Progress update

I’m amazed to discover my last update was in November 2014, 6 months ago. So here’s the latest although not as systematic as some of the earlier ones. The first report was in November 2012 when I recorded that from 17 stone 5 lb in July I was now down to 15 stone 10 lb. Today, just short of 3 years on I am 12 stone 5 lb, a loss of 5 stone. This has not been linear by any means and for about a year I stuck at round 14 stone 6 lb but starting to play racketball, a bit more cycling and regular walking, coupled to starting to log food and calories with MyFitnessPal, I got down to 13 stone by the beginning of April this year. Then I had my accident. When I came out of hospital after 8 days I was down to 12 stone 4 lb. Because of the type of injury and the fitting of a kidney stent  so far I’ve been unable to ride or play racketball although I’ve started to do some very short sedate walks and a few exercises. Most of the weight I’ve lost is fat, so a good thing, but I’ve also lost a pound of two of muscle. My plan is to try and keep my weight down to 12 stone 5 lb or thereabouts by going onto a maintenance calorie allowance (1980) but increase the proportion of protein in my diet. Then, when hopefully the stent comes out sometime later this month and I can return to full exercise, I can raise my weight by regaining muscle, up to round 12 stone 7 or 8 perhaps. To this end I may even do a bit of gym work at the squash club.

Not according to plan

I write this nearly 5 months after the last post and there is much to report. I am now 12 stone 5 lbs (much less than the 13 stone target which I hit in March) but this is due to a stay in hospital. All will be revealed in due course. A week after my first outing on my new mountain bike on December 1st last year I was invited to join the inaugural MTB group ride of the Airedale Olympic Cycling Club on Sunday 7th December. This was about 10 miles starting at Apperley Bridge, along the canal to just short of Rodley, over the pack horse bridge and though the woods back to Apperley Bridge before taking bridle ways and cycle tracks to Esholt and eventually back to the start along the canal again. I was pleased to keep up and enjoyed the trip very much.

As the first months of the year passed by I gradually got back on my hybrid and began to build a modest mileage with a view to riding the 48 mile Lincoln Arrow sportive at the end of May. All was going well until I decided, on the 14th April, to repeat the mountain bike route I had done with the AOCC last December. On the track running parallel with the railway alongside the water works I hit a patch of deep mud, came to a sudden full stop and somersaulted over the handlebars, landing on my back. I got up, felt OK, and carried on with the ride. What I did not realise is that I had ruptured my left kidney by landing on the water bottle in the rucksack on my back. I had a slight twinge when I went to bed that night but found I was weeing blood the next morning. To cut a long story short I was admitted the the Bradford Royal Infirmary on Wednesday and spent the next 9 days there. The damage was severe, a 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 for damage, and when I left to go home I had a kidney stent and strict instructions not to cycle or play racketball until the stent came out. This would happen when the kidney was fully repaired, sometime between August and October. As it happens progress has been much speedier and the stent should be out before the end of June.

I also came home weighing 12 stone 5 lb, a loss of 1 lb a day while I was in the BRI. This is mostly fat but some muscle loss too which I am much more worried about. I’ve decided to keep my weight under 12 stone 7 lb (the weight I was when I met Julia in 1973!) until I can start riding, playing and training again, and try to get back up to near 13 stone by putting on some muscle. Apart from some scar tissue the damaged kidney should regain most of the 25% damage and get back to over 95% function. It’s been a bummer as I had to miss two funerals of close family members, pull out of the Lincoln Arrow and a number of racketball tournaments including the NE Counties Championships and also a week’s cycle touring on Islay.Still, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or, in my case, thinner. The lesson to be learnt here is not to carry hard objects on your back while you’re cycling.

Christmas survived!

I started this blog in October 2012, 2 years and 3 months ago when I weighed 17 stone 7 lbs. I finish this year at 13 stone 8 lb. In fact I got down to 13 stone 6 briefly before Christmas but a few days of excessive eating and drinking with the family in Derbyshire piled it on again. I made some effort to mitigate the decline by skipping breakfasts and doing 1 hour walks instead and I assume this has helped a bit. Also in the few days after Christmas before I weighed myself again I played racketball 3 times and got back into my more moderated eating and drinking regime so I probably put on a bit more than the 2 lbs. Anyway, 13 stone 8 is a good place to start from to get down to the 13 stone I’m aiming for by the time the weather gets warmer next year. I’m confident that I can achieve this by mid March and probably earlier. I’m thinking about joining the Airedale Olympic Cycling Club and doing their Saturday social rides and then in due course attempting some 10 mile time trials. I also have plans to develop the Bradford U3A cycling group and doing more on my new mountain bike. I will have to revise my plans to do alpine passes when I’m 70 I think but some decent sportives and audaxes should be achievable.

MTB with the AOCC

I have posted this here retrospectively (May 28th 2015) as I forgot to do it at the time. This is copied from the post I did on Facebook at the time.


Went out with the Airedale Olympic Cycling Club on an 11 mile mountain bike ride today. There were 6 of us altogether with me bringing up the rear. I’d not met them before but they invited me to join them via Facebook. They were very friendly and made me very welcome. I was amused when I found the young woman that accompanied me most of the time was the club Welfare Officer! I thanked her for her pains by accidentally knocking her off when I hit a large boulder and stalled right in front of her. The pace was brisk at times, especially as it was quite windy. I was last through obstacles and crossing roads so spent a fair bit of time catching up but someone always hung back if necessary to make sure I could see where the route changed. I was familiar with most of it as I’ve been walking these tracks for several years now so there was never any fear of getting lost. I dealt with the slippery and muddy conditions OK and only opted out of one rather technical detour more through tiredness than being particularly concerned about the difficulty. Two of us stayed on the bottom track while the rest took to the hills in Jerrison Wood and we all met up again at Esholt. I got home feeling quite shattered but pleased I had managed OK. I’ve not done as much cycling this last year as I’d hoped (more walking and racketball) but I will start doing a it more now, probably mostly mountain biking through the winter but in the new year I may start going on the club’s social rides on Saturday mornings on the roads. These are between 30 and 40 miles so I’ll need to check on each route before I decide. Then later in the year I hope to go on the Leeds Cycling Campaign’s Sunday intermediate rides as these are about the same length I think. By picking appropriate rides from these two schedules I hope to able to do one decent ride every weekend.

First MTB ride

Construction of single track mountain bike route in Buck Wood.

I had my first ride on my mountain bike yesterday morning, about an hour and 20 minutes total on a route through Calverley Woods and then along the canal to Shipley and back on the road. The wooded section was the hardest with very muddy climbs and descents and leaves covering tree roots and rocks. After several days heavy rain the ground in the woods was soaked and very muddy in areas. One difficulty I found is that the thick carpet of dead leaves made the surface look the same pretty well everywhere and covered up the tree roots and rocks. This was probably not the ideal time or place for a novice to have a first ride! I was very pleased with how the tyres and low gears coped with this. It would have been impossible on my hybrid. I didn’t actually fall off but stalled a couple of times in deep mud partly through lack of speed and partly lack of technique and confidence. The section at the bottom of the valley near the river – narrow winding rocky paths through mainly holly bushes – was particular muddy and difficult. After that the tow path to Shipley was doddle and much more stable and comfortable than on the hybrid. The climb on the road up to Thackley was slower than on the hyrbrid, not surprisingly, but no problem given the gearing of the bike. The descent to Greengates was also slower but I still managed 20+ without too much effort. Not really what the bike is built for I guess. Both me and the bike were absolutely blathered in mud – all part of the fun I suppose. I should have given the bike a wash straight away but was too tired and wet so did it this morning. Easy enough with a hose, some bike cleaner and brushes. I left the forks on the intermediate ‘trail’ setting for the ride as I didn’t feel what I did really qualified for the ‘downhill’ setting but I will try all these in due course to see what difference they make. I have begun to look for other routes in my area and it seems I live in a bit of a hotspot for off-road riding. I found this link on the BikeRadar forum with some useful information [Getting off-road in Bradford area]. One of the links goes to a map of a route called the Bingley Bash. Coincidently I was talking to our window cleaner, Darren, who is a keen mountain biker earlier this afternoon and he mentioned most of the places discussed in the forum including the Bingley Bash. Buck Woods and Dawsons Wood are both about 5 minutes ride from home, as is Calverley Woods so it looks like I have plenty to go at. Here is a video showing a group riding some of the Bingley Bash. They seem to great fun falling off and laughing at each other’s misfortune! 

New mountain bike

017Today I collected a new mountain bike, a Giant Talon 0 from Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op in Chapel Allerton Leeds, partly paid for by the very generous collection my work colleagues made for me when I retired just over a year ago. I’ve done some easy off-road stuff on my hybrid bike over the years but it isn’t really suitable when the going gets a bit more rugged and technical so I’ve been thinking of getting a mountain bike for some time. The Talon seemed to be as good a specification as you can get for the money and better than quite a few. Reviews of earlier models suggested that the biggest weakness (and therefore the first candidate for upgrading) was the forks but the 2015 model has the Fox Float EVO CTD (CTD stand for 3 fork settings – climb, trail and descend) which is highly regarded. In fact the price for the forks alone is round £500, about half the RRP for the bike. It is the first bike I have had with disc brakes and the gears seem ridiculously low to a roady but I’m sure I’ll need them! Bottom gear seems to be 18 inches! For the full range of gears see the link below.

I’ve been invited out for a ride round Calverley Woods and the general area by a group of riders from the Airedale Olympic Cycling Club on Sunday December 7th who I contacted for advice on Facebook. I must admit to being rather nervous about this but I will go and at least introduce myself and see how far I get. The ride will be from Apperley Bridge will also take in the Canal to Rodley – Cragg Wood – Nunn Wood to Esholt – and back up onto the canal and take about one and a half hours. I’ll take my bike into Calverly Woods in the next day or two and see what it feels like. This video of a ride there does not fill me with confidence!

Many years ago (about 50 years) I rode a couple of seasons of cyclo-cross, cross-country racing (rather like the running version) on basically road bikes with lower gears, knobbly tubular tyres and a bit of old inner tube tied across the angle of the frame in front of the saddle to make the bike more comfortable on your shoulder when you had to run with it. The idea of cyclo-cross for riders like me – roadies and trackies – was a bit of fun and keeping fit in the winter. I was a bit heavy for the sport and spent quite a lot of time on my face in the mud with other riders riding over me! This was what decided me to take up squash as a winter sport instead, something I’ve revived recently in the guise of racketball. It will be interesting to see how I take to mountain biking. Although I’ve lost about 4 stone in the last 2 years I’m still pretty heavy and it’ll help when I’ve lost another half stone or so. I want to try out some of the mountain biking centre trails such as those at Dalby Forest but I’m sure there is lots to go at in and around Leeds and Bradford.

For the full set of gears on the bike – 24/38 with 11, 13, 15, 17, 21, 24, 28, 32, 36

27 months activity report

Up to now I have posted an update every 3 months or so but the last one was at the beginning of March this year, 9 months ago. In that one I reported I had plateaued at 14 stone 7 lbs, a weight I had been at, more or less, since August 2013. In the last report I determined to try and get down to 13 stone 7 lb by Spring 2015 with 14 stone being a significant milestone along the way. Now, 9 months later, I can report that I’m currently at 13 stone 8 lb and now hope to make it to 13 stone for next Spring. Through April until the end of September I lost another 3 pounds, bringing it down to 14 stone 4 lb but the breakthrough came at the end of September when I started using MyFitnessPal to record my food, calories and exercise. Through October and November I have lost a further 10 lbs (approximately 1.25 lb per week) and as I write this post I’m 13 stone 8 lb. To be brief, the system gives me a daily target of calories to lose one pound a week until I reach my target weight, 13 stone, and a comprehensive database of food types and meals to make it easy to calculate and record what I’ve had. Currently my daily target is 1,520 calories per day but any exercise I record lifts this. For example, because I played racketball today for 40 minutes I burnt 350 calories (a conservative estimate) and so I could consume 1,930 calories and still be on target for a pound a week weight loss. Even on days without cycling, walking or racketball and restricted to 1,520 calories I am not finding this at particularly difficult, using a combination of meals from the Hairy Dieters books and the Sainsbury’s ‘Be Good To Yourself’ healthy eating range of ready meals (3 for £6!). I’ve cut down on alcohol a bit but still enjoy a glass of wine most nights. I’ve also had to be a bit careful when eating out but the odd ‘bad’ day is not a problem as long as there are not too many of them. For the ‘badge’ below I’ve back-filled data to July 2012 so the loss recorded is over the last 2 years and 4 months although I’ve only been using the system since September this year.

18 months activity report

This post reports on activity for December 2013, January and February 2014. The previous 3 months (September, October and November) my  finish weight was 14 stone 7 lb. At the end of the current 3 months I am still 14 stone 7 lb so no loss or gain. Apart from a brief rise to 14 stone 10 lb at Christmas my weight has remained pretty constant since the end of August 2013. I lost 3 stone in the 12 months up to August 2013. I knew it would get more difficult to lose weight as it came down but I should be able to lose another stone over the remainder of this year or next spring latest. This gives me a target of 13 stone 7 lbs with 14 stone a significant milestone along the way.

December 2013 summary

Road 0 miles, 0 calories
Turbo  1 hr 35 mins,  877 calories
Walking 30.3 miles 2625 calories
Total weight gain 1 lb (final 14 stone 8 lb)
Exercise 3502 calories = 1 lb so diet and other exercise =  +2 lb

January 2014 summary

Road 0 miles, 0 calories
Turbo 1 hour 35 mins, 877 calories
Walking 30.3 miles, 2625 calories
Total weight loss 0 lb (final 14 stone 8 lb)
Exercise 3502 calories = 1.0 lb  so diet plus other exercise = +1 lb

February 2014 summary

Road 0 miles, 0 calories
Turbo 20 mins, 192 calories
Walking 56 miles, 4639 calories
Total weight loss 1 lb (final 14 stone 7 lb)
Exercise 3502 calories = 1.4 lb  so diet plus other exercise = +0.4 lb

The pattern of no road cycling and frequent short walks continues. I have continued to play racketball about twice a week over this period and played in a few tournaments. My intention is still to get down to 14 stone by this summer, perhaps sometime in July, so I will need to start cycling again this month and pay more attention to my diet.

15 months activity report

This post reports on activity for September, October and November 2013. The previous 3 months (June, July, August) my start and finish weight was the same at 14 stone 4 lb. At the end of the current 3 months I was 14 stone 7 lb so a gain of 3lb. I anticipated putting even more on over the winter, especially the Christmas and New Year (this indeed was the case as the next 3 month report will make clear. I was 14 stone 11 lb on New Year’s day but already down to 14 stone 8 lb again this morning. So I’m still confident I can get below 14 stone for Spring 2014 and 13 stone 7 lb by the end of the Summer. We shall see.

September Summary:
Road 112.8 miles, 7,256 calories
Turbo 2 hours, 1,289 calories
Total weight loss 0 lb (final 14 stone 4 lb)
Exercise 8545 calories = 2.4 lb  so diet = +2.4 lb

October Summary:
Road 20.12 miles, 1,216 calories
Turbo 20 mins, 198 calories
Total weight gain 3 lb (final 14 stone 7 lb)
Exercise 8545 calories = 0.4 lb  so diet = +2.6 lb

November Summary:
Road 0 miles, 0 calories
Turbo 40 mins, 402 calories
Walking 48 miles, 3,321 calories
Total weight gain 0 lb (final 14 stone 7 lb)
Exercise 3723 calories = 1.1 lb  so diet = +1.1 lb

This shows a reduction in cycling as the winter progresses and an increase in walking. I have also been playing racketball about twice a week over this period so overall fitness has not suffered too much. In fact the pattern of activity in my 20s and 30s seems to re-emerging when I cycle raced from spring to autumn and played squash in the winter.

Cycling, walking, hitting a ball

I must confess to having lapsed a bit on the cycling this last couple of months. This is only temporary and I am no less enthusiastic about social and leisure cycling and as a means of transport. The relative lapse is due in some part to how successful cycling has been as part of my retirement strategy to lose weight and get fit. As I’ve got lighter and fitter I have started to enjoy walking again and have been tempted back on to the squash court. I gave up regular squash and cycling at much the same time at the age of about 40, the beginning of my slippery slope to obesity and sloth.

I'm on the right of the picture, shell shocked after finishing as runner up in a handicap racketball tournament.

I’m on the right of the picture, shell shocked after finishing as runner up in a handicap racketball tournament.

Since August I have been playing racketball, similar to squash and played on the same indoor courts. I’ve joined the Bradford U3A racketball group and we play twice a week. I still seem to have a good squash brain and my speed around the court and stroke play are getting better. I have managed to win a small local U3A handicap tournament and was runner up in another. This was partly due to me being at the time an unknown and playing in some old track bottoms and plimsolls. All this led to a generous handicap!  I have added to my list of targets, alongside some sportives, to enter the Yorkshire Closed Racketball Championships in the over 65 category next September. And as of this week I am the U3A national racketball advisor with the role of networking and developing racketball in other U3A regions. Racketball can be just as competitive and demanding as squash but because it is easier to learn and play decent rallies it is particularly good for beginners of all ages. I enjoy very much the sessions with the ‘mixed ability’ U3A group. Several of us are ex-squash players but most are new to racket sports. We have an excellent coach, Saeed, and an extensive repertoire of skills practice routines and various ways of playing games that allow individuals of widely varying ability to play on near equal terms. We all get plenty of exercise in a safe and supportive environment and enjoy the social side when we finish a session and go to the club cafe and bar. Some of the keener members have joined the club that hosts our U3A sessions so they can play in the club ladders and mini-leagues.

In addition to this I have developed a range of walks from my home though the greenbelt of the Aire Valley. These make use of an extensive network of paths and bridleways through mixed pasture and woodland. They range in length between 2 and 6 miles, nearly all off road, and typically I do them non-stop at an average speed of 3.5 miles an hour. I’m doing these walks about 3 time a week. This with the racketball and the occasional session on my turbo rollers is helping me get a bit fitter and not put on any weight.

I have definitely lapsed on the diet side of things. I got down to 14 stone 3 lb early in the summer but have stabilised at 14 stone 7 for the last 3 months. I’m not unhappy about this and in any case I couldn’t go on losing weight at the same rate as I had for the first year when I started at 17 stone 7 lbs. I’ll be happy to get through the winter at about where I am now and have a push to lose another stone by spring. I’m not anticipating too much trouble achieving this as I will get more exercise from racketball as I improve and get more involved in competitive play and  I will be increasing my cycling as soon as the weather takes a turn for the better.