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  1. #1
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    How to train for sustained climbs when you don't have any?

    The Jacksonville thread and Damocles making fun of our Acosta bridge "hill" climbs inspired me to start another thread.

    I have been climbing a bunch of long climbs here in Spain the last few weeks, including a couple of group rides with some Spanish racers (40+ masters, I'm 40 myself). I basically got my butt kicked every time we headed up hill. No huge surprise, I weigh 180ish and I'm riding a 26 lb steel road bike.

    However, that brings me to my question: how do you train for sustained, 15-30 minute climbs at max sustainable power when you don't have anything that long to train on? Intervals at FTP plus 5-10%? How about the cadence factor, and standing? I tended to have slower cadence climbing, and this trashes my legs more than an interval at FTP-ish watts while maintaining high cadence. Standing makes it worse.

    Despite my less than ideal climber's build, I aspire to be better at it. If nothing else, I want to do Six Gap this year and not suffer too badly. So what would help? Big gear intervals? Setting up a trainer on the slope of the Acosta Bridge?

  2. #2
    staring at the mountains superdex's Avatar
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    Headwinds are your friend.

  3. #3
    . botto's Avatar
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    Eddie B suggested riding into headwinds in a big gear.

    I've tried that, but obviously it's not the same.

    I'll be riding this (see below) for the 3rd year,and the closest 'sustained climbs' to me are over 300 km away.


  4. #4
    staring at the mountains superdex's Avatar
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    botto, I'll come do that with you if you come do this with me


  5. #5
    Dirt-riding heretic DrPete's Avatar
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    It's not exactly the same, but a couple of the things that I've used to bring my climbing from "horrible" to "mildly inadequate":

    1. Even with short hills, pick a really high gear and just drill it up the hill in a lower cadence. Focus on your form so you don't screw up your knees, but really push up every single hill.

    2. Look at the power profile from hilly rides that you've done and do intervals to try to replicate them. Yes, the form is different on flats vs. hills, but a watt is a watt and if you get better at pushing 400W on the flats, you'll certainly get at least a little better at pushing the same wattage for the same time on a climb.

    --The nice side benefit of this is that your form/position in the flats when you're really moving will improve. And if you want 50 bonus watts to work with, just stay on the hoods or the tops instead of going to the drops. It's amazing. I've found that I can do a lot to drop my power output for a given speed by pretty small changes in position.

    3. Lots of FT and VO2Max intervals.

    Like I said, I've only taken my climbing from horrible to OK, so I'm sure there's more experience and better results to draw on, but that's what this flatlander does.
    "Unless he was racing there was no way he could match my speed."

  6. #6
    big ring MIN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superdex
    botto, I'll come do that with you if you come do this with me

    Holy Jesu... what is the total vertical gain?

  7. #7
    Dirt-riding heretic DrPete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MIN
    Holy Jesu... what is the total vertical gain?
    Just eyeballing it, I'd say 10,310'.
    "Unless he was racing there was no way he could match my speed."

  8. #8
    big ring MIN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrPete
    Just eyeballing it, I'd say 10,310'.


    Duh - it's right there.

    Wow - two miles of climbing.

  9. #9
    Used to be a climber.. GuitarWizard's Avatar
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    I've found that the only way to get better at climbing is to actually climb. I've tried the whole mash-a-huge-gear-at-low-cadence to try to build up strength and what not....just doesn't work.
    1999 Trek 2500 - hit by a car on it in May, 2011 and currently bikeless

  10. #10
    Senior Member mike9903's Avatar
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    I would say that it is a mix between actually climbing and pushing big gears to develope strength. When I first started seriously climbing I found that I was strong enough, but I did not have the expierence on pacing myself up the climbs. I would realyl puch myself up the hills passing everyone, only to be dropped as I struggled to crest the hill, I guess it is the ol' tortoise and the hare principle.
    2011 Madone 6.9 SSL w/SRAM Red


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  11. #11
    big ring MIN's Avatar
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    Looks like you have some saddle-time on a trainer in your future.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by MIN
    Looks like you have some saddle-time on a trainer in your future.
    God help me, no...anything but the trainer!

    I don't own one and I have only ridden one once, for an hour and a half training session. Blech. I suppose if I ponied up for a Computrainer I might like it a bit better, but I'd rather spend the $ on cold/wet weather gear and ride outside.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Duke of Kent's Avatar
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    Spend enough time muscling it out against the wind in a "climbing position" (hands on tops or hoods) and you'll be fine. Believe me.

    You put out the watts and everything will be fine. Last year I had never done a climb of more than 1/4th mile in length. My second race of the year last year, 2x1mile climbs each lap, two laps. Every time I went from middle of the pack to top 5 at the top of the hill. I had spent the entire winter dueling with the Midwest wind and the rollers. And a highway overpass twice each time I rode outside.
    "If a non personal post makes you feel as if you've been attacked, maybe the problem IS you."

  14. #14
    . botto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superdex
    botto, I'll come do that with you if you come do this with me

    nah.... yours is easier, and you only climb 3,139 meters on the day.

  15. #15
    Senior Member sverrefehn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by botto
    nah.... yours is easier, and you only climb 3,139 meters on the day.
    Topping out above 10,000 ft. three times sure is a bee-yatch though.

  16. #16
    Used to be a climber.. GuitarWizard's Avatar
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    If botto pays my traveling expenses, I'll go do that ride with 'em.

    I need to lose at least another 10 pounds first though .

    I think my house scale is a bit off though....with no clothing on, I weigh like 147 pounds according to the 'ol digimatic. At the Doctor today, I weighed 149 pounds on his scale with heavy-ass shoes on, jeans, a jersey, and my wallet, keys and cell phone in my pocket. And his scale is zero'ed out, too....so I'm thinking I'm at least around 145 pounds. Not bad considering I was 165 pounds last summer. No wonder the Berkshires sucked so much. Still need to lose some extra flab off the stomach and butt though....so I'm almost there, but not quite. But...I'm not exactly "dieting" at the moment either.

    Can't wait to see how hill repeats go in May.
    1999 Trek 2500 - hit by a car on it in May, 2011 and currently bikeless

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by KendallF
    Intervals at FTP plus 5-10%? How about the cadence factor, and standing? I tended to have slower cadence climbing, and this trashes my legs more than an interval at FTP-ish watts while maintaining high cadence. Standing makes it worse.
    Yes, focus on long intervals at your FTP + whatever you can sustain at your optimal cadence, mix it up a little with really big gears, spinning small gears, standing for an acceleration, but increasing threshold power will help your climbing. IMO, not the same, but close enough to improve markedly. Unfortunately, in a race situation, climbing pace isnt often dictated by your FTP, it's dictated by the speed that others are going, so no matter how much those intervals hurt, you must make yourself go harder and be willing to hurt, really really hurt.

  18. #18
    . botto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarWizard
    If botto pays my traveling expenses, I'll go do that ride with 'em.

    I need to lose at least another 10 pounds first though .

    I think my house scale is a bit off though....with no clothing on, I weigh like 147 pounds according to the 'ol digimatic. At the Doctor today, I weighed 149 pounds on his scale with heavy-ass shoes on, jeans, a jersey, and my wallet, keys and cell phone in my pocket. And his scale is zero'ed out, too....so I'm thinking I'm at least around 145 pounds. Not bad considering I was 165 pounds last summer. No wonder the Berkshires sucked so much. Still need to lose some extra flab off the stomach and butt though....so I'm almost there, but not quite. But...I'm not exactly "dieting" at the moment either.

    Can't wait to see how hill repeats go in May.
    enough obsessing about weight my man.

    i was +/- 12-15 lbs heavier when i did the maratona for the 2nd time. i also rode it 30 mins faster.

  19. #19
    steel lover
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    Since no one else has mentioned it... I'll bring it up.

    What about repeated climbs of a parking garage? Not sure if that'd allow the speed you need to train at though. Just throwing the idea out there. Obviously dependent on having large parking garages around your area

  20. #20
    Senior Member Snicklefritz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by botto
    enough obsessing about weight my man.

    i was +/- 12-15 lbs heavier when i did the maratona for the 2nd time. i also rode it 30 mins faster.

    Was there a change in your power output to account for this? Or did you have a different strategy
    that accounted for it?

  21. #21
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Actually, I went through this with my Coach when I was getting ready to do Etape, and now, getting ready to do Everest. His advice, which is a little counter intuitive is to forget about repeats over the Acosta bridge, and up parking garages. These have their place, but they're basically training you for short intense efforts, not sustained climbing.

    The program he developed for me involves a lot of LT Threshold intervals. Doing an HC climb you're going at LT for an hour or so. Thus training to raise your LT, and to ride at LT for sustained periods is what you need.

    One Problem is when you actually climb, even if you've got the power, you'll use different muscles and your back will fatigue in long climbing rides. To overcome this there are a couple of things: 1) core stregthening and stretching, 2) riding on the trainer with the wheel propped up, and 3) riding in the drops a lot.

    Following this program, I've had fairly decent success climbing for a fat old guy from Florida.

  22. #22
    . botto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snicklefritz
    Was there a change in your power output to account for this? Or did you have a different strategy
    that accounted for it?
    yes.

  23. #23
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    That was kind of my point for posting this. The short repeats, while I think they have helped my short term power immensely, aren't helping the long sustained stuff as much.

    Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I'm surprised nobody told me to lose 40 pounds.

  24. #24
    Used to be a climber.. GuitarWizard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by botto
    enough obsessing about weight my man.

    i was +/- 12-15 lbs heavier when i did the maratona for the 2nd time. i also rode it 30 mins faster.
    I was joking about the weight, since you were picking on me about it before...I figured I'd throw it in there for ya .

    I'm actually at around where I wanted to be/assumed I would be by now. And if you've seen all the M&M's and crap I've eaten in the last week (not to mention the chocolate cake and spaghetti I just had after a recovery ride a little while ago), you'd know I'm not THAT obsessed about it . Besides, this way I have an excuse for when I get dropped.

    I will, however, be obsessed about it again in the fall. Those last 10 pounds are gonna be a real *****.
    1999 Trek 2500 - hit by a car on it in May, 2011 and currently bikeless

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