Looking at the stats from the last several months of training and comparing it to my riding before that time, there is one aspect that is similar – the distances. Really, the time is only slightly more. However, the biggest difference is in what I do within that time and distance.
I rarely look at the distance anymore. My computer shows power and time. Distance and speed is irrelevant to me right now. I just know I am supposed to do this much power for that much time. In group rides I’ve been asked, “How far have we gone?” or “What was our average speed?” I fumble with the Garmin to bring up the requisite screen to answer their questions.
Uploading the data afterward, I can’t help but notice how far I’ve gone. For instance, I rode 21 miles last night. I did so in 1.5 hours. It struck me that was about the exact distance and time for when I do my favorite short ride – an over-and-back of Paris Mountain from my home. I even rode on Paris Mountain for the bulk of that time – only I never made it over.
That leads me to the big change in my riding. Before I would have spent that 21 miles going as hard as I could up one side, down the other, and back again. This year I am engaged in repeats – or intervals.
We’ll use last night as an example. Jim sent me to the base of Paris Mountain. The 15 minutes or so it took me to get there at an easy spin was my warm-up. Once I got there I started up Altamont Road holding 280 watts for 5 minutes. Then it was time to get down to business.
What followed was five 3 minute climbs up the first portion of the road starting near the CVS. After pushing it up for 3 minutes between 300 and 350 watts at VO2 levels, I would turn around and spin easily back to the bottom and through the CVS parking lot so that I could push it up once again.
Then I pedaled down State Park Road for around 10 minutes before returning to the base to do three more repeats on Altamont Road. This time I was to do 2 minute intervals 300 – 350 watts with 4 minute rests between. So, I managed to ride for 15 miles or so and never even reached The Wall at Audubon Road.
Why? There aren’t any hills like that in the race Saturday. True. However, I’m not doing this hill work in preparation for that race. I’m planning ahead for a future A race I have set on my calendar. Still, these hill repeats also help me in any situation.
Hill Repeats help strengthen your legs. Yes, you can do work in the gym with weights, but that does not directly translate to cycling power. Weights can help give you a foundation of strength, but then you have to fire those legs in a cycling motion.
Repeats allow you to push hard for a period of time and then recover so you don’t blow up. You quickly notice that your cardiovascular muscles are not being stressed as much while your legs get more tired with each new effort. Like lifting weights, you take your muscles to the limit and then allow them to build back in recovery. This is what leads to new strength.
Also, the best way to prepare for climbing is to climb. I’ll admit I would prefer to just find a mountain somewhere and climb to the top of it. I’m sure Jim will be including some stuff like that as we prepare for French Broad River!
What is bad about this? It is boring. Basically, you go over the same ground over and over with your eye on the wattage. The only way I make it through is to rejoice as I count down the remaining repeats I have left and trying to compete with myself to hold a steady wattage through all the repeats.
Last night was another issue. It was COLD! I left the house and it was in the upper 30s. The wind was picking up and then the sun started to set. By the time I was done the temp was in the lower 30s with a “feels like” temperature in the 20s.
At first I would warm up while I was climbing and then my fingers would freeze as I descended to start the next repeat. By the last one, it didn’t matter. My fingers were numb as I made my way to the finish. Then it was home in the near darkness.
At home it was slightly warmer because I was off the mountain and I was shielded from the wind. This caused my hands to begin to warm and the blood to start pumping through the numb finger tips. I’m not kidding… the pain was excruciating! It reminded me of the time as a kid when I was out sliding on a pond and then ran into the house to warm my hands in hot water. OUCH!
Back to the idea of repeats – or intervals. It isn’t just hill repeats that have been different this year. Almost all of my rides involve efforts followed by rests. I can tell a difference in my normal riding because of this.
If you just go out and ride for a certain time, you end up slowing down. Your body normalizes. The intervals shock the body repeatedly allowing you to exert more effort and pushing you “above normal.”
Ultimately, that is my goal… to ride “above normal.”