Saturday, August 7, 2010

Snow at 2400m

Thursday 6th August 2010

On Wednesday a wet cold front came though and it snowed down to 2400m. I should have been quicker off the mark and headed up to Tignes today because there would probably have been good powder skiing.

The bad weather on Wednesday however had a positive side as my Tacx Fortius Multiplayer indoor cycle trainer arrived by mail order from the UK. This is a pretty advanced piece of kit so it took me most of the day to assemble it and then try to figure out the software. There were quite a few moments of panic, especially concerning software versions - but everything seems good now. For motivation during the winter I can use my GPS tracks on Google Earth with the motorised resistance simulating all the hills. It gives loads of feedback including power output, cadence, speed, heart rate, vertical profile in real time. There is also a virtual world to ride and compete within. There is video training with interactive stages from famous races and there is direct competition with others over the Internet. Certainly puts a new slant on computer games - you won't get fat, lazy and stupid with this one.

Back to today's workout. The sun was out between clouds but the air itself was still a bit chilly early in the day, so I continued working on sorting out the trainer and waited until late afternoon for the air to warm up. I'd wanted to have a bigger than normal workout to make up for not doing a long race this weekend, but was leaving it a bit late. When I finally went out it was about 3:30pm. I took one bottle of sports drink with a couple of Isostar tablets for refilling and two energy bars. Just in case of the cold I had a thin lightweight windproof top but otherwise was just dressed in standard summer clothing.

The first climb up to Granier was fine, a couple of minutes slower than usual because I was pacing, but the 23% gradient at the top was really fun! You look at it and think that you will never get up it - it's like a wall in front of you - but the lightweight bike makes it easy. There was a lot of sweating as usual on that climb but the chilly air at the top was not too bad at 1250m altitude. This climb was followed by a descent to 200m vertical then a climb back up to 1250m at Valezan. From there followed a long descent to Bourg St Maurice where the climb up to the Cormet de Roselend begins going from 830m altitude up to 2000m. I didn't feel too good so there was no attempt to break any records, however I'd decided to climb in one gear higher than usual all the way so as to work on leg strength. This did make the muscles hurt deep down inside. That pain was always present on long climbing days last year when using a standard chain ring setup on the bike but this year with the "compact" setup it's the first time I'd felt that. At least I now know what causes the pain! Some pain however is probably a very good thing - especially if the aim is to develop strength and provoke an adaptation in the body.

By the time I reached the plateau at 1500m near Chapieux the clouds had covered the sun and the temperatures were getting low. There were strong winds on the mountain - blowing downhill as they nearly always do on the Roselend. Quite a few riders were descending but I was clearly the last person to be going upwards this day. Most of the oncoming riders were well wrapped up against the cold with long training pants on, warm gloves and under helmet hats and some even with their faces fully covered. They had certainly anticipated things much better than I had. Some however only had summer gear and a windbreaker like me - so I was not alone in that. I had to put the windbreaker on for climbing from this 1500 point and also took the opportunity to eat an energy bar. If I don't stop then I won't eat so as it wasn't a race I stopped and enjoyed the food. The first parts of me to feel the cold were the feet. I don't know why this happens unless it is to do with them spinning around and more air passing by - but the feet get cold very easily on a bike. From the plateau the fresh snow was visible at altitude and it was lying where it fell, unaffected by the day's sunshine, which meant that it was cold at altitude. I did start to feel uncomfortable with the cold but then remembered how I'd felt worse during some races this year and that it was never intolerable - you just adapt to it and get on with it.

When I got to the top there was a van waiting with a very large bike trailer on the back - still empty. It looked like there would still be a lot of people trying to get to the top, but clearly from the other side, from Beaufort. I didn't hang around and started the descent immediately. The feet didn't start to warm up until I was back in the valley and even then not properly until I was indoors, despite a valley bottom temperature of 21°C.

I had slowed down a bit on the climb up to the Cormet de Roselend but found that there was still plenty of juice in the legs when required. The days' climbing started at about 13km/hr and eventually slowed down to 10km/hr on the Roselend. On the last climb up to Macot after 4hrs, knowing it was relatively short I was able to sustain 20km/hr. Any climbing at 10km/hr or above is a good effort. You know that you are in trouble when it slows down to 7 or 8 km/hr.

Used nasal breathing the whole way so it will be interesting again to see if this aids recovery like it did last time.

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