Posts Tagged ‘Preparation’

The human guinea pig

Doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital have been lining up to study bits of me and I’ve turned into a one man research project. The idea is to undergo a series of medical tests now and when I return in 2014 to get a sort of ‘before and after’. It will be interesting on a personal level to see how I change physically over the duration of the ride but it could also be a good way to help promote the health benefits of cycling when I give talks about my ride to groups and school children on my return. Having said all that I don’t think I prepared myself for the harsh reality of giving a group of scientists free rein to experiment on me. Here’s a selection of the nasties I’ve been subjected to…

  • Having a nasogastric tube inserted (the tube is inserted up the nose, down the oesophagus and into the stomach).
  • Zapped by magnetic pulses or ‘twitch tests’ which feels and appears to the outside observer not dissimilar to electrocution (see graphic video below).
  • Pushed to my physical limit on an exercise bike to test my oxygen consumption (or VO2 max). I discover that ten years of pies and hedonism has indeed taken its toll.
  • Having my chest shaved in order to attach electrodes (although thankfully during this ordeal my friend and camera-lady Jess erupted with laughter, jerking the video camera around uncontrollably and rendering all footage uninterpretable).
  • Getting into the Bod Pod (or body composition tracking system analysis) – I find out that I’m composed of 20% fat and have therefore crept into the “excess fat” category.
  • Having a huge needle inserted into my quadriceps and 4 pea-sized lumps of muscle removed. The tissue will go into liquid nitrogen for 5 years when another sample will be taken and the two can be compared under the microscope.

And here’s the evidence…

The Welsh 3000s

Last week, a few mates and I headed up to Snowdonia to take on the Welsh 3,000’s Challenge, a not altogether sensible escapade that entails bagging the 15 peaks in Wales of greater than 3,000 feet in 24 hours. To invest this hare-brained endeavour with some worthy purpose, we took on the challenge in aid of Merlin, the same worthy cause I’m supporting over the course of my 5 year bike ride which starts in January.

I quite enjoy pootling about on mountains and I hoped it would be easy to pull togther a sizable donation for Merlin. This afterall was not one of those irritating instances where someone asks to be sponsored for doing something pleasant on a Sunday afternoon, like when a crazy woman in my work asked me to sponsor her for walking two miles through an autumnal wood to provide cats with earmuffs during the firework season. There were 8 of us taking part and the combined generosity of our nearest and dearest enabled us to obliterate our collective target of £2K.

On the day, we scrambling and scampering over more than 30 miles of scree slopes and knife-edge ridges, incorporating a dizzying rise and fall of some 4,000 vertical metres – it’s the equivalent of walking from Charing Cross to Luton, and clambering over the Eiger in the middle. It seemed like a good idea in the pub.

None of us died, but there were times when death would have seemed the easier option.

We took wrong turns; we got a bit scared; we considered giving up; we bemoaned gelatine legs, wind-cracked lips and blisters big as the O2 arena; we each consumed approximately 8,000 calories-worth of German sausage-cheese sandwiches, Aldi flapjacks and Kitkat Chunky Caramels. All in all it was a magnificently amateurish effort, based on the entirley inaccurate assumption that two months spent walking up and down stairs at lunchtimes would prove adequate preparation for 24 hours of wading through peat-bogs and slithering down steep scree inclines on our backsides.
Alas, common sense did infiltrate proceedings at one juncture when, in deteriorating weather and gathering dusk, we turned our backs on the intimidating shark’s-tooth summit of Tryfan, reasoning that to continue upwards would have been tantamount to suicide. In the end, therefore, we came home with a mere 14 lofty hills in the bag. In an attempt to assuage the indignation some of our many generous sponsors may feel at the news that we only achieved 93.33% of our target, I should add that in spite of this hiccup the trip still fulfilled the principal criteria of the legitimate charity challenge in that it was, for the most part, wholly unenjoyable. We all came home pretty much hating Snowdonia and more or less despising one another.

Were it not for the fact that we were all labouring under the added sense of obligation instilled by the charitable flourishes of friends and family, we would almost certainly have capitulated at around 5am on Friday, as we stood shivering on the summit of Snowdon in a 40 miles an hour gale, stricken by the realisation that this was going to be really bloody hard.

Sponsors rolling in…

It already feels like Christmas in my flat. Boxes of top notch cycling gear have started to arrive thanks to the faith and support of some very generous sponsors. I’ll be giving a description of all the gear soon along with some product reviews but for now here are the guys who are helping top make my journey happen. These aren’t big corporates with an endless supply of cash. All have made a commitment to a worthy cause and their contribution is hugely appreciated.

The Cycle Show

This weekend I visited Cycle 09 – the largest and highest profile bike related show in the UK. I saw this not just as an opportunity to learn more about the latest technology and innovations but to make some useful contacts and crucially to get some sponsors on board. So I donned my ‘Cycling The 6’ T shirt, rehearsed ‘the pitch’ and entered the Dragons Den. Reassuringly almost everyone I approached seemed receptive and genuinely interested in my journey if not in my appeal for sponsorship. A few, once they’d caught a glimpse of the wadge of leaflets I was clutching and the trademark ernest demeanor of an expedition enthusiast on the hunt for a sponsor suddenly looked a bit flustered and did their best to avoid me. Most manufacturers and distributors of bikes and bike-related products get a huge number of sponsorship requests, some several per day, so it was no surprise that I occasionally provoked this reaction.

I found Kevin Shannon at the show – Kevin leaves just after I do on a 3 year ride. It was good to exchange tips and advice. I also managed to see Jim Rees in action – Jim was attempting to cycle 1000 miles on an exercise bike during the 4 day show. I ended the day with a massage and watched some kids on BMXs perform some aerial heroics. As a direct result of conversations I had at the show I have secured another five sponsors so it was well worth the effort.

Climbing Mount Damavand, Iran

Last weekend me and 5 mates set out to conquer mount Damavand in Iran. Despite the cumulative effect of altitude sickness, sunburn, insomnia, exhaustion and being almost struck by lightning… I made it (although two friends had to heave my beleaguered frame the last 30 metres to the top). Now that my mock-inducing beetroot hue has faded, courtesy of factor 5 sun cream (I know, I know), I feel well and truly satisfied to have made it up and down the highest peak in the Middle East and the loftiest volcano in Asia. It’s summit lies at 5610m above sea level, a mere 200 odd metres off Kilimanjaro, and we were rewarded with some magnificant views from near the top…