Thursday, January 12, 2017
Once again it’s short (and sweet?) this week because painting has been prioritised over cycling. The timing was good actually, because the weather turned foul and a week of rest (from the bike) will be good.
Last Sunday our lovely group had an easy week too. The route was shortened as we wanted to keep the bikes clean, so instead of heading to Ballyduff after getting up the tricky little hill near Tallow, we returned directly to base with only the important coffee-stop and group photo to delay us.
Knockroe Hill is just outside Tallow in County Waterford. Yes, it’s a decent hill, and one not normally cycled up or down simply because there’s a longer less steep detour. It’s short at just 1k and registers on the steepometer at 10%. In short, yes it’s a bit tricky.
We conducted a quick survey in in advance, to find that of the 17 in the group, only 2 had completed it. All completed the job very capably, so from here on it’s on to bigger hills!
Climbing an unknown hill can be a bit nerve-wracking. The body must push hard, and sometimes beyond hard. Grit and determination are needed, oftentimes to a degree not shown before. On top of that, the head must send the right messages. The bike must be right too. The last thing a climber wants is some silly mechanical that ruins the long sought-after rhythm. If there’s an element missing the hill becomes torture, and the result may be in the balance. It’s a battle, really. A physical and mental battle. Preparation is key, and it’s a good idea to have a plan. At our level of cycling, it’s not a competition, so the trick is to settle into an easy rhythm. If a cyclist is fit, this alone will get him (her) to the top. What other advice might be helpful?
- Cycle against the hill, not against another cyclist
- Stand out of the saddle for brief periods (maybe 10-20 seconds) every few minutes
- Change position on the saddle. Sit further back for a short while to use different muscles
- Focus on breathing. When the gradient becomes very steep, deep breathing is important. Take in a huge amount of air through open mouth, and then force it out quickly
- If you have a heart monitor, use it wisely. More on this later
- Do not climb in the drops. Some can do this, but the general advice is to avoid it. Oxygen intake is restricted
- Zig-zag the road if it’s safe to do so
In life, there are many hills and valleys to pass and you cannot avoid them! The most important thing you need is to know this: You must pass them!
There will be harder hills to come during the year ahead. Many in this Group 4 are targeting the Sean Kelly 160 in August, and apart from the length of the ride, it’s the hills that will get into people’s heads. But, despite tackling this little hill last Sunday, the plan is to have a couple of easy spins until February rolls around. Even then, it’s very early in the process. Late March and April will be time enough to put Power’s the Pot and the Maama Road on the agenda. Mahon Falls will likely be conquered in May, and the dreaded Tickincor in June. July will be spent combining at least two of four these challenges in various combinations.
For now, our Group 4 are content that they’ve climbed a hill harder than any they’ve met before. Time to savour the satisfaction of a job well done, take a few easy spins together and extend the cycling distance to 100k over the next few weeks.
It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t give up when you’re tired. You give up when the gorilla is tired.
Is there a best way to train to become stronger on hills? I’m sure that there are as many ways as there are coaches selling them, but much of the advice may be similar. Over the next few weeks, I’ll pass on some of the advice I’ve been given by experienced riders. Stay tuned, and in the meantime ride that hill!
Happy cycling, and stay safe out there,
About: – Páraig is the author of BurkesBiking, a firm believer that TEAM is the motto (Together Everybody Achieves More) and that life’s obstacles are there to make him stronger. Coffee helps with everything too.