Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Rotor Ring Diaries #2

Took delivery of my old Bianchi race bike fitted with the brand new Rotor rings last Saturday, and haven't looked back.  If you recall, the Rotor rings are oval chainrings (all explained in Diary #1) and I was going to report back on how they are - so here goes:

1)  Initial riding impression - did feel different - as if the first part of the pedal stroke has disappeared.  The top part of your chainring isn't there anymore, is what it feel like.  Your foot arrives in the middle, power part of the pedal stroke as if by magic.  Some have said it's like riding fixed wheel, and it is.

2)  Quick Saturday evening ride - I ended up with 2 top ten Strava results!  I'm not usually in the top ten anywhere on Strava, but now I was bombing along and getting high results.  The rings enabled me to be very fast on flat segments.

3)  Hilly riding.  Long, 1,500m of climbing ride on Thursday led to noticing better hill performance, and less fatigue - less muscle soreness afterwards.

4)  Ride with club today - very good.  Easily beating everyone in my group up the hills - without really trying too hard.

So, overall, what a result!  Definitely would recommend you at least trying them.  I think Rotor dealers have an offer where you can try them for a couple of weeks - probably would take a week of so to get used to and see what benefit they can bring...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Steady State Intervals

My hill training has led me to start exploring interval training.  Yes, going up a slope is a good way to get good at going up a slope.  But I've also noticed - before the gradient gets too steep - that a lot of time on a hill is spent at the top end of your aerobic performance.

You're breathing hard and only just "within" yourself.  This isn't a leg thing.  Your legs are fine.  It's more about the supply of energy and oxygen to them that is being taxed.  You need to get better at supplying all they need to power up the relatively easy 8 to 12% slopes that a continental climb is likely to present.  And to be able to keep on supplying all they need for 30 to 60 and may be even 90 minutes.

So that's perhaps 90mins of "top end" aerobic performance.  To start trying to improve this you can schedule in a "Steady State Interval" - the name isn't quite right to me - perhaps "top end aerobic interval" would better describe it?  Go pretty fast over a 10 to 15km flat route - so something that will take you 15 to 25 minutes to complete.

The interval should be quite hard - but not sprint or all out - and probably a 7 or 8 out of 10 on a scale of "perceived effort".  Because of the duration it almost inevitably becomes just about the fastest way to cover 15km of flat road - and still be able to ride on immediately after the interval (rather than collapse).  You should feel able to say a few words/communicate a bit whilst doing the interval but not carry on a conversation or even say a whole sentence.

This sort of interval will start to reflect the demands you are going to face on a continental sportive where 30mins is nothing for a climb...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Another Way

Many people rate the winter training they do as leading to success in the summer.  I'm one of them.  But there are problems - training in the winter can be painful.  The cold, the ice, the wind, the rain, the dark.

I did my winter training in Dec, Jan, Feb and March and have now "transitioned" to more intense but less time consuming training.  So it's ironic - just as the weather gets better I'm riding less.

In March I did 900km but for April it'll be more like 500km.  That's the plan, it's what I should be doing because now I'm now focusing on intensity rather than distance.

The sun is shining, the sky is clear, there's no danger of ice or snow, it stays light well into the evening - no more hurrying home at 4pm.  Just the right time to start doing some serious distance, really.

Another way of doing things would be - start building distance in April, May, June, and July then switch in August and September to intensity work.  This would lead to a peak performance at the end of September or in October.

This way would mean enjoying long hours in good weather building your endurance, and then a chance to knock off a major sportive event just before the season finishes.  And it fits into a purely UK based training system - if you aren't planning on going to a big continental sportive in July then there isn't a problem.

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?