Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gearing Up

Still not feeling great but the weather was great so I just had to go for a workout. I'd basically be doing a "figure of eight" loop with the centre point at the start so I could bail out half way through if things were going wrong. This was the first workout of the autumn where a warm jacket would be needed for the whole ride despite blue skies and sunshine. The sun is lower in the sky each day now and the days are noticeably shorter. It's weird how the whole process of "change of season" just accelerates at this time of year. It's like the sun is in free fall. 

This wasn't going to be a hill climbing frenzy but surprisingly my legs and energy level turned out to be fine when I got going so it was still going to be interesting. The workout was to be over a distance of 45km and right from the first kilometre when the split time was 9 seconds ahead it looked like the battle was on. I decided to try to aim for 3 minutes ahead by 28km - the start of the climb up towards Les Arcs.

It's time however to change the workouts and focus on different things. The racing season is completely over and perhaps it's time to be a bit more creative with the training. For starters I decided to stay on the big chainwheel for the whole workout. This choice would either gain a lot of time or completely flatten me - but either way it would be a great "power" workout. The first proper climb was at kilometre 7 and surprisingly it was quite easy with the big chainwheel - but it was relatively short. Time was still being gained. By the end of the climbing section it was around 01'25" ahead and on target. Eventually, reaching the Les Arcs climb it was 4 minutes ahead and looking good. The trouble with gaining time is that you burn out and lose it all at the end - especially with a bit of a headwind on the return leg. For now though it was the daunting start of the climb up to Les Arcs just ahead. The climb up to the turn off on this route is only 3km but it's steep and after pushing hard - mostly uphill - for an hour already I wasn't sure that it would work in the big chainwheel at all. It was a bit worrying. The time gains so far had mostly come from powering through the small hills and accelerations in the big chainwheel - using all the core muscles. It's scary applying so much power because you wonder if your back is going to explode. The coordination of pulling the hip back on the push and recovering the other hip forward on the pull makes the abdomen/psoas area really strong and seriously protects the back. Attacking the climb was a real surprise. The first steep section dropped down to 13kph but felt good. I lost about 20 seconds but then realised that I could change up a gear - ramping up the speed to about 18kph and rapidly recovering the lost time. I'll need to work out what those gears are doing because I'd never have guessed that I could climb in 12th gear! The chain runs at a bit of a serious angle between the sprocket and chainwheel when you do this - which is neither efficient nor good for the chain. There's some crossover with gearing when changing from the big to the little chainwheel but now I realise that I don't know my gears very well. I seldom use the small chainwheel with the small sprockets or the large chainwheel with the large sprockets.

Keeping the power up and working consciously with the core muscles to the end of the workout I ended up gaining almost 8 minutes in total - so despite the headwind and tiredness there was no drop off towards the end. What began as a shaky session turned into a great workout and now I have to think about gears for a while.

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