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  1. #1
    Senior Member mtalinm's Avatar
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    training plan for Mt. Washington hillclimb

    a friend signed me up to climb Mt. Washington with him this summer. average 12% grade for 7.6 miles. not easy.

    i ride a lot (5000 miles last year) but tend to avoid hills because I'm on the Clyde side. so this will be not be easy for me. I am naturally trying to cut as much weight as possible, no need to remind me of the power/weight ratio :-) and of course I will get a super-low gearing setup.

    Mt. Washington is closed to bikes except on race day, and although there is a mountain with a similar grade for about half the distance it is a 3 hour drive. I will of course go there for a couple of "reality checks" before August, but I can't do that every Saturday.

    instead, my racer friend suggested that I do two things:

    1) hill repeats on a local hill that averages a 10% grade though only for 3/4 of a mile - 1/10th the length of Mt. Washington. he said this would mostly be useful to get used to the sensation of climbing, but that it's not long enough to be a realistic simulation.

    2) he said it would be more important to practice sustaining effort over a long period of time, at least the 2+ hours it will likely take me to finish the Mt. Washington. he said that this would best be done on a fairly flat course because something with hills will make it hard to sustain HR on downhills. (I also get scared going too fast)

    I've done #1 a couple of times, and my HR averages in the mid-170s. This makes me a bit nervous, because the 220-age equation says my max should be 180 though my Garmin has recorded a max in the mid-180s several times, so I'll assume a max of 185. I'm not used to doing hills, so I hope/think my average on a hillclimb should come down with time...probably can't sustain 95% of max HR for 2+ hours!

    on #2 I tried to push hard enough to maintain a similar HR but just couldn't do it. I was able to average 160 bpm over a 90-minute effort, which is 86% of max. I did stop pedaling a few times, which is a big no-no on the mountain, and I wonder whether this is an adequate effort...at least for starters. I should probably build up to doing this for 2 1/2 hours.

    Any comments much appreciated, whether on the target heart rate for endurance training or the program in general.
    Trek Domane 4.5 (commute/distance), Specialized Roubaix (climber), Xootr Swift (winter/travel), Trek Soho (around town)

  2. #2
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    For the sustained effort, if you can do that on a climb, even if it's an hour climb that you do twice, that would be better than on the flat. You can do it there but on a climb your position on the bike is subtly different and of course you can't stop pedalling. It takes a while to get used to never stopping pedalling for a long time. There is also the mental aspect. If you are not used to climbing for a long time it will seem very hard. Once you're used to it, it's not so bad.

    Do repeats of a long climb and then go hit a steep climb. Ideally the long climb would have a steep section at the top. You want to know the feel of making it up something steep when you're tired.

    I've trained for a race with multiple 2+ hour climbs by doing repeats of an hour climb. I'd like to do 2 hour climbs but there aren't any locally.

    220-age is useless. Ignore it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member mtalinm's Avatar
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    Thanks for the excellent advice. Long climbs are hard to come By around here but I will keep looking.
    Trek Domane 4.5 (commute/distance), Specialized Roubaix (climber), Xootr Swift (winter/travel), Trek Soho (around town)

  4. #4
    Senior Member mtalinm's Avatar
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    And thanks for the heart-0rate tip. I did a stress test and got 186 instead of the 179 the formula would tell me
    Trek Domane 4.5 (commute/distance), Specialized Roubaix (climber), Xootr Swift (winter/travel), Trek Soho (around town)

  5. #5
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    You won't be able to hold 90% of MHR, but with training 85% should be possible. You want to lay down some serious base. Lay out a good periodized training program. You want a light, stiff bike. I have a Mt. Washington cast-off, a CAAD9 that only had one ring and three cogs in the back when it was in climbing trim. People even cut down their bars. Mostly, get your endurance up and lose weight.

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    You won't be able to do it.

    Be prepared for the ride to be cancelled and be prepared for cold cold temperatures as you near the top

    A bike shop owner does Mt. Washington every year. He can ride for 50 miles and average 25mph. He's light, strong, does spinning classes. When he rides Mt. W., he switches out his chainring to a 18 tooth and still he has problems. Tough tough climb.

  7. #7
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrence08648 View Post
    You won't be able to do it.

    Be prepared for the ride to be cancelled and be prepared for cold cold temperatures as you near the top

    A bike shop owner does Mt. Washington every year. He can ride for 50 miles and average 25mph. He's light, strong, does spinning classes. When he rides Mt. W., he switches out his chainring to a 18 tooth and still he has problems. Tough tough climb.
    It's only been cancelled due to weather once in the past 15 years. It can be run on either the 18th or 19th DOW. Is there a time limit? The vertical rise is only 4727'. A well-trained person of average talent can certainly climb at 2200' per hour for two hours or so. I figure about half as fast as a pro for the average well-trained duffer. Pros might run a VO2max of say 70, while average is more like 50. Most pros do it in an hour, so . . . And I wouldn't worry too much about the temperature. The final pitch is 22%. I would be sweating in a short-sleeved jersey in a snowstorm. Not a bad idea to have a vest and arm warmers along, though.

    It's all about pacing. The small ring is a very good idea, and is how my CADD9 was set up. I think a Salsa 26T. It lacked a cassette, so I don't know what it had. Good information at http://www.mwarbh.org/
    Supposedly Mt. Ascutney in Windsor, VT is a good climb to test gears.

  8. #8
    Senior Member mtalinm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    It's only been cancelled due to weather once in the past 15 years. It can be run on either the 18th or 19th DOW. Is there a time limit? The vertical rise is only 4727'. A well-trained person of average talent can certainly climb at 2200' per hour for two hours or so. I figure about half as fast as a pro for the average well-trained duffer. Pros might run a VO2max of say 70, while average is more like 50. Most pros do it in an hour, so . . . And I wouldn't worry too much about the temperature. The final pitch is 22%. I would be sweating in a short-sleeved jersey in a snowstorm. Not a bad idea to have a vest and arm warmers along, though.

    It's all about pacing. The small ring is a very good idea, and is how my CADD9 was set up. I think a Salsa 26T. It lacked a cassette, so I don't know what it had. Good information at http://www.mwarbh.org/
    Supposedly Mt. Ascutney in Windsor, VT is a good climb to test gears.
    Thanks for the reality check. I signed up to do Ascutney a month earlier so well e see how that goes
    Trek Domane 4.5 (commute/distance), Specialized Roubaix (climber), Xootr Swift (winter/travel), Trek Soho (around town)

  9. #9
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtalinm View Post
    Thanks for the reality check. I signed up to do Ascutney a month earlier so well e see how that goes
    And before that, experiment so you can be fairly sure you're in the right range. I need to be below 1:1 on 12%, being an ordinary but well trained geezer. You might need to be able to turn at ~80 or your legs will go out, though there's personal variation there. Some folks are fine turning 60. That's a rarer adaptation, though. And on long climbs, I really need to stand every 10 minutes, and I like a much bigger gear for that as a rest. If I were pedaling a 32" gear seated, I might pedal a 54" standing, for instance. A single 26T in front and a 12-32 in back would give you a heck of a range without having to mess with shifting in the front. You'd need an MTB RD.

  10. #10
    Senior Member mtalinm's Avatar
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    I'm happy to report that I *was* able to do Mt. Washington yesterday!

    Very slowly, and on a teensy 24x36 gear for most of it. But I made it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lawrence08648 View Post
    You won't be able to do it.
    Trek Domane 4.5 (commute/distance), Specialized Roubaix (climber), Xootr Swift (winter/travel), Trek Soho (around town)

  11. #11
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtalinm View Post
    I'm happy to report that I *was* able to do Mt. Washington yesterday!

    Very slowly, and on a teensy 24x36 gear for most of it. But I made it.
    Congrats! Way to go.

  12. #12
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    Huge congrats mtalin. That is something that is on my own cycling bucket list.

  13. #13
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    congrats.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  14. #14
    Retired dabbler hobkirk's Avatar
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    Boy, I have questions and comments galore!
    1. "...I'm on the Clyde side..." - What is your height and weight?
      • The Mt. W race has a Clydesdale division - Do you know what their definition of a "Clydesdale" is?
    2. Your friend's advice to do "hill repeats on a local hill that averages a 10% grade though only for 3/4 of a mile..." - Perfectly sensible IMO.
    3. "he said it would be more important to practice sustaining effort over a long period of time, at least the 2+ hours it will likely take me to finish the Mt. Washington. he said that this would best be done on a fairly flat course because something with hills will make it hard to sustain HR on downhills." - Sounds like baloney to me! Sorry.
      • It's really, really hard to raise your HR sufficiently on a flat course.
      • There are no really flat courses around Westwood, are there?
    4. "I also get scared going too fast" - Hmmm, this sounds to me like you really should have more experience riding (or something) - But maybe I don't quite understand. What is "too fast"?
    5. "I've done #1 a couple of times, and my HR averages in the mid-170s. This makes me a bit nervous...because the 220-age equation says my max should be 180 though my Garmin has recorded a max in the mid-180s several times, so I'll assume a max of 185."
      • You need to find your lactate threshold.
        • My recollection is: Warm up, use the "lap" feature on your Garmin, ride as hard as you can sustain for 8 minutes, ride slow to recover for 5 minutes, repeat the 8 minutes hard. Your average HR for the second fast segment is your LTHR, the highest HR you can maintain for 2-3 miles.
    6. "I'm not used to doing hills, so I hope/think my average on a hillclimb should come down with time...probably can't sustain 95% of max HR for 2+ hours!" - If you can, there's something wrong! Really wrong!
    7. "on #2 I tried to push hard enough to maintain a similar HR but just couldn't do it. I was able to average 160 bpm over a 90-minute effort, which is 86% of max. I did stop pedaling a few times, which is a big no-no on the mountain, and I wonder whether this is an adequate effort...at least for starters. I should probably build up to doing this for 2 1/2 hours."
      • I think this whole line is confused - first, you need to find your lactate threshold, and then you need to feel comfortable riding hard for a sustained length of time. But that last is sort of true for any type of cycling "race" - it's easier both mentally and physically to ride very fast (for you) for 25 miles if you are used to riding 50 miles fast routinely.


    Need hills?
    1. Berlin and Harvard have LOTS of hills!
    2. The road up Mount Wachusett is 3.2 miles and has 1,111 feet of ascent. That's only an average grade of 4.4% (11.8% max) but it's still a serious climb. Or start up the road slightly, chop it short at the top, and it's 1.9 miles with an average grade 5.5%).
    3. There is a steep climb (although pretty short) in Blue Hills - 1.0 mile, 409 ft. ascent, max grade of 14.1 %, average grade of 8.9 %.


    Quote Originally Posted by mtalinm View Post
    I'm happy to report that I *was* able to do Mt. Washington yesterday! Very slowly, and on a teensy 24x36 gear for most of it. But I made it.
    Let me add my sincere congratulations! I think that was probably worth more than a million words!

    How did you get to ride it? Was it as simple as a sympathetic toll-taker at the base road entrance?
    2007 Specialized Roubaix, 105 Triple
    Started cycling 6/1/2010 at 64 - lethargy, bad knees, & 247# triggered my foray into cycling
    200# as of 9/9/2012 (mostly from diet, 40# in 5 mo)
    2010 (1st 7 mo) = 4.7K miles (a little nuts), 2011 = 6K

  15. #15
    Retired dabbler hobkirk's Avatar
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    Boy, I have questions and comments galore!
    1. "...I'm on the Clyde side..." - What is your height and weight?
      • The Mt. W race has a Clydesdale division - Do you know what their definition of a "Clydesdale" is?
    2. Your friend's advice to do "hill repeats on a local hill that averages a 10% grade though only for 3/4 of a mile..." - Perfectly sensible IMO.
    3. "he said it would be more important to practice sustaining effort over a long period of time, at least the 2+ hours it will likely take me to finish the Mt. Washington. he said that this would best be done on a fairly flat course because something with hills will make it hard to sustain HR on downhills." - Sounds like baloney to me! Sorry.
      • It's really, really hard to raise your HR sufficiently on a flat course.
      • There are no really flat courses around Westwood, are there?
    4. "I also get scared going too fast" - Hmmm, this sounds to me like you really should have more experience riding (or something) - But maybe I don't quite understand. What is "too fast"?
    5. "I've done #1 a couple of times, and my HR averages in the mid-170s. This makes me a bit nervous...because the 220-age equation says my max should be 180 though my Garmin has recorded a max in the mid-180s several times, so I'll assume a max of 185."
      • You need to find your lactate threshold.
        • My recollection is: Warm up, use the "lap" feature on your Garmin, ride as hard as you can sustain for 8 minutes, ride slow to recover for 5 minutes, repeat the 8 minutes hard. Your average HR for the second fast segment is your LTHR, the highest HR you can maintain for 2-3 miles.
    6. "I'm not used to doing hills, so I hope/think my average on a hillclimb should come down with time...probably can't sustain 95% of max HR for 2+ hours!" - If you can, there's something wrong! Really wrong!
    7. "on #2 I tried to push hard enough to maintain a similar HR but just couldn't do it. I was able to average 160 bpm over a 90-minute effort, which is 86% of max. I did stop pedaling a few times, which is a big no-no on the mountain, and I wonder whether this is an adequate effort...at least for starters. I should probably build up to doing this for 2 1/2 hours."
      • I think this whole line is confused - first, you need to find your lactate threshold, and then you need to feel comfortable riding hard for a sustained length of time. But that last is sort of true for any type of cycling "race" - it's easier both mentally and physically to ride very fast (for you) for 25 miles if you are used to riding 50 miles fast routinely.


    Need hills?
    1. Berlin and Harvard have LOTS of hills!
    2. The road up Mount Wachusett is 3.2 miles and has 1,111 feet of ascent. That's only an average grade of 4.4% (11.8% max) but it's still a serious climb. Or start up the road slightly, chop it short at the top, and it's 1.9 miles with an average grade 5.5%).
    3. There is a steep climb (although pretty short) in Blue Hills - 1.0 mile, 409 ft. ascent, max grade of 14.1 %, average grade of 8.9 %. Ride With GPS Link


    Quote Originally Posted by mtalinm View Post
    I'm happy to report that I *was* able to do Mt. Washington yesterday! Very slowly, and on a teensy 24x36 gear for most of it. But I made it.
    Let me add my sincere congratulations! I think that was probably worth more than a million words!

    How did you get to ride it? Was it as simple as a sympathetic toll-taker at the base road entrance?
    2007 Specialized Roubaix, 105 Triple
    Started cycling 6/1/2010 at 64 - lethargy, bad knees, & 247# triggered my foray into cycling
    200# as of 9/9/2012 (mostly from diet, 40# in 5 mo)
    2010 (1st 7 mo) = 4.7K miles (a little nuts), 2011 = 6K

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