Tour de France

If you zoom in on that snap above, you’ll see the date on my acknowledgement is 2017. The organisers were giving out last year’s certificates at the finish. I think that’s a pretty decent metaphor for my entire experience, on reflection: slightly behind the times, and not really relevant as a result. I’d like to petition to take the word ‘fun’ out of that picture, as that was officially the only time a smile happened all day.

Let’s examine what we learnt.


I have a LONG Way to Go

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My stamina is not nearly what it ought to be. I completely failed at hydrating properly. I can’t feel the last two fingers and side of my left hand and if that’s still the case tomorrow, I will pop in and grab a Physio. There wasn’t enough work beforehand at mentally preparing myself and, as a result, I suffered. REALLY suffered. Miles 35-45 were what Hell would look and feel like for me, where I was forced to go up a series of small, innocuous hills over and again, with no chance to rest. There was also, crucially, absolutely no point at which I was enjoying myself.

A LOT has got Better

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No, REALLY, before you start telling me this is all negativity, the positives were there. The only time I stopped was to drink and eat, which with practice will happen on the bike. No hills had to be walked through, which is a quantum leap forward. My lungs are undoubtedly better, the ability to change gear and push through pain is there, and overall, considering how I feel this morning, this is undoubtedly the fittest I have ever been. Lessons have been learnt too over fuelling and sugar intake, which will go forward to Ride London on Sunday.

Essex is a Fucking Grumpy County Guv’nor AND NO MISTAKE

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BOY I’d not want to ride a bike on an Essex road at ANY time in the future. If there is one thing that has totally and utterly put me off ever doing this ride again it will be the motorists, who at no point seemed to care or be considerate of cyclists. If we aim to get the planet greener, I doubt Essex is going to take part in that, especially if yesterday’s ‘one twat per convertible’ headcount was any indicator. Special snacks have to be given to those who shouted at the organised bike riders to fuck off home, you da real MVP’s ^^

Cycling Elitism is Alive and Well

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There was a distinct gulf yesterday between the ‘turned up in casual clothes and a BMX’ crew and the hardcore, carbon fibre teams. The latter were either groups riding under an organisation’s banner (British Heart Foundation were strongly represented) or doing it for a family member. Needless to say, I didn’t see a single other Mind shirt. It was also abundantly obvious who was doing it for a decent overall time and who was there to do some good. I appreciate the fact there were people prepared to chat, but they were few and far between.


Sitting here this morning, it all feels like it was a bad dream. However, when I look at the stats, it definitely happened:

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I was going to train today, but the sensible thing for everybody is to take a day, do 36 press-ups at some point and go back to the treadmill tomorrow. I won’t massively improve my situation for Sunday in a week, but I can better plan hydration and food to cope with the distance. Having conclusively proved that carb-packing has no appreciable benefit to my system? Time to eat well and remove the sugar again until I’m actually on a bike.

Also, once the Holidays are over, it is time to see a doctor.

Run to the Hills

The biggest single problem I possess right now in terms of exercise ability is stamina. HIIT routines are now just that, but anything over 90 minutes and I will summarily wilt. What is required is an understanding of what my limits are, how to play to them and then finally exceed them.  Fortunately for me, Zwift has the means by which I can deal with this issue, and still keep myself sane.

Welcome to the Alpe du Zwift.

It’s a bloody big hill, when all is said and done, and I can’t climb it in two hours… but one day, I will. This morning was the reconnoitre to see how far up I could get without busting a gut. I paced myself, bought snacks and extra water and for 110 minutes it was doable. Those last 10 minutes lasted about three lifetimes.

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Before on long rides my brain has stopped me, or my legs and (on a couple of occasions) a combination of both. Today was different. I needed to get used to the heat, and how body operates when energy is low. It was a massive learning experience, and slow realisation that, for many years, it has been my brain which prevented any kind of tenable progress. Now that’s under control, the only obstacle to progress is my own ability to put in the effort. That’s slowly getting fixed. I’ve been at this before Christmas, and only now is progress becoming apparent.

One day I will climb the Alpe du Zwift, but with England v Sweden imminent? It will not be today.

You Wear It Well

DAY FIVE of the Exercise Regime. Wednesday was a rest day, because exhaustion. That means today fitting in both a Gym and Cycling session. The changes to body are already obvious, and yes, having got on the scales this morning, there is a weight change. It isn’t much, but is undoubtedly there. Yesterday’s session in the Gym was so tough I was sick afterwards. This was not planned, but does show there’s effort being expended.

Low carb is as horrendous as was remembered, but the results when it was adhered to  last time were significant. That took ten days to kick in. I can do this.

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Tea (normal and green) has become my unexpected saviour. I drink not to eat, and it is working surprisingly well. However, today I get a treat, even if it is only 150 calories. Once everything is written and scheduled, it’ll be the Gym, followed by the second half of the England game as cycling accompaniment. I’m beginning to look forward to it, oddly, the effort is now equalling reward whereas before, it was all a slog. If the future of existence is heat and sweat, there needs to be a body capable of coping with those changes. Getting fit now is becoming a necessity and not a priority.

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Okay, less procrastination and MOAR WERK.

Hello Hello

This week has become rather important for a lot of reasons. A number of these cannot be spoken about (as yet) but once the processes are complete, that will change. For today, however, I have daughter here after an extremely torrid week abroad and husband after a weekend where he couldn’t walk more than about six steps without someone admiring his bike. I’ve almost managed to clear the largest pile of washing that’s ever existed in the house, and (once my writing duties are done) the Gym is already calling.

Having comprehensively established there is no such thing as a body detox, my regime when starting a new exercise programme is lots of water and religious calorie counting. I’ll be taking the RideLondon46 training quite seriously too starting today, with at least five days a week involving some time on a bike.I am rather looking forward to a focus on exercise and not much else, with the free time dedicated to writing and preparing written stuff for awards, bursary’s and contests.

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It is going to be a bit me-focused this week as a result, for which I apologise in advance.

The Other Side

From the low, you inevitably come up. How that used to happen was normally accompanied by a lot of thrashing and wailing. This time around, the day started with a lot of playing Warcraft and no worries about the consequences. Stuff is scheduled and ideas are on the table. There will even be a short story finished by the end of the weekend for Mr Alt to edit. After I’d played, and progressed some stuff that was planned, there was a walk to the Gym. Lots of stretching happened both before and after the session.

There I worked REALLY hard.

The key is to keep moving. Once upon a time I’d have sat and felt sorry for myself, but having learnt the difference between good and bad pain after a year of experiencing plenty of both, there’s now the ability to discern the difference. Getting back on the road to fitness isn’t as painful as was expected, when all is said and done. What is hardest of all, and which prompted the Tweet yesterday, is everything outside of my control. It will mean that there will have to be a reassessment of priorities in the next few weeks. I have Eroica in a month (Saturday outfit sorted, Sunday will not take long.) There’s a distinct possibility I could be doing Ride London.

If they both come to pass, there needs to be more fitness than currently exists to complete both. If the latter happens, there’ll be a sponsorship page for a mental health charity going up because without support, I’d not be here.

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The problem is big numbers; building stamina, without my body failing to cope. That’s where the bike comes in, and why I’ll be getting back on tonight.

That whole ‘no pain, no gain’ thing is the absolute truth.

The Pleasure Principle

There’s a blog post I could write this morning about how all of us have short memories and fixate on the things that often don’t need fixing at all. Instead of that, there’s a bit of writing, then it is high time some weights were lifted, some cardio undertaken and my own shortcomings taken care of. If we all took as much time correcting the faults in our own lives as was consumed by the critical assassination of others, the World would undoubtedly be a better place.

In fact, that’s what matters more than anything else. Fix myself, as well as is possible (and if that’s not attempt to find someone who can help) and when that’s done to a standard that is acceptable, then there’s the opportunity to consider something else.

Life is too short to obsess about things that are out of your hands.

Singularity

Yesterday was my first session with the new PT, and BOY was it a revelation. I’ve never used a Bosu for anything other than the odd exercise and yesterday, the whole thing evolved past being ‘just another piece of equipment’ and became… well, something quite transformative.

Hang on, you don’t know what a Bosu is?

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If I had said balance board you’ll have probably got the idea: two sides, either is capable of being used as a way of engaging more muscles than just arms or legs. In fact, use one of these to balance on (one leg only, please) and then add some light weights to the mix and BAM there is no need for intense workouts. My new trainer knows I do cardio on my own, without a need to be prompted. Weights are now not a frightening concept either, so what is needed in this new relationship is cerebral plus the effort.

The Bosu requires a level of concentration that I’d previously have struggled with, were it not for meditation via Mindfulness. However, now it is not only possible but incredibly satisfying to stand on the board for protracted periods of time and simply exist. I’ve always watched with awe the guys who use a full balance ball to weightlift on (there’s a rugby player at the Gym who makes it look effortless) but now there’s fledgeling understanding of how that can and would work for me.

Three guesses what I’m doing when I get to the Gym later.

I’m already looking forward to training, and it’s been a while since that happened :D