Just sit back and relax…

This headline is fast becoming my climbing motto as I discover a technique that suits me best for the mountains, which still fill me with a certain amount of fear at this stage. Ideally I’d like to get out to France in May or early June and at least take a tilt at Izoard, Lauttaret and Alpe D’Huez, although not necessarily in the same day.

Instead of the usual constitutional three laps of Richmond Park I thought I’d try something different. So after two and a half laps at a pretty average rate I decided to do some hill practice on Broomfield Drive, which is “the big hill” in the park and the one I usually enjoy thundering down. So I went up and down it five times in total trying to find a technique that suits me. It may have been four times as I got a bit confused after having followed a man on a push-scooter up it.

He is an equal first for odd things I saw today. He was on one of those chunky-wheeled scooters that you see in the windows of skate shops and when the hill sharpened he’d hop off and jog up with it. But his competition is quite the oddest thing so far this year in the park – three girls wearing rucksacks and climbing harnesses, each dragging a tyre behind them around the park. I assume they are off on some sort of trek in one of the polar regions. If not, that’s just plain odd behaviour, says the man attempting the Etape.

But back with my hill-climbing practice and the news is that I haven’t quite got the hang of coming out of the saddle on the climbs. I’m far happier dropping down to the small “granny” ring on my chainset and turning that over than trying to power my way up on the middle ring, which I think is a 42. This will obviously annoy purists who think your bike should one be a 53/39 combination; mine’s got something like 50/42/30. None of which makes much difference to the fact I’m still relatively slow and was down to less than 10kph on the steepest bit of what is no more than about 500 metres of climbing.

I find that when I get out of the saddle my breathing and power fade right away in a matter of pedal strokes but if I stay in the saddle, I can still generate the power but with much more control and over a longer period. This fits with the general wisdom in cycle training, so at least I’m not an abberant freak or complete disaster. But I’m going to have to be able to do both if I am to make it round the course in good time so I need to work on that area.

It was the usually disastrous situation of trying to balance warmth with breathability today meaning that once again I came in soaking wet all the way through. I can’t wait for it to warm up enough so that I can go down to base layer/vest and my sportwool jersey with arm warmers. Perhaps then I can start to get in the longer distances without ending up with a chill or drenched in sweat. Or maybe I’m just a sweaty beast in all weathers.

I’m still quite tempted, if I can find time and money, to take off down to Murcia to visit my friend Alex and do a nice week of training in warmer climes in March just to get my fitness levels up. Then again, I might do just as well to go see my doctor and get some nicotine patches so I can lay off the cigarettes properly for a few months. Yes, I smoke which is probably not the brightest thing for someone doing an actvity demanding aerobic prowess. Perhaps I’ll explain my weird and warped haemocrit level theory at some point soon. it’s barmy but it migh just work.



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