From Russia with Love


My last blog told of my coaching experiences with triple cancer survivor Patrick MacIntosh who is attempting to ride from London to Japan in time for the Rugby World Cup in aid of two charities the World Cancer Research Fund and St Catherine’s Hospice. We left him cycling across Russia but the story doesn’t end there so thought I’d pen an update.

Regular contact has been key with Patrick out on the road what follows is short synopsis of some issues encountered along the way!

One of the main problems from a coaching perspective has been a complete lack of performance data due to technical problems. Uploading his Garmin GPS via the phone app simply hasn't worked. It did in the UK, but in the middle of Russia……! In detailed discussions before he left we spoke about pacing and keeping heart rate within zones 1 and 2 so that he can maintain his effort not only day after day, but month after month. Taking this to heart [sic] he has taken to sending me videos scrolling through his Garmin GPS screen to show daily stats – not ideal, but at least I can see he’s still in great shape and riding well within himself, while still exceeding daily mileage.

Working at low intensity means Patrick uses his body fat almost exclusively as muscle fuel, reserving glycogen, the body's natural energy source,  for any climbing efforts. Generally, when working at threshold [upper Z4] heart rates you have around an hour of glycogen to use. With a good diet you’ll generally restore this overnight. After almost 3 months on the road, Patrick has become naturally thinner. I highlighted this to him and asked if he could monitor his weight. Slow weight loss is not a problem, if food intake is balanced this will stabilize. We all carry huge reserves of body fat but there is a danger that if body fat becomes too depleted you will start to metabolize muscle literally ‘eating yourself’. This manifests itself in further weight loss. People often push on through sickness when diet is depleted so it’s important to know when to stop and rest!

Patrick follows a vegan diet but despite reservations this has not been an issue even in Russia, in fact he's reported quite the opposite! To supplement energy reserves I advised him to carry an energy drink on the bike at all times. There are many commercial brands but I advised him to simply buy pure maltodextrin powder widely available in 1 to 5kg bags you simply add a 50g scoop to a 500ml bottle add a pinch of salt, flavouring of choice, top up with water and shake to mix.

Just before Patrick left on his epic ride in May we discussed lower gearing for climbs. As his road bike couldn’t easily be reconfigured it was decided ‘ditch’ the spare hybrid bike he intended to take for poor road surfaces and buy a specific bike that would fulfil both functions. Step up Rob Chappell from 'On Your Bike' who recommended and sourced a TREK 920 subtitled in the brochure ‘If you want to ride around the World’, it sounded perfect and came with a build that looked like it could take on anything. Unfortunately it was stolen off the back of Patrick’s support truck during one night in the middle of Siberia, despite two locks and Patrick sleeping in the same truck just metres away. With serious flooding in the local area police resources were more than a little stretched and chances of getting it back were virtually nil. Patrick's attitude of ‘local people have lost more than me in floods’ sums the man up and was humbling for all of us to hear. As luck would have it he was quite near a large town with a good cycle shop who recommended a Jamis Renegade Elite, a more than worthy replacement, light with a rugged carbon fibre frame and 1:1 gearing for climbs. Reading the specification, I was able to highlight a few things like different hydraulic fluid when servicing the brakes and the fact it had tubeless tyres. All in all, a fantastic choice born out by Patrick’s first ride on it taking in over 1000m of climbing.

Finally, nearly three months of cycling does stress the body and mind. You only have to see the logo above to see Patrick’s mindset of staying positive throughout. He’s had to cope with route and GPS issues, crashes, dangerous busy roads and poor weather. His team and I are well aware of the toll this is taking. Things like numb arms and hands are difficult to diagnose with possible causes such as bike position, repetitive strain and daily road vibration a factor. I can only suggest things to try - the joys of distance coaching!

The adventure continues through Russia to Vladivostok and onward to Japan for the final leg of this epic journey.  No doubt giving a jaunty wave to  Kim Jong-un in North Korea on the way past!

Please continue to follow and sponsor him:

Go Patrick!