Hill climbing, I'm getting used to this...

Hill climbing, I'm getting used to this...

by SamShaw   October 8, 2012  

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Hill climbing, I'm getting used to this...

No I'm not, that's a lie.  Putting myself in a place where my arms lose all feeling and my vision reduces to a single spot 2 metres in front of my front wheel is going to take a bit more getting used to than a couple of hill climbs.

Fortunately this hill, Logie Kirk is one I know well but one I've never actually ridden in anger.  It normally forms part of a 20 mile loop I do into work and comes about 5 miles in so I tend not to go hard on it as I'd be left with another 14 miles to get to the comfort of my desk.  The hill itself is a mile long and 10% average gradient, that doesn't sound too bad but there are a couple of places where the gradient kicks up to 20% and up to a maximum of 27%.  It's not an easy hill to climb.

Gradients

The thing that makes hills like Logie Kirk difficult are the changes in gradient, it's hard to find a rhythm and stay there, there's always a change of input needed from the rider as the slope shifts either way.  The hill starts out with a shallow gradient but then rises into a steep slope, up through broadleaf woodland – this is where the steep stuff is. 

A steepening round a hair pin seems like the end of the hard work but it's not, there's more to come, the hill keeps fighting until you leave the trees and get onto a lower gradient up to the finish.  This is where I try to make up time by emptying myself but the 27% stuff has taken its toll and I try to recover for a few seconds before getting out of the saddle and sprinting the final few hundred metres.  It's a slow sprint.

My finishing time was 5 minutes 46 seconds, enough for 33rd place out of 72 starters.  I was happy with that.  Originally I didn't think I'd break the 6 minute mark but my target was revised on the start line having seen the times of clubmates who'd ridden before me.  The fastest time from my club was by a junior, Kyle, who did it in 5:19, the winning time was an astounding 4:32!  Something to aim for if I lose half my bodyweight... maybe.

Cake and sandwiches!

The event was great, cow bells, shouts, lots of spectators and, of course, cake and sandwiches.  There was even a tray of egg sandwiches brought out on request!  That's part of my problem though, I've been aiming for my desired racing weight all year and not got there for one reason or another (mainly because I like food!) so the focus for this period up to Christmas is getting down to 73kg and staying there for the 2013 season.  I have a rival in the club who I need to beat next year, though I think I'm picking a fight I can't win!  My mate Graeme and I got the same time on the last hill climb we did, we thought Logie Kirk would be the decider but we ended up with exactly the same time again... 2013 is going to be an interesting season!

20 user comments

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Thats a fair effort and would beat me hands down. Good luck with the weight loss, as we roll into the season of food and drink and crap weather;). 73Kg was several years ago to me and i'm lucky if I can get myself down into the double digits these days Crying ha ha the clue is in the name Smile

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posted by cidermart [456 posts]
8th October 2012 - 12:01

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Sam & cidermart, it's straightforward enough to lose weight, you just have to want it enough. It's like training when you can easily rustle up a dozen excuses why not to bother, you have to be motivated to take the better (harder) option. I've kept the weight off through the last few winters by riding plenty but also by not pigging out. As a result I enjoy the feeling of being stuffed/half-pissed less than ever.

For hill climbs your weight is only part of it; you need to practice those short, intense efforts. I found this out after the Wrexham RC's Horseshoe hill climb yesterday (gorgeous day, superb event in the North Wales countryside). Despite having a lighter bike and stronger legs than last year I was just 9 secs quicker
Sad
My feeling is that it was mainly because I didn't try hard enough or go deep enough, and that was because I haven't done the hard intervals this kind of event requires. I'll not make that mistake next time!

What do you want to do? Is life really about pies and beer or something far more rewarding and memorable? Do you want to vegetate or reach for the stars? worthwhile achievement is never going to be easy. For inspiration you could begin with Graeme Obree:

"My biggest fear is not crashing on a bike and losing some skin. It's sitting in a chair at 90 and saying, 'I wish I had done more'."

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posted by Simon E [1905 posts]
8th October 2012 - 13:09

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Simon E, good points, I know what I need to do though. After losing nearly 8 stone it's easy to get to within the healthy BMI range and think "ok, job done"! I want to get to the middle of the range as my goal however it was hard over summer due to social events and training hard - doing that on a calorie deficit hasn't been easy.

Winter's the ideal time for me - easier to focus for some reason. Already 2lb down from last week so I'm going in the right direction. I completely agree about the lack of enjoyment of having a hangover from either food or drink - there's nothing worse!

Intervals and learning how to go harder is something on the agenda, I struggled with that this year and it's only now when the season's over that I've managed to get to a point where I'm getting more comfortable doing it. Do you think turbo work would help?

Twitter: @velosam

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posted by SamShaw [250 posts]
8th October 2012 - 13:43

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the sufferfest videos make turbo time more useful, you'll feel pretty empty at the end of an hour of angels or local hero =)

Cannondale CAAD10, Condor Terra-X and an orange Brompton.
Ride for East London Velo

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posted by zzgavin [205 posts]
8th October 2012 - 15:42

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I did the Up The Kirk climb too, a bit slower than you, 6:19, so well done breaking the 6 minute mark. I am impressed you ride up that every day too, where do you work at, not much up that road except the tavern !!
Hill climbs are a strange thing, god awful at the time and then a day later you start thinking about another one.
It was a well run event right enough.

Je vie dans l'espoir constant

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posted by Strathlubnaig [113 posts]
8th October 2012 - 15:49

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I don't ride up it every day, it's usually about once a week/once every couple of weeks.

I work in Stirling so do a loop up to the inn then down into Dunblane and back into town. Takes about an hour but it's a good ride to work and stunning scenery!

Well done on your time, it's a real killer but I hope it gets put on again next year.

Are you doing the Kingscavil hill climb this weekend? I was tempted!

Twitter: @velosam

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posted by SamShaw [250 posts]
8th October 2012 - 15:59

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getting down to a suitable weight for hillclimbs is actually pretty tough because it's probably under what you would ordinarily weigh in at, even when svelte.

the horseshoe (fantastic event, agreed) doesn't really require a short intense effort - it's a 10 minute climb. it's more like a mountain time trial.

i often feel like i haven't tried hard enough, although last year on the horseshoe (4th ahead of mark lovatt) i seemed to get it just about right. don't be too hard on yourself about this year's result - it was a slower day by all accounts.

posted by pj [138 posts]
8th October 2012 - 21:20

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weight can't be everything, i heard somewhere that for every pound you gain, you only lose 3 seconds per kilometer, which makes a difference over a 10 km mountain but not really for a hill climb. its all about judjung your effort perfectly and completely destroying yourself.

i've got the catford cc hill climb up yorks hill on sunday, which wont be fun Sad

posted by jamjam [61 posts]
8th October 2012 - 21:30

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I would give anything to loose weight. However a defunct thyroid gland has put pay to that. Unless I OD of levothyroxine for the rest of my life the weight will not shift Sad

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posted by Angelfishsolo [104 posts]
9th October 2012 - 10:00

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Looks a good climb Sam, and I do agree about weight, or rather the lack of it will help of course. I am now under 70kg, losing two stone in six months just through eating differently. It does help ...

posted by Karbon Kev [667 posts]
9th October 2012 - 10:49

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Hi Sam, losing 8 stone is quite some achievement already! If you focus on living well and on your fitness and condition the weight will come off.

Most people, myself included, have aspirations which they fail to achieve. You could say that I have not realised my potential. My time on the Horseshoe was a disappointment because I know I didn't really try hard enough and didn't train enough for it. I let myself down. I now have two options:

1. Just enjoy riding my bike, enter some club events;
or
2. Train harder & smarter and see what I can achieve if I really put my mind to it.

Option 2 is my preferred choice. After being keen as a teenager I lost too many good years to other stuff so I don't want to waste any more. So I either do it properly or don't do it at all. Doing it half-arsed is a waste of time.

@pj thanks for your comments, I know you're a proper TTer & hill climbista. Finishing 4th and doing the 'shoe in 10mins is something I can't even dream of! I will have to be content with the goal of taking a minute off. I'm 62kg, not sure losing a bit more would make much difference.

@Angelfishsolo - don't let it get you down. Control the things you can, accept the things you can't. Find other goals that mean something to you.

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posted by Simon E [1905 posts]
9th October 2012 - 11:22

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if you look at the time gaps for the Cat or Bec, or any of the Nationals, you'll find that those 3 seconds probably equate to anything between 10 and 20 places.

which is a LOT. and in hillclimbing,power-to-weight pretty much does become everything. hence the specialist bike and starvation rations.

(as well as the horrible intervals).

posted by pj [138 posts]
9th October 2012 - 14:54

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Simon E wrote:
I'm 62kg, not sure losing a bit more would make much difference.

good grief. hillclimbers are like fecking jockeys!

(6'3", 80kg)

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posted by jezzzer [339 posts]
9th October 2012 - 22:45

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I was supposed to be offshore so never signed up for Kingscavil, but I did the Dundee Abernyte climb last weekend, a 3.5km route, with a flat almost slight down hill section in the middle, after an initial steep couple of switchbacks, then the last 1500m is a deceptively long and steep ramp which really tested the guns. It's a 200m ascent all in.
Took me 13min the winner was 10:34
Good luck if you are doing the comp this weekend.

Je vie dans l'espoir constant

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posted by Strathlubnaig [113 posts]
10th October 2012 - 8:53

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I'm guessing that the official finish is at the junction with Sherrifmuir Road? Where's the official start? At the Kirk? I sometimes do this hill during my lunch break so would like to try timing myself on the course. I'll be happy if I beat 10 minutes.

posted by thnurg [7 posts]
10th October 2012 - 8:57

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@thnurg Start is at the car park entrance, the finish just before the T-junction at the Sheriffmuir Road. It's a good hill to train on!

@Strathlubnaig Not going to do Kingscavil, I thought about it but I fancy a few hours on the bike with the club instead of 10mins. A young family means I have to pick and choose carefully what I'm going to do and a long ride will take the same amount of time as a hillclimb by the time I drive there, wait around, warm up, ride, drive home. Why didn't I discover cycling pre-kids?!?! Confused

Twitter: @velosam

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posted by SamShaw [250 posts]
10th October 2012 - 10:53

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jezzzer wrote:
Simon E wrote:
I'm 62kg, not sure losing a bit more would make much difference.

good grief. hillclimbers are like fecking jockeys!

(6'3", 80kg)

AGREE!!! I'm aiming for 73kg @ 6', currently about 77kg.

Twitter: @velosam

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posted by SamShaw [250 posts]
10th October 2012 - 10:55

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I wish there were some hills near me, living in Cambridge is really boring for that. The only hill is about 8 miles away and is about half a mile at maybe 10%. When I was out on a ride yesterday I saw a group of about 10 riders who must have been going up and down it for training. Caught up with one but he may have gone up a few times already!!

Annoying thing is I'm built for it as I'm 62k and 5' 8" but would have to travel a long way to find an event I think.

As for the issue of weightloss, long and moderate is better than short and hard for this specific aim as intense exercise uses carbs quickly, which need replacing. Long and moderate rides will use the fat-burning system more. So mix in some long slowish rides with shorter harder interval sessions. If you're really serious you need to do some weights and improve your breathing (Power Breathe or something similar) as cycling by itself will only do so much.

posted by Alan Tullett [1428 posts]
10th October 2012 - 21:20

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jezzzer wrote:
good grief. hillclimbers are like fecking jockeys!

(6'3", 80kg)


Bear in mind that I'm only 5'4" and definitely not built like a pipe cleaner.

@Alan Tullett - wouldn't blowing up party balloons be as effective as Powerbreathe? Don't believe the hype, bear in mind that Powerbalance had to admit their wristbands were a scam.

While improving core strength (using yoga-type exercises) may help those with a weakness, a lot of coaches feel that pumping iron isn't going to help your cycling anywhere near as much as spending time on your bike. Perhaps swimming would be more appropriate - it would work the cardiovascular system too.

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posted by Simon E [1905 posts]
11th October 2012 - 15:42

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For lung expansion try cycling up the hills using a canister type respirator. Don't go mental out of the gates build up slowly or you will pass out. Not as glamorous as training somewhere nice at altitude but it does get them working Big Grin

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posted by cidermart [456 posts]
11th October 2012 - 16:50

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