Ever since a child I’ve had a love of aircraft and as you can probably tell I like a bit of a challenge, so it’s not surprising that a single character tweet is all it took to convince me to enter a run called the “Spitfire 10K” at an RAF museum.
In the days of ultra marathons and Ironman triathlons some may say that 10k (6.2 miles) isn’t that much of challenge, but as someone with a heart condition and predominately being a cyclist I find running considerably difficult. When I am running my heart rate goes up much quicker and higher, so to maintain a rate that I am comfortable with I have to run at a slower pace or at times even walk. The important thing for me is taking part and that it doesn’t stop me from getting outside.
As per usual it was an early start on Sunday morning as I wanted to get to RAF Cosford early in order to be able to park on the site, rather than use the park and ride service. It was shortly after 8am that I met up with Roland and Sara from ACE (After Cardiac Event) Runners in the museum cafe, we had previously spoken a lot on twitter but this was the first time we had actually met. A little while later after tea/coffee and with cardiac histories exchanged we headed for the safety briefing and the start line by Hangar One.
With the briefing complete it was only a couple of minutes later that we were away and running.
I got carried away with a large group at the start (I’m in the red t-shirt towards the back of the group in the photo above) and as a result set off at far quicker pace than I should have done.
Having run past the museums outdoor exhibits and completing a lap of the hangers it was down onto the airfield past several Jaguars, including Cosford’s “Spotty Jag”.
With the quick pace, for me at least, I completed the first mile in just over 10 minutes, my normal mile pace is closer to 13 minutes.
I was about a third of the way (2 miles) into the run when the race leader passed me coming back the other way (he was at 5 miles!). Rather appropriately for an RAF based event he was runner number 633 and went on to win with a time of just over 36 minutes.
Once onto the airfield the route followed the taxi way to the far end of the runway, up and back down the runway before returning along the taxi ways back to the start/finish line.
This is only my second ever running event and I was hoping to complete it in 1 hour 20 minutes, my first mile paced caused me to slow towards the end and I crossed the line in 1 hour 27 minutes 33 seconds.
It was also a chance to meet up with my brother Andy, who lives close to Cosford. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a look around the rest of the museum and of course take a photo of the Vulcan in the Cold War exhibit.
Whilst I’m disappointed with my time I enjoyed every step and I’m looking forward to beating 1 hour 20 mins next year!
Six weeks ago I started the CoeurCycliste blog and social media accounts with the aim of raising awareness of heart disease, with the hope that I can prevent someone else from having a Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack) due to their lifestyle choices.
On Twitter, I began following various heart charities and foundations, especially as I had just started my random monthly coffee money donations. Out of all of the charities I followed the Pumping Marvellous Foundation, a patient led Heart Failure charity in the UK, was the only one to reach out to me and take an interest in me and what I was doing.
Over the next couple of weeks, without me asking, Pumping Marvellous promoted my blog and introduced me to fellow heart patients. Some of who had also taken up the challenge to fight heart disease through running and cycling raising funds for charity. I was very impressed with the work they are doing and what it offers its beneficiaries, some of which are listed here: –
Supporting – heart failure patients, family, friends and carers
Advocacy – representing the opinions and needs of heart failure patients
Self Management – help on how to self manage a heart condition
Partnership – working with clinicians and decision makers to improve the care for people with heart failure
Access – working with stakeholders in heart failure towards universal access of the best drugs and interventions
Awareness – key to increasing the quality of care
As a result of this one single connection I have met one of my aims, offering HOPE to real heart patients that there is a future after such a life changing event.
I previously supported the British Heart Foundation and raised just over £1600 for them in a couple of cycle rides. Please don’t get me wrong, the British Heart Foundation are doing fantastic work in the field of research. However, I now feel that the smaller charities need funding just as much, if not more so. Especially those working hand in hand with patients and families at what can be one of the most difficult periods in someones life.
More out of interest than any real need I looked at the public annual accounts submitted to Companies House for both the British Heart Foundation and Pumping Marvellous for the last reporting year (March 2014). The BHF income for the period was £275 million whilst Pumping Marvellous income was just £103,500. I now really wish that I chosen to support them earlier, my £1600 would have equated to nearly 1.6% of income compared to the 0.0006% of the BHF income.
I am proud to be a supporter of and fundraiser for Pumping Marvellous, they cannot do the much needed and valued work without funds. Therefore, I have challenged myself to cycle from London to Paris in less than 24 hours. This challenge coincides with the 5th anniversary of my heart attack, it’s not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s what makes it a challenge.
It would be fantastic if you could help me and Pumping Marvellous by making a donation. Knowing that people have given their support and hard earned money makes each mile (I’ve got 190 of them to cover) that little bit easier! If you would like to donate you can do so on my JustGiving page or if you are in the UK you can text DANG72 followed by either £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070
Please donate, however small, it will mean so much to both Pumping Marvellous and myself.
Go on, you know you want to 🙂
Thank you in advance! Please note – I am self funding the challenge, so all of the money donated will go to Pumping Marvellous.
Well, I’ve gone and done it…. I’ve just signed up to cycle between two iconic capital cities – London and Paris. Most of these challenges are done over 2 to 3 days, so I’ve decided to do it in 24 hours! This will be my hardest and longest challenge to date with 190 miles to cover.
I’ve cycled in both cities before, but never between them. I’m looking forward to riding with a group of like minded cyclists challenging themselves with the same goal. It will be good to see the sights of Paris again, hopefully the traffic will be quieter on the Champs-Elysées this time and I might get to cycle along it.
The fully supported London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive (approximately 80 to 100 riders) will set off from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich at 4pm on Saturday 30th April, from there we will head out of the city towards Surrey, climbing over the South Downs and onto Newhaven for the ferry to Dieppe. The ferry leaves at 11pm (we need to be there for 10pm though) it’s a four hour crossing so hopefully allowing a couple of hours sleep.
Once we dock in Dieppe – at 4am because of the hour change – it’s a 120 mile ride through the French countryside, slowly the sun will rise and its onwards towards to Paris – arriving hopefully before 4pm (UK time).
I will be cycling for the Pumping Marvellous Foundation a patient-centric heart charity focused on improved patient outcomes. Their services and products improve the ability of heart failure patients to self-care, recognising the early symptoms and self-interventions and steps that can be taken to alleviate common symptoms.
If you would like to support me and make a donation I have set up a Just Giving page. I’m self funding the ride, so all the money raised through donations will go directly to Pumping Marvellous.
It’s just over six months before the ride, so the commitment and training starts here… Keep an eye out for updates on my blog and twitter account @CoeurCycliste with the hashtags #L2P24 #TeamMarvellous #GetOutside
First things first, if you have any kind of heart condition talk to your Doctor before taking up any exercise. I don’t want to put anyone off, but all heart conditions are different and only you and your Doctor know your condition in any detail. This post is about my experiences and what worked for me, hopefully it will inspire others to start cycling to improve their health, but PLEASE always seek medical advice prior to starting any new exercise regime. I cannot stress this enough.
If you have read my first post you will know that 4½ years ago I had a Myocardial Infarction (MI), more commonly known as a heart attack, and that I took up cycling again as a way to improve my fitness and overall heart health.
I say took up again, that’s probably taking the phrase too far, as other than my morning paper round in the 1980’s I hadn’t done much cycling prior to my MI in 2011. My most active year on the bike prior to that was 2009 when I headed out just sixteen times over the summer. This was in a time before the likes of Strava so I recorded my rides in Excel, looking back I had clocked up a wapping 260 miles with an average speed of 11mph. I did actually ride with a heart rate monitor back then, my averages over those rides were: max heart rate (MHR) 172 and heart rate (HR) 140.
The longest ride that year was the 45 mile Palace to Palace (Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle) in aid of the Princes Trust. My family were shocked when I said I was entering.
Return to the bike…
I took it easy for the first couple of weeks after being discharged from hospital before I started any real exercise. Initially by walking around the garden, increasing the distance each day until I felt I could manage a lap around the block. Within a couple more weeks I was walking into the local town centre to pick up a paper and pint of milk.
It was twelve weeks before I felt comfortable venturing out on two wheels, I got the bike out of the shed, the first time it had seen daylight since Palace to Palace almost two years earlier. That first ride was a venture into the unknown – I don’t know who was more nervous at the time, me or my partner. I’m thinking, is this the right thing to do and would it bring on another MI, whilst Sue was at home thinking exactly the same whilst waiting for the phone to ring again….. I cycled 3.3 miles in 17 minutes (average speed 11mph, MHR 155 and average HR 135) probably one of the longest 17 minutes of Sue’s life.
It’s not just about the person who has the heart condition, loved ones are affected just as much, if not more.
For me those 3.3 miles / 17 minutes were the start of my return to cycling, this time it was serious. Over the next six months to the end of 2011 I was to cycle a further 1170 miles on my road to recovery, culminating in a 62 mile ride around the Isle of Wight (on a cold and windy day in December) in the Wiggle Wight Winter Sportive, details and full stats on Garmin Connect.
Tackling a 62 mile ride just 9 months after a MI might seem a bit irresponsible, I didn’t just decide to ride this distance out of the blue. I had built up to this distance over time, regularly riding 11 miles during the week and 15 – 20 miles at the weekends. Leading up to the event I did a couple of 40 milers and a 50 mile ride.
Riding with a Heart Rate Monitor
Obviously I don’t want another heart attack, so the most important item I ride with is a heart rate monitor. I bought a Garmin Edge head unit as I also wanted to record my routes as well as all the other stats.
Just having the heart rate monitor isn’t enough, you need to understand your own heart, so much so that I became obsessed with it.
I set about working out my MHR, I didn’t know there were so many different ways and views on how to calculate it, having spent ages with the various different formulas, collating all the results and then taking an average of them all my MHR should be 178.6 If you want to know what your MHR is, save all the complicated formulas and just subtract your age from 220. I’m 42 so my MHR is 178.
Having got my theoretical maximum, I needed to know my resting heart rate. This is an average of your waking heart rate taken every morning for a week. Rather than sleep with your heart monitor on all night just to see your waking heart rate I used a great smartphone app from Azumio – all you have to do is put you finger over the camera lens and hold there for thirty seconds. I have found it to be extremely accurate. Yes, I’ve tested it by wearing my Garmin chest strap whilst taking my blood pressure (did I say I was obsessed) to my utter amazement all three had the same result. My resting HR is 54
Having a resting HR of 54 bpm is normally a sign of somebody who is very fit or a professional sportsperson – prior to my MI my resting HR was in the 70 to 80 range. I was doing a lot of cycling at the time, but I was still overweight with a 40 inch plus waist, so I wasn’t that fit! Having spoken to my Doctor my lower HR is a result of my medication, in this case a beta blocker called Bisoprolol Fumarate.
Before the calls of “doper!”, I’ve checked all my medication against the WADA prohibited list for cycling in the UK and none of them are prohibited. Not that it matters as I cycle purely for fitness, but it’s nice to know I could compete if I wanted to. Now, archery is a different matter as the slower heart rate means you gain an advantage as you will have a steadier hand to hold the bow, thereby increasing your accuracy.
I mention the effect of the beta blocker as if it effects my minimum HR I need to consider if it has a similar effect on my maximum. Therefore and to err on the side of caution I’ve set my MHR at 171. If you are starting out exercising speak to your Doctor, Cardiologist and/or Heart Failure/Rehab Nurse about what your heart rate should be.
Knowing your min and max heart rates allows you to calculate your exercise zones, I do this through Garmin Connect but there are numerous websites available that you can use to calculate yours.
When I started out cycling after the MI I would try and avoid going above 153 bpm (85% of MHR) which would give be a buffer up to 165 bpm and I would still be under by MHR.
I probably have too much data on my Garmin training pages, although you will notice that every one shows my heart rate.
I normally ride with the last page showing the graph and HR in bpm and %max. I’m quite happy to let it go up to the high 160’s now for short periods of time, but like to keep it below 85% for the majority of the ride.
The point I’m trying to make is I know what my limit is, if I hit 172bpm my Garmin will alert me and it’s time to ease off, if that means getting off and walking up a hill, I get off and walk. I have no problem in getting off and walking, I would rather get to the top by walking than not at all. It does not matter what other people/riders think or say, it’s my heart and I would like to keep it.
It’s only a hill, it will still be there the next day and the day after that, just make sure you are still here to attempt it again.
Knowing my limits and training has allowed me to enjoy my cycling and improve my fitness. By pacing myself and utilising the gears/cadence to stay in the different heart rate zones I can now get up most hills without walking, occasionally one will still get the better of me.
The photo below was taken almost one year to the day after my heart attack, yes that is me 45lbs lighter and climbing Blissford Hill (25% gradient) in the New Forest whilst staying under my self imposed 171 MHR limit.
As I said at the very start of the post, if you have a heart condition please seek medical advice first, but I hope that my story has inspired you to consider cycling as a fitness option. Remember you don’t need to be doing 60 mile rides with lots of climbing, a regular easy spin around the block for twenty to thirty minutes three times a week could do wonders for you, just speak to your Doctor before you start.