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Old 10-12-07, 11:12 AM   #1
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This 50+'er might never be a real climber

but something sure has changed.
I have a couple of short but -for me- pretty demanding uphill runs I do almost every time out when I stick around town. One is 1/3rd of a mile 5 or 6% grade, another is a 1/2 mile 7% average climb (8-9% for the first 1/4, 5-6% for the 2nd) and, then, of course, there's that nasty little 600+ foot 11-12% climb home.

I am always mindful of my HR -which is never to exceed 166bpm- and these climbs have been testers.
Even slowly grinding up at 60-65rpm and taking some pretty deep and heavy breaths, I would have to back off more and more so as not to set off my alarm.

But that's changed now, it seems. The last couple of times out I have "zipped" up these climbs pedaling 65-75rpm and my HR is staying under 160. Ok, I hit 163 on my 1/2 climb but backing off just a bit got it to 160... at the end just before the top, last night, I actually shifted UP two gears and started sprinting for the top! And I still only hit 165bpm doing that.

So, why the difference all of a sudden?
And it *is* sudden... there's been no hint of this coming; it's just happened.

Am I now achieving some real cardio/strength benefits after a year and a half? Has all that I've done to date just been a prelude?

Is it because, I'm concentrating on keeping my upper body erect and loose?
Just holding on the the bars enough not to fall off? Keeping my lungs and diaphragm open and free?

Is it the change of gears on my LeMond? I had a 26T on the bottom, now it's a 30T with my penultimate low gear a 27T, one tooth lower than the stock cassette?
Maybe; I do use the 27T for the 1/2 hill but I use one higher gear for the 1/3rd mile climb, same as before, only now I don't need to drop to a lower gear at the top.

Is it the 2 pounds I've lost in the past week?
I'm actually beginning to flirt with the 180s for the first time in 10 years or so.

Is it the shoes? Just kidding but I have gone to some good stiff-soled PI road shoes (with the I-Beam sole. Yeah... Ok)

I just gave my chain a good lubing.. is it the lower friction?

Or.. is it all of these things? I don't know and I know there is no answer to these questions.

But, man, I felt so proud to be out there last night in my 50+ jersey making a statement to the world:
I can DO it! And so can you...

And all this after I beat myself up pretty good the night before. To ride with this kind of effort 2 nights in a row? Unheard of.

Maybe next, I'll try that 2 mile run up to the top of the valley and out of town.
I mean, only the first mile is really hard and I'm already doing 1/2 mile with a 27T... what can I do with my 30T, I wonder?


I feel pretty darned good today
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Old 10-12-07, 11:32 AM   #2
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Hills are a problem but ask someone who has been riding for at least 5 years and a hill is a hill. Nothing special about them- except some are steeper and some are longer. You just have to get used to them.

I get bored on flat rides- mainly beacause I get up to around 20mph and I am happy. No need to go faster and heart rate is not getting very high. Show me a slope and I will attack it, show me a hill and I will go for it. Both these statements though are with a proviso that I do the slopes and hills at my pace.

Sounds to me though that you ought to change Your header On this posting to "I can now climb Hills." Because- You can now climb hills.
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Old 10-12-07, 11:44 AM   #3
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Isn't it wonderful seeing progress?? And it seems to come in different ways and when you least expect it. Congrats on the continued improvements! Should you decide to continue the regular riding you'll look back a couple years from now and just be amazed at what the concentrated efforts over a long period of time will result in. Above all, continue to enjoy being out on the bike.
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Old 10-12-07, 11:53 AM   #4
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Hills are a problem but ask someone who has been riding for at least 5 years and a hill is a hill. Nothing special about them- except some are steeper and some are longer. You just have to get used to them.

I get bored on flat rides- mainly beacause I get up to around 20mph and I am happy. No need to go faster and heart rate is not getting very high. Show me a slope and I will attack it, show me a hill and I will go for it. Both these statements though are with a proviso that I do the slopes and hills at my pace.

Sounds to me though that you ought to change Your header On this posting to "I can now climb Hills." Because- You can now climb hills.
Semantics and perceptions, I guess... or maybe a question of degree.
When I can go up a, minimum, 1 mile climb -well... OK, maybe more than that because I can do 3 miles of 2-3% pretty easily. Let's say a mile or more of 5% or more- without stopping because my heart blows up or I'm gasping like a fish (though I know asthma will always be a wildcard here), I'll say I'm a climber. If I'm not there now, I'm close... really close. I am liking where I'm at right now, that's for sure.

You mention your HR on the flats. Yeah, I've noticed that, too. Where I used to hit the 120s at just about any kind of pedaling effort, I know notice it's getting harder and harder to get my heart rate out of the teens and to keep it there. It drops pretty quickly; much more so than it did just a few months ago. I know that's a good thing. I also notice that -where 143-147bpm used to kill my legs pretty quickly from, I'm guessing, hitting my lactate threshold- now I can hold my HR in the mid 150s and my legs complain a bit but they don't die on me.

And it only gets better from here.


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Above all, continue to enjoy being out on the bike
Some of the happiest moments of my life now are from being on the bike. Just being on the bike. When I get home and do slow, gentle cool down laps in front of the house, I'm just so at peace... and so bummed because I know I'm about to stop and get off.
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Old 10-12-07, 10:24 PM   #5
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Relish your improvements...they tend to come quickly when you're first starting out, and can be a real motivator to keep after it (not to mention, lots of fun!).

They say it takes about three years of steady cycling to begin to reach your potential. During those three years, you'll see yourself getting stronger, going longer, and climbing hills you once thought impossible.

Enjoy this time!

At some point in the future, you'll start to plateau and the gains that came so quickly before will take a LOT more work...or, prove elusive.

Fortunately, one of the last things to go as we age is endurance...so, even if you can't keep up with the speed demons, you can still impress your friends (and stay in great shape), by riding centuries, going on week-long tours through the mountains, etc.

Well done so far, and keep it up!


BTW - why do you never exceed 166 bpm on your heart rate?
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Old 10-13-07, 12:08 AM   #6
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Relish your improvements...they tend to come quickly when you're first starting out, and can be a real motivator to keep after it (not to mention, lots of fun!).

They say it takes about three years of steady cycling to begin to reach your potential. During those three years, you'll see yourself getting stronger, going longer, and climbing hills you once thought impossible.

Enjoy this time!

...snip...

Well done so far, and keep it up!
Thanks and thank you also for the little something to look forward to: the next year and a half.
To know that I still have noticeable improvement to come when I already feel so good is a thrill.
And even more motivating. To think, something so darned fun could also be so darned good for you.


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BTW - why do you never exceed 166 bpm on your heart rate?
It's maybe somewhat arbitrary. I'm hypertensive.
I got sent to a cardiologist in January for a recumbent stress test.
Sent? Well, OK, no... I asked for the referral. I wanted to know if I was at risk from the effort I was putting out during my rides.
Anyway, I had a stress echo done and when I hit 166, the cardio shut it down because my BP hit a level of concern... I think it was something like 205/170 or 180-something. Before that, I would routinely push and hold 175bpm or more. Of course, now, during efforts where I used to hit 175, I'm hitting 160 or so, so were I to have a retest, do I think I'd do better and get that limit raised? Sure, I think so but until I do get retested, I'm just going with the program. Yeah, this stuff works.The last three visits to my internist had BP readings that he'd never see me get to. And he puts it all on my riding. I'm accomplishing things he told me I would never do. It feels good to prove him wrong.
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Old 10-13-07, 05:38 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by SaiKaiTai View Post

I got sent to a cardiologist in January for a recumbent stress test.
Sent? Well, OK, no... I asked for the referral. I wanted to know if I was at risk from the effort I was putting out during my rides.
Anyway, I had a stress echo done and when I hit 166, the cardio shut it down because my BP hit a level of concern... I think it was something like 205/170 or 180-something. Before that, I would routinely push and hold 175bpm or more. Of course, now, during efforts where I used to hit 175, I'm hitting 160 or so, so were I to have a retest, do I think I'd do better and get that limit raised? Sure, I think so but until I do get retested, I'm just going with the program. Yeah, this stuff works.The last three visits to my internist had BP readings that he'd never see me get to. And he puts it all on my riding. I'm accomplishing things he told me I would never do. It feels good to prove him wrong.
And I will bet you that your BP under stress has gone way down!

What a great post! And where you live, you are FORCED to do hills, which, while you may initially hate it, is the fastest way to get into hill climbing shape! Great stuff.
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Old 10-13-07, 09:42 AM   #8
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Oh, I don't hate it at all.
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Old 10-13-07, 10:13 AM   #9
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No big mystery. It's like the often repeated advice given to everyone who asks how to get better at climbing - do more climbing. As you can see, it works.
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Old 10-13-07, 12:48 PM   #10
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Congratulations on your conditioning! Every gain is to be celebrated. You get two rewards - one when you bask in the glow of your accomplishment and two when you feel that much better on a ride. You get to carry both with you as you go forward.

If I were you, I'd get re-tested if it's not too onerous a thing. I'll bet your cardiologist is surprised at the results. I'll bet you won't be.

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Old 10-13-07, 02:13 PM   #11
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I know what it is. You're just naturally great! But your self discipline to keep at all the climbing you've been doing over and over and pushing yourself all the time might have a little something to do with it too. Now you have me wondering. What do you think it takes to be a real climber, if you don't fill the bill? Congratulations on feeling good about making so much measurable progress in many very important ways.
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Old 10-13-07, 02:33 PM   #12
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Congratulations on a great ride. We get a lot of wind down here, but not many hills. I bet you felt pretty good when you came up to the crest of the hill. In my short time riding, I think back about some of the things I tried and couldn't do and now are a piece of cake, It's great, thanks for the report.

Oh, by the way, I use to go over my set rate on my heart monitor and I started to cut back as well. I think I'm going to set it up higher.
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Old 10-13-07, 03:51 PM   #13
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And I will bet you that your BP under stress has gone way down!

What a great post! And where you live, you are FORCED to do hills, which, while you may initially hate it, is the fastest way to get into hill climbing shape! Great stuff.
Concur.
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Old 10-13-07, 04:42 PM   #14
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Thanks all... the best thing about us 50 plussers is how we support each other in our endeavors. It's a good feeling to know.

So today was a "measuring stick" day. Sharp Park Road. 2 miles from just about sea level to the top of the ridge. 660 feet of elevation change over 2 miles (450 feet over the first mile, 200 feet over the next). The first mile is the hardest, averaging over 8 or 9% the whole way up. I always forget, though, that that's the average so you can tool along at 6% and then hit a 9 or 10% bit when you aren't paying attention. Ugh. A bit more than I'm used to.

Every time I tried this climb before I only had my 26T as my low gear. I'd stop 4 or 5 times and by the time I got to the top, I was pretty cooked. It would take me 20-30 minutes to finish that first devilish mile.

Today? OK, I had my 27T -which I used- and my 30T -which I *definitely used. In fact I got the 30T specifically for Sharp Park Road- and how'd I do? Made the first mile with just 2 short stops (and only to get my HR down under 166. I felt pretty OK otherwise) and I made it 17 minutes flat. And wanted more... so I rode up the rest of the way to Skyline Ridge -660 feet- and then headed on down the road for another 5 or 6 miles to view the lakes (they're both our drinking water AND the San Andreas Fault. take a look on Google Earth) and then headed back home... 6 or 7 miles all uphill AND I FELT GREAT.

OK, great, except when I had stopped the first time and these two young women came ridding on up and passed me. "I envy you", I said, to which they replied, "You'll get there". Guess they were right.

I believe I am that close to making that mile non-stop, a little more conditioning, a little better pacing and I'm there.

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Old 10-13-07, 08:00 PM   #15
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Face it, SKT, you're reaping the rewards of getting into better physical condition.
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Old 10-14-07, 03:17 AM   #16
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When you start riding you gain muscle mass and lose the fat. Your "minor" wt loss might be trading effective wt for ineffective wt. I lost nearly 40 lbs at the begining of the year and it has made an incredible difference in my ability to climb...at 64 here in Colorado I am able to make it over Trail Ridge Road (12.3K ft) and climb Mt Evans (14.1K ft) once a year. With the Wt loss my BP plummeted and all other health indicators improved
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Old 10-14-07, 07:03 AM   #17
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And it *is* sudden... there's been no hint of this coming; it's just happened.

Am I now achieving some real cardio/strength benefits after a year and a half? Has all that I've done to date just been a prelude?
Well I find this encouraging. I know I've been disappointed in my lack of progress in the hill climbing area. So ok... just climb more hills and be patient.

BTW, what type HRM do you use? How often do you ride and how far do you typically ride?
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Old 10-14-07, 10:39 AM   #18
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I use a Polar FS1 HRM. Pretty simple, no bells and whistles, it just has a settable alarm for my upper and lower limits and it counts my beats. That's about it. I think it cost about 60 bucks or so.

I ride 13-15 miles 2 to 3 days a week during the week and then 1 20-25 mile ride on the weekend.
I *have* done longer rides but not consistently. Now that our puppy is "maturing", more, longer rides might be back in my future.

Just keep at it, you *will* improve.
Ride every hill you can in your local area - short ones, long ones, whatever; apparently, they all count.
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Old 10-14-07, 12:26 PM   #19
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Have a singing Monitor but to be honest- All I really want is a basic one. The one I have- I do not use all the functions on it- but I got it cheap so I use it.

Now most of these hills in my area I know and I do them. All it takes is confidence to attempt them and if you have a heart monitor for a reason- as You have- You are not going to do any harm. You can slow down or stop if necessary. BUT- I did a hill today that I have never attempted with road gearing. Plus the fact that I am still wary of the Boreas with a compact double instead of a triple as on the Giant. Had a warm up on a good slope beforehand- so I knew I could get into the working Zone. Well I did it but there was a lack of confidence even 100 yards before the hill as to whether I could do it. Even got well above my max but I knew that I could do it by halfway up.

It is that confidence factor that has to be worked on by most of us. For us hill climbers- JPPE- Me and now you- Hills are not a problem. What gets me though is how do I get my heart rate up on flat roads. Obvious answer is go faster but that is the unknown territory that I do not want to go to. Lack of confidence that I can finish a 40 mile ride and still have legs left I suppose. + flat roads are no fun.
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Old 10-15-07, 09:34 AM   #20
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Quote:
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All it takes is confidence to attempt them
So true. And I can say that as I headed toward this climb, I knew with an absolute, 100% certainly that I would make it up in one, non-stop, shot. Didn't work out that way but I sure took making it in 3 minutes less than anytime before as a huge victory, none the less. And I KNOW with an absolute, 100% certainty that I will make it up in one, non-stop, shot the very next time I try. Or after that... or after that... it doesn't matter.

You have to believe.
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Old 10-15-07, 01:32 PM   #21
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I use a Polar FS1 HRM. Pretty simple, no bells and whistles, it just has a settable alarm for my upper and lower limits and it counts my beats. That's about it. I think it cost about 60 bucks or so.

I ride 13-15 miles 2 to 3 days a week during the week and then 1 20-25 mile ride on the weekend.
I *have* done longer rides but not consistently. Now that our puppy is "maturing", more, longer rides might be back in my future.

Just keep at it, you *will* improve.
Ride every hill you can in your local area - short ones, long ones, whatever; apparently, they all count.
Thanks. I've not used a HRM before. Do they all use the chest strap? (sounds inconvenient).

I tried a different tack on hills today. Did a 53 miler and decided to try to keep the cadence in the 90-100 range by using whatever gears I have (granny got some use today) rather than trying to keep speed up and using higher gears (which fatigues me pretty rapidly). Using this technique, I was generally able to keep the RPM's up on the rolling hills I rode today and I didn't tend to blow up and just chug up like I have in the past.

Note: Our hills are NOT miles long like some of you have.
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Old 10-15-07, 02:05 PM   #22
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As far as I know, they all use a chest strap; mine does.
It's not really that big a deal. I hardly notice mine at all once I get going.

For me, doing 90-100 RPM up a hill doesn't work... my HR just jacks WAY up WAY fast.
I'd be stopping to recover more than I'd be riding
Then, I have now gotten to where I can do -depending on the grade- 60-70+ RPM so maybe 90 isn't far behind. Still, even with my 30T, I can still only push so far...
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Old 10-15-07, 02:24 PM   #23
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Since I haven't been using a HRM, perhaps ignorance is bliss. I have no idea what my HR is doing. Maybe I don't want to know.
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Old 10-15-07, 02:44 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
Since I haven't been using a HRM, perhaps ignorance is bliss. I have no idea what my HR is doing. Maybe I don't want to know.
I think a Heart monitor is the second best toy you can have on a bike. Great fun to utilise but not that good at improving your cycling- Unless you use it.

The best toy is the Computer- but I have a Heart rate that I find efficient. The rate that I can keep up all day and will not tire me. That rate is around 135 to 140. Only thing is- without the monitor, I cannot tell the difference between 125 and 135- so if I slack off a bit- then I will not get an aerobic ride in and I will be slower in getting to the cafe before the tourist's. And again- If I want to push a bit harder to catch someone- or get a harder workout- The difference betwwen 150 and 155 is a heck of a lot in Energy expended at the higher rate. And a risk of Bonking far sooner.

I have had a problem with heart monitors as They do not seem to work very well with me - They give false readings or just pack up- but Without one- I have no idea how hard I am working. By finding my working zone- and staying in that- I can enjoy my riding and stay fitter.

As I have found out this summer- without one- I have got lazy and have not been putting the effort in that I thought I was. I can now go out on a ride and work to my limits and not exceed them. And if I want an easier ride- I can always switch it off.
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Old 10-15-07, 03:16 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by speedlever View Post
Since I haven't been using a HRM, perhaps ignorance is bliss. I have no idea what my HR is doing. Maybe I don't want to know.
Sure you do. Just 6 months ago, I could see that nearly any kind of "real" pedaling would get my HR up into the 120s or 130s. Now I can see that that same pedaling might not even get me up to 120bpm. That is progress... I can actually see my conditioning improve.

And remember, where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise.
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