On your marks, get set, go or should I say “allez allez allez”

It’s here ! it is 6:45 and I am on edge, the nerves have hit home. It is a stunning day, clear blue skies, sun in the sky and very little wind. The negative is the temperature, it’s already 21°Celsius .

I loaded my luggage into the truck which had the hotel name I was going to stop at in France. It was at this point realisation hit, because the next time I was to sleep was going to be in France and not the UK.

I listened to the induction of what to do and not what to do. The main info was water stops, food and what side of the road we need to be on. They went through the contact phone  numbers we may need etc.

Before I know it, it is 7 am and 147 of us are at the start line and off we go.

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It was a very slow start as we had to be ever so careful as with so many riders, if one person was to fall we would all be on the floor. image that on Harry Hills TV show, £200 would not go far between us all.

I got around half a mile and realised I had not got any gloves or map on me, I had left them in reception before I set off and I can’t say on here what and how it had happened but the bottom line is I had no gloves and my spares were well on the way to France. So that was to be the best part of 93 miles with no gloves and I can tell you gloves are essential for cycling any decent distance.

I got the first 20 miles in the bag and hit the water station, the temperature had already hit the late 20’s and you could tell some fellow riders were already struggling with the heat. I filled my bottles up with water and later in the day this would come back to bite me with a vengeance.

Next stop I was heading towards was lunch and it was around 24 miles ahead. I have travelled the country extensively but not on a bike and this really lets you appreciate the country side within the M25, as you always just expect it to be a concrete jungle.

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By the time I got to lunch it had hit 30°C and to fair not many people felt hungry. The food was great and loads of choice of real riding food such as pasta, potatoes and rice etc.  such a shame my appetite had all but disappeared.

Off we went again with my head down, not got time to hang around as we had to hit Dover for 15:30, we did not want to miss the boat.

I had never cycled in a group before and I must say it does make the miles go much quicker. I jumped on the back of several groups and one particular group was ever so useful. They were well paced on the flat and down hill the when it came to uphill section they were nice and steady and this pace really suited me especially in these hot conditions.  I talked to people about why they were doing the London to Paris, what charity they were raising funds for and why. I listened to some amazing stories on the very first day.

As I mentioned it was hot but I was on it and I was so glad I put the training in as I could certainly tell I had.

With 10 miles to go the fact I had been drinking just water hit me. I had several paralysing cramps in my right leg and this included my upper legs front and back and my lower leg. this then started on my left leg too but only lower. I had to un-clip myself whilst in agony or I would have fallen over. It took around 10 minutes for this to go and then I tried to cycle again, I was OK until I hit the final climb and once again it came back with vengeance.  I ended up having to walk the last part of the climb for around half a mile and I was in agony and it was even more difficult when walking in cycling shoes and cleats.

It was the last hill and then it was all flat and downhill which enabled me to complete my ride to Dover at the meeting point outside the ferry terminal.

So why did I have cramp problems, I soon realised I had washed out all the salts in my body by drinking just water. I needed to have electrolytes to replace what I was loosing in this heat. I needed a good source of electrolytes for the next day. I did have a mix of electrolytes and glucose in powder form but the amount I was drinking I could not carry all the powder. In terms of diabetes I have not mentioned it as I did not have a problem thankfully.

We all made our way together to the ferry terminal and seeing 147 of us certainly looked impressive especially as we made our way to the actual terminal before we boarded the ferry.

It was then announced once in the departure car park that our ferry was delayed for 1.5 hours so we all tried to get some food in the services and with 1 person working in WH Smiths, Costa Coffee and  couple in Burger King you could imagine the queues. the temperature was now in the 30s and the queues were that big that many an ice cream did not even make to the till and ended in the bin.

Back in the car park over my shoulder another 200+ cyclist arrived and then another 50. Both from different event organisers. It must have been agreed as all ferries were late they put all the cyclist (over 500)  on together instead of the other lot waiting for their original ferry. As you can imagine it was carnage when we got on board. We were supposed to get some food in but the queue was still snaking around the ship as we docked in Calais.

It was dark and over 27°C when we arrived and it was the only time we needed our lights, we made our way from the terminal and through the streets of Calais and the sight of over 500 riders with flashing red LED flashing in front as amazing. I had another 6 miles to go and was rather hungry. It was gone 10 pm and after around 30 mins we arrived at our hotel and lets just say from a 5:30 am start I had a shower and fell into bed and ate a banana bar I had in my secret food stash in my bag which had arrived at the hotel.

Day 1 – over and out…..

Am I going to make it to Paris

I am leaving France for the last time until me and Charlie meet up with her again in Calais. The next time I arrived at our house in France and sleep in my bed will be after I have finished my challenge.

We (Jo my wife will meet me in Paris at the finish) get back home late Saturday night after a trip on the TGV from Paris. If I do complete the challenge I must say I will be overwelled with achievement. For the pro riders (those that go out every week for the last 5 years and think nothing of a 100 miles weekend ride) out there the London to Paris trip is a straight forward training exercise. For me it will be different, I have been riding for around 8 months but battled with diabetes all the way and kidney disease. I will be ecstatic but no doubt my legs will be in bits and my backside will resembles one of those monkeys you see at Chester zoo, You will get the idea of how I will feel when you look below.

 

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So I have 8 weeks to go and people are telling me it will be fine but I am not too sure to be honest. I am not convinced. A few weeks ago I was fine and now… well its different.  The last few weeks of training has been very difficult, the climbing of short very sharp hills worries me immensely, I don’t want to fail in fact I won’t allow myself to fail. Its all in the head says Steve @ skyhook training.

Steve is right I am sure of it, but I am getting more worried as the days go on and I wish it was tomorrow to be honest. I don’t want to let people down especially fellow kidney patients, my family and friends, my wife and finally myself. I must conquer this and complete it and find my next challenge.

Weekend ride with half a shoe, getting the fuel right and another shopping trip !

The weekend was here and I wanted to go over the peak district to Castleton and then work my back up through Grindleford, left at fox house and over to the other side of Rotherham.

I wanted to get a 60 mile day in where I had a few climbs without going over the top.

I had a good start and left around 11 am, I noticed a few riders on their way back from the peaks and I knew why. It was warm at 25 degrees and the pros as I call them (those that don’t break sweat climbing over the peaks) had been out before it got too warm.

Oh well I continued to climb up to the top of Hathersage road and then to surpise view and experienced the great thrill of riding into Hathersage at over 25 MPH down a great descent for a mile or two. If only there was a ski lift for bikes I could do that all day practicing going round bends at break neck speeds trying to over take the odd commercial vehicle that was in my way.

The next few miles is of a low gradient if not flat, I must say I picked a glorious day. I had done my first 20 miles at ease and decided I needed to refuel.

Recently at Skyhook training I listened to a talk about nutrition and cycling. In short  it’s about ensuring you are replacing vital fluids, salts and carbs. something I needed to really think about during my London to Paris ride.

However I have a little problem which interferes with all this and its called diabetes type 1.  The general consensus was that if you are doing a ride lets say over 4 hours I should be replacing the energy being used by eating 40-60 grams of carbohydrates every hour. I don’t think some of the other attendees realised how much this is. As a diabetic who can count carbs let me tell you its a hell of a lot to get down.

A good simple example is 3 slices of white bread would just about to it. Of course you can have other foods but imagine this every hour !

Then on top of that you need fluid and some salt or to hide the nasty salt word we know it as electrolytes (I pinched this analogy from the nutrition doctor during the talk).

If I am eating 60g of carbs an hour I also need to balance this with insulin as I don’t make my own. During the a 24 hour cycle you absorb carbs at different rates, you absorb insulin at different rates. it a recipe for trouble and a lot of fiddling around taking blood glucoses constantly, insulin and food trying to keep me on the bike for 8 hours a day. It’s quite easy getting the balance right if I do the same every day sat behind my desk at work it’s when you do something different its more of a challenge.

Any way I got to Castleton and had a little munch to ensure I had the fuel for getting back up the hills to Sheffield. There is something very calming about being sat having a snack and watching the world go by. The peaks are just stunning.

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I made my way back to Sheffield but noticed my right shoe was loose and I tried to tighten it up, but no! It would not tighten any more. The shoes work on a ratchet system so you can evenly tighten the whole shoe up by turning a disc. It had broken and come away from the fabric of the shoe.

I continued on with a sloppy right foot, made it to Sheffield and continued on as I thought what would I do if I was in the middle of France? Continue was the only way forward.

I made it to the other side of Rotherham and back home with the sloppy shoe, to be fair it was a lovely day for a change and its was not the end of the world.

I decided upon closer examination there was a fault with the shoes and as I had only bought them before winter and not seen much outdoor action I would return them back to the shop. This is where the warranty police came to town again. They have to return them to the manufacture, so a possibility of 4 weeks without shoes. I suppose the pro riders out on the road have several pairs but I don’t. I leave the shoe and handbag club to Jo my wife.  I had my first pair but would mean changing the pedals and cleats and I thought this would not be good as I need to be training in the correct pedals and cleats and 4 weeks was far to long.

I went home and contacted the store again via Twitter after some further thoughts and they confirmed that if they were found faulty I could ask for my money back.

Next stop was to see Lisa in the Giant store in Sheffield to buy a new pair of shoes, and guess what I found a pair that fitted as I have to be careful being a diabetic.

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Just heard back from the original shoe people and all is good and a credit it awaiting, more shopping to do.

 

Rain, hail, wind, mud and falling off

I went out for a Wednesday night recovery ride for a quick 30 miles around my normal route.

I was starting straight from work as in the week due to training locally I have Charlie at my side all day. The day itself had been ok in terms of the weather, just right in fact for me.  There had been a few sunny periods and was around 14 degrees celsius.

I set off from work around 17:30 and within 200 yards my fingers felt very cold and realised I had left my gloves at work. You need gloves as when you are riding with the wind chill factor it can get a little fresh on the little pinkies.  So I turned around back to work and we had a quick flash shower, hard but very short.

Got my gloves and the sun came back out and off I went. I must point out it had been quite dry in Sheffield for a while and the roads towards the pavement were very dusty.

I had a good ride across to Rotherham and as I was approaching Barbot Hall and the weather all of a sudden changed it was like I was riding into a micro climate all of its own. The rain started, the dust changed to mud, then the wind started and was blowing not in any direction but completely random.

I pushed on then came the hail together with the fierce swirling wind. It hurt, it got my face, my arms, my legs it was awful and this was followed as I passed Meadowhall with torrential rain, the type that bounces back up to the sky by 12 inches  and created an instant river of all the debris and mud. It was awful, the worst I have ever had on the bike.

As I was going down Attercliff the wind changed, it did not let up but at least it was going in the same direction, guess what I was riding into the wind and the rain. I was wet and not just damp, it was as if I had just been in a swimming pool, or should I say swamp if you could see me.

I got into Sheffield and the real comedy moment happened and it made my day.

There was two lanes, one a bus lane and a normal one. I was at a cross roads in the bus lane on the left hand side.

Here is a quick picture so you will get the idea.

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Now on a junction like this I tend to go to the front and in fact as far as the actual junction so I can get a bit of fresh air between me and any cars for when I set off. It just gives me a bit of time to get both feet clipped in and put the power down.

Now on this particular junction there are no traffic lights past the junction, normally you get lights ahead past the junction but not here.

I quickly realised I could not see the lights so with my right foot clipped in and my left keeping me upright I decided to hutch backwards in reveres to see the lights. However I forgot this is not normal and my right foot still clipped in did not agree.

I instantly started falling to my right (were my foot was clipped in) lost my balance, could not get my foot out of the pedal and ended up with Charlie on top of me, by this time there were a row of cars in the car lane. They just carried on and no doubt trying not to laugh.

If you want a reminder of what I mean take look at a previous post to see a previous post explaining the cleat and pedal situation by reading Charlie and me for the first time

All I have to say if I end up on Harry Hill from a dash cam I want half of the £250 !

I got up hurt my knee, was filthy and just carried on determined to get back to work and go home.

Here was the result. No they are not grey tights but the grime I picked up after I took my socks off. I had most of Rotherham’s road grime in my bib shorts !

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On the way home another fellow cyclist battles the conditions. I think you will get the idea.

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Its time for the FTP test

It’s been a really busy few weeks since my last post. In terms of Charlie, I have had good sessions with Steve at Skyhook including our end of 6 weeks FTP testing.

The sessions have been coming to the end of this period and they have progressively been getting harder and then at the end we had the FTP test to see how much more power I can produce over an average time.

This is the testing part of my training which lets me see if I am getting any stronger. One thing on the programme is that things never seem to get easier so its difficult to judge if you are making progress.

I have noticed during the workouts every week the little recovery sections where you get a rest and only work at 60% of your threshold for small periods, gets shorter and shorter.

You really need a period of showing yourself you are getting better otherwise you would get disheartened. The best test for me is the road, however doing the 6 weekly FTP test with Steve shows how much you have really improved (if you have).

The test was a Tuesday and prior to this I had a steady weekend, eat good food and plenty of fuel in anticipation and kept my blood glucose levels steady.

Recently I have learned that if the session is normal speed (cadence) but a reasonable heavy load around the threshold I go down in glucose readings, but if there is an injection of pace in the session I go high. So it’s a real difficult one to get to grips with before setting off.

I have had a few power normal cadence session and a couple of occasions had a low and not been able to recover quickly enough, so I need to make sure I ask Steve what is coming up the session before, so I can fuel myself properly. This needs to start mid-afternoon and not 10 mins before the session.

The FTP test is more of a normal speed grind and over in 20 minutes. The difference is instead of the system setting the power the ride is based upon a gradient, so you decided what gear and how much power to put out. It has 5-minute interval where you push harder and harder. The first 5 mins is just below the threshold, next 5 mins is at threshold power, next 5 mins is above and the last 5 you go at it like a bat out of hell.

I was set and ready and my current FTP is 190 watts. I did my warm up as normal for 20 mins and started the 20-minute slog.

The first 5 minutes felt very solid and I noticed on the large flat screen I was holding my current threshold of 190 no problem, the next 5 I had already started to exceed my threshold. I was a little worried I had started to overcook it a little in the first 10 minutes. Steve tells and reminds you during the test not to go to hard as you will have nothing for the second half to push your average up over your current threshold. The final 10 minutes started, and it started to hurt but I tried to put this out of my mind by pushing and pushing slowly increasing my power. I got to the last five minutes on the count down and thought what the hell its only going to hurt once! As you can see from the graph I hit the last 5 mins hard and the final 2 minutes I peaked.

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The last 10 seconds were hell but then the beeping countdown to the end keeps you pushing until you just collapse on the bike. I had to get off as I was shaking and took a seat for a couple of minutes until I continued with a 20-minute warm down back on Charlie.

Once that was over I had to wait for the computer to work out my result, suddenly, the screen said I was a hero. (Steve tried to get a photo as he had not seen that before, but he was too late) but then it announced I had increased my threshold by 10 watts, which is a decent achievement / improvement on 6 weeks works. This really confirms to me that the work Steve is doing with me is paying off and more and more I keep training and upping my threshold the more I am looking forward to carrying out this challenge and I truly can’t believe how I am changing during this progress in terms of strength and the fat has dropped off my legs it all just muscle, oh well that’s what I am sticking to.

Apparently, the weather is getting better but as I write this we have had yet another flurry of snow in Sheffield.

See a picture of Narnia from a friend.

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Once it does it is time to start winding up the training and the amount, so my program will look something likes this.

Monday              –            Rest Day

Tuesday             –            Skyhook indoor training

Wednesday        –            30 mile recovery ride on road

Thursday            –            Skyhook indoor training

Friday                 –            Rest Day

Saturday             –            Decent road ride 50 miles +

Sunday               –            30 mile recover ride

What social life !!

I have been missing …

Last time I was out on my bike was the nightmare return from Scunthorpe, what a weekend.

As you may have thought where have I been, well you would be right I have been missing. In fact I have had a break from everything. So that means work, home and cycling. Yes you got it I have been away in Brittany, France. When you read this I will be 10 minutes from home as I will have landed and heading north on the A61 from Chesterfield to Sheffield.

The only problem with being away is the lack of training and it will seriously mess with me head. The days roll by and I get more anxious about being ready for the challenge, everyone keep reminding me I have had a flying start and there is plenty of time ! Let me tell you there is never enough time.

When I first started cycling I was fine in the saddle region however over the last month I have been struggling a little where my body joins onto my legs on the right hand side. I have been getting a little rubbing. I am not sure if it is a saddle problem or I have overdone it. By having a week off from the saddle hopefully I will see. I have noticed I only have to do an hour and I am in pain. I have done the normal udder cream as you have seen but it bloody hurts.

If it returns very quickly I assume i have a saddle / size / shape issue and no doubt the boys and girls at the Sheffield Giant store will be lighting the way to their shop to open my wallet !

Don’t worry back on the indoor training program on Tuesday evening and I just know it is going to be difficult. For the last week I have indulged as normal on too much food and wine.

I have done a touch of walking and every day I have managed to get a few steps in, but no doubt I will have added half a stone to my mass !

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Here is taste of France… click on the pics and you might just see my kidney donor !