More uphill battle talk …

I take comfort in the knowledge that, in Idaho, the only gawkers checking out my Lycra™-clad keyster are the herds of smelly cows I pass along the roadside.

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


10 thoughts on “More uphill battle talk …

  1. Scott

    Now, see, you\’ve just gone and burst my bubble.  We don\’t have any great climbs here in Indiana, so I was really buying into the "headwind training is like climbing" thing.  I heard that from someone else too, so it must be a universal technique, as I have never been to Idaho.  Or anywhere remotely close, come to think of it.
    LALALALALALA!!!  I wasn\’t listening…er…reading.  Headwind = climbing.  Yeah, that\’s the ticket….

  2. Tom Stormcrowe

    Headwind= Perpetual uphill! Wind builds strengthWind builds characteryada, yada::GRIN::I actually once enjoyed riding into tje wind because I could then turn around and ride home with a tail wind, til the wind took to switching directiions on me! Then I started riding with a perpetual headwind! I guess I\’m getting stronger!::GRIN::

  3. Unknown

    Read Friel, Wenzel and Carmichael. 
    1) Build a great endurance base with once or twice weekly rides in the endurance zone.
    2) Do various kinds of hill repeats & intervals – slow aerobic zone climbs when on your endurance rides (spin fast but in a low gear), tempo intervals of 5-8 minutes, and speed/endurance intervals of 3-6 minutes.  When you start to get really strong finish off the SE and tempo intervals with a 200 yard sprint up and just over the apex of the hill. 
    3) Work the intervals hard, and give yourself tough weeks, but get plenty of rest between intervals, plenty of rest between interval workouts, and make sure to build in a rest week here and there.
    4) Consider doing some mass start roadracing.  Hotly contested crits & RR\’s will push your general fitness along really fast if your region is anywhere near as competitive as where I live – you just can\’t find a way to train for an hour at 105% of LT, with bursts up to 115%.  Racing makes you improve, at least at the start, in leaps and bounds.  I now crush non-racing friends who used to abuse me on the bike, largely thanks to training with racers and actually racing for a couple months.   
    Just my opinion… I could be wrong of course.

  4. Unknown

    Hey Caloi Rider-
    What you were saying about the psychological aspect and lactate sessions involving hills is true!
    I\’ve been using a ten year old triathlon book to work on my cycling training from Rod Cedaro (Aussie Coach). Anyway with respect to Lactate threshold sessions I\’ve gone and combined them with hill workouts and am better for it and am able to achieve the level threes and fours called for in the workout. The workout is timed and you use you HRM to keep things honest and I use a set of increasing hills in my area that take me there. At first you\’re working at 1:2 of work to rest during the first build phase. During the work you get up to level threes and fours and rest you go back down to level one. After a few weeks you go up to 2:1 of work to rest still getting up to level 3s and 4s during the second build phase and eventually you get to 1:1 during the race phase of your periodization. By then you are a hill attack monster. Psychologically you end up with the mental toughness or fortitude to take on anything. Does that mean that some faster guys don\’t pass you no, but it means you go up that hill in good form without pukin\’ your guts out. Works for me!

  5. Zed

    Hey, but Psycho, think about it: if there are no hills around in your area, you don\’t need to climb to race well. Just a thought.

    Tom- True, some serious strength being gained that way. But then you mix in the perpetual hill (the one that lasts for eternity, even if your computer says you\’ve only been climbing for 40 minutes), and things are never the same.

    Al- that\’s the consensus. My riding partner from Saturday has been following the Friel mt bike program pretty closely. He\’s doing pretty well, but I think I\’m making small gains on him. I kinda wonder whether it\’s one of those programs where it pays all the dividends later in the season. I dunno.
    I do have to agree with you about racing, however. Nothing makes you pick up speed like racing does–at least initially. That\’s why I\’ve got this mt bike race scheduled for June–because I don\’t want to show up in July with zero competition in my legs. Congratulations on your recent results, by the way. It sounds like your training\’s paying off.

    Bobster- I\’ve got to admit that I\’m new to this periodization thing (even though I know every cyclist and his dog uses it) so some of that comment went over my head–level what? It seems like the bottom line is that you need to be pushing yourself on the hills for extended periods of time (which means you need to have extended hills), and that you need to be going for extremes on the shorter climbs to really get gains from them.

  6. Tom Stormcrowe

    Hey Caloi, the Prez here! I know what you mean about winds! Living here in DC, where so much hot air is generated, there\’s a constant wind blowing toward the Capitol Building!  It makes riding back to the Ol\’ White House pretty nice, but the outbound leg can be a real killer! It\’s at it\’s worst when the Democrats try a filibuster, then the wind reaches near gale intensity, and we often have to post TORNADO warnings. See ya \’round-"Dubyah"

  7. Unknown

    Levels Huh?! Everybook or mag I read talks about levels so thought…it\’s a heart rate monitor thing. Been using one for a long time. Started using it so I wouldn\’t overtrain in my run training.
    The levels are all about percentages of maximum heart rate. I don\’t memorize the percentages so I can\’t tell you them without looking them up.
    But for Lactate Threshold work I need to be up between 160 and 170 for me. Not all of us have the same numbers with respect to percentage of max so I can\’t say well get up to this number and you\’ll be at the right level.
    Another book I follow pretty closely is the Sally Edwards HRM book in order to get accurate information about yourself.
    My heart doctor thinks it\’s all bs, but he\’s not an endurance athlete.
    Like the comercial says "hooked on phonics works for me!"
    I can drag out the book if you like…

  8. Zed

    W- ya poseur, yer just whining because Tom Stormcrowe wouldn\’t let you draft behind him. Maybe you ought to spend a little more time on that Serotta and a little less time on that Trek.

    Bobster- That makes sense. I refuse to get on a stationary spinning bike without an HRM–it\’s pointless. I admit, though, that I rarely use them while training on the real bike. Perhaps I ought to give it a go, eh? Thanks for the info. I\’ll bet I can find the percentages online somewhere.

  9. Unknown

    so my challenge with wildflower is big hill climbs. while i won\’t have trouble finding those around here, it will be challenging to build up my aerobic level to the point where i\’m not near tears at the top of a 1000 foot climb.

    Malviva – never heard of 100-115% LT. but you\’re on to something with racing as a means of pushing yourself.

  10. Unknown

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