View from the back

Training is now well under way as I take up the honoured position of stoker in the Tuffcall team, bringing many years of experience, unfortunately very few of them on the back of a bicycle, let alone a tandem.

The regime is science-based and multi-disciplinary, including HIIT previously mentioned in this blog, and more recently a trip from Limehouse to Box Hill, with several up and downs, a stop at the pub, and back to London.

Endurance is all important so the 70-odd miles of this session was good for confidence building, and apart from generally weariness, painful ischial tuberosities and a raging beer thirst, I came through reasonably unscathed.

The role of stoker is self-explanatory: cycle as hard as you can, while the bloke in front cycles as hard as he can, operates the gears, steers, etc. The job requires a fair amount of faith in the driver which will be at its most tested coming down the mountain on gravel roads with hairpin bends. The fact that you can’t really see much in front of you makes this easier, in an ostrich head-in-the-sand way. So far Tuffs has shown a level of caution and maturity quite beyond his years, which makes me think I’ll make it in the end.


Below decks

Sadly I missed my stoker’s 51st birthday lunch this Sunday. Ros had to work and a combination of factors, including my own backlog of work, meant that getting two children to Woodbridge from London, via a rail replacement bus service, in time for lunch was not going to pan out – particularly as, if I was going to complete my work, I needed to stay sober.

As it turned out lunch continued until 9.30.

9.30am that is!

Not having Monday off meant that my absence was a good thing. It also meant that I was noticeably fitter when Henry came up smiling on Tuesday, to loosely quote, ‘Withnail and I’.

I did shred my Schwalbe Durano tyres on the way to the office. Conveniently, this was outside the school my partner is principle of, which meant I had company as I swapped tubes on the side of the road.

The reason I mention the tyre manufacturer is that Strava shows that these Schwalbe Durano’s have carried my 16 stone for over 3,900 miles before letting me down – just astounding!

Back to Henry, and we meet at the boat after work for our weekly tandem training. Motivation has been higher as evidenced by Ros’ delay meaning we happily abandon our ride and proceed to our post ride HIIT routine (as Chris covers in his post) of alternating 12 x 30 second sprints on the Kona that is set up on a turbo trainer under the deck. Doing this at least justifies a beer to groan over in the saloon while promising to knock the drinking and smoking on the head.

It is harder than it sounds as the end of this clip would demonstrate – if I could upload it here. Facebook it is then…

High Intensity Interval Training – Tuffcall update


It’s February 1st and approx 13 weeks before the Monster.

At least one of us is still on the wagon, although for how much longer

lech index


is very hard to say – A trip to Poznan in Poland followed by a trip to Eire will probably kill that virtuous attitude to training.

The tandem twins are struggling to master dual controls and the intrepid Silver Fox has lost his favourite wooly hat so training is on hold – outdoors anyway, which brings me to the main purpose of the post.

In the dim and distant past, spin classes were all the range in gyms up and down the country.  Pedal like crazy for a minute, have a rest and then repeat, over and over again. Did it work, no idea, haven’t set foot in a gym since I broke my ankle playing squash many years ago.  Anyway, unless you cycle for at least a day, it’s not real training. How can cycling indoors for 30 minutes be any use at all when you have to cycle up hill to a ski resort.

Fast forwards 20 years.  Spin is now HIIT and for the very serious there is Tabata – you do it in the comfort of your own shed or in some cases, the bilges of your boat.

Strap your self on, warm up, pedal like you are going to explode for 30s, have  60s rest and repeat. Today was day 1, I managed 4 reps (a technical term) before blacking out and hitting my head on the handlebars.

Tomorrow is theoretically a rest day, but I’ve set myself a target of 10 reps.

Does is work, apparently so. Professional cyclists, when not taking epo having been doing it for years.  Will it work for Team Tuffcall? Somehow I doubt I will feel confident enough to swap 4 hours grinding up and down Kent hills for 30m in a shed, listening to the radio but I’m going to give it a red hot go.


And for Henry, here is a link to the etape