Went out for a checkup today. I was pretty sure of the prognosis but wanted some confirmation. I haven't had a checkup since last season. There are two places I can go for a checkup during the work week. One is Chestnut Hill near Amherst, the other is Uncanoonuc Mountain in Goffstown. Chestnut is closer, about 12 miles away. Uncanoonuc is about 17 miles away. My legs were still reeling from a hard weekend, so I figured a longer warmup would be good. Uncanoonuc it would be.
So what kind of checkup is this, you ask? Benchmark of fitness. I have many year's history on these two climbs. I usually go to Chestnut, and I have more visits there on fresh legs than Uncanoonuc. Chestnut takes 8-9 minutes to climb, Uncanoonuc takes 5-6 minutes. Guess which one hurts more? It's not the longer one. I wanted to experience some real hurt again, something like Stage Road towards the end of Battenkill.
SteveG and I got in a good warmup on the way with some leg searing openers. Then came exam time. Summit Rd gains nearly 600ft to reach the summit of South Uncanoonuc Mtn. Parts of it are greater than 12% grade. There was an unfavorable wind at the bottom where it is open and not too steep. I gave it a good shot anyway with my Ridley Noah. I reached the summit in 5:40, exactly tying my personal best from August 2008. This PB was a week before Mt Washington when I set my PB on Washington that year too. That was in August. It is only April right now.
I've been feeling pretty good on the bike lately. It is something you just know. A simple timed climb confirms it. Some may say I'm peaking too early. I'd believe that if I was putting in crazy hours on the bike. The months of January and February saw only 4-5hrs per week on the bike, and half of that was recovery pace. The bike hours went up last month after the Rangeley Loppet. I can attribute this level of fitness to two things. The first is several hours of rigorous skiing per week. You can't obtain better cardio stress than skiing up mountains. The other thing I've done a little differently this winter is when I wasn't riding recovery pace, I was riding a big gear at high power. This is not necessarily aerobically intensive. I saved that for the skis. But it surely did put some hurt in the quads. I don't do strength training in a gym. This was the next closest thing I was willing to do. A singlespeed in hilly terrain works well, or repeats on a dirt hill pushing a big gear works too. I did a couple hours per week of this.
So where do I go from here? This kind of fitness is good only for certain things with my skill set. Hillclimbs are one of them. I'm missing Equinox and both Washington's this year. I just may have to see if I can eek out another PB on Ascutney or Whiteface. Mad W/kg for five or thirty minutes also plays well in hilly road races. I was thinking about doing less road racing this year, not that I do many road races anyway. Need to think more about that. Nothing jacks your adrenaline more than contemplating a break move or approaching the finish with others. I love mountain bike racing, which really isn't "racing" in a tactical sense that road racing is. It is more like an individual time trial where considerable handling skill is needed. And therein lies an issue. Even with over 10 years of training, I can still acquire higher levels of fitness. In technical terrain, I seemed to have lost ground in handling skill. Maybe it's just fear of breaking bones getting in the way. I don't know. It's easy to gravitate toward your strengths. It's your comfort zone. I've always been a process driven athlete and need to keep things that way. Chasing results ultimately does not have a happy ending. I think a little exploration outside my comfort zone is needed.