2017 - New Years Resolutions

I've been procrastinating a lot about goals for next year... I suppose I'm reaching that time of life where your age has actual physical implications, and I'm keen to do as much as possible to delay onset of any health issues. It's fairly well documented that on average, from the age of 40 onwards you lose ~1% of your muscle mass/performance capability per year... I'm now in that age range, and I can expect to find training harder and harder each year. As such, I'm adding in a potentially quite high-impact health-related goal.

Cycling Goals

1) Beat last years points total - 28 points to be specific. I don't want to say "go up to cat 2" (which is 40 points), as I only want to be there if I can realistically maintain the category next year. My general cardio-fitness is more than enough, however I need to improve my strength and position for the last 5-6 minutes of races. There are a myriad of secondary goals based around this, however the points total will be the key metric.

2) Top 5% in Closed Roads Sportives - I have my name down for 2 this year..RideLondon (again...this is a ballot, with results of that due in February), and Velo Birmingham. This is already booked and paid for...totally overpriced, however I have free accommodation.

Health Goals

1) Improve the quality of my sleep - I've been wearing a fitness tracker for the last 6 months. It keeps note of a number of different metrics...some useful, some less so. I've already seen that the HR monitor is not entirely accurate for training with, and the movement tracker doesn't really cope with cycling that well...however one thing that has come out that definitely links up to how I feel is the sleep-tracking capability.

There has been a fair amount of research recently on the impact of sleep on stress levels, cognitive ability and sports performance, and (shock, horror) high quality sleep is really good for you. I've definitely seen a correlation between poor sleep (small amounts of deep sleep, high levels of movement, awakened periods) and how I feel and perform the next day, so this year I'm going to take steps to reduce external factors that can impact sleep;

  • I (like many) have a phone on charge next to me...and a tablet, kindle etc. Even small light sources can be seen through closed eyelids (checked this myself, I can tell when my phone has a notification light flashing with my eyes closed). All items are going to be placed in a drawer (which I'll modify to run all the cables into).
  • Sort out blackout curtains in the bedroom (currently they are just lined)
  • Limit use of self-lit screens for 1-2 hours before bed. Invest in physical blue-light screen-filters where appropriate (the digital ones I've tried tend to screw up phones)
  • Limit caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon (or 6 hours before sleep). I've done a lot of reading about caffeine recently, mainly as I've been working on a heavily caffeinated fudge recipe. One thing that came out of this is that caffeine has a 5-hour half-life in the blood...you get peak blood levels 1 hour after consumption, then it will take ~5 hours for that level to go down by half...so,if you're taking a serious dosage (for enhanced physical performance, 150-200mg is suggested (for reference, a double-expresso has ~80mg), you're looking at 11-12 hours before you start to clear your system. I can say first-hand that this can wreck your sleep (my caffeinated flapjack is well-named)
  • Limit sugar intake in the afternoon/evening. Similar to caffeine, a high GI product will raise metabolic rates.

Entertainment Goals

1) Discover 4 new authors - I've had this for the last couple of years, and it works really well. I always exceed the target, however it encourages me to keep checking out new books

2) Do some console gaming - Final Fantasy XV has encouraged me to step back into console gaming, something I've dipped in and out of in the last couple of decades. There are a few games out there that grab my interest, and there has been a reasonable tech-step forward with HDR graphics (something that PC gaming has lagged behind on for once!). I sold my foosball table, and the (fairly large) space it took up is in the process of being converted into a chill-out area. I've inherited Gill's sofa bed (she wanted an oversized armchair instead), and I've splashed out on a big screen and a PS4 Pro (both being delivered today). I want to get back into the relaxed gaming style I used to have (sofa, tea, feet up with cushions!)

Personal Goals

1) Put 10% of gross earnings into savings - I was able to do this last year, and not really feel any particular squeeze. I've done most of the big purchases, so I should be good to continue this. Last year I had concerns over the stability of my job. I think that has diminished to some extent for the next 12-18 months, however the Uk generally is going to under-go a significant financial change (Brexit), and as always a financial catch-net is a good thing. This latter part of this year sees the end of a few bit of financial jiggery-pokery we did to get the house, so that should mean we can do some more saving hopefully.

2) Continue to improve my baking - Last year for baking was all about improving my background knowledge of techniques and skills. This year I want to work on filling in some gaps, and getting the core techniques down very precisely. A big part of that will be documenting out various techniques (I'm already in he habit of baking with a camera-phone nearby, and a notebook to write down any changes or alterations).

I'd also like to clean up the blog a bit...there is a lot of useful information in there, and it's big enough that some kind of index may be in order. I'll keep it on the Blogger back-end, as that's a really simple system to use (especially with an Android phone, as linking in photos is a doddle)


Some excellent goals. Is the high impact one the Ride Across Britain?

brainwipe's picture

No, that's been cancelled as not enough sign-ups. The sleep one potentially could have a lot of impacts,cwith changes to diet and day-to-day habits

babychaos's picture

OIC! I thought when you meant "high impact", you meant "doing something mental". I'll be interesting to see what you come up with on the sleep front.

brainwipe's picture

Hot on the heels of Rob's update, time for my quarterly check on how the year is going. This is a couple of days early as I'm nipping over to France at Stupid O'Clock on Wednesday morning to burn up some holiday and get some cycling in.

1) Beat last years points goal - I've had an average start to the racing season. I did the Hillingdon Winter Series, racing with riders significantly stronger than me, and on a less-than-ideal set-up (random aside...I've been doing investigation into equipment efficiencies in cycling, alongside aerodynamic position adjustments. It turns out you can lose a remarkable amount of power with some quite basic equipment changes. Winter tyres (typically a firmer rubber compound and a protective layer) can lose you about 10% of your power output!). I didn't get any points, but then again I wasn't expecting to...I treat it as base training.

I'm now on my race bike, and my training has put me back into race performance... I've had one road race, and picked up 7th place (same race last year I was down in the pack, so a definite improvement). Racing kicks off properly once I'm back from France, so now it's very much about keeping my fitness consistent and high for the next 6 months!

2) Top 5% in closed-road sportives - Won't be hitting these until end of July.

3) Discover 4 new authors - reading has been a little slow. I've read a few books, however they tend to have been quite "chuggy", and not the sort of thing I can read chapters at a time. I should have a bit of a catch-up in France, as it will consist of cycling and recovering for a week. Bliss!

4) Do some console gaming - This has been a great success! The chill-out area has been completed, so I now have a sofa, bloody big 4K HDR TV and a PS4 in the space my foosball table used to be. I've actually finished 3 games (virtually unheard of...I'm notorious for leaving games half-finished). There is a specific feature of the PS4 which is perfect for me...you can simply stop playing a game, and then pick up the controller and start up again...no saving, save points etc. This works superbly for me, allowing me to do short sessions in between everything else, and keep up a decent pace on games. The 3 games I've completed;

  • Final Fantasy XV - loved it. Really enjoyable, and never felt like a grind to keep up to level, a pet bugbear of mine. There is additional content coming out, however I'm going to wait for it all to land before going back.
  • Diablo III - I picked this up as it was cheap. I avoided this on PC as it was up against Torchlight 2, which I felt (and still think) is the better game. D3 felt very easy...I picked up a fairly strong Legendary Weapon about halfway, and focused all my enchantments on health regen, and ended up just punching all the major bosses in the face until they died, no tactics involved. Inoffensive fun.
  • The Last Guardian - ohh...this one is hard to do a mini-option of. It's a beautiful game, and the two main characters are genuinely fantastic. I'm a bit of a pet-person, and Trico (the giant cat-bird-thing that accompanies you) really triggered all my pet-liking nodes. This was in spite of some jarringly annoying technical issues...the camera is bloody awful sometimes (while you have nominal control of it with the right thumbstick, it often drifts or snatches away to something the game decides you may want to look at...sometimes useful, sometimes extremely badly timed). There are 3D platforming sections which were infuriating in combination with the camera issues, and some of the puzzles were so non-logical that I ended up playing with a guide to hand. The design of the game is stunning in approach (and I can see why it got so many glowing reviews), but there were a few times when I came extremely close to throwing in the towel.

Next up is Nier:Automata, which looks promising. I'm trying to pick games that make good use of the "Pro" bit of the PS4 Pro, and avoiding game genres I know I dislike (Survival Horror, for exmaple), or genres that simply work better on other platforms (First person shooters...)

5) Put 10% of Gross earnings into savings - I've spent a bit in the first couple of months...new race wheels for my bike, and the trip to France. We've tweaked the household income, and savings should recommence in earnest next month, as everything is then covered. My stand mixer is making funny noises, and might be about to give up the ghost, but thats not the most expensive thing to replace.

6) Continue to improve my baking - this has been going OK. Without going into too much detail I got further in GBBO this year, passing the food test, and getting to a camera test. I'm not in the process anymore, which may be for the best, given the new presenters (I'm sceptical). I would suggest I got into the last 100 or so, which is not bad. I'll now focus on improving my presentation skills, and a continued focus on core technical skills. We did a bake sale at work last week for Comic Relief, and I impressed/horrified everyone by turning out 160 portions of cake, tart, traybake, sweets etc etc. Needless to say we broke the company record for bake sale proceeds (not bad, when you consider the headcount is about half what it was last time we let loose!)

I've skipped the sleep one...it's the vaguest, so hardest to quantify. I'm regularly getting at least 8 hours sleep a night, and aiming to be in relaxation mode by 10pm (check watch...40 minutes to go), and I'm definitely the better for it. I can also confirm that high caffeine doses (normally for races) really trash my sleep pattern. In the month we will probably start to hit "waking up in daylight" time, and I'm going to look into blackout curtains for the bedroom, to see if we can keep it dark. I'm trying to avoid caffeine of any sort in the evening, though I drunk so much during the day I'm unsure what impact that is having.

Race season is going to have an impact on my sleep. Pretty soon I'll be racing Tuesday and Wednesday evenings...that means high intensity exercise to 8-9pm...realistically it takes 2-3 hours for your body to drop back to normal levels, and decent quality sleep is hard. Taking caffeine on in those races will only exasperate matters. It's stuff like this I really need to work with, and make sure I keep myself as balanced as possible.

babychaos's picture

I bumped into the ginger tramp at lunch, and he chastised me for not making him aware of my racing progress (NYR number 1). There was a bit of it on Facebook, a lot of it on Strava, and also on the GS Henley Webpage

Put simply, I've hit my year goal, in a 6-week period. April and May have seen me in a real peak of form, and I've had 21 pack races;

  • 2 x First Places
  • 2 x Third Places
  • 2 x Fourth Places
  • 2 x other top-10 finishes
  • 1 x puncture
  • 1 x black-flagged race (chap hospitalised)

I've also had 5th place in a league Time Trial (with our club getting 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th), and a member of the winning Team Trial Team for the league. End result of this is that last week I gained my 2nd category racing license (hence some obscure references on Facebook to racing cats). It's been quite a surreal 6 weeks, and I've been constantly expecting to fall off some kind of performance cliff. Sunday was particularly insane, where after 50 miles/2 hours of savage, attritional racing (that saw half the entrants spat out the back of the pack) I found myself off the front with three other lads, with 3 miles to go to the finish, and no-one with the legs to chase us. I managed to lose the others over the final climb, and get over the line for my first ever road race win. Completely un-expected, as I'd spent the previous hour helping bring back a 7-man break that had gone up the road, and sort of assumed that I'd burnt all my matches.

So what does this mean? Well, first off I don't have to stress about race points for the rest of the season. 2nd cat is as high as I'm going to go (1st cat is a huge step up, and also has some major logistical implications regarding travelling around the country to qualifying races). I'm able to continue to race ORRL League races, due to a rule allowing catted-up riders to continue once the league has started (not all the clubs were aware of this rule, and I suspect it won't be there next year, as so far every race has been won by a 2nd cat rider), but will only be scoring league points, not race license points. I'll be getting some race experience at higher levels, in preparation for next year when I have to earn 25 points to maintain my 2nd cat license (this is the big difference...you can get relegated from 2nd cat, whereas a 3rd cat license is always maintained).

babychaos's picture

Dr. Ginger Tramp, thankyouverymuch.

Great to see you winning, which we all know is what you started it for.

Now read this with Murray Walker's voice...

It looked all set for a group finish with the best part of a lap left, but with a few miles to go Pete (at the front still, obviously) raised the pace and found himself clear of the bunch for the second time in the race, this time with three other riders (including Antony Turner from Cranks). As the final ascent of Panshill came up Pete’s companions started to fade. Pete’s challenge didn’t though – he hit Panshill with a gap of maybe 10 seconds, and as the other three riders were swamped Pete just kept on going, crossing the line first for his maiden road race win. An awesome end to a stellar week that saw Pete take three podiums in four races and earn himself a well-deserved 2nd cat race licence.

Fucking nora, well done mate.

brainwipe's picture

James was a little gushing in the write-up. From reading up on other riders reports, I think that the repeated efforts up the climb had killed most peoples legs, and a lot of people went down with cramp in the last few miles...so less of a case of me riding off the front, but rather people dropping off. I've probably got the big miles I did over winter to thank for the endurance....that, and the massive doses of caffeine I'd inbibed before the race.

babychaos's picture

It may be true that others dropped off but then you had the endurance. Pulling away from a pack on a hill is being better. I'm going with James's write up, biased as it might be!

brainwipe's picture

Right...halfay through the year. Let's see how things are going.

1) Beat last years points total - sort of smashed this one. Last year I earnt 28 license points in total...this year I would have scored 73 so far, only I stop earning them from certain races once you go over a certain threshold (40). I hit a real peak of form in the latter half of May, with 3 podium finishes in a week, culminating in a win at a league road race. The only downside is that motivation is a little harder to ocme by now, as I have no pressure to get good finishes for the rest of the season. I have a secondary goal to support the club in winning the race league (GS Henley currently have a 47 point lead, and I'm 4th individual).

2) Top 5% in closed road sportives - 1 month to go until RideLondon...I have my start wave position (2nd group off, same as last year where we caught the first group). I have a couple of friends/teammates in the same wave, one of who is shitting it, as he's now aware of just how fast it is!

3) Discover 4 new authors - I've been quite lax on reading...partially as I've been shattered, and falling asleep in the evening. I've mainly been catching up on authors with new books out (Neal Asher, James S.A. Corey, E.M Foner). We have a holiday pencilled in for October, so I might try and line up some books for then.

4) Do some console gaming - this has also fallen somewhat on hard times, due to fatigue levels. I started Nier:Automata, however struggled to get into it. It's a beautiful game, and very well designed, however I'm finding the pace of it a little slow. I've had the new Wipeout:Omega Collection to fill in the quick blast urges, and it's a lovely retro throwback to the Playstation era (and looks stunning in 4K/HDR).

5) Put 10% into Gross earnings - this is still going well, however I have done something that may well impact savings quite heavily in the next year or so. In case you missed it, I proposed to Gill this week...after 9 years of putting up with me it seemed only fair. I've been quite honest that I don't really think marriage does/proves anything, and there is more commitment in a joint mortgage, however it is something for her, and I know it means a lot to her. I hadn't really put any thought into what comes next, however less than 48 hours after, I suspect that cooking dodo steaks over burning tenners would be cheaper. Some comedian has put a "Guides for Brides" booklet on my desk this morning, and just the master checklist (each bullet-point has it's own sub-checklist, naturally) makes me want to cry.

Pete...last of the romantics.

6) Continue to improve my baking - I'm totally doing my own wedding cake. I've mainly been doing classics, and tweaking recipes as and when I do stuff, and then once or twice a month I'll tackle something new (for example, I recently learnt to do a joconde sponge, which is a type of sponge usedfor patisserie slices and shaped cakes).

babychaos's picture

Congrats on the engagement for the wedding cake how about something classic like this :)

Evilmatt's picture

There should have been bride and groom figures gripped in the tentacles!

fish's picture

Well done on your goals, mate. I couldn't believe the week when you kept getting podiums, well done. That's hard work paying off big style. Take care on Ride London!

You've always been a romantic and marriage isn't really about romance. I was surprised when I saw the facebook update, knowing your views. It does make sense; the definition of commitment is doing something that means a lot to your partner. Do the wedding your/Gill's way. Don't be swayed on what other people say/do. Including me.

brainwipe's picture

Idid actually forget that I have a bonus goal for the year...

7) Learn to drive - this one is actually linked to me getting my 2nd cat race license (bear with me!). Next year I'll need to travel more to get to races, as I can now only race Regional A and above (I get a bit of leeway this year with league races, which are Regional B), and most races are in the arse end of nowhere, with little/no options to get to them by train...so I'm going to learn to drive to I can ride my bike.

I don't much fancy weekly lessons, so instead I'm going to do a 5-day intensive course in October. I've done my theory (again...the motorbike theory has 4 different questions, so for a car you have to redo the entire thing), and also re-done the hazard perception (getting a pass mark in the top 0.2% of results...turns out having an advanced motorbike license helps with observation). This is very similar to how I learn to ride the motorbike...in theory I shouldn't have many issues with road awareness, however getting used to a clumersome vehicle that can't filter, do 0-60 in under 3 seconds, and has corners will take some getting used to.

babychaos's picture

There are always alternatives for those who reject cars and everything they stand for:

And the concept is legal

Bigger Rob's picture

I did do a lot of looking into it, as well as building a prototype last summer, however there were a number of issues (most to do with stability and the bike acting as a sail in any sort of side-wind). A trailer would require significant modifications to the bike (feed-through electrics, towbar mount. My bike as a single-side swingarm, which is not compatible with any bike-trailer system on the market). One way or another I worked out I'd end up having to get custom fabrication done...

The end result is that it's cheaper to learn to drive...which is remarkable given the cost of driving lessons in the UK. I'll have access to Gills Seat Ibiza, and it turns out that my advanced years means that I don't suffer the teenager-spike of insurance cost (in fact, if you carefully craft the answer, I've had a full licence for over 13 years! Just don't ask about what validations it has...)

babychaos's picture

In that case, welcome to the motor car club, enjoy the many future hours ahead of you, sitting in traffic wishing you were on the motorbike that just shot past.
The Bike-bike rack is impressive, even more so that is made it as far as a road test!

Bigger Rob's picture

Hopefully I shouldn't have too much of an issue. I literally only need a car when I'm transporting myself and the bike at the same time (or very occasionally massive volumes of cake), so to a race. Fortunately/unfortunately they are in the middle of nowhere, and at exceedingly un-sociable hours (typically setting off for races about 6:30am on a Sunday). Otherwise I will cycle, or use the motorbike. I'd never commute in a car...I have no idea why anyone does, especially in the Thames Valley carpark! Gill drives to work twice a week, and it takes her 3x longer than me cycling in on my not-that-fast commuter bike. The motorbike takes the same amount of time as the bike, as I can't take as direct a route, and get delayed at Cemetary Junction.

Looking at the distances I did last year, I cycled ~20,000km (12,500 miles) and rode the motorbike ~1,000km (625 miles). If I do 10-12 races, I might equal the motorbike distance.

babychaos's picture