Saturday, 10 April 2021

Humble brag


 First ever Strava KOM. #justsayin’.

Life in the old dog yet. 


Farewell, for now, faithful friend


 Last Monday, I met up with Simon and Dale for a relaxed spin. It was the first time that the three of us had been able to meet up and I was really looking forward to catching up with them both. Simon and I had met up before, but the plan was to do a couple of hours as a three up, before meeting a couple of other friends for a coffee and some hot cross buns.  It should have been the perfect social ride but it ended up being bloody horrible. 

Within ten minutes, I could tell that my Van Nic was not happy. The whole transmission felt graunchy and gritty;  the gears were not indexing properly and it felt like the bike was eating itself. I knew that my chain was on the way out but I had really let things get pretty bad. As Dale said to me, after the second time I had almost been pitched over the bars by the chain jumping when I got out the saddle to push down harder on the pedals, ‘I thought that as a DT teacher, your bikes should be really well maintained?’ This is true and while I can tackle the vast majority of bicycle maintenance issues myself, I’m quite lazy at actually doing them when I need to.  It got so bad, that for the first time in my cycling life, I had to walk up Whitedown and suffer the pitying stares from the other riders who were tackling this nasty little climb. Oh the shame of it. 

After a strip down of the chainset and sprockets, it was obvious that the whole lot needed replacing, but the seat post is also firmly stuck inside the frame, so after a vicious couple of minutes wielding Allen keys, cable cutters and spanners, the whole bike was stripped down. 




I can’t afford a new bike so I have decided to give my Euros a new lease of life. In the 11 years I have had her, she’s had more wheelsets and chainsets than I can count, and at least two sets of brakes and shifters, but everything else is pretty much as I bought her. The bars, stem and seatpost are original Van Nic branded components, but also heavy alloy ones and my forks are looking very second hand. I’m not sure that I should be riding on them at all as the bearing surface looked completely shot to bits. So my plan is to replace all of these items with new lightweight carbon components and make her a bit more racey. I’ve found a chap that can remove my seat post so I’m currently sorting out packing up the frame to be posted oop north. I’m also going to remove all of the old and torn decals on the frame and maybe purchase some new ones. Hopefully, in a week or two, I’ll have a ‘new’ lightweight road bike. For the foreseeable future, everything will be on the TT bike. 

I absolutely love my Euros. Strava has us at riding 24,000 miles together, but I actually think it’s closer to 30k. My body has become firmly welded into position on her and I will never part with her. It’s time to give the old girl a new lease of life. 

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Head back in the game


So far this year,  I’ve been training fairly consistently. A mix of Zwift, TrainerRoad sessions on the turbo and some social longer rides with Simon, in the Surrey hills. The big thing I’ve been noticing is my need to spend more time recovering from sessions. There are times when I just don’t know how my legs are going to react. Take this morning, for example. I was meant to do a 5x7 minute TR interval session at 105%ftp, which at the moment would make each interval around 300 watts. A hard session, but nothing to get my knickers in a twist about. As it was, I barely made it through the warm up and bailed almost immediately in the first interval. I just didn’t have it in my legs, and even the gentle spin on Zwift that I did instead, was quite hard even though I was spinning at watts that had me barely breathing. 

These days happen, and happen more frequently than they used to, but it’s making me question whether lots of structure in my training is worth it? I’m starting to think it’s best that I just hop on my bike and see how I am, before deciding whether it is a day for a hard session or not. It can be demoralising to have a session planned and then not be able to get anywhere near accomplishing it.  

Along with this, one of the other tweaks that I have made to my training is that I am doing less intensity and more steady, easy riding. This is again to increase volume without wiping me out all the time. Quite a bit of this has been on Zwift where I have been riding steady for around 90 minutes, burning fat and trying to get my weight back to around 70kgs. I’ve made good progress so far, coming down from 74kgs to 71, so I must be doing something right.  

I’m also tinkering with my kit. I’ve bought a new Giro Aerohead helmet and some new bars to get my front end into a faster position and I’ve started the process of trying to get myself comfortable and familiar with this. In my first outing of the year on the TT  bike it felt faster but only time will tell. 

All of this is to actually do some time trialling and I’ve entered a few events. There’s a couple of Sporting TTs coming up but the biggie will be the Breckland 12 hour in August. It would be good to add on some miles to my 246 mile ride a few years ago. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

2021

I’d actually forgotten that I had this blog, then it popped into my head yesterday and after some scrabbling around, trying to remember my google password, I was able to get into it. It’s nice to see that my loyal 5 regular readers have remained faithful. I’m not sure I know why you bother, but thank you all the same. 

So 2021 has started as badly as 2020 ended but let’s try to remain positive, shall we? I suppose that my big decision is that I have officially retired from triathlon and running. It’s something that has evolved over the winter, with the realisation that I have not been able to run for almost a year, since the Hampton Court half, last February. Despite very few runs in that time, my feet and ankle tendons have been sore very regularly and I can just about do a 5km walk without too many side effects. I’m sad about it but it is what it is, so time to focus on other things. 

Most of this winter I’ve been on Zwift, doing a few races and other events and they’ve been fun, but there’s been no structure. I cancelled my TrainerRoad subscription for a few months, but yesterday, I reinstalled it. It’s time to get some structure and discipline back.  The goal is to beat my 25 mile TT pb (55:39, set back in 2017). I think on a fast course I should be able to get under 53 mins and I’m going to have a tinker with my position on the Argon and I might even treat myself to a new TT helmet. I might stick up some pictures next week, as I’ve got some Aerocoach bars to bolt on. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Autumnal musings

 It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged or even looked at this. I think that’s indicative of how I’ve felt generally about swim, bike and run. Well, bike and run. Actually, barely biking of late. It’s not that I’ve lost my mojo, it’s just that it is firmly laying dormant. It is there within me, wanting to bust out and be used to good effect in a race or event, but I just can’t seem to force it to the surface to make me really want to do something athletic. 

Part of it has been to do with work-life balance. I need to caveat the next few sentences reflecting on the fact that I still have a full-time job and that I can pay my bills, which thousands of people are currently struggling with. For them, the foreseeable future must look pretty bleak and I can only sympathise and hope that we can get things back to some sort of normal as soon as possible. Work has had to take a priority for the last couple of months. I’m usually pretty good at knowing when to park work stuff and look after myself, but I need to spend more hours working at home, which means less time to hop on the bike, even if it does just mean a 20 second walk to the end of the garden to get on the turbo. 

The other reason for my dormant mojo has been a lack of racing. To be honest, there have been some events that I could have done but I just haven’t felt in the right frame of mind to do them. I dragged myself out to the Kingston Phoenix Open 10 TT, and pushed out  24:05. It was a really well organised event by my club, but without the usual bants over tea and cake, it seemed a bit hollow, despite the quick catch-up with club mates.

The last few weeks have been more about easy coffee rides with the odd hard effort up hill or on a strava segment. And gradually some desire to work hard has started to return. I’ve begun to focus a bit more on my TrainerRoad sessions, particularly, those horribly hard 90 minute over-under sets which almost leave me honking with effort. They are so hard, but by far the most effective sessions for me to improve my ftp and get back up to 300 watts. I need something to focus on over the winter months and that’s as good a thing as any. With us being in a Covid world for the foreseeable future, it looks like a TT  based focus for next year is likely. At the moment, I think I’d like to have another really good go at my 25 mile pb. Currently, it’s 55:39, so getting g a lot closer to 50 minutes would be rather cool. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Some racing

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was riding my bike, a lot. Like most people, merely coping with the heat became all-consuming and trying to complete a hard turbo session in a shed that was only just shy of 40 degrees was a complete non-starter. So, I rode my bike, on the roads.

How quickly the roads filled up again. Myopic Audi drivers, white van men with no patience and even less spacial awareness, but in the heat the roads were the only place where I could get an hour on the bike. I could literally feel the ftp that I had gained over the last few months, seeping out of my skin pores as I trundled round in Zones 2 and 3. There were however, some good things.

I went out with Simon and Suzie at the end of July to ride the Wheelers' Amesbury Audax 300km route. It was a very long and hot day, with us trundling back home at around midnight. It's not a particularly hilly ride but the hills that are on it coincided with the hottest part of the day and this meant that we drastically slowed during the afternoon, having to get more liquid on board and taking more frequent rest breaks. I really enjoyed it and was  able to use my audax rides from the previous few years to keep comfortable but Suzie and Simon found it tough going, just trying to keep food and drink down. It's really not pleasant when your stomach simply doesn't want to play ball.

From long distance, to short. Last Wednesday I rode my first proper 10 mile time trial in 2 years, with full on TT bongo set-up and kit. A slightly embarrassing episode in the car park when my skin suit zip broke; thankfully I had my club top to wear over the top, which avoided any mankini moments. I had forgotten just how hard a 10 mile time trial is. I gave it everything, but I wilted in the heat quite spectaculalry, and with a lack of TrainerRoad intervals in the preceding weeks I just didn't have the ability to process the lactic acid build-up. My final time was 23:35, so by no means a disaster, but I thought that I would be a lot closer, or even break my course best of 22:47. I've got another go in 10 days' time, but I can only see me going slower. I've put on weight and dropped in power, but it was good to finally pin a number on.


Wednesday, 8 July 2020

3 (hundred) is the magic number

After 13 weeks of lockdown, I’ve reached my goal.  Last night I did my latest TrainerRoad ramp test, and for the first time ever, I got over the 300 watt barrier for my ftp; the first time in nearly 5 years. It’s no surprise that the two key elements to achieving this was consistency and rest. Really, quite simple. 
I am extremely pleased but now the proof of the pudding will be to actually pin a number on and race. Hopefully soon. 





Friday, 12 June 2020

Lockdown life


First time to Ditchling, in a loooong time!
Everything and everyone, is in this strange limbo hinterland; not quite work; not quite holiday; not quite quarantine. I should be slap-bang in the middle of Ironman training and climbing the periodisation hill towards glory in Copenhagen. But I’m not and while I’m well and truly over the disappointment of not going to Copenhagen, trying to remain focussed with any type of training has been hard, as one by one, the likelihood of any events happening this season becomes evermore remote. My hope was that I might be able to get in a 50 mile, 100 mile or 12 hour time trial in before the end of the season as tting seemed the most likely type of event that could be socially distanced, but even that now seems unlikely, as bit by bit, events get pushed back.  


So, we’re all base training for next year. I have a feeling that a lot of amateur athletes are going to be breaking all sorts of PB’s next year, with an 18 month base phase laid down. Slowly and surely, MAMILs and MAWILs all over the globe are developing enormous engines ready to race. Hopefully, I will be one of them.


I have gone back to focussing solely on TrainerRoad. While Zwift was fun and engaging for a month or so, I was caught between two stools, where my volume had gone up but I wasn’t able to make the quality sessions count. As a result, my last FTP test saw me drop a few watts, which indicated that I was overreaching. So, back to 4 rides a week, three on the turbo following the TR Sweetspot base plan and a long ride at the weekend for a bit of aerobic base and catching up with friends. That has been the best thing over the last few weeks. I’d been a few medium-long rides solo, but with the government allowing small groups to meet up, I was able to ride with Simon and Dale again, for a long Sunday ride.

This was a great tonic and my work over the last few months was evident; for once, towing Simon around a long ride to Ditchling and then hanging onto Dale’s wheel for 50 odd miles, last Sunday, with him pumping out silly big watts while I hunkered down and hung on tight. Just getting some proper, long miles in the bank, while the sun was shining, and catching up with mates, made a massive difference to my mood. There’s only so many Zoom quizzes that you can do with friends and family, before the novelty starts to wear off.

Living in the Borough of Kingston, which is one of the mini-Holland areas, we’ve seen a very big bump in bicycle use during the lockdown. We managed to get a second  hand bike for Mrs W, and spent a lovely couple of hours, heading towards Bushy Park, now closed to traffic and hitting a few other cycle paths. In really big news, Mrs W cycled to the shops for the first time today, which is pretty cool. Maybe, some things are changing for the better.


Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Virtual Racing

Over the Easter break I ended up having a couple of monster weeks, with 20+ hours of training per week. That was made up of 15 hours a week of turbo work and 5-6 hours of walking with Sue. After the second week I was absolutely shattered. To be honest, if just crept up on me. Quite a few of the guys and gals on Tritalk were getting heavily involved in Zwift as well as a few clubmates and I got caught up in the excitement. While work has been busy during the lockdown period, with a lot less commuting and other work commitments it's been very easy to get onto the turbo and work on my ftp.

My week has evolved as Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays being TrainerRoad sweetspot or threshold sessions, while Tuesdays and Thursdays have been steady club group rides on Zwift, with a longer ride on Sunday. it seems to be working and the mix of Zwift and TrainerRoad has kept things interesting.

Two weeks ago, I ended up doing The Uber Pretzel, one of the longer rides on Zwift. I thought it would take me around 4 hours, but in the end it was around 5. I even had a coffee stop at 2 hours, so the proceeding 3 became my longest ever continuous stint on a turbo. My gooch took a bit of a battering, but Zwift most definitely makes the time go by a lot more quickly than it normally would.

I dialled it down last Sunday, with a much more manageable 2.5 hours, riding The Hilly Route. It was quite cool, when riding up the volcano, I ended up in a group with Ritchie Porte, Wout Poels, Cam Wurf and few other Trek Segafredo riders, who were doing some gentle Zwift miles. I know that it was only in a virtual world and I was only riding alongside their avatars, but it was still quite cool.
Leading Ritchie Porte out, up the volcano #fanboy


So with quite a few hours under my belt, I decided  to skip the club ride last night and encourage a couple of clubmates to ride a crit race with me. 12 laps of a short, flat loop, which should take about an hour. It was a real blast. I managed to get into a group of about 15 riders, running in about 30th place of 90 or so riders and over the course of 9 laps or so, that slowly whittled down to 7 of us. In Zwift racing, powerups are quite key and I got a ghost powerup at halfway, which I decided to keep until the end. the ghost allows you to disappear for 10 seconds so the other riders cannot see your avatar and my plan was to use the downhill section to kick off the front of the group and get a gap, to hopefully hold until the line. It almost worked; but not quite! I put in my kick and got a gap, but not big enough to get away fully, so 2 other riders pipped me on the line. I simply don't have the big power numbers to be a sprinter. Anyway, top 10 in my category, which was nice.







All that said, I ended up averaging over 300 watts for well over 20 minutes and my ftp bumped from 274 to 285watts! Only 3 watts down on my all time ftp best. Even better, I know there is still quite a bit more to come and a 300watt ftp actually looks achievable. Stoked!
Getting there, bit by bit

Sunday, 12 April 2020

What are you training for?

1 outdoor ride in a month
My daily exercise has consisted of a family walk and a visit to the #palaceofpower, for a Trainerroad or Zwift session. I’ve quite a few club mates and friends who are out doing 50 odd miles on the bike, but that’s just not for me. Some of them don’t have a turbo and are living on their own, so I fully understand getting out for a ride for their own sanity and well being, but I’ve got a turbo and I don’t need to be outside on a bike, so I’m happy to do all my riding on a turbo. The one exception was a gentle 40 minute spin with little wheezy, her first ride on a road bike. I think we saw a handful of cars, the whole ride. It was actually quite lovely.

But knowing that I’m going to be spending a lot more time on the turbo, I’ve had a massive clear up and clear out and tried to make my setup much more user friendly. The palace is in fact, our garden shed, admittedly, a relatively spacious one, but a shed, nonetheless. It’s very damp and cold in the winter and very hot and airless in the summer, and with the weather turning as we hit this Easter weekend, I needed to set about making it as comfortable and ergonomic as possible.


So, after clearing a lot of space, I’ve now set things up so that my iPad is easier to see.  I bought a fan from Amazon, which has a remote control so I can set it just so, depending on how much power I’m kicking out. The low setting is fine for when I’m noodling along,  high for the VO2 max interval efforts. My head is pretty close so I’ve got a really good airflow over my body, and as I’ve now placed my turbo by the windows, I can have them open too, so that I have a good airflow going through the space.  I’ve screwed a bottle cage to the wall, so that I can get my fluids a lot more easily and bought a 4 way extension lead which also has 4 USB ports, so I can keep my iPad and phone charged up as well as charging Garmins and lights too. I even bought myself a proper riser block for the front wheel, having finally got rid of the 2015 edition Next catalogue, high over the years has got lower and lower as pages got torn off.

It’s sooooo much better with this setup and just means I’m hopping onto my bike and not having to set things up to get going. It goes without saying that within 30 minutes of me completing this, on my next ride, my turbo broke and got a puncture! The knob that pushes the roller against the tyre sheared off in my hand; I’ve ordered a new one and I can just about get it to work until it arrives next week. Vexing though!
As of writing, I’ve ridden over 200 miles on the turbo, this week.  Most of that has been while chatting to club mates, but I did give my first Zwift race a go. I started at the back and decided to hop my way through the field and see how far up I could get. I ended up 27/125, so pretty chuffed and ended up pushing some quite large watts for almost an hour. I’m really noticing the effect of having a fan, as my rpe is so much lower for the given watts.


A couple of weeks ago, I ended up deleting all of my planned races from my Training Peaks account. The homepage then went from telling me that Ironman Copenhagen would be in 16 weeks to ‘What are you training for?’ That question can be answered in two different ways, so now I’ve had some thinking time, I can now answer them.

What are you training for?
I’m training to stay fit; keep my weight in check; catch up with friends through Zwift and Strava; build my ftp; keep my immune system strong. For the foreseeable future, this is the most important ‘What am I training for?’ Just keeping a sense of balance and purpose while we go through these crazy times.

What are you training for?
Next year is the London-Edinburgh-London audax and I’ve wanted to do this for a while. It’s every 4 years, so it doesn’t come around too often. It’s next July, so will fit in with the school holidays and work. Being a member of Audax Uk, I should get a guaranteed entry, but if for some reason, I can’t , then there is also the London-Lands End-London audax, which would be a great substitute.
As this will mean preparing for going long, I’m also going to focus on 100 mile time trials, and see if I can go under 4 hours. Tbh, this is a massive stretch target. My 50m pb (1hr57), set a few years ago would suggest that it’s possible, but possible and probable are two very different things. I just don’t think I’m going to have the time or space to do a long course triathlon next year; I think I would just be spreading myself too thin, and with the 100m TT target, there will be a number of opportunities in the course of the season to have a go, so I won’t be putting all my eggs in one basket.

2020, from a racing point of view, now seems a complete write-off, but I can use this time wisely to have a stonking 2021.




Saturday, 4 April 2020

That escalated quickly

My last post seems, literally, like it was different in a different time, in a different world. How everything has unravelled since then, with Ironman, injuries, cycling, ftp values and the like, seeming so irrelevant and frankly, quite a bit indulgent.  But, this blog has always been about those self-indulgent things and let’s face it, it doesn’t get much more indulgent than a middle age, middle of pack athlete writing a blog. A lot has changed.

I’m not now doing Ironman Copenhagen. Although not cancelled, yet, I really can’t see how it is going to go ahead. I sincerely hope it does, as I know of a few athletes who have sunk a lot of money into going already, with accommodation and flights booked, not just for them but for family too. Those for whom it would be their first IM, it is particularly tough. But my situation is very different. I don’t need to tick the ‘completion’ box; I’ve been there and done that, twice.  Copenhagen, for me, was always about proving to myself that I could put together a performance that I would be proud of and with this summer now being so disrupted, even if it does go ahead, it was the right decision for me to withdraw. 

The last couple of weeks have been beyond strange. Work was insanely busy and frenetic and like most people, training went from being very important, as a glue that held my days together and gave me a massive focus for this summer, to not being important at all. I had reached an all time high TSS, very nearly hitting the magical 100, and I was just about managing the load; getting lighter, getting faster. 

Luckily, my lack of organisation helped me out. My passport had recently run out, so I had not been able to book any flights and by the time it arrived, three weeks ago, it seemed crazy to fork out £250 on flights to an event that seemed very unlikely. Although I had booked accommodation, I could cancel without incurring a fee. The only fly in the ointment was losing 50% of the entry fee, a not insignificant sum. Why not defer until next year, I hear you ask? Well, Copenhagen doesn’t fit in with other family stuff and while there are other Ironman events throughout the year, as things stand, I’m not sure what 2021 will entail. I have a few ideas, but I will leave that for another post. 

The last couple of weeks have been a readjustment.  Instead of full on Ironman training, I’ve been focussing on a daily fitness session, while I figured out what I wanted to do. Running has been replaced with a walk with Sue, chewing the cud and using our Government allowed exercise time to catch up and chill out. With the lockdown in full effect, my turbo and TrainerRoad subscription is coming to the form, but I’ve also spent quite a bit of time on Zwift in my new and improved #palaceofpower. With absolutely no racing I the pipeline for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided to do nothing except improve my power to weight ratio. I’m still got my weight at around 70kg so the plan is to get back onto a TrainerRoad plan with a bit of Zwift racing and see if I can get my ftp over 300 watts. With my power pb being 288, this is going to be tough, but at the moment, I’ve got nothing better to do. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Hampton Court Half 2020

Happy chappy. Mad hair.
I’ve continued with my vegan eating and my weight has stabilised at 70kg, which is perfect. As I’ve stated last post, I’m lighter and leaner and feeling better for it, so I’m happy to continue with this eating regime. I think I’ve got over not being able to eat a bar of fruit and nut and continue to explore new foods and recipes.

So I went into the 2020 HCH feeling much fitter than I had in a while; well, run fit anyway. I was hoping for something between 1:28 to 1:30hrs and bearing in mind the fact I wasn’t focussing solely on running, this would be a good result for me and let me continue training the following week.

I can’t remember now which storm it was, that was blowing through that weekend, but while most of the rain had finished, it was still very blustery and therefore pacing would be hard. As usual, I put myself in what I thought was the race pen only to find myself swamped by other, slower runners as the countdown began. But after the Royal Parks Half late last year where I went out too hard in the first 5 miles, I was determined to pace this one better. The first little loop around Thames Dutton had that familiar feel of the Charge of the Light Brigade with everyone hitting the first 800 meters quite hard, but I let everyone go and started to find my own space, which was quite hard on some of the narrow, single lane paths early on.

As we turned onto the Portsmouth Road which was the long leg to the top of the course, the wind was now gently pushing us along and I made sure I was holding back, not getting carried away. Gradually the field thinned out and I found myself in a little group, exchanging the odd word here and there, before we got to the turn loop up by Ham. Although we were now into wind, this bit was quite sheltered until we got to Kingston Bridge and it now felt we were running into a wind tunnel.  Although feeling strong, it was like a hand on my chest, physically holding me back. I thought my luck was in as I was running with a chap who was well over 6 feet tall, so I snuck in behind him, only to find he was running just a bit too slowly for me, so I reluctantly pulled aside and started to motor ahead.

The drag back along the Thames footpath seemed to take much longer and I started to wonder if I’d blown it. I hadn’t been doing too many checks on my Garmin, preferring to run to rpe, but the headwind was now really starting to bite, despite my conservative start. In the last couple of miles I started to be overtaken by a few other runners so it was about the mental battle of trying to keep my pace up, without dying too much.  As luck would have it, I got into a bit of a battle with another chap (we both looked in the same age group so I think we were quite aware of trying to get in front of each other; as it turned out we were battling for a lowly 42nd place in AG!). With 800 meters to go I managed to get my nose in front and cross the line in 1:27:58, so bang on target. I think had the wind been lower, there may have been another 45 to 60 seconds to come off that, so, yes, I was pretty chuffed.


Tuesday, 4 February 2020

#Veganuary

Ironman racing and triathlon in general, is hardly a cheap sport. Bikes, wetsuits, running shoes, Garmins; it's all just so expensive. I have more pieces of footwear devoted to triathlon training than Imelda Marcos ever had. Triathletes talk about 'free speed', but in my experience, free speed costs thousands. An £800 disc wheel that will give you 10 minutes over an IM bike leg; a pair of £240 Nike Vapourflys that will give you an extra 8 minutes; the list goes on. There is however, one, genuine way to attain free speed and that's to lose weight and I had some to lose.

My weight traditionally hovers around 75kgs and while I have a slim frame, I do sometimes get a bit of a tummy and this got more pronounced when I was bike focussed a few years ago. So while 75kgs is not exactly overweight, it's also not light either. Losing a few kgs would help increase my bike watts/kg and make running easier at a lower rpe, so it's a pretty good target. The problem is, I'm a Labrador. I love food and eating and doing 12 hours of training in the week keeps things just about in check, but it is far from optimal. The old saying that you 'can't exercise your way out of a bad diet' is getting more true as I get older. Having two teenagers who can literally eat what they want, doesn't help either. At home we have 'The drawer of crap'. Crisps, chocolate bars and biscuits make up most things in 'The drawer of crap' and my two are often delving in there. They can afford to. Wheezy Junior is playing 5 to 6 hours of squash a week while Little Wheezy does a fair few hours of dancing. Added to a metobolism rate that would make a nuclear reactor seem inefficient, knowing that it's there and coming home from work tired and hungry, means that 'The drawer of crap' often gets a regular visit from me too. So it's not just about what I'm eating and how often, but my entire eating habits. Eating late, eating between meals, eating very large portions. All this is kept in check by my training but it's not actually supporting my training and very slowly, the weight creeps up, year-on-year.

So' #Veganuary. One of those internet things where you sign up and go vegan for a month. I don't eat a lot of meat anyway, so it seemed possible, but bloody hell, I love cheese, cream, milk, pastry and butter. Those were going to be the things that I would struggle without. As it was, on January 2nd, after a very festive Christmas and a huge Chinese takeaway blowout on New Year's Eve with friends, I was touching the scales at 77.5kgs; a new high. I had spent part of December just experimenting with a few things, gradually reducing my meat intake and the like but the hard thing, as I saw it, would be replacing the things that I like with substitutes. As it turned out, there is now such a variety of mainstream plant-based food sold by the big supermarkets, that most things have been fairly replaceable.

My eating day, now looks something like this;

Breakfast- Porridge with almond milk, a handful of blueberries and a chopped banana. Black de-caff tea.

Mid-morning snack- 2-3 pieces of fruit / a bag of pea-based crisp snacks. Another black tea.

Lunch- Salad consisting of couscous, barley, fresh vegetables, a big spoonful of houmous, Sometimes including a small soup with flat-bread.

Afternoon snack - A handful of almond or cashew nuts, another 2 pieces of fruit, falafels. Another black tea.

Dinner- Usually a carb rich dinner, e.g. jacket potato, dahl curry, sweet potato curry or stew. More fruit or pancakes, small piece of chocolate or brownie.

As you can see, I'm hardly going hungry! As I'm still training pretty hard, I'm not holding back on carbs when I think I need them, but I've tried to cut out the starchy pasta and white rice and use the lower GI carbs instead. There have been a couple of days when I've felt under-fuelled, but with a bit more experience I'm now more in tune with when I need to eat a bit more. Ultimately, it's made me cut out the vast majority of the shit that I've been eating, although vegan chocolate is still laden with sugar!

I am finding that I feel more hungry between meals, but it's been about making choices. Going Vegan has meant that I can't have that slice of cake that's going spare at work, so I have some lentil chips or fruit instead. I drink a lot of tea in a day, so by cutting out milk entirely I'm probably not drinking half a pint of milk a day. I am also drinking a lot more de-caff tea as the taste is not as strong, so I'm sleeping better too. Double win.
I don't feel like I'm on a diet. I'm cooking currys and stews from scratch and having generous portions with lots of salad and vegetables. I genuinely don't feel like I'm missing out. So it's now got to February and I've decided to keep it going. Ultimately it was to help me to lose weight, and from that point it's been a great success. A steady downward trend and I'm now tipping the scales between 70.5-71kgs! A couple of days ago, I did a double training day and actually got down to 68.5kgs; I don't think I've been that lightweight in 30 years. It's making a noticeable difference in my running and cycling from two points. Firstly, hills are a hell of a lot easier, with me spinning easily for most gradients instead of the hard grind that they often are and the other noticeable positive has been my recovery when training. My weekend is often a 90 minute run on Saturday followed by a 3 hour ride on Sunday. Even if I take the run really easy, the ride is usually sub-optimal with my quads feeling tired and tight, but over the last couple of weeks I have felt so much better with it barely feeling like I have run the day before; it's quite a weird sensation.

So, feeling really good, training consistently and a few events coming up. It's all grand.

Here are some of the low and highlights;

Amazing vegan cookies made by my friend Rachel. You'd never know.


Banana pancakes with fruit, vegan yogurt and golden syrup. An odd texture, but ok.

Black coffee's far too strong, but black de-caff tea is great.
Greggs vegan sausage rolls. Believe the hype. Gorgeous.

KFC burger. The box would have had a better texture.