Author: 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).



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.



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.

Week 3

Things have taken a turn for the pear shaped.

I’ve managed to keep up all my Sufferfest training. Mental toughness, yoga and the actual bike training. But my weight loss stalled. The plague weakness is making it impossible for me to stop shoving food in my gob.

I’m trying to take a revised view of my plans. Try not to eat too much on weak days, (tons of fruit and veg to try to bulk out) then make gains (or rather, losses) on the better days.

In the first week I lost 5lbs, since then I’ve regained 2 and lost a 2 more. I got up to 11.5, today I was 10.12.

It going in the right direction.

Obviously there has been no swim training due to the lockdown.

I gave in this week and bought a power meter so I can do the fitness test (4DP) on the Sufferfest, accurately.

I did it today. An hour’s beasting, containing within it 2x 5 second max efforts, a 5 minute max effort, a 20 minute max effort, and a 1 minute max effort.

Individually not too terrible, one after the other… wow.

The inaccurate power reading I’ve been going off had my maximum sustainable effort as 154W (measured over 20 minutes) today I held it to 199W. I think I had a bit more in the tank. Slight gearing issues (had to set the other bike up on the trainer and change the gear cassette, don’t think I did it right) meant I dropped into no-gear a few times, and had to quickly build my power back up again. Also the power meter is fitted to the left hand crank arm. If you’re right handed I assume you put more power through your right leg,so I had to keep remembering to concentrate on my left leg stroke. Otherwise I was working just as hard but my left was just carrying the power round from my right, so it wasn’t registering.

Anyway, that’s nearly a third increase in my power settings going forward. Which puts me at 2.88 W/Kilo, for the same power I’ll be 3.13 W/Kilo when I’m down to 10 stone.

I was watching a vlog from some young guy, looked like a mad-for-it cyclist, said he’d started a 3 month training plan with Trainer Road (a no frills training app) and had gone from 224W to 286W!

I’ll stick with the Sufferfest to get myself fit and used to pushing through the pain. I really like the way they beast the best out of me. But when I get fit enough I’ll try the Trainer Road.

The Sufferfest has videos with a story, and loads of encouraging messages, that cajole and demand greater efforts from you. And it has a sense of humour, which good in the dark places. The Trainer Road has nothing. It’s just a rolling bar chart. This much power at this many revs for this long. Times however many.

Apparently there are thousands of different training plans, and lots of top people recommend it, but it looks as dull as ditch water. I’ll see what sort of gains I make in 3 months on the Sufferfest, then give it a go.