I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside

I am wondering if I could make a walk to the coast count as Government Mandated Exercise as the weather gets better. If running was possible I could easily do it, but that’s not quite achievable as yet. These legs are still suffering after Monday, if truth be told, but that means we have stronger muscles and more stamina, both of which are no bad things.

The numbers look great too.

Having my heartrate registering on the app in front of me is an extremely potent motivator. It allows brain to work in the zone and grants a greater awareness of how hard is hard. It has certainly made a difference with the bike work over the last week too: I’ve gone from struggling in sweet spot training to being oddly Zen-like last night, sailing through the transitions without a thought.

One should FTP test about once every couple of months, but if this training becomes academic it could come sooner, or I could at least take the longer SST (Sweet Spot Training) test, which at 85 minutes could well be the stamina upgrade required. I’m running the 45 minute one at 110%, so if I go back to 100% that should allow me the legs to manage the extra 30 minutes on a bike.

Really need to sort out some new playlists for this as well.

sst_med

Planning my own workouts is the brain stimulation I never knew I needed.

Heartbeats

Don’t tell anyone, but there’s been a fair bit of celebratory chocolate this week to see off the Difficult Poetry Collection.ย Guilt about this yesterday forced me out for an afternoon taking pictures: I need to be walking more, but weather is not helping. However, with all things considered, if there could be more yesterdays, I reckon a lot of issues would summarily vanish:

260220

It was fabulous being out, too.

Part of me was worried that Spring was a bit earlier than usual, but looking at pictures from last year, I’d say it’s a bit later. Those pictures also confirmed I was walking to the Gym an awful lot more than is currently the case, so March will be a Walking Month.ย I am not going to be able to fundraise again and at the same time badger people to support my writing journey, so we are going to skip the Walk All Over Cancer thing. I will donate to them, however, because… guilt is expensive :P

This is not a relaxing mental space to be inhabiting right now. I can’t put my finger on exactly what’s wrong, but if there were to be a guess I’d say it’s a lot to do with committing myself to a path that previously I was not totally comfortable with. Now, however, there’s a far better idea of what is (and is not) doable and really, I just need to get on with it.

It doesn’t help that hot sweats have returned with a vengeance, that I’m getting so cold afterwards that this is being typed with gloves on. Bodies are strange things. It just requires a bit of planning when going out, and the understanding that hot’s easy to deal with, cold not so much. It’s another level of organisation: like remembering not to do the School Run the normal way, coz for three months there is a fucking huge hole in the road causing a lot of traffic chaos.

When it happens enough times, you remember to get prepared.

Talking of prepared, As Velo Essex is closed roads, and has two flavours (50 and 100km) I’ve nabbed a 50km place. Husband will be doing full whack, around an area which was used for the Tour de France when it came to us. The website’s crashed this morning for registration, but we both got in early being members of British Cycling. It is already looking like a bit of a grin.

Better start looking at a training plan, I suppose…

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.ย 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

explodingcornflakes.gif

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

umyeah.gif

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

shoudlnthavesaidthat.gif

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

cycling-hero

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.ย 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:

230718_strava
220718
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.

Round and Round

Today, I went to a Cycle Park. Not just any one, but THE one.

The Lee Valley Velodrome is the legacy from 2012’s Olympics which I’ll be spending quite a lot of time near or close to in the next month or so. A week before Ride London, there’s the annual London to Southend ride, which (for the first time this year) begins from this point. It’s my official warm up (52 miles) and I now have three weeks to pull my finger out and sort out a few things, including my stamina, because if we’re talking 29 degrees for the next few weeks, I am going to struggle.

Honestly, this is a dream for me: the Velo Park has a car-free, mile-long track, which allowed a lot of wobbling, a chance to grasp my gears (I may yet need a guide on my handlebars) and for the first time, deal with a mechanical issue (chain came off, I got it back on \o/) I need to learn how to change a tyre. There has to be a better grasp of what I can do, and a way to pace myself correctly. Honestly, this is the best thing I could possibly have done and frankly, wish I’d done it earlier.

However, this is a start.

Also, I feel FAR too heavy. Static training is a long way from the reality of hauling your own body around the roads. Now I have this to factor in, I owe my husband an apology: he was absolutely right, I need the lightest bike I can find so there’s not a worry over having to manage to deal with metal after three plus hours.

I have three weeks to shift some weight. It IS going to happen, oh yes.

The Test

Yesterday, I did my first FTP Test, and today I am quietly pleased.

130318

The last time this number was registered by the Zwift software, it was 135.ย When I began cycling, I believe I was somewhere around the 125 mark. That was at the end of December, so to have seen a 10% improvement over that time…? Yes, this is clear evidence of progress. For people who care about numbers, I can demonstrate that I’m not coasting, or plateauing. This is me, most definitely going forward.ย For me, however, numbers aren’t that important. My weight, as a single number (for example), is nowhere near the truth about my body composition. I’m happy to be able to walk today, because last night was the hardest I have ever worked on a bike.

In truth my chest aches more, thanks to lungs finally getting the workout I’ve been scared to attempt.

cautions

I am still quite nervous about pushing into high heart rates, always have been due to my lungs not being as efficient as everybody else’s in providing the oxygen required. My lung capacity has, for some time, been about 30% lower than it should be, but I’m going to get tested again in a couple of weeks so I will be interested to know if that figure has improved. Making it into Z3 is not something that happens that often, and last night I realised that maybe that ought to change. However, to allow that to happen, I need more general fitness and less fatigue.ย Yesterday was not an ideal day to do the test, but on reflection, it was the right one.

Like it or not, numbers define my progress.

likeduh

If this were just about weight loss equalling healthy, I’d have failed so many times for it to be beyond a joke. Fortunately for me, I’ve discovered that health is so much more than just the numbers, but requires me to accommodate and understand other people’s needs for them, above my own, in order to make progress. Happiness is not clothing fitting better, or not being out of breath when I climb stairs. That still happens, on days when air quality is awful. I can’t help the lungs I was born with, and the sensitivity they possess. However, there are lots of things that can be done to ensure that this doesn’t stymie me long term. Making the muscles around the lungs stronger, allowing my body to be more capable of healing and protection… and the list goes on.

At the top, mental well-beingย matters most of all.

ZWIFT_MOG

However, I need to admit some truths. I like the way my body feels now, so much more than was the case before.ย I think my arms are my best feature, am really proud of both strength and definition. Being able to carry heavy things is always a bonus. I love the sense of satisfaction gained from progress: the numbers don’t matter so much as the sense of being more capable. Mostly, without the physical disciplineย that exercise has granted, I’d find myself really struggling to keep mental discipline in place. All my effort and achievement with the writing wouldย not be taking place if not for the cycling, lifting and running.

I have become quite the model of symbiosis.

pushups

That makes effort more than worth the reward. It pushes me onto better things. It’ll get me out of this chair in thirty minutes and to the Gym for a PT session, which I’ll walk to and from. It won’t save me from injury or stop me from procrastinating, but the sense of well-being that I currently inhabit is unlike anywhere else that I can ever remember. Finally, I have a happy place, and exercise exists at its core.

If I’d only realised this twenty years sooner.

Try

As with all things, practice brings progress. That means I’m now using gears to cycle with instead of a ‘static’ bike for Zwift, and I’ve started imagining characters in my head and translating them to my sketch book. I get where everything needs to go on faces, and now need to begin to working out how I translate hairstyles, beards and accessories. How does a male face differ from a female one? How can I define androgyny?

How do I remember which gear when cycling makes it harder and then easier?

Why is my learning curve so fucking dreadful?

150118

Numbers are becoming very useful in helping me understand where in fitness I need to concentrate. That weighted power average would normally be up in the 120’s because up until yesterday I’ve been using a static bike setup that imagines every virtual road I ride on is flat, and adds difficulty via fixed resistance. Mr Alt and I swapped bikes last night: he picked up a Gumtree bargain before Christmas of a turbo trainer (which becomes the back wheel of the bike) which is able to simulate the ups and downs of the virtual course for you, forcing gear changes to compensate. That’s why I was at 73% intensity last night, half the time I did not have the first idea of what gear to be in. As I’ll need to learn this when I get on the road for real? There is no time like the present.

boxhill2.png

Learning new stuff for me has always been difficult, and I am mindful at present of not being intractable. I can thrash and complain all I like but the only sure-fire way of making change is to do it. That means this morning I’ll sit and draw something other than faces for a bit, and think about how I make a diagram to stick on my handlebars to show what gear does what, so tonight’s trip up the hill is far more professional. If I give myself visual cues, things do get easier.

I suspect I have Warcraft to thank for that improvement in learning skills.