I retired in October 2017, and was hugely busy while builders turned the house upside down building a new kitchen and bathroom. I was expecting that once I retired I'd have plenty of time for cycling, whereas the opposite turned out to be the case. Without the regular commute I got out of the habit of riding in poor weather, and when a couple of virus related illnesses (man flu type stuff) laid me low in November and December, cycling was the last thing on my mind. Then of course we had a horrible winter, so the excuses for not getting on the bike were piling up.
So I managed 62 kms towards the end of October, then nothing, until a check up at the doctor's revealed a rise in my cholesterol level, almost necessitating putting me on statins. I managed to fend that off with a promise to eat better and get fit, so on 22nd December I did something I hadn't done for six or seven years; I went for a run around Clapham Common. Must to my surprise I quite enjoyed it although I had to stop every couple of hundred yards. The cold air was hurting my lungs - my lack of fitness meant I was breathing really hard, and it hurt!
I managed 16 runs by mid March and felt a lot better for the efforts. So when a friend at Charlton Athletic mention a 145 mile two day charity ride from the Olympic velodrome in Stratford to Amsterdam (for the charity Prostate Cancer UK), I signed up, partly because I thought the motivation would help get me back on the bike.
I went for a couple of rides on the Enigma Etape 'winter bike' but something went horribly wrong in the saddle department, and a trip to the doctor revealed a haematoma, the doctor jovially diagnosing 'bony bum syndrome' as a probably cause. I'd been using my rather old Swift saddle, and I suspect it needs tightening urgently!
So I almost cancelled the bike I'd booked for our April holiday in Gran Canaria, but when I got there, decided to give it a go.
Perched on a Fabric Scoop saddle I was in agony (well, a bit), and could only manage a couple of short rides. I took the bike back to the hire shop, and they swapped the saddle out for a Cannondale one (a bit more padding), and I was in business. A bit more comfortable, aided by the fact that the haematoma was easing a little.
|Grin or grimace|
So in all I cycled over 1200kms training for the charity ride. An 85 mile ride to Harwich on Day 1 was followed by a gentler 54 mile ride from the Hook of Holland to Amsterdam on beautiful bike lanes and paths on Day 2. They wound their way through windswept coastal regions, before diverting inland, often along canal-side paths and roads. And to be honest, I found the riding quite easy. Why, well partly because of the training, but also because my mate Nick at The London Cycle Workshop gave me a lesson in how to eat properly when riding longish distances.
Three years or so back, Nick took me on a ride from London to Brighton and back, on a day when the temperature dropped from about 14 degrees to two degrees. I bonked horribly after 90 miles, and barely made it home. I was shaking like a leaf, and it took me a couple of days to stop feeling wobbly. He told me at the time I hadn't eaten enough, but even then, the penny didn't really drop.
But the prospect of riding with 'Team Charlton' (this was a charity ride for football clubs) meant I didn't want to let anyone down, so I asked him how much I should be eating, bearing in mind I used to take two or three gels on a long ride and would often come back with one of them still in my pocket. In fact any ride over 30 miles I'd get off the bike with jelly legs, and that got worse the longer the ride.
So his advice was to take a bite of an energy bar every ten minutes or so, not right from the start of the ride, but maybe after an hour. I tried this for the first time on 14th May when I just rode round Richmond Park and Bushy Park and the area in between, for 100kms, the longest ride I'd completed in a couple of years. I couldn't believe it when I got off the bike at the end of it feeling fine. No wobbly legs at all.
And since then it's been the same story. Even the 137kms ride to Harwich left me feeling, well, almost normal. And the next day, I felt as fresh as a daisy by my standards (I ate a couple of protein bars after the ride) and the 54 miles to Amsterdam was fine, except perhaps in the saddle area.
This to me is a major breakthrough. My average speeds have gone up a little, but it's made me realise I could probably go a bit faster if I wanted to. They say the more you ride the easier it gets, or the faster you get. Well combine that with fuelling properly and they're certainly right.It was interesting to see Nick's strategy put into effect so effectively by Team Sky at the Giro, a few days after my first fuelled ride!
By the way, rode to Amsterdam on my Condor Legerro, still my favourite bike so far for road riding.