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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

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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.

come-on-mister-hill
Great tips here: How to cycle uphill (Photo Bernard Thompson)

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,

Páraig

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.

Five Men Fix a Puncture

National Bike Week took place last month, but it passed me by as my focus was very much on my first triathlon. As soon as my wetsuit was hung up (temporarily) I longed to start my long endurance cycling training. In fact, whereas I probably should have taken an easy week to recover, I did the opposite, in fact, as I biked approx 270km over four spins (37, 26, 96 and 114kms). I was aware that this was not really a very bright idea! As luck would have it, I spent the following week in Galway and Athlone and I was happy to leave the bike (and the runners) at home. One full week of rest… my first and only week of complete rest since before Christmas!

I noticed this week that I was really raring to go, and as the weather once again obliged, the miles began to clock up! Sunday almost 140k; Tuesday: 60k; Wednesday: 33k; Thursday: 130k; Saturday: 35k and today Sunday 106k brought the total to just above 500km in eight days. The shorter distance days were at a very very easy pace, recovery pace.

Today (Sunday) was another very warm morning on the rothar, as a good solid group of twelve DCC riders headed for Cappoquin and the Vee. We kept the pace steady, and as agreed, we kept the group together on the way up to the Tipperary border. Without stopping, we pounced down to Clogheen and waited at the junction for Newcastle five who assisted with a puncture on the way down. It’s actually easier for one person to fix a puncture, but men tend to think that 10 hands are better than two!

The journey east to Newcastle proved to be very enjoyable with a gentle tailwind, plenty stories and only one mechanical. (By the way, for a good read about what MEN talk about for three or hour hours cycling, have a read of TheCyclingBlog…highly recommended!). The stories started to take on a more serious tone as we approached the village, and after the right turn for Melleray, many horror-stories and fantasy were only too forthcoming. The experienced among us opted for the sensible (experienced) version: the silent movie! Onwards and upwards, very hot sun did not help us at all, and our group of twelve were scattered to the four winds simply because there WAS no wind. Not even a little cooling breeze. The climb is quite difficult, at almost exactly 1000 feet in  3.5 miles. The average gradient is 6%, but there are three steeper sections at 15, 18 and 19.7 per cent. It’s no wonder that we tackle this monster so rarely. Take a look at the profile below. The first is the Vee, the second is Newcastle (officially Knockboy), both approximately the same height, but Newcastle is much shorter and steeper.

Capture2 hills
The Vee and Knockboy. Everywhere else is flat.

Having heard the horror stories at the base, we listened to the advertisments atop! Rightly so too, I suppose. I had decided early on in the spin to take it gently on this climb, because my mileage this week was more than double my recent weeks. I kept my HR in zone 3 most of the way, and only crossed into zone 4 for only three minutes, and arrived at the summit with tired legs but fresh lungs. Our spin home via Cappoquin once again was very enjoyable if uneventful, and as the distance was just a little short of 100km I went for a short ramble on my own.

8 days…500+ kilometres. Three weeks to goal date. A lot done, more to do!

Details of my spins can bee seen on Strava. Here are some sneak previews of the efforts this week:

Capture  elevation
Lots of climbing
Capture miles january to july
Miles per month so far. I’m still in old-fashioned miles.
Capture miles
Lots of distance. Probably best to schedule an easy week again.
Capture
The same effort, same enjoyment, in kilometres this time.

I realise that it would be a good idea to take some photographs along the way. Nothing speaks like a photo!

Finally, it’s clear to me now that I’m well on my way to being ready for my planned long events in three weeks time. Bring it on!

Páraig

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Have you a favourite hard hill? Please tell how HARD it is…