At the end of the hill climb season, you finish with great top end form, but the less exciting, base aerobic fitness has been given a bit of a back seat. Late October is not the time to be getting 5 hour slow, steady rides under the belt.
After a couple of quiet weeks, the top end form soon dissipates; or perhaps it’s just that you don’t have any motivation to see if you can still sprint up hills. Instead, my thoughts turn to all those miles I’ve been missing out on, and all the miles I need to be getting in.
I was born in a frankly pre-historic, last millennium type analogue era. It was a time before heart rate monitors, power meters, Strava and all these notions of efficient training. I was brought into cycling on the traditional Sunday Club run. At the end of the 12 hour, 110 mile ride, you would just put your feet up and stuffed your face with food – there was no logging on to see how you were digitally comparing.
The greatest excitement for measuring performance was the annual Cycling Weekly mileage double spreadsheet. I used to cut it out and put it on my wall. There was a simple target to fill in as many miles as you could. The more miles the better. This is what is now called ‘Old School Cycling‘ – but we were real men in those days, no indoor virtual races from the comfort of an internet connected roller ride. And I would rather Cycling Weekly kept publishing a paper mileage chart rather than these adverts for Ritmo – which, on principle I have no intention of ever trying to understand.
Anyway, grumpy old man ‘things were better in my day’ complaint over.
For no particular reason, I get to winter and generate a target to try and do 1,000 miles in each of the winter months – November, December, January and February. There is no good reason for this; no scientific basis that the key to a 4 minute hill climb in October is doing 4,000 miles in the preceding winter. But, it’s good to have a target, especially one where it doesn’t matter so much if you miss out a bit.
To be honest, 1,000 miles a month does requires quite a lot of discipline – especially as the nights draw in and the weather turns remorselessly colder and wetter. I don’t think I’ve ever managed 4,000 miles for the four winter months, but I’m sure if I can do it this year, the 2015 hill climb season will be my best ever….
80 miles down – 3,920 to go
After two weeks of testing the waters – nothing more than the odd 32 mile ride (even if they did take 2 and half hours). Yesterday was chance to go out for a proper winter training ride. Five hours of plodding a lonely furrow through the Cotswolds.
If winter miles can feel a bit like a chore at times, yesterday was one of those great days for cycling, where you are just grateful to be out in the perfect autumn weather. If winter training could always be like this…
At 10 degrees, it was as good as it gets in mid-November. I took a meandering route to Bourton on the Water and Lower Slaughter; these have been voted the prettiest villages in England, and for good reason. It does make a refreshing change to be spending Sunday cycling through the late Autumn fall – rather than stopping off at a motorway station on the M6 after a brief 4 minutes of torture up some hill climb. I like the off-season – a reminder there’s more to cycling than racing.
At the start of the ride, my Garmin had run out of battery, which was probably a blessing. I just rode without any computer telling me how slowly I was going. When I got home, my iPhone told me the 80 miles were at 15.8mph. I’m glad I didn’t have a permanent reminder of my slowness. I know I wrote an article ‘In praise of slow cycling’ – but I didn’t really mean it.
It is always a mystery how you can race at 31mph in July, but get on your winter training hack, and you’re down to 15mph before you can say, ‘mudguards surely can’t make that much difference’.
Still the important thing is 80 miles to colour in on my virtual winter mileage chart. If only I can make 4,000 miles over winter, I might just feel like I’ve done enough training for the Kingston Wheelers CC 15 mile time trial at the end of February.
No cycling into the stream.
This is a hill, which I didn’t race, but instead stopped to take a photo! The joy of winter cycling.