Tag Archives: Training

Version 0 – a tale small goals

Version 0 is a concept you are probably already familiar with, but by a different name. For me it is about getting a task or project broken down to the smallest possible building block, and laying the foundation from where to proceed.

In software that can mean something as simple and saving the file and having it print hello.

Or in finance it could be a simply as putting 1cent towards a savings goal.

Small wins which help you accomplish big goals.

Mark Twain put it best

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is
breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then 
starting on the first one.

Thus making the secret to finishing anything is just simply starting it. Break it down to your version 0 and just start. You can build from there and sort the direction as you go. It is much easier to change direction and go where you want, than it is to start after having done nothing for so long.

Inertia is a killer. The slower you go, the more stuck you  become, until eventually you have forgotten what it feels like to move. Or even how to move, thinking that doing nothing is actually progress.


I first began to truly understood the principle a while back. It happened after completing the work needed to upgrade the Billing System for a company I work for. The first attempt at doing it was nothing short of a complete failure. While I had set down all the goals and mapped out everything correctly, it never got to the point where it could be called working. Each attempt progressed but either I lost interest, or was pulled away onto something more important. And without a working version, no one else could pick up in the middle. Further more, given there was no base working system, every subsequent attempt at completing it was like starting from scratch and trying to finish something you couldn’t test. Guessing if each change wasn’t breaking things that didn’t work.

On the attempt that finally worked I decided that I’d sit down, then spend whatever time was needed but wouldn’t stop until it worked in some fashion. Given this constraint I started to break it down to smaller and smaller parts getting to the point of realising that the core feature is the nightly script. It reads from the database, does the calculations, then writes stuff back. Everything else is either triggered from this, or a view into the database. So I could simply ignore all of that initially.

Next was to break down the nightly script. I set out a goal of getting it to ready from the database, look for one single specific product type, check if it was due to renew, and if it was, mark it and insert a row to an invoice table.

And it worked.

An hour or two later and Version 0 was complete. It could run and handle this single case. The database tables were all there and ready to go. From there each additional feature, like making it understand all the products, or giving users a way to see their invoices from the table, could all be handled individually, as separate building blocks, all on top of Version 0.

In Sport

The exact sample process applies when training for events like The Dublin Marathon which I completed recently. You start off running a few km, then each week building on that and watch the distances get longer and longer, closer and closer to the final goal. At the start, the end goal might look daunting and impossible, so you start on this small piece that you know you can do. Then it is easy to do this next part, then this other part, and it just snowballs from there.

It is always just about starting and getting to that first measurable point. Once you see progress, no matter how small, it is easier to try for the next part. And each time it gets easier and easier.

How to apply it?

  1. Take your task and break it down to its simplest form.
  2. Break this down further so it can be measured after a few hours effort.
  3. Now try to break it down further.
  4. Start on the quickest part.
  5. Record it somewhere, be that an initial commit, a record in your training log, an entry to your accounts programme, a post-it note on the fridge.
  6. Pick the next part and repeat.


Go big or stay at home

A fitting title for a fitting event, but not with the outcome you’d expect from some of my previous exploits. This time, I really am staying at home.

Well sort of anyway.

Rewind a little

2010 with the marmotte, hitting my weight goal, winning my first race, well it was a year to remember. In no small part, my performance was helped by the National Champion himself, Ryan Sherlock, and for that I’m grateful. Who knew were it would all end up.

Shortly after writing the year review, I developed some knee pain. At the time we put it down to the hard year. I had lost over 20kg by this point as well as having trained (hard) through the previous winter including some pretty insane mornings on 3 Rock in dense fog and ice. So after the month break it was left for another week or two to try get back into it. A physio trip helped things and it looked like that was it until the first week of training again and bam! Gone again.

That marked the end of the real training as I really couldn’t muster anything consistent. Trips to the physio helped and I would get a week or two without issue before it’d start going down hill again, but each time I’d never be back to the level of consistency I had before.

2011 Race Season

With the knee problem sort of bouncing around, the year started uneventful to say the least. Ok my first race was plagued by two punctures meaning I only got 7km or so, but otherwise the races I did do had me placing 7th or 8th, always just behind where I knew I could be. I did place 3rd in the Swords GP but that was about it. I’d missed quite a few races from waking up on the morning with a sore or weak knee too, and even more training than I could count.

An answer to the question you don’t want to ask

Eventually enough was enough, I’d done a few physio sessions, rested for longer periods, even done directed knee strengthening exercises without improvement. It was time for an MRI. I didn’t bother to self diagnose as I’d gotten it so well with my previous consultant visit on an unrelated matter.

Long story short, a visit to the sports clinic and a referral for the MRI revealed the issue. Micro tears in the meniscus above my patella. In short, I’d damaged the connectors of the muscles into my knee. But here was the real kicker. It wasn’t enough to warrant an operation, and I’d need to stay away from pain shots or I’d risk damaging enough to warrant an operation. Worse still, I was advised to go back training but strict instructions to watch the intensity level and pain. Pushing too hard would cause pain and possibly rip more. But if I do it right, it’ll heal by itself and come back to the normal level.

What it all means

In short, my training sucks. It is really difficult to get anything consistent out. Planning in advance doesn’t happen as I’m forever worried about damaging my knee further. I bounce between being perfectly fine somedays – to having pain while cycling which disappears when off the bike, to days like today where I’ve pain while not moving but none on the bike.

Admittedly this is a post I’ve written in many forms over the last year but never published. Probably because things change so quickly. I regularly switch between the days of great training and days were sitting around is a sore knee, and others when the knee is sore but I feel great after training. Really, a total mind jerk.

I’m still cycling, just not as much, often, or anywhere close to as hard as before. In reality, no racing up hills and no interval training, especially no interval training on hills. Normal people may think something like this is a god send however I strangely enjoy interval training on hills. Yes it is a painful, but the measured goals seem to work.

A day of new goals – aka What next

One thing I had been instructed to do was cross train and get my other muscles to build up. Strange as it may seem, this has meant running to improve a knee injury. Well it was that or swimming and I’d get a bit too wet while swimming.

With previous small steps in goals, I’ve signed up to the Dublin Marathon Series including the full Dublin Marathon. All after completing only a short 5 mile christmas run and some short training runs otherwise. Ok so that is a bit of an understatement, but then not really. It does mean upping the distance considerably but even starting a marathon training plan too.

Will I get back cycling? Yes hopefully. I do really intend that the increased endurance will help building on the longer cycles and I’ve a few 100km+ rides without knee pain completed as well. Time will tell.

Tacx T1940 Fortius Review

I picked up one of these from Starbike recently. Firstly, Tacx really need to get some better instructions. The ones that come with the unit are crap, and that is putting it lightly. There is no mention of how much to tighten the clamp on the wheel and it took some google time to figure it out. (In my case, pretty much as tight as possible to stop things slipping, then do the calibration).

Trainer VS. Cycling

The difference between using the trainer and normal cycling is astounding. I suppose seeing constant references to sweat bands, sweat mats, sweat catchers etc should have come as a bit of a hint but nothing could have prepared me for the experience. For my last run on the trainer I did a 20.4km virtual course taking around 40 minutes. For this I went through 1 full bottle of water and then downed a further two pints of juice inside of 5 minutes off the bike. Compare that to yesterday when a 120km trip on the bike only required 2 bottles with another half afterwards.

It isn’t like the trainer is physically harder either. Ok so the (virtual) hills can be bigger than those in real life, but the big thing comes from the fact that you don’t coast along at any point. Even the downhill requires you to continue to pedal or it pauses. And because you are pedalling, you are pushing out effort unlike in reallife where down hills tend to be a bit of a relaxing time / recovery time. The huge difference is airflow however. It makes a gigantic difference when on the bike compared to cycling indoors. On days where you warm up in five minutes outside and stop feeling some of the cold, you’ll warm up in about 10-20 seconds on the bike. In my case, I was already visibly sweating inside of a minute.

A Bright Orange

If you are questioning if the trainer tyre might be a good purchase or not, then stop right now. The trainer will eat even the toughest of road tyres. The trainer tyres are made of some different kind of rubber that doesn’t heat up and is slightly slippy. But even the trainer tyre still gets shredded a bike while on the trainer. I can only imagine what would happen with a proper grippy tyre and that is without thinking about those tiny bits of glass that get embedded in the rubber for cycling on the road. Even now after a few weeks, each run still leaves specs of rubber spread around the floor.

Edit: So the tyre wore out within 12 rides I think. Something can’t be right. Some pictures.


This is actually one area where I’ve a bone to pick witht Tacx.  My unit being a Fortius, it obviously came with the Fortius software. However it is quite hard to understand the different software versions online. There is another Tacx Trainer software which is supports the Google Maps setup and some extra Catalyst functions but it requires an extra purchase. For those on lower trainers, there is little notice on if they need to purchase the Fortius software and then the additional trainer software.

I’ve yet to use too much of the features on the Fortius software mainly sticking with the Real Life Videos so far, so maybe after I get through the Alpine course of the Marmotte run I’ll look into getting the other software. It still is a bit rich of Tacx to have so many paid extras like this. But then everything after the initial purchase seems to be extra.

Annoyingly however, the software was one of the reasons I choose the Fortius over the new Bushido wireless trainer. The motor to simulate downhills in the Fortius isn’t really any use if we are being honest. Since you always need to push somewhat, the Bushido could just reduce the resistance right down to whatever it needs to stay active. The lack of wireless would also be quite a good thing. Right now a Bushido with the computer link and the additional software would set you back a bit more than the Fortius although since Tacx are pushing the Bushido, that may change.

There have been a few reports of the video not going to full screen too. Luckily I have only seen this once when I launched the VR terrain the very first time. The next two times it went full screen. Never had any issues with the RLV except that they are standard aspect where as my laptop is Widescreen. Minor really. The Tacx VR Game Crazy Cycles is another story though. It sits in a small window with a black border. Attempts to do anything on screen to full screen it cause it to minimise.

A Wheel Stand as a Prop

“Should I buy the wheel stand?” was one of the most asked questions I got after talking about the trainer to other who wanted to get one too. My initial answer of yes, you need to level the bike, and no you can easily use cardboard or similar has changed somewhat now. I know one of the guys who bought around the same time as me has had no problems while using an Argos Catalogue, while I have been using some cardboard piled under the front wheel. I’ve yet to manage to have the bike still be level at the end of a long ride, probably because the cardboard compresses somewhat under my weight.

I’ll leave the decision up to the reader on this one.

Some little bitty gotchas

These most likely apply to other trainers in the Tacx range too.

  • For your profile weight, enter your fully clothed weight *AND* the weight of your bike.
    In my case (using current rounded figures), I weight 90kg and my bike weights 13kg fully loaded. Profile weight goes in as 113kg. The extra KG from the bike do affect the resistance that the unit puts out of the hills.
  • Do the calibration, but only after about 30 minutes of cycling the first time.
    Again in my case, I got a different of -3.1% which was noticeable enough on the 12% hills that were in the RLV.
  • Tighten the wheel clamp and ensure the tyre is pumped fully. A vertically true wheel will also make a huge difference.
    Because the whole system works with resistance against the tyre, any let up in pressure is going to feel like slipping. Not something you might notice at 110RPM on a fast flat part, but slow that down to 70RPM on a steep uphill, and well it’ll be damn near unusable.
  • Towels, towels and more towels.
    You will sweat. A lot. A whole hell of a lot. I’m sure a fan will help and I plan on getting one soon.

Heart Rate Monitoring

The Fortius is *NOT* ANT+ compatible. I’m nearly sure a software upgrade would fix this too. The Bushido is compatible so it shouldn’t require extra work on the part of Tacx either. Because of the cost of changing the units, it is highly unlikely that anyone would actually switch units to get a missing feature like this. So Tacx, add the feature.

Online reports list than a standard non-coded strap will work. All the Garmin ones are ANT+ so the one I have doesn’t work. The cheap Aldi one I bought recently doesn’t work either. Don’t fancy buying a third one just to see if it works.

Real Life Videos

These are the reason I choose a Tacx trainer and not some other brand. They rock. Makes training so much better. I know well that I’d not be able sit for an hour and a half grinding up a hill like the other night without being able to look forward and see the views of the Alps.

There is some minor issues with the videos. For one, they aren’t recorded in a constant fashion. Tacx did do some work to try smooth over things. One example is where the van had to stop at traffic lights in one of the villages. The video blends in the slowing down and starting back up again so you aren’t pedalling while the video isn’t moving. They also blend where it pulled in on the way up one of the larger hills.

I have heard people saying the video gets a bit jumpy if you go too slow. I’ve yet to see this although the video did start shooting forwarding much faster than reality on one of the downhill sections. Throws you off balance somewhat.

Last bit is that the shadow of the camera is visible in quite a while of the videos. Does drop the appearance that you are actually cycling the route some what but I guess it is just a video and not a VR setup.

Summary Round Up

Would I buy one? Well I do so yes. Would I recommend you buy one? Well maybe. It depends on what you are after. The Bushido does look like a better, but somewhat more expensive option due to the extras you need to get it to do certain things. However since the prices vary hugely on these (Got my Fortius for €660 while initially seeing if for close to 1000 in a local shop) I’d guess you may be able to get a deal on the Bushido. Reports so far say the Bushido can produce the same amount of resistance as the Fortius, it may not be an issue. A 10% grade for me uses less than half the resistance the Fortius can push out so unless your much heavier and planning on harder hills, you’ll be fine.

Since I’ve seeing the Bushido for €560 on eBay, if I was to buy today (only a month later) I’d go for the Bushido and the upgrade PC kit. I do blame Tacx for this as the Bushido was out when I purchased. I didn’t think I’d need to but extra software for the Fortius which is quite annoying.

Edit: Tacx have released yet another version of software. Trainer software Version 2. They did offer an upgrade from V1 to V2, but they stopped on December 15th. Huge pain but I’m quite glad I didn’t fork out for V1 when I was planning to. Make sure if you are buying that you are getting the Trainer software Version 2 with the unit, not just the Fortius software which is long since obsolete.