London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive – Stage Two, France

My London to Paris adventure continued from my previous post …

Stage 2 – Dieppe to Paris

Having taken advantage of a late offer of a berth in a cabin I managed to get some sleep, although I’d been asleep for what felt like a few minutes before the ferry’s PA system was announcing that we would shortly be docking in Dieppe – in reality I probably got about four hours sleep.

For some reason the ferry had docked an hour late into Dieppe, so we were behind schedule, unperturbed by the delay we disembarked and left the port to meet up for a quick snack and a rider briefing.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Riding off the ferry at Dieppe – Photo by Chris Winter

I had checked the weather forecast for Sunday before I left Greenwich, at that point it was saying 6 degrees for Dieppe at 5am and the late teens early twenties for Paris in the afternoon, so I had already decided on shorts. However, the clear skies overnight had made the temperature plummet and my Garmin was reading zero degrees celsius as I rode off the ferry – guess who couldn’t find his long fingered gloves…

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Rider briefing and quick snack in Dieppe – Photo by Chris Winter

After a quick banana and a handful of Haribo, we were a rolling peloton of fifty riders. I restarted my Garmin at 5:38am (French Time) and a long line of flashing white and red lights started to string out illuminating the sleeping port of Dieppe.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Heading off into the French countryside – Photo by Chris Winter

Next stop breakfast at Buchy in 30 miles.

There was something magical about cycling through the night and the villages of northern France. The boulangeries and pâtisseries were the only buildings lit up, each spilling out a welcoming glow of warmth onto the roadside, the smells of their wares and freshly baking bread wafting out over the road enticing me to stop… as alluring and seductive as it was I stayed faithful to the road and didn’t stop, instead the smells urged me onwards towards the town of Buchy for our planned breakfast stop. However, I must one day return to try a freshly baked croissants and perhaps un Pain et Baguette Normande.

With each revolution of the pedals the black starry night sky slowly gave way to the first signs of dawn as the sun rejoined us for our epic adventure to Paris. The sun and its warmth were very much welcomed and it wasn’t long before my fingers started to thaw and the feeling returned to my fingertips, I might have been freezing cold but I was loving it. The cold temperatures had resulted in a fine mist rising off the rivers and lakes along the roadsides adding to the magic.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Sunrise – Photo by Chris Winter

Breakfast in Buchy was a generous spread of items including ham and cheese baguettes, porridge, pastries, orange juice, tea and coffee.  The only sun in Buchy at that time of the morning was a strip down the middle of the road, as a result a large number of us where gathered around the traffic island getting strange looks from the locals as they pulled up at the junction.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Breakfast in Buchy – Photo by Chris Winter

Suitably thawed, fed and refreshed it was time to make a move and continue onto Paris.  Just as I was about to set off, Matt (one of the group of seven other riders from Saturday evening) came over and said he was getting the band back together and we should head out together as a group of eight. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was at that point Team Tally Ho formed up and that we would stay together all the way to Paris.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Team Tally Ho climbing up out of the mist after breakfast – Photo by Chris Winter

The early morning mist had been burnt away by the sun and with the temperature rising additional layers of clothing were being removed and stored away in jersey pockets.

Riding in the group was making the miles fly by, I managed to get a quick selfie and tweeted it to update family and friends back home of my progress (and to mention how nice the weather was!).

A quick selfie and tweet to update family and friends
A quick selfie and tweet to update family and friends

Shortly after we rode into the town of Les Andelys and standing high on the chalk cliffs at the far end of the town was the impressive Château Gaillard, the ruins of Richard the Lionheart’s castle that he built in the late 12th century. I’ve had an interest in castles since I was a child so yet another reason for a more leisurely return to the area.

Chateau Gaillard

The town of Les Andelys is on the banks of the river Seine and it was here that we stopped for a snack with the chance to offload the now unneeded layers of clothing into our bags and another group photo, this time in our excellent L2P24 jerseys.

London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Group photo on the banks of the Seine at Les Andelys – Photo by Chris Winter

What you can’t see in the photo above is the blood running down my left leg, as I arrived at the stop my cleat got caught in the pedal (my excuse and I’m sticking to it as I am sure that I unclipped), with both feet clipped to the pedals and no forward motion theres only one direction left to go… yes I met the ground coming up on my lefthand side, my knee took the brunt of the fall. Now usually the blood of a small cut and graze will clot quite quickly. However, with my heart medication my blood doesn’t clot very easily (and I don’t want it too either) so it was it time to test the first aid supplies and ask for a plaster.

With my knee patched up we left Les Andelys behind us following the meandering river Seine towards Vernon and ultimately Paris. With the quiet country roads we were riding two abreast for most of the way, the traffic was starting to build as we passed through Vernon so we took to a single file train taking turns at the front. I took the opportunity to record a short video of us as I dropped back from my turn at the front.

We stayed in the train all the way to the next snack stop, along the way Chris, Tom and Luke (the event photographers) passed us in the car. A couple of miles down the road I spotted the car parked on the roadside and they had setup on both sides of the road to take photos and video footage. I must say a big thank you to them all for the brilliant photos and memories.

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Chris, Tom and Luke setting up for a shot of the Team Tally Ho train
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
The Team Tally Ho train to Paris – Photo by Chris Winter
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Snack stop 3 at La Roche Guyon – Photo by Chris Winter
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Clea taking a Tally Ho group selfie – Photo by Chris Winter

The section between snack stop 3 and lunch, whilst only 21 miles, had the two largest climbs of the day at Sailly and L’Hautil (almost 1200 feet in little under 12 miles), whilst climbing L’Hautil my Garmin clicked over onto 100 miles. By this time I could feel the previous 158 miles in my legs but I made it up both to be rewarded with lunch at Chanteloup Les Vignes.

Clea had completed the last part of the climb and into the lunch stop pedalling with just one leg as her lefthand crank had fallen off, fortunately the event mechanics weren’t far behind us and it wasn’t long until the crank had been reattached. We were on a way for the leg and the run into Paris.

We were getting close to the 24 hours and the traffic lights of the suburbs of Paris were not playing, each one seemed to turn red just as we approached. We crossed the Seine for the final time as a group and cycled under the Eiffel Tower, stopping my Garmin at 4:57pm (French time) – Total time 24 hours 28 minutes and if you allow for the ferry delay it would have been 23 hours 28 minutes.

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Crossing the Seine and arriving at the Eiffel Tower
London 2 Paris 24hr cycle sportive. Photo credit : Chris Winter
Champagne under the Eiffel Tower, Paris – Photo by Chris Winter

Whilst my goal was to cycle under 24 hours, I do not see it as a failure in a way, but a fantastic achievement for someone who has previously suffered a heart attack and couldn’t walk for more than 5 minutes without getting out of breath. If you would have said to me five years ago, as I was lying on my hospital bed on the day of my heart attack, that I would ride to Paris in 24 and a half hours I wouldn’t have believed you. It just goes to show what you can achieve, start off with small steps and see where it takes you, the most important thing is that you start.

So you’ve read about my experience, I hope you enjoyed it and that I’ve inspired you to want to do the same. If so sign up here for the ride of a lifetime and achieve something extraordinary.

It would be great if you could visit my Just Giving page and perhaps give a donation to Pumping Marvellous as we need to raise awareness about Heart Failure and help other heart patients that are not as fortunate as me.

I’ll be on the start line again in Greenwich on Saturday 29th April 2017 – I’ve still got that magic 24 hours to beat 🙂

Hopefully I will see you there and as Sophie says

One Day I Will Not Be Able To Do This, Today Is Not That Day

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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

 

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

 

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.

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.

Garmin Ride Out – 2015

Garmin have held an annual Ride Out in the New Forest with their professional cycling team for at least the last four years.  The ride out is invitation only, after expressing an interest through links on Garmin’s social media channels, every year I have entered and every year I have been unsuccessful.  Its a very popular event and is always over subscribed, this year over 6000 riders applied for one of the 500 places.

This year the rider announcement date came and went with no notification, so I thought there’s always next year to try again.  Then out of the blue in early August I received this email from Garmin:-

Good news – we’ve been able to create additional places at this year’s Garmin Ride Out and you are invited to attend.

I was over the moon and couldn’t wait to sign up!

This year the ride out was on Friday 4th September, luckily I was already on leave from work so would be able to attend.  It was to be an early start to get to the New Forest from the Midlands so I had packed the car the night before.

The alarm went off at 04:55,  I made sure that I had everything I needed for the day, had a quick breakfast of porridge and a mug of freshly brewed coffee.  I was out the door and heading south for the motorway by 05:30 thinking I had plenty of time to get to registration at 08:00.

Turning onto the M5 I saw the dreaded “ROAD CLOSED” signs for overnight maintenance work, I quickly tried to workout a different route in my head to avoid the closure, ending up going down the M42 and A34.  As a result of the diversion and the normal queues in Lyndhurst I was one of the last to arrive at about 08:30, I parked up and headed straight to registration.

Having arrived late the majority of the other riders had already registered and were tucking into the free breakfast (bacon or sausage roll) and a hot drink, so it was quick and easy for me to sign in and collect my rider number, goodie bag and free jersey.

RideOut Jersey
Garmin Ride Out Jersey, supplied by Primal

The jersey is one of the best quality free jersey’s I’ve ever had as part of a give away at a sportive/ride and is now a regular sight around my local training routes.  It’s an Evo custom jersey from Primal and fitted me perfectly – looking around it appeared that everyone else had a perfect fit as well.

After getting my bike ready and having my second breakfast of the day, this time a bacon roll and coffee (5 hours after my first – so it’s not that bad) it was time to gather in the main marquee for the team presentation.

The morning was hosted by Daniel Lloyd and featured interviews with sponsors and the Madison Genesis and Cannonade-Garmin professional cycling teams who would be competing in the Tour of Britain that started on the Sunday.  I only had my phone and now wish I had taken a better camera with me.

Cannondale Garmin - Tour of Britain 2015 Team
Cannondale Garmin – Tour of Britain 2015 Team

After the interviews the raffle was drawn by Daniel Lloyd and Frances Benali (from Southampton FC).  The prizes were fantastic – Garmin Edge head unit, Cannonade Bike, Boardman frame, Southampton FC shirt signed by the entire 1st team to name but a few.  I had bought several tickets, but unfortunately didn’t win.

DL-FB-Raffle
Daniel Lloyd and Frances Benali draw the raffle

Now that the presentations and raffle draw were  complete it was time to take to the road.  With the increase of cycling popularity the New Forest has developed a cycling code to ensure the safety of not only the riders, but equally if not more importantly the wildlife and other users of the Forest.   The code does allow for large organised events of this type, but asks that riders set off in small groups rather than a mass start as seen at other types of sporting events.

Knowing that it would take a while to get all the riders off in small groups and rather than rush to the start, I took a look around the sponsors trade stands and got my bike ready.

At 11:30 I headed off into the Forest on the fully signed and marshalled 47.5 mile ride.  Unfortunately, being one of the last to set off I didn’t get to ride alongside any of the professionals (always next year!) but that didn’t spoil the day in any way.

As it was a Friday the New Forest roads were nice and quiet which made riding on them even more enjoyable.  The route took us to Brockenhurst, up the lovely Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and over the A35 to Bolderwood.

Video taken with my Garmin Virb (sorry I’m slow up hills!)

Crossing under the A31 we soon turned right onto the old RAF Stoney Cross runway, as we left the trees of the Bolderwood Aboretum behind us the breeze started to pick up, causing a headwind to cycle into, why do I never seem to get a tailwind?

Turning onto Roger Penny Way (every time I see that road name I think of the Beatles song Penny Lane – so much so that I’ve now got the tune going over and over in my head) I notice the clouds starting to build and I’m convinced I felt a drop of rain, looking down my Garmin Edge my thoughts are confirmed as I see little droplets of water on the screen.  Luckily, it was just that and the rain did hold off for the rest of the ride.

Garmin Rideout
Riders 353 and 394 on Roger Penny Way @ approx 20 miles (still taken from my Garmin Virb Elite)

From Roger Penny Way it was down through Godshill and on towards Blissford.  Having done several rides in the Forest I was expecting to have to climb the short but sharp 25% gradient of Blissford Hill, however today the ride took the easier route round and up to the feed station.

I decided not to stop and went straight past the feed station as I had an almost full water bottle, a pack of jelly babies and a couple of gels in my jersey pockets – I always end up carrying too much food, either that or I don’t eat and drink enough whilst riding – after the feed station it was a nice easy spin to Ringwood, Burley and then to the finish.

I was very pleased to roll over the finishing line in a time of 2 hours and 55 minutes, as with my current form I was expecting to be somewhere around the 3 hour 20 minute mark.  I had averaged just over 16mph over the 47.5 miles!

You can view the full route and my stats on Garmin Connect 

Overall an excellent day, extremely well organised and supported – I can’t wait to enter next year!

Shimano Neutral Support Car
Shimano Neutral Support Car

If you are interested in taking part in 2016 follow @GarminUK on Twitter and keep an eye out for the details (it’s usually around June) and good luck if you enter.