Reverse downhills


Last Tuesday found a good portion of our team back down in Los Altos for week number two of Hills and Skills. For extra bonus fun, this session including the ultimate in slow-climber humiliation devices: a timed climb. In theory, by timing ourselves now and then again in a month (and again in another month, etc.) we’ll be able to quantify our success, feel good about ourselves, and just generally have proof that the training is working. This all hinges, of course, on the assumption that we’ll actually improve over the coming weeks (and that the trainers don’t just cheat the number sheets — I still haven’t seen my time!)… so I’m hoping that they have anti-depression safeguards in place on the off chance that I somehow end up slower a month from now.

Moving on. We started the night with a few quick laps up and down a short, flat stretch of road to get warmed up. As Tuesday was the first hot day/night in… well, forever… that really didn’t take too long. By the time we were ready to start climbing (Concepcion again to start), I was pretty sure that I’d moved past “warm” and onto “overheated.” Shockingly, our trainers had little sympathy to offer when I pointed this out. My helpful commentary earned me the Al equivalent of a “Ya mule! Up the hill!” (actually those might have been his exact words). And off I went.

We climbed Concepion twice while our trainer team worked out the timer administrative details. Everyone was given a pink sticky name tags for their helmet (I can only assume that we’ll be traveling SO fast uphill that only big pink stickers would be readable), and then put in a line by some order known only to the coaches. As an aside, my first two trips up and downhill were pretty ok.  They were slow, but considering I was sick all week… not terrible. We were fired uphill in 40 second intervals (not literally), with instructions to call our name (apparently the nametags were only a backup?) to the coach at the summit to record our time. Everyone was then to keep circling at the top of the hill to stay warm, and we’d move on as a group.

My climb went fairly well. I start much quicker up than the last two rounds – amazing what the threat of a timer will do for ya – and kept a good pace for the first half or so. Somewhere right around the middle of the hill, my body remembered that it was sick and tired (literally) and I started to slow down significantly. Still, there’s something to be said for really knowing your route. You know exactly how far you’ve got to push before you can take it easy again. Concepcion really isn’t a particularly long or hard climb… so I kicked my tail into gear and hammered to the top as best as I could. It was probably still a bit slow, but hey – that just means my next test will show even more improvement, right?!

Once everyone had finished the time trial, we headed over to another hi… ahem… excuse me. Another “reverse downhill” for some more climbing fun. (Thanks for that little gem, Al! Gotta love coach-speak.) We did two trips up and down Purissima which, while a bit harder than our first climb, was a nice change of pace. The hill has an easy but quick descent which, if timed right, will carry you most of the way through the next incline — which is pretty much what we were supposed to work on.

And then, just when we thought the night was over, the trainers gathered us in the parking lot of Foothill College for our first cycling drill: one-legged pedaling laps. Oh yeah. You read that right. We had to unclip one foot and circle the parking lot three times, powered only by the outside leg. The idea was to focus balancing most of your weight on the outside leg and a little inside hand. Apparently helps in cornering later. The drill was actually pretty entertaining… once I managed to clip out on my non-dominant foot. (For the record, since my fall I’ve only ever clipped out on the left, so that was harder than it sounds!)

All I can say is I’ve never appreciated having two legs more than on the laps that I was allowed to use both! Between that drill and torture-class the day before, my glutes and hip flexors were screaming. Did I even know the *word* hip flexor before I started this cycling season?! I think not! We had a quick and mercifully flat ride back to our start spot, and were then released for our hard-won Chipotle reward. Oh… and up next week? One leg, one hand drills. So much to look forward to!

Hills and Skills #2

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What do we have here?

An often sarcastic, occasionally humorous journal of my training adventures in preparation for the Livestrong century ride. I took up cycling back in '07 in hopes of meeting new people, and, with the help of Team in Training, making my small positive difference in the world -- and haven't stopped spinning since. Follow along as my Trek road bike and I try and hash out our differences, hopefully with me upright and in the saddle.

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