Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Spring is in the air

Opportunities to get out on my new bike have been somewhat limited by shift work and swabbing on the Declaration tour (not that I am complaining) so despite finishing my night shift at 10am this morning... the cycle home from work convinced me that today was a good day to go out. It wasnt cold or raining.. probably a first since september 2013 and given that I had a free day (probably should have been sleeping some of it) it seemed too good to miss.

As with anything... a bit of preparation is needed. Spare tube.. check.. pump .. check... water bottle... check.  And off I went.

I had no clear plan... just a vague direction. Originally thought I would aim for windsor and then down and back across in a huge loop but soon the temptation to just take any road that looked good took over.

Spring is most definately in the air and when cycling there are clues that pop up along the way to make this point.
1st is an increase in the amount of flies you find yourself spitting out. An inevitability for any cyclist.. it becomes in springtime a substantial protein addition to the diet.

2nd is the realisation that once again you have to brush up your rabbit/pheasant dodging skills as they inevitably lie in wait at the side of the road waiting for you to approach before launching themselves within a whisker (no pun intended) of your front wheel in the rabbit version of divine wind (not a flatulance reference... )

3rd is the realisation about half way through the ride that really the base layer/long fingered gloves/waterproof layer really weren't necessary and that you are slowly being reduced to a puddle.

All good though and my bike was performing brilliantly. Some hills I seemed to float up (despite my low level of fitness at present) and the downhills were pure speed along with handling that made me feel sure of the bike.  Occasionally I had a problem clipping in due to the fact that my new pedals are one sided rather than multi sided as my previous ones were. Most of the route was pretty flat though and I used it as an opportunity to put the power down and cruise at a good speed.

The one problem with going down roads you like the look of is that several times I found myself back at the point I had left... having done a wierd kind of loop. Whilst this didnt bother me as I was aiming for decent mileage it did mean that I didnt get very far out of Reading.. and certainly never saw Windsor.. in fact I ended up in Camberly and heading towards Frimley. 

Being Spring.. I now can go out on my bike in my lycra cycling shorts. In colder weather I wear them under another pair of shorts but now had to bite the bullet.  Lycra... never a good look unless you are stick thin with very well defined musculature. Unfortunately this is not an accurate description of me and it does take a bit of nerve to just wear the cycling shorts. I dont think I look as bad as the picture currently circling facebook of a woman wearing leggins (who really shouldnt be) on a bike but I certainly am very self conscious about it. 
On the plus side... less seams =less chafing (a subject discussed at length previously), however in future I must remember the chamois cream for any rides over about 30 miles as it began to get pretty uncomfortable by mile 40.

It occurred to me that cycling in USA allowed for far more freedom for contemplation because once you turned onto a road.. you knew you would be following it for the next 70 miles. Here with all the twists and turns and junctions.. the concentration needs to be upped a bit. This didnt stop me turning completely the wrong way on the way home.. god knows how I got across America!

I have lately been put to shame by the efforts in training by my friend Mickey... who will be doing lands end to john o groats this june. So at least now I have some miles on my training plan. I do have a few months (try at least 18) in which to work myself up to a fitness level that will be the equal of New Zealand and prevent me dying from exhaustion over there but as I learned last time.. the months/days/hours go bloody quickly and it will be here before I know it.

The initial mapping is done. Next up is the detailed daily maps which will let me work out how many miles I will aim for each day. The bonus this time is that I at least have a routine for the days and how to cope with the day by day exhaustion.

So 45 miles today in just under three hours... which included a stop for food post ride (the carbs were calling me). Which brings me back to Lycra... nothing makes you face up to any and all body image fears than walking into a tesco in your cycling kit! And on that note..

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The road waited paitiently...

Any one who has been unlucky enough to have seen me in the past 2 weeks will have had to put up with a lot of moaning... I have had a cold ... yes a bad one... no not the female version of man flu... today was the first day in almost 2 weeks I have felt well enough to contemplate making my shiny new bike dirty.

My shiny new bike has been sitting folorn in my porch... especially with the dramatic improvement in the weather and frankly I havent had the motivation to get out there.  Route 66 left me with a bit of a bike hangover... one which fortunately is starting to lift with new dreams and plans. I have discovered recently about myself that unless I have a plan on the go... something to aim for... I can be prone to swing into laziness and tv and sofa calls louder than the wind wistling past me.
All that is sorted now because I have officially announced ... basically shared on facebook... my intentions to cycle north to south new zealand for LHS.
And so cold finally abating... I prepared my kit and swung my legs over clipping into my slightly new pedal system and began to pedal (slightly tentatively) towards the main road.
As I think I have said before..  every bike has a different feel to it and can take some getting used to. But right away I liked the way this one handled... I was expecting a slightly skittish ride but at every turn it felt like I could trust it.. solid but lighter. The drawback... I could feel every bump in the road... round here there are a few.. and the vibration were easily felt through my gloves.

The goal of todays ride was to go where the wind took me... turn down roads if I liked the look of them.. stop if I saw a nice view... but ultimately get some miles in to my slightly atrophied leg muscles. Therefore I found myself negotiating quiet country lanes... familiar in their location but with an unfamiliar feel from the back of this bike.
More wary of potholes and gaining a puncture as havent got a spare inner tube to fit this bike yet.. so a puncture would seriously put a dent in this wonderful day.

At points I went down on the drops and could feel the superior power transfer and subsequent acceleration. The new pedals are slightly different than I have had previously.. being a halfway house between road and mtb cleat fittings. Made for road touring they provide greater stability for the foot by reducing side to side movement.

I found myself. . Ten miles in to the ride at silchester... a favourite spot of mine.  There is a little known roman ampitheatre nestled in the countryside. A quiet spot where it is easy to imagine it how it was centuries before. I didnt linger long however as was impatient to get more miles under my belt... even if they were easy ones... no wind and sunshine. Continuing on I slipped into my own headspace... a state of being that I had become so familiar with during october and have missed somewhat since I got back from the USA.  Barely noticing the miles as they clocked up.. the countryside was green and the sounds and smells that are linked with being out in the fresh air once again flooded my senses.

At one point I found myself on a duel carriageway but this minor interruption to the peace and tranquility was only temporary and was the exception rather than the rule today.

My general lack of fitness started to show around mile 28 where the legs complained a little at a reasonably steep rise... but I had to remind myself that I was climbing these hills in a bigger gear than usual.. due to the lightweight frame beneath me.  Despite this by mile 30 I was once again feeling good. My legs had come back to me and with that familiar feel of sudden energy surge (for no particular reason - other than having broken through the barrier) the pedals turned faster and smoothly and I was once again whizzing along the road.
Any bike ride wouldnt be complete without the usual emergency pheasant dodging manoeuvre. . And there was one hold my breath moment when a car squeezed me into a huge pothole and I emerged slightly jarred and concerned for my tyres... but the bike held together without incident and I continued with the reassuring feel of solid tyres.

About 3 miles from home... the legs died a little bit... but considering exercise of the biking kind has been notably absent from my life lately.. its no wonder the muscles were complaining. That said I was pleased with the 40 mile total and the bike.
I have however been put to shame this weekend by my good friend mickey who braved wind and rain to complete another 60 mile training ride in preparation for his lands end to john o groats ride in suupport of LHS. chapeau mickey! Details of his page can be found on my Route 66 facebook page and would appreciate you checking out his page and supporting him in his adventures!

It was a good day... one of many more to come. The smile and the bounce are back!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Its like a medical procedure...

2016... february... seems a way a way... until you begin to plan another big adventure. Suddenly the amount of time condenses and you realise that actually time to train and plan is already slipping through your fingers faster than water down a welsh mountain stream. The plans are being formed In my mind but nothing concrete has been achieved... until today.

Today I bought a bike...

Yes I know .. I have one.. but this is different and more of that later...

You live and learn right. Well I learnt a lot about myself and cycling in a month out on the road and a couple of problems surfaced which I am hoping to avoid next time.  My right 4th finger got to a point where it wouldnt straighten, possibly because of a slightly incorrect position on the bike..  maybe too much pressure on my palms... trapping a nerve or something like that. The solution in my mind was to get a proper bike fitting done.

So off I went  to a local bike shop (AW Cycles for anyone interested)  on the off chance they would have a slot to sort me out in.

My objective for the next challenge is North to South New Zealand... nominally as a solo ride... but with the possibility of having a friend drive an RV, which I would only meet up with at the end of the day to use as a mobile hotel in the truest sense of the word.  This means I could carry less kit but would still need to carry enough should I need to be self sufficient for a few days. This would make family and friends happier but still satisfy my need to feel 'alone' and be self reliant. Email me if you think its cheating and I will seriously consider tweaking the idea lol.

So with that in mind... I needed a light bike (New Zealand is NOT flat) with plenty of gears but strong enough to carry at least one pannier  full of kit and therefore have attatchments for a rack.

But first the fitting. I got to try on some really nice cycling shoes (bank manager notified of the price) in order to help achieve the fitting. Then handed a pair of cycling shorts to change into.(trying to think if I shaved my legs yesterday or the day before lol).. the indignities began. Height measured... foot size recorded and all going well. Then with the words.. stand astride this bar... it got a lot more uncomfortable.  Specifically for the (ahem) inside leg measurement... the idea is that the bar is Inched upwards until you are just about standing with your heels on the floor... any men having this done would undoubtedly be speaking a whole octave higher for a few hours after this procedure... I have been more comfortable after surgery frankly. Very glad no one was standing with a camera in hand at this point but it was only a short period of embarrassment and as I have shared worse (chafing issues) I dont see any reason to keep this quiet.

Then looking like an idiot with arms outstretched for shoulder and arm measurements... tap it all into a computer program... to be told that I have a wierdly short body but my long arms and legs make up for it... thanks for that!

Anyway... all this essentially means that both Trek and Giant bikes (which surprisingly the shop stocks) suit me perfectly in their frame design. Which gives me a choice to make. Im drawn to the Trek but the one I like is only in White (gets muddy quickly) and more importantly is slightly more expensive.

Giant have a defy series which go from 5 (the cheapest) to 1.. going up in £100 increments. The 2 is nice but probably more than I was going to spend... the 4 components arent as good... what about the 3... only in white again. BUT... Giant make a womens version and joy of joys.. its black and red. Perfect...

Whilst paying I ended up chatting about route 66 .. book etc and some interest in some sort of sponsorship a possibility... although I wont hold my breath yet.

So thats a bike fitting... unless you have a reason.. dont do it. Mildly embarrassing... majorly uncomfortable... but if it means my hands return from New Zealand in better shape than from America it will have been well worth it.

Picking the bike up Wednesday so will let you know how it goes (like the wind I hope)
Still smiling!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Let the mountains challenge me,....

So after solo scrambling yesterday, today was the official course day,    first glance out of the window this morning told me some improvement in the weather had occured.... no rain for starters. So I left for the meeting cafe early, mainly so I would have some time with a phone signal to catch up with everyone. Eventually 8 am arrived and I found myself drinking a coffee with the guide for the day and two other gentlemen who were also participating. We had reasonably similar aims for the course but it seemed they had a vast amount more experience with winter mountaineering than I do, this being my first foray into this world of ice and snow. 
We then drove back to literally the point I had started and kit was produced from rucksacks. This being my first time, I was on a try before you buy policy and was borrowing most pieces of kit. So out came the mountaineering boots, looking more like space boots... infkexible, hard shelled and waterproof, they must have added at least 1kg, or at least thats what it felt like. Walking in them, just on the concrete was tricky at first, and I briefly wished for my leaky walking shoes.

Then out came crampons, walking axe, rope, karabiners and an assortment of slings and other equipment. Once that had been squared away we set off the path towards the top, initially following a similar path to the one I had trodden yesterday.

My lack of fitness showed, well at least to me, as I was soon huffing and puffing, worse than that, I was overheating rapidly. My new coat, much better at keeping warmth in than im used to and soon the zip as open as we made our way up. At one point we came to  reasonably steep gully, filled with boulders and the scrambling started. In mountain boots, once again, it seemed trickier than it normally would but soon became more confident in balancing on the rigid toe caps and using them to thrust up for the next foothold.., better still, was enjoying every second of this. Its what I would do for fun out and about by myself in the mountains and the weather was holding to create a pleasant day.
Once we had topped out of the gully  we were faced with a boulder field. Once again I struggled with the new boots, but soon found a balance and found that I didnt feel the rocks bashing into the sides of my feet, as I do normally with walking shoes, which made this part more enjoyable than usual. Then finally we hit the snow line,  and this is where the boots crossed from ok to fantastic. Fully waterproof and occasionally sinking ankle deep, it didnt matter and the grip on them outclassed anything I had ever worn on my feet before.

Then we arrived at the bottom of the walls of the peaks and here the guide pointed out where small avalanches had been, the cornices on the ridges above, which are inherently unstable and other things to be aware of when selecting where to climb... invaluable information.

On went the crampons and out came the axes, harnesses and helmets on, and the real fun of the day began. First came a lesson in putting on and ways of walking in crampons.  Another thing to get used to. This type of snow too soft for proper crampon use and we regularly sank up to knee or even waist level as the soft snow gave way under our weight.

Kicking steps in the snow was fun, but hard work, but despite being told it was easier to follow in others footsteps, I kept veering slightly off line to practice the technique.   As we progressed up the gully, the angle increased until we were informed that we were on a slope of 30 to 40 degrees, which by the way, is where most avalanches happen.... interesting.

Eventually we reached a point where the ropes came out and here at least I knew how to attatch myself to it and belay others. That however is only the beginning. Here we covered anchors to rock, using slings and karabiners and attaching anchoring points as you go up, to lessen the fall distance.  So then we continued up the gully,  taking turns to lead and belay.  The hardest parts were where you would climb on some exposed rock with your crampons, balancing on the 2 front points in places, axe dug into turf, not snow. As I  hadnt done this before, I was a little slower,  but gained confidence in the crampons and was moving a bit easier by the end of each pitch. 

It was at one of the points where lead climber switched that I remembered to look at the view. Up till now I had been concentrating too hard, but as I looked  down and around me, the scenery  blew me away quietly.  The sun was lighting up the valley and the surrounding snow tops looked suddenly accesible with this new found way of moving.
Suddenly the danger areas jumped out at me, places to avoid, cornices that might at any second, fracture and fall to the floor below. This new found knowledge felt like a whole new world had opened up to me, a new playground to get temporarily lost in, new challenges and dreams to set my sights upon.

But back to the business in hand... The ground got steeper as we climbed and soon we were on all fours, axe in hand, three points to the snow at all times. The safety net provided by the rope removed an element of fear, and enabled the mind to concentrate on hand and foot placement. Several pitches later and one rock/snow bit that I found a bit more tricky, and we were standing grinning at the top.  The lessons hadnt finished. Snow anchors were demonstrated and abseil technique from a snow anchor demonstrated and just like that the day had gone and it was time to be heading down.

The adage of  'the top is only halfway' was highlighted as as I know from many of the books I have read,most accidents and deaths happen on the way down.  Personally I prefer going uphill as down hurts the feet more. Fun on snow slopes with long strides though at times backwards was a faster method, despite getting the occasional face full of snow from the climber above. It certainly was quick and in no time at all, the crampons were off, climbing gear was stowed and we set a reasonable pace back to civilisation.  The wind picked up on the way down and once again provided a reminder how quickly conditions can change.  By now, my foot, the previously damaged one on route 66, was starting to hurt but managed to keep up and not jar it too much.

And then we shook hands, swopped emails to exchange photos and went our separate ways. Personally I felt that I had gained an awful lot out of today. New equipment, not quite mastered, but at least now familiar... a greater sense of the different dangers winter in the mountains can bring, and how to avoid them or at least reduce the risk, and finally the satisfaction that completing a new challenge brings, albeit leaving me with more dreams and ideas.  Today the mountains called me and I shouted back!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

New adventures...

This past week has been a pretty good one. Firstly my book about the Route 66 bike ride has been published and is available on amazon in kindle format and from the printers in paperback. I spent a good hour staring at the amazon screen, generally in amazement that something I wrote is on amazon. It does have one slight drawback... it signals the end of a fantastic adventure that took me across America, which means that I now need something else to plan. New Zealand in feb 2016 is looking more and more a certainty but that does leave a bit of a gap.

Which brings me to my ten year plan and this weekend which signals the beginning. I have a ten year plan to climb Mount Everest.... now I have had this plan for a while and have even gone so far as to hint at it, but that is a bit different than getting the wheels in motion.  I may never reach Everest, due to the huge costs involved but might as well see where my plan takes me and I am following my own advice of dream, plan and (most importantly) do.

So with that in mind the first part of the plan swung into action this weekend. I had booked a winter climbing course to try and learn some of the fundamental skills required. Fortunately it had snowed in wales... unfortunately its not the right type of snow, so the day I am going to do is more of a winter mountaineering course, with hopefully some useful information about staying safe, survival skills, belaying etc. So I  drove up monday morning towards north wales and as soon as I saw the mountains in the distance, I felt a huge wave of calmness sweep over me, not that I have been particularly stressed out lately, but every time I arrive here It fortifies the soul.

Im staying at a yha, essentially on the edge of the snowdonia national park. But this is not the snowdonia I am very familiar with, in  fact this range of mountains that the yha is nestled in is separate to the snowdon range and I havent really set foot in them before. The first sight of them is pretty impressive, the tops have a dusting of snow, which makes them look more majestic.  Having arrived at the yha a bit early to check in, I gather some kit, throw it in a rucksack and set off down the road in pursuit of fresh air and freedom after such a long drive. The road doesnt really hold any interest for me and as I often do, I scrambled off the road, up the mountain,not on any particular path, when I realised, in my haste to get out there, I was wearing completely the wrong shoes, which were now soaked through. Since I already had wet feet, I carried on, up over rocks and through boggy ground till I reached the waterfall.

I love waterfalls, I love getting as close as possible and letting the noise of the water hitting the rocks fill my ears with the roar. Normally, with better footwear, I would be clambering up as far as I could go, but with trainers, its incredibly slippery. I was also heeding the time, as didn't really want to be sliding down in the dark, and there would be plenty of time to get wet, muddy and tired tomorrow. So back I went, settled in a room, meant for 4, but seemingly only occupied by myself and then went to get food.

The next morning, I woke up early and got everything ready to get out the door once it was light as wanted to make the most of the reasonable weather. My plan was to ascend the mountains behind the yha and then arc round the back of them before dropping back down to the road. I found a path and set off at a good pace. It wasnt raining,but the wind was reasonably strong, even in the valley and I was mindful that when dealing with mountains, the weather can change at the drop of a hat.  So I was well kitted up. A base layer and t shirt, with a fully waterproof, insulated jacket and waterproof, insulated trousers. In my rucksack I carried another thermal layer, some thermal waterproof gloves, a survival bag, first aid kit and headtorch, gaiters, energy tabs, water bottle a fruit energy bar and my SPOT tracker. I had most eventualities covered. My problem at the beginning was that I was far too hot when climbing up. But better than being cold in my book.
It was probably because it was early, but didnt see anyone on the way up, and I reached the lake in good time. Here I got blasted by the wind,  and as I went round the lake, I was glad of the layers. Then I reached the point where the path wound upwards. I say path but from this point on it was a series of boulders and the scramble upwards began.  It was pretty steep and even my hiking boots were not gripping hugely well but it was ok until I came to a stream, where the path had been washed away. Too wide to jump at this point I scrambled/slid down the mountainside looking for a point to cross. Eventually I found a bit where I could sit on my arese, stretch my leg out to a slightly wobbly rock, which had water flowing fast over it, and gain enough purchase to stand up on one leg, reached out with the other and found a hold on the far side of the bank. Tricky....
Safely over the other side, the 'path' continued up through a gash in the rock walls and although several times I was clambering up and over huge boulders, I made the top of the path, to find snow and what looked like a river bed leading to the ridge. Here the wind was funneled directly towards me and it was no longer gentle.  Blowing at 40 to 50 mph I was at one point leant 45 degrees into it to stop being bowled over, and this was whilst I still had the ridge offering a bit of protection. I crested the rise to find myself on the flat, with a view to die for. Straight ahead the path continued, eventually to lead to Llanberis, but I turned right, instead of the planned left. This was because the peaks above to the left were now completely shrouded in mist and cloud and I could see the peak to the right, which meant I would have more chance of topping out. I rounded the corner, past the lake at the top and was once again hit by a wind so strong, that I found myself dropping to my knees to stop being blown off the edge of the ridge. Several times I just stopped myself from being bowled over and once I was blown across the ground, whilst sitting down... and this wasnt at the top. The peak was calling me and I tried to fight against the wind, but with every meter I climbed the strength of the wind increased. Added to that it had started to hail/snow. The clouds were being blown in from the llanberis side and I decided that soon I would be able to see very little and the weather would get even worse, so relunctantly, I  turned around and headed back to the path to descend.

I had noticed that the peaks even further to that side, seemed to be less cloud covered and made a plan to drop back down to the lake and try getti g to the peak from the other side. Coming down, I met a nice lady walking up and warned her about the conditions. She said 40 to 50mph had been forecast but she thought it was worse, but so saying continued on up.  It did make me feel better that I wasnt the only one running around the top in this kind of weather and maybe I was just being pathetic by electing to turn around.

However I continued down,  past the snowline and slowly and carefully made my way through the gash in the wall, treading carefully as the rocks were now wet as well as steep. I had only descended a short way when the wind dropped off a bit and I once again felt a bit more secure.

Got to the lake again, and here the deterioration in the weather was palpable,  with gusts once again making me unsteady on my feet. Undeterred however, and wanting to get to the top of something, I headed up the path that would lead me to the peak from the other side. This was a better, more clearly defined path and although slightly steeper in places I manahed to get to the ridge with little difficulty... and then... battered once again by the wind. Here the snow was being blown off the peak and hurtling at a 90 degree angle, straight at me. I had to kneel down and turn my back to the wind to stay upright. Every time the gusts stopped, I stood up and climbed further, but it literally became impossible to stand and I got blown over so hard that my arm hit a rock, which hurt!  So once again,despite not being that far from the peak, I turned back. Basically crouching as much as possible to keep a low profile and making sure I was secure in my footholds before trusting them. It was a bit of a battle but I made it to the path descending and almost as doon as I did, I was protected from some of the severity of the wind,which enabled me to practically run down, carefully of course!

As I descended, I kept an eye on the other path, hoping that the lady I met hadnt hung around long at the top, and was on her way down. But finding it difficult to see with rain now lashing in my eyes, I carried on down.
There were other peopke at the lake when I got there but none were continuing upwards. The weather was getting worse by the second and I was glad I came down when I did. That said, it was only half twelve when I got back to the yha and hadnt felt as though I had made the most of the day yet. The wind was better in the valley and the rain had died down,so I elected to walk along the road next to the resevoir with a view to finding the path that would take me round it. I found the entrance and a small road that took me over a bridge to what was supposed to be the beginning of the path. Up I went, searching for at least a defined track, but ended up wading through extremely boggy ground and rivulets. Added to that the clouds had closed in, visibility was worsening and the rain was lashing down, to the point where I was wiping my eyes every few seconds just to be able to see.  My feet were now soaked and I had given up rock hopping, instead just wading ankle deep through the bog... yeah, I know... mad. Well it had even come to the point where I thought I was mad, do descended back over the bridge for a fast clip along the road to the yha.

Despite the snow, hail, rain and wind... I had enjoyed today. Just  being out in the mountains and once again relying on no one but myself, with consequences, possibly severe ones, if I misjudged anything... makes me feel alive, more than anything, and once again, the mind becomes free and the thoughts flow uninterrupted. Perfect!  I also was reminded that although I have been across deserts and shown spectacular canyons, actually, this place makes me just as happy, charming me in its own way, and all close to my backdoor,  relatively speaking anyway.

So first day outdoors done and am looking forward to the course day tomorrow...maybe I will learn how to keep moving against a wind that strong!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Rubber Glove....

Ok i know I'm a nurse but this isn't anything to do with my job.... I have just completed the first video (the fitness test) from and I thought I'd share my suffering with you !

Sufferfest, for those that don't know is a website where you can download videos featuring cyclists on Grand Tours, with instructions to match your effort to.

For example... warmup of 20 mins at effort level 2-7.5 at rate of 90, then test of 20 mins at effort level 7.5 and above.

It is down to you whether you try as hard as you can and try to match the effort levels accordingly... so it is possible to go through the video with not huge amounts of effort but I guess anyone who is mad enough to download the videos isn't the kinda person to take it easy...

The Kit.. my new indoor exercise bike.. looks like a racing bike and feels much the same.  the saddle is slightly different and after an hour of hard effort i think i need to move it forward a bit but other than that the bike works well.

I chose (somewhat unwisely) to wear long cycling tights and a baselayer top and although my flat is not warm...well more of that later.

So tab set up to play video, water bottle filled, i am ready to go.

It starts with a few easy minutes of effort level 2 at around 90 cadence (fairly fast but easy leg spinning)... fine, chilled out getting comfortable on the saddle, settling into the elbow pads.  the video shows various scenes of cyclists touring the countryside along with instructions on measuring heart rate every minute to find out what my Functional threshold Power is (or the heart rate equivalent in my case) - basically to find the heart rate (or power effort) that i can sustain without going into lactic overload.

Still with me - anyway once that finished the 'warm up' began....

Starting off easy effort levels it ramped up over the next 20mins (accompanied by some pretty awful  'music') .  I was fine for the first 10 mins, although i could feel sweat starting to accumulate already (I'm blaming the baselayer and not my recent lack of unfitness).. then 10 mins , or what felt like forever, of effort level 7...

My heart rate climbed, though not so much as to make me stop or slow down...yet.
By the end of the 'warm up', it had done just that - i was sweltering....

During the 5 min break i was treated to a video of a girl cooking an omlett, whilst on her bike rollers.  not that it was a complete rest... just for fun the video threw in minute intervals of easy spinning at a high speed (cadence) of 110.

Well I'd survived this far.. but the real test was about to begin.

Accompanied by du du duh music, it began... at effort level 7.5 BTW... reasonably difficult and guaranteed to make my heart rate shoot up.  Every minute a note of my heart rate was made... 5 mins in and the effort level increased... for the next 10 mins at effort 8, I followed Tommy Voekler (a french cyclist) in one of his infamous breakaways.. with the pack chasing. My HR went up and it began to hurt... By the end of 10 mins I was bright red, puffing from the exertion... my head was pounding and I missed half the video as my head was bent down staring at my knees with studied concentration

I could feel the lactic acid rising, that familiar taste in the back of my throat, my head screaming at me to stop... and then ... UP goes the effort level to 8.5.

Starting to feel dizzy from the effort I kept the legs turning, at one point following Tommy out of the saddle in the effort to keep it going.  I could see the minutes counting down and like I was in a real race... the adrenaline surged to keep me going.... 2 minutes left, everything was telling me to slow down, stop... i didn't have to put myself through this..WHY GOD WHY!!
30 seconds, 29 28, still I kept my legs turning round, perhaps even pushing that little bit harder with the knowledge the pain was almost over and then i looked up - Tommy sailed over the finish line, ahead of the chasing pack... I'd made it.. well i hadn't collapsed at least.

Maximum heart rate was 180 and as I took a few deep breaths, whilst keeping the legs going round.. I grinned to myself...that was fun!!  It certainly was a bit different to my usual bike outing...

I completed the warm down 2 mins at an easy effort level then climbed off the bike and downed a bottle of water.  that's it, i'm hooked.

My bike computer said I'd used 520 KCal and gone 34 Km.  My Functional Threshold Power (basically an average of my HR every minute is 166.  the idea being that I will be able to increase this over time.

So one question remains - Which video shall I download next?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

And so it begins again...

My last posting generally moaned about feeling restless and not exercising... therefore I thought I would describe my morning and the start of what I hope will be my path back to fitness again.

Cycling at the moment is not holding much appeal. Having seen the sights of arizona and new Mexico from the saddle, the appeal of reading surrounds has been somewhat diminished so foolishly I decided to give... running a go.  Its been on my mind for a while. .. the ability to run along quiet mountain trails would be something that I would love to have. But everyone has to start somewhere amd for me it began this morning at Dinton pastures .. a large nature area with lakes and rivers and more importantly. . No roads.

So feeling somewhat self conscious with my camel back and running shoes .. I set up map my run and set off.  Before I go any further on my run descrption.. I must say that I have never been a runner, I dont think I'm built for it and at this present moment in time I am probably the unfittest I have been for a while.

So I set off at a slow jog... slipping and sliding through the mud and dodging the dog walkers... for about 300 feet. I slowed to a walk... coughing, spluttering, lungs gasping for air. This was not going well. I recovered quickly and set off again, hoping that this was just my body going into mild shock after so many weeks of inactivity.  Another 300 ft and there I was again. .. pulled to a walk by lack of air. I swear dinton has less oxygen in the air than the rest of Reading.  And so went the rest of the run. I was careful not to ground to a wheezing mess in front of anyone
... my embarrassment was already sky high.  One lap was quite enough for one day... like I said this wasnt the best idea I have ever had.  It makes returning to the bike positively appealing to be fair.

I do intend to persevere with this because I have some nice challenges that this would open up to me but its going to require a lot of suffering.

Roll on 21st jan when my indoor bike arrives and roll on some decent weather where getting on the bike will once more hold some joy. Meanwhile if you see me running ... try not to laugh :)

Monday, 6 January 2014

New year... new dreams

I have to admit to an utter lack of motivation at the start of this year. Perhaps because of exhaustion hangover or a lack of something to plan and throw myself into.  Add to that the crappy weather and a bad cold over christmas and it led to the longest period of inactivity ... or at least lack of exercise... that I have had in a long time.

Not that I'm short of plans for 2014. Firstly I still have my dissertation to write.. yes I have started and no I haven't made huge amounts of headway. I will be swabbing on the Declaration Mike Peters tour and have the usual plans to walk up mountains with LHS.  Also I will have a book of my Route 66 ride published... hopefully by end of January.  So I wont be idle but yet I am already restless.

Since I got back... I have eaten too much... exercised too little and generally given myself over to lethargy... which is now beginning to bother me. And so the plans have started....

I decided that to do another big ride this year would maybe be a stretch too far to fit in.... but 2015 is another matter... but more of that in a minute.

As part of my '10 year path to Everest' I have booked a trip to the wilds of Snowdonia to begin learning about crampons.. ice axes... avalanche awareness and winter mountaineering in general.  Box 1 ticked... something new to learn and some time out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothingness...

In order to reinvigorate a healthy lifestyle.. I have invested in an excercise bike and some training videos from videos which guarantee entry into the pain cave and no guarantee of exit!  So expect some updates on how that is going in my quest to regain a higher level of fitness. Which leads me to...

.... 2015 plans!

Details are sketchy as I am in the research mode but it looks like I'm setting myself up for a gruelling challenge filled with mountain passes, spectacular scenery, and a battle with my familiar foe... headwind.  What crazy stunt are you going to do next I hear you say...(amidst headshaking and eye rolling .. and that is just me!)

Well my eyes and my head are turning in the direction of New Zealand... a 2450km ride, obviously to raise money for LHS. It's less mileage than Route 66 but by all accounts will be a much tougher ride.
The main thought of people who have cycled in NZ seems to be a fear of traffic and the main roads. However if I can survive Highway 100 out of St Louis... I can't believe that it could be worse!

I'm not 100% certain that this is what I'm going to aim for but for the moment it gives me something to plan, something to set my sights on, something to aim my training towards. And it turns out that this is what I needed to get my arse off the sofa and into gear.
So 2014 has begun... with a hint of optimism and a little crazy.... long may that continue :)