Sunday, 5 April 2009

There is gold in them hills

I spent the last month hanging out for a long awaited weeks holiday in Majorca. Back at the planning stage it was either Majorca or Lanzarote and when we looked at it in darkest December Majorca seemed the better choice. We already had a week in Lanzarote at the IM so a change of venue seemed the thing and the weather looked OK and the facilities for my own spring training seemed good. Sadly the week of sun they had before we got there stopped the day we arrived, dark clouds moved in and it rained for 6 days straight, pretty much without a discernible break. The first we saw of the sun again was as we got into the car to head back to the airport!

But we had a great time. The villa was fab and got on a special "recession offer" complete with freezing pool which my kids enjoyed in spite of the rain. We stayed near Pollenca in the hills to the northeast of the island. We enjoyed good food, long walks, lots of swimming in a brand new and empty heated 25m pool, the odd bottle or two of red wine and a few runs across the hills with my missus. In addition I got to explore a few of them there hills.

I have cycled a few thousand miles since I started triathlon, but have only ever taken my bike overseas to race. Majorca afforded me the first chance to try out some long hills and this was an eyeopener. Majorca was absolutely full of cyclists, a bit like Richmond Park at 11 on a sunday morning only bigger. I tried out a few hilly rides before negotiating a day away from the rest of the family for a 6 hr ride (ish) where I took in a few 500m climbs and then another 900m climb at an average of 6% incline. And now I understand about hills.

The necessity to keep going at a steady heart rate and the relentless nature of the climb forces you to develop or build your muscular endurance which is surely the key to a good IM bike ride. Each climb is followed by a downhill recovery and then repeat. No number of Boxhill repeats can mimic this. An equivalent sustained effort on the flat can be done but sees you travelling further and faster and is harder to keep steady since at speed minor variations in incline etc have significant impact on you effort levels. Also when you finish your long climb you are at the top of the hill and that is always a good feeling.

So my advice for those who want to improve their training is to move to the nearest 1000m steady climb and train on it. Failing that I have always maintained that East Anglia is too flat so perhaps they could build us a mountain there to train on there!

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