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Pacing strategy to PR a Climb?

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Pacing strategy to PR a Climb?

Old 01-18-22, 11:41 AM
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Pacing strategy to PR a Climb?

Beyond the obvious of "ride faster" what I really want to know, is how do you make it so that you're riding the appropriate speed at any given instant in the climb?

I've got a local climb a few miles from home that's an average of 5.5% for 3/4 of a mile. And somewhat ironically, my fastest ever time was the first time I climbed it.

One reason was simply that I was in my best ever riding condition late in the first pandemic summer - going for rides had been the one part of the world that still worked. But increasingly I'm coming to realize that another part was that I climbed it best when I didn't yet know anything about the hill - I started up as if it were a short climb, and was surprised to discover it just kept going and going, reducing in slope at one point and then increasing after going around a bend.

Ever time I ride it now, I find myself instinctively saving something for that "summit cone" so while my times are improving now that I'm targeting it, they're not back to where they were.

One idea would be to ignore the variations in the climb, figure out the cadence that would shave a few percent off my best time, and train myself to ride that - almost "carry a metronome" if that's what it took.

Another would be to try to figure out some sort of real time heart rating monitoring and be guided by that?

The obvious of course would be to just give it my best in each moment, and if I have to slow down, slow down, or even stop. But the problem is: I can't. I've been up the hill by both bike and unicycle, with times that are thoroughly intermixed because it's still my power output either way - but the unicycle efforts are a lot more fun. And that means that if I stall out, I'm done - unless it's near someone's driveway that intersects the slope I probably can't even get back on but have to walk - and much as I'm making the hill a goal, it's far enough from home that I go there as part of a ride I hope to enjoy, not just to attack it. So while I want to PR the climb, I'm also really opposed to failing the climb - I need a strategy that actually gets me up it, without ever dropping below say 5 mph because I tried to got too fast somewhere else in it.

Is the whole question of strategy just silly? Yeah, probably... if I ride it enough times of course I'm going to go faster.

But part of the fun is thinking about it, in between the actual attempts that can only happen every few days.

Last edited by UniChris; 01-18-22 at 11:45 AM.
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Old 01-18-22, 11:56 AM
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I have experienced that first attempt effect too, especially in my pitiful college running career.

To do this right you need to know your splits (speed, time or power) from a strong effort. You can use HR, but you need a good database and a pretty clear idea of your acute training load on he day of the attempt. Then your strategy is simply to match the early splits and beat the late ones.
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Old 01-18-22, 11:59 AM
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Okay, I didn't read the OP, but reverse splits are the way to go. Don't go out at your max watts.

I'm sure a power meter and some analysis software would help
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Old 01-18-22, 12:37 PM
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I'm not clear: are you trying to PR this hill on a bike, a unicycle, or on both?
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Old 01-18-22, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
I'm not clear: are you trying to PR this hill on a bike, a unicycle, or on both?
"Stalling out" seems to imply unicycle? Maybe?
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Old 01-18-22, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris
my fastest ever time was the first time I climbed it.

One reason was simply that I was in my best ever riding condition late in the first pandemic summe

I climbed it best when I didn't yet know anything about the hill
You contradicted yourself here. You say you had more fitness the first time you climbed it.

Hills that aren't some really technical gradient changing climb don't really care if it was your first or 5th or last try. It might matter if the % grade changes by double digits every minute or so. But I don't feel like that's the case reading this. And if it was, your first try may still be best if the delta in fitness was enough.

I dropped nearly 25min off my time up to the BRP from Marion..........by not being as heavy and being a LOT stronger. No matter the number of tries.

Recover the same fitness and maybe weight you had with attempt number 1 and forget about it being your first try as a reason.
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Old 01-18-22, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris
I started up as if it were a short climb, and was surprised to discover it just kept going and going, reducing in slope at one point and then increasing after going around a bend.
Ultimately it is a relatively short climb and not particularly steep. So going full gas pretty much from the start and then hanging on is probably a reasonable strategy. At least without having a power meter to pace it more precisely. That's what produced your current PR by the sound of it.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris
Another would be to try to figure out some sort of real time heart rating monitoring and be guided by that?
You mean, like a one of the readily-available, easy-to-use heart rate monitors?

Personally, my HR is displayed on my Wahoo Bolt head unit (along with speed, cadence, power, time, etc.). I generally use HR as my guide for climbing effort.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
Ultimately it is a relatively short climb and not particularly steep. So going full gas pretty much from the start and then hanging on is probably a reasonable strategy. At least without having a power meter to pace it more precisely. That's what produced your current PR by the sound of it.
I would say that my current PR was produced by a combination of indeed being in better shape then - but also having lucked out in starting up it at a pace where I actually could sustain stability speed movement all the way to the top.

My basic thought is how do I pace myself to ride say 5-10% faster than that, or at least to turn out the best ascent I can with tomorrow's level of training?
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Old 01-18-22, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Eric F
You mean, like a one of the readily-available, easy-to-use heart rate monitors?

Personally, my HR is displayed on my Wahoo Bolt head unit (along with speed, cadence, power, time, etc.). I generally use HR as my guide for climbing effort.
Yes, basically - so real time display is a thing?

Though I'd need to get the display where I can see it - only risked a few very quick glances down at the wheel computer on the bar, since stability when climbing on the edge is a challenge. Might almost try putting it on a bendy thing off the other side of my helmet.

But thanks for confirming it's useful to look into.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris
Yes, basically - so real time display is a thing?

Though I'd need to get the display where I can see it - only risked a few very quick glances down at the wheel computer on the bar, since stability when climbing on the edge is a challenge. Might almost try putting it on a bendy thing off the other side of my helmet.

But thanks for confirming it's useful to look into.
If taking a look down at a computer mounted to the handlebar is going to make you crash, I suggest you work on your bike handling skills more than your climbing PR.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris
Yes, basically - so real time display is a thing?
Yep, colour TVs too.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote
I'm not clear: are you trying to PR this hill on a bike, a unicycle, or on both?
"Yes"

Both. Either, okay, I admit I kind of like beating my bike times on the unicycle, or at least it's more fun that way - climbing on the bike is just work (it can always degenerate into "we'll get there when we get there"), on the unicycle there's the suspense of possibly not making it. And 5-6 percent is a grade that's quite approachable on either, and perhaps even one where they're somewhat equitable. There are some shorter, steeper hills around that are steep enough that so far I've only been up on the bike, though I believe I could do them on the unicycle with sufficiently focused untired effort.

I just finally went out and counted sprocket teeth, and it seems I'm running 28x30 at lowest on the bike's 26 inch wheels, so maybe 25 gear inches, turned with 170mm cranks (it was my craigslist winter utility buy). On the unicycle I'm pushing about 35 gear inches with short 125mm cranks. But my body is much more used to climbing on the unicycle where there's not much difference between sitting and standing, vs a sit and spin type climb on the bike and even the larger circles of conventional cranks being far less trained.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:29 PM
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I'd just eyeball some split times for landmarks up the hill. Like you have to make it to the big pine tree by 1:30, to the orange mailbox by 3:00, etc.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris
I would say that my current PR was produced by a combination of indeed being in better shape then - but also having lucked out in starting up it at a pace where I actually could sustain stability speed movement all the way to the top.

My basic thought is how do I pace myself to ride say 5-10% faster than that, or at least to turn out the best ascent I can with tomorrow's level of training?
To pace yourself 5-10% faster requires precise knowledge of your previous pace. Otherwise you are just guessing. An HRM would help, but there is a fairly big lag between effort and stabilised HR and you need to know what HR you can sustain. Power is the gold standard for accurate pacing. Perceived effort is all you currently have to go on, along with elapsed time of course.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
Okay, I didn't read the OP, but reverse splits are the way to go. Don't go out at your max watts.

I'm sure a power meter and some analysis software would help
I had to go look up what a reverse split was, but I see what you mean.

In terms of data, unfortunately Strava is no longer showing instantaneous speed and I have some doubts about GPS derived speed anyway.

Something I have toyed with doing is making a custom cycle computer, and one that would actually record the timing of every rotation of the wheel (which on the uni is also literally cadence, or on the bike record that too). Those plots would be interesting especially if I could reconnect them back to the grade of the hill. Stuff to think about.

I guess I could also take the raw tcx files and do my own smoothing and pacing analysis of them, in particular that would let me plot various attempts on the same graph.

And yes, I went and used streetview to figure out that the segment starts at the brook and ends at the shared mailboxes ;-)

Looks like my best time so far would correspond to an average of a 100 rpm on the bike, or 72 on the uni. Cruising pace on flat terrain for the uni is about 100-110, but into pretty much nothing as far as resistance. Of course I could use a taller gear on the bike, figuring out the one that would give the same gear inches is something I've contemplated, but seated position and crank length will make it a different feel.

Last edited by UniChris; 01-18-22 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:34 PM
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Sounds like Chris doesn't have a bunch of data to work with, so this needn't be too complicated.

Getting a PR is simpler than winning a race or even a prime: just go very hard (say, about 95%) for the first 2/3rds or so, then flat-out for the remainder. Worst that happens is that you peak before then top, but at least you will have left everything on the road.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:41 PM
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I'd keep thinking about the fact you stated you were in your best form years ago. If that's the case, then you really ought to focus on your overall riding performance and get back to being that person.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris

Something I have toyed with doing is making a custom cycle computer, and one that would actually record the timing of every rotation of the wheel (which on the uni is also literally cadence, or on the bike record that too). Those plots would be interesting especially if I could reconnect them back to the grade of the hill. Stuff to think about.
You don't need to make a custom cycle computer. You just need a normal one with a wheel speed, cadence sensor and GPS if you can afford it.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01
I'd keep thinking about the fact you stated you were in your best form years ago. If that's the case, then you really ought to focus on your overall riding performance and get back to being that person.
Definitely... which is part of why I'm riding as much as I can in January and hoping to be back in century shape once the days are long enough vs my usual start the year off well, get distracted and only catch up midsummer. The year of my PR was also a warm winter such that I'd done a metric in January, back to back ones in February...

But even within the overall journey, tracking stuff like my time up this particular hill, is fun.

(Also, a lot of my past riding has been all-day endurance at low effort; I'd like to work on shorter stretches of higher effort - which also ties in with having bought an actual bike that can safely be ridden at higher speeds which provide more of a time-efficient workout)

Last edited by UniChris; 01-18-22 at 01:55 PM.
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Old 01-18-22, 01:50 PM
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This use is exactly what Strava Live Segments is about. With a GPS computer and a Strava Premium account, go ride the hill, create the climb segment in Strava, star/favorite the segment, enable Live Segments in Strava and on the GPS unit, and it will then alert you when you approach the climb, tell you to GO! at the start of the climb, and switch to a screen indicating segment (climb) details and whether you are above or below your best pace (i.e. best recorded pace).
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Old 01-18-22, 02:22 PM
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I know that power meters are ‘the thing’ but they are not inexpensive either.

I would suggest a heart rate monitor paired to a cycle computer which can be easily monitored. Get Strava which will read your monitor and categorize your efforts into various zones base on effort. You will quickly learn what level of effort (BPM) you can sustain for a prolonged period and at higher heart rates. You will also know how long you can sustain near maximum effort and then ride your hill base on running near maximum and then kill it at the end.

I did a 60,000’ climbing challenge in November and 3/4s of the way through it my speed and knowledge of how to pace myself greatly improved. as my coach would say, “To win in the mountains, you must train in the mountains”. Unfortunately he was right.
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Old 01-18-22, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster
This use is exactly what Strava Live Segments is about. With a GPS computer and a Strava Premium account, go ride the hill, create the climb segment in Strava, star/favorite the segment, enable Live Segments in Strava and on the GPS unit, and it will then alert you when you approach the climb, tell you to GO! at the start of the climb, and switch to a screen indicating segment (climb) details and whether you are above or below your best pace (i.e. best recorded pace).
Spot on. However, this may require the purchase of a bike computer capable of supporting Strava Live Segments.
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Old 01-18-22, 03:13 PM
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You don't need a HR monitor or a power meter. The secret to setting PRs on climbs is patience. You have to wait until ... you have a day with a tailwind.
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Old 01-18-22, 03:19 PM
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^^ This. His first attempt may have unknowingly been tailwind assisted, so he might as well try for his new PR's the same way.
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