Posts Tagged 'hill repeats'

Get up, stand up

Last week’s (yeah, I’m a whole week behind. Work’s been busy, sue me!) hill repeats focused on my “very favoritest thing ever” — standing climbs. And by “favoritest thing ever,” I mean “thing I most hate to do always”… unless you’re one of my coaches reading this, in which case I totally really mean “favorite” (because everyone knows that coaches like to make you practice whatever it is you dislike). Of course the the loud bitching I did at the summit of each loop is probably not going to fool them… hopefully the weren’t paying attention!

We rode in the same general area as last week’s hill repeats, but the trainers chose a new street for our climb. The new location, La Paloma, is actually a fairly mild hill… for the first 90%. The last 10% or so pops up pretty significantly in grade, which means you have to get your hiney out of the saddle to make the top. As much as I’d rather sit and spin, I decided to try and do the entire night in my middle front ring, which meant that standing was definitely required. At the end of the day, working hard now will make the event easier, right? So I chugged uphill, huffing and puffing (even passing a couple folks), and hit the summit wheezing (and cursing). I pretty quickly decided that the climb “wasn’t that bad,” descended and swung around to do it all over again.

Lap two actually seemed a bit easier. I managed to hold off from standing until a bit farther up the hill – keeping my energy up and heart rate down longer. This meant that I was “jogging uphill” a shorter distance, so I felt more relaxed (even though my heart rate data indicates I was working pretty much equally hard). Not surprisingly, laps three and then four (darn latecomers got off easier with one less lap) were tougher. I managed to keep the trick of not popping up until absolutely necessary, but my legs got tired toward the end. I did do all four rounds out of the saddle, although I dropped to the baby gears (not the lowest ones!!) for one.

Once the “don’t be a lazy tail, literally” abuse was done, we all headed down to Foothill College for bike rocking and emergency stop training. Bike rocking was an interesting exercise. In order to get us used to the idea of moving our bikes, the trainers had us exaggerate the movement at low speeds in laps. We had to get the outside of one leg to touch the inside of the opposing side of the saddle. Sound confusing? Yep, I thought so too. Pretty much, get your outer right thigh to touch the left side nose of your seat, then alternate. You have to forcibly push the bike down and shift your weight a lot to counter balance. As I a) hate standing and b) have approximately negative arm strength, I took while to get the hang of this one. I did eventually get it… but I’m not sure I’ll be good at it any time soon.

The emergency stop concept was much easier (and useful!) to grasp. Hit both brakes hard and shift your butt behind the saddle to keep the back wheel on the ground.  We watched a demo, then did several round of practice. The assistant troublemakers (helper trainers) stood at one end of the parking lot. We took turns racing directly at them and then slamming on the brakes at randomly given signals. I managed to get a good couple of skid marks on the pavement, but need to work on shifting my weight even farther. Of course I have to wonder how likely it is that I’ll actually remember that should I ever actually need it. Hopefully we never find out!

Dark fell pretty quickly after braking training, so we headed back to our launch point… with one more climb thrown in (just for extra fun). Our small horde descended onto Chipotle shortly after. At least we were rewarded for our work!

Garmin data (with somewhat useless lap info) follows below. You’ll have to hold off until tomorrow for the buddy ride fiasco, as it’s already after 10pm and I’ve got a 48 miler early tomorrow morning (blame work! I swear!). More soon.

Hills and Skills #3

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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

Real new hill repeats

Old idea, new location. A good portion of the summer team met up with Al and Jamii (IPF instructors) last Tuesday night for our first “Hills and Skills Clinic” – also known as the new and improved (or so I’ve been told) hill repeats. Instead of meeting at Mount Eden, our repeats haunt of my last two seasons, our group converged on the quiet (until we got there) little park at University and Edith in Los Altos. After a brief introduction to the rest of IPF’s staff, everyone headed over to the base of our hill climb for the evening: Concepcion.

In quick, elementary school count-off style, we were divided into 6 groups – each of which had its own coach. My coach, Jamii (yes, we were the dynamic, multiple spelling’d Jamie-duo for the evening), gave us a pretty simple run down of the gameplan for the night. Ride up the hill, get feedback. Ride back down, get feedback. The only real specifics to start were 1) anyone riding a triple had to climb in the middle ring (build that super leg strength!) and 2) everyone needed to be in the drops coming downhill. Simple instructions set, we were off!

The team was fortunate to have a very high coach to participant ratio, which meant every person got a good amount of individualized attention. Within the first out and back round, I’d learned that:

  • I need to bend my elbows more. A lot more. Stupid stiff-armed positioning is definitely not helping my ever-grumpy shoulders and neck.
  • My hand grip for steeper climbs is… less than ideal. I should move to the top bar (to get more push-pull action), or stand up to power through the tough parts.
  • You really don’t need the baby ring for all hills. Even though we did start with a pretty tame climb, I easily crushed seven repeats in the middle ring.
  • My cadence for climbing needs to speed up. Much like my cadence in general. I’m pushing too hard and unnecessarily beating up my body.
  • I should sit back further on the saddle while descending, and lift the hiney up slightly when going over the bumps. It lowers your center of gravity even more than just getting in the drops, and getting your tail up makes it less likely that you’ll have some crazy bump and flip action.

After the first round, we pretty much climbed the hill (six more times!!!) at our own pace. The coaches floated throughout the riders and gave pointers where necessary. Surprisingly, I got a few “attagirls” on my descending position. Apparently being somewhat terrified of going downhill and doing so in the correct form are not mutually exclusive. Who knew?!

I’m pretty sure the Concepcion climb is a bit more… tame than Mount Eden, despite being similar in length. I breezed through my seven sets without many issues, whereas I typically felt like death by trip five at our old spot. I did nearly burst my heart open the one time I decided to climb standing for a bit – but that’s more a factor of nerves and poor technique than anything to do with the hill itself. That’s not to say this new route wasn’t a good workout though! I got some great pointers each trip up the hill and putting them into practice definitely left me feeling the tired legs as we made our way back to the park (especially as those poor guys were still recovering from Monday’s IPF torture-session!!).

I’ve been told that this week was the “easy intro session” — get ’em hooked and keep ’em coming back style — but I guess only actually doing it again will tell! Next week we’re in for baseline tests (so we have comparison points later in the season) and possibly a new location. Fun times!

Oh… and I’ve got Garmin data, with cadence and laps. Go me!

Hills and Skills 6-16

What Degree do you Get…

for hill repeats graduation? And is it something that’s worth putting on my resume?

Jamie Coleman, MBA, HRG (Hill Repeats Graduate).

I kinda like it. Back on 12/23, just two days before Christmas, I joined Coach Don and maybe 5 other people for the hill repeats graduation ride. (I was surprised we had that many, given how close it was to Christmas!) Rather than take the trips up and down Mt. Eden, our Graduation Ride headed the other direction down Foothill, back through some very nice neighborhoods. The ride was short, sweet, and a lot of fun. I got to chat with people that I don’t normally see (about half of the riders weren’t on this season’s team), and it was another beautifully sunny day.

The one long-ish climb on the route wasn’t too bad, although I was vaguely nauseous from not eating anything all morning (yay me!). The view from the top was great though; a hill that I hadn’t been up before. Everything was pretty much downhill from there on. A few riders took an alternate route back to add in one more hill, but I stuck to my psuedo-accurate route sheet and headed back up Foothill with two other gals from the group. We had a bit of a scare on the way home. A driver merging onto the road completely ignored signals and right-of-way and nearly plowed into one of the riders in our group. We know the driver saw us…its like she looked right at her and then decided to keep going anyway, despite much screaming and waving. Thankfully no one was hurt, but that’s two rides this year where I’ve had/seen close calls with cars (not counting the accident of course). People really need to get out of their tunnel vision!

Everyone arrived back at the parking lot safe (if not slightly shaken), and headed out for our last formal Chipotle run of the season. I can hardly believe we are far enough along in training to be officially done with repeats…let’s just hope we still get some Mexican food regularly!

Motion Based ride data

No One Here but Me and the Deer

I missed hill repeats last Sunday. There are a lot of things I could blame my absence on…arm, cold, general dislike of descents…but in reality, Charles knocked the plug for the alarm clock out of the wall. I have no natural affinity for waking up early, so it was full on 10am before I discovered the issue; much too late to get ready and show up for repeats. Even knowing that the possibility of me waking up sans-alarm did not exist, I was pretty bummed to have missed the event. As penance (and because I seriously need the extra training), I decided to take my bike out at lunchtime on Monday and do repeats solo.

Monday morning in San Jose was bright and sunny. Apparently the sun has limits on how far it can shine though, as the sky was completely overcast and dreary by the time I reached the park at the base of Mt. Eden. This, of course, meant that I managed to under-layer once again…but not so much as to prevent me from riding, just enough to make me moderately uncomfortable. As far as clothes go, I just can’t seem to win.

In addition to being cloudy, the area was damp (bordering on wet) from rain that had rolled through the night before. I thought to turn back – shaky descents on dry ground are bad enough – but decided to make at least one trip up the hill before heading home. Heck, I was already wearing the gear…might as well make use of it. And so I set out to climb. The road was basically empty. I saw one other cyclist (or what I assume that blur of blue and green spandex on wheels was) as he blew by me on the hill, never to appear again (I’m guessing he went down the backside as opposed to turning around for repeats). And then I saw the deer.

At first, there was just one. It jumped into the road on my first climb and bounded across before I could really react to what I saw. Coming back down extremely cautiously due to the water, I caught sight of a white tail flicker headed into the bushes. Fortuitously, I had brought my camera thinking that I might take a few shots from the summit on a nice “sunny” day. Those didn’t really work out, but I did manage to catch this guy on my first descent.

Temporarily distracted, I ended up doing two more laps up Mount Eden looking for more deer. Hey, there were no cars, no cyclists and fuzzy animals. I’m pretty sure that’s just about as good as hill repeats get! On the second trip down, I skid to a stop just in time to watch a whole family of deer walk through the woods. I had a hard time getting a decent photo of all six, but the one below has four and is reasonably clear. Can you spot ’em all?

The third descent yielded no deer, nor any reasonably cute substitute (No the guy driving the Hummer in the middle of the road didn’t do it for me. Bastage.). Pair that with some really tired legs and an increasingly clouding sky and I decided to head for home. I figure that three repeats all the way to the top is fairly close in effort to the 4-5 partials I would have gotten out with Coach Don. I threw the bike in the truck and drove straight to Chipotle. Yeah, I took it to go (not so fun eating solo), but it was phenomenally tasty knowing that I earned it.

Garmin Goodness

I finally managed to not only get the Garmin out of the truck, but to get the data uploaded to MotionBased. Sure, it doesn’t sound hard, but the MB site doesn’t have great documentation on usage with a Mac. It took me a good two hours of browsing (and cursing) to find a support page that got my the right plugin for Leopard and Safari 3. I also spent another 2 hours playing with CSS to get the table formats to show up right on the site. (Check here for the definitions of CSS should you happen to be a non-uber geek and really want to know what I’m talking about. Gah, I am such a nerd.) Just goes to show how much I love you all!

Mini-clips of data were back-updated to the two most recent rides below. If you want to play at being a gadget geek or a cycling-data dork, be sure to click through the links to the MotionBased site. You’ll find just as many numbers and charts as your little heart desires. I’m sure the uninitiated are wonder what one might see at such a site. A quick preview:

The Bike goes Up…and Down… Click to enlarge (Elevation v Distance)



And the Heart Explodes while Going Up (aka Elevation and Heartrate v Distance)



There’s also a nifty Google map of the route (which I cannot save as .gif/.jpg for some unknown reason), and loads of other charts and things to play with. I should be able to get the most recent ride up tomorrow, complete with data. It’s actually already on MotionBased, but what fun is the data without the storytelling, right? Anyway, if you’re ever really bored, you now know where you can kill some time. Enjoy!

My Muscles are Revolting

Originally drafted 11/25 and magically not posted until now

No, I am not freakishly deformed (although the elbow is not particularly pleasant to view)…I just came back from a week off to do hill repeats with…dundundun…no cold weather gear! I know, some of you are reading this from the North East snowstorms thinking “what do these California people know about cold anyway?” Well, I think it is precisely that prejudice that made me think I could do yet another ride in sub 50 degree weather with nothing more than a pair of bike shorts and a long sleeved jersey…which, in turn, contributed to my leg muscles having a full on revolt after about an hour of riding. California isn’t supposed to be cold dangit! I am not a “winter jacket at 60 degrees” wimp yet!

Overall, hill repeats went well. Rather than doing our typical trips up and down Mt. Eden, Coach Don had us venture out the other direction and do a longer, rolling climb instead. I think it was intended to be a reward for showing up on a holiday weekend! The ride was nice; rolling hills, a stream, wildlife. Scenic. The kind of route that makes me wish I rode with a camera (but heck, if I can’t buy leg warmers…what are the chances I’ll bring a camera?). We did have to brave 5 wooden bridges, which were especially torturous on the elbow (10 really, since the route was an out-and-back), but other than that it was an enjoyable – albeit cold – trip.

I did have a bit of a scare on the return. Keep in mind that I am still pretty shaky on descents. My accident was on a downgrade, and this ride was the first real trip downhill I’ve had to do since then. Things started well. I got into the drops OK, and was pretty comfortable supporting my body weight on the crappy shoulder. I think I topped out somewhere around 25 mph (I know…I used to be such the speed demon…give it time), when I hit a giant seed pod from one of the trees in the middle of the road. Now, these pods are pretty large – probably 6 inches around – and are bright orange to boot…but my reaction time was slow and my front tire plowed into the thing. The bike shimmied and fishtailed, and I had a vision of flying over the guardrail (I was right next to a silver traffic railing over the stream), but ultimately I was able to stay in control. Woohoo!

And that was what put my muscles into full-on revolt mode. The cold weather plus that little shot of adrenaline, and I just couldn’t stop shaking. My legs started vibrating and no amount of long, deep breaths, counting, or logically explaining to myself that these things happen would make them stop. I managed to pull into the parking lot at the park and unclipped without issue. After a quick chat with Ron, I decided that I am probably not genetically deficient at biking and the cycling gods probably don’t really hate me. And the best way to prove that would definitely be to take the optional trip up Mt. Eden. Avoiding things doesn’t make them less scary, and there aren’t many bike trails that don’t have some kind of hills.

Only half the team set out to do the last (only) repeat (hey – Coach Don did make it optional), and I’m proud to say I was able to do the entire trip up without stopping. We recouped at the top and were chatting about spin class when we spotted the rest of the team rounding the last bend. It was definitely cool to see everyone voluntarily challenge themselves – even after initially planning to opt-out. One of those “Go team!” moments, for sure.

An uneventful descent, one dropped chain, and 4 miles later I was back at the truck and en route to Chipotle. Mmmmm Mexican food that I can honestly say I earned. Guess the season really has started! Gear clinic on Thursday, I promise to have all the winter pieces for the next ride.

FYI – The Garmin did make the trip. Distances and times to be updated once I get the darn thing outta the truck!

Update 12/11 – Woot for Data!
MotionBased Data: Hill Repeats 11/25

Total Time (h:m:s) 2:06:45 8:11 pace
Moving Time (h:m:s) 1:33:48 6:04 pace
Distance (mi ) 15.45
Moving Speed (mph) 9.9 avg. 34.9 max.
Elevation Gain (ft) +1,517/ -1,519

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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