Type 1 Cycling

Type 1 Cycling

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Last big week of training before the Tour

In the month of August I cycled over 1000Km in preparation for the mHealth Grand Tour. But I had two weeks to go. My training program for this period was one very hard week and one easy one to taper. The first of those two weeks was as follows:
Monday: 2.5 hours flat 60Km
Tuesday: 4 hours flat 100Km
Wednesday: 4 hours flat 100Km - the end of the X-Team 24 hour bike ride
Friday: 4.5 hours hilly 90Km (2000m of climbing - if you only click on one of these click this one the profile is really pretty)
Saturday: 4 hours rolling hills 112Km group ride

Much of this training was endurance training. That meant keeping my heart rate in zone E1 (between 60% and 70% of my max heart rate)*. This was particularly hard when repeatedly climbing big hills, but surprisingly easy when sat at the back of the peloton on the Saturday group ride.
The group 3 peloton

The highlight of the week were the four ascents of Nes Harim. A 5.5Km climb with only brief moments of respite punctuating some 10-12% gradients. It's steep and exposed and on a bad day is very unpleasant. Having said that it is a very popular climb for people who live in the centre of Israel and is a feature of the Gran Fondo Jerusalem in October. It has been my point of reference since I started cycling seriously. Last August I could barely get up the hill. I was redlining halfway up and having to stop and take multiple rests before making it to the top. I remember how demoralizing it was watching people breeze past me like they were riding on the flat while it felt like I was being pulled by and elephant back down the hill. I remember seeing some of those people pass me, seeing them on their descent and then pass me again on the climb. I would think to myself what nutter would do this kind of torture more than once. Fast forward to last week. This nutter! Not only was I going to climb this brute of a climb multiple times but I was going to do it while keeping my heart rate low. 

Arriving in time for first light, little chilly though
I arrive at a small parking lot at the bottom of the climb just after 6am. It was just getting light. There was a bite in the air. Far from cold but a little unexpected. There were some others preparing for their ride. They were nice enough to invite me to join them but I explained that I had other plans. They went off and I finished getting ready. 
A few others out burning of Rosh Hashana meals

My planned route was a long drag away from the Nes Harim climb follow by a steep climb up to Ramat Bet Shemesh, then turn around and power back down to the bottom of the main climb. Up the Nes Harim climb as far as the Sorek cave junction and back down again. I crashed badly on the descent in February so I still approach it a little timidly only allowing myself to touch 70Kmph before putting the brakes on. The loop was over 21km and each go around took about one hour. 
The top of the climb, onward to Jerusalem or back down the hill to Bet Shemesh

I clipped in to my pedals had a quick look at my Garmin, 15C, confirming my suspicions that it was indeed colder than expected. I checked my blood sugar and set off. I completed the first and second lap fine, heart rate under control, legs feeling good, drinking plenty of water and according to my end of lap blood tests my BGs were under control too. At the end of lap two I went back to the car to refill my water bottles. Off I went on the third lap. Was I actually enjoying myself? Could I call this fun? Yes, for the moment things were going really well. 
Back down the hill

There were few people passing me but now I know I was intentionally going slowly. I could go faster if I wanted to, but no, I am doing this four times. Blow past me if you want but I've got your number.  By the end of the third lap I could feel my muscles getting tired. I stopped for five minutes to stretch. Then off I went for my final climb. It was getting hot. I was sweating out more liquid than I was taking in. And I couldn't stop my heart rate from creeping up. 

Shall I call it a day, I thought to myself. No I have been beaten before by this hill. But not this time. This time I will own it. 

I pushed on, the sweat dripping in my eyes. The muscles in my legs burning. My heart rate creeping up and up without putting in any extra effort. My mouth dry but unable to take a drink due to the steepness of the hill.

I could stop now and go back. I have done enough. No. I will get there. Breathe. Breathe again. Peddle slower. Breathe. Concentrate on bringing that heart rate down. Just another few hundred meters then a dip. Then a really steep bit. Then a shallow bit then the final push. Breathe.

I see the 4Km marker by the side of the road. Just 1.5 to go. Peddle, breathe, wipe the sweat off my face. I was fighting the urge to get out the saddle and really push it, the desire to get to the top against not wanting to blow up completely and at least trying to keep my heart rate low. I reach the dip. The brief respite allowing me time to drink from my bottle. Then off up the steep curves. Peddle, breathe, peddle breathe. Don't look at the heart rate. 5Km marker, just 500m to go. Almost there. Final push without pushing too much. 300 to go. The last ramp. OK out the saddle and go.

So my heart rate went up a bit high at the end but I made it. I got back to the car turned the aircon up to full and drove home.

The following day on the group ride I was allowed to take it easy spending the first 50Km at the back of the group. After that I pulled my fair share. It wasn't quite as hot as the day before and plenty of the route had shade. We worked well together and covered a lot of distance.  This was especially fun when we were rolling round doing just a few peddle strokes on the front before dropping back.  We can maintain a very high speed like this.  The route was really cool, we covered some of the route we will be doing on the Bishvil haShanti ride at the end of the October.  There was one point where we rode past some coriander fields, the smell was unmistakable and reminded us why it is so nice to be out of the city.

It was a really hard week and the following brought a well earned rest. I only rode a couple of times and covered about 70Km. It was nice not to have all those early mornings. As a result I feel really ready for the challenge ahead. 

I hope it all goes to plan

* Percent Max Heart Rate calculations are as follows. 
Max heart rate can be estimated as 220-age. However I currently have a max HR of 187bpm
Resting heart rate is the slowest your heart can beat. In my case that's 57bpm
HR range = HRmax - HRmin
The zones are calculated as a percentage of the HRrange
Warm up/ cool down AR 50-60% 122 - 135
Endurance / fat burning E1 60-70% 135 - 148
E2 70-80% 148 - 161
E3 80-90% 161-174
Anaerobic A1 90-95% 174-180
Anaerobic A2 95-100% 180-187

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