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  1. #1
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Building past the century: A question on climbing

    So I've got my first two centuries of 2008 behind me, and I have a few more I'm registered for. These were my first two centuries in nearly 15 years, but I have done other long (70-80 mile) rides previous to them recently.
    Now I'm working on building up past the century mark, and I've got some questions about training and how other people go about it...

    I'm set up comfortably on the bike, so fit isn't an issue. My saddle seems to dissappear while spending half the day on my bike, so I'm good in that respect.
    I'm mostly curious about things like intensity training vs. slow endurance. I tend to pick moderately hilly courses (5000+ elevation gain for a century), but I don't feel that my current routine of a 30 mile r/t commute with 3 - 4 big hills is really preparing me for what I might encounter if I attempt a 200km or 300km brevet.
    I don't have a problem building up mileage on less hilly terrain, but what sort of routines does anyone use for *really* increasing hill climbing endurance? So far I've geared down my bike, I practice cadence drills so I can keep a rapid and smooth spin in the lower gears, and I'm still dropping some weight (but that's not a huge concern regarding my climbing endurance.) Does anyone just go out and do repeated steep hill climb drills or cross train by doing steep hill hiking?
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
    - Mandi M.

  2. #2
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    In Boulder, I am blessed with lots of mountains. When I'm feeling like I need some climbing work, I just head up and climb them for a few hours.

    I would think you need to train in what you are going to be doing your ride in. So, if you are doing a brevet in the mountains, I would think you should get into the mountains.

    James

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    There was a thread on the Randon Google Group about lessons learned from PBP, and one of the maxims that came up (from, I believe, Jan Heine) but reinforced by others is "train to be strong. train to go long. But don't train to do both on the same ride." You need to do long rides to test your body's ability to adapt to prolonged exertion and stress. You need to build strength to improve your ability to climb (which is one of the more efficient methods for increasing average speed) but, in a few ways, the techniques of either goal work at cross-purposes to each other while training. You shouldn't, for instance, incorporate intervals into a century ride.

    When I was doing brevet training, the majority of my regimen was my own 28 mile round trip commute with two decent sized hills, with sort of half-assed intervals thrown in. I say half assed because I never had a heart rate monitor and wasn't tracking things like lactate threshold, but I was using the stop watch on my bike to basically do intervals of intense sprints and steady pace and intense sprints. Then, on the weekend, I'd do a century or 75 miler using routes cribbed from brevet cue sheets that had been posted online. In general, that program worked for me. I like to work my training regimen into some trip with a purpose (commuting, visiting friends, exploring territory). Drills just for the sake of fitness drive me to boredom, but I hear they're useful.

    If you have a 30 mile r/t commute with some significant hill climbing, and if you've already got a couple of centuries under your belt, then I think that will be fine preparation for finishing a 200k or 300k. If you don't mind hill repeats, then certainly try those out, but be sure to plan a regimen that you enjoy doing rather than one that feels drudgerous ... otherwise you'll risk burnout and lose focus.

  4. #4
    Erect member since 1953 cccorlew's Avatar
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    I'm no expert, I'm not even close. But I can offer my recent experiences.
    I just finished the Davis Double, which for me was a lot farther than I'd ever gone. My max had been 112 two weeks before.
    I bike commute, and that helps. I did a little weight work and core work, but not much.
    I live in CA, and ride a lot on weekends too. Generally in the 50-60 mile range. As a run up I did 3 centuries in the month before. I also live in California where hills and mountains are ever present.
    I got through my ride by trying to take it easy and not get excited, and drinking water and Hammer Perpetium like a mad man.
    I'm turning 55 this year and I'm not now, nor have ever been an "athletic" person, but I am active.
    This bike thing is do-able, and if you are working your commute and doing longer rides on teh weekends, well, 200K--why not?
    WANTED: Not a darn thing. I've got it all. Life is good.
    Website at curtis.corlew.com —— Bicycle blog at ccorlew.blogspot.com

  5. #5
    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    +1 to what spokenword said about intervals, definiltely not the way you want to go. just work on spending time in the saddle, and most importantly practicing eating over long periods (6+ hours) of time.

    i think having already ridden in the PNW, you know what the hills are like. the cascade mtn passes are actually much less steep than our local hills, just a lot longer.

    so far i've done a 200k, and two 300k's, and the 400k this past weekend with SiR, the local rando group - and while the 400k included three mountain passes, the hardest part was the rolling hills afterwards. and the 200k & 300k's were just lots of rolling hills too, but those sure add up over 100-200 miles.

    to train for climbing, i've been doing queen anne hill, starting from the south, going up counterbalance (there's got to be some 15% sections there!), then all the way down the other side & back up.

    but since you're in redmond, there's an even better training "hill": cougar mountain! i do that about every two months, just to stay more or less in shape. i don't do repeats on that one, once is enough for me!

    so far this season, i haven't really done any centuries as training, i just do the lake wa loop (~50 mi) for training. you can see the difference in my normal routes & the brevets from my rides log.



    probaby didn't offer any new info, but i hope this helps somehow!
    cat 1.

    blog

  6. #6
    Grizzled Curmudgeon keithm0's Avatar
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    Next door to Zoo Hill is Montreux -- http://www.bicycleclimbs.com/ClimbDetail.Aspx?ClimbID=7 -- a little shallower climb, but much better road conditions and a nice wide shoulder.

    (I haven't ridden either yet, but I plan to try Montreux soon...)

  7. #7
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    I haven't done Cougar, but I've been right on the other side of things there in Issaquah and I do laps up Squawk Mtn. 2.25 miles, 1180' to the top. I haven't tried it on the Cross-Check with my 34-32 gear, but I could do 3 laps on my PDG Series-5 with a 39-27.

    My usual commute puts me on 3 or 4 of the hills I'll be doing Monday: Novelty Hill, 128th and 116th (between Avondale and 202). Sometimes I'll skip Novelty and go around to the steep side of Union Hill or head up Avondale to 133rd up through Trilogy.

    I think I'm getting nervous over nothing, is really the issue. The guys at the shop tell me I'm prepared, but some people I rode with on Saturday were saying that the 7 Hills century route is really brutal. Given that I climb 2000+ feet of it 4 times a week, I can't imagine it's really all that bad... We shall see.
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
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    Quote Originally Posted by CliftonGK1 View Post
    I think I'm getting nervous over nothing, is really the issue.
    yeah, I found that happened to me a lot when I was getting started. All of this stuff does sound really intimidating when you look at it from a distance, but you won't really know until you do it. That's part of the allure, I suppose.

    Do as much preparation as you can. So long as you don't injure with overtraining or aggressive workouts, you'll be fine.

  9. #9
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    I rode my first STP in 13 1/2 hours and the longest ride I had ever done before that was 50 miles. The next year I rode STP in 12 1/2 hours and my longest training ride was 80 miles. Of course I was only 42 then, but I have found that you don't really need all the training that is usually recommended.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Madsnail's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    +1 to what spokenword said about intervals, definiltely not the way you want to go.
    This is not what he said though, is it?
    He said one shouldn't incorporate intervals in a century ride. That makes sense.
    But there's nothing wrong with doing intervals in short rides to train for a century. That way you build some muscles and that is helpful on longer rides.
    In my opinion, I believe a combination of quick rides and slower long ones do give me more stamina.

  11. #11
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Madsnail View Post
    This is not what he said though, is it?
    He said one shouldn't incorporate intervals in a century ride. That makes sense.
    But there's nothing wrong with doing intervals in short rides to train for a century.
    That way you build some muscles and that is helpful on longer rides.
    In my opinion, I believe a combination of quick rides and slower long ones do give me more stamina.
    It sounds like what I need to start doing is using the hills on my commute home as my intervals a couple times a week. 20 mile ride with 3 or 4 hills (5% - 10% variable grade) at least 0.75mi long should get me well prepared for longer hilly rides.

    Last week was my hilliest ride this year at 6100' over 108 miles, and I was hurting when I finished up. Monday will be even more of a challenge at 7050' over 99 miles.
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
    - Mandi M.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CliftonGK1 View Post
    I haven't done Cougar, but I've been right on the other side of things there in Issaquah and I do laps up Squawk Mtn. 2.25 miles, 1180' to the top. I haven't tried it on the Cross-Check with my 34-32 gear, but I could do 3 laps on my PDG Series-5 with a 39-27.

    My usual commute puts me on 3 or 4 of the hills I'll be doing Monday: Novelty Hill, 128th and 116th (between Avondale and 202). Sometimes I'll skip Novelty and go around to the steep side of Union Hill or head up Avondale to 133rd up through Trilogy.

    I think I'm getting nervous over nothing, is really the issue. The guys at the shop tell me I'm prepared, but some people I rode with on Saturday were saying that the 7 Hills century route is really brutal. Given that I climb 2000+ feet of it 4 times a week, I can't imagine it's really all that bad... We shall see.
    Steep hills are really different than long hills, and you need different strengths to do them. The kind of hills that you'd see on RAMROD or on the passes tend to be very long climbs (over an hour, sometimes up to two hours), but not terribly steep (generally not over about 6%, though there are exceptions). Those are mostly about finding an effort level that is appropriate and staying fueled and hydrated. They are mentally challenging because of the sheer distance.

    The steeps are another matter. Zoo hill, Montreaux, Mountain home are very steep (10-20+%), and take a lot of strength and a fair amount of effort, but even the zoo (1300', 2.5 miles) is less that 30 minutes of climbing for most people. Squawk is likely in roughly the same class. The reason to do those hills is mostly a mental/comfort one - if you can ride those kinds of hills, it's unlikely you're going to be surprised (in the bad sense of the word) with any other hills you run into.

    I did the metric last year, and frankly, the added hills on that aren't that hard. I wasn't terribly excited to climb back up education ("re-education" is what we named it), but those hills aren't as steep as seminary or winery. I've ridden 3 of the 4 100 hills of the century - stillwater has some pain in it, but the others aren't bad.

    I think you're going to be fine. I had 1200-2000' 3 times a week last year, and I felt pretty strong on it. I was planning on the metric this year, but I cracked a rib playing soccer, so I'm going to start with the "4 hills" route, and with any luck push it out to the full 7. It will be tough because it's painful to stand right now....
    Eric

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    Read my cycling blog at http://riderx.info/blogs/riderx
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  13. #13
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    Climbing hard on longer rides is very hard on your body, so I believe in specific hilltraining sessions. As part of my clubs routine we now weekly do 5 repeats of 4 minutes hard climbing with the ride back down as pause betweens the intervals. In addition to that I also try to do two repeats of a 25 minute climb a bit slower on my own on another day. I believe a lot of those who quit PBP last year were unprepared for all the hills.

  14. #14
    Senior Member forrest_m's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    +1 to what spokenword said about intervals, definiltely not the way you want to go. just work on spending time in the saddle, and most importantly practicing eating over long periods (6+ hours) of time.
    Intervals - Not just for racers anymore!
    Not to be argumentative, but high(er) intensity, short duration intervals are actually extremely useful when training for long-term endurance. How it works is that a large part of perceived fatigue is a result of how close you are to your threshold. Push your threshold higher and you can go the same distance/time and be less tired.

    For example, let's say that your threshold heart rate (i.e. the point where your body goes from aerobic to anaerobic energy systems if you remember your HS biology class) is 160 beats/minute. Say you're hitting it pretty hard, and maintain an average HR of 144 bpm for two hours while climbing over a mountain pass. That's 90% of your threshold; two hours at this intensity would test the limits of most trained athletes.

    Now say that you have used high-intensity training to raise your threshold HR to 175 bpm. The same climb, at the same speed, is now only 82% of your threshold. Seems like a small drop, but you've dropped from "threshold" zone to "tempo" zone by most definitions - i.e., this is a rate that most fit people can maintain for hours. The relationship between % of threshold and fatigue, while it varies by individual, is always some sort of steepening curve, so even small reductions in the % of threshold can have an outsize effect on fatigue.

    Finally, here's the cool part: threshold increases are best achieved with short, intense workouts, so it's a very effective & efficient use of limited time. You can get a damn good set of intervals done in under an hour. Your threshold will also rise with long, slow training, but not nearly as fast as if you drop some intensity into your workouts. Check out the bike racing forum for tons of interval workouts easily adapted to your riding style.

  15. #15
    Linux HA Author :-) ncherry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cccorlew View Post
    I'm no expert, I'm not even close. But I can offer my recent experiences.
    I just finished the Davis Double, which for me was a lot farther than I'd ever gone. My max had been 112 two weeks before.
    I bike commute, and that helps. I did a little weight work and core work, but not much.
    I live in CA, and ride a lot on weekends too. Generally in the 50-60 mile range. As a run up I did 3 centuries in the month before. I also live in California where hills and mountains are ever present.
    I got through my ride by trying to take it easy and not get excited, and drinking water and Hammer Perpetium like a mad man. ...
    Now there is a wise man, once you've done your training it's time to sit back and relax and enjoy the ride. Next week is my double Century (CJBC's Longest Day. I've done it 5 times before. On my first I trained heavily and when it came to the ride I let everyone else do what they knew how to do and I just 'sat back and enjoyed the ride'. This doesn't mean that I didn't take my turn at the front of the pace line, did what I was supposed to do and I didn't worry about anything during the ride. All I could do was pedal and do what I trained to do. It's now one of my favorite rides.

    BTW, it only has about 3400 ft of climb, but it has the Pine Barrens (flat).
    --
    Neil Cherry (Century Rider)
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    My HA Blog
    Author of: Linux Smart Homes For Dummies

  16. #16
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Add my 2¢ to the "do the intervals" pile. Seriously, you definitely have your base fitness, your bike set up well, and most of the mental toughness to go as long as you want.

    So, at this point you have likely plateaued in terms of improving your performance using your current methods. You can ride longer, but will not necessarily ride better, by doing the same thing over and over in the same manner. Doing 1 intense day per week, coupled with several long days at pace, a slow day, and a rest day will build your aerobic capacity. This is pretty much standard for century and ultra training.

    Another tip is to start using an HRM, especially for the events. Figure out your max heart rate and zones, and make sure that during the ride you don't go anaerobic -- especially while climbing. Anaerobic efforts will rapidly deplete your blood glucose, and will make the ride significantly more difficult.

    Last but not least, obviously do as much climbing as possible. Throw in hill repeats if you don't have any readily accessible monster climbs.

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