With that out of the way, I’m going to do something unusual–give you useful cycling training information (which means that if you’re not of the cycling persuasion, you still have to pretend to read it–perhaps right before bed–you might find it soporific). I went on a ride on Friday with serious mt biker Jason (who I’ve accepted is just a step ahead of me training-wise), and we got to chatting about some advice we’d received relative to building climbing strength. Specifically, a particular source informed us that if you don’t have mountains to train on, you can get pretty close to the same workout riding into a headwind. After spending a half-hour riding with our heads bowed to the wind, our conclusion was to the contrary (which isn’t to discredit the source–the wisest cyclist either of us know, and a former expert mountain biker).
Riding into the wind is a great way to build strength, to tone or build leg muscles, and probably to get faster in general, but riding into headwinds doesn’t provide the cardiovascular pain of climbing. On the contrary, it seems as though the only thing to produce the lactic acid threshold experience of climbing really is climbing.
Toward the end of our ride on Friday, Jason said to me, "You’re strong–your muscular strength is fine–it’s your cardiovascular endurance that needs work." I don’t think he was paying me an idle compliment, either. I’d held a pretty decent pace on the flats (both into headwinds and with tailwinds behind us), and I’d even done really well on the initial portions of the climbs, I’d just popped on the climbs earlier than he had.
But I’m only going to slightly disagree. I probably could use some cardio work, so Jason was right about that, but I’m thinking it may be more a question of just confronting the lactic threshold–a psychology thing. I think too often in my training, I’ve been letting up after a short stint in the red zone. I’ll bet it’s just a matter of holding that out longer. Knowing that, of course, doesn’t make it any easier.
Anyway, just wanted to pass that semi-useful piece of information along. Windy season has just started here, which means that if you’re lacking in strength, now is a good time to build on it. As to the climbing … I have some ideas, but I’m not totally smitten with any of them yet. I’ll let you know if I find the magic climbing pill in my training in these next weeks