Physical effect of cycling the Deloitte Ride Across Britain

WARNING :  Some readers may find the images at the end of this post upsetting as they show the results of my crashes on Day 1 and Day 5.  You have been warned!

I knew that cycling over 100 miles a day for nine days with no break would be very tough and I had wanted to make sure that I would enjoy the experience and not just “get through it”.  I had worked with Lawrence Cronk at Enduraprep on my general fitness for several years and when I signed up for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, Lawrence started me on a specific training regime to improve my endurance and cycling specific fitness in particular.  As Lawrence takes part in full distance Ironmans and coaches other people for triathlons so he knows what is required.

The training started in earnest in October/November 2017 and my blog Two Months To Go – Training Review sets out what I had done to June 2018, basically three indoor sessions a week and one or two outdoor rides at the weekend.

In November 2017 I weighed in at a pretty hefty 94 kg (188 cm tall) and just before the ride I was down to 85 kg.  My fitness levels had also improved dramatically as measured by my Functional Threshold Power tests.

After getting home from the ride I was surprised to find that I weighed 86 kg as I felt thinner based on the “belt notch” test.  However, closer inspection of the “clever” scales showed an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in body fat percentage from 20% to 15%, an astounding decrease of 25% over the course of 9 days!  It showed that despite eating a lot during the event, my body ended up eating into my fat reserves to keep going.

The fitness stats on Training Peaks also showed how hard I worked during the ride.  The stats show that I was far too enthusiastic on Days 1, 2 and 3 and paid for it on the later days when my output in terms of power decreased although the intensity required to ride stayed pretty constant – in effect I was working just as hard for less results!  I think I also realised my error and consciously tried to keep my power output low when I wasn’t having to climb very steep steep hills.  I had found Day 4, meant to be an “easy” day particularly hard.

I was also surprised that my maximum heart rate for each day reduced by 20 beats per minute over the course of the 8 days (from 181 on Day 1 to 163 on Day 8) despite the fact that Day 8 had The Lecht climb with a gradient of 28%!  I’m ignoring Day 9 as the gale force tail wind made things relatively easy – thank goodness!

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Fitness trend over the last 90 days.

On the graph above, the pink line shows my fatigue increasing dramatically as the ride went on.  The blue line shows my fitness while the the yellow line shows my form.  I’ll be on top form for an event at the beginning of October! The form line shows how I was “ready” for the ride as well.

Now for the “nasty” bit and photos of the results of my crash on Day 1 after 40 miles at Truro which I then aggravated with the crash on the railway crossing on Day 5.  I didn’t take a photo of the initial damage on Day 1 as the medical team immediately slapped a bandage on it when I when to see them after having a shower at Oakhampton.  The rest you can see for yourselves.

In answer to the question “Does it hurt?”, of course it blooming well does!  I’m now on a course of antibiotics to beat the infection and going back to see the doctor next Monday to make sure it is healing.  I have a plentiful supply of dressings but may opt not to wear a suit to work.  I don’t think possible seepage through the bandage and wool suits will mix!

If you haven’t sponsored me so far to help support the work of Dementia UK and you are not persuaded by the fact that I cycled 930 miles with this injury to sponsor me, there isn’t much more I can do !  If you would like to sponsor me, there is still time and you can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here.  Do remember to tick the Gift Aid box if you are eligible as Dementia UK can claim an extra 25% of your sponsorship from HM Revenue & Customs.

Day 9 Kyle of Sutherland to John O’Groats

The final day of the ride, a short 104 miles to John O’Groats with the ride profile showing lots of climbs and descents across the top of Scotland.

It was an early start from 6 am to make sure everyone got to the finish in plenty of time. Lights on in the dark as we set off. I started at 0624 with Stu W who I had cycled in with the previous day and had a met on the RAB Training Day in April. We shared the work up the first long draggy climb with me occasionally having to ask Stu to ease up – the 870 miles in the legs were having an effect! Near the end of the climb the wind started to pick up creating a horrible cross wind. We then turned the corner for the descent into Altnaharra and the first pit stop of the day.

WOW! What a descent! A steady drop and increasing wind behind us. We covered five miles in a flash and ended up doing the first 30 miles in 1 hour 50 minutes. We arrived at the pit stop to see staff hanging from the gazebo roof braces to stop them blowing away – it was a full on gale but without the rain.

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Pit stop at Altnaharra

 

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The road from Altnaharra alongside Loch Naver

If I thought the descent into Altnaharra was good, descent out was even better and the route took us alongside Loch Naver, full of white horses created by the wind. Once we hit the coast road after going through Bettyhill, we were able to take full advantage of the wide roads and lack of traffic. I really enjoyed the even better descents although lighter riders and riders with deep section wheels hated the cross winds. On the up slopes I even felt the wind pushing me up hill near the crests – definitely a time for sitting up straight and making yourself as big as possible.

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First sight of the sea north of Scotland
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The obligatory photo at John O’Groats

The gale force wind made it the fastest day of the 9 as I completed 100 miles in less than 6 hours moving time and the whole 104 miles in 6 hours 9 minutes (only 7 hours after leaving the Kyle of Sutherland).

After queuing for the photo by the sign post, there was more queuing for a shower (we got seriously cold at this point) and a coach ride to Inverness. I had a pizza with some friends who had the overnight sleeper train to catch to London. They didn’t have time for pudding so when I had checked into my hotel I went out to the restaurant next door and ordered two puddings and a pint – the waitress said it was the strangest order they’d had for a long time!

Highlights of the day:

  • Gale or storm force tail wind
  • All the terrific descents
  • The finish at John O’Groats
  • Two puddings and a pint in Inverness

I have now cycled 972 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I had a lift in a mechanic’s car for 10 miles after my crash at Preston which wrote off my cycle helmet.

The questions I expect everyone to ask at work – does your bottom hurt ? can you sit down? The answers are “A little bit” and “Yes, very easily”. The injury to my thigh has been causing more issues – something for a separate post.

You can still help me raise even more money for Dementia UK by donating on my Virgin Money Giving page here Let’s see if I can top £5,000 !

Final week of training before the Ride

I am now entering the final week of training before starting the Deloitte Ride Across Britain on 8 September.  This weekend saw me do two rides of over 5 hours, although not on consecutive days as originally planned due to the appalling weather on Sunday.  I know some of my fellow Deloitte RAB participants did brave the wind and rain – good for them.  I chose the indoor option to avoid catching a head cold or even worse crashing the bike!

My ride on Saturday was meant to be “flat/rolling” and I still managed 1,931 m of climbing in about 86 miles of riding.  The ride today was “three climbs” and I did 2,134m of climbing in 88 miles of riding but in a longer time, probably due to the length of the climbs.

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Top of the Rhigos climb

The ride today can be seen on on Relive map here – lots of hairpins on the climbs and descents!  The benefits of living in South Wales.  I was lucky with the weather as there were a few spots of rain but I managed to miss all but one heavy rain shower.  The rain did make some of the early descents a bit tricky and I certainly picked up more speed later on in the ride when the road dried out.

On the Saturday ride, I revisited some of my training loops round the Vale of Glamorgan and here is the latest “season” photo from Merthyr Mawr img_0742.jpg– all the rain in the last week has raised the river levels considerably since mid July when there was just a trickle.  It is also amazing how much a little rain changes the grass from yellow to green!

The end of the serious training has also enabled me to take stock of how far I have come since I started training seriously for the ride last November.  The biggest change is the weight loss, down from 94 kg (perhaps even more) to 85kg (13.5 stone in “old money”, a loss of around 1.5 stone).  I’m sure the weight loss would have been greater if I’d been more disciplined with the diet, however, I’m now the lightest I’ve been since starting work in Cardiff 15 years ago.  It has made a huge difference to the speed at which I go up the hills!

My fitness levels have also improved dramatically.  The Training Peaks fitness level has increased from 60 to 108, my Functional Threshold Power (a test used by cyclists to measure their power output) has increased from 239  to 261 watts and my resting heart rate is now in the low 40s.  I don’t think there is much more I could do to prepare physically for the challenge ahead.  I have to thank my coach, Lawrence Cronk at Enduraprep, for the training plans and pushing me on in the training.

I think the most difficult part will be the mental side of getting up shortly after 5am each day and start cycling 110 miles a day for 9 consecutive days to complete the 980 mile distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats.  I’m sure once I’ve got over the initial 10 miles I’ll be fine – this was the case today when there was a lot of procrastination before setting out.  The thought of everyone who has very kindly sponsored me to support the work of Dementia UK will give me all the motivation I need – I will not want to let you down!

If you would like to sponsor me and raise money for Dementia UK you can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here Please do tick the Gift Aid box if you are eligible as the tax man will increase your donation by 25%.  Please also remember that Virgin Money only charge a 2% fee compared to the 5% charged by a well know competitor!  There’s still time to donate!

Two weeks to go!

The start of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain became very real this morning when I received my rider number in the post.  I am rider number 23 !  I can’t think of anything witty linked to the number 23 except it was my age when I started work as a trainee solicitor…far too long ago.

I also decided to get most of my kit together by going through the official Threshold Sports kit list.  Here is most of the kit

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All the kit – some idea !

– there are a few items missing, like flip flops, waterproof trousers, a warm jacket for use in the camp, sleeping bag, blow up pillow and sleeping mat (for the one night when I have to camp in the middle of Scotland).  It looks like I have everything and there will be no need to visit bike shops or outdoors shops for last minute additions.

It all seems a big bundle of stuff and you may wonder why I need everything?  Well, I am riding 980 miles in nine days and we have two laundry runs after three and six days.  However, the laundry is limited to six items of clothing which means three jerseys and three bib shorts.  For the benefit of the non-cyclists reading this blog, bib shorts are cycling shorts with sort of built in braces which are much more comfortable to wear than shorts with a waist-band.  I also have to be ready for whatever weather we encounter when cycling the length of Great Britain – it did rain on eight of the nine days in 2017!

If you can’t identify what is what in the photo above here are the the items broken down into different collections (I think I must have been doing far too much online shopping to come up with that phrase).

First we have the cycling jerseys, three short sleeved (hopefully sunny weather) and one long sleeved.

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The jerseys!

It was easy to pick two tops – the Dementia UK top and the Deloitte Ride Across Britain top.  The third top was more difficult – in the end I chose the Dragon Ride top as a nod to where I live and work in Wales – it is also a great design!  The long sleeved jersey was chosen because it is a bright colour and very light weight!

We also have a selection of wet weather gear including the cycling jackets, one for rain, a wind top and a gillet for early morning starts when I don’t think (or hope there will be any rain).  All the jackets are from Rapha and I’ve had them for a while so I know that they work – expensive but worth it.

I also have over-socks and over-shoes to try and keep the cycling shoes dry when it rains.  In reality, the over-socks and over-shoes merely delay the inevitable of wet feet as the water just runs down the legs and into the shoes – I don’t fancy resorting to duck tape round the top of the socks (and I’m not shaving my legs!).  Other items of clothing for keeping warm include base layers (short sleeved and long sleeved), mainly made with Merino wool which keeps me warm even when it gets wet, and arm and leg warmers from Castelli which are meant to shed light rain showers.

The final photos include my cycling helmet (compulsory), various gloves, cycling glasses,  hats and a neck warmer.

There is also a collect of what I call “Bits and Pieces” including some lights, a spare tyre, a few tools, equipment charger, Garmin cycling computer to record the ride, sun cream, midge repellent and the all important Chamois cream to ensure a reduction in friction between the bits shorts and my backside!  I’ve also included a portable ultrasound machine which could be useful if I have a strained muscle during the ride.

We now have a Bank Holiday weekend coming up and it will be my last really long rides (of about five hours) before the start of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.  The forecast is for dry weather on Saturday and Monday – Sunday looks like a complete wash out with rain and strong winds (I will not be taking any risks going out cycling on Sunday).

There is still time to sponsor me to help support the work of Dementia UK so that families can access advice and support to care for loved ones with dementia, like my father.  Have a read of my post  Why am I supporting Dementia UK in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain ? John Evans (1934 – 2010) to see why I am putting myself through the ride to raise money for Dementia UK.  You can reach my Virgin Money Giving page here

Why am I supporting Dementia UK in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain ? John Evans (1934 – 2010)

Why I am riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (a distance of 980 miles in 9 days) to raise money for Dementia UK?  The simple answer is in memory of my father, John Evans, who had he been alive would have been 84 today (26 June).  Unfortunately John suffered from vascular dementia for well over the last 10 years of his life and had we, as a family, known about Dementia UK at the time, the support and advice we could have accessed could have made what we, and my mother in particular, had to go through so much easier to deal with on a day to day basis.

Dementia is such a cruel disease as you never know how long you have to live with the disease and its rates of progression are so different between people with different forms of the disease.  In the case of my father, there were a series declines followed by plateaus.  John and the family began to think something was wrong when he couldn’t complete The Daily Telegraph crossword, something he’d been completing for over 30 years.  We then saw a loss of short term memory with the repetition of conversations on a 10 minute loop – it was terribly difficult to continue the same conversation when John had no idea we’d discussed the particular topic three times already!

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John enjoying a glass of fizz at Caroline’s wedding

John and my mother retired to Dittisham, near Dartmouth in Devon, and I think one of John’s happiest day was walking my sister, Caroline, down the aisle at her wedding.  Even then in 2002, the decline had set in and I had the pleasure of giving the “Brother of the Bride” speech at the reception after John had welcomed the guests before the meal.

The odd thing was that his long term memory was fine until he lost his mobility.  When we eventually decided to move John into a care home, one day he escaped by climbing over a locked 5 barred gate.  This was second nature to an ex-agricultural lecturer and Head of College who would regularly walk the College farm.  Fortunately, the escape attempt took place in the summer and he was found several hours later over three miles away having travelled through a few fields!

It was also awful to see the loss of the ability to communicate, particularly for someone who had been so articulate.  John must have found it frustrating as well, as one day in the care home he lifted a huge cathode ray TV off its table in the lounge and placed it carefully on the floor – I can only think he wasn’t enjoying the day time telly !

I have a huge amount to thank John for, notwithstanding the obvious!  He was responsible for instilling my “values” – work hard, treat people with respect and how you would like to be treated, don’t say anything if you haven’t got anything nice to say and be loyal and generous to your family and friends.  I think I also inherited his competitive instinct – anyone who heard his exhortations to himself on the golf course will know what I mean.  I can still hear the “Oh John!” shouts following a duff shot!

I also picked up my love of sailing, crewing for John in “Gusty” while learning to sail.  We had a series of holidays to Rock in north Cornwall in the 1970s, before it got terribly trendy, trailing the dinghy down the M4 and M5 from Kent.

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Family sailing with “Gusty” at Rock, north Cornwall

A real bucket and spade holiday, sailing in the estuary and surfing at Polzeath.  John would escape for a few rounds of golf at St Enodoc Golf Club leaving the rest of us having fun on the beach, digging pits, building sandcastles and tennis ball helter-skelters and flying kites.

What would John think about me undertaking this ride?  He’d be terribly proud, pretty surprised (as I only took up cycling about four years ago), worried about the amount of training involved (and the lack of tennis I’ve played this year) and fully supportive of my efforts.  I have to say I still miss him more than I care to admit.

If you would like to learn more about the great work carried out by Dementia UK you can reach their website by clicking here

If you would like to sponsor me so I can raise loads of money for Dementia UK you can donate via my Virgin Money Giving page here