Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Discovering "The Sufferfest"

A few weeks ago, I acquired a Kinetic Fit Smart Turbo Trainer which came with an App for our tablet which contains about 80 indoor cycling workouts.  It has taken me a little while to set everything up and learn how to calibrate the power readings on the app (such as getting an initial estimate for FTP).

And while working my way through the list of workouts, I discovered about 20 workouts described as being "The Sufferfest".  I hadn't heard of this before, but it is a series of interval training indoor bike workouts to which you can view real cycling footage.  It is described as being a full "immersive" experience in which you can get into the story line of the workout.

So far I have not subscribed to The Sufferfest but am intending to do so when we are back from the UK after Christmas.  In the meantime, I have started doing the workouts accompanied by videos I have downloaded off Youtube.

Three Sufferfest targets:

1.  To ride the longest workout "ISLAGIATT" once before we go back to the UK

2.  Ride three consecutive Sufferfests in one training session - ideally on January 1st 2018

(there is a 9 workout sequence that can be done in one day apparently but is far too tough for me - but maybe 3 would be possible)

3.  Do "The Tour de Sufferlandia" in 2018 - 9 workouts in 9 days, probably in January

And another January 2018 target - to complete 20,000 calories in the month on my turbo trainer.

And I'd like a Sufferfest cycling top - $80

Monday, 27 November 2017

Queen Adreena (again)

Yet again, I have found myself back listening to Queen Adreena.  This seems to happen every year or so at the moment.  The trigger this time - being directed to "Pull me under" on Youtube.  I am totally captivated by Katie Jane Garside as a performer. 

I wonder what she is up to now - nothing on the internet when I last looked

Lars Mytting's Norwegian Wood


This year's log pile

Indie Film Season - I don't feel at home in the world anymore


Indie Films Season - Martha Marcy May Marlene


Wind River


Current Reading - Biography of Jason Molina


Current Reading - Ott's book on Heidegger


More Cycling Books


Recent reading favourite - Nicole Cooke's autobiography

I have been reading Nicole Cooke's autobiography with an increasing anger at the obstacles in her way throughout her cycling career.  It is one of the most evocative description of sexism I have come across (though I don't really read much else that does address sexism)

I was particularly struck by the comparison between the support for the men and women athletes

The worst thing about the book is the cover which I think it awful!

But I do like the picture of her ascending Mont Ventoux when there was still a women's Tour de France

And the proper-coloured pic of her winning the road race gold in the Beijing Olympics is pretty good too

Alpe d'Huez training programme at Nov 27th 2017

I have filmed myself doing some indoor training and have some grandiose plans to publish two Alpe d'Huez-related films on Youtube next year.  The first will be a film of my actually ascent which I plan to do as a film that people can do as a turbo session.  Secondly, I am thinking about doing a film called something like "How I trained at 55 years old, to climb Alp d'Huez in 65 minutes" - that is assuming I can do it in 65 minutes, which is 25 minutes faster than my current PB!

The key is going to be losing enough weight to really get to a decent power-to-weight ratio.  I read an article that suggested that a 65 minute ascent requires an FTP to weight ratio of above 3.  For instance, an FTP of 230 watts and and a weight of 75 kgs.  My FTP is about 195 at the moment and my weight is quite a bit above 75 kgs, so my current ratio is about 2 and a bit.  A pro ratio has a ratio of around 5 or 6!

So along way to go then!

I do look like I am building up a good sweat though

The goal - Alpe d'Huez.  Rumours are that it is in next year's Tour de France route

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Getting Fit - after four weeks

It is four weeks since I decided to start a more focused fitness plan and it is time to assess progress.

On the positive side, I have managed to do a very large number of separate exercise routines. 

In the last four weeks, I have done 14 indoor cycling routines of typically 75 to 90 minutes each.  Most of these are attempts to cycle continuously for the entire time at a cadence of about 65-75 at the highest resistance I can manage.  I have usually been watching a training video of a 90 minute ascent of Alpe d'Huez so I can really get to grips with the entire ascent.  Gradually I have been able to increase the resistance and I'm pretty happy with how this has gone.  But I am now about to change from this to a different indoor cycle plan using some spin class videos that I have downloaded off youtube.

I have also done 11 outdoor runs, typically around 4-5km around the local woods and fields.  I still find the first 10 minutes of this very hard but I am noticing an improvement and I am now able to properly run long sections rather than do a slow jog.  But I am not a natural runner and need to lose a lot of weight to really improve I feel.

So far I have done just 4 outdoor bike rides and have clocked up around 110 miles.  My longest distance has been 37 miles which is ok at this point.  My next target is to do the entire 28 mile hilly D150 route from home to the local town of St Jean, then all the way to Saintes and back home, and I am also targeting a 40+ mile ride in one go.  I might try for both of these targets this weekend.

I have cut my consumption of coca cola by about 40% and am eating more yogurts and no biscuit snacks - all of which is good

On the negative side, I was appalled to discover how much I weigh.  I didn't weigh myself four weeks ago, and I have lost some weight over the last four weeks, but I currently weigh 96kgs.  I had thought I was about 90kgs! 

My target weight for this time next year was 75-80 kgs so I have a huge way to go to get anywhere near this. 

Monday, 9 October 2017

Kelly Brook - then and now

I haven't seen or heard anything about Kelly Brook for several years.  I always quite liked her as she was a very curvy young lady, rather than ultra slim which I am not so keen on.

A few weeks back there was a feature on her in the gardening section of The Sunday Times, which seems a somewhat incongruous idea, but there you go.  Apparently she has become quite the gardener!

A week or so later, I came across an old copy of (the very bizarre) Bizarre magazine.  I wonder if this is still published?  This featured the lovely Kelly in some very different outfits to the one she is wearing while gardening.

Do I prefer sexy sailor, sexy cop or sexy gardener?  Who knows

Pixies - "Gouge away"

One of my favourite songs and quite a few clips on Youtube, including some with the new, non-Kim, female bass player.

Not sure I approve of her as she seems to be out of tune on the few clips I saw with her doing backing vocals, though she does look nice.

Monday, 25 September 2017

The Cassini space mission

It was the last day of the Cassini space mission to Saturn a week or so ago. 

Years ago, Daughter and I used to attend the annual, three-day Astronomy weekend held at Oxford University, hosted by Robert Lambourne, and I can remember a speaker doing a talk about the Cassini mission there. 

There was a live broadcast from NASA of the final moments as the signal finally disappeared.  I have to say, it was actually very moving.  All those people who have worked years on the mission and then it ends with a final wink of the carrier signal as the spaceship plunges into the atmosphere of Saturn and begins to break apart. 

Current Fitness Regime

I have discovered the GCN organisation ("Global Cycling Network") who have published over 1,000 cycling related videos over the past few years.  These include about two dozen workout videos which are now forming the basis for my daily exercise routine.

Up at 7:00 a.m and out to the garage by 7:30, I am typically doing around 60 minutes, made up of a longer workout based on their indoor classes, followed by one of the short videos based on a climb - typically this has been the Passo Sella ramp session. 

So I can enjoy watching Lucy Martin indoors, followed by the hard push to really wipe myself out in the Italian Dolomites.  I am less than two weeks into my routine, and am constantly finding good training resources on the internet, so I hope to have a good winter training for next year.

The lovely Lucy in her rather snazzy GCN kit.  My all-time cycling hero remains Nicole Cooke though - her win in Beijing in the women's road race remains the greatest cycling win I have ever seen.

Current reading - The $12m shark

Once in a while it is important to be reminded of the bizarreness of the contemporary art market and I have recently acquired a book for precisely that purpose.

I actually quite like the Damon Hirst shark, though I was rather disappointed to discover that it was rotting away.  It was bought by the hedge fund manager, Steve Cohen, for the $12m quoted,  He is a multi-billionaire, so $12m is the equivalent of me paying about £6k for something.

Art is such a weird market - positional goods at their best, in which the object itself is relatively unimportant it always seems.  But if I could afford a large Rothko, I would definitely buy one!

Mark Rothko full-sized Reproductions

I read somewhere that it is possible to buy reproduction artwork that can be pretty close to exact copies and I have found a website that says it can do Mark Rothko reproductions in pretty much any size up to the original size.  They are painted in oils by highly skilled artists in Thailand as far as I can tell.

So I have in mind to purchase a huge reproduction of a Rothko, possibly this one.

I would like it to be about 80 inches high and it will go in the hallway near my office.  In fact, I think I can fit two or three in along this corridor.  That would look great I reckon.

Recent reading - The legacy of Mark Rothko

When I bought this book, I actually thought it was a book about Rothko's art but it turned out to be about a huge legal case arising after his death concerning the sale of most of the paintings in his estate to a single gallery at knock down prices.

It really is quite an incredible story and you can only come out of it feeling amazed at what Kate Rothko, his daughter, went through in her pursuit of justice.  If only the pictures had been better quality! 

The World Cycling Championships - Rochelle Gilmore

I haven't done much riding on my bike in the last couple of years but I am fired up and set to do loads from now on.  I went for a 20 mile ride on Saturday morning - my first for a couple of months - and felt a lot better than I had done back then.  All those turbo sessions are making a difference.

Then this morning I went out again and did just over 35 miles in 2 hrs 45.  For the first time in ages I actually felt really good on the bike - hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

Back home and I was settled in for an afternoon watching the men's road race on BBC when a person I haven't heard about for perhaps 8 to 10 years appeared as part of the commentary team - Rochelle Gilmore.

When I cycled a lot back then, I used to buy cycling magazines regularly and she had rather stood out when they were covering women's cycling!  She is now the manager of a women's team and seems very active in the sport still.  Did a very good job of commentating on the cycle race too I thought.  Very knowledgeable.

Rochelle, marking that thin dividing line between admiring her for her sporting achievements and admiring her for other reasons

I also enjoyed her short youtube clip of her going up the Col du Tourmalet as well.

I have to say though, I did always admire Nicole Cooke too back then - especially her win in the Beijing Olympics which I can remember vividly today - in the wet uphill to the finish.

Tentative plans to cycle up Alpe d'Huez again

A couple of weeks ago, various family members gathered in Grenoble from where we drove down to Alpe d'Huez to mark the third anniversary of the cycle ride up the Alpe by Andrew and myself, and to scatter some of Andrew's ashes on the route. 

As a result of this, there are very tentative plans to return next year and for me and some other friends and family to go up it again.

I have decided that this is the impetus that I need to start getting myself into shape.  I have downloaded several films of people ascending Alpe d'Huez and various other famous climbs and have been watching these as I toil away on my turbo trainer in the garage.  I have also started running again round the fields near our house.

As at September 25, I am 14 days into my new regime and have run 5k on five occasions, have done 8 90-minute turbo sessions and have been out on my road bike twice, clocking up 55 miles in total.

Not a bad start I think.

The photo I bought from the shop in Bourg d'Oisen of my last ascent - 89 minutes.  My target for next time is 70 minutes!

Andrew and me at the top of Alpe d'Huez on Sept 10th 2014 - the inflatable man is still there doing excellent work

Another long gap between posts

Another long gap between posts - I may as well just start from current things and maybe backtrack into some more stuff from the past few months when I feel like it.

In the meantime, here are pictures of a burger I had in La Rochelle at some point over the summer, a moules-frites lunch in La Continiere on the Isle d'Oleron from May, and a Pluma Iberique dish that I had on my birthday at Le Scorlion restaurant in St Jean d'Angely in June, 

Monday, 29 May 2017

The "Wild Coast" near Royan

We have recently struck up a friendship with an English couple who have been over in France looking for a place to buy and retire to.  They have been staying at the gite near us owned by our neighbours, Paul and Simone.  We have taken it upon ourselves to take them to a couple of our favourite places.  One was the "wild coast" just along from Royan towards Oleron.

One a beautiful, bright sunny day, it is quite a picture.

The newly re-painted lighthouse

Linda and Mary paddling in the Atlantic with Harry the Bassett hound (who is, remarkably, only a puppie - he looks and behaves like a really old dog)