PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,

#PumpingDHuez

PumpingDHuez is a new charity ride organised by the Pumping Marvellous Foundation, designed to tackle one of the iconic Tour de France alpine climbs.

Last weekend I got to join the inaugural ride and fulfilled an ambition of riding up a pro tour Hors Catégorie (HC*) hill climb. The chosen mountain was Alpe d’Huez, a climb that gains almost 3600 feet over 14 kilometers (8.8 miles) of tarmac road. With it’s twenty one hairpin corners, an average gradient of 8% and a summit finish at an altitude of 5988 feet above sea level it certainly isn’t one for the faint hearted.

The adventure started on Thursday with Jeremy and I heading south to the channel tunnel in Folkestone for an early evening crossing to France. Stopping off that evening in a hotel in Reims we met up with the other PumpingDHuez team members (Nick, Karen, Stuart and Darren).

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
Team PumpingDHuez – Jeremy, Dan, Stuart and Darren

The roadtrip continued on Friday morning with the drive from Reims to our hotel in Les Deux Alpes a short drive from the foot of Alpe d’Huez.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
First views of the mountains on the drive down to the south of France

Les Deux Alpes is a major ski resort in the area, however being out of season and with only small areas of glacial ice clinging to the mountain tops the town was very quiet with only a handful of shops and restaurants open in the evening.

img_7384Nevertheless, we found an excellent little restaurant (Le Trappeur) open a short walk up from our hotel (La Meije).

After the meal the waiter brought over a complimentary shot of a local home made alcohol drink – they pick flowers growing on the high pastures in the Alps and steep them in the alcohol for 40 days, its then served in a hot miniature mug.  I can imagine it is rather warming on an après-ski evening out!!

Le Trappeur Restaurant and Hotel La Meije
Le Trappeur Restaurant, with its rather nice alcohol shots, and the Hotel La Meije, Les Deux Alpes

I had been looking at the weather forecasts for Alpe d’Huez in the fortnight leading up to the trip, most of them were predicting thunderstorms and rain for the day of our climb, so I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to blue skies on the Saturday morning.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
The morning of the climb in Les Deux Alpes

After breakfast we headed down from Les Deux Alpes towards Le Bourg-d’Oisans at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. We found a small car park, about 3 miles from the start of the climb, this was ideal as we could warm up on the ride to the start rather than hit the climb cold.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
Riding to the start of the climb in Le Bourg-d’Oisans

The first couple of miles of the climb is the steepest, ramping up to 13% almost immediately. As this was the first time I had tackled such a long climb and in fact exercised at altitude I wasn’t going to take any chances with my heart, so my strategy was to only monitor my cadence and heart rate on my Garmin. I broke the climb down into manageable sections with my only goal being to reach the summit.

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alpedhuez
Jeremy and I on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez

The 21 numbered corners on Alpe d’Huez make ideal sections to break the climb into. Initially the first corner, then the next hairpin, then two hairpins, when my heart rate reached between 160-165 bpm I stopped at the next hairpin and waited for it to come back down to 130 bpm before setting off again. This made for a frustrating climb at times but I wanted to be extra cautious with this undertaking.

Alpe d’Huez has been nick named the “Dutch Mountain” after Dutch riders won eight of the first fourteen finishes on the mountain in the Tour de France. It’s a mecca for Dutch cyclists all year round and especially spectators during the Tour de France. So much so that corner 7 is affectionally known as “Dutch Corner” as it is claimed by the Dutch supporters every time the tour comes to town.  It’s easy to spot if you watch any of the stage climb on the television as the corner will be a sea of orange.

It was particularly nice to see that someone had painted a large yellow heart on the road on Dutch corner.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Dutch Corner, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
Dutch Corner with some very appropriate road art

My strategy of stopping when my heart rate reached 165, resulted in us regularly leapfrogging several riders who were maintaining a more regular pace, I think we overtook the gentleman in red in the photo below about three times as we would pass, stop, pass etc. In hindsight perhaps if I had maintained a slightly slower pace I may not have had to stop so many times – there’s a strategy for next year!

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,

The hairpins provide excellent views out across the valley and the town below, it is amazing to look over the edge and down at small buildings that we had cycled past in what seemed like just a couple of corners ago. You suddenly realise how high you have climbed in such a short distance.

Jeremy on Alpe d'Huez #PumpingDHuez #HeartFailure Heart Failure Awareness
Jeremy on one of the 21 hairpins
PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
The obligatory selfie shot, on the same corner. (trust me to pick one with digger parked on it!)

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,The main corners are each numbered starting at 21 at the bottom to corner zero at the top.

As well as being numbered each corner has a previous stage winners name on it and the current elevation in metres.

In this example, corner 9 is at 1295m and is named after Steven Rooks from the Netherlands and his stage win in 1988.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,
The view from corner 9 on Alpe d’Huez back down towards the start in Le Bourg-d’Oisans

p1020752As we approached the last four kilometres, a fellow rider patted me on my shoulder as he passed and then gave a thumbs up and words of encouragement.  I caught up with him a little further up the road when he had stopped at the side.  He explained that he had read the back of my shirt “Team #PumpingDHuez for Heart Failure” and that his daughter has had three cardiac events. He was pleased to see that we were trying to raise awareness and his reaction made the entire trip all the more worthwhile.

You are not quite done as you ride into the resort of Alpe d’Huez with its roadside cafes and pubs lined with cyclists as the Tour de France stage finishes on the far side of town. Another thumbs up and congratulations from the rider who spoke to us earlier as we passed him again, although this time he was enjoying a large cold beverage in one of the roadside pubs with others from his team.

Turning left at the final roundabout in the town and the road ramps up again for the final sprint to the Tour de France finish line.  I was welcomed in by the rest of Team PumpingDHuez, I was very disappointed that the climb took me much longer than I thought it would but elated at the same time that I completed it.

PumpingDHuez, Pumping Marvellous, Alpe d'Huez, Heart Failure Awareness, HeartFailure,

With the climb complete the only thing left was the descent, gravity suddenly became a friend of mine and needless to say it was much quicker going down!

I must say a very big thank you to everyone at Pumping Marvellous who made this trip happen, to Nick and Karen for organising the ride along with the support and photos on the climb. Cyclists Stuart, Darren and especially Jeremy for staying with me all the way up even though he could have gone up much quicker without me and Sam for the Social Media coverage back in the UK over the four day trip.

Fancy the idea of cycling up Alpe D’Huez? Then try it next year (2017) please email hearts@pumpingmarvellous.org for more details.

If you would like to help raise awareness of Heart Failure please share this blog and prehaps consider donating to Pumping Marvellous via my Just Giving page.

Thank you

* HC – French for beyond categorisation and therefore one of the hardest climbs.

 

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L2P24

London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive – Stage One, England

What did you do for the Bank Holiday weekend? I joined 49 other cyclists for the adventure of a lifetime by cycling from London to Paris in just 24 hours, just over five years to the day after my heart attack and raising funds for the Pumping Marvellous foundation. I had entered the London to Paris 24 hour sportive organised by Sophie Radcliffe and the team at Cycling Friendly.

The adventure began at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park. I had arrived an hour early, having cycled there from a local hotel that I had stayed at the night before. I wasn’t expecting the view from the start, as I reached a statue at the end of a tree lined avenue the view opened up to a one hundred and eighty degree panorama of the park and London beyond, topped off with the skyscrapers of Central London and Canary Wharf on the horizon – I’d only just arrived and the views were fantastic!

L2P24
London and Canary Wharf Skyline from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich

Other riders started to arrive and soon a small group had started to form around the benches opposite a van selling coffee. I was a little worried as I entered by myself and therefore would not know anyone, I needn’t have worried as everyone was extremely friendly. Introductions were being made along with the normal questions in this type of scenario, such as have you travelled far to get here etc?

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riders arriving in Greenwich – Photo by Chris Winter

The record distance travelled goes to Milton, he had flown into London the day before from Brisbane, Australia just for this ride and another rider had come from America. It was turning out to be a truly international event before a pedal had even been turned. With the introductions, registration and rider briefing complete it was time for the official group photo in front of the iconic Canary Wharf skyline before heading off on stage one and the ferry at Newhaven.

Rider briefing at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, London
Rider briefing at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riders of the 2016 London to Paris 24hr Sportive – Photo by Chris Winter

Stage 1 – London to Newhaven (58 miles / 93 km)

With the riders all assembled we set off for Paris, I started my Garmin at 3:29 pm (UK time) making the goal for the Eiffel Tower 4:29pm (French Time).

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Starting the adventure of a lifetime, Greenwich Park. Photo by Chris Winter

The busy streets of London were soon replaced with quiet country lanes as we made our way out of the capital towards Orpington, by chance the route passed my sister-in-law’s mother’s house and they had very kindly made a banner for me, encouraging me up the first main climb of the day.

Val and Ken's Banner
Val and Ken’s Banner
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Hawley’s Corner before the descent into Westerham – Photo by Chris Winter

After Westerham, the route climbed up onto the High Weald skirting Five Hundred Acre Wood, the scenery and views across East Sussex were stunning.

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Riding with Sophie over the High Weald in East Sussex. Photo by Sophie Radcliffe

I had hired a small GPS tracker for the ride from Open Tracking, this was sending my current position to a website every ninety seconds and displaying it on a map of the route for family and friends to track my progress. For UK based events Open Tracking use the detailed 1:25000 Ordnance Survey mapping, however as my event left the UK I had to use an alternative mapping partner.

Pumping Marvellous, the heart charity I was cycling in aid of, had also tweeted the tracking link to it’s followers before the start and was tweeting updates along the way, each one was appearing as a notification on my bar mounted Garmin. This was providing me with an excellent source of encouragement, knowing that others were following and supporting me along the way.

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By this stage I had been cycling with a group of seven other similar paced riders and we were making steady progress towards our final stop of the evening. The sun was getting low in the sky, as it dipped behind the clouds and the horizon to leave us for the night we were rewarded with a fantastic sunset, unfortunately the photo below does not do it justice.

The setting sun on the approach to Newhaven
Sunset in Newhaven

We arrived in Newhaven at 8:11pm, having covered the 58 miles at an average speed of 13.5 mph with 3,570 feet of climbing, to be rewarded with a two course meal and the opportunity for drinks in a local hotel before riding to the ferry at 9:30pm. Whilst waiting to board the ferry I got talking to a couple of French cyclists who were on their return leg having cycled from Paris to London, on mountain bikes and mainly off road by the sounds of it – Chapeau!

Continued on the side of the channel in the next post

 

#Run366 – A mile a day

Something strange happened on All Hallows’ Eve, I’m not quite sure what really occurred but somehow I was seduced by the “dark” side and I entered a challenge that does not involve a bike…

I’ve been following the UKSportsChat community on Twitter, which is made up of four fitness groups UKRunChat, UKCycleChat, UKSwimChat and UKTriChat. A separate hour of the week is put aside for each group in which related topics are discussed.  These vary from upcoming events, nutrition, fitness, goals, advice, etc. in fact you can ask any question you like, just add the relevant hashtag i.e #UKRunChat to your tweet.  Although, you might want to turn your twitter notifications off in advance as you are likely to get a lot of responses.

You will be surprised at what gets discussed, last week it was peanut butter of all things, we even had the peanut butter manufacturer Whole Earth Foods join the conversation – whilst I’m sidetracked by peanut butter – have a look at this recipe for Peanut Butter and Banana Ice Cream. I will leave the debate about whether peanut butter is good or bad for heart disease to a later date and/or the comments section, all I will say is I need to consider fuelling for the exercise I’m going to be doing that day and everything in moderation… I think the occasional spoonful of peanut butter will be ok for me, I just need to keep an eye on my salt intake.

Sorry, I digress… back to running.  It was on Halloween night that I read about #Run366 on UKRunChat.  Several of the run chat team had met up with the runner Ron Hill, who has run at least one mile every day for the last 50 years! Following that meeting they were inspired to challenge themselves to run every day for the next year. 2016 is a leap year so #Run366 was born and they invited the run chat community to join them with the tag line “no pressure, no prizes, just a bit of fun”

I thought it sounded like an excellent challenge, one that I should be able to achieve around work commitments and would motivate me to get out regardless of the weather.

So on Sunday the 1st November I became a runner and started my #Run366 streak with an easy mile.  I’m not the fastest by any stretch of the imagination, with an average pace of 12 minute miles but its early days and I need to watch my heart rate.  Like cycling up hills, if my heart rate gets too high I need to walk for a short period.  I’m hoping that as the seasons change I will progress and the distance will increase whilst the walking decreases.

Autumn Two Mile Run
Autumn, the first of my four seasons, hopefully the pace will be faster in the winter.

I’m now nine days into my RunStreak and have covered 13 miles so far, not bad for a cyclist! To help me with the motivation and to run whatever the weather, I announced my intentions on Twitter and added it to my charity fund-raising page. This has resulted in some very kind donations, now when the snow starts falling and its minus something degrees outside it’s the thought of these donations that will ensure I’m out the door and running.

Please consider supporting me in this challenge by donating to Pumping Marvellous on my JustGiving page. It would be very much appreciated by Pumping Marvellous,  the heart patients they support across the country and myself.

Now should I follow @UKTriChat and where’s the best place to buy a wetsuit?

Why I’m Supporting Pumping Marvellous

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.

Pumping Marvellous

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: –

  1. Supporting – heart failure patients, family, friends and carers
  2. Advocacy – representing the opinions and needs of heart failure patients
  3. Self Management – help on how to self manage a heart condition
  4. Partnership – working with clinicians and decision makers to improve the care for people with heart failure
  5. Access – working with stakeholders in heart failure towards universal access of the best drugs and interventions
  6. 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.

For more detailed information please take a look at the Pumping Marvellous website and twitter feed on how they are helping not only patients but their families, friends and carers as well.

Dan (@CoeurCycliste) – Fundraising for Pumping Marvellous

Dan

Riding with a heart condition

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.

Palace to Palace September 2009
A 260lb me finishing the Palace to Palace ride –  Sept 2009

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.

VeloViewer 2011
Distance over time – 2011 (Strava data presented in Veloviewer)

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

Azumio iPhone Instant Heart Rate App
Azumio iPhone Instant Heart Rate App

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.

Garmin Heart Rate Zones
Garmin Heart Rate Zones

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.

My Garmin Screens
My Garmin Edge 800 screens all showing 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.

Me at 216lbs - New Forest Spring Sportive - April 2012
Me at 215lbs – New Forest Spring Sportive – April 2012

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.