Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hill Training #1

Just completed my first hill specific training session - above is the profile.  I rode out to this hill - 300m+ (lucky me), hammered up it trying to go a fast as I could then turned around and rode back.

Hill training is about improving your hill climbing ability.  I want to climb faster up hills as I think this will help me on the Maratona in Italy this summer.  This event has 4,000m total of hills.  My thinking is that being able to climb hills faster will mean I have the capacity to cope with the demands of this event.

Why not just go on a hilly bike ride?  Well, that has a role too but when you are on a 50km or 70km ride you naturally preserve your efforts.  You "survive" on the hills always reserving something for the next hill and then keep enough to get back home on too.  With Hill Training you go as hard as you can, hold nothing back.

My previous record (Strava) for this hill was 30min 40sec.  And that would be on a carbon bike and not with my rucksack on but during a normal bike ride.  Today I was on my winter trainer (knobbly tyres) and carrying a rucksack of tools and kit.  I did it in 24min 11sec! Wow.  Shows the difference between taking a hill during a long ride, and focusing solely on it during a hill training session.

I also was careful about not riding too much before the hill.  I drove out to 10km away from the base of the hill and then rode over very relaxed.  That meant I was warmed up but not at all tired - no excuses, I was tip top and ready to do my best.  This is different from Base Training.  During the winter I've looked for every opportunity to exhaust my self with more distance.  Now it's about intensity.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Wiped out Sunday

3 weeks on, one week off.  And the week off has started with a "Wiped out Sunday" - so tired you can't get off the sofa, you snooze all afternoon and then wander around the house in a semi-daze.  You're almost worried you are so tired.

You started the day relaxed but happy to not be doing any more training.  As the day went on you've descended into weakness and super-tiredness.  It's like you let go, relax and the long-term recovery starts to kick in.  Your body no longer needs to hold itself ready for the next piece of exercise, instead it can start on the restoration project that it's been putting off whilst you've been hammering it.

And that's why you have a "Wiped out Sunday" - where you can totally get the rest.  If you tried to start your recovery on a Monday it wouldn't be the same - going to work, starting the week, commuting - all that actually adds stress and delays restoration.

If you don't know what I mean about feeling wiped out then perhaps you aren't pushing yourself in your training?  You should be going a little bit beyond yourself, doing a bit more than you can really cope with, and in the short term that means you'll be tired.  In fact you'll have accumulated tiredness over the 3 weeks - a bit here, a bit there - you carry it whilst you are busy training and then it all gets to come out once you stop.

If this isn't happening for you then may be you need to have another look at your training, and at what you want to do this year?

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Rotor Ring Diaries

6th April 2015

Just got my new Rotor rings!  Delivered on Saturday. The observant amongst you will notice that they look like they've got a bit squashed in the post.  Look a bit mis-shapen don't they?  Well, that's because they are oval - not round.

Weird I hear you say.  What's that all about?

The Principle
When you pedal you are alternately pressing down on one pedal, then on the other, then the other, then the other.  Least that's what you are doing when using basic pedaling technique.  So the powerful part of the pedal stroke is when the pedal passes through 3 o'clock - you've got the most leverage at that point.  And the least powerful bit is at 12 o'clock with the pedal right at the top - hard to see how any force is being applied at 12.

Here's some pictures to illustrate this:

So there are different amounts of force being applied at different parts of the pedal stroke.  At 3 you are applying lots of force, and at 12 you aren't applying much - again this is if you are using what I call a basic pedaling technique.  Some people have power meters which can measure the amount of force they are applying whilst pedaling and they can look at graphs their meter produces which show the rise and fall of their power as they go through the pedal stroke.  Such a graph might look like this:

At 3 o'clock there is high power but at 12 there is low power
This means that there are weak parts in the pedal stroke.  There a bits where you can't apply much force.  The pedal stroke isn't a constant application of power, instead it is pulses of high and low power.

To take advantage of this phenomenon engineers have come up with the oval chainring.  Because it is oval the gearing changes as it turns - sometimes it is hard and sometimes softer.  With a normal, circular chainring you can say that it has the same gearing all the way around - so when you have maximum mechanical advantage (at 3 o'clock) you have the same gearing as at minimum mechanical advantage (at 12 o'clock).  

But with an oval you have some allowance made - when you can push hard at 3 o'clock the chainring is at the widest part of the oval, and when you are struggling to apply much force at 12 o'clock then the chainring is much smaller to take account of the limited power that is available.

That's the principle.  How does it work in practice?

The Practice
I'll get them fitted to my bike soon and then start reporting on what happens here - more later...

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Week or Month?

I look on Strava and see friends who have set weekly training targets.  80km seems to be a popular target.

But the problem with the weekly training unit is one hiccup in you week and the target is gone.  Life can easily put your target off track - the once in 3 months event, the parents evening, the family event - all can knock your weekly target off track.  And because its just a week you are working with there isn't the time to reschedule - the week is over almost immediately.

Using a month as your basic training unit is much better, I have found.  Lets take the idea of 80km per week target - that's 320km per 4 weeks. If we're going to have a rest week lets do just 40km during that week, so 280km left to distribute across the remaining 3 weeks.

OK 280 divided by 3 = 94km per week, so a 50km and a 20km at the weekend plus a 25km mid-week would do it.  BUT one weekend includes a sportive you want to do - 80km, and another weekend is going to be a family visit with no chance to do any riding (its your sisters wedding so don't even try).  One of the weeks includes a Bank Holiday Monday.  So your 3 weeks includes a mixture of opportunities and limitations and you can plan accordingly to get your month target reached.

Besides helping you cope with real life this way of planning your training can also lead to inventive solutions and grabbing opportunities: days when you finish work early or make the effort to get up at dawn to knock off the final 40km.  It can also mean that you have the time to push yourself - you've got 140km to do in the last 5 days of the month - so, despite being pretty tired already, you push yourself to get that final 140 done.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


The key part of endurance/performance training has to be "going beyond yourself" - doing more than you can really cope with.  Whatever aspect of endurance/performance you are busy developing, doing too much of it is what you are working towards.  And sometimes you achieve that - you do too much.

Well done - you have achieved the central goal of your training!  Many people never really push themselves, they pootle along well within themselves and presumably are happy to keep at whatever level they are at.

For ones who push, who aspire and want to do something bigger than they could ever imagine doing then getting to a point of exhaustion is  the goal.  But it involves real pain.  You are going to be tired, to be exhausted, to be on your knees.  And that's good, despite it feeling so bad.  Your body is going to take the hint, its going to come back stronger, and you are going to be better.