The Occasional Athlete

A cyclist trying to be fast(-ish) again

I used to be fast

Posted at — Oct 29, 2018

I used to be fast… kind of… I ran cross country for the county when I was a teenager and snuck into the Great Britain age group triathlon team seven years later, primarily because nobody else paid a tenner to register their interest in being considered for qualification. Another decade has passed since my athletic peak and I’m not getting any younger - or thinner, as those f**king scales keep reminding me - so I’ve decided to get my act together. I’m notorious for laying ambitious and meticulous plans only to abandon them a few weeks later in favour of cake and a lie in. In fact, I’ve done this with such regularity in recent years I’ve kept these plans in my head, or on a spreadsheet only I see, so as not to get a reputation! I occasionally mention a race to my partner, to which she responds “OK, sure” knowing full well I won’t do it. Well, NOT THIS TIME! This time my intentions are on the internet. There’s no getting out of it without people knowing. I’m hoping this guilts me into training properly until it becomes habit, but if it doesn’t at least I’ll have cake to look forward to… I’m a fat man in a less fat man’s body!

I know what you’re thinking. Why now? Well, last Christmas I hit my peak weight of 90kg (I work in metric, get over it) and I’ve been struggling to get much lower than that all year. The other, more recent kick up the arse is my dad. After being told he will definitely get diabetes if he doesn’t sort his shit out he lost 15kg in three months and is now lighter than me for the first time ever. Being the “fit” one of the family I obviously can’t stand for this!

The goal

Every good plan starts with a goal. Mine will be a century ride (in miles, because cyclists are behind the SI unit curve) in May 2019. This will hopefully be the Fred Whitton Challenge - a brutal 180km around the Lake District comprising nearly 4,000 m of vertical ascent. An easy one to start with… I say “hopefully” as the entries haven’t opened yet and when it does it’s a ballot so I’m not guaranteed a place. If I don’t get a place there are plenty of other century rides in beautiful parts of the country I can do instead. The main aim will be to get round, ideally without having to walk up any climbs. However, if I have to walk it’s not the end of the world; I walked up Honister Pass in the 2013 Buttermere triathlon and still finished 22nd.

“Getting round” is quite a vague goal - I could probably do that now to be honest, albeit very slowly - so I’ll need something more specific. In fact, they need to be SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Fortunately, years of training and racing bicycles combined with my love of maths have made me into a massive cycling nerd, so specific I can do!

It’s a very hilly parcours - it might be worth brushing up on your cycling terminology if you’re going to follow this blog! - so power to weight ratio is the key. My functional threshold power (FTP), which is the best power output (in watts) one can hold for an hour, at the moment is around 270W, giving me a power to weight ratio of just over 3W/kg. To put this in perspective, Bradley Wiggins averaged around 450W when he broke the world hour record in 2015, so I have a way to go!

To get over the brutal climbs, up to 30% in places, I reckon I’ll need at least 4W/kg. This means if I can drop down to 80kg I’ll need an FTP of 320W, and if I can drop down to 75kg I’ll need and FTP of 300W. My FTP has been over 300W in the past, but I’ve not been under 80kg for nearly ten years so this will be my biggest challenge. As long as I cut back on the junk food and second helpings the weight should fall off.

So, to summarise, my SMART goals are:

  1. Weigh under 80kg by May 2019 (reduction of at least 7kg, or 8%).
  2. Hit an FTP of over 300W by May 2019 (increase of over 30W, or 11%).

Can I achieve it? Yes. Will I? We’ll see…