As the week draws in with the last dregs of summer being chugged as we speak I am picking up speed as quickly as I am dropping pounds. Yesterday’s bike rides were 13.5mph and 14.6mph average speeds respectively. This is significant progress, and interestingly the faster ride was just over 21 miles whereas the slower one was just over 11 miles. The former was a slightly greater climb, however it is over a much greater distance so proportionately it was easier, and the shorter ride is a whopper of a climb that goes on for almost four miles, and it starts as soon as I set off. Still, I am now, on decent length road courses, pushing the 15mph barrier.
Data is the summary, splits, speed and elevation.
Pushing serious distance like this I am starting to feel young again, when I would cycle for miles and miles for the pure joy of cycling.
I am slowly adding power and pace to my rides. Yesterday’s and today’s bike ride data summaries are below, sourced from Strava.
As you can see I added distance, elevation and speed to my rides. This is important because I actually had to think about this. As I am increasingly coming to believe, almost all speed gains come from climbs rather than fast downhill cycling. This is partly because cycling where I do there are very few long stretches of downhill or flat road so I just cannot put together long speed segments, and also because I naturally rest a little during downhill segments. I also would suggest that there is more to be gained from working harder on climbs. There seems to me to be more capacity for improvement as I lose dead weight (fat) and add muscle bulk. An extra ￼2mph added to a climb is surely worth more than going ever faster on the downhill. Plus it is far easier to hit one’s natural speed limits on the downhill than on climbs.
Right now I am hovering around 12mph average speed (this has improved incrementally over time). I want to hit 15mph average as quickly as I can. Most of this gain should come from climbing intelligently and also weight loss. I am burning off fat so quickly that I am visibly changing shape almost daily.
Right now fasting hard and thoughtfully working hard on rides is working.
After thirty years I finally hiked the Yorkshire Three Peaks again. Last time I did it I was twelve years old. I can remember being pretty worn out back then, and this time I am sunburnt and currently on crutches due to me getting absolutely dreadfully painful, unwalkable blisters as a result. That aside, I feel so great. I also recorded a vlog that I intend to edit and upload to YouTube very shortly.
My friend John and I did the classic route, Pen Y Ghent > Whernside > Ingleborough, only this time the regular Ingleborough ascent was closed. We were diverted and had to complete the most horrendous climb and scramble that I have ever done. I will never forget that for as long as I live (see mile 19 in the Strava data below). Quite where we both summoned up the determination, patience and sheer bull-headed stubbornness to not be beaten by it is beyond me, but we did it nonetheless. Despite the extra distance and my hobbling the final five miles on my poor, blistered feet, we beat the twelve hour time target quite comfortably, and fortunately my Garmin Vivoactive HR watch had just enough battery to record the whole thing.
Data from Strava
Pace, Heart Rate and Cadence
A Couple of Lovely Photographs
I guess I need a new challenge!
Last week I pushed up to five miles running, did plenty of (slow) cycling with the kids on the tourer and on Saturday I did a red hot, scorching hike over Whernside.
Yesterday I cycled in the evening with my boy and I have been amazed to see how quickly he is becoming powerful, fast and strong. He will be better than me hopefully! Captured the gorgeous sunset too. Check out the glitter path below.
I also fond a lovely outdoor location to explore, Rivington Pike near Bolton.
I remain on a 16/8 fasting diet which is working hard for me right now. I have literally stopped all refined sugar intake and I recently discovered that barley has a glycemic index of 25 – ridiculously low – so I am using that as a base for my cooking. That along with quinoa and a few other whole grains like buckwheat. I am already, in two weeks, 3.5 pounds lighter. The best part of this is that I do not think I have ever felt so stuffed in my life! I have only ever counted calories once and it was a waste of time. This way I am tracking my weight with a weekly weigh in and just eating good food, and boy is it working. Plus, barley is 55p a bag so my bank balance likes it too.
In my 43 years on Earth I think I might have weighed myself four or five times so I am hardly obsessive, but now that the kids are old enough that I do not have to spend every single minute refereeing their skirmishes or just keeping them alive, I have time to focus on my health much more. This is bringing great results. Having spent over a decade doing whatever exercise I could and eating what I can as best as I could I now relish this second innings of living. Any parent knows that the first ten years of child rearing are nonstop sacrifice, impossible to plan or work around and you spend most of your time exhausted. Now I get to take them out with me and they can be exhausted!
I am very much enjoying trail running. I have never been a fast runner really so I have nothing to prove on that front, but I can endure quite a lot so right now I am focused on off road activities and working out the best planning for nutrition. It seems that fasting of some kind works brilliantly – I even climbed Whernside in a fasted state – and thinking more about food is working. I have been a vegan for years and years but to get the best from myself means that my enemy is sugar. I really cannot believe the magnitude of difference that it makes to my physique if I stop eating it completely. All of the reading I am doing says this, and it all advocates fasting regularly and also straining the body, meaning to push hard in terms of endurance.
I guess that this week the results will prove me right or wrong.
I love the Yorkshire Three Peaks and I try to climb them individually each year, with the added bonus of one day hoping to do the Three peaks Challenge again, this time as an adult with my own children, when they are old enough. Right now there is one major spanner in the works: my youngest daughter. She is an absolute fireball of a child. She has inherited the redhead temperament from me which means that I love her attitude, sass and drive, but good god she can be a real little shitbag.
This last week I climbed Whernside and it was the toughest hike that I can recall ever having done. Aside from the fact that it is the hardest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, it was scorching hot and my little girl decided that she was going to strop ALL THE WAY. I would not change her for a nanosecond – that fire in her belly is going to serve her well in life as she kicks ass, but I really would rather have just hiked and not had to drag her every step of the climb. Still, we did it and that was great. Details and photos below.
So, here in northern England it has not only been three storms in a row but it is also so cold that the arthritis in my toe is painful even when I am just sitting around. Not to be undone, however, I managed to improvise. During storm Dennis I couldn’t run distance in such high winds, so I decided to run a mile as quickly as I could, with a pathetic time of 9:32, as you can see below￼.
Posting detailed Garmin metrics for this is pointless, but you see the point, that I am a painfully slow runner. I always have been, but I am pushing for endurance rather than speed. I would like both of course and I hope that as I keep stretching myself I can pick up speed. It will be genuinely fascinating to see the difference in pace when I run on a flat course though. Right now I have in mind to run from where I live to the city of Preston. This is mostly a flattish course that will clock in at around 24 miles, so clearly I have some training to do yet to hit that. The point is that I want to see what difference the course makes to my average speed. Right now I run locally as I am not passing 10 mile distances yet, which means I do some moderate climbing. This is because where I live it is more or less uphill in every direction. The exception is down into the town centre but obviously I won’t run there, so that leaves courses that always have a substantive elevation gain. I bet that when I am fit enough I will run to Preston and the pace will be better than my local running. This has certainly been the truth for cycling where I have found cycling great distances insanely easy when on a flat course. This brings to mind the time I did the inaugural Wiggo Sportive race and a bunch of Londoners couldn’t finish it because they cycled distance but not hills. Slackers.
So, yesterday I pushed up to six miles and it was a hard run. My muscles were achy, it was absolutely freezing cold, thus I was sluggish and my muscles needed to contract constantly. Data below.
In addition to thinking about how courses might affect my times and pace, hopefully just the change in the weather as it gets warmer should give me better times. I’m pretty pleased at how my distances are improving quickly in difficult, cold weather conditions and also I hope that my arthritis calms down, because that is very painful, right in the ball joint of the big toe I broke as a wee nipper. That can be very unpleasant, I can tell you. I hope that in roughly two weeks I will have pushed through ten mile distance running, heading towards my personal best distance of 15 miles by the end of April. That puts me on course, presuming I have no health issues, injuries or otherwise unforeseen events, to hit marathon distances by the summer holidays.
The other positive side of things is my health, my clothes are starting to hang off me! This is a great problem to have but I also have to start replacing my wardrobe. My waist diameter is down two inches already. After the horrible summer I had last year this is exceedingly gratifying. I feel like I am striking back at the challenges of life and hitting it harder than it hits me. I hate being cooped up inside the house so to have had to endure months of it was dreadful, but what is past is prologue. If I can hit marathon distances in time for winter then the great lost summer of 2019 will be nothing but a distant memory.
Hot on the heels of my learning about hormesis I have decided to go, as they say among the bros, balls deep. If stressing the body is the way forward then I will stress the ass out of mine.
Today I ran five miles, one more than last time, in a fasted state and I started the run with a long, hard 400 metre (approximately) 2.5 mile climb. My extensive cycling experience has taught me that if you want to get strong and get fit, and do so quickly, then god damn it, climb. Just find a hill and run up it. It doesn’t matter how much you climb, how steep it is, or how quickly you can do the run, just find a hill and leg it up there, and no matter how hard it gets, don’t stop until you get to the top. Trust me when I tell you that the reward of running downhill after having done that successfully is superb.
You can check out the details of the elevation gain in the Garmin graphs below, but today I made sure that I did the climbing first, the ran downhill back home followed by a detour into the trail I ran last time I was out running in order to get wet, dirty and exposed to cold. It worked too. I arrived home filthy, cold, wet and absolutely pumped and full of energy. Of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t do something dumb, so the data below is slightly lacking in detail because I accidentally recorded this as a bike ride! Thankfully you can edit Garmin data so it’s all alright.
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.
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.