FUEL10K wasn’t developed by a big corporation to fit the market – it was made by people with a passion to DO stuff, who needed a breakfast to help them get it done. This week we’re talking to Alex Matheson, co-founder at FUEL10K.
Alex Matheson is the co-founder of FUEL10K. Born in Inverness, today he runs the Scottish office of the company from its Dingwall base. Before going into food and drink, he was a captain in the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and had tours in Kosovo and Iraq. Here he explains how he keeps fit mainly by cycling and has set himself four big cycling challenges this year.
How did you first get into cycling?
A friend of mine – and fellow NCT dad – Will Pearson first got me into cycling and sold me my first road bike. He runs Pearson Cycles, established in 1860, and the world’s oldest bike shop. Will and I plus two other NCT dads are taking part in the London to Paris Duchenne Dash this June. This year, I’m a ride captain and I’m also helping with the organisation of the event.
We’ll be cycling 186 miles in 24 hours to help raise money for the Duchenne Children’s Trust, a charity dedicated to funding and accelerating research and treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
A friend’s son was diagnosed with the condition, which only affects boys and leaves many in a wheelchair by their teens and with a life expectancy not more than 20 years.
So far, the charity has raised £1.5 million from the annual bike ride and FUEL10K has been supporting them since the beginning, sponsoring the rides and providing riders with breakfast products to fuel their journeys. This year, we’re hoping to raise £1 million.
What other cycling challenges have you set yourself in 2017?
As well as Strathpuffer and The Duchenne Dash, I did my fourth Etape Loch Ness on April 23 and there’s the North Coast 500 on May 9. The Etape Loch Ness is a 66 mile race around the iconic Loch which starts and finishes in Inverness.
Last year, one of my oldest friends got married the day before Etape. I left the wedding at 3am and was on my bike at the starting line by 6.25am. It wasn’t necessarily the best preparation but I made my best ever time – 3 hours 28 minutes.
It was funny because I did the ride, hung about afterwards for a bit to recover and drove home all before the wedding party had woken up.
This year’s event has a record 5,200 riders taking part. I’m using it as the perfect training ride for the North Coast 500, a 516 mile cycle route around the north coast of Scotland, starting and ending at Inverness Castle.
We’ve got a team of 12 pairs – including my geologist brother Hamish – taking part in NC 500. We’ll be riding in a relay of pairs of riders non-stop for 48 hours, which is a huge undertaking.
What drives you?
I love keeping fit but I do find it hard to both motivate myself and to take the time out of a busy work schedule and family life to train. I need something coming down the track at me, something to make me a bit scared, or I mostly don’t do it!
When I admit to myself that there’s a big cycling event coming up like the gruelling 24 hour Strathpuffer I did in January or the North Coast 500 coming up in May, and I’ve got to get fit or else it will be a disaster…only then do I push myself. The challenge is to try and break this pattern so I keep my fitness at peak levels – but it’s not easy.
As well as cycling, I’m passionate about skiing and also enjoy tennis, running, swimming and kayaking.
Talking of skiing, Alex picked up the Alpbach Visitor’s Ski Club Open Championship last month, and his wife made it a family affair by coming first in her category as well – he didn’t mention it in the interview, but I thought it deserved a menton!
What’s your training routine ahead of a big event?
I’ve just been out for a three hour 86km training ride which was great but unfortunately I got lots of punctures so after five hours the family were wondering where on earth I was. I tend to do a long ride at the weekend and then squeeze in a shorter one during an evening in the week.
As I’m building up my training, I’ll start cycling on my own and then when I’m a bit fitter I’ll team up with some fellow cyclists or my local cycling club, which is fun.
What’s your best cycling kit?
The kit depends on the weather really. I’m afraid I’ve turned into the typical MAMIL, or middle-aged man in LYCRA. I shied away from the full on cycling kit to start with but I had to admit in the end how practical it is. It works.
Cycling shorts are great because they don’t rub, cycling jackets are both wind and waterproof while still being breathable, a good pair of arm warmers may look like something from the 1980s but I love them and neoprene overshoes are great in extreme weather.
I used pedal cleats on my bike because they’re a great system that really work and they maximise your pedal technique. The first time I used them I made the classic beginner’s mistake of forgetting I was wearing them when I came up to some traffic lights and ended up tumbling off my bike. Rather embarrassing.
What do you eat ahead of a big race?
It’s really important to keep eating and drinking on your bike, especially if you’re cycling for more than two hours – when you can cope with just a water bottle. Any longer and your body quickly runs out of energy and your performance drops off a cliff.
I take two bottles of fluid – a bottle of water and another containing electrolytes.
I try and eat every 45 minutes. Something easy like an energy gel, bar, tube of one of our protein boosting FUEL10K Quark squeezable breakfast pouches is perfect. You need to be able to access it quickly so your hands aren’t off the handlebars for long.
I’m always amused by a cycling pal of mine who stuffs his pockets with peanut butter and jam sandwiches and munches on them during a trip.
Having a good high protein breakfast before you set off is also important. I usually tuck into a big bowl of FUEL10K Protibrick boosted wheat biscuits or our Chocolate Loaded Chunky Granola with semi-skimmed milk. It gives me a good boost and slowly releases energy during my ride.
How about mental preparation?
I have a ‘get on with it’ attitude generally so once I’ve committed to something I will do it – even if it’s snowing.
That’s a wrap from Alex – thanks for reading, and if the FUEL10K ethos sounds like something you should be part of, get in touch and we’ll see what we can do.
FUEL10K is the UK’s fastest growing breakfast brand.
The challenger brand offers a full range of protein-boosted breakfast options including the first meal-drink liquid breakfast, porridge pots, granolas, wheat biscuits, multigrain flakes and new fruity Quark pouches.