Saturday, April 24, 2010

Getting started again with Summer training

Off-season training (or madness depending on your view point) is now in full swing – encouraged by that great big friendly nuclear fusion furnace in the sky.
Running commenced after an enforced 5 month break due to “plantar fasciitis” – basically a swollen tendon under the foot. Seems like a silly injury but it’s really inconvenient – I mean trying to ski every day with a sharp pain directly under your right heel is not much fun. Winter running was totally out of the question so there were no days this year of sweating profusely into thermal insulation, rendering it sodden and ultimately frozen. Perhaps I’ll try to get plantar fasciitis next year too. This also delayed the temptation to buy a massive and expensive indoor running machine, subsequently permitting the deviation of funds towards a MUCH better carbon bike! Who said anything about “saving”?
Used the “pose” technique for running – forefoot strike and keeping the centre of mass above or ahead of the feet. This still feels a bit unnatural for me – a reformed heel striker – but there was no pain and a great feeling of freedom and speed from the first time out. Payback however is swift – calf muscles descending into “doms” (delayed onset of muscle soreness) rather rapidly.
Main plus is that the foot is healed and as I suspect that an attempted return to using a slight heel strike caused the injury last year I’ll be avoiding that totally for the time being. Have just learned that a key to avoiding calf pain when using a forefoot strike is to keep the ankle soft and avoid reaching downwards with the forefoot and contracting the calf prior to ground contact. I’ll work on that.
Well, all the high mountain passes are still closed for snow, but at +27°C in the valleys it is impossible to keep the bike indoors and unused. Let the real torture begin...
Actually, the cycle training began sporadically a month earlier in March. My first climb up the local mountain climb time trial was a horrendous affair, commencing with a greasy chorizo pizza as a pre-workout snack. Bad start! Two attempts later and the body had somehow switched back to “normal” and the 45minute climb was now a 35 minute climb. It’s amazing how fitness returns so quickly. Ok, I did ski all winter but honestly skiing makes you fat and lazy. More energy is spent eating Tartiflettes than skiing with or teaching clients. This was however a good time to ease back into more serious exercise, but one troubling issue was coming to the fore consistently now. My heart rate was “spiking” at up to 212 bpm – which is a bit worrying – especially as one family member recently suffered a minor heart attack and both parents are dead from the same cause (heavy smokers). Even more troubling was the heart was spiking during descents – when it should be resting and the signs were consistent. There was no signal dropout from the digital chest transmitter. I was using contact gel for the electrodes and all the equipment appeared good. Older analogue equipment just has complete dropout or lockup at a fixed frequency if there is a tech problem, so the signs were a bit troubling here. In the end I discovered the problem was due to a loose chest strap – as simple as that. Once the strap was tightened all the weird reading s stopped and that included my heart rate lowering as effort reached a maximum – very weird! One useful thing came out of all of this. Until now I had believed that a formula had to be used to determine maximum heart rate and that it should be something resembling 220-age. I knew that there are many different versions of this formula but it seemed that aging produced an inevitable drop in max heart rate. When going through my panic I stumbled upon a website by sports author Sally Edwards (I already have a book she wrote 20 years ago). She makes it very clear that you are born with a maximum heart rate and age does not change it. If you train all your life this rate remains the same. Max heart rate only changes in sedentary people – the changes are caused by being sedentary not by age itself. This changes the playing field a bit. I will soon be doing a maxed out test to establish my REAL max heart rate. I know it used to be around 192 when I was in my 30s but I think it might now be about 183. We will see. My resting heart rate in recent years has been down to 33 bpm, but oddly, cycling more seems to have raised this a bit to around 44 bpm.
Following on from this I have created my own formula for “cadence” for cycling. Cadence is linked to cardiovascular effort and you can shift the load when cycling from the legs and muscle force at a low cadence to the cardiovascular system at a high cadence. It’s accepted that cadence is slower when climbing – around 70 for a good rhythm – though I’m around 60 if I use the granny gear on steeper climbs and when the legs are tired. My formula is that cadence should be 120 –age. Going by this at age 50 you are down to 70 average cadence and by age 110 you would be at 10 rpm. At age 119 you would manage to turn the pedals about once per minute. That sounds about right!
Thursday’s workout (22nd April) was the first serious solo effort on the bike (did a big one in March being towed by Chris Harrop – with a pizza stop in the middle – so that was not a great example even though my legs felt like they’d been put through a wringer after 3.5 hours at 95% max heart rate effort. No I could not sleep properly that night. ) This workout took in two big climbs – up to Hautcoeur descending into Moutiers and then up to Natre Dame du Pré, descending all the way to Maçot and then looping along the “flat” around Bourg St Maurice and returning home to Aime. All in all 73km with 1600m vertical. When I reached Bourg at about 3hrs 20mins my legs just went – nothing left. When this happens it comes in the form of a deep non localised pain that makes you just want to get off the bike and lie down. I had been contemplating a third climb but this was now out of the question and a U turn at Bourg was required returning home for and easy spin downhill along the cycle path beside the Isère river all the way. After about 15 minutes of an easy pace much of the pain had subsided – which was very encouraging. This then tempted me to make a final attack up the last short steep hill just before home. Mistake! Upper thigh cramp is not very nice! This was definitely a workout taken to the limit and very satisfying indeed. I had consumed carbohydrates at a rate of about 60g per hour with 500ml of liquid per hour – so the physical issue was unlikely to be a management one – just pure muscle fatigue. Cramp is apparently caused by fatigue – not sodium loss or anything else.
Workout route
If you download the Google Earth KML file from here you can do a 3D fly through of the path in the mountains - quite impressive if you are new to this!
The aftermath of all of this is frozen calf muscles and dead legs. The hope is that the 6kg of fat gained during the winter is going to start to melt away along with the snow and that the body will rapidly adapt to cope with some much bigger climbing days during the summer. If the legs are currently dying at 1600m of climbing how will they cope with 5000m? To be seen...

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