I read an article on Active.com that was a little boring for the most part, except for item number five, on the “Ten Training Fundamentals for Cyclists“… It pretty much covers how I learned to ride hard in one simple sentence:
5. Do what sucks.
You hate climbing because it’s hard for you. You should climb—because it’s hard for you.
Admittedly, on one hand I really don’t think climbing sucks. It’s not a day at the beach but it doesn’t suck either. On the other, it is hard (unless I’m skinny enough to make my wife complain, then I can fly uphill – but having a complaining wife does suck). Another thing that does suck is interval training on the turbo. It sucks, there’s no way around that for me. While I was pretty fast over the last three years or so, I’ve always wondered if I could be faster by throwing in interval training in the off-season. This year, more than a month before I read that article, I decided to do what which sucks and I embraced the suckiness of trainer intervals. It will work, I will enter this season better off than I was last year, I can already feel it. Truth be told, even if the benefits of interval training weren’t well documented, the mental boost in confidence alone will be significant…
Once I get to cycling season, within the first week of Spring, I always hit the few hills we have, hard… If I’m cruising along at 20 mph, I speed up on the way up every hill on my regular routes and spin a little easier on the way down the back to recover. Doing this religiously has made me faster than anything else I’ve tried (other than no-brainer stuff like “clip-less pedals”). It’s like working on climbing and intervals at the same time. The end result is that when I’m with the group, I can out-climb all but the racers. It’s getting to a point where my friends don’t want me on the front coming to a decent incline because I’ll dust them. This isn’t perfect, of course, because you’re kind of a dick if you drop the group every time you come to a hill so I’ve had to learn to temper myself when I’m not alone. I will say though, it is nice to be able to hold back and feel like you’re resting while you’re climbing a hill.
That said, the downside is that it hurts. A lot. It tightens up the legs after a while, burns the lungs and makes my heart pound like a jackhammer…but that’s how we get faster. By doing that which sucks.
There’s a lot of climbing to get to the high ground and traffic is always sparse on the extra mile but I want to be the fastest, most fit me I can be, given the time I have (without turning it into a job). This is what it takes.
(Special thanks to Epic Gran for paving the way to the “a lot of climbing to get to the high ground” line. I like that one)