Hethersett 30/60

Time for an update on my Adventures in Cycling, I think. Mainly because I completed the Hethersett 30/60 (er, the 30 rather than the 60) at the weekend.

Firstly, my stats. I’m not doing as well as last year. My Enormous Geek Cycling Spreadsheet of Awesome Numbers tracks my miles and cross-checks it against how I was doing at this time last year, and the sums say that at the moment, I’m 51 miles down.

Thankfully, that’s redeemable and with good weather I can catch up in a week or two. The main problem was that last year the weather in January and most of February was pretty good – cold, windy, and a bit wet – but not bad. This year, we’ve had weeks of snow and weeks of gales. Last April was rubbish though, and this April (so far) has been mostly great, so that’s where I can make amends. I’m also not been cycling my best times (well, except see later…), but that’s also partly down to weather.

Hethersett 30/60

Hethersett 30/60 MedalTaking part in the Hethersett ride marked my first proper sportive. Sure, I did the Ride for Life last year, but that wasn’t really the same – it was a charity event and mainly aimed at casual riders, although I’d probably class myself as more than a casual rider these days. This was a bit more serious with proper actual cyclists. I did wonder how I’d keep up.

The forecast for the day was mixed. It was warm, but very windy – blowing north. The event had already been postponed from three weeks prior partly due to similar wind conditions, compounded by recent snow, sub-zero temperatures, and ice. Thankfully it was just the wind this time around.

But hoooo – what wind. The first half of the 30 mile route (or rather, the first 13.5 miles until the rest stop) were almost entirely going south. As in, the opposite to north. 40mph wind in my face, pretty much all the way. A few short sections ran east or west, which gave a little respite but had their own problems with side winds that almost toppled me twice (and did topple some people, it seems).

7 or 8 miles in we hit a slight uphill incline too, so wind and hill combined to make progress incredibly slow. Thankfully, I, along with a few other riders, combined to form an ad-hoc peloton which made things do-able, if still really difficult. I even took the lead a couple of times and we worked together as a team. It was a fantastic experience. Sadly, near the end it broke up due to a few members needing to stop (one had a puncture too) and we got too strung apart. Still, it felt great to be a part of it.

After the rest stop, things went great. The remaining 17 miles were almost all downhill with the wind, so I completely stormed it home. In fact, I did those 17 miles 8 minutes faster than the previous 13.5. I flew past countless other riders, and ate up the miles. I was rewarded with a pile of new personal bests, including stripping more than two minutes off my best 10 miles time, and improving both my 20km and one hour bests.

I also had a minor gloat as I passed the Mulbarton Women’s Velo team twice (once before the rest stop, once after). Childish, yes, but gave me a boost at the time. Actually, overall, I passed far more people than overtook me, so I think I did pretty well really.

That wind though – my legs have not forgiven it.

The Pound-a-Mile Challenge 2012 – Final Scores

With 2012 at an end, and 2013 begun, it’s time to look back at how my cycling/game spending hybrid challenge went. Surprisingly well, as it turned out.

poundamile2012My original plan was to cycle 900 miles in the year, to cover my expected game expenditure at a rate of one pound for every mile cycled. Hence the name “Pound-a-Mile”. I hit this early, and extended the target to 1000 miles, and then again to 1250. As of the 31st December, I’d managed a total of 1258.16 miles – just over that target. Phew!

On the spending side of things, despite buying a Wii U last year, I still didn’t come close to wiping out my “credits” – with £423.68 left in the bikebank. I’m pleased with that!

In fact, it could have been even further. It wasn’t lack of drive that stopped me cycling a good few hundred more miles, but a number of things. Firstly, I had a bout of labyrinthitis around Easter time, which took me out for the best part of a month. Cycling when dizzy would not be a clever plan. Later in the year I got a chest infection, which dragged on and on and on (and I got some excellent hallucinations from the tablets for it) for over a month, meaning I couldn’t cycle as I simply couldn’t breathe.

bikecrashThere were two months of almost solid rain, which hampered going out a bit. Not so much the rain itself (I’d cycle in drizzle), but more the state of the roads for days after so much rain – they were literally flooded, with mud. I stupidly went out on my road bike too soon after a few days rain, and slipped in the mud. My first crash, and my leg was shredded like the road had been sandpaper. I had to go back to my old Apollo Highway for a few months until everywhere dried off. Months later, I still have scars and keep picking bits of grit out of my calf.

Importantly though, I’m still really enjoying cycling. A bit less so when I have to use my old bike, but riding round the countryside on a sunny day is one of my favourite things these days. I’ve improved massively, feel fitter, and am really pleased with my progress.

I don’t think the cycling has curbed my spending (a post on that soon) as I’ve spent only slightly less than the previous year, but in the end it wasn’t about the money – it was just about the miles. Because of that, I’m not going to be doing the Pound-a-Mile in 2013. I’ll still track my spending, and I’ll still have a target number of miles (I’m going to say 1250 again at the moment – this may change), but with no big purchases planned for the year, unlike the Wii U in 2012, I don’t think there’s really any point. It was a fun experiment, and for the first month or so at least, it pushed me to cycle more, but after that my expenditure figure was little more than a number way behind my milage.

Pound-a-Mile Update

So, it’s time for an update, I think. How do you think things have gone?

Well, a lot of things have happened. Most importantly, I bought a new bike. Oh yes. Even though my Apollo Highway hybrid was still under a year old, I was fed up with the shocking build quality and after a snapped chain, snapped axle, bent wheel, twisted cogs, and it never, ever, changing gears smoothly enough regardless of how much they were adjusted, cleaned, and sent back to Halfords, I’d had enough. At first I thought it was me, that I wasn’t “riding it right”, or not looking after it, but no – I just don’t think it was up to it.

Also, the main reason I bought a hybrid was because I didn’t know if I’d like road or off-road cycling. A hybrid does both, so it was the perfect choice, but I found I rarely used it off-road, and when I did it was pretty good dirt track rather than anything approaching an MTB route. I decided I needed something closer to a road bike.

I saw a Giant Rapid 3 cheap (it was a 2011 model, so in a clearance) and after much umming and ahhing, went for it. And I’m so glad I did, as it’s a billion times better than the Highway. Narrow tyres (25mm vs the 35mm of the Highway) and a much lighter aluminium frame, with carbon forks, both make it so much faster. It’s still not a full road bike, but it only really lacks the drop bars – something I’m not too sure about yet.

On my first ride out on it, being wary not to push it due to the tyres being so much thinner than I’d been used to, I managed to take almost two minutes off my previous best time for the same 5.4 mile route, and rode at almost 2mph faster. My average speed for my Highway rides was around 12.5mph, but now I’m usually riding at 15.5mph. Sure, it’s still not proper fast, but it is much faster.

I’m also finding hills far, far easier (although there’s still one that eludes me – it is my nemesis and one day it will be defeated), probably due to both better gearing and a bike a third of the weight of my old one. And I’ve got better and fitter, of course. You should see my massive thighs now.

All this is interesting (or not), but how well have I actually been doing? Very well, thanks.

A couple of weeks after getting the Rapid, I went out for a 37 mile ride with some friends. We stopped off a few times, but I was amazed how easy it was. Since then, my usual rides have increased in length, with longer rides being more frequent. At the start of September I managed to do just over 100 miles in a single week, when previously it had taken three weeks or so to hit that.

I’ve been getting faster too. Last year, my fastest 10 miles was 52:16. Last weekend I did 10 miles in 34:45. Sure, new bike but it’s still a 5 minute improvement over my first 10 miles on the Rapid! My fastest 1 mile is now 2:53 – a full minute faster than last year’s best, and my best hour is now 16.6 miles – 5.5 miles better than 2011. Frankly, I’m amazed at myself.

Finally, the scores. How far have I gone this year?

You may recall that I estimated I’d need £900 for game spends this year. I wanted enough miles to “buy” a Wii U and some games when it came out. At the time, there wasn’t a launch date, although near the end of the year was highly likely, or a price, which I suspected about £200. Since then, a release date of November 30th and a price of around (it depends on the model and retailer) £250 have been confirmed. With the games I want (there’ll be another post on that after the Eurogamer Expo), £400 isn’t going to be far from the total. At the time of writing, I’ve already spent £368 (I’ve never gone into the red, by the way). That means, by November 30th, I’ll need to have cycled at least 768 miles.

Today I hit 1000 miles. Already. Awesome.

Exporting routes from Endomondo (and using them in Google Maps)

I love Endomondo, but one thing it doesn’t do is let you export routes you’ve created and use them in other applications and things like Google Earth and Google Maps.

Sure, you can export workouts as both tcx and gpx files, but that means you need to have actually cycled the route first before you can export it. In my route planning, I like to create the rough route in Endomondo, then stick that in Google Maps and look for nearby pubs and stuff, editing the original route if needed (you need pub stops, right?), and usually it’s when I haven’t cycled the route that I need to do this.

So I found a way of doing it. Basically, you draw the route, then manually create a workout – attaching the route in the process. You can then export this workout and stick it into Google Maps:

Of course, if you want to use Google Earth, just drag the gpx file into that without uploading it anywhere. You also might want to delete the workout you just created from Endomondo so it doesn’t screw up your stats!

Pound-a-Mile Update – 500 Miles!

I’ve not done an update on this for a while, but since I hit a milestone last night I thought I should. Yesterday I passed the 500 miles cycled so far this year mark!

OK, so I managed 200 miles in the first month, then took 3.5 times that long to go just 1.5 times that far, but bear with me and my excuses. Firstly, I have tried to go out – honest. Nearly every week I’ve at least gone out a few times, although the glory days of a daily ride are long gone. However, I have generally been cycling further and faster when I have been out, so that makes up for it a bit.

The problems I’ve had include the weather (in particular, half of February was dreadful), my bike (the rear axle snapped, so I was without it a week while it was repaired) and two bouts of illness (including a lengthy spell of labyrinthitis – which wasn’t nice). However, where I couldn’t get out and it was practical, I did hit the exercise bike instead. Sure, it’s not the same, and I opted to not let the mileage from that count towards my goal, but had I done so then I could add another 120 or so miles to that 500, making it around 120 miles a month rather than 85-ish.

Anyway! Excuses are excuses.

Some good news: the weather is (generally) improving now, so I’m getting out a bit more often again. As I said, I’m also riding further – in January I’d usually go 4-5 miles a day, now it’s 8-10. I’ve also cycled 12 and 15 miles a few more times, and last Saturday I really went for it and managed 25.7. I was very pleased with myself. My general fitness has really improved too, with my “recovery time” after a ride now being virtually nil, and I’m able to maintain average speeds of 13.5mph+ rather than 11.5/12. Yes, it’s still not fast, but these are comfortable rides, not races. I’m also coping much better with hills.

Finally, there’s the fact that this Sunday I’m doing a charity cycle ride. It’s 19 miles, and even though I did 25 last weekend, I’m still not sure it’s going to be easy. Not least because the forecast is wind and rain, but also because I suspect the 25 miles one was a bit of a fluke. We’ll see!

In terms of “spending” my miles, I’m doing well. As in, I’ve only spent half of them. At the time of writing this means I have £250 in the cycle bank for my Wii U, if it comes out this year. Unfortunately, my Xbox 360 is slowly dying a painful death so I might need a new one of them sooner than that!

Pound-a-Mile Update – 200 Miles!

When I started this, I really didn’t think I’d manage 200 miles in a year. Not without a struggle, anyway. Yet somehow, I’ve hit 200 miles in just my first month. 207.87 miles, to be more precise.

Not only that, but I’ve also forced myself to cycle every day so far this year. OK, so one of those days was on an exercise bike due to my inner tube literally EXPLODING and I didn’t have a spare, but still. And I didn’t even count those exercise bike miles in my total. I am, frankly, utterly amazed with myself.

In addition, my best time for 10 miles has dropped from a 52m16 to 44m02, I’ve increased my average ride in the week from 4 miles to almost 7 a day, and have managed my first 15 mile ride (on the 21st of January). I’m feeling much fitter for it as well, and my recovery time after most rides is now virtually nil. I’m even managing hills much more easily than previously, to the point where the gentler of inclines may as well be flat now.

I’m also signing up for a couple of organised rides later in the year – certainly something I never imagined myself doing! And last week, I bought wet lube. Really. For my chain, if you’re wondering.

Pound-a-Mile Update – 100 Miles!

Last night was cold and dark and cold. And dark. But mainly cold. So cold that the roads had started to freeze over while I was out on the bike, making junctions and corners much slower than normal and I generally just had to be more careful.

However, despite all this, I took my “miles cycled to date this year” figure to just over 100 miles. That’s 103 miles in 17 days – and yes, I’ve managed a bike ride every day so far. I’m also way ahead of the target 17.5 miles a week, coming up to around 45 instead, which is way better than I could have imagined.

Of course, I’ve been pretty lucky with the weather up to now. Very little rain, and certainly no snow as yet. When that happens, I’m not going to be out on the bike for obvious reasons. At least I’m building up a decent bank of miles now, anyway.

There has been a physical effect on me for all this cycling. I expected it, but not so soon. My legs have… changed. My calves, and to a lesser extent my thighs, have become rock solid. There are muscles where muscles didn’t used to be. My recovery time (in terms of breath, rather than leg-ache) after a ride has now dropped to virtually nothing – even after cycling in the cold. And, of course, I’m finding it easier: I’m able to ride a bit faster, and am able to cover longer distances more frequently.

As an example, there’s a regular 4.7 mile route I take. Last year, it was taking me about 26 minutes to cover, and that was in the light and nice weather. I can now do that route and an extension to it (taking me up to about 6.3 miles) in the same time – in the dark, cold, and wind. If that’s not an improvement, I don’t know what is.

Yes, I’m only just over a couple of weeks in, there’s plenty of time for things to all go wrong, and I’m still a long way off “properly fast” and such, but I’m astounded on a daily basis of how much I’ve improved so quickly.

Oh yeah, and Super Mario 3DS Land was well worth 22 Miles 🙂


Pound-a-Mile First Week

So, I’ve had 8 days of the Pound-a-Mile challenge. My legs hurt. In a good way, though. I think.

In those 8 days, I have already blown my required 17.5 miles-a-week average out of the water, cycling over 50 miles. OK, that’s 8 days not 7, but still. It was 40 on the 7th day anyway. And you know what? I’ve enjoyed it. Sure, I’ve not enjoyed the oh-god-its-2-degrees-outside, 25-mph-winds-WHATness of last week, but after a couple of miles on each trip I was into it and enjoying it. Which is good, right?

I decided to treat myself by spending 22 miles on a copy of Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS. Hurrah!