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Old 07-29-07, 07:25 PM   #1
The Weak Link
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Gettin' up them hills

Having participated in the superstitious rituals of my choice last evening, I was free to go on my search for ever bigger and hairier hills in the area this morning. Near Louisville lies the Jefferson Forest, one of those local treasures that I didn't know about until I started biking the roads.

In it courses Mitchell Hill Road, which goes up a 270 ft hill at about an 8% grade. Oh yes, I know some of you consider that a warm-up spin, but for us mortals its our personal Mt. Ventoux, and the largest hill I've ever attempted.

About two thirds up I was ready to quit. "Just get to the next turn so you can dismount safely", I thought. And when I got to the next turn, I had some leg left and I wasn't ready to puke, so I went one more turn and just one more turn until I was at the top of the hill. It was pretty cool.

I have a bike brochure (I'm blanking on the name) in which they recommend that you count up to 100 or recite the alphabet to distract you during the climb. I tried this and found it required too much effort. I had also reead that you can imagine that you are throwing a bungee-cord up to the next tree and convince yourself that the cord is pulling you up. This helped, believe it or not.

I felt so good about this that I had an option to climb Barralton Hill Road about 5 miles down the road. Of course I went for it. It goes up about 330 feet at about a 9-10% grade.

I used the bungee cords for a while, but I came to a stretch where the forest had been cut back away from the road and I lost my distraction. I also came close to blowing chow. I've decided that the 95% chow-blowing level is where I best back off, lest I hurt myself or stroke out or something.

So I made it up about 2/3 of the way up, then dismounted and pushed the bike for about 100 yards. I hadn't seen a roadie all day until that moment, and I'm sure he sneered as he sped by me going the opposited direction. I didn't donate any feces.

I'll get it next time, maybe.

Anyone have any other brain-washing or self-hypnosis techniques that they've found helpful climbing? I never listen to music because I don't think it's safe, but I bet it would be distracting. Any other ideas?
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Old 07-29-07, 07:33 PM   #2
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Nothing to donate from this corner! Donna and I rode out Aiken Road to Long Run Park, and back around the loop today, got in a decent 20 miles-hadn't ridden at all for about 3 weeks, so we were happy just to make those hills. I think I might know where you were though-and that's a climb. If I tell you what I use when running out of steam-you'd want to inflict serious harm, as you can't get it out of your head once it gets going!!
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Old 07-29-07, 08:15 PM   #3
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Unfortunatly there is only one formula. Climb more hills. Repeat. Repeat........ until it is not an issue. Decided to take on Ginger Hill tonight. 1.44 miles mean grade is 5% according to toporoute but I think it is much steeper in some sections. Some kid yelled out of a car "go Lance". Last year only made it half way up. Keep at it is the only answer.
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Old 07-29-07, 08:18 PM   #4
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In truth, climb more hills but other than that - don't think about the pain, work on distracting yourself. A little adrenaline goes a long way too - read PnR or AnS before riding for a bit of anger to help you along your way.
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Old 07-29-07, 08:32 PM   #5
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For my personal Mt. Ventoux, which is called Mount Gaylor and is located on U.S. Highway 71 south of here, I take a look at the hill as I am approaching it and do an initial UGH! As I get into the hill, I get into the drops and shift to the little ring and the appropriate cog, usually Granny-2. I take another quick look up the hill to survey the road for debris, pot holes, traffic etc., then I begin to stare intently at the point where my left crank arm attaches to the bottom bracket and continue to spin. I don't look up the hill except for extremely quick surveys of what's ahead. As I'm staring at the aforementioned junction of crank arm and bottom bracket, I think only about spinning comfortably, nothing else, especially not the amount of hill that remains. As it gets steeper, I'll go to the Granny-1 cog or Granny cog to maintain a sane and comfortable cadence. I try to pull up against the toe clips as much as possible to get some power into the spin, but I don't go overboard. All the while, I'm gasping for as much oxygen as my cigarette-abused lungs will process. No, I don't smoke any more, and if I had the range of motion to do it, I would kick myself in the derrière for engaging in that habit many moons ago. When I notice it's getting easier, I do the WHEW-I-made-it thing, look up, and start thinking about moving to the next ring and a smaller cog.

For me, looking up the hill is a definite no-no. Concentrating on that one point on the bike and maintaining a comfortable spin does it for me.

Fortunately, I've found that this hill isn't as tough as it was before. It's not easy, and I'll never be cited for speeding as I ascend, but it's not as bad as it was.

Stay with it.
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Old 07-29-07, 08:36 PM   #6
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Great work TWL!!! Believe me, over time you'll look back with delight as you ease up hills like those. Just keep taking them on. It's great to hear you're going after them.

I rode some hills on a route this weekend in the mountains that I try to do occassionally. I was reminded of a couple spots where I used to have to stop to catch my breath and wits the first couple years of riding. It was a nice reminder of how just riding more hills and losing a little weight can really pay off.
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Old 07-29-07, 08:37 PM   #7
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There is no hill...
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Old 07-29-07, 08:41 PM   #8
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Aside from lower gears....

There is a bit of help to be had from a good climbing position on the bike, and good technique. Sliding back on the saddle to allow maximum leg extension helps, as does a good wide hand position on the top of the bar (if you're on a roadster). If you're using clipless pedals, a good "scraping the mud from the bottom of your shoe" pedal stroke will help a bit as well.
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Old 07-29-07, 10:06 PM   #9
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By the way, it never really gets that much easier - just faster.
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Old 07-29-07, 10:20 PM   #10
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I am going to be 55 in a couple of weeks. I have been riding road bikes seriously for the last 3 years. I live in Portland Oregon, which has a ton of hills. When I started riding, a 500 ft hill would kill me. Now, after getting a much better bike and riding about 4,500 miles a year for the last 2 years, I am a much better climber. I am sure a lot of the reason is that I climb several thousand feet every week.

Yesterday, I completed the Summit to Surf for the second year. This ride opens up with a 4,800 ft climb over 18 miles to Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood at 6,000 ft elevation. It does not matter to me that it takes me 2 hours to get up there. It does matter that I can make it up there without stopping in a seated climbing position, only standing to stretch my legs.

If you ignore the people who tell you that you ruined a Trek Madone by having a triple crank and a 12-27 cassette, and really focus on a very deep and steady breathing pattern, you will be amazed at what you can climb. If you can keep your pedaling cadence in the 70s and 80s by using proper gearing, it seems to make a huge difference in how long you can sustain a climb. I have found that you can even simulate this type of effort on a good fluid trainer. Just set the resistance high enough that it feels like you have to really work to hold a 70s cadence, and see if you can stay there for an hour. It will really force you into the deep steady breathing you will need to climb as an older athelete.

It does not matter if at the steepest part of a climb you are only going 6 MPH, you are still going!
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Old 07-30-07, 10:20 AM   #11
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Confidence can really help. I can't tell you how many hills I've gone up that I *might* have said, "that's too steep". But once I have made it up (and sometimes it's not pretty), it builds my confidence for the next challenge.

As some others have noted, you have to find the rhythm that works for you. This also applies to climbing out of the saddle. I was hanging out at the "steep" part of the Mt Washington climb last year - it's 22%. I could imagine that many people would try to power up that section and have problems. But a lot of the riders (not counting Tyler Hamilton and Ned Overend) stood up but pedaled so slowly that at first you would have thought they would fall over, but they didn't. After I went home, I practiced this on my driveway which has some 10% sections. It's amazing how slow you can go! And when you do, your heart rate may not redline. Something to keep in mind.
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Old 07-30-07, 10:36 AM   #12
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I've got some hill experience from climbing with my 50 pound daughter and 25 pound Trail-A-Bike attached. I agree with jazzy -- the first rule is go slow. I'm doing maybe 2-3 mph on a steep hill. Basically, you do all you can to conseve energy. Try to spin. Of course, your lowest ratio and may still leave you standing on the pedals with a cadance of maybe 20, but at least you are still moving. I've found thinking of my cross-country days, and imagining the finish line is at the top of the hill helps. One doesn't want to stop with spectators cheering.

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Old 07-30-07, 11:02 AM   #13
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There was only one way I got up Ventoux- and that was to train for it. First of all I got the bike sorted with decent wheels and low enough gearing. Then I started taking routes with a variety of slopes. A good training ride would take in a 15% for 1 mile- then a 5% for 2 miles with a couple of steep 10% sections and then a 10% for a mile. Then it was coffee and the trip home was on a hilly bit 2.5 miles long with the slope varying between 3 and 8%. Then it was down to some serious stuff like doing repeats up the 15% hill till I got bored out of my mind.

Except hill training was not that difficult as I am a lot fitter than I was 17 years ago. When I started it was offroad riding and even the Hilly route down to the hills used to wear me out. And it took a couple of years before I completed a total of 3 miles climbing with an average of between 10 and 15% on the several hills in that 3 miles.

Hills are not easy but it requires 3 main things. The bike must be suitable first of all. No way would I tackle a long 15% with conventional gearing. Then you have to have the fitness and Hill climbing fitness is different. Then you have to have the mind set right. Once all 3 come together- You can climb as many mountains as you like. Just don't do them all in one morning as The wife doesn't like you stretching out on the sofa for all the afternoon.
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Old 07-30-07, 11:12 AM   #14
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I have heard of hills, nope none in any direction as far as the eye can see. Just enjoy the fact that you have variation all I get is hot or hotter or windy and windier. I guess I can go over to local garbage dump and do hill repeats there. Really you should feel lucky you have those hills
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Old 07-30-07, 11:21 AM   #15
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On Saturday Ms HH and I did the same thing. Went out on our hardest hill climb route, 10 miles with two 250-300 ft hills, one 6-7% and the other 9%. Made them up both without walking or stopping, I couldn't do that at the beginning of the year. I did however use the standing 20rpm cadence method.
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Old 07-30-07, 11:35 AM   #16
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Ugh. Last night I saw someone creeping up the hill on HW64 to stillwater. Nuts! 400+ feet in <4 miles. OUCH. I wanted to pull over and cheer that guy on like I was watching Lance!
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Old 07-30-07, 12:16 PM   #17
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On Saturday Ms HH and I did the same thing. Went out on our hardest hill climb route, 10 miles with two 250-300 ft hills, one 6-7% and the other 9%. Made them up both without walking or stopping, I couldn't do that at the beginning of the year. I did however use the standing 20rpm cadence method.
Maybe that's the one thing bad about clipless. Stalling out on a hill when you're clipped in can get uglee.
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Old 07-30-07, 02:13 PM   #18
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Maybe that's the one thing bad about clipless. Stalling out on a hill when you're clipped in can get uglee.
No, it's not really that bad. I stalled out on the 19-20% section of Potrero in '05 Grand Tour double (riding a 39t x 25t), and I was able to balance at 0 mph for the fraction of a second it took me to clip-out and get my landing gear down . Oh, . . . Shimano SP-L pedals/cleats.

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PS: On subsequent Grand Tour doubles I have cleared Potrero (no stop, no walk) in a 30t x 27 triple and a 34t x 27t compact.
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Old 07-30-07, 02:17 PM   #19
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So I made it up about 2/3 of the way up, then dismounted and pushed the bike for about 100 yards. I hadn't seen a roadie all day until that moment, and I'm sure he sneered as he sped by me going the opposited direction. I didn't donate any feces.
Maybe he was on his way back down the hill after pushing his own bike up.
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Old 07-30-07, 02:22 PM   #20
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I have a bike brochure (I'm blanking on the name) in which they recommend that you count up to 100 or recite the alphabet to distract you during the climb. I tried this and found it required too much effort.
Don't be hard on yourself, I blame our school systems. Keep working on the alphabet and I'm sure you'll succeed some day.
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Old 07-30-07, 03:54 PM   #21
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Good job, TWL. As a recumbent rider, hills are especially tough for me. My Tuesday night ride takes me up the Texas Plume Road hill a few miles south of Joe Pool Lake. Your hill sounds similar to it. I always struggle up this hill, especially when I'm not fully recovered from another ride, and often see less than 6 mph for short stretches of it, especially the little part which is a 12 percent grade. I never seem to get much faster on this hill, but since I've started climbing it every week, it's been surprising how much easier all the smaller hills on my other rides have been.
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Old 07-30-07, 03:59 PM   #22
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Unfortunatly there is only one formula. Climb more hills. Repeat. Repeat........ until it is not an issue.
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Old 07-30-07, 04:02 PM   #23
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Don't be hard on yourself, I blame our school systems. Keep working on the alphabet and I'm sure you'll succeed some day.
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Old 07-30-07, 04:57 PM   #24
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Check this out: http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/?pg=fullstory&id=5072.
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