Be Realistic Ask the Impossible: A Nifty Hilly 50...
After a forced 2 week hiatus from training due to illness that left me feeling more than a bit despondent, last week I was desperate to get some really positive training in as well as a lot more miles into the legs and a bit more structure. And enjoy it, too!
I had plenty of time mooching about over the previous sick-weekend to sit and put the grey cells to use as to what my real aims were for the next few months, and to try to get down to business in drawing up a concrete plan of action in how to achieve them, as well as how I would go about gauging if I was on track or not. Come Monday I had exactly that in the form of a 12 week chart cobbled together out of borrowed bits and bobs from sportive training plans I've found online that give a blueprint for a minimum of 7 hours training a week in the form of turbo sessions and weekend rides, which I am happy with as it is a tangible, realistic level that I can always build onto if I have the spare time but gives a minumum benchmark to shoot for.
The current block is all about trying to improve peak power to build endurance, so centers on a mix of micro interval turbo sessions (my power output might still be static but my sweat output his gone off the chart...) and some longer low intensity work to improve efficiency and build up endurance for bigger rides. So far I'm enjoying giving myself over to a fixed plan as its taken a bit of weight off my shoulders, and I'm liking the variation in turbo sessions that it gives even if they are tougher. I'd tried the Sufferfest vid I downloaded 'for my Birthday' but to be honest, I was a bit disappointed by the footage, not to mention the rather tongue in cheek (I hope!) 'Top Gun' machismo that seems to accompany it... Still, different strokes for different folks. I get more out of watching classic TdF clips and bobbing along to them when I'm able to regain enough breath to focus on the screen again, and comparing the stats between each approach showed that I'd actually worked harder this way too.
Browsing the web on Friday I also came accross an add for the Cheam and Morden Hilly 50 on the Saturday. As the name suggests, it's a 50km ride and it is rather hilly. 5000ft of hilly to be exact. So, having intended to do a ride on Sat and then go and reccy the route for the Spring Onion on the Sunday I thought that the modest £3 entry was worth a punt as it would let me blow some cobwebs off and covers some of the same route the Onion passes over, including the 18% gradient of the White Down... An early ride to Victoria and a train to Boxhill on a distinctly crisp morning later and voila... A good field of about 170 riders including at least one tandem and some brave enough to be on fixed gear. Personally, I was very happy to have 16 speeds at my disposal and having not had much of a chance to get any meaningful climbing practice done, had set a modest target of about 2.5 hours and forbidden myself to dismount unless it was to reattach a severed limb.
Some of the climbs were indeed pretty steep and all this 'Zone 2' heartrate malarky quickly went by the by despite my best efforts to let myself recover and to breath deep... but in general I felt pretty confortable and doggedly ground my way up even the steepest roads with a resolute bob of the head following each stroke of the pedal. If anything it was the unfamiliar routes and the dodgy road surfaces that made descending the real challenge-I definitely backed off from letting myself go after a couple of hairy moments. All in it was a great route and although challenging, short enough that it didn't fill me with dread at the thought of going into melt-down 3/4 of the way through.
I finished in 2.45 having not dismounted so was relatively satisfied with that, even if in retrospect I was quite conservative in how much I pushed myself on the flat, but my 169bpm average heart-rate sadly testifies to the fact I was definitely out of the comfort zone for the most-part of the ride. But again, given the fact that I was beaten by the eldest entrant-a spritely 83 year old who came in at 2.30-I am definitely not resting on my laurels (viagra? EPO? Maybe Lance is clean after all...) My thanks go to the organisers for a very successful and satisfying event, even if the crowded finish at the top of Box Hill due to another event meant I had to wait another 2 hrs for a cuppa
Rising on Sunday it had definitely taken a lot more out of my legs than I had expected so any thoughts of repeating the effort on a 120km reccy of a route I was doing the next weekend anyway went straight out of the window... Between the turbo and the weekend ride I got in a good 200km though which leaves me feeling a bit more positive, and I'm less fearful of the Spring Onion this weekend having already tackled its toughest climbs, so fingers crossed I'll be on more of an even keel from this point on!