Powerlifter on a Bike

Powerlifter on a Bike

What’s funnier than a big Powerlifter opening his big gob and getting suckered into doing a serious cardio event? Well I can tell you all that to me it wasn’t very funny; but like everything that’s worthwhile in life it was hard work.


The story begins over a year ago when the General Manager, read big boss of my day job as it were, asked me if I’d do the Grim Challenge, which is an 8.5 mile run through what is essentially mud! I informed him that I wasn’t really built like a runner; sometimes I have to point out the bleeding obvious; and then I made my mistake, I continued…. “But if you ever decide to do a cycle ride I’d be up for that”!


What a dumass, around 4 months later I get told of this ride, 90 miles from the property I work at in Bagshot, Surrey to Castle Coombe, near Bath in Wiltshire. Just saying it sounds like a long way.


No way out now, I was committed! So how does the most non cardiovascular athlete on Earth go about preparing for such an event? By following the goal setting techniques I outline in my book “Becoming Mighty”.


Firstly I decided what I wanted to achieve, complete the 90 mile distance without walking any of the hills.


Next I looked at the time frame; I had 5 months to go until the event, plenty of time.


Where was I starting from; or rather, how unfit was I? The answer to this was very unfit!


And, do I have the right bike? For this I went to my local bike shop, where the owner used to ride professionally in Europe so he and his team know a thing or two about long cycle rides. As opposed to THE big chain of cycle shops in the UK which sold one of my colleagues doing the ride a bike which was totally inappropriate for him.


I was told that if I did the cycle on the bike I owned it would feel more like 150 miles than 90. I did think “here we go, the hard sell” but no, the bike they recommended was only £300 and they gave me £60 for my 12 year old mountain bike. A very nice deal.


They also gave me a free service before the ride; very impressive service all-round. If you’re in the South London area then check them out here –http://www.devercycles.co.uk/


Even with this very reasonable deal I’ve still dropped around £500 on this project; it would have been more but one of my lovely gym members (from the Spa gym where I work, not Darkside Barbell) Geoff Duncan, who leant Jenni and I various bits and pieces which probably saved me over £100. Many thanks GeoffJ


The next consideration was how should I structure the training? I went with the usual template for an endurance event used by many non endurance athletes; 3x week, with 1 long session, 1 medium, around 50-60% of the long session, and 1 short session, which is 30-40%.


My first long session was an hour cycle, which for me was around 10-12 miles. From this starting point I needed to increase my long cycle by around 10 miles a month, by early July I wanted to be at the 60 mile mark. I figured that if I could do 60 then occasion would make the extra mileage possible. To a Powerlifter this sounds strange, if I was planning on Squatting 240kg at a meet then I wouldn’t only train up to 200kg but endurance events are different, many marathon runners only run up to 18-20 miles in training before completing the 26 mile event.


So, I had a plan in place, all I needed to do now was stick to it, which was easier said than done. You need to remember dear reader that this wasn’t the only training I was doing, I was still lifting 4 times a week around 1.5-2 hours each session. At first this wasn’t too bad, I only had to find an extra 2-3 hours a week, but in July I was cycling 8-10 hours a week, or I should say meant to.


Being honest I did 2-3 sessions a week for those 5 months; sometimes the long session wasn’t as long as it should have been, but I was pretty consistent. The one big mistake I made was not getting a cycle computer until 6 weeks out. This little gem showed me that I was underestimating my rides by around 20%! This was a nasty shock, instead of my long run being 40 miles at this point I realized that I’d only done 30 miles; the next long (40 mile) ride felt really tough.


My last long training ride was 60 miles, and it was on this ride that I realised that I really didn’t like SPD (clip) pedals. I’d had some trouble with my feet on other rides but after 20 miles I could hardly push the pedals. With these clip pedals one is always pushing through the same 2 square inches of foot, whereas with normal pedals you can subtly shift your foot so that no one area gets overworked.


I had been told by experienced cyclists that these pedals were essential, that they would increase my efficiency by up to 20%; and they did feel good until the feet started to hurt so I decided to go old school with the pedals.


So I had done my last training ride, and apart from a sticky patch where I don’t think I’d had enough food around the 45 mile mark I don’t think I did too badly.


Now for the event itself – www.30thirty30.co.uk, which I should now point out was chosen because the owner of the company is a cycling nut, he has ridden stages of the Tour de France which are made open to the public every year. To say that he is into his cycling would be an under statement.


The weather forecast wasn’t good but my nightmare scenario of wind didn’t materialise, thank goodness; me cycling into a head wind is like a sail going the wrong way! I don’t particularly like getting wet but it could have been worse. Our team of 5 non cyclists (non cyclists until recently) left Pennyhill Park at 09.18, witnessed by a fantastic crowd including the England Rugby coach Martin Johnson. On route there were 4 check points, to stop us from cheating I guess, and more importantly to feed us.


The first 50 miles were great; the pace was fine for me, although Jenni, my assistant gym manager was frustrated by the slow pace. Jenni does everything fast – so I’m told.


We pulled in for a nice lunch at Newbury Rugby club, and then back on the bike for the second half of the ride. This is where things got interesting as far as I was concerned, or should I say tiresome. The next 25 miles weren’t much fun; firstly my shoulder really started to hurt; I hadn’t had a problem with it on any of the training rides but now it kicked in with a vengeance.

Not_HappyWet and not very happy! Still 25 miles to go! 

Last year I had a fairly major shoulder operation and it’s been pretty bad after training for the last 6 months. It probably didn’t help that I Benched the evening before, well tried to anyway. Yes folks, when reading my articles and blogs it’s a case of do as I say not as I do; at times I can be a dumb old meathead!


I also got very wet; the rain wasn’t really hard but the roads got very wet, bad drainage I guess, so I ended up soaked through and with my shoulder hurting like a bitch I wasn’t very happy. But, as Winston Churchill said, “when going through hell keep going”, OK, I know I’m being more than a little melodramatic, quoting our great wartime leader in the context of a charity cycle ride, but you get the idea.


Anyway, after 25 miles of if not hell but abject misery things brightened somewhat; even the nasty hills that the course organizer had put in were enjoyable in a masochistic way. Around this time, with 15 miles to go Jenni and her friend Jud took off; they finished 30 minutes before us, yes we were that slow.


Over the last 10 miles our little group of 3 got spread out somewhat but we all rejoined for the last downhill stretch to the finish. At the finish there were around what seemed like 100 people cheering us in; I must say that was a great feeling.


So the 90 miles from Pennyhill to the Manor House were done; as I said earlier we left at 9.18am and arrived at 7pm, although according to my computer I was only moving for 7hrs 40. My average speed was 11.6mph, aka very slow, but I did get up to 35.5mph on one of the downhill stretches.


I must say that the organisation of this event was first class; each of the stops had water, energy drinks, fruit, and chocolate bars. When we finished I was directed to a buffet but believe it or not I didn’t feel like eating; I just wanted to curl up and die somewhere, usually I’d do that after a good feed.


In the days that followed there was some soreness in my legs, but no more than I’d get doing a decent Squat session. Obviously there was some tenderness in the backside; but the main issue was the shoulder, although the ride is far from the only contributory factor there. The cardio bunnies aren’t going to like this but I feel more worn out after a lifting meet; although I’m far from being a great lifter, I’m a real donkey on the bike.


And to those who ask if I’d do it again all I’ll say is “do you want to buy a second hand bike?”


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Be Mighty – Whatever madness you do!