Full Winter Jacket

It was effing cold if you believe the “RealFeel®” on the weather app this morning. A month ago I was enjoying breezy 26°C rides in the Canary Islands so yes, I can well and truly believe the information. This heralds the start of the winter season proper. 3 layers on top including a merino base layer, fleece lined top and the winter jacket was just about enough. The legs would still be thawing if it weren’t for the woolen leggings under the fleece lined tights. At least there was no ice to slow me down but that is waiting for me tomorrow so I’ll be churning it out on Boris, the 29er.

-4°C is about the limit of my winter riding clothing

This morning was also ride #300 for the year, ~ at month short of a ride a day. A politician might say that I have ridden 90% of days in 2017.

The day that the scarf and fleece lined cap comes off will be the day that the light at the end of the long winter tunnel will feel close. That tunnel will take at least 2 months and is just around 1000-1500km long, probably longer. Shedding the full winter jacket feels a long way off…

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…or Cardio Pulmonary Exercise Test.

Back in 2011, my hospital purchased a machine to perform exercise tolerance tests on people who are considered an anaesthetic “high risk”. This would identify who may not be recommended for complex surgery requiring a long anaesthetic and just as importantly it would allow better planning of high dependency and critical care for closer monitoring in the post-operative period. The anaesthetist who ran the programme required some healthy volunteers of all fitness levels to help quality assure results during the initial set up (and the personnel using the tech). As I had recently rediscovered riding a bike over the previous year, I was encouraged to have a go so I  did.

This involved getting on an exercise bike with ECG leads attached and a tight fitting mask to measure my heart rate and rhythm as well as the amount of carbon dioxide that I would breathe out. The computer was programmed to increase resistance over a period of time much like climbing a never ending hill without the promise of a nice breather on the descent.  There comes a time when the intensity is cranked up so much that the body cannot cope with the demand and one has to stop.  I am no expert on this so there is plenty of science about it to read here & here.  Anyway a picture of my results 6 years ago is below.

VO2 max 2011

I was pretty pleased about this as was told that my lung function was as if I hadn’t spent half of my life as a smoker and affirmed (to me at least) that I was in good shape, the best that I had ever felt.  However given my peak VO2 max above my level of cardiovascular fitness looked like it was “poor” according to the charts.

vo2max chart

Just like my school reports-“…has a tendency to be lazy-could do a lot better…”

Then earlier this year I came across this excellent synopsis by PedalWorks  about VO2 max and this got me into thinking how to calculate my own VO2 max using the Uth-Sorensen-Overgaard-Pedersen estimation, a method to estimate this measure of cardiovascular fitness.  My current resting heart rate & age would suggest this to be 50.9 making me “superior”.  My recent birthday present of a FitBit could even calculate this for me and this wonderful piece of tech states that my “cardiovascular fitness is ,”between 44 & 48, excellent for a man your age!”  Could it be that the last 6 years of cycling a lot had placed me in the “excellent/superior” category?  And why is there a marked difference in both measurements.  If my experience in critical care has taught me anything it is not to fully trust machines and estimations so when I was chatting to an anaesthetist during some teaching, she offered me the chance to hop on the CPET bike again to offer me something more tangible.  After all, this is considered to be “gold standard” in calculating…

VO2 max 2017

Wow! an increase in my peak VO2 max by 24% and my Lactate/anaerobic threshold more than doubled*. The lactic threshold is important if you read the first link-theoretically it means that you can go faster for longer before exhaustion when you are training to seek a marginal gain over your competitors.  Or in my case, comfortably go for a longer ride without the shortness of breath bothering me too much.

They say that these results are meaningless unless you are training for a specific target as an athlete if measured regularly but they aren’t a predictor of performance.  I would say that the cardio fitness helps in sport in general as I am able to concentrate better for longer than I used to limiting the likelihood of error.  And you may think cricket to be one of the more sedate sports but with cardio fitness comes better judgment at the batting crease during a long(ish) innings and more focus at the end of a long, hot day in the field.  I am proud of this given that I feel that I can out perform those half my age of similar ability while playing at a good standard.

And when someone says, “gee you cycle all that way to work (20km)? You must be fit…”.  Well, it’s all relative.  No I am not as fit as others who can go 100km at faster speeds than me and able to function for the rest of the day (I don’t have time for that anyway).  Yes, I can ride regularly and do a full days work without being any more tired than usual.  I’m fit because I do ride regularly when I would rather lie in a warm bed for another 30 minutes…or look for excuses not to do something that will make me slightly uncomfortable for a short period like the housework for example**.  And there’s the “thing”-it has taken me 6 years of riding my bike between 3000-5000 miles a year to improve my fitness that by 24% to an excellent level of fitness.  As Jim says, “you can’t get fit by polishing the couch with your butt”. Amen to that…

*they didn’t directly measure my blood lactate but calculated this on the measured level of carbon dioxide exceeding my oxygen intake.  This is an estimated measurement rather than an accurate measurement of lactate but still good enough for me.

**I mean really, who would rather do the ironing, 3 loads of washing and clean the floors when you can hop on a bike and go for an adventure?

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I became a Strava “athlete” sometime in 2014.  This morning’s ride into work was my 1000th cycle activity since joining.  It was an unremarkable ride along dark, wet roads which were littered with leafy sludge.  I even lost GPS signal for 2km until I stopped at the level crossing to check my speed.  This has become an annoying feature as the ride continues from where the GPS restarts leaving a flat line over the terrain from when it was lost.  I never seem to lose the signal in the same area so it is difficult to avoid.  It looks like I ride in a straight line from A to B as you can see below.  It robbed me of 1.5km.


According to Strava, 456 of these ride activities have been “commutes” since they started with these options since I can’t remember when.  I still have at least 15 years  until retirement.  How many will I clock up I wonder?

This morning I arrived into work to find that, as suspected, the heating in the Gents changing room had still not been fixed.  It’s been nearly 4 weeks so instead of wasting time to chase it up again with an already over-run Estates Dept., I used the Ladies.  I am secretly hoping that a female someone who is powerful within the organisation will complain.  This may be a more effective method than what I have been trying over the last couple of weeks but I’m not holding my breath.  Despite many attempts to support staff in healthier lifestyles, they haven’t really pushed the cycle to work idea aside from the salary sacrifice scheme so there’s little chance of that happening.  It is somewhat messier than the Gents but that’s because the cleaners use it as their storeroom.  But it is warmer so I guess that I’ll be using it until my side gets done.

Ladies change area. A warm storeroom

I’m now off to get changed for commute 457 home.  Stay safe…



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post holiday blues

The sign of a good holiday is that I fail to get my normal tenuous grip on the usual crap that I have to put up with on a day-to-day basis when I get back.  These past 3 days have shown me that yes, it was a great holiday where the only difficult decisions involved where and what to eat, beach v aqua park, how far I’m gonna ride, what local beer to buy, when to nap…

We got back early Sunday morning to cold, drab, windy UK and straight into dog sitting for a friend who has gone away for a week. This is not my friend.  My friends would know not to ask in the first instance.  What has followed has been what constitutes chaos in my world. Dirty doggy prints on the floor, constant begging for food/attention and poo bags. I don’t mind dogs but give me a cat any day, even our demented, one eyed, arthritic old bugger. At least he is quiet, makes his own hole to poo into and only requests food 2 or 3 times a day…

My regular Monday ride was abbreviated out of a need to take them for a walk and throw sticks around for their benefit. But it was good to get back onto the 29er again to acclimatise for the cold months ahead. I had to drive into work yesterday as I had left my keys in the parking lot of the local supermarket on the Monday and had to collect them before collecting the boys for footie straight after school.

While I was away enjoying myself in the warmth and sun of the Canary Islands, someone decided to store some unwanted drink dispenser machines waiting for a clean in the corridor obstructing a fire exit. They had been there a week-nobody had alerted the fire officer.  WHY they were dumped in the Medical Education building I’m not sure but with an inspection by regulators coming up shortly I have my suspicions.

It’s only partially obstructing the disabled access/exit but you can just squeeze a wheelchair past

When I open my office I discover that half of my teaching room has been dumped in my narrow office!

Just enough room to squeeze in front of my PC to clear 200 emails & fire off a couple of terse emails

Turns out that the surgeon taking a suturing session “couldn’t work” with the clutter under the work benches so bullied my colleagues into removing it into my office. The store room is already bursting, there is nowhere else. They were terribly apologetic when they saw the smoke shooting out of my ears.

After work I collected my keys and discovered that footie was cancelled. “At least my day is getting etter” I thought and then remembered Halloween, my least favourite time of year (bugger!). The over excited trick or treaters came and went. I settled down to sleep at the bonus time of 10pm in preparation for the usual Wednesday ride to work. Yes! 8 hours of rest. Bliss…

Except that some neighbours decided that setting of fire works was a good idea. The dogs went crazy and woke the house. I settled back into bed thinking of methods to exact my revenge. You can’t reason with idiots like that especially if as I suspect they are drunk-why else would you let off fireworks at that time on a school night?! It was well past 11 when I finally drifted off in a mood of frustration, anger and despair.

I awoke this morning earlier than the alarm and dozed while I decided on my plan.  Out I went with 3 eggs.  I slung them over the offending neighbours fence as I pedaled by, targeting the garage door and harder to clean high up places on the house. They’ll get the same treatment if they do it again (I know-I’m really 50 going on 14).  At least my ride was reasonably pleasant if cooler than Las Calderas last week save for the usual close passing clowns.

Always a pleasure to greet the sun after 20min on the bike

It is 7pm. I am still at work. The machines are still there, the crap is still in my office.  It was a wonderful holiday.  I can hear fire works going off.  I need to buy some eggs on the way home.  Should I get a dozen?



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Desolate beauty

I woke early again and organised myself to have cycling clothes ready and breakfast down my for a start at 8, just before sunrise. At 07.45 with the house still asleep after a late-ish night I succumbed to the need for a nap, the finish of which co-incided with a beautiful sunrise and my family awake and ready to enjoy it folowed by brekkie. Given my need to keep everyone happy, I agreed that it was probably more appropriate to allow Mrs B2W and Master 12 to go for their run before I set out. 

90min later I was on my way on a pre -planned coast to coast and back again in 2hrs ride. I headed out into town and cut onto the North Shore un-paved road across the top of the island. This was flat if a little treacherous with sand blowing across my path and making it difficult to stay up in some exposed parts. The views were lovely as the bays showed off the on-shore rollers to my right.

Faro de Toston on the northeast coast

I reached El Cotillo after a longer than anticipated time at which point I began toying with the puncture card as a way of relaying that I would be late therefore delaying the planned trip to the beach at lunch time. Once I hit the headwind on my way back via the volcanoes, I played the joker-the anticpated steep climbs were also a factor, not to mention the creaking bottom bracket on the hire bike-I had to take it slow for fear of buggering that up and walking the rest of the way…

El Corado-a particularly steep bugger to get around

The bastard headwinds plagued me all the way back apart from a helpul push up the steepest hill. It was so head-windy that gliding down the descents slowed me significantly. That’ll teach me to tell myself that a strong wind is OK as long as I’m dry and warm!

Sheltering from the wind

I can’t complain. Getting ~3hrs to myself to explore on the bike in the warm and dry  during a family holiday is more than I could have hoped for. 

Coast to coast and back again

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Lazy Wesnesday

…urgh! I wake at 08.45, too late for an early ride. My turn to make brekkie as well-its B&E sammies all round. I sit around plotting a route but agree that a round of crazy golf in the sun after an early lunch is a good idea. I card a PB on a difficult course. 

Career best 5 over par

Back to the villa for a dip in the pool. I dont fancy it even though the sun is out and feeling strong. I feel lazy. Lazy is bad. Time to get out on the bike if only for an hour tops. I head out but dont really fancy it although the views are great. But wait, the Blackcaps are in India. What’s the score? 

Another 50 runs and we could have them at our mercy

It looks bad. I won’t get back into town in time to convince the owner of any bar to put the match on before they lose-Dhoni is in, Karthick is set. I turn around and climb some more back to the villa via the Supermercado. It was the correct choice-my first tapas experience is worth it…

Mussels, snails, ribs and chicken (burp…)

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Las Calderas

If sunrise here was before 8 a.m. I would’ve been out and back with brekkie supplies for my family before then. At 4 a.m. I  woke to a mysterious stench of stale urine in our room which I am unsure why but the AC sorted that out once we switched it back on.  As I was awake, I spent a couple of hours planning today’s route on Google maps to take me around but not up some more caldera on what turned out to be some pretty well signposted trails. This was followed by a snooze on the sofa interupted by a mozzie whining around me. Turns out it had a go on my right index finger. I was only wearing my undies so it missed out on a proper party binge…

The tyres crunched up and down the biscuit base tracks consisting of stones with a gravel texture on the old lava flows of this volcanic island. They have really advertised the trails well here and it is easy to plan a route without having to join a tour provided by the many cycle hire places in town. The start to each track has some interesting info about where each track goes and the points of interest on the way.

Rutas ciclistas-they’re everywhere

I was passed by such a group on quad bikes and ate their dust as they sped past. The smart money on their nationality is that they were from somewhere other than Britain as they did pass considerately which has been a pleasant feature of my 2 rides so far…

Riding on volcanic terrain is awesome. They coluldnt be more different from the sloppy trudge through boggy brideways of Essex and Hertforshire. There is a barren, desolate beauty about them, one which makes you feel that it’s just you and the gravel. On Sunday, I saw no-one on the trails and I felt like I was the only person on the planet, let alone the island. Today was a little different. There were others but I was too slow to catch them up. Jim, you would be in gravel bike heaven here!

Desolate beauty

After 13km of crunching up and down, I reached Lajares and took a main road up to Majachinto before hitting more off-road back to Corralejo. This was pretty bumpy and rutted for the 1st half due to the high volume of car traffic getting to and from the beaches and slowed me down. This is salt marsh territory so the consistency of the road will never be great. But the views to my left of rolling surf with neighbouring Lanzarotte in the background were a welcome respite even though the cross/headwinds gave rise to the odd curse or three.

Rolling surf with Lanzarotte in the distance

Before I got to my forth type of effing curse, the desalination plant powered by wind turbines followed by the buildings of Corralejo came into view. So I knew that  another 5km I was back in tourist town resplendent in cycle lanes, courteous drivers at road crossings and a cafe was only a matter of time. 

A dip at the beach involving a lot of horsing around with the boys followed by a BBQ at the villa was a great way to end a the day. Every day is better than the last here-as long as it involves a ride around some volcanos early doors…

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