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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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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Brompton World Championship

I’ve entered numerous sportives over the last five years but the Brompton World Championship on Saturday was my first competitive bike race….

Brompton championships have taken place every year since 2006, previously being  held at Blenheim Palace and at Goodwood. The 2016 race, the 11th edition was held in London as part of the Prudential RideLondon weekend.

As with every year there is a strict dress code of a collared shirt, neck tie and jacket – absolutely no visible sportswear or lycra is permitted. As an Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion entering a World Championship it seemed only right that I should have something OS related on me, but the no lycra rule meant I couldn’t wear my OS cycling jersey.  Sue, my partner, came to the rescue by making me a fabulous tie out of a Snowdon Splashmap with the summit at the centre of the tie. To add to the authenticity, I took the splashmap to the summit of Snowdon on my climb the weekend before.

Dan - Brompton World Championship
Suited and booted, not my normal cycling attire – Photo by Danny McCarthy
Snowdon OS Tie and Brompton Number
Snowdon OS Tie and Brompton Number

The race itself was eight laps of St James Park, starting with a Le Mans style start in the middle of the Mall. Your Brompton must be fully folded and placed on the opposite side of the Mall in race number order.

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The line of folded Bromptons on the Mall

The race, of 550 riders, started in four waves. I was in the third wave, which started 20 seconds behind the fastest riders. Just before the the klaxon sounded for our wave everyone started slowly creeping across the Mall, then it sounded and everyone was off running to their Bromptons.

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Running in a cycle race? We’re off… (I’m in black in the middle) – Photo by Danny McCarthy
Unfolding the Brompton
Unfolding, no pressure with an audience – Photo by Danny McCarthy

Once on the other side it was a mad scramble to unfold the Bromptons, the quicker you do it the more places you can make up. It wasn’t the fastest time I’ve unfolded my Brompton but I was away and racing just after those around me.

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Down the Mall to the start on the first lap – Photo by Danny McCarthy

I went off fast on the first lap, in fact it turned out to be my fastest lap of the race at 3 minutes 38 seconds (not including the 1 min 10 seconds to unfold the bike and cross the start line), probably too fast but I made up a lot of places.

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Turning out of Horse Guards onto the Mall to complete a lap – Photo by Danny McCarthy

The following view is from my handlebars, whilst it’s the entire race I have speeded up the footage after the first lap, keep an eye out for the riders dressed as WW1 Army Soldiers saluting the Queen/Buckingham Palace

I was lapped after 4.5 miles of racing, although I have to say that the group that lapped me did include ex-professional riders including David Millar and Michael Hutchinson.  As a result of being lapped I crossed the finish line having completed 7 laps (9.55 miles) in a time of 29 minutes and 59 seconds, averaging 19mph.

That put me in 185th place in the mens race (322 finishers) and 209th overall (420 finishers) – My goal was to finish higher than my starting position of 366, so I was extremely happy with my time. Also there’s not many amateur cyclists that can say they have raced alongside David Millar (ok, participated in the same race as….)

 

 

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

 

OS Cobbler Classic

Cobbler Classic Sportive

It’s been a while since my alarm clock has gone off at 5am, especially on a Saturday. I was up early for the Cobbler Classic sportive, part of the Ordnance Survey Spin Series organised by UK Cycling Events.

Cobbler Classic Logo

With the car already packed, it was a quick breakfast and coffee before heading out the door, as I sat in the kitchen eating my porridge I could hear the rain hitting the roof of the conservatory.  All the weather forecasts I had looked at hadn’t mentioned anything about rain, it was supposed to be sunny all day!

It was just after 5:30am when I left the house in the pouring rain. Whilst it’s only an hour and half drive to the start at Turweston Aerodrome near Brackley, there are roadworks on the M5 with recent night closures and I’ve been caught out like this before so I left with plenty of time to spare in case I needed to take the back routes.

As I got closer to the venue the rain eased off and the first signs of daybreak appeared on the horizon. At first it was a narrow glimmer of red and my thoughts turned to “red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning… I hope it’s not going to rain all day”.  10 miles further down the road, the rain had stopped and the tarmac was dry.  The red morning sky was replaced with, rather appropriately, a brilliant swatch of Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Orange as the sun tried to break through the clouds.

I had arrived early, which gave me plenty of time to sign in, using the quick and easy registration process, to get my rider number (1537) and helmet timing sticker.

As I came out from registration I met fellow OS #GetOutside Champion Karl on his way in for what would be his first sportive on the build up to his amazing 100 Peak Challenge in 2017 – I urge you all to follow the link and take a look at his plans and the challenge. Hopefully, you will be inspired to donate.

Riders Arrive
The first riders arriving
Ordnance Survey Cobbler Classic Sportive, UK Cycling Events April 2016
Registration

I was riding with my friend Jeremy, who had arrived shortly after me, he had stayed in a local hotel as it’s a three and half hour drive from Devon. Soon we were at the start line ready to go and listening to the important rider briefing.

Ordnance Survey Cobbler Classic Sportive, UK Cycling Events April 2016
Rider briefing

It was dry and overcast with a chilly breeze in the air as we left the aerodrome. It wasn’t long before we had warmed up and were riding along quiet hedgerow lined lanes in the gently rolling countryside, through villages lined with stone buildings and quaint thatched cottages.

As we approached Silverstone (the village not the racetrack) a lovely 1961 Bentley S2 Continental ‘Flying Spur’ gracefully rolled past us in the opposite direction.

Bentley Continental Flying Spur -leaving the village of Silverstone
Bentley S2 Continental ‘Flying Spur’ – 349MTX

The first feed station was a welcome sight at the 37 mile mark, my feet were rather cold by this stage. Even though the stop had allowed my feet to warm up it was still overcast, but there were some promising looking patches of blue appearing in the sky.  Although unfortunately it was not quite warm enough to pack away the windproof jacket.

Dan-OSCC

As we left the feed station behind us we spotted the Hellidon Radio Tower on the horizon, over the next few miles it grew larger and larger until, close to the Warwickshire border, we turned left and past it as we headed south.

OS Cobbler Classic Route
Cobbler Classic 74 Mile Epic Route (Hellidon Top Left) – © Crown/Ordnance Survey

Rounding the radio tower had turned us into the wind, whilst this made it slightly harder to cycle the wind was doing a fantastic job of blowing the clouds away.  By the time we reached the second feed station at Chipping Warden there was more blue in the sky than cloud and the sun was shining.  Time to pack away the windproof, although I kept the arm warmers on.

Feed Station 2
Feed Station 2 at Chipping Warden

Both feed stations were well stocked with energy drinks, water and plenty of food available. The flapjack and jelly beans are a staple of my cycling diet, as I prefer them to gels.  I was particularly impressed with the choice of Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar Jacob’s Cracker Crisps as an excellent idea to help riders replace sodium/salt lost through sweat on the ride.

Enjoying the sun at feed station two
Enjoying the sun at feed station two

From feed station two it was a gentle 16 miles to the finish line in gorgeous sunshine and at times not a cloud in the sky.

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Not a cloud in the sky as Jeremy and I near the finish

We crossed the finish line with a cycling time of 5 hours and 31 minutes, not our fastest pace but we both have a 100 mile sportive next weekend and I have my London to Paris ride at the end of the month. So it’s more about endurance and time in the saddle than outright pace.

OS Cobbler Classic - Finish

If you have never taken part in a sportive I can recommend the OS Spin Series by UK Cycling Events.  It was a fantastic day out and I’m looking forward to the Marches sportive in Ludlow next weekend.

Ordnance Survey Cobbler Classic Sportive, UK Cycling Events April 2016

 

A Tale of Two Punctures

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…  for the first time this year the weather was warm enough to cycle in just shorts and a jersey, finally freed of the all extra layers I headed out on my road bike for a ride out to and up the Malvern Hills.

The first seven miles were pretty uneventful, the brand new Mavic wheels, tyres and tubes that I fitted in the morning were running smoothly and providing good levels of grip. That was until I cycled through some broken glass on the side road, a couple of yards down the road and there was a gut wrenching long loud hissing noise from the rear wheel and the inevitable puncture.  Not a problem I thought, I took out my tools and spare tube and set about repairing it, having located the piece of glass that had penetrated straight through the tyre, I removed it and fitted a spare tube. That was easy, just need to pump it back up and I’ll be on my way.

My mini pump/co2 inflator will work with both Schrader (car type) and Presta valves, as this was my road bike I needed the Presta option. It’s just a case of unscrewing the adaptor on the pump to extend it so that it will fit onto a Presta valve. Could I unscrew the adaptor? No, it was stuck tight, with no spanner or pliers to move it I was stuck on the side of the road. Luckily for me I had punctured 400 yards away from a bike shop (Malvern Cycles), I crossed the road and headed in to see if I could borrow a pump.

Malvern Cycles

The owner/assistant was extremely helpful and it wasn’t long before the tyre was fully inflated and ready to ride again. I also took the opportunity to borrow the tools needed to free the adaptor on my pump. The last thing to do was to buy another tube, unfortunately I was a £1 short for the tube – “not to worry, I’ve got some patches if I get another one”. With that the owner said I could have a £1 Sunny Day Discount and he let me have the tube at the discounted price.

Back on the bike I cycled up into Great Malvern, having lost some time fixing the puncture I decided to take a shorter route and headed back in the direction of home. Three miles later whilst descending a hill at 25 mph there was a loud bang from the rear wheel, this time followed by an instant deflation, the rear started sliding all over the place. I managed to get the bike under control and to a stop on the side of the road.

Having removed the tyre and tube, I looked for the cause of the blow out. I couldn’t find anything immediately obvious that had pierced the tyre, with the speed of the deflation and that the tube wouldn’t hold enough air to locate the hole I assumed that I must have pinched the tube between the wheel and tyre when I repaired the last puncture.   I fitted the spare tube and put the bike back together, as I started to pump the tyre up I could see the tube starting to bulge out of the tyre, there was a centimetre rip in the sidewall of the tyre! I knew that as soon as I put any weight onto the tyre it would burst the tube again.

Needless to say I am not very impressed for a that to happen on a brand new tyre with only 10 miles of use, unfortunately for Mavic it ripped right next to their logos. I wont be recommending the Yksion Elite Guard tyres anytime soon. Although I will say I am very happy with their Aksium Elite wheels.

Stranded in Malvern, I would be pushing the bike home now.  With the prospect of eight miles on foot in SPD cleats, I suddenly remembered reading about a mountain biker that used a ski lift pass between the tube and the tyre to retain the tube and stop the bulging. The only item I had on me that might possibly work was an SIS gel packet, I drank the gel and folded over the sticky gel packet and inserted it between the tyre.

I was expecting it to get me a couple of miles down the road as the corners of the packet were rather sharp and likely to pierce the tube again, but it was worth a shot if it reduced the walk.  To my surprise, it got me the entire eight miles home, although the wheel, tube and tyre were rather sticky.

Science In Sport, Tyre, Mavic, Boot, Puncture

Normally I wouldn’t blog about a couple of punctures, but theres a couple of key messages to this tale.

First – Without Malvern Cycles my ride would have been over at the first puncture.  The internet may be great to shop around and save a few pounds here and there, but it’s still next day delivery and they can’t lend you a pump/tool and they certainly won’t be able to help whilst you are out on your bike.  It’s important that we support our local bike shops (LBS).

Second – I see many empty gel packets on the road side, especially during sportives.  Please stick your rubbish in your pocket and take it home, it may just save the day.

 

Celebrating Life – MI +5

If you have read my blog before you will know that, at the age of 38, I suffered a myocardial infarction (MI, better known as a heart attack).  It was caused by a combination of bad habits – a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, smoking and a general lack of exercise.  That was five years ago and I have come along way since that hospital bed in Scotland, completely turning my life around by taking up cycling and running.

I don’t want anybody to have to go through what I did on the fateful day in April 2011.  Through my involvement with the Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Campaign, I’ve been sharing my story to encourage others to become active, whilst offering hope and inspiration to other heart failure patients that there is a future after such life changing events.

To mark the 5th anniversary of my MI and raise awareness of Heart Failure I’ve set myself a few challenges for April and May: –

#ChampionsWearOrange

I’ll be in my bright orange OS GetOutside kit for all four rides, do please say hello if you see me!

The main event is London to Paris, I leave Greenwich at 4pm on Saturday 30th and need to arrive at the Eiffel Tower before 4pm on the Sunday (70 miles to Newhaven for the four hour night ferry crossing to Dieppe and then 120 miles to Paris).

Paris

Whilst awareness of Heart Disease/Failure and getting people more active is my main driving force, I would like to raise much needed funds for Pumping Marvellous, a heart charity that represents the needs of nearly one million heart failure patients and just as importantly the patients families, at the same time.

If you would like to help the fight against heart failure – 20% of the adult population in the UK will be touched by heart failure and heart disease at sometime in their life – please donate to Pumping Marvellous by visiting my Just Giving page www.justgiving.com/coeurcycliste

I’m Going to Cycle London to Paris in 24 Hours!

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.

Paris

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.

Please take the time to read more about the foundation on their website

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.

Just Giving Sponsor Me

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

Thanks for reading and please consider donating.

What’s your excuse not to cycle to work?

I once thought about cycling to work, this would have been sometime around 2009 and before my heart attack, I was living close to Heathrow airport and working in Central London approximately 20 – 25 miles away.

The thought occurred to me on one of my morning commutes – a short drive of about 2 miles to Hatton Cross tube station, park the car, jump on the Piccadilly line tube to Hammersmith, walk to the Hammersmith and City Line (just enough time for a Starbucks Double Tall Latte and cigarette) for another tube ride into Central London (going home was the reverse including yet another visit to Starbucks) – the thought lasted the time it took me to park the car and walk into the tube station. It consisted of the following points:

  1. I live too far away, so it isn’t really an option, what are you thinking
  2. The roads in London are far too busy and dangerous to cycle on
  3. I’ll get all hot and sweaty, there’s no showers at work
  4. Not enough time, I’ll be late.
  5. It’s cold this morning, imagine cycling in this…

Thought dismissed as completely impracticable, although with hindsight they aren’t valid reasons not to cycle to work and are just excuses, the lot of them…..

Fast forward five years, post heart attack, it’s now 2014 and I’m still working in Central London once or twice a week, but now I’m living 120 miles away in Worcestershire. By this time I had been cycling for three years, fully addicted to it and looking at increasing my time in the saddle. Then I got an email at work saying that the company had signed up to the Cycle To Work Scheme, the website had a big banner with “Save up to 42% on a new bike!” emblazoned across it.  It’s wasn’t long before that lost thought from 2009 resurfaced, You could cycle to work? After all you always need a new bike – except this time I really did live too far away.

As a cyclist and recovered heart patient, I took the time to find the solutions to all of the excuses on my list and started cycling to work.  If I can find a solution living 120 miles away from my place of work, I’m sure you can to.  You don’t need to be cycling in everyday of the week, twice a week will bring the health benefits – try it you might actually enjoy it and end up a regular commuting cyclist.

Life’s too short for regrets and if onlys, but if I did make a list of them dismissing that cycle to work thought in 2009 would certainly be towards the top – just take a minute to think about the health benefits 30 to 45 minutes of cycling a day would have made to my fitness and health, would I have had a heart attack at the age of 38?

As the saying goes – “Where there’s a will there’s a way” – if you really want to do something you will find the time and the means to do it.

Solutions to the Excuses: – 

1 – I live too far away?

Having moved to the Midlands my journey to work was slightly different now, but it still consisted of a short drive to a train station and tube journey across London.

Cycling the entire distance was obviously completely impracticable and out of the question, but I could ride to and from the stations removing the car and tube from my journey.

That was distance resolved, although it presented another problem with bikes on the train. My normal train would only take a few bikes and it was generally full each day, I ran the risk of getting to the station and not being able to get the bike in the carriage.  I had seen other commuters carrying folding bikes onto the train and their small sixteen inch wheels are a regular sight on the streets of London.   I’ve always been fascinated by the Brompton bicycle, especially watching other commuters folding them in seconds from a full bike to small neat square package.

Decision made I got myself a Brompton on the cycle to work scheme.

Folded Brompton
My Folded Brompton Bicycle

I can already hear the excuses starting – “That’s fine for you, I don’t travel by train to work, I have to drive in” – Well, I’ve thought about this one too and have a solution.  In fact, I even used it myself for six months.  The trains into London were getting expensive, I found it much cheaper (and surprisingly quicker somedays) to drive into London, park outside the congestion zone and cycle the last 3 miles to the office.  Admittedly the Brompton does make it easier to get a bike into the boot of a car.

If you are serious about wanting to cycle to work (you’ve read this far, so I take it you are) look at your current journey, could you park 3 to 5 miles away from work and cycle the last little bit?  As you get stronger and fitter you can start parking further away and cycle more of it, you might even end up cycling the entire distance.  You will also find that you start saving money, the further out of town you go the cheaper the parking charges will be and you will also be using less fuel.

2. City roads are too busy to cycle on.  

Once you take the plunge you’ll find it’s not that much different than anywhere else you ride, but the key is to find the quieter roads, cycle paths and lanes.

Take Oxford Street as an example, it’s packed with buses, taxi’s, pedestrians and set after set of traffic lights.  It was the most direct for me so I’ve cycled it many times and it’s certainly doable, although you do need your wits about you.  If you take the roads that run parallel to it, you will find there’s much less traffic making it so much easier. As you can see from the two Strava rides below, the quieter roads extended my commute by less than a quarter of a mile and just over a minute.

Oxford Street - 3 miles 19 minutes
Oxford Street – 3.2 miles in 19 minutes 28 seconds
Side Roads - 3 miles 21 minutes
Side Roads Parallel to Oxford Street  – 3.4 miles in 21 minutes 37 seconds

If you don’t know the area that well, take a look at a map from Ordnance Survey, check the route on a day off to make sure it’s suitable – you don’t want to find yourself cycling down a muddy bridleway on your way to work, coming home is a different story!

OS Shop

3. I’ll get all hot and sweaty, there’s no showers at work

The key here is to cycle at a slower pace, after all you are commuting to work and not racing for that PB (Personal Best) or KOM (King Of the Mountain) on a Strava segment.  Easing off the pace will still increase your heart rate and be beneficial to your health, you just don’t build up a sweat.  Take advantage of the time, it’s less stressful than driving and gives you time to clear your thoughts before you get to work, take the time and enjoy the ride.

Plan your week in advance, carry a change of clothes with you or perhaps drive to work on Monday with your clothes for the week, cycle Tuesday to Thursday and then drive back in on the Friday to collect your kit.  If you do carry your clothes try to avoid a rucksack on your back and opt for a bike that can carry your bag for you. Doing so stops you getting hot and sweaty behind the rucksack.

You could also try products such as Muc-Off’s Dry Shower that you can use to freshen up when you get to work if you can’t get a shower, you’ll smell of coconut for the day, but that is preferable to the alternative.

Speak to your colleagues and employer, if you can sell the benefits of cycling to work you might be able to convince them to install a shower. If they have signed up to a Cycle to Work scheme they probably already know the benefits a cycling workforce will bring them and may have already thought of adding showers. They might just need someone to show them there’s an actual need for them to do it.

4. Not enough time – I’ll be late

In my case, this just wasn’t an issue.  It was actually quicker for me to cycle the 3 miles through Central London than to take public transport.

One afternoon a colleague said that he could get from the office in Holborn to London Waterloo train station before me by taking the bus.  Unfortunately it was a day that I didn’t have my bike with me, not a problem I said I’ll use a Boris Bike instead (a public hire scheme for bikes in London introduced by the Mayor Boris Johnson). I was a member of the scheme and had my access token with me – challenge accepted! We both left the office by the main entrance at exactly the same time, he headed off in the direction of the 521 bus whilst I walked to the nearest Boris Bike dock in a road behind the office.

I didn’t do anything differently from normal and seven and a half minutes later I was docking my bike at Waterloo and texting my colleague to say I’ve arrived – I quickly got a text back saying that he was just about to cross the Thames and that he couldn’t believe I was already at the station. An easy win for me and the bike.

Office to Waterloo on a Boris Bike
Office to Waterloo on a Boris Bike

You will find taking the quieter side roads and cycle paths will avoid most of the rush hour traffic, if you do come across queuing traffic you can normally easily pass it on a bike anyway.

Having said that, you may find that it does take a little longer by bike, if it does the easy answer to this is to get up earlier!  You will better for it in the long run.

5. It’s cold this morning, imagine cycling in this… 

I’ve cycled in almost every type of weather there is, snow, rain, hail, sun, wind and even -3 degrees celsius at 3am in the morning on an overnight 100 mile charity cycle ride.  I can say with confidence that there’s no such thing as the wrong type of weather, just the wrong type of clothing.

Cycling in the Rain
Absolutely soaked to the skin, but loving it! – (Sportive Photo Ltd)

Investing in various types of clothing is money well spent.  The real tip is to wear layers, get a decent baselayer that will keep you warm and then add layers depending on what the weather is doing that day, such as a waterproof jacket if it’s raining.

A cycling adage springs to mind – dress for the ride and not the car park – by that I mean think about what the weather is going to be like once you’ve warmed up and into the ride itself, wrapping up at the start might make you far too hot later on.

I now love riding in the colder weather, it’s amazing how soon you warm up once you start exercising.  If you’re still cold, you’re not pedalling hard enough!

Now let me ask that first question again,  What’s your excuse not to cycle to work?   Tell me in the comments below or on Twitter and I’ll find a solution to it for you!

Identification for first responders

If you had an accident whilst out cycling or running, do you have means of letting first responders know who you are and your emergency details?   Would someone look through your jersey pockets or bags to find your ID?

Given my medical history (see previous posts) its important, no vital, that if the unthinkable does happen to me that any first responders can be made aware of my history, medication and emergency contact details as fast as possible.

Therefore, I’ve chosen to wear an engraved identification wristband, this is far more likely to be noticed before anything in your pockets.

My RoadID Sport
RoadID.com Sport Wristband (brighter colours are available)

All of my information can easily be made available to any first responder by entering my serial number and personal identification number (from the back of my wristband) onto a website or over the telephone.  If the first responder cannot access the internet or telephone, at least the first two lines of the wristband will let them know my name, age and that I have a heart condition.

I’ve had my wristband and shoe IDs for over four years now, hopefully I will never need anyone to use them, but for a small annual fee I have that peace of mind that I and my medical notes can be identified at the road side.

RoadID2
Shoe ID from RoadID.com

Various companies offer these types of wristband, who you choose is entirely up to you, I got mine from RoadID.com for less than £13, including the first years subscription. When you consider the price of most cycling accessories and components it’s next to nothing.

The sport band is unobtrusive whilst riding, I don’t even notice or feel that I’m wearing it, yet it’s easily accessible to first responders.

Even if you don’t have a medical history, I strongly recommend that you have some form of easily accessible identification for first responders.

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.