My first brevet

Friday, December 30, 2005

New Year's resolutions

Any decent blogg should have this so here I go . This is what I will strive to accomplish in my cycling carrer during 2006 ! (the brevet does not count ;-) )
  1. Lose weight or rather lose the fat. I have a lot of fat and I hate carrying it around when I ride. I have done well these last couple of years but I still huff and puff on the uphills. If by the end of 2006 stabilise at around 100kgr I will consider it a major success.
  2. Improve my technique - I will work on the technique after I finish the brevet. First of all I need to gain confidence when I am clipped in my mountain bike - if I manage to do that I will elevate my technique one solid step.
  3. MTB - Learn how to trackstand
  4. MTB - Learn how to unweigh the bike - front and rear (or both at the same time)
  5. MTB - Be able to ride down the St. George Trail from the beginning to the end with no dabbing.
  6. MTB - Do one major trail-ride round Mt. Parnitha.
  7. Road - Conquer the St. Peter's ascend. (8kms at 6%)
  8. Road - Climb the Pissia ascend comfortably. (similar) DONE !!!!
  9. Road - Drop my time in the ascend to my house (800 metres at 10%) to under 4:30 (best up to now 5:25)
I think that if I a manage to do #1 the rest will be easy !!!

Happy New Year !!!
Καλή Χρονιά !!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Target # 1 in sights - Metric Century !!

I believe that I am ready. This weekend I plan to break the 100km mark.

My longest ride has been about 70kms so I think that the 100 is a good possibility. Again, the idea is not just to do the 100 as I am sure that I can do it if push it. The aim is to do the 100 and feel OK afterwards !! I will go for my usual route and add a section in the middle of the ride. I will add enough kilometres in order to reach or exceed the 100km mark by the time I return home.

If I manage to complete it sucesfully, then I know that I will be right on target. I want by the end of January to be able to complete a 120-150 km ride comfortably.

Lets see.... only time will tell - I am confident though.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mery Christmas

Merry and healthy Christmas everyone !!

That was a wonderful Christmas holidays. I spent a lot of time with the family, and of course I put in some mileage under my belt.

I am somewhat satisfied with myself in that I managed to stay away from Christmas eating excesses. I did eat more than I planned but not as much as I usually eat!! What the heck, its Christmas after all. The scale however is still stuck at 120 kilos. Maybe this is good this time of the year!!!

Bike wise now this three day period was very constructive . On Christmas Eve I went out with some friends. The plan was to do around 80 kilometres but since the weather was very bad we changed the plan and rode a different route - the mountain pass that we planed to use would probably be frozen. As we moved towards the north it started to snow. What a wonderful feeling!! The landscape was like a Christmas painting- the village in the distance covered in snow, with smoke coming out of the chimneys.

(me and some friends)

Riding in such conditions taught me two lessons – a) always carry a spare pair of socks and b) I need to buy overshoes. I was dressed quite well except my feet. I was wearing a thermal cap under the helmet, waterproof gloves, a thermal vest, a winter jersey and waterproof jacket, and winter tights. I was therefore very comfortable with the temperature except that my toes froze. Water crept in the shoes and my socks were soaked in water. It was gradually becoming unbearable so I decided to return home. Nevermind – I am learning. I know that in the brevet I will put an extra pair of socks in the pocket !!

On Christmas Day I woke up at 6:00 and by 7:00 I was ready to go. I wanted to put in 3 hours and be home before the family woke up. Good plan but I forgot something - the roads were frozen!!! In the beginning of the ride I could sense that something was wrong with the bike’s traction but as I climbed higher and higher I was actually hearing the thin ice crack under my wheels. Logic prevailed and I decided that enough was enough and turned around. I would ride somewhere else where hopefully there would be no ice. The downhill was very very slippery so I decided to walk back. I could see the headlines – “Mad cyclist is found in the ditch with broken bones”. MTB shoes really proved their worth by the way - I could walk almost normally!!! I walked about 600 metres and rode again when the road dried up. I then headed towards the my “training ground”, where I did three 10 kilometre laps and headed back home. I decided to take a detour and rode through the empty city. It was fantastic. I could smell the food in the stoves – bread in one house, soup in the other, roast pork in the next. Lovely feeling that only a bike ride can give you. I returned home a very happy man.

The Boxing day ride was even better. The temperatures were a couple of degrees higher so the road was clean. At last I could do my ‘long ride’. Again I set off very early and felt very good. Perhaps the longish rides of the previous two days woke up my body and I was riding fast for my standards. The roads were completely empty this time – everyone must have been sleeping off the Christmas festivities except me it seemed.

(not a frequent sight)

I felt very strong and added a couple of high intensity intervals in the ride. My recoveries were very good and my legs felt fantastic. On the long uphill on my way home I tried to ride up with a lower gear / higher cadence and I think it was much better as a shaved off a couple of minutes of the longish 8km climb.

Today I will take a rest, and tomorrow I will go out for an easy ride – I am really enjoying all this.

Week ending 25/12/05

Weight - 120kg (STILL !!!!)
Odometer - 310 kms
Resting HR - 59bpm

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I feeeel good !!

Yesterday, as soon as everyone went to bed in my house, I dressed up and went for a ride!! It was quite funny as I was discussing with myself :

Me - "Shall I go out ?"
Myself - "Are you crazy? Its late, dark and freezing cold. Stay inside and watch the TV !!"
Me - " $@£* off - I am going out!!"

and I did. I dressed up, loaded the bike on the car and went straight to the 'training ground'. I parked the car in a well lit supermarket parking, and as I got ready (clear glasses, helmet, gloves, reflective vest etc) everyone was looking at me as if I arrived from Mars. I jumped on the bike and went.

It was very cold (about 2 degrees Celsius) but was not windy. Without realising it I was travelling the 'downhill' bit at about 45kph without any serious effort!!! I really felt fantastic. On the uphill part I was going at about 20 to 25 kph and I did three loops. On the beginning of the third loop the endorphines must have started flowing in my system and I let myself loose. I sprinted on the downhill, sprinted on the uphill, I was jumping over potholes and slaloming between the metal reflectors on the road surface ..... I was having a great fun day with my road bike - I knew I could have fun with my mountain bike, but never realised that a road bike can be so fun as well. Ttoppy you are right !!!! I started shouting on my own (at about 11:00 at night I was all alone on the road) things like "Where is the f$£"ing chain of this bike (*) ", "Are there three granny gears on this bike? (**)".

Felt good!!! I am looking forward to today’s party!!!

* A joke that the USPS team used to say amongst themselves. It means that you are so strong that you turn the cranks so easily as if no chain is installed!!

** Similar to above. The granny gear is the smaller of the bikes chainrings and is relatively light. It also means that I felt so strong that even the largest ring felt like a feather

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Second report - need to adjust to circumstances

This was another 'almost wasted' week. Some unfortunate problems meant that I had to stay indoors and spend more time with the family instead of going out to train. These events have shown that unless someone is a professional athlete, or is alone in this world, then plans cannot be religiously followed otherwise too much strain is put on personal relationships.

Anyway….this weekend I limited myself to small rides (35 kilometres each) close to my house. I have found a good stretch of open road that runs along the National Highway and traffic is relatively light. I can do loops of 10 kilometres each almost uninterrupted - and if I add another 10 kilometres to get to the road and return to the house and it looks that I have found my perfect training ground.

I felt very good. The temptation to let myself lose and cycle like a mad man was too great – looking at an open stretch of road in front is tempting isn't it? But I made a conscious effort to keep myself within my aerobic limits. Actually I was lucky as the road has a slight incline but the wind was blowing quite strong against me on the descend, and helping me during the ascend. This wind helped me maintain my heart rates within the limits without having to ride as slow as a snail !!! Very good.

I again started to feel the saddle by the end of the ride. I have not tried my MTB saddle yet, I hope to do it over this long weekend, as I am planning on two longer rides of 80-90km this time.
Weight ? That is a very frustrating story. Even though I avoided making all the mistakes I do every day, i.e. stopped snacking and limited my carbohydrate intake I have not lost a single %$”!”£@ gram!! It is very, very frustrating !!! To be honest I feel a bit lighter and the working clothes feel slightly loser than two weeks ago but still the scale is stuck at 120kgrs !!! I do not know – I will insist with my diet and perhaps one day I will walk on the scale and see that I have lost 2-3 kilos in one week.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mid week report

Monday and Tuesday I did not do any cycling unfortunately - by the time I get home and finish all of my household responsibilities, it gets too late and I then find all sort of excuses of not going out - "I am hungry", "Its cold", "I am tired". This is not good. I did manage to do a couple of ab-back workouts so these two days have not been a complete waste. I think that once I get into a routine I will be more disciplined.

Yesterday I managed to put in about one and a half hour of riding and it felt great. It was cold and raining at times but I could not care less. I really enjoyed my ride and I am looking forward to today's ride.

However, due to the darkness, I am a bit afraid to wander out to the open road so I am doing easy workouts around my neighbourhood. I am not concentrating too much on 'distance covered' but rather to 'time spent on the aerobic zone'. I am putting my triple into good use as my neighbourhood is hilly so in order to maintain my intensity within the aerobic zone and once it gets steep, I drop into the granny gear and just spin along.

Food wise? That is going OK I think. I have tried and stopped the unnecessary nibbling during the evening and I feel better. I will avoid weighing myself daily as weight fluctuations can be great and sometimes disappointing. I will limit my food at night to sugar free - fat free yoghurts, green leafy salads with tuna or cottage cheese and avoid like the plague high carb foods such as bread, pasta, rice, rusks. I think now it is more important to lose the weight (hopefully fat) rather than be 'carbed up'. If I manage to lose the weigh, then refuelling with carbs is very easy !!

For me the brevet has started and the difficult part is not the actual riding day – that should be a fun day out. The real brevet is trying to discipline between now and 18 February.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

First report.


this weekend I did two longish rides. One on my own of about 70km and another one with some friends of about 65 kilometres. The second one was quite tough as it involved the total climbing of about 1,100 metres !!

I did these in order to give myself a starting point and see where I am. On the one hand I am happy that I feel good. I do not feel tired now and the legs are fantastic and ready to take on some more !! On the other hand though, these rides showed to me two weaknesses that I have already thought about but I need to address. One is back pain and the other one is a sore ...behind.

After the 40k mark the lower back started to ache. It was the lower right just above the hip. It felt like muscle pain and as ride progressed the pain grew and grew. I really need to strenghten my back muscles as they will be called to support my weight for more than 10 hours in February. Perhaps the pain is posture related so I will need to explore my positioning on the bike. Perhaps a less than perfect position is not noticable on a 30 to 40 kilometre ride but on a 200k one, every millimitre may matter !!

My ....behind also hurt a lot. Thank god it was not numbness of the 'softer parts' but pain near the sit bones. Again practice will strenghten the area but I will also need to invest on high quality clothing and perhaps a better saddle. Anyway the good thing is that I now have good excuse to spend money to dress up my Spanish Lady !!

I will need to correct these two issues as it will be very dissapointing ot have the same sort of pains, knowing that there will be another 160km to go !!

The plan for this week will be to to a low intensity ride for about one hour every day. I will start playing around with the postion of the saddle (fore / aft, up / down) and will even try my MTB saddle which seems to be much more comfortable. In addition I will do some ab and lower back work at home.

Lets get starterd, shall we ?

The plan is to gradually increase my base mileage in order to be comfortable with say 120-140ikm rides by the beginning of February. So, since my usual long ride is 50km long and I should aim to 150km in say 8 weeks, my plan is to be able to so 100km rides by the end of this month and in increase the rides to 150kms by the end of January.

I will do one long ride every Sunday, and during the week I will try to spend 1 to 1.5 hours per day on the bike doing aerobic rides. I think that, excluding the Sunday ride, I will be able to put in 150 to 200 kilometres per week which I think its do-able.

In addition I think that I will need to do some middle body strengthening exercises (abs and back).

Thats the plan as of now and I am sure it will change as the weeks pass by.

OK there are 10 weeks to go and lets do a status check

Week ending 11/12/05

Weight - 120kg
Waist -
Odometer - 130 kms
Resting HR - 60bpm

What its all about ?

What is a brevet anyway ?

Wikepedia defines it as "A long-distance, comfortably paced, bicycle ride with check-point controls and a time limit."

I wish to participate in such a brevet. I am aiming at a 200km brevet in February 2006. The route is Elefsina (just outside Athens), Xylokastro and back.

The reason for wanting to do the 'brevet' is to confirm to myself that I have managed to "break through to the other side", the "other side" being the inactive / slouch / couch potato lifestile I was following for many many years.

I have been inactive my whole life and just two years ago I realised that this was getting me straight to the grave. I was overweight (obese is the right word), smoked about 50 cigarettes a day, worked about 12hours a day and my only contact with sport was siting on the couch and watching football.

Something clicked inside me, and I decided to change. Maybe it was that I wanted to see my two daughters grow and them having children ? Maybe it was that we just learned that my father-in-law had a terminal case of cancer ? I do not know but I am happy that I changed.

So here I am, a bit lighter, but still overweight, ex-smoker now for two years, and a crazy cyclist. I learned about the brevets just as I started to ride two years ago and I then said to myself : "Hey, one day you are going to do it". I feel that the time has come to at least give it a shot. It is not going to be easy for me. The longest distance I have done on a road bike is about 50kilometers so I need to gradually build up my mileage over the next 10 weeks to a level where I can complete the distance
  • at a reasonable time and
  • be able to keep up with a moderate group so that i do not spend 8 hours alone on the saddle


The Bike

My bike is an Orbea Vitesse. I call her my Spanish Contessita !!

It has an aluminium frame and carbon rear triangle, fork and seatpost. It is equipped with the Ultegra 2005 triple groupset and has Shimano R-550 wheels. Its a fantastic bike and I love it !!! The only changes I may make is to put a better custom built wheelset (DT Swiss perhaps).


What I have is a bit worn out and slightly large as I have lost some weight from the date I bought them !! I will buy new clothing in early February so that I will have the opportunity of trying them before B-day. I am after something very good to help me during hte 10+ hours on the saddle - Assos or ExteOndo.

Shoes - Pedals

I am using my mountain bike shoes (Shimano) together with mountainbike pedals (Crankbrother Candys). I love the combination because it allows me to use the same shoes for both bikes, have the same "clipping" feel in both bikes and most importantly I can walk almost normally with the MTB shoes. The shoes are stiff as they have carbon soles and during my current rides I feel very comfortable in them. I may reconsider once my rides get into triple figures whether the combination is acceptable - I do not want to get those funny looking road shoes unless I absolutely have to.


Although too early to decide, but I will need to have lights (front and rear), tools, spare tubes, and a bag to put everything in !!!