2011 miles ticker

The Largely Irrelevant Weight-loss ticker

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Check it out!!!!

Three months ago I was resigned to missing all of this year's targets, and I have now hit the most unlikely one of all.

Having lost over 30 kilograms since July, I am now below my 95kg target for 2011. All I have to do now is stay below it.

I have the incentive. The Wild Edric Sportive showed me what I can do if I put my mind to it, and the next big target is next year's Etape.

On the basis that I will be recording the journey of all 10 of us keen cyclist's from work to the Etape, I will now close this blog, but look out for next years when I have it set up at:


Three go Wild in Shropshire (and Wales)

As an end of season tester myself and two colleagues, all three of us keen on doing next years Etape, entered the Wiggle/Kilotogo Wild Edric Sportive at the end of October.

This 98 miles has over 2,000 metres of climbing, more than the Cheshire Cat, so the primary goal was to achieve a similar time to the 7:20 that I did at the end of March. At least that way I would know that this year hadn't been too damaging.

Being a little late sorting ourselves out, Brett, Andrew & myself rolled out about 10 minutes after the first starters, but immediately found fragmenting groups on the road. Brett and I dug in and got on a group of 6, Andrew missed it, got shelled out the back, and wasn't seen again all day.

Arriving at the bottom of the climb to the Long Mynd, it was apparent that something was awry. I could still see Brett after the first pitch upward, indeed I could still see the whole group. Some of them did drag off into the distance over the next 2 miles, others did not. In fact, others appeared from the far distance and were left behind. For virtually the first time on a UK Sportive, I was passing other riders uphill. Thankfully, I realise that giggling out loud is frowned upon and I managed not to do it. The 20% descent of the Burway into Church Stretton was damp and 'interesting' but it wasn't until 5 miles later that I came across the aftermath of a rider using his face to brake on the greasy road surface. He was a mess, and certainly made me concentrate on riding more carefully for a while. Until a HUGE group came past at mega-speed and, for once, (again a virtual first) I managed to get on the back. Not only that, but I also got into as well as onto the group, and was a contributor as we then averaged 40kmh for the next 25 minutes.

Arriving at the first feed, I saw something I have never before seen on any Sportive. Brett. He was just leaving as I arrived, and whilst I didn't see him again until the end, he was not that far in front. The real draggy climbing starts as the route goes out through Montgomery and Kerri, but I still managed not to be overtaken by too many, and keep up with most. A small walk was taken on Kerri Hill (300m at 19%) with the legs threatening to cramp up. Cramp was a worry, but not one I have suffered from in a good while. The reason for this was evident later in that I was going much harder than normal.

After the climb to Cilfaesty Hill on the Welsh border, the next 12 miles is mostly downhill to Knighton, and a complete blast. After Knighton, to Clun the road tortures you some more by constantly gaining and then losing height, but after Clun, the last 10 miles flattens off a bit. After Clun, I hit the afterburner, and was amazed to find that I actually had one. The last 10 miles were done in 34 minutes, but unfortunately were just a bit to slow for me to hit an unexpected landmark.

Silver Medal time on the Wild Edric is 6:34:00. I finished in 6:38:10. Utterly spent, but well pleased. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that I would get well inside my Cheshire Cat time, let along miss the Silver standard by just 4 minutes. In fact, my ride time was 6:29 so actually on the bike I was inside the time. I'm loving this being lighter thing.

October - Month of the Audax

Well, having been a lazy git for months, September's realisation that "it can't go on like this" led to a flurry of audax entering.

Once my own Audaxes were organised and all riders accounted for, I turned my attention to getting the fat boy in shape. Weightwatchers was joined, and audaxes entered.

First up, The Welland Wonder 100 with my wife in close attendance. On arrival, we were greeted by 10 minutes torrential rain, during which we cowered in the car and pondered the wisdom of our attendance. Within 15 minutes of starting, all such thoughts were banished as we freewheeled through the grounds of Stanford Hall. 5 minutes later, and my chain was once more wrapped around my bottom bracket refusing to co-operate. A rotor chain saver has subsequently been fitted, both Mr Schleck and myself having learned from experience. The route is quite lumpy to begin with, but once we ended up North of the start at Husbands Bosworth the countryside is splendid. As a fellow rider remarked, "if they hadn't found coal and iron ore here, it would be better known than the Cotswolds", maybe not, but I can see what they meant. Finishing at shortly after 3:30 our first 'proper' ride for ages finished in a fairly standard 6:30.

2nd October saw Rourkies Cat & Fiddle Challenge, and the first visit by Mrs H to the Cat & Fiddle Climb. Whilst the A roads were a bit busy, neither of us struggled with the climbs and by now I was beginning to notice that breathing on a climb was less of a problem. Nevertheless, the customary 50mph was achieved on the descent from the Roaches to Blackshaw Moor (love that descent). Not only did we have a good 4:40 on the bike, but I also caught up with Mark, seemingly for the first time since Etape 2008. Too long.

Quick, we're getting fit, enter another one. 8th October for Discovering Shropshire. This one had everything, long drawn out climbs, mental descents, a crossing of the Iron Bridge itself, and chickens trying to scrounge the obligatory bacon sandwich. This 120km ride is a gem! We were blessed with good weather, and the views were superb. The fact that much of the last 20 miles is downhill doesn't hurt either.

Next weekend, and the keenness continued unabated with entry to the Centurion Challenge. Starting near Cirencester, this involved a plummet from the Car Park to the start that promised late afternoon pain (though in the end we hardly noticed). The first few miles are on little travelled roads, little travelled by anyone including Gloucestershire County Council as the surface was not brilliant. Nevertheless, the drop off of Painswick Beacon and subsequent climb back up (after cake) promises good training for next year's exploits (more later). Rolling out onto the Severn Plain, this ride then has to regain lost height, which it does at a place called North Nibley. My wife will never forget this place, as the 200m of 17% climb left her gasping for almost asthmatic breath before a feed station with a view at the top of the hill. Rolling gradually upward, there was a brief period of 'rambling' on a 20% section before another swift run into the finish. Another cracking ride for next year's calendar.

Finally, I was dispatched on my own to North Wales for the Clwyd Gate Audax, a hilly affair with 2.25 'scenery points' (climbing points for the uninitiated). This saw me going well for most of the day, on a cracking route with many alpine style climbs, and a visit to the seaside. Further evidence of reducing weight was provided with my fastest time ever up the Horseshoe Pass, faster event than 2008 when I was in full-on Etape training mode. Bodes well.

Throughout this year, I have been somewhat 'flat' and uninterested. By the end of these 4 weeks, I was again coming to the realisation that, if I ever have to give up my possessions one-by-one, they will have to pry my bicycle from my cold dead hands. I'm loving this again!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

I'm Back!

It's been a long naff year, and I have been a disillusioned and lazy git.
Somehow along the way I have managed to accumulate over 3,000 miles to date, but I haven't been quick, and I haven't been light.
I think the main problem is not setting myself a single, big, stretching target, and coupled with a dodgy few work months at the start of the year this just left me feeling, well, a bit 'meh!' I just couldn't be arsed.
Consequently, when the Tour de Mercredi season started with the guys from work, I was seeing the rear view of people who were behind me most of last year. So I felt a bit worse.......and did even less.
In August, I dragged my lardy arse off to the Alps together with the bike and a few things happened:
1. I realised I did actually enjoy cycling still (even/especially the uphill bits)
2. The photograph my wife took of me was not flattering (and no you're NOT seeing it on here)
3. The Alpe d'Huez time trial was hellish and 15 minutes slower than last year
Returning from holiday, I finally had the "What the Hell have you done to yourself?" moment of clarity and have finally decided to do something about it.
I have (re)joined Weightwatchers, joined the gym and promised (with some of the guys from work) to have a 'proper' go at next year's Etape du Tour. I say a 'proper' go, because even last time I only slimmed down to 101kg, which was only good enough to comfortably finish in front of the Broom Wagon. Next year, I am hereby stating my objective to go balls-out (not literally of course) for a Silver Medal.
So far, I have gone from 16stone 28 pounds (OK, OK 18 stone) down to 16st 2lbs this week (102.4kg) in just 9 weeks, and I may just make this years most seemingly unattainable target of 95kg by Christmas. Beyond that, I don't know if I can attain their 73kg target (I haven't been 11 1/2 stone for 30 years) but the further I go, the faster I'll get.
The good news is that the Wednesday night climbing legs are back, and I'm fighting for position on the hills again (and sometimes succeeding). I can't wait to find out if the coach at Newport velodrome was right and I really am "a talented cyclist living in a fat man's body". The fat man can keep it and I'm taking mine back.

My name is Clive Handy, and because I'm 50 next year I'm in the next age group up for the Etape du Tour, and I'm going to get a Silver Medal.

Monday, 3 January 2011


Since I ended up being completely useless last year, there will be no new blog for 2011, this one will have to continue.

Last years unmet targets will become this years targets, with a couple added/changed for good measure.

It has been 4 months (and more) since my last blog entry, and I will have to concentrate on making the time and not letting real life get in the way. The final holiday updates (for my benefit so I can actually remember it in my dotage) will be on the way soon, but first a review of 2010.

"Could do better". I remember seeing that on more than a few school report, and it rings true now.
9:00 on the Etape du Dales - Fail. Reset for 2011
Time trial targets - not attempted, but the Tour de Mercredi will be trialling this year
LeJoG - Success. Lets NOT do that again this year
Climb Alpe D'Huez in 90 minutes. Been there, done that. Lets try it again but in 75 minutes this time.
5000 miles. Fail. Only did 4500. Going for 5000 again this year.
Weight loss. Ahem. Well. Yes. Lets try again in 2011, shall we?
Added targets - 25 commutes to & from work. Doesn't sound much, but it is 40 miles each way.

So, New Year, New(ish) Targets. I am currently just ahead of the curve 48 miles in 3 days including my first real road ride for weeks today. Feeling better already. Next ride the Poor Student Audax on Saturday. 206km then should put me well on schedule.

Onwards and, most probably, upwards.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Going downhill.....fast(ish)

There was no time to stop on the time trial to take photographs, so here's a photo-panorama created from 5 photos taken between bends 9 and 8 on a subsequent ascent of Alpe D'Huez) of which more later)

Hopefully this gives some idea of what this climb is like overall, but there really is no substitute for being there.

The descent starts immediately you crest the small hill in Vieil Huez, and freewheel out of town, on a lane dedicated entirely to bikes. Cars have to take a one way system and emerge lower down. Despite the fact that I descended on the hoods all the way down, the stretch to the first bend still saw 60+kmh despite braking often and early. My descending is still hesitant, and although I remembered the 'advice' and reading about how to handle the hairpins, it wasn't until lower down the mountain that I started to feel remotely confident. There is a big difference between Etape descending, and descending on open roads where you have to share with cars coming up.

The first thing you notice going down is that even between the hairpins, this road is far from straight. Even kinks in the road can throw you over the centre line when reaching speeds of over 70kmh. My record on this descent, despite deliberately being careful, was 71.6kmh between bends 17 and 18. In fact, the gradient steepens about 100 metres before 18, and I almost overcooked it both times I descended this mountain. not really advisable on a hairpin bend with only a 2 foot wall separating the road from 500 feet of fresh air.

Secondly, it becomes painfully obvious that a climb that can take 85 minutes to get up, is over in just 19 minutes going the other way. This was a source of constant surprise all week, particularly as our campsite was in the bottom of the valley, and all rides started off going pretty much uphill.

Friday, 6 August 2010

30 years in the waiting

"La Montee Mythique." That's how Alpe D'Huez is billed around Bourg D'Oisans, "the mythical climb". Whether a stage that has featured in Le Tour on less than 30 occasions can be called 'mythical' may be debatable, but once you're onto the mountain the burden of your own expectations weighs heavy upon your shoulders. It feels even heavier given that the first four hairpins are the steepest section, and the granny gear has been in operation since the first 200 metres of the climb.

In my first teenage exposure to the Tour de France on, I believe, a weekly catch-up 30 minute slot on Saturday afternoon (I recall not whether it was Grandstand or World of Sport) I was astonished, not only by the speed with which riders ascended these monstrous mountains, but also by the fervour of the gathered supporters and the epic nature of the landscape. Standing out amongst these was the tangle of tarmac spaghetti up L'Alpe D'Huez with its 21 numbered hairpins. And it always seemed to be won by Dutchmen, Joop Zoetemelk in 1976, and Hennie Kuiper the following 2 years. It's still referred to in some circles as 'the dutch mountain' and rumoured that the local population in the summer months is 60% dutch. I can't vouch for the numbers, but I suspect there may be some truth in them.

To add to the mystique, each of the 21 'virages' has a plate containing the bend number, current altitude, and the name of past winners up the Alpe. Even the very first bend piles on the expectation. There it is, the name of the first Alpe D'Huez winner (earlier than I had known) Fausto Coppi in 1952. Of course, when the tour had been up the mountain more than 21 times, they had to start doubling up from the bottom, so Mr Coppi is joined by the name of the 2001 winner, one Lance Armstrong. These are still the only Alpe D'Huez winners to claim the yellow jersey whilst winning on the Alpe, and keep it all the way to Paris. Their names peer out from behind the branches partly covering the plaque on the first bend as if to say "What have you got, then?" No pressure.

20, 19 and 18 come quickly, Mayo, Armstrong (again) and Schleck joining the Dutch on these bends. After a sharp kick to 17, La Garde is reached at 16 and a turn off to a truly stunning road, the D211a to Les Balcons D'Auris, but more of that later. From 16 to 13 the gradient slackens slightly, but kicks up again to the tight bend at 12. Legs already tired are now starting to feel worryingly empty, but at least the early morning rain has subsided and sunshine is threatened.

For the first time after 12, glimpses of the road both higher and lower can be seen, and the valley floor and Bourg D'Oisans can be seen, ever smaller. Rushing water punctuates the silent suffering, though the falls are often heard and seldom seen, save for the river of water running headlong downhill in the gutter to your right. Barriers lean outward, little to support them from disappearing down the mountain. And then the church at Huez appears, and the ravines and rocks are replaced by gentler slopes and meadows. The apartments of Alpe D'Huez tower above, perched on the very edge of the top of the slope. Can we really still have to go up there?

7 becomes 6, "Gianni Bugno" on both corners. Griffephotos are taking pictures of human suffering at 5, and still the gradient continues. This mountain is unusual. Over its 13km of climb, there is not one bit of downhill, save for the last few metres in Vieil Huez itself. The left hand bend at 4 disappears and after a brief drag, so does most of the gradient. Changing UP for the first time since the bottom, confusion reigns as cyclists are 'advised' to turn right. We are not, we are to follow the 'classic tour de france' ascent. 3 and 2 pass as Marco Pantani appears for the first time on the corners. More photographers assault any remaining dignity at bend 2.

From Bend 1, the road to Alpe D'Huez climbs dead straight into the town. No sprint can be mustered, the cycle computer is playing up and time and distance are by now unreliable. Suddenly, there is no more uphill. Stand on the pedals, 'sprint' and be directed right to the 'finish'. Only after returning the chip do I notice the finish banner, the timing car, and the already successful participants. I am up the Alpe in 1:24:55, ahead of my target time, fragile physically and already in bits mentally. Apparently grown men regularly burst into floods of tears at this point. I didn't.....................but it was close, real close.