New Things.

I think it’s time to be upbeat again. It’s been a bit of weird time, but it looks like I’m moving on, at last.

I’ve done all the agency messing about. Registering one day, driving assessment another, site induction (for 2½ hours!) another, them checking my driver card, references, and criminal record. All done.

I start work on Monday.

After I passed the assessment they rang me up for availability for next week. I just said “all.” They asked what shifts I’d like. Huh? I just thought I’d be on nights. Days if at all possible. What start time window? Wow. OK, 07.00-10.00, ideally, but I’ll take owt.

They text me back with two shifts for the whole week within that window. I applied for other jobs, if they can’t get me shifts in peak there’s no point in me being there.

They text me again today, would you be willing to start at 05.00? I was willing to do nights, 05.00 is ungodly o’clock, but it’s still days. OK. They’ve given me 6 shifts for next week. Then text me back and asked if I wanted to work tomorrow. (No, because it was insufficient notice for my first shift. I’d got my mind set that I was starting Monday.)

Once I’ve done the job a few days and settled into it I’ll try and do 6 shifts/ 5 shifts (legal maximum) until the work runs out in January. This gig gives me some breathing space, has the potential to earn some decent cash, and it gets me back driving and working.

So that’s working out nicely. And after the 6 weeks of not working my foot is really loads better. I did that 2½ hours induction, walking about in my steel toecap boots, and it felt like I’d hurt the top of my foot again. It didn’t feel like the movement pain, more like a bruised feeling, but it was in the exact area of the ongoing problem. I’ve ordered some trainer style steel toe caps, to see if that stops it. Also, I forgot to say, the depot is about 2 or so miles from my front door. I will be pushbiking in to work, wearing my normal clothes and a big hi-viz coat, and won’t have to worry about getting all sweaty and needing a shower or getting changed before I can start.

Talking of cycling…

here is comes…

NEW BIKE! YAY!

I’ve got my cheapo road bike which I will still be using for riding to work and such

but the bike I’ve got on the turbo trainer just doesn’t cut the mustard.

It’s a great bike for it’s purpose, which is sitting upright and riding through mud, but I’ve moved on again. I’m going to clean it and get it on eBay. I am orientated towards triathlon now. I need to be lay low over the handlebars, which is not comfy, you have to practice to strengthen your body to hold the position. There is no point to sitting upright on the turbo and building big legs if my body won’t bend into shape on the day.

I didn’t want to go full-on tri bike to start. I did that last time, then found out the motor was rubbish.

Having a super-duper bike is worse than pointless if you aren’t good enough to ride it. It makes you look stupid as well as rubbish. “All the gear and no idea”. I wanted a road bike I could go out and ride, but one that I could also use for my race just by sticking some different handlebars on.

I was looking at a Canyon Aeroad, sleek, aero, brilliant spec, and gorgeous. And light. About 8kg as I recall. I want light as the Bolton Ironman is basically all uphill.

But they are 3 or 4 thousand for a second hand one. The cheapest I saw was a 2016 one for £1,600 and that didn’t have the aero wheels which are over a grand on their own.

Then I heard about the Boardman range. I had a Boardman road bike for my first triathlon. They are renowned for being lots of bang for your buck, but not so desirable.

I saw this.

A 2017, second hand, XS size and 7kg (!) bike with a great gearset (gears/ brakes, levers, crank) for £900. Still dear, but again I’m buying one bike that will go on the turbo, do long rides in the summer, and race. It’s all in one. I’d have to spend £400 just for a cheap bike for the turbo with the right amount of gears. The downsides are; second hand, (bit of an unknown) not in any way aero (which is throwing away free speed/ making riding 112 miles harder) and pure road bike position so a huge compromise trying to get it set up like a triathlon bike.

And then, while I was thinking in that price ballpark, I saw this:

It’s a 2019, brand new, XS, 8kg, aero, the updated version of the same great gearset, Boardman Elite Air 9.2, for £1,049.

I was torn. I asked some people on Twitter which is better for speed, (specifically involving hills) having a bike that’s a kilo lighter or aero. One guy, who has done the Bolton IM said “Comfortable is fast. You won’t notice the difference in weight. I’d get the aero one because it looks cooler.” Hahaha. Nice.

I cleared it with Wendy and got it.

I’ll not lie. I wasn’t excited. It was a tool to do the job, but it didn’t thrill me. Then it arrived. Wow. It looks so much better in the flesh. Instead of a boring white it’s a nice grey (which I expect they market as “silver”) the wheels look way more aero in real life than on the picture and it’s just a fantastic bike.

The more I found out about it the happier I got. This is the one they also sell as a triathlon bike. The seat post has four screw holes in the top so you can move the saddle forward into an aggressive triathlon position. The only difference between this model and the tri one is different handlebars. Then I re-read some reviews, the road one, I got, was retailing at a few quid short of £2,800! Mine was advertised as “New, ex display” and I’ve noticed a few, tiny, scuffs on the seat post and such, but you really have to look. What a bargain! The groupset by itself is from £700. In the sale. Wow.

I’m still in the process of finding the right settings (seat height, angle, position forward or back, getting my clip on aero bars right) but it’s an awesome bike. I did 1½ hours on the Trainer Road today and I still haven’t got it right. I’ve bought a longer stem already to give me more stretch to the handlebars. It seems whenever I get the right size frame on a road bike, it’s too short when I drop into aero. But I fixed my cheapo bike with a £10 (was is?) extension hopefully this will be the same. I’m also looking at aero bars already. It’s deep into off season, people are giving them away. There’s a set going, complete, for £23. That’s the aero bars for lying on, the normal bars for standing doing hill climbs, and it’s even got the brake levers and cables. For £23! It’s eBay so a bidding war could break out, but it’s got two days to go and nobody has bid on it yet.

Once I’ve got the full set up I can get a professional bike fit. Take the guess work out of it. Once the bike is set correctly to me, it’s up to me to get used to it.

Then it’s train, train, and train some more.

A few points. Even though my damned obsessive thing (pushbike, in this instance) was making my life a misery (up till gone midnight googling bikes, as soon as I got up in the morning 2 hours more searching) I cleared it with Wendy first. If she’d have thought we couldn’t have afforded it I wouldn’t have got it. There are limits even to my monumental self absorption . We’ve still got thousands in the bank, I haven’t just blow all our share/save money after getting myself sacked. Even if there’s absolutely zero work in January, we won’t go short. (The lady doth protest too much.)

Also, everyone refers to bike weight in kilos, which is why I’m using it, I’ve not converted to French.

In some fantastic news I nearly overlooked (you forget when it’s not wasting you) I really think I might be coming to the end of the plague weakness. I still get a bit weak, here and there, but it’s not the “lay down and inhale all the calories” weakness I was getting. I really hope I’m right on this. It’s only a few weeks ago I had got to the stage where I was resigned to it being for life, and I was thinking I might have to quit all my sports. The weakness now is just an echo. It’s irritating rather than debilitating. Fingers crossed. We still get the sore throat and such, but again, that’s just a bother, it doesn’t impinge on your life. Following on from that, I am actually holding down a diet! This is the first time I’ve lasted more than a few days. I used to be able to cut out sweets and just run off the excess calories. I was never slim, but I didn’t get too chunky. Nearly 3 months of no running and I’ve had to take action. It was impossible to maintain the diet when the plague struck, but now I’m managing to (slowly) lose weight. Huzzah!

So, it’s all change. And all good. I want more of this.

Update:

I had an idea about the bike position. I moved the arm rests forward by about 2 inches, adjusted the seat angle, yet again, and I think I’ve cracked it. It was just the bars/ arm rests being too near the saddle. I’ve found a reasonably comfortable position. Once my longer stem arrives that should sort it. Sadly half way through the workout the arm rest snapped off my old bolt-on tri bars, so I’ve had to raise the handlebars to a road bike position again until I can replace them. There is way too much weight thrown forward onto your arms otherwise.

I thought after yesterday’s ride, today’s looked easy.

All of it below my FTP (max sustainable power). Caught out again. It was 10 minute warm up, then 7x 10 minute blocks, all near my FTP, then 10 minutes warm down. It doesn’t sound like much, only 1½ hours ride, all below FTP. But the thing is there are no easy bits. On a turbo trainer you can’t freewheel or slack off to catch your breath. It’s constant, relentless effort. Following a training plan has made me realise why I never got better for my triathlons. Even though I was commuting 22 miles a day for over a year at one point. I was always putting in the same effort, which I thought was a good effort. It’s nothing like what the training plans expect of me. They don’t ask too much of me, but I never asked even half enough of myself. I was always leaving a ton in the tank. I’m still in the ‘building endurance and fitness’ stage of the first block, of the beginner level, of the training plan and already it’s pushing me harder than I pushed myself. Brilliant. I really think this could work for me (depending on me being able to train around whatever job I eventually get). Which is something else I have thought about, with these 05.00 starts, even if I did 12 hour shifts I could still fit in training before bed. Possibly, while this job lasts, this has worked out ideally, despite not being what I requested. If I’d have started at 09.00 it would have been too early (the turbo and my gasping for air can be noisy) for me to train at say 06.30 (at least without Wendy beating me to death with a rolled up Good Word, or whatever) and too late at say 22.00 for the neighbours.

The swimming baths are opening again on Wednesday, and it’s my 3 month test run on my dodgy hoof on the 10th. Realistically, I think it will be the next 3 month test run before I’m fully healed, but it’s worth a very gentle test. If a training plan can do this for bike strength and speed, I’m going to be all over the run and swim plans.

Right, I’ve waffled enough.

Time for some Dinos then I’m out of here.

And some kids asked to imagine life at 40 years old.

So, if you’ve made it past 40, well done.

Stay safe,

Buck.

Looking for the opportunity

Well, I hung on until the end in the hope that I was wrong, but no, I’m sacked. As that was what I was expecting I got on with the jobs I’d already considered. I won’t be able to afford to continue paying in to the share/save schemes so I cancelled the one that matures next year, and the one after that.

I’d read in the terms and conditions that you can carry on paying into the scheme if you no longer work for the company, and I have one that only has 3 more monthly payments until it matures. That one was looking at making a £1,700 profit, so I was keen to keep it going. I rang up to see how I could pay the final payments myself. I finally got an answer (cut off from the ‘phone after 20 minutes, twice from online chat after 30 minutes).

No.

What?

If you’ve been dismissed you are not able to continue payments.

3 payments short. If I’d have walked out on Friday I’d be making a £1,700 profit in March (share maturity.)

So gutted. I hadn’t even considered that. I thought I knew what was happening and didn’t think I had anything to lose by sticking it out in the hope I’d somehow, maybe, keep my job. Instead it feels like they are kicking me while I’m down.

I found that out yesterday, so I’ve had time to process it. The positive view is I don’t lose a penny, I’ll get all my savings back, just when I might end up needing them. And it’s good that we’ve accrued savings.

So, that part of my working life is over. Draw a line under it, have a bit of a sad face, move on.

I’ve applied for a 4 on 4 off job on containers at Manchester. I’ve worked for the company before on the agency. They have 5 shift jobs advertised as well, but they want you to max out your hours, so 4 days could be a 56 hours. I’d already applied to the one I really want, £17per hour, days, in Liverpool. Seen another Scouse job and applied for that. Those are full time jobs. I’ve also registered with two agencies.

In other positive news, I was suffering with saddle pain on long rides on my trainer. I happened across a review of a saddle, supposed to be the most comfortable saddle for triathlon and tucking into the aero position. OK, let me at it! I’ve been in so much pain at the end of the bike leg of a triathlon I felt like crying. Googled it, £160! For a saddle! No way. I looked on eBay and saw one for £90. Still steep but if it stops the misery… Then I saw another, £40! I put my bid sniper on, but no-one else bid. Got it for £40. Absolute steal.

Also training related, I’ve been struggling for 6 weeks trying to get my fancy pants trainer to link up properly with The Sufferfest. I’ve got it so it mostly works right, in one mode, but you still can’t do the fitness test on it (other mode). Then I heard about Trainer Road. It’s a boring version of Sufferfest. Do 10 minutes at X power/ rpm, then 5 minutes XX, one minute rest, 5 minutes XX, etc. But instead of the Sufferfest videos shouting, shaming and cajoling the last watt of power out of you, it’s just the block graph. 10min, 5 min, 1 min, 5 min. Do it or don’t.

What got me interested was a vlog by a skinny, full-on cyclist man who was coming in at 224W (Watts, obvs), did a plan with Trainer road for 3 months, tested at 288W! That is a huge gain. I was sticking with the Sufferfest because I like it, and I reckon it would be a long time before I max out it’s potential. But then I did another session and my trainer just wasn’t having it. Again. I couldn’t complete the workout and I was miffed. I googled it, the Sufferfest/Direto (my model of trainer) is know to be a bad match, with plenty of problems. When I googled Trainer Road/ Direto there was nothing.

I signed up yesterday. They don’t give a free trial period unfortunately, but I thought it was worth the £15 risk for the month. And I was feeling low, so setting it all up distracted me.

Anyway I tried it today. Perfect.

It. Just. Works.

I had to buy a separate power meter to get an accurate fitness test on the Sufferfest, and that wasn’t 100%. I did the fitness test on Trainer Road (just the trainer, without the separate power meter) and it was perfect. In both modes. Flawless.

There are a bunch of reviews on the site from professional athletes saying that the thousand plus training plans will make you faster. It looks like I’m a Trainer Road guy now. Not as much fun, but genuinely structured workout plans solely designed to make you stronger and faster. We’ll see. I’ve written down the result of my first fitness test on there today. Sadly, they say 172W (Sufferfest had me at 199 a few days ago). Assuming I can train around whatever my next job is, I’ll check back in 3 months.

The other, actually great news, is that even though I’ve carried on training, I’ve had a few days now with no plague weakness at all. That’s brilliant. Not because I’m fooling myself that it won’t come back, but because it disproves a direct correlation between exercise and weakness. I can keep training!

And, to top it all off, my foot is actually getting better. I’ve taken off the support tape for 24 hours, for the first time in months, and my foot isn’t hurting. It’s still twinging a tiny amount, but previously when I tried to take tape off it was throbbing by the end of the day. It’s still 3 weeks until my first test run (3 months no running!) but even if it that doesn’t do it, I’ve got strong hopes for the 6 month test.

Also good, in a slightly worrying way, I’ve just found out that although all the swimming baths are closed, you can still swim in Pickmere Lake. One of my Twitter chums is a keen outdoor swimmer and he was telling me the score. You just pop along in a big robe thing, get changed into your wetsuit under it, attach an inflatable float to your waist (which has a dry pouch for keys and ‘phone) and off you go. That sounds like ideal practice. And the float thing doubles as a life saver if you get cramp or too tired. I wish I’d have know about that last time I was doing lake and sea swims.

I don’t know when I’m going to get around to that. I need the practice, and it would be great to have no-one in my way, so I could learn the drills. But it’s going to be bracing even in a wetsuit. I should suck it up. Another Twitter person, a woman, was doing outdoor swims in just her swimming costume not long back. I need to try it out. Get over the many obstacles I’m putting in my way and just do it. Once I’ve done it once it’s just something I can do.

One other thing, I came across this Italian road on the Sufferfest, Colle Delle, apparently. Instantly wanted to ride it. It’s heading over the Alps to France. I asked Wendy if she fancied a French holiday next year, with a bit of cycling for me. Said we’d better learn some lingo. I told her about Duolingo but she was reluctant. I put the app on her ‘phone for her to give it a go. She’s missed a bunch of her programmes because she won’t put it down. Hahaha. That was an easy sell.

Here’s the road.

Another striking image is one I used to have on my ‘phone and have recently come across again.

In an effort to steal my thunder Dominic Cummings, the nazi spin doctor and Brexit strategist, got sacked slightly before me.

His puppet immediately went back into hiding.

Having cleared up that confusion Twitter sorted another thorny issue.

Before I threw in the towel with The Sufferfest I ordered this rather splendid T shirt.

And, my favourite, the Dinosaurs.

And a random dog.

Right, out of here.

Later,

Buck.

Limbo Dancing.

I’m still in limbo at work. I’ve faced the music, and danced, three or four times now. It’s getting irksome.

Tomorrow, I should get my official sacking. Again. I just wish they would hurry up about it. If I was to keep my job that would obviously be the best outcome, but that is a vanishingly remote chance. Unless they’ve decided to change the company policy, and I’m the first driver to whom it has been applied, I’m sacked. Sad, but let’s get on with it.

My training has been up and down. As I’ve been off work I’ve managed to stick to my Sufferfest training programme. Yoga, strength training, mental toughness, and the bike.

My weight loss has been a work in progress. Or rather how I go about it is a work in progress. I’ve revised my expectations and my plan. Now I’m trying damage limitation on plague weakness days, diet on normal days. I started at 11 stone 5, and I want to get back to 10 stone. It may take a while. After losing 5lbs in the first week, the plague weakness struck and I put 2 back on. I’m slowly edging down again. I’m 10.12 now.

It’s not just a vanity thing. I’m training for a triathlon that has 7,700 feet of elevation changes so I need powerful legs. I’ve been reading up on what constitutes good watts (power) for a cyclist. The answer is “It’s not that simple”. On the flat a 12 stone rider putting out, say 250W will thrash a 9 stone rider putting out 220W. But as soon as you come to a hill the lighter person will waste the chubster.

“To illustrate this, let’s compare power requirements of a 70kg and 80kg rider riding a 6kg road bike up a hill of seven per cent gradient at 16kph (10mph) in still winds. Using data on rolling and aerodynamic resistance, we can calculate that an 80kg rider would have to maintain an average power output or around 298W. The 70kg rider would only need to average 266W to ride up the same hill at the same speed on the same bike.”

A few articles state that for hill climbing you want to pushing the least possible weight against gravity. They say it might cost thousands of pounds, or even be impossible, to lose a 10lbs/ 4.5 kilos (or in my case 19lbs/ 8.6 kilos) off a bike, it cost nothing to lose that off your blubber.

A quick comparison.

My cheapo Decathlon “comfortable” road bike is a smidge under 10 kilos.

The carbon fibre (light), top spec gears, version is 7.8 kilos and £2,000

That’s just under 5lbs of weight for 2 grand. Or to put it another way, in the first week of my diet I saved £2,000! (To be honest, there’s more to the bike than that, it has lighter, deeper wheels so less aero drag, it has a proper stretched out racing shape so easier to stay in an aero riding position and pump power, etc.)

I digress, I was going to say it seems power isn’t measured by pure watts, but by watts per kilo. So my first (inaccurate) ride of the Sufferfest fitness test (4DP) when I was 11 stone 5, put my FTP (Functional Threshold Power, = sustainable max) at 154W. Or 2.16W/K

I’ve just got a proper power meter and did an accurate 4DP test yesterday. This time I was 10 stone 12 and FTP 199W, which is 2.88W/K. Without getting any stronger, when I get to my target weight I’ll be 3.13W/K. Considering that’s likely to be 2 months, I expect to have a bunch more watts as well by then.

I was watching a vlog of this young man, skinny cyclist build, mad for his bikes, saying he had a FTP of 225W. He did a three month training plan on the Trainer Road (like Sufferfest but without the fun) and went to 288 watts! I’ve got about 19 months before Bolton. I’ve just been found a cycling comparison site, and it says if I could get to 280W and 10 stone (63.5 kilos) which would make me 4.4W/K, I would be in the top 12% of cyclists!

Now that is something to aim for! I’m already in the ‘not bad’ group for running, (or was) with plans to break into benchmark territory, if I got to be a good cyclist as well.. Wow.

Which just leaves the swimming. There are no pools open, but I’ve just heard you are still allowed to swim in Pickmere Lake. Literally only found out a few hours ago, so I’ll have to recce and see where I am. It will have to be at a time when Wendy isn’t using the car, probably. But the opportunity is there for proper wetsuit swimming. It’s a bit scary (freezing cold winter swimming, and I don’t know the drill. Parking, access, swimming) but as the Sufferfest say, look for the opportunity.