Saturday, 19 May 2012

January - May 2012 (the story so far) 

Well hello and thanks to anyone taking the time to read this, the first post on my blog which will attempt to vaguely document the next fourteen months of pain and preparation getting ready for l'Etape 2013.

I guess the first post on this blog should introduce you to Velo Pixie and some of the background behind his decision to ride a bicycle up a french mountain whilst taking part in the French based cycle race l'Etape du Tour (if you want to cut to the chase and find out more about the race rather than persevering with the following blog post I have put a short description of the event here )

January 2012 to May 2012

Following the 2011 Christmas and New Year celebrations I decided it was time to reduce my weight and maybe try and improve my fitness levels (which had gradually declined over the ten years or so since I had last participated in any form of regular sport) In early January 2012 my weight was 17 stone (238 pounds) and to be honest a moderately long flight of stairs was enough to make my 49 year old lungs start to struggle.

During January and early February I started to use our indoor water rower on a daily basis (starting at 20 minute sessions and building to 30 minute sessions) and sometimes managing to fit two sessions a day in.

I could feel my fitness improving and the weight did start to move but it was a bit variable in terms of the amount lost (or not each week) At the same time I resolved to try and improve my diet by cutting out as much fat as possible and other things that didn't instinctively feel healthy.

This regime continued until 14th February when I decided maybe it would be useful to understand what my heart rate was and try and monitor improvements in my fitness through some numbers rather than how out of breath I felt at the end of each rowing session. Some internet research was done and a Polar FT60 combined watch and heart rate monitor was purchased.

The introduction of heart rate monitoring into the "Get Pixie fit" programme highlighted a couple of things,  firstly, whilst my fitness was improving it was still woefully poor and secondly the beta blockers I was taking at the time to manage persistent migraine headaches were artificially suppressing my heart rate. So as my GP confirmed, it didn't matter how hard I worked, I was never going to get anywhere near my theoretical maximum heart rate and therefore any associated weight loss benefits would be also to some extent be compromised.

Time for another introduction to the "Get Pixie fit" programme. On 22nd February I discovered an app for my iphone that has honestly transformed how and what I eat, the app in question is  My Fitness Pal allows me to monitor the nutritional and calorific values of the food I eat, as well as providing a target number of calories to be consumed each day taking into account, my weight loss target and the amount of exercise I undertake each day (if you are trying to lose weight, check it out) On the day i started using My Fitness Pal I weighed 225 pounds, so a not to shabby loss of 13 pounds had been achieved in around six weeks.

Fast forward to April 2012 and my fitness levels had been improving steadily, I had come off of my beta blockers (after seeking the advice of my GP) and my weight had also been steadily dropping. The amount of exercise I undertook had also been increasing to the point where I was averaging around seven hours a week of a mixture of rowing, walking and jogging. I was starting to feel pretty good and at this point and had lost 40 pounds (almost 3 stone) since the beginning of the year.

It was around this time that I thought it might be fun to get a bicycle and add some cycling into the weekly mix of fitness activities, at the same time I started to wonder whether there was some sort of endurance cycling event that i could participate in (didn't want to run the London marathon, I actually don't really like running, despite running four or five times a week now) and through a bit of internet research found out about the madness that is the l'Etape du Tour, 100-120 miles cycling up a French mountain in a day, whilst also staying within the organisers prescribed minimum speed requirement. Sounded just like the sort of thing I was looking for, but I decided not to tell anyone while I pondered whether I actually wanted to do it. In the meantime my new bicycle was ordered and I started to read anything I could find relating to l'Etape and competitive endurance cycling. 

l'Etape Start

We flew out to America to see Hanna's mum and step dad Bob in the middle of April and during this holiday I found myself in the hotels gym each morning with Bob doing a round 20 miles in an hour on the exercise bike. Maybe completing l'Etape would be possible? Then one evening it happened, after a few gin and tonics I found myself explaining what l'Etape was to Hanna's mum and Bob and also declaring that I would be doing the 2013 event. There, it was out in the open, I'd said I was going to do l'Etape, so I was committed to it.

A typical l'etape climb 
Early May and my Specialized Secteur Elite arrives at Melksham Cycle Centre (along with numerous e bay purchases of cycling kit and cycling training books) I actually still can't believe how excited I was when I went to pick up my new steed (remember I am fifty this year and shouldn't really get that excited about a bicycle)

At the time that the bike arrived the combination of eating healthily, running and rowing had seen me lose 50 pounds in weight since the beginning of the year, I weighed 13.5 stone and I was feeling better physically than I had for as long as I could remember.    

And so in my fiftieth year on this planet, the journey to l'Etape, and whatever cycling adventures follow it, had begun. 

To be continued......                             

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