Sunday, November 6, 2011


The Road is Long...

This blog is about bikesandbuildings.... However, please forgive me if I diverge off track a little- it will come back to bikes, but for now a little background:

Back at the start of this year I was due to ride 750km in 3 days for charity. Unfortunately, a mash{ed} palm meant I had to withdraw at the last minute and cancel. At the time I was keen to honour the people who'd sponsored me with an event equally difficult. Pretty soon the rugby 7's came around and whilst under the influence of considerable alcohol I was offered a provisional place on a team for November's annual Oxfam Trailwalker event. I said "yes".

The Profile is Spiky

As someone not famed for my walking ability (people often ask if I'm limping when there is nothing wrong with me, and a masseuse once asked me "what is wrong with your legs?") the idea of attempting to walk 100km from coast to coast in Hong Kong over a course profile that blows apart anything the UK has to offer (4500m cumulative elevation for a start) seemed something beyond a mere challenge, this was (drink induced) madness! To give you an idea of where I'm coming from, if I ran 5km on the flat I would ache for quite a few days when I signed up for this. Clearly I would have to try and rapidly change my physiology and conditioning to adapt for such an event.

The Sky is High

Over the past 6 months I have been incorporating more and more running mileage into what is obviously a bike led routine for me. I've also been getting out on 15-25km hikes in a bid to adapt to hills and toughen my feet. I am on pair of trainers number 5 in a bid to find the perfect pair. But slowly, surely, I think I might have got there. Having hauled my way around 50km of an easier route (only 1100m climbing) last weekend, yesterday I did half of the Maclehose trail over the toughest middle section, including 2850m of climbing, finishing in the dark after being out for just over 11hrs. Having done the last 8km without food or water and with a taped up blister giving me a bit of a hobble I was obviously suffering, but in actual fact my legs felt reasonable and the idea of carrying on into the night was grim, but not beyond comprehension. 

The Sun will Set (and we'll be halfway)

So, how does this relate to bikes? Well, on a base training level there are a number of mantras that apply to any sport that I've had to apply to this progression:
  • If you're coming from nowhere (injury / lay-off / new to the sport) don't expect to get there quickly. Build up slow, add the mileage and don't do too much too soon- this will only lead to injury.
  • Good kit makes a difference- as with bikes, fit and comfort trump fancy features.
  • It's hard, but it is rewarding.
Furthermore, there are some observations specific to cyclists that I thought I would share:
  • We have strong hearts and lungs, with legs that will easily go up hill. You will leave walkers behind going uphill and you will think it is easy compared with climbs when you push it on the bike. What is hard, and what we are rubbish at, is going downhill.
  • The muscles we have adapted for pushing on pedals are in direct conflict with the muscles required for back-pedaling (obviously) and there is a direct parallel with the uphill / downhill thing. If you've ever ridden a fixed gear you will notice some muscles hurt a lot more than usual the day after. I believe these are the same as those that will hurt for days after a serious hilly hike.
So, will all this make me a stronger biker? As yet I have no idea- I'm usually too busy trying to recover from a hill walking workout to be able to go full out on the bike, and the number of biking training hours has taken a serious hit as I ramp up to the Maclehose event in just 2 weeks time. We shall see- I expect short term probably not, but hopefully long terms I will be stronger and more muscularly balanced as a result. Whatever, the priority right now for me is to try and survive 24hrs of walking hell. 

If you would like to contribute you can use the gadget on the top right of this page which I set up for the Thai event, or you can open your wallet for Oxfam and have a look at what this training has done for my feet here: