Being Paul ~ Reward yourself ~ Ain’t no Mountain High Enough!

2013 Me and my Tarmac

2012 Atop Stelvio with Michael and Chris

2012 Atop Stelvio with Michael and Chris

I met Paul on Facebook (who’da’thought?!) through the Lifecycle Rider closed group forum. He has ridden 17,613.4kms since up-loading his rides on STRAVA. That’s a whole lot of pedal time! Paul is one of the many Heart and Souls of Lifecycle. In between his day job and caring for his family, he supports Lifecycle with regards to the Lifecycle Racing Club. I have been working with him creating new material for Lifecycle and have been in communication via email only.  I finally got to meet him, in person a week ago, outside Lifecycle early one chilly Saturday morning for a group ride to Gap Creek. He is a wonderful and enthusiastic man willing to support anybody whom asks. In one of our conversations, I discovered that he had lost an outstanding amount of weight from cycling and that he is a touring cyclist…my favourite subjects! If you like the concept of bike touring like Paul does, perhaps you might like to check out Bicycle Queensland’s (Australia) current 9 Day ride in September? It is a good basis for any future longer rides you might like to try, and very useful preparation for bike touring. I hope you enjoy reading about Paul and his cycling journey.

Here is his story…

To passers by, I looked like any other cyclist sipping his macchiato after a vigorous morning ride through the streets of Echirolles outside Grenoble in France. I was waiting for my two companions who had spent the night at le Bourg-d’Oisons at the foot of l’Alpe d’Huez. I should have been with them – looking forward to climbing the mighty alp.

Just a few years before I was a fairly chunky 117 kilograms. Even for my big-boned 183 centimetres I was, undoubtedly, obese. A friend had some success with a medically supervised very low carbohydrate diet (VLCD) and encouraged me to do the same.

Kudos to Dr Colin Armstrong with whom I negotiated a compromise – I would diet but I would not exercise. Each week I’d check in with the good doctor. He’d check my vitals and log my weight – and we’d chat. I think most of his patients were older women so he would look forward to my visits – or maybe he was just a super friendly guy. In any case I looked forward to my weekly visits.

I had good success – 4 kilos in the first week and a further 12kg over a few months. My weight settled at around 100kg and I could not budge below that mark. Even at 100kg I was categorized as overweight – at least I was no longer obese! To fall within the normal range for my height I needed to lose another 15kg. Clearly diet alone wasn’t going to get me there.

Maybe I should give exercise a go. As a kid I used to ride a bike every day to school. And on weekends – with my surfboard under one arm – I’d ride 10km from home in Labrador to Main Beach on the Gold Coast. My bike was built by my granddad from parts he salvaged from the tip. It was a piece of junk. I thought all bikes were junk. Once I got my drivers license I was happy never to ride again. Once mandatory helmet laws were introduced it sealed it and I stopped riding altogether.

Dr Colin was a cyclist, but not a die hard. We developed an easy rapport. Soon talk turned to bicycles. I bought a hybrid – flat bar and fat road tyres. I couldn’t believe how much the technology had progressed from my old junkyard bike.

Since I now had a bike, I needed a goal to keep me motivated. I respond well to rewards. My plan was that in six months I’d be ready to join Bicycle Queensland’s 9 day ride from Port Douglas to Mission Beach. I had lived in FNQ and had a good friend, Michael, who still lived in Cairns and who had a bike. I convinced him to come along as well. So I needed to start training if I was to ride over 600km in 9 days.

At first, a 10km ride would result in me needing to have a good lie down but after a few weeks I was managing 25km rides. After a couple of months I was hooked. I knew I needed to get a proper road bike. A mate, Big Tim, took me in to meet Blair at Lifecycle. Blair is a gentleman of the highest order. I now had two bikes and started riding with Lifecycle but getting dropped off the back with a bunch of others who quickly became very firm friends. I still rarely miss a Saturday Lifecycle ride.

Regular riding with the Lifecycle crew meant that I was ready to take on the Cycle Queensland Challenge. It was such a great event. Unfortunately, along the way, Michael picked up a tummy bug and was unable to complete the ride. He too was loving it up to that point but hadn’t been doing a lot of riding. In his university days, Michael used to do a bit of unsupported touring and he and his former touring buddy Christopher convinced me to give that a go. So Michael and Christopher plotted a course around Kosciuszko National Park.

Each year since then we’ve gone on a touring adventure: New Zealand, Tasmania, Border Ranges, back to Tasmania and here we are in France.

The outline for our European adventure was to start in Milan, Italy and finish in Nice, France. Along the way we had three milestones: Christopher wanted to ride over the Passo dello Stelvio – the second highest mountain pass in Europe on the Italy-Switzerland border; Michael wanted to visit friends in Bregenz in Austria; and I wanted to climb l’Alpe d’Huez.

With a week to go of our four week adventure we had cycled over 1,300km through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world; we’d witnessed Ryder Hesjedal snatch victory of the Giro d’Italia in Milan; endured massive mountain passes; ridden through snow and rain, visited Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, Germany and now France. We had ridden over the Stelvio, visited Michael’s friends in Austria and today is the day we were going to climb l’Alpe d’Huez – only we wouldn’t. Because I couldn’t.

Across the road from my cafe was a hospital. That’s where I had spent last night after the ambulance rushed me there with a suspected broken collarbone. Yesterday, in a quiet rural village less than an hour from the foot of l’Alpe, my front wheel got caught in a pothole and I fell awkwardly – damn!

We spent the last week of our adventure on the French Riviera – with my shoulders strapped to support the broken bone. When, a week later, we returned from Europe I weighed in at 87kg a full 30kg less than when my weight loss journey began.

And the journey continues. I’ve got a few more kilograms to lose and I have to get back to France. I have unfinished business with l’Alpe d’Huez.

Bicycle Queenslands next Cycling Tour:  http://cycleqld.bq.org.au

Lifecycle Brisbane Australia:  http://lifecycle.net.au

2 thoughts on “Being Paul ~ Reward yourself ~ Ain’t no Mountain High Enough!

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