Sunday, 27 October 2013

Wiggle KiloToGo The Rut 2013

I've never been to Rutland which is one of the reasons I picked this ride. Rebecca and I stayed in Oakham on the Friday night in the Old Wisteria Hotel. This was a good choice and Oakham it turns out is a good venue for an event centre. We had a good look around on the Friday night, found a quirky Italian restaurant for some pasta dinner, and then Rebecca had plenty of things to do (= shops to look in) on the Saturday while I was out riding.
One of my work colleagues is from Rutland and told me it was pretty flat. Well it isn't. There are no big hills, true, but it is very undulating rolling countryside. This ride had barely a flat section on it, the 102 miles had over 7500 ft of climbing in it! It was a very good route though, quite varied and beautiful scenery throughout.

Plenty of picturesque villages in Rutland.

The weather was windy but dry and quite mild for the time of year. I wore my waterproof jacket but it was too much, and I decided half-way round that I won't be wearing it ever again for biking, it gets pretty sticky and starts to feel like a bin-liner. I'll get one specific for cycling for the future.

The split point. Long route :)

After the split point the number of riders you see drops heavily. I think many more people than before are now doing the shorter options on these sportives. I have mixed feelings about this. Anyway, as usual on these 100 mile routes I started struggling a bit around 70 miles. I hadn't stopped at the first feed station but I stopped at the second for a refuel. They were good and well-stocked with gels and drinks and so on. If I hadn't have stopped it would have been tougher, but of course it ruined my overall time.

There are a lot of rural lanes on this route, but not too rutted or muddy. Perfect!

In the end my moving time was about 6h45m which would have been good enough for a Silver medal on the day, but with feed stops and photo stops and twitter stops I came in in 7h23m which was only good enough for Finisher status. But still, it was a good day in the saddle, and Rutland is worth another trip.

Tired Andrew at the finish.

Here's my strava track for this ride:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Leeds Big Bike Ride 2013

On Sunday I did the Leeds Big Bike Ride, '100' miles for charity - the Leeds Children's Hospital. Thank you to those who sponsored me!

The ride started and finished in Roundhay Park, and there were two route options - 100 km or 100 miles. In actual fact by my GPS the 100 mile option was 98.5 miles. This was a bit of a disappointment in a way since I had hoped this would be my first 100 mile ride since the accident. That will now have to wait until October 26 in Rutland, unless I go and do one round here first of course! I did think about doing a lap of the park at the end to make it 100 miles, but that's not right somehow is it?

For the weekend I had hired a car, to make getting there and back less stressful, and I stayed Saturday night at Clair and Matt's house (Clair is my cousin). That was good too as I got to see them and their new place and Seb of course, their 1-year old son. I got there around 1930 and Matt made us a risotto which was tasty and good carbo-loading for the ride too!

Sunday morning was an early start, 0600 Weetabix and a coffee, then hop in the car to the start. Matt was going to do the 100 mile route with me, but he changed his mind due to the weather forecast (more in a moment) and decided to do the 100 km route instead. It is true that the weather forecast had not been good for Sunday - heavy rain and local gale force winds was the prediction. I was a bit worried to be honest but it would only make it harder, not impossible! And I'm always a bit skeptical about the power of the weather forecast, especially when it's made 4 days out. Even one day out, weather forecasting in England is pretty rubbish. Small land mass, lots of hills, etc etc. 

A look out of the window on the morning suggested it might rain, but it didn't look too bad. It hadn't rained overnight and it wasn't raining currently. About as good as you can hope for! At Roundhay Park it was a simple matter to get my rider number and fix it to my bike. We had to fill in a card and exchange it at the start for the route map. One of my criticisms is that the route was not published, except in cartoon form, ahead of the ride. More on that later!
My lovely Focus bike, ready to go number 260. New bar tape, done by my own fair hand. OTE sports bottles. Lights in anticipation of bad weather!
I had made some allowances for the impending apocalyptic weather though. I put my lights on, just a frog on the front but a proper Cateye one on the back, in case it got really rainy and poor visibility. I used my saddle wedge to put my tools and spare tube in - don't normally do that. It allowed me to wear my Paclite jacket without it getting stretched and uncomfortable around my jersey - the same one I wore for the Ride with Brad, but with hardly anything in the pockets. I put gels and drink sachets in one of the drinks bottles, so I was only carrying one bottle of fluid - the rest stops looked quite frequent (every 17 miles or so) so I wasn't too concerned about that. I put some snacks and my car keys and stuff in my jacket pocket which was a bit bulky but not too bad. Ready to go!
The start line, Roundhay Park.
The ride started off quite simply, a drop out of the park and onto the A58 up the hill out of Leeds. This road I have driven many times in my life on the way back from Manchester to Mum and Dad's before the M62-A1 link (M1) was built. But I've never ridden it obviously because it's quite a busy road! After the roundabout turn right onto a smaller lane, that's better. Matt and his friend Nick had gone off like the clappers and this was the last time I saw them! I had to let them go, they were doing 62 miles and at that pace I would have buried myself in the first 50 of my route. So off they went! On my own, pacing is a lot easier anyway.

The weather wasn't bad at all. It was windy, but so far, dry. The first rest stop that I stopped at was in Naburn, at the pub there (name forgotten!). I ate a chocolate bar and refilled my bottle. If this was repeated at all the rest stops everything would be fine, I felt sure, fluid and food-wise. 

The split point of the route was in York, which we approached from the south through Church Fenton. This was all pretty flat, as expected. In York we did a strange little loop around a roundabout where the shorter route split off, and us 100 milers went for a little cycle through the streets of the city. That was good - I love York, and have been there many times on those streets, but never on a bike. And I knew we'd be coming back to York later on too, so much the better! On the way under the city wall on the way out, it started raining!

Here's me on the start line.
and here's Matt. Sunglasses not really necessary!

I stopped and put the hood of my jacket up under my helmet to keep the water off my head. I started the ride with my new Northwave overshoes on, so my feet should stay reasonably dry and warm. Was this the apocalyptic weather we'd been promised?

Actually it didn't last long. I did get wet, but it wasn't so windy (or was the wind on my back?) and my coat kept me mostly dry. My overshoes were rubbing on my right leg a bit, but not too much. And because I was wearing shorts my feet were getting a bit wet, but it's OK. I'm tough.

North of York I knew that the route entered some less-than-flat country, the Howardian Hills. On the map I had guessed what the route would be from the cartoon map posted on the event web site, and there was only one bit with a chevron, somewhere around Sheriff Hutton (that's a place). There was indeed a bit steep bit, called Bulmer Bank, but it wasn't very long so I could muscle up it without too much difficulty. Some people were walking though, so this represents progress for me! After a further rest stop there was another steep bit called Dalby Bank, but again, I got up it without much of a struggle. Apart from rolling hills, these were the only steep bits of the ride, but I knew that it would be mostly flat, that was part of the reason for doing this one before Wales.

There were some really nice country lanes up there, and so it was a bit of a shock when the route dumped out on to a busier road, turned left at a sign saying York 13 miles, and I realised that I'd be on this road all the way back to York. Plus, there was a headwind. I had had a feeling that the wind had been on my back because the speed was quite high for not really pushing hard. And so it was that the next 13 miles were quite tough, this road has some long straight sections where basically I put my head down and got on the drops to try to minimise my cross section and reduce drag. But it was doable, and I managed to maintain 13-15 mph throughout. I did bemoan the choice of route several times though - long straights are bad enough at the best of times but worse when you're riding into the wind! At least it wasn't raining!!

Back into York, along the road that Mum and Dad always use that goes past the hospital, the same fun was experienced riding round those streets. The route went towards the station but made the sharp left after the bridge down by the river side and passed by The Maltings, one of my favourite pubs. I did stop to take a picture, and the thought of a pint flashed across my mind for a super split-second. Not today :)

After returning to York the route had us go to Tadcaster and then back to Roundhay Park. In Tadcaster I stopped at the rest stop and took the last of my energy stuff, save for one emergency gel just in case. I didn't realise how hilly it was between Tadcaster and Leeds. I remember thinking that Leeds wasn't at the top of a hill surely, so the downhill had to come sooner or later. Eventually it did come and I was back on the A58, the same road I'd left Leeds on, 7 hours earlier.

As I said, in Roundhay Park I did consider putting a loop in to make it 100 miles, but I didn't. There was a medal and certificate and a bottle of water. My bike looked like it had been off-road it was so covered in dirt from the wet roads. But I had finished the ride, in a reasonable time considering most of the second half was into a headwind, and it was another target reached, well, almost.

It did rain, I did get wet and it was very windy at times, but the weather warning stuff never came. Probably just as well but it goes to show you can't tell, the day before, let alone 4 days out.

Afterwards, after I had got dried and changed in the car, I went back to see Clair and Matt for a coffee. I was tired and needed a caffeine boost to get home safely! It turned out that Matt had been the first finisher for the 100 km! The winner. Just tells me really he should have been on the long route :)

When I got home I had a nice hot shower and some food. My scale told me I was 5 pounds lighter than I was on Saturday when I left. Cool!

Overall, I was pleased with this ride from my own body / recovery point of view, but in all honesty I was a bit disappointed with the route. It was for charity, of course, so I will keep my moaning to the minimum, but it was organised by an experienced bike event company, so I would have expected a slightly better (cycling-wise) route than the one we got. It was billed as being mostly on country lanes, and there were some lovely bits, but for me there was too much on busier roads - even if they're B-roads. The Howardian Hills are lovely and I have never biked there before. And riding through York was fun - I would do both those bits again happily. But over the rest of the course there was too much turning the pedals and not really enough to see! I'm sure one could come up with a 100 mile route starting and finishing in Roundhay Park which was much more interesting than that one. And if I'd designed it, it would have definitely been 100 miles long!

But as I said, it was for a very good cause, and I hope they raised a lot of money. I heard that there was about 1000 riders on Sunday. That seems high to me, I didn't see a whole bunch of people at the start, finish or going round, but maybe the majority were on the 100 km and they left after me and finished before me, it could be.

Would I do this one again? No, not unless they change the route. Maybe next time it could go the other way up to Harrogate and Ripon? Or towards Skipton and the edge of the Dales?

And a 100 mile ride has to be 100 miles. Sorry, it just has to be.

Next? The Autumn Epic on October 6, 95 miles but in the hilly Welsh Marches and Elan Valley.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Evidence of Improvement

Those who know me will not be at all surprised to learn that I keep meticulous records of my bike rides! At the outset of my cycling recovery, which started in January, I decided to ride a few routes which I could use at subsequent points in time to measure how I was improving. These rides would not be long - they couldn't be because I had to be able to do them at the beginning! But they would be reasonably all-out efforts, on as similar equipment as possible.
I now have data for three rides on two of the routes, and here is one of them, I call it Torkington Road Loop CW (clockwise). Briefly it is the descent and pull up from my house to the A6; the A6 to Hazel Grove; Torkington Road to Hawk Green and then Marple back to New Mills via Strines. It's 14 miles. There is a long descent between Disley and Hazel Grove, and a long ascent between Hazel Grove and Hawk Green. Here is a map:

Map of test route Torkington Road Loop CW.
I use the program myTourBook for recording my rides offline and Strava for online.

I did this route on January 15 2013, it was the fourth ride I did after returning to action, on my old mountain bike. I did it again on April 14 and again yesterday, August 18 2013.

The numbers in the following table come from my GPS and from Strava. The speed, power and heart rate are the averages for the ride. Weight is the weight of everything out of the door, i.e. me plus bike and stuff in pockets.

DateMoving timeWeight (kg)Speed (mph)Power (W)Heart rate (bpm)
January 151:12:1797.711.7167175
April 141:02:0593.513.6212179
August 180:54:1293.015.6253171

To be honest I wasn't really expecting such a big change yesterday. I felt pretty tired straight out of the door from the ride I did on Saturday. I knew on the gradual ascent between Hazel Grove and Hawk Green that I was a lot stronger though - the first time I did this ride that road seemed very hard. Yesterday it was not as bad and I managed to push all the way. I didn't use the small chainring at all yesterday. I knew I would knock off a few minutes but I'm surprised and very happy it was 8. That's over 30 seconds per mile :)

I think it's also interesting that my average heart rate is down as well. You can also see my body changing from the following histograms. Not sure what a sport scientist would make of these, but to me it looks like a pretty significant improvement when taken together with the times and power outputs.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Recover - From Left for Dead to Ride with Brad

I know I'm not fully recovered yet, still on crutches, stress fractures, possibly more treatment on the horizon etc., but this week it feels like a significant enough milestone was passed to warrant the publication of my photo diary to date.

So here it is, from dying on a dark road in 2010 to finishing the Ride with Brad in 2013. Some of the photos are not for the faint-hearted, but I didn't really want to leave anything out. And I still haven't managed to secure the 'best' photo, but I will try and get it. There are a few other photos that I can't really show until after everything is over insurance-wise. So you'll have to be patient for them. For now, this should be enough!

It works best if you put it in full screen mode and if you press Show Info then you can see the captions for each picture giving the date and some commentary. You can slow it down under Options.

Ride with Brad 2013 results as spreadsheet

I don't know why events publish their results as pdf files, especially where the times are sorted by rider surname. Most people want to be able to sort the times out into order, by route, by name, by time whatever. I know many people can do this themselves, but perhaps some can't so here I give the results from this year's Ride with Brad as an Excel spreadsheet. Basically I took the pdf from the chiptiming website ( and imported it into Excel, sorted by route, time, surname, then saved out the xlsx. Enjoy!
Here it is:

Monday, 12 August 2013

Ride with Brad 2013

OK, the short version is, mission accomplished :)

Yesterday was the second (annual?) Ride with Brad sportive out of Barnoldswick in Lancashire. Some of you will know that I volunteered at the first one last year while my leg was in external fixation after the rebreak, and it did occur to me at the time that if they ran it this year I might be able to take part. It was a good target.

I plumped for the 100km route option, mainly as a nod to common sense and realism that I probably wasn't ready yet for 100 miles with nearly 3000m of climbing. There were a lot of people on the ride again, and I would guess more on the 100km than on the 100 miles, so maybe word had got around from last year how hard this route is!

Rebecca and I camped at Lower Greenhill Camp site where I stayed last year, a lovely camp site with friendly people, recommended. On Saturday I picked Rebecca up from work in the hire car, and we arrived at Barnoldswick, OK Salterforth actually, just before 4pm. We pitched and then went to registration at Victory Park, the event centre. The queue for the 100km was only a few people, which is why I wanted to register on the Saturday, no queuing for ages on the Sunday morning! I was on my crutches of course, which brought a few comments, and required my usual explanation of "I know it seems very strange, but walking is much harder than riding at the moment!". Anyway I got my rider number and timing chip label - the numbers and labels have your name printed on them this year! I've never been to an event where that was so - a nice touch!
Numbers with names on. Cool!

Next we went to The Craven Heifer in Kelbrook for a beer and some dinner. I had a massive gammon steak which pretty much covered the whole plate - not exactly carbo-loading but it filled me up anyway. 

Back at the campsite I got everything ready for the ride, put the number on my bike and checked the pressure in the tyres etc. I had decided to take a non-standard pedal configuration, on account of my nerves at making it up some of the steepest gradients. I took off my SPD-SL pedals, and put a flat one on the right and an XTR SPD on the left. That way, I could wear my Shimano shoes which have the cleats flush with the soles. This served two purposes: first I could bail easily without having to unclip on a steep bit of road, and second, if I did bail I would be able to 'walk' - walking is nearly impossible for me in the riding shoes with the SL cleats on, well, without really hurting my foot anyway. I don't like this set up because it looks crazy on the bike, but in this case I think practicality has to take precedence.

It was an early start yesterday morning - I was up at about 0545 getting excited. Got everything together, had some breakfast - tuna pasta I brought with me, made Rebecca and I a coffee and Rebecca a bacon sandwich, then packed some stuff up and headed out. Got parked and bike out of the car about 0720. Now I was happy, I'm always a bit nervous about getting to the start line on time. The start for the 100km route was 0800-0830 so everything was good. When we got to Victory Park there was a massive queue for registration, like I remember from last year, but I already had my number so I could just line up. Had a quick toilet visit, then into the line. And a long wait! I don't know why they seemed to only be letting a few people go every couple of minutes. But more likely there was a lot of people in front of me. The 160km guys had all already gone, so all these people were doing the 100km.
Event Centre, Victory Park, Barnoldswick.

While I was waiting Rebecca was alongside over the barrier taking pictures and chatting. Then there was some commotion up front and apparently Sir Bradley Wiggins was in attendance! He gave a typically verbose interview: "Are you looking forwards to it?" "Yeah, should be a good ride." Then he and the Wiggle-Honda girls were on the start line and after a half-hearted countdown, they were off. After that, they let the rest of us all go off quite quickly. That was the closest I came to Sir Brad all day!

Waiting to get going.

And ready for the rain!

The route, which I had studied on the map of course several times, starts off easy. About 15 miles of easy actually, until Waddington where the fun begins. Waddington Fell was the first proper climb of the day and it's quite long, and has a sharp pull near the top, but it was the first of the day so no real problem, legs quite fresh and all. I sent a tweet from the top, had a minute's rest and then started down the other side. Rain! No, wait, hail? Stinging the face anyway. I had set off with my Berghaus Paclite jacket on in anticipation of some rain and that helped I'm sure. It was quite an exciting descent on a wide fairly smooth road so no danger to worry about even in the wet. At the bottom of Waddington Fell at Newton there's the split point, 100km to the left. The 160km riders had gone off here for a 40 mile loop through the Trough of Bowland, which I've ridden some years ago and it's pretty spectacular. Then they rejoin us at Dunsop Bridge, so for them it's 40 miles but for us it's about 3 or so.

After that we're heading south, nice easy miles for a bit until a sharp pull up to the first Feed Station at Wildboar Forest. I stopped here at the junction for a rest and to take stock, but decided not to go into the feed stop and instead to push on. Mainly I was aware that the next climb was the one I was not looking forwards to the most, and I wanted it over. Longridge Fell, Jeffrey Hill. Now that's a ramp. It was here that I realised my pedal and shoe choice had been very wise indeed. I think I got about 5/6 of the way up the first really steep bit before I cracked. It's a shame because I knew that at the bend it eases off a bit, but there really wasn't enough strength in my thighs. It's not all about endurance - I've got loads of that (modesty) - I just need more strength for those really steep prolonged bits where I'm out of the saddle. Anyway, I wasn't the only one beaten by this short stretch of tarmac! So I walked around the bend and stopped for a little rest to compose myself. Then back on and OK until the top. But something was wrong! A strange feeling like the road got very bumpy all of a sudden. A rear-wheel puncture!

I wasn't the only one walking this little stretch! Jeffrey Hill, Longridge Fell. Hard.

I have never had a puncture on this bike before. Most likely it was all the pot-holes - some of the roads had had quite bad surfaces already. Anyway I knew I could fix it it was just a surprise and very inconvenient on top of Longridge Fell in the rain! Took me a while to get the tyre off the rim, took me a while to get the new tube to inflate, especially after I bent the valve, oops. There was a point where I was worried it wouldn't go up, but a bit of care and fiddling around and I got enough pressure in it, I hoped. Because now I couldn't afford another one! Oh, how bad would it be to fail this ride because of a mechanical? Something I had never considered - always thinking about me and my body, never worried about the bike which had never given me any problem in the past? I guess I spend about 20 minutes fixing the puncture. I knew the second Feed Station wasn't that far away so I could get there and get some mechanical assistance if I needed it, I hoped.

After Longridge Fell I protected the rear wheel a lot on the descents, afraid of going over a pot-hole and puncturing again, but I tried to convince myself that I must have done about 2000 miles on this bike without a puncture so it wasn't likely to happen. There's a lot of downhill on the next section, down into the Ribble Valley. Time for a bit of recovery. The second feed stop, near Billington, was a must for me. I could already feel the tiredness in my legs and with still 20 miles and some climbs to go, I admit I was a bit worried. But the best I could do was stop, rest, and take on board some food and drink. I refilled my bottles, took a few gels in my pocket, ate my banana and had a chocolate cookie. There was really a lot of stuff, I could have had muffins or sandwiches or fruit. Well catered. I had a bit of a chat with some lads who had seen my leg and were curious. They were impressed, I think. That gave me a boost.

I knew the next climb was the Nick O' Pendle which is pretty nasty about 2/3 of the way up. At the base of it I finally took off my waterproof jacket and stuffed it in my jersey - instantly I felt better - it was like being released from a sweaty bin liner! That helped too. I got most of the way up in lowest gear until, again, about 3/4 of the way up the steepest bit I had to stop. This time I only walked probably 50m over a little lip before I could get back on and then was fine all the way to the top. This is telling me something about my level of fitness / strength. What? I'll have to think about that!

I paused at the summit to take a picture. The rest of the ride from here is undulating almost until the finish. I knew there was a couple more pulls that would probably cause me problems and the rest probably wouldn't. Descending into Sabden I thought I'd punctured again :( But at the bottom I stopped and no, it was just a strange sound coming from somewhere. The climb out of Sabden is nasty. Three single chevrons on the OS map over about 3/4 mile. I didn't walk at all on this one, but I did have to stop halfway for a rest, "to admire the view". I was now passing and being passed by a nice guy on a mountain bike so we were having a bit of a chat.

Summit of Nick O' Pendle.

After Sabden there's a nice easy miles stretch then it goes down and up near Newchurch. Here, again, on the steepest bit, I had to walk. Coming up to a house where people were watching riders go past, a nice lady came down the hill a bit clearly concerned about me (probably saw my leg!). She asked if I was OK, "yes". She asked if I had any support riders, "no". She asked if I was going to continue, "yes". Did I need her to phone anyone? "no". It is nice when people care! But really, I explained to her and her family what I already knew - I just can't get up the steepest bits, probably because of the strength, or lack thereof, in my legs still. I knew there was 10 miles to go, there was no way now I wasn't finishing, major mechanical or body-bag notwithstanding. But her Dad told me I deserved a medal. That was enough to get me to the end.

In Barley I stopped to take a gel and eat my Go bar. Because I knew Barley Fell was a climb, but no chevrons so slow and steady should win the race! It did. After that, there's a descent and a right turn, then undulating until 3 miles from Barnoldswick. This section has some nasty pulls on it, but they're all quite short, so I didn't have a problem. As usual on these rides, the legs start to come back a bit as they sense the proximity of the finish! By the time I got to the main road, and knew it was all downhill for 3 miles to the finish, I felt like I could've done the 160km route. No wait, actually I know I probably couldn't have done that yesterday. But I will next year ;)

Crossing the finish line.
At the finish, in my dreams, Sir Brad was there to congratulate me, and there was an announcement by the commentator saying how great it was that I'd made it to here after 3 years of recovery. Of course, those things didn't happen. But it wasn't really about that was it? It was about my leg, my journey, my ride, my race, my life. I'm very happy I was able to set myself this goal a year ago and realise it. I would have liked to have done the 160km route, but that wasn't realistic. I would have preferred not to have had to walk 3 times on the steepest bits, but that gives me some information about where I am and some more space to improve into. I would like to have at least laid eyes on Sir Brad, but for the second year running, I didn't. Rebecca on the other hand met him at the finish line, exchanged a few words and got a picture! I think Rebecca was a bit bored while I was out riding, but I hope that experience made up for it a bit, and it was really good to have her there as support. I liked texting her a few times on the route. And I had a text from my friend Julia too saying that everyone at church was thinking about me. That meant a lot.

After the finish, there was the goody bag - nice T-shirt this year! - and some rider food, pasta. Then I went and found Sophie (and Leah) from Pennine Events, the organisers, who I'd been exchanging emails with in the run up to this event - to thank them and to say hi.

Then we were away, to pack up the camp and go and get a drink before heading home. I was already thinking about the next ride.

After the finish. I like my new jersey :)

If you want to you can look at my data on strava. Under the circumstances, I'm quite happy with my 5h9m moving time for this ride! Again, I find it very amusing that "there are no achievements on this ride!"

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Ride with Brad nerves

Well, I just looked over the 100km route again on the map, I think I know where the worst bits will be. Then I made the mistake of reading a few blog posts from last year's event and now I have to say I'm nervous. "Brutally hard" stands out. Even my friend John 'irontwit' Sutton found it tough and he knows those roads! The blog posts reminded me that it did rain a lot last year so that probably didn't help. Pray for clear dry weather this year.

I used to know for sure that I could muscle my way up anything. I don't know that for sure right now. On the ride I did on Saturday, there was one hill which in April I had to get off on, but on Saturday couldn't understand why as even though it was steep, it was so short. I know I'm stronger. However I also know there are still some roads round here which I haven't dared attempt on my road bike yet. It's Tuesday today, and the ride's not until Sunday, so I could still go and test myself on those roads. But do I want to know? Obviously if I get up them it'll be a big boost, but what if I don't? This attitude is annoying. I keep telling myself it'll be OK if I just relax. I often find on a climb that I get a bit too excited sometimes and then it becomes very hard. If I can force myself to relax and concentrate on one pedal after the other, one at a time, it's usually fine. I know from my elevation vs time plot on Saturday that I'm still limited on the hills. Oh if I could swap my compact chainset for a triple just for one day!

Of course there is also the comforting knowledge that in spite of my leg, I am sure I will not be the least fit person on this ride.
Heather way
Jeffrey Hill, Longridge Fell. I expect to suffer. 

I also realised that I have ridden some of these roads before. I knew I'd been to Waddington and Chipping on my Slaidburn weekend adventure in 2010. I've actually been across Longridge Fell on the road out of Waddington through Higher Hodder. It was up there somewhere where a deer was in the road! And I remember turning left at the Newdrop Inn before descending into Ribchester. Also that weekend I rode between Dunsop Bridge and Newton which I will do on Sunday in the opposite direction. Small stretches in common, but in common none-the-less. And it is a beautiful part of the country, that's for sure.

Monday, 5 August 2013

The Comeback - August 11 2013 - Ride with Brad

OK so I've kept this a bit under wraps because things are so uncertain with my foot at the moment: I'm doing my comeback sportive on Sunday. It'll be the Ride with Brad starting and finishing in Barnoldswick, see

You may remember that last year I was so sick of not going to races that I volunteered at this one, external fixation, camping, crutching, registering riders and all. Last year when I was there it did cross my mind that this year's one might be around the right time for me to enter it as my first sportive in my second cycling 'career'. Anyway, a few weeks ago I got an email from the organisers, Pennine Events, asking me if I wanted to volunteer again, so I reminded them of my situation and they said it would be fantastic if I entered even though they would have also liked me as a volunteer.

After some amount of thought and a discussion with my physiotherapist, I decided to enter. But, alas, not the 100 mile route which would have been the ideal :( Common sense and reason have prevailed so I'm going to do the 100 km route, which still goes over most of the climbs - it just misses out a 40 mile loop through the Trough of Bowland. It will be 62 miles with about 1750m of ascent. The main climbs I think are Waddington Fell, Longridge Fell and the Nick O' Pendle, but there are a couple of others too. In any case it promises to be hard, especially if the weather is poor like it is today, but it will be fun and will of course be a massive landmark in my recovery. The last sportive I rode was the 3 Shires Sportive on 18 April 2010, on Sunday that'll be 1,211 days ago. I think the organisers may be going to do a bit of publicity about me because of my story but we'll see. It doesn't really matter but it would be nice to get a thank you in for the NHS and all the people that have helped me get to here. Hopefully this year I will at least lay eyes on Bradley Wiggins, unlike last year where I was so busy registering people in the tent that I never saw him!

What about my foot? Stress fracture and so on. Well, yes, it's a bit of a concern but I went out and did 28.5 miles round here on Saturday, with about 1000m of ascent, and I could feel it but it wasn't too bad. I will chew down some Cocodamol before the ride on Sunday ;)

I am quite nervous but once I set off on it and get up the first hill it will be fine I'm sure. I've ordered some new kit for the occasion - a garish yellow and red Northwave jersey and some new (black) bib shorts. It will be an early start as I'm not camping this year, probably we will need to set off about 5.30am. Rebecca is going with me - I hope she won't be too bored while I'm riding - and the set off time for the 100 km route is 8-8.30. I will tweet (@andrewmarkwick) from the start, finish and some intermediate points (probably the top of the climbs!). Exciting!

After this, the next one is the Autumn Epic, 95 miles in the Elan Valley, October 6. Instead of Bradley Wiggins, on that one I'll have my friend John Sutton ( for company :)

Monday, 22 July 2013

Stress fractures

The source of my recent and previous foot pains? Stress fractures. Not nerve damage. An X-ray this morning at the hospital, an addition to my routine check-up X-ray set, shows that I currently have a stress fracture on the outside of my foot, but also that I've had previous ones (at least one) that have now healed up. In a way I'm relieved. I was worried it was a nerve problem and that may never have healed, or took a very long time. At least I know a fracture will heal.  There's nothing to be done about the current one, must just take the weight off it more and wait for it to heal. But my consultant is concerned (as am I of course!) that I will keep on getting them. They are happening because I can't walk properly, the weight distribution through my foot is off, so eventually a bone is fracturing, and then ouch! 
So what I can do is go and see the orthotics department, appointment requested, who might be able to fashion some kind of support or insole for my shoe to even up the way weight goes through my foot. If that doesn't work, then it's going to be more surgery.
But crucially I'm still OK to ride my bike as much as I like. I just can't walk far without crutches. Strange situation to be in!

Left foot: left most bone, little crack on left side = stress fracture. Next bone to right, lumpy bit near top of image = healed up stress fracture.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Today I am 3. And in Rio de Janeiro.

It's June 21 which means it's my other birthday. Three years ago I was newly bashed-up in Lancaster hospital.
But today, three years on, I am in Rio de Janeiro! We are visiting Rebecca's parents who now live here on account of her Dad's job. Today is our first day here, and we went to Copacabana to see the beach. It's midwinter here of course with it being the southern hemisphere, but midwinter here is about 28 degrees so it's better than our summer! The beach is so long and the sand so lovely. People come along all the time trying to sell you their wares which is, for the moment, quite entertaining. I know about 50 words of Portuguese which I learned on the plane here thanks to a cool little word learning game on KLM's in-flight entertainment system.

My foot is very sore still, since the ankle manipulating episode from a few weeks ago. Something has changed, because it really hurts at the moment! But I'm sure it will go away eventually and hopefully it'll be the better for it. Walking bare-foot on the sand will, I think, have been good for it. No doubt I'll get a few more opportunities for that while I'm here.
There have been some riots here in Rio over the last few days, but happily they are not right outside where we are staying. These people probably do have something to demonstrate about, but I still don't want to get caught up in it, and I'm sure Mum doesn't want me to either!
I miss the sea, I think where we live at the moment, while lovely, is too far from the coast. Rebecca asked if Copacabana was like Blackpool for the Brazilians :) I read in my Lonely Planet book the five page condensed history of Rio which is quite colourful making me want to learn more about the colonial past of the city and country. It is certainly reflected in the architecture, there are some beautiful buildings here, sandwiched in between the much more modern concrete.
We have a whole bunch of other sights to see while we're here, I will blog about some of them as we go along.

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Non-linear Path of Physical Recovery

Wow it's been a long time since I wrote here! Nearly 6 months! Time flies.

Since then I've done some biking, though not as much as I would have liked, or as I had planned to in fact. I've been back for a couple of X-rays, which showed little change really - you can see a bit of the gap filling in, but only if you squint at it. The bone hasn't moved though, so it's probably fair to say that the tibia is stable now.

There's still some frustrating setbacks happening though, mostly with my ankle and foot. It seems like you slowly go some way forward and then quickly come a way back again. The other week I manipulated my ankle joint again - manipulated is what they call it where you move a joint that hasn't moved for a long time basically further than you've moved it before. It takes a lot of force, like a stumble or something. Well, it takes more force the more often it happens, if you see what I mean. In the long term these manipulations are good because you are increasing the range of movement of your joints, but in the short term they are incredibly painful :(

Thus is was that in May I was very happy that I had managed to be off crutches for 6 weeks - I had even uttered the fate-tempting phrase "I'm off crutches now" - I did wait 6 whole weeks before saying that, and then a week later I was back on two crutches again! Last week I couldn't really walk, and depressing though it was I stayed at home all week - I can work at home but it's not really the same. Cabin fever sets in. Now I can just about manage hobbling around the house and down to the shop, but it's really frustrating because 2 weeks ago I was even starting to walk without really thinking about it. That's something that I now know you really take for granted, not having to think about every step and how much it's going to hurt or what angle the pavement is at or being careful to put your heel down first etc etc. 

Anyway I know it'll come back, and I know it'll come back better than it was before, but you have to go through these miserable steps backward to go forward again. I've done this to my ankle once before, it swelled up in exactly the same way, hurt exactly as much, and came back better. I did it to my foot too, a massive 'crack!' when I was hobbling up a steep street - hurt like anything for a month, then got better and my foot was springier, all good.

Biking: managed to do 50 miles on the road bike in early May, mostly flat but with a really hilly bit about three quarters of the way through to test the thighs. Hard work but managed it. The other day I went and did 3 miles on my mountain bike and found it very difficult. Non-linear. My physio says biking will be good for my ankle at the moment, might help it loosen up and the swelling go down. I have realised that I have to be more serious about my exercises, because they will make it harder for me to hurt myself! Didn't think of that before, but I have now, so at least I'm learning.

I'm supposed to figure out and write down my goals (short, mid and long-term) for my physical recovery this week, before my next appointment on Thursday. When I've done that I'll post them on here! I'd like to start swimming again too - now I think I could make it to the pool without needing help or crutches, I should go and try it - I'm sure that would help.

When I can step back from the fact that it's my leg and ankle and foot and I'm connected to them 24/7, I can see that things are getting better, and that the non-linear nature of the recovery is actually quite interesting in it's own way. However sometimes it is not easy to be so detached and then you're thinking the usual "why me?" or "what did I do to deserve this?". I need to stay in control of that because it makes it worse. Before this latest setback I was starting to believe that hiking might be possible again, in fact I was almost ready to try it, and the biking, while not as frequent as I had imagined it would be, was going in the right direction. I'll get back there, I know. But it is hard to construct a plan or put times to goals when you don't know and can't predict these manipulations, setbacks. It feels a bit like a process where on a given day there's an x% chance that there will be a setback. That starts me thinking whether that's not actually always the case - you could hurt yourself any day, which would set you back. I guess when you're in the middle of a recovery like I am that chance must be greater, or you have to do less to encounter one. So making a plan like "I'm going to do a 100 mile ride by July" is, I think, a good thing, but it almost certainly has to be tempered by the knowledge that July might have to change to be August or September.

People were saying to me the other week that I'd "overdone it" - that's my Mum's favourite way of putting it. Well, if going on my mountain bike and having to put my foot down, or walking up a street or going to the shop is overdoing it - guilty! But there isn't another way, I don't hurt myself on purpose. 

It'll be 3 years soon.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Mac super slow and annoying?

Just a quick post.. recently my desktop and laptop Macs have become so irritating to use - every time I tried to do anything it seemed like it would freeze and give me the spinning beach ball of doom for ages. Really computer-smashingly annoying.

BUT! The fixes I found on this web page... have really worked and fixed them both back to useable computer status. I ignored the preferences fix but did the repair permissions and delete cache fixes. Worked like a charm!

Saturday, 19 January 2013


Today I went out and made my cycling target for the week, which was 30 miles. This month I'm aiming for 100, which looks possible. What I'm trying to do at the moment is build up a selection of routes which I can come back to in the coming months to monitor progress. I've been looking back over my riding history from 2007 - 2010, and I am quite surprised how infrequently I repeated a route! There are a couple which I can use to see some progress with my fitness, but it would of course be easier if there was at least one route I did regularly with the same equipment.

Likewise there aren't many routes from previously that I can use now to gauge where I am compared to then. On the road bike, many of the routes I did before are too long or go up roads I don't think I could muscle my way up at the moment. On the mountain bike, many of the routes go on trails that I don't feel my ankle would like very much at the moment. Although I could try some of them, I suppose.

Hence why I'm trying to be more systematic now. I guess before I was just riding purely for fun, with no specific target in mind, whereas now I want to get back to being able to do the longer rides, races and cyclosportives I feel I need some kind of programme.

Last week I did however repeat a route that I did once before, on February 15 2009. This was the Chinley Loop, out from the house via Thornsett, left at Birch Vale, right at Hayfield, over Peep O' Day, right into Chinley, through Buxworth, onto the A6 and home. It's 11.7 miles. In 2009, moving time was 50 minutes, last week it was 1h 3m. Most of the difference was in the climb up to Peep O' Day, which isn't that bad really, but I'm quite unfit at the moment! It is quite a long steady climb, good for training. In 2009 my average heart rate for this ride was 168, last week it was 177. I've been doing a bit of investigating into this with my historical data, and it definitely seems that my average heart rate goes down when I've been training. I guess this is all well-known stuff to coaches and so on, but I found it quite fascinating to be looking at that in my own data. The program I use to record my rides, myTourbook, lets you see a histogram of your heart rate with time for each ride, colour-coded by heart rate zone. So I can compare my heart rate in zones between these two rides:

Last week.

Compare with 2009.
On the face of it they look quite similar, but if you look at the distribution through the zones, you see that in 2009 the percentage of the ride I spent in zones 3:4:5 was about 21:43:29. Last week it was 4:49:45. That looks quite significant to me. Hopefully I'll be able to revisit this route over the next few months and compare some more!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Back in the Saddle

So far this week I've ridden 24 miles in two rides. Last week I did one ride of 12 miles. This week my target is to do 30 miles and this month, 100. The weather in December was really awful - lots of rain - so I didn't get out much. But now it feels like the training has started properly. I'm really unfit of course - it feels like there's nothing in my thighs at all, especially the left one. The right one I get a burn in quite quickly, but so far I haven't felt much in the left. I'm swapping between my road bike and my newly modified mountain bike, depending on what route I choose to do. There are some hills around here which I doubt I could get up on my road bike at the moment!
With these leggings on you can barely tell there's been anything wrong!
It's been snowing this week and is trying to lay down a covering right now but hopefully I'll be able to complete my weekly target tomorrow afternoon or Saturday morning with a short-ish ride. I'm trying to establish some routes that I can come back to every month to see any improvements.
My physio thinks I'm crazy because I like measuring and recording everything. But she is very good - I'm seeing her once a week now and she's working mostly on my foot, ankle and calf, trying to get some mobility back in my ankle and loosening up the muscles in my foot and calf, which apparently have been very very knotted up. It is really helping - I always feel much looser and better after my appointment there. I guess I'll be seeing her for the forseeable future!
At the moment I can readily believe that I will get back to where I was before on the bike. There's an issue with my ankle - every time I change gear or go over any kind of bump, it hurts. So I think proper off-road riding is off the cards for the time being. After the rides my ankle is very sore and I am hobbling around worse than usual for the next day, but I hope that will subside and in any case I can tolerate that if it means I can ride properly again. It will take time, but I can see building up the strength in my quads and calves and achieving my target of being able to do a 'proper' ride of 90 miles or so around the Peak District by June/July. Then the plan will be to enter the Bradley Wiggins Sportive on August 18, for my return to 'competition'.

Where I will end up walking-wise though, I really can't say. I knew a long time ago that I'd be cycling again way before I was able to walk, and so it is proving. I can manage a short walk to the shops without crutches, but by the time I'm back my walking pattern has deteriorated a lot because of fatigue. It's going to take a long time and a lot of work before I can go up Kinder Scout again unaided... Right now, weather not-withstanding, I could probably take the Glossop bus up onto the hill and walk across the moor with one stick. I should do that soon because I really miss the moors! Maybe I should look into getting a walking pole - something I swore I'd never ever have, but now maybe it would help. Or I could get a more traditional walking stick - how cool would I look then?!