Friday, August 31

Running season begins again

After I ran the Rome marathon, my running dropped substantially. Apparently, it's a normal reaction after such an effort but I did find it hard to run more than twice a week without another major goal on the horizon, even though I enjoy it. I managed to get into a routine of running before or after one of my classes, especially as there is nice mile-long loop in the park near the gym in Kidbrooke, but still never anything over 10Km.

With the wet autumn evenings approaching (still no sign of a summer here in the UK) I feel like it's a natural time to start increasing my training load. I can increase the time spent running by only around 10% if I want to prevent injury, so it'll take me a while yet before I get back up to a 45-min interval session, a 1-hour tempo run and a long 2-hour run at the weekend. But it still feels great to be back out there pounding the pavement... all I need is to enter a spring marathon to help me focus (imminent hanging sharpens a man's wits!)

Talking of wet autumn runs:

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Tuesday, August 28

Spinning class - Three Peaks

I planned this ride just after coming back from those long climbs that don't seem to exist in Britain - I wanted to replicate the feeling that comes from climbing constantly for over half an hour but without working or boring the class to death. Very simple concept, then, which makes it a challenging ride to lead. I've split the ride into three segments, each one containing an 11-minute climb.

Climb 1: from a light start, this first climb has five gradual changes of resistance to build up to a fairly heavy climb, enough to want to stand for the final 3 minutes of the climb. While out of the saddle, an optional extra resistance change to push the legs beyond their comfort zone for the final 1.5 minutes. This gradual loading of resistance will allow the legs to adapt before each change - too sudden and leg muscles will refuse to co-operate and absorb that resistance.

Climb 2: now that the legs are used to climbing, the starting point should be higher, with moderate resistance. Still five gradual changes of resistance except that by the final change it should be very hard to maintain a steady rhythm in the saddle, so that standing up for the final 6 minutes of the climb should come as a relief. Out of the saddle, an optional two extra changes, again to push the legs beyond their limits.

Climb 3: this is the one for which we've been warming up! Starting from moderate resistance, there are four resistance changes to build up to a heavy climb that is sustainable for the final 7 minutes of the climb, always maintaining a steady rhythm. Then the fun begins! This climb has three switchbacks - short, sharp increases of gradient that usually happen when a mountain road "switches back" on itself - that will require bursts of intense effort.

Cadence remains constant but, just before each switchback, resistance is increased so high that it's almost impossible to maintain that cadence in the saddle and a burst of power out of the saddle is needed to keep the momentum going. Then it's back to the saddle, resistance back to that steady heavy climb (that's the hard part - to keep climbing after such a hard effort). The first switchback is 30secs long, followed by 30secs in the saddle. Not enough time to recover fully before a second, 45sec switchback. Then back to the saddle for two minutes until the final, 90sec hard effort before returning to the saddle for the final 45secs. Sounds confusing but, if you know the track, just follow the rhtyhm!

Warm up - 4 min
Climb 1 - 10 min
Recovery - 2 min
Climb 2 - 11 min
Recovery - 2 min
Climb 3 - 10.5 min
Cool down and stretching - 5.5 min


Why does my heart feel so bad - Moby
Morning star - Planet Heaven
Duende del amor (night) - Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra
Spiritual light - Mea Culpa
The chase - Alan Reeves (from Kill Bill)
After all (Satoshi Tomiie remix) - Delerium
Touched by God - Katcha

Thursday, August 23

Back to the grindstone

Humph! I'm not happy. Don't get me wrong - France was absolutely fantastic. I even became confident enough to discuss politics and economics in French with the locals. Well, either confidence or the fact that my French became more fluent as I drank more vin rouge! Not as much cycling as I'd like to have done (more details in my next post) but it was a very productive and enjoyable fortnight, the weather mostly sunny and hot. The problem started as I crossed the English Channel and left Dover - the sky became grey, then it started raining and... well, I got back Saturday night and I haven't seen the sun since! I've had the central heating on, have been wearing a fleece-lined sailing jacket and have needed gloves when riding my Vespa. In August! Humph!

After two weeks of no TV, no news, no internet, no telephone, no contact with the outside other than what I learned from the locals, it's been downright depressing listening to the weasels that are politicians, news of children killing each other on the streets, our troops in Iraq not being supported properly, etc. On top of that, that inconvenience called work - I'd much rather be out on my bike for 7 hours a day!

Oh well, time to start planning my next holiday!

Thursday, August 2

I'm off!

It seems like eternity since my last break but my annual fortnight in France is finally here! This is where I get to take my bike down to the mountains near Carcassonne and do as much cycling as possible. I know it's not most people's idea of a holiday but I find there's no better way to relax and unwind than a 20Km-long climb with a steady 7% gradient... followed by a 80kph descent. In previous years, I built up the daily distances up to a 150Km ride and only rode on alternate days to recover. However, after a week-long training camp in the Alps in May, my legs are already strong enough to handle a long ride so I'll be riding almost every day for 100Km+.

One of my rides will follow Stage 14 of this year's Tour de France, from Mazamet to Plateau de Beille - especially handy, as the route passes the village where I stay.
It looks worse than it is, as most of is nice undulating countryside... until the Port de Pailhares, that is! And as for Plateau de Beille... well, imagine Alpe d'Huez but without the easy switchbacks!

One of two things will happen when I get back - either I will have no interest in cycling or spinning for a week or I'll be back stronger and more energetic than ever! I have a double Spinning class the day after I get back, so I'll know soon enough...

Ciao for now and enjoy the summer - presuming the UK will get one this year...

Wednesday, August 1

Spinning class - Le Grand Bornand

Another profile from the Tour, this time from Stage 7, Bourg-en-Bresse to Le Grand Bornand in the Alps. The ride starts off with the usual warm up but then it's immediately followed by a short climb in the saddle, gradually increasing resistance. Once at the top of the climb, it's an undulating road - so keeping a high cadence but with some resistance, getting out of the saddle occasionally to help keep the momentum going.

After that we take it easy while going downhill, before we hit the flat road - no taking it easy here, as it takes continual effort to keep the legs turning over at a fast tempo until we reach a short heavy climb out of the saddle. After that, another chance to recover while we coast downhill until we hit the flat road again, keeping a high cadence until the final climb. This longer climb starts comfortable, gradually increasing resistance until it's too hard to keep a steady cadence, then we keep the momentum by climbing out of the saddle.

Once we get to the top, it's no rest for the wicked as we need to keep pressing forward on the downhill - so it's fast cadence with some resistance to make sure we get to the bottom as quickly as possible. Then a quick breather to collect our thoughts before we press as hard as we can for the final 2 minutes to the finish line.

Warm up - 5 min
Seated climb - 3 min
Standing flat - 3 min
Descent (recovery) - 2 min
Seated flat - 6 min
Standing climb - 3 min
Descent (recovery) - 2 min
Seated flat - 3.5 min
Heavy climb - 6.5 min
Fast descent (not recovery) - 2.5 min
Recovery - 1 min
Seated flat - 2 min
Cool down and stretching - 5.5 min

Profile: the description above may not make sense in writing , so here's what it looks like on the road:

Lebanese blonde - Thievery Corporation
Fuego - Bond
Hey baby - No Doubt
Rolling thunder - Ride
Boomerang - Cirrus
Hungarian - Bond
Release the pressure - Leftfield
Please save me - Push vs. Sunscreem
Clubbed to death - Rob D
Smokebelch II - Sabres of Paradise