Touring on Two Wheels

Another day, another slow ride along the canal. I am starting to lean into my hybrid touring bike now. It’s definitely the best bike I have for city hopping, relatively easy trails and off road cycling. I recommend that all road racers like me use one too.

Strava

General Data

Map

Segments

Thoughts on Foldies

In the midst of the COVID–19 outbreak I took stock of various things and realised that, since my current commute is fewer than two miles in distance, to use my carbon fibre racing bicycle to do that journey is bonkers. So, to cut a long story short, I did some research, a cost benefit analysis and as a result I now own a Holborn Challenge, 20″ wheel diameter, six geared folding bicycle.

I have ridden my foldie twice and it is a wildly different prospect to my racer, which is obviously going to be the case. Here and here is Strava data recorded using my Vivoactive HR watch from my first two rides. I forgot to press stop on my watch when I stopped for prolonged times so take the mileage numbers with a massive pinch of salt.

Foldies

  • You will never break any speed records on a foldie, but they are absolutely perfect for zipping around town, covering short distances, urban commuting and suchlike where there will be loads of turning, starting and stopping.
  • You cannot rest at speed like you would in ‘cruise control’ on a racer, where you are going fast but not putting in much effort because you are carrying momentum.
  • You can’t really bonk.
  • Going downhill means you freewheel. With six gears you just can’t go very fast before you start pedal spinning. A 20″ diameter doesn’t allow for much pace.
  • Aside from downhill freewheeling will slow you down quickly, so prepare to pedal all the time.
  • Different frame geometry means using different muscles, or the same ones in a different way and at different angles.
  • It turns on a sixpence, so be careful when signalling as it’s easy to drift into the road.
  • You look kind of funny as they are a novel design, but that’s okay really.

One day into riding a foldie and it’s nice to be able to go short distances at a leisurely pace. I don’t have to wear cleats or aerodynamic clothing. I clock rides using my watch rather my Garmin Edge 1000 as it is all just for fun really. I can’t mount my expensive Hope lights on it so I just bought a decent set on sale.

Using a foldie has reconnected me with leisure cycling. All cycling is pleasurable for me, however this does not go fast so I get to see the scenery a little. It’s just good fun instead of endorphins and adrenaline, and I don’t wear out my much more expensive bike on two and three mile rides here and there.

Achievement Unlocked, Electric Boogaloo: Bonk! Bonus: Fastest Mile.

Today I bonked for the first time running, plus I hit my fastest mile yet at 10:29. I pushed my run up to 3.5 miles and at around 2.5 I bonked and took a few minutes to rest and push through it. I think that this was caused by me running whilst recovering from a sore stomach. Normally I would have waited but thanks to storms Ciara and Dennis I haven’t exercised for almost a week so I pushed myself. As I work to run farther, faster I am going to hit things like the bonk as well as other challenges so I am glad that I went through it today.

Garmin Data

Mile Splits

Pace Graph

Heart Rate Graph

Cadence Graph

Elevation Graph

Heart Rate Zones

This is all positive. I ran a very even cadence, and spent almost the whole run in heart rate zone four, a fat burning zone. Additionally my resting heart rate is still falling, it clocked in at 47 yesterday. This can be normal variation of course but the trend is downward which is perfect. Data is definitely useful to me now. For ages I was only ever interested in times and maps, but these graphs are interesting. Most of the troughs are points where I had to stop or slow right down on muddy terrain or avoiding giant puddles and suchlike. It is also great to identify trends and to see everything going in the right direction is good for the future.

Better, Faster, Stronger – Bonus: Now with Strava!

Below is the dazzling array of data that Garmin Connect very kindly compiled from today’s ride. I have also linked my Strava account to Garmin Connect so I now get segments detailing climbs, speeds and so forth. This is fascinating stuff. I have long known that the way to increase the overall speed of my cycling, and to also get fitter and do it quickly is to put lots of effort into climbs. This yields results at a high rate of change.

The human body is a remarkable thing. Being back on the saddle has brought forth some sort of muscle memory that blows my mind. I can literally feel myself getting better, faster, stronger and it is not taking me long to do so at all. I have only been recording this stuff for a week but already I feel ten times the man I was over Christmas. From last summer where I had a horrendous, sedentary time looking after my son, who had it even worse the poor little fella, suddenly everything is changing. As the kids grow older I find I have more time to myself so I can push harder than I ever did before.

Garmin Data

Time, Distance and Calorie Burn
Time, Distance and Calorie Burn
Garmin Data for Speed and Elevation
Garmin Data for Speed and Elevation
Garmin Data Breakdown
Garmin Data Breakdown

Strava Segments

Strava Segments - Climbs and Blasts
Strava Segments – Climbs and Blasts

What Strava refers to as blasts are segments of flat or downhill cycling. Due to speed limits and traffic picking up speed on these segments is largely impossible, hence the climbing is so important. It’s also useful in the long term because it is resistance exercise. The hills in Lancashire are steep and they are everywhere. There is a reason that Bradley Wiggins trained in the Trough of Bowland – it’s as hard as it gets to ride on a bicycle. Having ridden two 101 mile sportive races through the Trough I can attest that it is just about the biggest challenge ever. If you want to raise your base metabolic rate and build muscle then this is perfect. I don’t mean muscle like weightlifting, I mean muscle mass that does not change your body shape. It is hard to think of a type of exercise that works the whole body better, so if you want to have a powerful core, sinewy, strong upper body and also powerful legs then cycle hilly routes. We all know those ridiculous guys at the gym with torsos like Greek gods and chicken legs - cycling doesn’t do that. life on two wheels will take care of everything below the waste for you.

There is no resistance work like cycling, so get moving on your bicycle.

Workout is Dead – Long Live Lifestyle!

The dumbest thing anyone ever does to be healthy is one hour of workout and then sit around all day. National Geographic some time ago commissioned a study that became a book called Blue Zones. Essentially they studied the places on Earth where the greatest concentration of people live the longest lives and experience the least chronic illness. I recommend the book and the YouTube talks about it. One of the things that was found is that these people never worked out. They had no gyms, they were usually poor and they did not attempt to live long, healthy, happy lives. Of the many factors that were pertinent, one thing they did do is move constantly. This means that their metabolisms never dropped as low as a sedentary westerner. They lived de- convenienced lives. I have been living this way for years. Now that I am once again cycling even though it is a bitterly cold January here in England I am again combining lifestyle and exercise.

I do not work out. I live.

In the spirit of minimalism and frugal living I often take my clothes to the seamstress – a lady I have known since primary school incidentally – to be adjusted or fitted rather than simply throwing them away. Conventionally a person in a UK town would drive there, drop them off and then drive home. I did not. Since I needed to go I cycled. I did not allot an hour in my day to workout. I simply lived. I think that the Blue Zone way is a better one and we all ought to embrace it. Instead of constantly rushing to save time – not that you can put time in the bank – it is surely better to live in such a way that one is never in a rush, to whatever extent one can live in such a way.

Urban cycling is not fast unfortunately. Too many turns, short hills, too much traffic and so forth. You just can’t pick up much speed in the urban north of England as there are few straight stretches of road in an old mill town like mine. However, with a lot of short, steep hills my body got what it needs and loves, which is plenty of resistance and out of breath pedalling, raised heart rate, delicious endorphins and I got outside in the greenery and fresh air, even if it was cold enough to crack a ball bearing.

Stats

2020: Let’s DO THIS THANG!

I have the world’s most unlucky son. In 2019 I lost an entire season of activities as he broke his wrist, had his cast off, then days later he fell and sustained a double break to his his leg, and then whilst he had his full leg cast on he contracted appendicitis and had to have an appendectomy. I spent the entire summer and autumn caring for the poor little monkey. Suffice to say I did absolutely sod all in terms of cycling, hiking, running or swimming in 2019 as I loved on him and helped him recover from a horrendous set of circumstances. That has been a hard and long road to walk, and especially for him, what a nightmare! He has bounced back thankfully – kids are so resilient, so I now must do the same.

That being said, I am not to be undone by such a run of misfortune. After getting flu – as in actual, cannot get out of bed, seriously ill flu – I am now starting a new regime, and I guess that I am starting pretty much from scratch. I have upgraded my Garmin Edge 800 to an Edge 1000 and below is my first ride of 2020. I have only just figured out after this ride how to turn on auto pause as the 1000 is way more complex to use than the 800, so this ride looks a little bit slow and a couple of times I forgot to use the manual stop/start controls so I post here purely as a progress marker. I have been fasting intermittently on a 16/8 daily schedule which has allowed me to drop two inches from my waist without exercising, so now I am adding exercising in a fasted state to that, so this ride was done on an empty stomach, overnight. Ironically I have not shed any actual weight, but my body has changed considerably. Fasting seems to be efficacious for serious fitness and positive body changes.

2020 will come to fear my might.

Data

I Like to Ride my Bicycle…

God damn it I have missed cycling so much. I got back on it on Saturday and today after a long (for me) time. I came in just above and just under an average of 12mph respectively. That is slow, however today especially I deliberately picked hills. The beauty of where I live is that there are serious hills in every direction. Fifteen to twenty degree climbs are not unusual. This will make for an interesting experiment in weight loss. I have maintained my weight whilst not being very active of late so I hope that upping my calorie burn and in particular doing absolute buggers of resistance rides will have a serious effect on that front. Even without my love of cycling, the hills are still cool because it does not matter how steep the incline, coasting downhill is the ultimate payoff for the hard work on the climb.

Saturday

Today

Achievement Unlocked: Bonked!

Tonight I experienced what I think was my first ever bonk. Or perhaps not since this morning I awoke with a cold so it may have been that, however I am going with the bonk because it passed as soon as I rested and ate something. Sadly I had to curtail my run as I felt extremely sick and that was annoying because I was halfway through a twelve mile circuit, feeling good, and I had made good time on the outward, uphill section. I feel cheated, and now, as I am unwell, I am going to have at least a weeks’ worth of setback to sit around and silk about so I am going to lose momentum. This always happens whenever I start to get somewhere. I either get fresher’s flu or the annual bug that the kids bring home from school. It drives me absolutely barmy, but it cannot be helped so I simply must take it on the chin and be ready to go again once I am well. It also crushes my hopes of making the fabled run home from university a reality. Of course, the flipside of that is that such a setback only serves to strengthen my resolve. I have been pushing this year to hit twenty miles as a regular big run and I was hoping to hit marathon distances and beyond in 2017. Ultrarunning is always at the back of my mind and I would love to do it.

Map

So what was twelve miles became slightly under seven instead. Oh well, here commences the road to recovery and improvement. On this, the outward section I hit roughly twelve minute miles (my Apple Watch once again did not pause during stops when I peed or tipped tones out of my shoe) which means that the downhill would have averaged things out to a pretty fast time. This is so frustrating as once again I had pushed my body through a wall to beat the fatigue of hill climbing. I was flying, pumped with energy and then suddenly I was sick.

Still, as the saying goes, I shall KEEP BUGGERING ON! 

Not a Bad Week, Changes are Afoot, and Losing Patience with Apple Watch

So, since breaking fifteen miles this week I have been a little under the weather and I have taken action, made a few decisions and finally caught up with running again. Currently weight is falling off me, mainly due to cutting out bread and sugar (simple carbohydrates: my nemesis) and other similar bad foods. I have replaced them with nuts and fruit. Of course, I ate those before, but sparingly, however I have discovered that adding fat and calories from nuts is a superb way to manage one’s physique. I now might have toast every ten days or so, if at all, and unless I bonk during a long run I do not eat sugar at all. Obviously when referring to sugars I mean those such as fructose (in all its many dastardly forms). Natural sugars found in fruits for example are just fine. My diet is something I have been scrutinising intensely lately. I have looked into a ketogenic diet and I am trying to get somewhere close to that, however my priority with food and lifestyle is veganism, for reasons of both health and compassion. I will always adhere to the principles of a vegan diet, and that means that options for low carbohydrate, high fat foods are limited.

When it comes to nutrition I am a novice and I am trying my best to brush up on research, and whilst I am not convinced by a diet of low or no carbohydrates at all, I do think that I used to eat far too many carbohydrates in terms of calorie volume. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the fact is that my diet plan (and it is a plan – fad diets are a portal to lifetime yoyo-ing and are very unhealthy) is proving to be effective for me and it is based on the following, in rough order of importance to me:

  • A vegan ethic, teetotal and no fizzy drinks (sodas to my Yankee friends)
  • High prevalence of starchy foods, dark green and leafy green vegetables, a variety of beans such as kidney beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), black eyed beans and black beans
  • Whole grains such as quinoa, millet and buckwheat
  • A variety of nuts, my favourites being pistachios, followed closely by cashews

Since we are a family of six we have one pot dishes most of the time so I always cook with sauces or bases made from either tomatoes or coconut milk. Veganism carries certain risks with it, deficiencies in certain things such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron. Viamin D I have covered by being outdoors most of my free time, however iron and B12 are more challenging. Getting around that comes down to fortified milks and by putting nutritional yeast and/or Marmite (both B12 sources) in practically everything. When it comes to iron it is fairly easy to overcome. Spinach goes in everything, and with young children there is the obvious problem of them turning their noses up at anything that looks green so it gets chopped as finely as possible. Cunning I am.

Anyway, the point of all of this being that whilst I shall not be going full zero carbohydrate, a major reduction whilst keeping things fresh, often raw and with no sugar is proving to be very good for me. So that was the first decision I made.

My second decision, made yesterday, is that of stopping weightlifting. I absolutely hate it. I have tried to convince myself that I wish to do it but I loathe it, I have to torture myself to motivate myself to go and I cannot see a way forward into serious distance running whilst building upper body strength through heavy lifting. Instead I am going to do resistance exercises with my body weight, focusing particularly on planking and things like press ups and lunges. To be quite honest resistance is not a priority really since I live in a very hilly area. There is not much exercise I can do without doing resistance owing to the terrain, so as long as I incorporate a little upper body work I think that that should suffice. In addition to all of this winter is coming and in winter I swim, so that will give me plenty of work above the waist.

On to tonight’s run. This week I had intended to run home from university, something I keep banging on about here, however lectures were not on this week, it was an induction and as a returning student it was not for me to attend. My mistake, so I will see if I can pick up where I left off and do it this week. So, this one was only a gentle four miles. I have cycled a wee bit since the fifteen miler but tonight I kept a shorter distance and aimed to push harder in terms of speed, and managed to get back under twelve minute miles. I stress that a good portion of my runs are climbing serious hills so until I do take the relatively flat course from UCLan to home I will not know how fast I can run on flat terrain.

Map

It is funny how, when pushing through barriers, one always feels better. Yesterday I made deliberate attempts to extend my gait and stride further, faster, and longer on the hill climbs. All the while my instinct was telling me to conserve the energy, yet when I ignored it I felt better, stronger, and more energised. It is very odd how that works, but it does work. I have suffered no ill effects and felt much better after the run.

One last thing, yesterday my Apple Watch decided not to allow Force Touch to work, meaning that I had to get out my iPhone to pause and end Runtastic and record the run, thus defeating entirely the point of using the watch in the first place. I am rapidly running out of patience with this device and I am looking at my options for a proper running watch. When Apple Watch works properly I like it, but it is too slow, too often it tells me my iPhone is not in range, even though it is two inches away, and it is buggy, laggy and slow. As a long time Apple fan this disappoints me hugely, but there we are. I can now no longer recommend Apple Watch as a fitness tool. It simply does not cut the mustard.

Pushing on Two Wheels

This morning the weather was slightly improved, probably around 4 or 5 degrees so I decided to go for a decent length cycle ride.

Map

Data

13.38 mi • 58:20 • 4:22 min/mi • 13.8 mph • 1,099 ft

Source: Garmin Connect

Cycling feels to me as though it costs me nothing in terms of energy. Unless I really cane myself and do 40-50 miles I am rarely too tired as a result of doing it and it brings me great joy. If I could only do one sport for the rest of my life then it would be cycling.

There were two climbs on this ride and I am proud that I now almost never use the easier gears when cycling now, even when climbing. One reason for this, aside from having achieved a certain level of fitness, is learning to bonk properly. Bonking as riding whilst standing up, off the saddle. It makes for much more efficient climbing but it is very difficult to keep up for any length of time when first learning to do it. I have been doing it for ages and climbing is much more efficient this way rather than sitting down on the saddle. I recommend that all cyclists learn and assimilate this technique.

Aside from my thrilling cycling skills, I think I should have plenty left in the tank today to do a 3000 metre swim tonight.