I’ve ridden quite a bit in the last year. Last October I rode more than 600 km as part of the Great Cycle Challenge (which I will probably do again this year). I rode over 4,500 km in 2018. I climbed more than 41,000 metres. 263 hours in the saddle.
This isn’t a lot for some people, and that’s exactly what I want to write about: Challenging People.
I don’t mean people who are difficult to deal with. I mean people who challenge you to do more/better/faster/longer. I’m surrounded by people who climb hills faster, descend faster, ride further, ride longer. To the extent where when I’ve been for a 90 km ride, or been for a ride where I’ve climbed 1,000 metres, and I tell people about it (which I do like doing because it’s a good source of praise), I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything special. The achievement, something which many would consider to be big (or even impossible), has been completely normalised/trivialised.
I don’t think this is a bad thing – it’s helping me push myself to ride further and faster.
This all came to me when I was listening to a podcast by Adam Spencer (I was riding up the Patrick Joncker Veloway at the time). He was interviewing an ultra-marathoner, Michael Hull, who fell into being an ultra-marathoner partly by accident/serendipity, because he was surrounded by endurance athletes in his teens, and it was the norm. The details might be a bit fuzzy beacuse it’s a long time since I listened to the podcast, but I think it went something like that. There’s a link to the podcast at the bottom of the page.
I didn’t surround myself with challenging people intentionally. It just happened, and I’m really glad it did. I’ve challenged myself significantly in the last 12 months, both mentally and physically, and I don’t think I would have had I not had these challenging people in my life.
Now – this has covered the adjective definition of challenging, but there’s also the verb definition. I hope that I’m also challenging people when I talk about what I’ve done. I’m hoping that while I’m telling people about my achievements (and getting a bunch of praise for it), it’s also pushing someone to try something new. Try to ride further than normal. Up a steeper hill than normal.
I think if everyone had challenging people in their life, and spent time challenging people, we’d all achieve more. And achieving feels good.
I wonder how many thousand posts have been written in the last week about what changes people implement in their lives in 2019. They seem to be quite widely derided on Twitter, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me. It’s Twitter after all. A place mostly filled with grumpy, shouty people who complain about everything. But I think it’s a logical time of year to try to implement a major change – especially weight and health related. We’re 357 days away from Christmas, which is traditionally a food and drink heavy time of year. Easter is 15-ish weeks away, which also has some pretty delicious foods. So starting afresh in the new year seems like a good idea, because of the temporal distance to difficult times, and not just because it’s an arbitrary “we’re now in this spot in our orbit around the sun so I’m going to change…this time for sure”.
I have a few plans for this year, and I’m going to try to give them until Christmas 2019 before I re-evaluate how it’s going. No quick fixes. No shortcuts. No unrealistic expectations. My plan, beyond the immovable foci of work and (extended) family, is to focus on my fitness (mental and physical), my weight, and creativity.
For fitness, I think I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, with a few tweaks. I love cycling and it helps my mental wellbeing as well as my physical, so I’m going to keep riding my bikes. Last year I managed a bit over 4,000 km of cycling. I’d like to crack the 5,000 km mark in 2019.
Cycling is gloriously meditative for me and it gives me time to process a lot of things, but it’s not as quick as the mental clean and sweep that I get from going for a run. I’m not going to set myself a target for running distance for 2019 because I should probably get rid of a few kilos before running, but for 2020 I’m going to aim for at least 365 km.
I think I should also work on overall strength and flexibility, so I’m going to ease myself into a calisthenics routine for overall strength, and as we live near one of the very good yoga schools in Adelaide, I should probably make use of that, too.
Weight and Food
I’m too heavy. This morning when I weighed myself I weighed 108.5 kg. A couple of years ago I was under 100 kg (I’d go as far as saying “mid 90’s”, even), and it was wonderful. I’d got there from my starting point of ~113 kg using Duromine, which I would recommend if you’ve tried everything else. I’d try it again, but I think it triggered some migraines for me, so I’m steering clear.
My climb back to 108.5 kg has been relatively slow, and considering how I’ve eaten the last 6 to 12 months isn’t surprising. Stress-levels have been high, and this has lead to some very poor chocolate-related diet decisions.
My goal is to be in the 80s, or low 90s, and the plan for 2019 is to use intermittent fasting to restrict my calories to get there. I’ve done it a bit in the last month or two and if nothing else, I enjoy the process. I’m not going for the popular 5 and 2 intermittent fasting, but opting for alternate day 24 hour fasts instead. Every second day (ish) I’ll skip breakfast and lunch and aim for a normal dinner. I’m hoping to do this at least 3 days a week. It’s said to be very good to combat insulin resistance, too, which couldn’t hurt.
I find this type of eating good from a social point of view, because that’s where it feels like my previous diets have come crashing down. Keto/LCHF makes it difficult to eat out, and I actually feel a bit ick eating like that. Generic calorie restriction makes it difficult to eat in general. With the alternate day 24h fasts, I can have dinner with people any night of the week, so ticks the “still works in a social group” box, and if I need to have lunch with people, I can shuffle my days around.
I like being creative, and this year, I think, is the year for me to take it up a level. I have three main ways for being creative. The first is writing, and I’d really like to try my hand at some fiction writing. The second is Making, and I have some ideas for electronics projects to do for myself and with the kids. The third is music, and I think this is the year when I start playing with a group of people (I’ll avoid the word “band” for now), and give writing a song a proper crack.
I love information. Or maybe it’s that I, more specifically, love data. For a information/data-phile like me, having a device in your pocket (and on your wrist) that can collect, collate, and visualise the information for you is pretty amazing. With that information I can track improvement, decline, progress, and stagnation.
I like it.
I have been using Strava for a long time to collect information about my running and cycling. You get a cool summary for the month, comparing you against the previous month. You can track your heart-rate, average and top speeds, amongst many other things. Recently I’ve linked Strava to a service called Relive, which gives you cool little videos of your logged activities.
Add, now, to this a video camera, and I can get a really good visual representation of the whole ride, too. And if something interesting happens along the way, I have that information.
Below is my first video, which is the descent from around Cleland along Long Ride and Winter Track to Waterfall Gully Road. I got rid of all the sound because the thrum of my knobbly tires is exhausting. You can add your own soundtrack by playing your favourite song while watching the video. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Over the last 20 years my riding has moved through several stages. I’ve gone from a ride-my-bike-to-Uni person, to a downhiller, to a non-rider, then back to a daily commuter and light cross-country rider. My latest incarnation is more like a commuter and utility-biker by weekday, and when I get a chance on the weekends, I will either hit a trail around the hills on my mountain bike, or climb a hill or two on my road bike.
I find riding does wonders for my mental health. The endorphins, the sense of accomplishment, the good sleeping all combine to make me feel really good for a day or two after a big ride.
If, for some reason, you want to see my riding (it’s mostly commutes), look me up on Strava.