Dr Hutch: Cycling stats don’t lie. Which is a shame

Stats and figures are all very well but Dr Hutch's only serve to highlight his inadequacies

For 20 years I have diligently kept training diaries and files. They contain vast amounts of information. I have distances, times, speeds, wattages, VO2 max figures, threshold powers, power-to-weight ratios and even what I referred to as my ‘index of good cheer’, which was a scale of one to 10 that described how happy I was.

The index was abandoned after it spent six months flatlining at three, and the number became depressing in itself.

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So I recently decided to calculate my lifetime mileage. In a sport full of numbers, it seems like the ‘master number’. If how far you can ride is so important, then how far you’ve actually ridden must be the last word in assessing your net worth to the planet.

I had to guess a certain amount because sometimes, despite all the notes, I didn’t write down a basic distance. And I had to make allowance for hard winters where I did six-hour turbo rides and the like. I eventually reached a curiously exact figure of 200,008 miles, which left me wishing I’d done the maths a day earlier so I could have appropriately celebrated my 200,000th mile.

Out for the count
There are other numbers. My biggest week ever was in April 2001 when I rode 781 miles, at an average speed of 21.2mph. This was followed immediately by a week when I rode nothing at all because I couldn’t get out of bed.

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It turns out that 781 miles at 21.2mph is much too much, something that with the benefit of 16 years of hindsight I can work out almost instantly. In 2001, of course, I couldn’t wait to get back to it: when I was able to rise from my sick bed I cracked out a week of 757 miles at 21.3mph and put myself in hospital.

That’s the problem with my life in numbers. There’s a lot of stupidity in there. The biggest single day was 310 miles. Now, 293 of that was a 12-hour race, which is a noble and wise activity. Unfortunately, the rest of it came from a warm-up ride before starting the race.

The diaries contain other notes. In the sphere of maintenance, I can reveal that my ratio of “wheels I trued” to “wheels I trued that were straighter when I’d finished than they were when I started” is small. To be exact, it’s 14:1. The ‘1’ was a roadside rescue where I straightened a wheel by laying it on the road and jumping on the rim. It came out almost exactly true, and for about 15 minutes I felt like a god.

I’ve had about 180 punctures.

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Six of them happened while on the turbo-trainer and 11 of them happened in the same spot outside a local post office. I still have all my punctured tubes, because I always planned to repair them, perhaps in front of the TV while watching an undemanding film.

Inner tube terror
No film sufficiently undemanding ever got made. In the meantime the tubes have formed a great mound over and around the undersized box in which I started to keep them, and now looks like giant, black, sinister fungus growing in a corner of my garage. The sole upside is that it once made a small child, whom I didn’t much like, scream inconsolably for 20 minutes.

It’s daunting just how much I’ve recorded. It’s impressive how much I can remember about all those rides, based just on the route, the weather, a puncture, a broken spoke. It also suggests, very strongly, that I need a bit more going on in my life. But it’s the 12th time I’ve had that thought, and it’s never made any difference before.