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  1. #1
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    Hill interval question

    Made the judgment that I need do include hill intervals in my training.

    My question is pretty simple as this is for the spring when it is time to get serious again. What grade and length of hill will be the most effective to start out with? My desired result would be to get faster on my climbs. Presently I can finish just about anything but want to do it in less time.

    Live in SW PA and there is no shortage of hills to choose from.

    Thanks.

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    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    Hill intervals can be anywhere from 1 hour or more to a minute. It depends on what energy systems you want to work on.

    For "getting faster on climbs" I'd suggest longish intervals in the 15-20 minute range. You can do them at your max pace for the distance, or do sweet spot training (SST). http://www.fascatcoaching.com/sweetspottraining.html
    You don't need a power meter to do it, you can get sort of close using heart rate.

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Deja vu moment. I swear I've seen this thread before. Maybe it's all those money and monkey threads coming back...

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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    Deja vu moment. I swear I've seen this thread before. Maybe it's all those money and monkey threads coming back...
    NO I actually did a search with hill interval for the title and did not get an answer.

    Maybe it would be better to get the question out of the text: What grade and length of hill will be the most effective to start out with?

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    Quote Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
    My desired result would be to get faster on my climbs. Presently I can finish just about anything but want to do it in less time.
    Are you racing? What are your climbs? Easiest way to get faster is to lose weight. You're got lots of time between now and the spring.

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
    NO I actually did a search with hill interval for the title and did not get an answer.

    Maybe it would be better to get the question out of the text: What grade and length of hill will be the most effective to start out with?
    As with flat intervals, there are numerous varieties to choose form depending upon what systems you want to optimize.

    Anaerobic intervals like 1, 2 or 3-minutes ones can be done on any grade; the steeper ones will be more of a muscular workout. So find a short steep 10-15% grade hill that will let you go for that interval-time. Determine your average-speed for those intervals. Then get up to your average-speed on the flat leading up to the hill. When you hit the hill, the interval starts and hold that pace all the way until you blow up at max-HR. Coast down and out the flat base until you're recovered. Turn around, get up to your speed for the hill and repeat.

    Longer 2x20 aerobic tempos can be done on hills as well. I find it easier to hold even power & HR on a steady hill that doesn't vary grade too much. So a 7% grade for 3-miles or whatever distance at your 2x20 speeds.

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    Senior Member tallmantim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oilman_15106 View Post
    NO I actually did a search with hill interval for the title and did not get an answer.

    Maybe it would be better to get the question out of the text: What grade and length of hill will be the most effective to start out with?
    Depends upon what you've got.

    Starting out on shallower climbs is good, and they can be done at a progressively higher pace (eg - I have a good local one around 5% - a staple climb) and is good for measuring your improvement. You can go onto steeper climbs as you progress. I have cut down my time for the 5% climb from about 22 minutes to under 18 in the last year - a good benchmark for my improvement.

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    Watts are watts. I am putting out pretty much the same power on 3% grades as 10% grades. Only difference is speed.

    The comment above about finding a climb that takes 15-20 minutes is sound. You can go at a short and steep hill full throttle and almost blow up at the top but make it. You WILL blow up if you try this on a 20 minute high-effort climb. Doing a longer climb is good for learning how to pace yourself and how to learn to hang on at the edge of blowing a gasket for max efforts. It's fun, in a really painful way. The hard part is convincing yourself to do it again.

    Closing thought: steeper climbs are good for practicing out-of-the-saddle efforts. In addition to working different muscle groups, it teaches you how to do long sustained climbs out of the saddle - which is very useful in hilly races.

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by palesaint View Post
    Watts are watts. I am putting out pretty much the same power on 3% grades as 10% grades. Only difference is speed.
    There are different ways to generate the same watts. Watts = power = (force * distance) / time. Doing 700-watts on the flats is a different workout than 700-watts up a hill. The gearing, RPM and pedal-force used is different. One works the aerobic systems more and the other taxes the muscles more.

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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    There are different ways to generate the same watts. Watts = power = (force * distance) / time. Doing 700-watts on the flats is a different workout than 700-watts up a hill. The gearing, RPM and pedal-force used is different. One works the aerobic systems more and the other taxes the muscles more.
    Everyone knows this is indisputably true: we all climb at a lower cadence than we use on the flat, even when developing the same power. But technically, why?

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    Everyone knows this is indisputably true: we all climb at a lower cadence than we use on the flat, even when developing the same power. But technically, why?
    There are some equations in this paper that helps explain it: Cycling Up and Down hill.

    It has to do with how resistance increases with speed. On flat ground, power-required increases to 3rd-power due to overcome air-resistance. On hills, power-required increases to 2nd-power due to lifting weight vertically. In a way, you can consider the flat ground power equation to be an integral of the hill-power equation (which is a derivative of the other). It's similar to the difference between power and torque for an auto-engine.

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    I would think the kind of intervals you do would depend in part on your objectives. I mean do you want to really motor up a short steep hill? Or do you want to be able to climb a really long hill at a decent clip? Most people want to do both, so I would suggest you ride a mix. Also, when I do intervals, it depends on how I feel that day. Sometimes I want to ride a longer interval and other times a short one. Since intervals depend so much on motivation, I would suggest that on any particular day, you do the type that you most "feel" like doing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    Everyone knows this is indisputably true: we all climb at a lower cadence than we use on the flat, even when developing the same power. But technically, why?
    I downloaded the power data from Chris Anker-Sorenson from this years tour. Numerous climbs were done at 92-93RPM, extended flat section was 91RPM. Relative to the pros, most people have higher gearing and can't ride at a high cadence. Chris was climbing at 351W for 45 min in the middle of a 6 hr stage.

    I've never seen a definitive explanation for why many people ride with a lower cadence uphill. Here is a possible explanation from "Effect of cycling position on oxygen uptake and preferred cadence in trained cyclists during hill climbing at various power outputs":

    "Kohler (Personal communication, 2006) postulates that the lower cadence seen during uphill cycling, or even into a strong headwind, is related to differences in angular velocity of the pedal stroke during its low power phase, which decreases faster during climbing than with level ground cycling. This drop in pedal angular velocity with a corresponding increase in force while climbing does not seem to unduly affect efficiency (Mongoni and di Prampero 2003), and may ultimately lower cadence."

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
    Here is a possible explanation from "Effect of cycling position on oxygen uptake and preferred cadence in trained cyclists during hill climbing at various power outputs":

    "Kohler (Personal communication, 2006) postulates that the lower cadence seen during uphill cycling, or even into a strong headwind, is related to differences in angular velocity of the pedal stroke during its low power phase, which decreases faster during climbing than with level ground cycling. This drop in pedal angular velocity with a corresponding increase in force while climbing does not seem to unduly affect efficiency (Mongoni and di Prampero 2003), and may ultimately lower cadence."
    What does he mean by "decreases faster"? Is this at the same RPM as on the flats? We have a cartesian-product of 2x2 with four possible outcomes, but are looking only at two of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    What does he mean by "decreases faster"? Is this at the same RPM as on the flats? We have a cartesian-product of 2x2 with four possible outcomes, but are looking only at two of them.
    He means it slows down quicker at the bottom of the pedal stroke when power is low. Because the Crank inertial load is lower while climbing the crank will speed up and slow down faster so there would be more variation in the angular velocity of the crank. I've seen a few theories but I don't think anyone knows for sure why cyclists choose a lower cadence on hills.

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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    There are some equations in this paper that helps explain it: Cycling Up and Down hill.

    It has to do with how resistance increases with speed. On flat ground, power-required increases to 3rd-power due to overcome air-resistance. On hills, power-required increases to 2nd-power due to lifting weight vertically. In a way, you can consider the flat ground power equation to be an integral of the hill-power equation (which is a derivative of the other). It's similar to the difference between power and torque for an auto-engine.
    That's a very nice paper. I particularly like it because it validates many of the methods I've hit upon for lowering ETs.

    We know that on-course time is reduced by going harder on the hills, as described in the linked paper. I have observed that on climbs lasting about an hour, my best speed of ascent is at exactly a 78 cadence when not limited by gearing, while my most comfortable speed on the flat is at about 88 cadence when cruising and in the mid 90s when TTing.

    My guess is that there are curves of VO2 vs. cadence and of glycogen consumption vs. cadence and that these curves cross at a sweet spot for each particular length of climb, and that each cyclist will observe a different intersection depending on their talents. For a 3 hour climb, I'm sure I would find a cadence closer to my on-the-flat cadence to give the best rate of ascent, but I've never been on such a climb to look into it.

    I am unconvinced by the theory that cadence slows because we have a dead spot in the pedal stroke. I suggest the opposite: that pedal stroke is not as important on the flat where momentum is high and a dead spot would not be noticeable. However when climbing, preservation of momentum is all important. Accelerations sap our strength. So another theory would be that we slow our cadence in order to fire our muscles precisely enough to maintain a constant torque on the bottom bracket. This would fit in with pros being able to pedal faster on climbs. Naturally they are more talented and more experienced in the details of pedaling.

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