When my alarm went off this morning I really didn’t want to get up. I have to admit, well I don’t but I will anyway, that I definitely felt yesterdays effort in my legs – there was a certain amount of stiffness there, certainly a little more than I was expecting. (I wasn’t expecting any!)

So, I dragged myself off to the gym and spun out the first of three hours today starting, as yesterday at just after six am. The view, as always was of this:

The workout was of the same one as mentioined earlier but after yesterdays over exertion with the back to back efforts in the evening, I decided to split today into three with one in the afternoon and then one in the evening if my boredom threshold can cope. I thought I had a good selection of music on my phone well, of course I do, my taste in music is phenomenal* but I don’t seem to have anything I actually want to listen to whilst doing this that I haven’t already done so. I’m going to try and make some motivational playlists when I get the time or perhaps I should just watch Rocky III and take some inspiration from there? I’d watch A Sunday In Hell but people getting to actually ride there bikes is making me quite envious. And angry.

*Unless you ask my friends. Or anyone that has met me.

Now, despite deciding to do three seperate sessions, unfortunately work got in the way this afternoon so I was back to doing two hours back to back. It wasn’t as bad as I’d thought  and I remembered to have a break between the hours (and a pear.) So, here’s the happy endings:

This seems to also be turning into an exercise in the Internet as I now have a Strava, WordPress and Flickr account. I still can’t seem to find a way to show the time/date stamp on my photographs as you can see. I can view them on my phone/camera and on the Flickr App but they don’t appear on the website. Which is annoying.

Other than the small techinical details, that was as good a second day as I could have hoped for and I think the numb/bum and sore back will remain as slight discomforts rather than cause any problems which is good although I can certainly appreciate that an a hour a day on there is enough both for mind and bum.


My first day of the 500 started well with a 0100 call-out as the ship had blacked out. A call to the engineers the electrician and I was soon back in bed ready for my 0600 alarm call.

As this is the Ride to Redemption, I thought it best to see if it actually will be so I weighed myself:

So that’s 159lbs (I’m 5’9″ so not exactly a grimpeur) at the start and I guess the aim is to simply not gain any weight although losing some would be nice. We are blessed onboard with an excellent cook which is good for indulgence, obesity, gout and type two diabetes but not so much for health and fitness. Especially at this time of year, a massive amount of self-control will be required.

So, suitably unrefreshed I pedaled my way to my first 34.8km. It was, as expected an entirely unremarkable experience although not an unpleasant start to the day. Anything bike related is going to be worthwhile anyway isn’t it?

What I did learn was that despite being sold the most fantastically advanced phone in the shop, seriously; this one does everything (sales assistants words, not mine) it turns out that what it doesn’t do is time and date stamp photographs. This was going to be part of my evidence so I’m unsure of what to do now. I’m busy scanning apps for something suitable that can be uploaded to photobucket and then onto here but so far no such luck. However, I have an ingenious plan:

Yup, that’s a post-it note with the date and the session  number written on it in felt tip. As you can also see, I haven’t found the anti-shake function either but I’m sure that does exist. You can however, if you squint a bit and open your mind, see that it says 60 minutes and 34.8km. A solid start.

So, after work, I managed to get into the gym just before 1800 for my next session which was a double-header. In my excitement I forgot my special time/date stamp application system so instead I’ve had to improvise and I think everyone will concur that this is a good method:

I have to admit that at this point I was starting to feel it in my legs a bit – the combination of the last two evenings exploratory attempts should perhaps have been conducted earlier in the week, with a recovery day in between them and the start, but I thought that I might as well persevere and get the third hour done.  I’ve found a method that works for now so I’m sticking with it:

That’s with the anti-shake on. At this point I definitely had the wobbly legs and, if I was out on a ride, I’d be pretty close to a bonk by now. I’d never actually thought that I might need to take food into the gym with me but I think nutrition is something to consider for the future (if I continue with the two-hour efforts) as will be sufficient water and perhaps remembering to take a ‘comfort break’ between hours. There was a slightly fraught moment at the end when I almost relaxed too much.

As far as cycling goes, what I’ve done today and how I feel now is definitely comparable to a moderate to hard 60 – 80 miles on the road  perhaps slightly harder, especially with the saddle discomfort. So, that’s the first day of my pretend Festive 500 done with a total of 104.4 km in the musette.

As you can imagine, I’m not particularly excited by the prospect of pedalling 500km over the next nine days (well, hopefully seven) in the cave but it’s something I think I can do (I know I can do the distance as I’ve done London-Edinburgh-London) and that I can fit in around work.

So, my strategy is going to be to try to do three hours per day for the first three days, have a day off and then do two hours per day for the next three days to cover 522km in total with a day spare (for travelling home) and the final day to get out and actually ride (Cragg Vale or Yorkshire Dales.)

I’m going to start early with a one hour session at 0615 before work and then either an afternoon session at lunchtime finished with an hour in the evening or one before breakfast and one in the evening of either two hours or one as required.

Don’t all be jealous now but this will be the glorious scenery I’ll be enjoying for the majority of the Festive 500:

As you can see there’s also some fire fighting equipment in there as it also doubles as the Emergency Equipment Station. I say doubles but triples is more accurate as that little cupboard on the right that the breathing apparatus is bolted to is the non-hermetically sealed smoking room.  I’ll have a little bit of motivation with that authentic Belgian Six Day atmosphere which will keep my imagination running and keep me going.

You might also notice the clipboard. Cyclists do like statistics – RPM, BPM, Watts, cadence etc. so I did a test ride for an hour this evening just to see exactly what it is I’m going to do each time and the hour breaks down like this:

Warm Up:

1 minute at  66 watts;

1 minute at 88 watts;

1 minute at 109 watts;

1 minute at 69 watts;

6 minutes at 109 watts.

Hill Profile / Intervals:

1 minute at 69 watts;

1 minute at 130 watts;

1 minute at 69 watts;

1 minute at 175 watts;

1 minute at 69 watts;

1 minute at 200 watts.

This is repeated 5.75 times (i.e on the sixth repetition, the 200 watt final interval is omitted)

Cool Down:

1 minute at 69 watts;

2 minutes at 88 watts;

1 minute at 69 watts.

That’s how each hour breaks down – I have a cadence of 105 rpm rising to 115 rpm on the ‘hills,’ and the brain inside the machine accounts for 487 calories. It’s definitely a good (for me) hour of work so hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up. If I start to struggle, I may try some steady rides to keep going.

But what about the evidence?

Well, I’ll upload manually onto Strava (I usually use runkeeper when I remember so it’ll probably be there too) as soon as I’ve finished a session and I will take photographs of every one I do for uploading here. I’m also going to get a responsible adult to witness a log sheet which I’ll also keep. The Captain of the ship has agreed to be my referee so he’s going to make sure I do everything properly and bully me as necessary.

So, tomorrow it begins….

Today, we had the good news that the vessel doesn’t have any orders for cargo or to sail from port over the festive period. So, I’m in port in the north-west of England with some of the countries finest cycling terrain, the Lake District, in view and right on my doorstep!

Sadly for me, as the duty officer, it  requires that I remain onboard at all times so there’s still no opportunity to get out and ride. It’s torture being able to see what I’m missing. It does however, reduce the number of hours worked per day and therefore gives me a little bit more leeway in how I approach the Festive 500.

I usually only manage a maximum of one hour when using the stationary bike as it’s all the time I can spare and squeezing in three was always going to be a  so last night I tried something new – I used the machine for an hour and a half.  I’ve just gone wild, I know. I also now know why it only allows programmes of an hour – any longer and it becomes extremely uncomfortable. I’m still feeling it now nearly 24 hours later.

That has served as a reminder as to why I used my previous set up (until the company provided us with a new treadmill which has since taken up all the room – how selfish?!) Please note the hi-tec turbo mat made entirely from recycled, natural materials which is in turn, recyclable. As turbos are explicitly outlawed, this loss hasn’t affected me. And yes, that is my 500 machine in the background….

Now, since this is supposed to be a challenge, I also want to not just put in the time, but put in some effort too – I certainly won’t be pedalling on the easiest setting!

The levels are set between one and twelve and I chose the level seven hill climb option which is simply a series of increasing intervals repeated 5.8 times per hour between a warm up and cool down period. Each interval is one minute. I shall add more details of his later. It’s a series of flats and hills without the reward of a downhill in between and, a little like riding fixed gear, I always have to pedal. No matter what the setting, speed is always calculated at 34.8km/h so this is what I’ll be working on.

I would describe the levels from nine onwards as extremely difficult – an hour doing this programme on level ten and I’m done, level eight is still a pretty good ride and level seven is, I have concluded from last night,  going to be difficult enough for three hours per day – it’ll certainly require more effort than if I was riding one of my normal routes.

I’m hoping all this wasn’t too exciting and I wish anyone following to be able to rejoice in the monotony as much as me so there will no doubt be some statistics to follow.



This year, I am going to attempt the Rapha Festive 500 (Ride to Redemption) which is to cycle 500 kilometres over the festive period between December 23rd and the 31st:


Now, it is meant to be completed outside on a bicycle and as per the rules turbo trainers and rollers are not to be counted towards the final distance but this presents me with a problem. Well, two problems to be exact…

Firstly, I was the victim of a hit and run in November when a car pulled out in front of me without looking. This has resulted in some injuries which have prevented me from riding a bike – tendon damage to my shoulder, a sprained wrist and, on the other hand, a broken finger which is still in a splint.

As you can see, it’s not a particularly horrific injury (the  swelling and bruising were far more impressive than the x-ray would suggest)  but that little bit that has broken off is where the extensor tendon is attached to which needs to heal if I ever want to straighten my finger again. I also can’t grip my handlebars or brake with sufficient control – I did try!  So, that coupled with the other ouches means I am officially off my bike until December the 27th when the splint comes off and everything has healed.



Now, the second problem I have and it’s  one that any cyclist can sympathise with is that due to work, I find it very difficult to actually get out and ride my bike sometimes. I am currently at work, working twelve hours per day every day (including any and all public holidays) and, unfortunately as a navigation officer in the Merchant Navy, this also means being on a ship at sea. As I’m sure you can now appreciate, the opportunities to ride are extremely limited and this is the real nature of my problem.

Having read the rules of the Rapha Festive 500 I’m hoping that, due to my exceptional circumstances and the fact that, although turbo trainers and rollers have been ruled out, there appears to be a minor loophole that means stationary bicycles haven’t. So, I intend to exploit this and try to complete the distance using the stationary bike in our fantastic, state of the art, climate controlled gymnasium…. Prepare to be amazed:


Unfortunatley, the gym (this really should be in inverted commas) is not quite as described. It is, quite frankly the most dismal and uninspiring space it has ever been my displeasure to have exercised in with old, outdated equipment (although it’s still clinging on to life) and no air conditioning or heating. This can be a problem as, being a converted part of the ship, it’s nothing more than a metal box. This means that it’s incredibly hot and humid in the tropics with the sun beating down all day and, as I am now in winter North Atlantic conditions, pretty cold and damp! That is an early nineties (Life Fitness) LifeCycle 9500HR. I expect these are now used by those training for L’Eroica but it’s what I am left to work with. The view from the position of the user is also as depressing as you’expect. There will be more of this later….

The one thing I have to look forward to is Friday the 30th of December when I will be leaving this mighty vessel and travelling home. Although this means I have one day where it’s unlikely I will be able to complete any kilometres it does leave one, final day when I hope the weather will be kind enough to actually let me ride my bike and complete any remaining kilometres in the manner intended.

In the meantime, as an exercise in suffering, boredom, exhaustion and misery I can envisage this being extremely succesful. I expect to have to pedal for three hours per day, split into three in order to fit into my working and sleeping patterns – I will also be affected by the severity of the weather as heavy pitching and rolling renders the equipment off limits. I guess not getting rained on is certainly one advantage but I can’t think of any others – believe me, I would choose riding a bike, outside in any weather over having to pedal in the cave.

Hopefully the kind people at Rapha will understand that despite competing in a manner slightly outwith what is intended, I am still competing with the spirit required.

I wish everyone involved the best of luck with their efforts – happy and safe cycling everyone!