it'll be good to get some expert advice on what size frame I should buy as well as a few hints on correct posture. If nothing else, it'll give me a few pointers on how to set up my current ride.

More pressing on my mind currently is tomorrow's appointment at the doctor's when I get to hear the results of the tests I underwent last week. I don't think there's too much up with me, but I'll find out for sure tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

There will be blood

I don't mind giving a reasonable amount, but a pint! That's very nearly an armful!

With Tony Hancock's immortal words ringing in my ears, I rolled down the corridor to the bloodbank. The doctor had told me to warn the orderly I have a thing about blood samples and needles so as not to land them with a 'fainter' on their hands. The guy just shrugged, sat me down and started talking about football.

"Nobody likes having blood tests done," he said nonchalantly as he drained the very lifeblood from my right arm. "There you go... all done," he chirped, like a consoling mother telling her little soldier he'd been a very brave boy.

I swear I was a fair few shades whiter as I shuffled out of the clinic and headed straight for the newsagent to quell my enormous hunger. The blood test was the last in a three-pronged assualt on my person by the health services yesterday morning, which you may have read about in an earlier post. The ECG and chest x-ray were a breeze in comparison.

Somewhat wimpily, I felt too weak to do any training yesterday. It's now been some time since I sat on the trainer, but I am commuting on the steed more regularly, which I'm sure is helping. It's getting the two working in tandem that will be important in the coming weeks.

Balancing this out in no way at all is the fact that I've read thousands of words on how to train, what to eat, accessories I'll need and bikes to buy. Words that will be of great comfort when I'm burying myself in the side of a French mountain.