The last 3 weeks have seen my programme evolve slightly, largely due to a variety of personal and business commitments requiring me to train less frequently. So my main weekly focus has been to get in a full-body weight-training session in the gym, a mid-week hill sprint session, and a long ride.
My strength in the gym has held up this year, which is unusual, and I am still as strong as I was in the off-season (which shows I haven’t lost any muscle mass in this year’s endurance training campaign).
My mid-week hill sessions have modified somewhat (and although I only did two hill sessions in April, I am back to one hill session a week in May). The main change I’ve made in my recent sessions is to work on a range of training intensities and cadences. I have experimented with a couple of approaches and seem to have settled for an approach which sees me ride the hill in ‘phases’.
The hill I train on is about 700m long. The first 200m are the steepest, going above 20% incline at the steepest sections. The middle 300m are the least steep, averaging about 7% incline, and the last 200m are quite steep as well (probably about 15% incline).
So my new approach sees me ride up the first 200m in gears 1 and 2 (on the 8 speed) working on climbing strength at low cadence – because it is so steep. I then transition into the less steep part by taking the gear up to 4 and working on efficiency and uphill strength for longer climbs. Finally, I gear down to gear 2 or 3 and sprint all-out in the final 200m or so (as if I were in a sprint race).
The final sprint sees my heart rate reach the highest recordings I’ve ever registered on my monitor (up to 172 beats per minute). I try to do that sprint as fast as I am physically and mentally able to do and I find it quite fun (and quite refreshing, in a long distance training programme where most of my training is at lower intensity).
The only thing that could make it more fun would be to have someone to actually race against in the last part of the hill climb in order to draw the most out of myself! I do sometimes race guys on road and mountain bikes – if there happens to be one going up the hill at the same time as me – and having that ‘target’ does intensify the session a lot more than I can do when riding alone.
Because of the intensity of these sprint sessions – and for my sanity – I am now doing just 10 repeats of the hill at Bow Brickhill (I used to do 20 hill repeats in the early months of my training – all at one intensity and at lower cadence, to build general climbing strength).
My long rides are near their maximum now, the longest being my most recent rides: a 140-miler at the beginning of May and also a 12.5 hour indoor trainer session last weekend (which would equate to about 150-miles of riding based on the heart rate of 120 bpm). Some bigger challenges await on the long ride front and we are planning to finalise our strategy for the Mille Cymru event in the next few weeks. I’ll be riding in the event alongside Alan McDonogh and Stuart Blofeld.
I’m really enjoying my training this year and hope this enthusiasm continues. Interesting times!