Sunday, 11 December 2016

Sicky Icky

I was quite ill last year.  Three bouts of antibiotics and a face infection so I'm very nervous about being sick this year.  Doesn't help I'm producing so much snot I could bathe in it.

Usually I get on best at this time with high intensity interval training, but I don't think it helps with being ill and all so I'm trying heart rate training.  I was initially doing 160bpm but since my nose is leaking like it hit an iceberg, and I'm a bit virussy, I'm going to take that down to less than 150bpm.  

I'm also doing this on my mobile so of anyone can tell me how to justify my paragraphs I'd be forever greatful.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Not going outside...

...there be things like fresh air and sunshine.

No.  Not today as I've woken up in a black fug, which isn't helped by the 18 degree outside temperature and broad sunshine.  My misery wants some company but the summer burned off the haar from this morning and there are people smiling.

I'm not sure but I think my mood might be slightly affected by my decision to change my diet.  If there's anything that will put me in a black fug it is the word 'diet'.  Food restriction of any kind tends to make me a bit twitchy eyed.  Mostly because we could be doing so many things more with our time rather than thinking 'I really shouldn't have had that cake' or agonizing over calories*. The hypocrisy of this is that as someone who has a lot of food allergies there are a lot of things I shouldn't eat, and indeed, I'm probably one of the few people who really should be thinking 'I really shouldn't...' and since I haven't been thinking that I'm feeling the bloat.  The big massive watery bloat.  So I've been cooking beans all day.  Black beans, pinto beans, black eyed peas** beans and chick... er.. beans. It's in the hope that instead of having a cheese toastie of a luncheon I shall be able to quickly either nuke or boil off some beans in some soup or for some salad and munch on that, and then eat the cake I usually have.

'I got a feelin'... Woo Hoo... that I'm gonna eat some chickpeas... '
I have also been doing the 5:2 'lifestyle'*** with a friend of mine.  I'd put on a stone of weight about two years ago - sounds strange but I could feel it in my knees - but once back on my usual exercise regime it didn't come off.  Being a wee bit older now I have to look at other options. It's 2 days of a two egg omelet and soup split up on a Monday and a Wednesday. Most folks think that sounds awful but then I've come to the conclusion that most folks can't cook.  Most days it's a doddle but if I've scheduled a omelet and diet coke day and I'm not really feeling it I don't. My weight went down about 4kg and I've gone down a notch on my belt, but it's kind of stalled now but as I say I need to get back into the habit of eating stuff I'm not so wholly intolerant to.

Today is a 'fast day' but I'm not hungry.  I've had a sh!t load of coffee.I normally have about 3 cups regardless, but I still feel like I haven't woken up properly so I had my lunch early.  I had edemame miso soup with pak choi and I'm not feeling hungry just in need of a nap.   The dog is lying on the couch softly snoring and it's very tempting to join her. Though it is getting close to her time for  a walk.  It would probably do us both good.


* I could go into the psycology of false humility there is in 'weightloss'  but I'm not going to. I can't be arsed.

** no Fergies or Will.I.Ams have been hurt during the making of these munchies.

*** Not using the word diet, no.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Much much cheapness....

Yoda of cheapness I am.

This year I'm trying to live more simply and as such that requires a certain spend-thrift-ness on a few choice items, mostly the stuff that if - for cycling - I haven't needed it by now it's probably not worth spending money on.  Regardless of this attitude I do find my little handy going out when I'm in my local bike shop or perusing the internet and one thing I've always fancied (but have managed to do without) is arm warmers.  I previously had a cracking thick nylon cycling jacket (endura) which was brilliant.  I could wear nothing but a vest top underneath on a sunny day and not find myself too warm, but at the same time wear just the one long sleeve top on -1 deg and not get a chill.  This jacket was thermal enough and water resistant enough to go snowboarding, but breathable enough so as not to over cook myself in 30 degree sunshine.  I miss that jacket.  It is sadly a little too worn now, it's gone a bit crusty and the back pockets being made of the same water resistant fabric as the rest of the jacket collect water in the rain so it's no longer practical to wear.

As a result I'm making do with a couple of jackets I got a couple of years ago that I got in a sale.  MD made them and they're fine.  They soft nylon, and at about £15 each they're neither water resistant nor wind resistant, but they do alright with a waterproof over them, and layering under them.  The difficulty I have with them is that they're too warm to wear a full thermal top underneath, and with them not being wind resistant coming down in long descents gets very chilly, at the same time if I wear a waterproof specifically for wind resistance I get a bit sweaty.  So what's a girl to do....?

Well the answer here is to get me some arm warmers.  But without spending any money.  How does one do that? One gets CREATIVE!!!!!!

How to make your own arm warmers - It's dead easy:

1.  Get your running tights, old padded lycra long johns, very cheap leggings from Primark, turn them inside out and lay them flat and look at the seams that run down the legs.  On one side it will look like the fabric weave runs along with the seam, and on the other side of the seam the fabric weave is going into the seam in a 'v' shape.  Since no cyclist has arms thicker than their legs you want to keep the side where the weave runs along the seam intact.
Weave runs horizontal to seam

Weave going into the seam in a 'v'.

2.  Cut to your desired length straight across the leg.  Cut from the top (thigh end) not the bottom because the bottom will be a rather comfortable cuff edge on your wrist and will save any more faffing about.  You can use scissors but because I'm a swanky pants I'm using a rotary cutter.

Leg cut at thigh end.

3. Cut to your desired thickness by folding your cuff edge as far up on the piece itself to as how thick it is on the thigh and cutting to the fold.
Where I have the ruler at the top edge is where I want to cut this across.
If you have chunkier arms than mine you may want to go further up the leg. 

I have to admit here that I never actually measured the top of my bicep and just cut straight across.  For your reference I'm a thick limbed 5ft woman the same weight as Chris Froome (possibly a wee bit heavier since he's away doing the Daphine at the mo'.)  It's tight on me but doesn't cut off the circulation.

You can see where the seam starts for what is now the unfinished arm warmer.
4.  Double thread a needle - the doubled over thread length on the needle should not be longer than your fore arm, any longer and it will tangle* -  and tie a knot in the end.

Thread threaded on needle and doubled over with knot at the end
(you can just see it.)
Cut off the excess from the non needle side of the knot**.
Knot with excess cut close.
Start to sew by pushing the needle through both layers of fabric to make roughly 3mm size stitch, but do not pull thread all the way through.   Push needle through the thread on the side of the stitch with the knot on it.  Pull taught enough so that the thread lies flat but does not pucker the fabric.

Needle through loop at beginning of stitch.

6. Sew stitches in to a slight angle in the 'front' of your fabric, and then straight at the back about 3mm in size.  This will give you a hand sewn zig zag stitch which will allow your stitches to stretch with your fabric.  Don't worry if some of your stitches are bigger and others smaller - it'll even itself out when you put them on, but do try to keep them evenly spaced.

Top stitches should look something like this. 
The underside will look something like this.
7.  Continue doing this until you have about 4 inches of thread left on the needle. We are now going to finish of this particular section of stitches.  Push the needle through the fabric for the last stitch but do not pull the thread all the way through and leave an unfinished stitch (basically it looks like a loop).  Cut your thread from your needle end and separate those strands.

Thread cut and separated ready for one strand to go through the unfinished stitch.
One strand pulled through unfinished stitch.
 Pull one strand through the unfinished stitch and carefully finish the stitch by pulling on the cut strands (still having the one strand through that stitch that you are finishing). 

Stitch finished and strands ready to be tied off.
This should look very much like your first stitch.
  Tie both strands together to make a knot tight to the fabric.  Cut excess thread and repeat until you've finished the whole side.

8. Instructions for a sewing machine - use a stretch needle and zigzag stitch your raw edge.  If you know someone with a sewing machine, ask them to show you how.  If they own a sewing machine but don't know how to use it, tell them they should be ashamed their zombie apocalypse skills are so shockingly bad. 

9.  Turn them right side out.  Wear them, admire them,

stick them on a hedge...

Ball them up ready to wear under your soft shell!

What's your worst or best do it yourself? Doesn't have to be cycling made but did you bodge it or brag about it?


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*Seamstress wisdom right there.
** Sorry if this is a bit paint by numbers, it's just I HATE craft stuff that's all 'it's really cheap... just get your £300 sewing machine out and overlock the fucker.'

Monday, 30 May 2016

Sportive Training 101 - Lesson 3: How to callus your @rse... Or training rides.

In writing this I have to be honest.  Of this year (2016) I have done 2 training rides all year before both my main sportives.  I am finding myself in a Jeckl and Hyde mood when I think about this half because 2 training rides really isn't enough, and the other half is it's all I really could have properly managed this year.  As I've mentioned before I was ill this year, and with the advent of a massive new road (AWPR) tearing up my usual cycling routes I have been rightly reluctant to go out out my end of Aberdeen.  (it's pretty horrific at the moment - the usual roads I roll have either been cut off, the ones I can roll on no one would in their right mind.)  But hey, sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles and 2 is better than none.

The purpose of training rides are mostly to make sure you can sit in the saddle. Come 60mph wind, rain, crashes, go slows, and snow.  All of which happened to me in last year's Etape Caledonia.   If you can sit in the saddle with your legs always going one more pedal turn you can finish any distance barring mechanical faults or acts of God. And he knows he can be a funny bugger sometimes.  They also teach you how to read a road in terms of surface conditions and terrain, how to get to the top of a climb efficiently and your limits on cornering.  Whilst some of this can be gained on a cycle commute every day, knowing you can do three hours plus then a big climb does wonders for the nerves on your first sportive. So... what things should you consider when planing a training ride.  Well...

1.  How you are going to build up Miles and Time.   In the first year me and the girls built on distance by adding 5 or so miles to each training ride every weekend.  The longest mileage we did in that first year was 65 miles which was a perfect distance for me - about 7 hours including stops - as it was more than half the distance of the sportive  ('Every endurance event is done in halfs, get half way then start counting the second half backwards' - Thomas Willis my da'.) and meant that I knew that come act of god or serious mechanical failure, I could always get back on the bike and push the pedals one more time.  Now, there is a general consensus that you should train for how long you think your sportive is going to take, with the intensity of how much hard work you plan to hit it with.  So for example if I planned to do a 65 mile sportive in 4 hours in Zone 3 (about 170bpm* for me) then I would carve out time to train for a single four hour session once a week (or more) and building up the duration upon which I could spend time in zone three to four hours.  In saying this, in my first year there was no way I'd have finished the 81 mile sportive (given a mixture of fitness and bike skills) in about 4 hours averaging 170bpm.

2.  How to structure your training sessions in between your longer training rides.  To borrow from our Muscle bound brethren 'It's on your recovery that you make your gains.'    I find I work best on every second day regardless of what training I do so it's Monday off for me if I've been out on a training ride on Sunday anyway.  But be aware that DOMS  (delayed onset muscle soreness) is relieved by moving so you may want to keep up with your commute, or the habit of hitting the turbo trainer for 10 mins while your bath runs the next day.  And also, it does help a lot in getting used to that saddle just remember to take it easy or you'll get sick.

3.  Where are you going to go.  Hill training.   HILL TRAINING.  HILLLL TRAINNING!!!!!  Again it does wonders for the soul knowing that after 40 or so miles that you can hit a big hill and get up it. If your sportive has hilly terrain it's worth doing a search on google, checking your local cycling reddit thread and asking if there are any hills worth climbing.  Sportives are pretty popular now so there will be someone who will know your area well enough to say 'head out here there's a cracking hill there...'.

4.  What to eat.  There is so many things specifically for athletes, amateur or otherwise, and a lot of them are foul.  In the first couple of training rides, it's best just to stick to sweets and perhaps something starchy (crisps or biscuits) to help the digestion.  The body has, at any given time, about an hours worth of energy within the muscles, specifically for use in the muscles.  The body needs this in order to burn any extra body fat one is carrying as well as to move.  Once this runs out, or a rider fails to top this up, it's miseryvile so even if you are dieting, if you are going out for more than an hour take about 100 or so cals worth of food and drink for every hour that you are out.  Take what you fancy, perhaps consider decanting it to make it easy to open and adjust next time for what you found hard or easy.   One of my mates on her first year ate mostly chocolate bars and bananas and I drank cans of coke, as well as stopping for soup and cake at some point.   We probably over munched but it was tasty and no-one really bonked.  We did eventually get onto some of the specific gels and energy drinks but chances are as soon as you find something you like the taste of, they'll stop producing it.

5. Equipment and Clothing.  What to take? I would insist on your mobile,  a cheap bike computer and a puncture kit** but everything else is up to you.  Testing how to eat on the bike - little carry on's to store eats and drinks - it's best to get used to these now.   Weather apps are great, and knowing that below 10 degrees you'll need your thermal long sleeve and a tank top under the cycling soft jacket, or that at 15 degrees all you need is a tank top and the cycling jersey will help a lot in choosing what to wear on the day.  Same as knowing that the waterproof you have can be worn as a wind break but would be too uncomfortable if it's going to be over 20 degrees.   It's all about personal comfort.  For example my blokie insists on wearing board shorts on top of compression tights and a lumberjack shirt, but then that's what he's tried and tested and happy with.  I on the other hand like long sleeves, running leggings and have yet to find a pair of gloves I'm happy with.

There is a lot more I could go into on this.  Where to find routes for your area, what maps to use, what to take, what not to take, where not to go but that would lead to a behemoth of a blog post and the best thing to do is to keep it simple on the first couple of training rides.  Especially if you're keen to go it's best not to get fogged down in detail as that can take a lot of joy out of what is supposed to be a leisure activity.  Also, the better you get at training, the more efficient you become.  The first year we stopped every training ride for some lunch and a sit down, the second year we continued on regardless, now 2016, I go out about 4 hours max, concentrating on my bike handling skills - which as a dyspraxic - are pretty shocking.

The first two windows you see are a couple of training rides, the first in 2012, the second in 2014 (I think) and this last one is the time for my first sportive in 2012.

For the first in the series click here, for the second click here.


*For the interests of full disclosure my heart rate ranges from 60bpm resting, to 201bpm max - that's this year and I've been ill. Have I mentioned that?  I feel like I've mentioned that.  Last year max was 209 and before that max was 211 so getting old and all.

** You will never need this puncture kit until the day you leave it at home.

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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Chr!st Almighty!

I am not enjoying myself.

I've broken two shifters and a lung (yes a lung) over trying to change my cranks.  So needless to say that the past month has not been fun.  At all.

No doubt I'll regale you all with the joys of changing your cranks over but right now it's too soon.
The lung thing might not be related but it certainly feels like it.  The result being I've had to miss two weeks out of the final 5 weeks before my first sportive of the year.

It's too soon still.


Monday, 18 January 2016

These feet weren't made for walking...

The Gids has a rather nasty cold virus and with him being a generous sort gave it to me.  So what do you do when you're feeling a bit fluey and icksome?  The general idea is to take it easy, and with things to do of a day I decided to leave the Brompton at home and get the bus about, with little stints of walking in between.  I mean OK, it could be the cold talking but yeh, I forgot to take public transport and walked everywhere.  All 17,000 steps of it.  My legs are sore, my feet are sore, I may have shin splints, it took a lot longer than anticipated and there was no sitting down involved.  Which I think is the thing I missed the most. 

*Sniffs and coughs pathetically*


Thursday, 7 January 2016

Sportive Training 101 - Lesson 2 What to do when it's P!ssing outside.

***There are a lot of photos and vids so apologies if it takes ages to load***

The weather currently looks like this where I am:

It's looked like that for days.  Storm Frank has decided he identifies as female and is now Storm Gertrude or whatever the feck her name is.  And since you, probably like me had big intentions of getting (or improving) your base level of fitness but have found yourself sitting in the softest parts of your arse eating mince pies for most of the holiday season, you now vague sense of panic that you should have started weeks ago and if you don't start now you never will (both these things are true).

So what's a cyclist to do when you can wave at Noah floating past in his ark from your living room window?  I'm not one for urging someone to spend unnecessarily, but in times like these (especially if you don't have a gym membership) I would urge you to get a Turbo Trainer.  If you've got kids, work unsociable hours or plain just don't feel like getting completely lycra'd up it's the best investment for you and your cycling.

A quick search here shows a price range (for new) of £60 upwards, but keep in mind you don't need one whose resistance you can change with a dial to get great use out of it. A thorough look (ebay or gumtree) and ask about, you may even find someone willing to lend or give you their old one for much cheaper, though I'd have a gnawing urge on the back of my head of wanting to do something NOW! and order one from the webernet with next day delivery.  If like me you're finding January a squeeze, consider this from the GCN lot:

I much prefer having my bike attached to the equipment (the main difference between a turbo trainer and roller) as a touch of the breaks or a lack of balance would send me shooting through the air but then that is just me.  

So what's the best place to set up your turbo trainer?  What kind of training and how long and often should you be on it?  What other items do you need?

1.  Where you going to put it?
  • You'll need somewhere you can look at something, a window, tv or a place to set your computer screen.  It's really good for the sanity when you're on the the thing.
  • Air circulation - fresh air is best as you will sweat a lot so preferably near an open window or utilise a fan if you've got one.  
  • A place where it can sit.  You need to be able to slot your bike in and just go otherwise dragging it out will be more trouble than you'll be bothered about.  If you've got a place where your bike can sit there all weekdays even better.  Most Turbo Trainers have quick release mechanisms which make getting your bike on and off a doddle.  If not double check that any other system means you don't have to do much (or preferably anything) to the bike in order to make it roadworthy.
Here's where I've put mine*:

In our spare bedroom.  I admit it's not ideal but there's enough space for me to see out the window (even when it's dark), rest my computer on the sill if I need to and get on the thing. I'd have it smack bang in the middle but we're trying to keep the bed there ready for guests.

2.  What else do you need?

  • ***EDIT*** It has been pointed out to me that I've neglected to mention a heart rate monitor. You can get one as cheap (Karrimoor are a good solid budget brand) or as expensive (Garmin, Fitbit, Jawbone) as you can comfortably afford.  It will help establish your highest heart rate, your resting heart rate and all sorts of other things in between (VO2 max, rate optimum for fat burning, race rate etc).  Appologies for this late addition. 
  • Towels, towels and more towels.  From the picture above you can see I've pinned a rather large hand towel to act as a sweat guard (you can buy these but I'm quite tight-fisted).  In addition to this you may want to put a towel, old blanket or yoga/stretch mat under the turbo trainer itself.  Save you sweating onto your floor and from any sort of wear from sitting your 11 stone self**  on it. You will also need one to mop your brow.  
  • Something to prop up the front of the bike (you don't need this if you've got rollers).  Most turbo trainers have a matching front wheel block (that you need to buy separately boo hiss), but for years I've used gaffa taped catalogues, and right now my front wheel is on a plastic drill box - it has grooves in it that hold the front bike wheel more securely - like so:
  • A wee bag to hang on it.  If the weathers bad or you want to set the bike up for a few days you'll keep any accoutrement's that you require in there - it's also a really good habit to just have your cycling stuff in a little tote and to put it there after outside rides, saves a lot of time looking for things.  So things like heart rate strap, the bike shoes you have or like to wear, a wee note book and pen to record what you've done, perhaps a plastic bottle so that you've always got one handy to fill when the mood takes you.  I keep socks and a set of leggings especially for here.  When I've done a session I hand wash these items and then drape them over the radiator (and occasionally the bike itself) to dry so next day I'm on this thing those items are another thing I don't need to go look for.
3.  How should you use it?
  •  In the beginning short and sweet.  5 minutes just to get the feel of it and trust yourself you're not going to topple over and then build up over time.  Your bits will get sore - even if you're used to your saddle - because the bike does not change position and the terrain stays the same so the same bits of you get a far more concentrated squeeze.  
  • I doubt I know anyone who does more than 45 minutes on the turbo trainer - so keep that in mind when allocating time to it, choosing what to watch or what to do whilst on it.  Also when you are training on it you'll get a more intense work out - there's no slowing down for traffic or corners, no having to watch the verge or have cars overtake so you can really focus in on what you're doing and can get far more 'done' than the same time spent on the road. 
4.  What kind of training should you do?
  • Ultimately it's up to you, but most users (myself included) do HIIT training.  There's also quite a few free You Tube training sessions specifically for turbo training.  Again the GCN guys and girls are a great free resource, not just for Turbo training sessions but their info about cycling (not just training, but pro news, news news etc) is pretty good as well. 
  • In saying that don't be constrained to using it to smash out a session after session, particularly if your time is short.  In my first year I found it most useful being able to jump on and off it during the week when I wasn't/couldn't go out for 3 hours of an evening cycling.  Waiting for my bath to fill - gave me 10 minutes, up sharply in the morning 5 minutes before my shower,  15 minutes before getting ready for a night out.  Having a quiet night in with pizza - 10 minutes while it cooked. Little stints  - you don't always have to go hard - will make a big difference especially when  you can't use your bike to get to the shops or commute to work.  10 minutes during the week day keeps your limbs warm for your longer ride on Saturday or Sunday.  10 minutes the day after your long ride will help recovery and flush the lactic acid out of your legs.  5 - 10 minutes a day is enough to shut the shouty little man at the back of your head up because that will give you 50 minutes during the week that you wouldn't otherwise have done.  I've sat on the thing whilst binge watching SPACED (20 minutes long without the ad breaks) - Jobs a good un'.

If you've gotten by without a turbo trainer in your life, comment below on what you'd recommend as good substitute exercise for cycling when it's raining.  For the first in this series click here.

*My turbo trainer is an Elite Cronos Magnetic trainer with a little dial that makes it tougher in stages.  Before this I had a the same make but with a fluid base and no dail.  Would recommend the brand if you can get it.  I have no complaints.  

**Same race weight as Chris Froome - he's not 5 foot 0 though. 

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