Saturday, April 23, 2011

What have I become?

The talons of the dark side dug deeper. A nasty weather day, Saturday was. I had wanted to ride 4-5hrs. That's not the most healthy thing to do when it is snaining outside with temps hoovering just above freezing (snain is snow and rain mixed). So I sought a mountain for a session of interval work. It seems the weather is always less of a distraction when suffering all-out VOmax intervals. The weather becomes irrelevant, actually. The scary thing is, I sought a mountain not for bike intervals, but running intervals. What have I become?

The only 12% grade mountain within an hour's drive of my house is Pack Monadnock. I got my first taste of hill running last weekend. Perhaps it was a bit too intoxicating. I wanted more. I figured the pavement would be warm enough that even above 2000ft, there would be no frozen accumulation. Heading east on Rt 101, I started noticing cars with thick conformal coatings of frozen crud. That sucked. Nobody lives above 2000ft in this area. That meant if there was that much snow at lower elevations, the summit road would almost certainly be unsuitable for my plans. My fears proved true. There was an inch of ball bearing sleet at the base of the summit road. There was no way I could effectively run on that. I brought a mountain bike along too for a few wheeled intervals. So now what? Points north and west would be even worse. With only 4-5 hours of training in the bank so far this week, I had to come up with something.

Miller State Park, base of summit road.

Then I remembered last fall when I attended a conference in Waltham. Prospect Hill was right there. Not nearly as steep and gaining less than half the vertical, but it might have to suffice for today. Prospect gains ~350ft in about 0.8mi.  I began the painful journey back down Rt 101/101A and then south to Waltham.

It poured mightily on the way. I couldn't help but think about those doing the Quabbin Road Race today. I contemplated if I should salute their hardiness or scoff at their foolishness. I heard nothing but stories of misery out of that race and one of the highest attrition rates ever. I was going to do something "easy," running up and down a small hill at a quarter the wind speed without worrying about "aero" clothing.

My warmup run to the summit took 7:54min. Hmm, that was a minute faster than rollerskis last October. Didn't seem too hard. I very carefully ran back down. I hate running downhill, and I resisted the urge to walk. I put my manual transmission in low gear and let the RPMs wind way up. I had to look goofy.  Too bad human bodies aren't designed with regenerative braking like a Prius.

Next time up was for real. The steepest parts are near the bottom. My Garmin was spitting out numbers of 18%. Doubtful it was really that steep, but surely bits were over 12%. I immediately found myself completely redlined, something that takes a few minutes on a bicycle. I reached the top in 6:20. That was a lot faster than on rollerskis. And I probably was carrying 5 lbs of water in my now saturated long layers I was wearing.

I decided to do one more on foot. Interestingly, even after gaining some confidence on the first descent, I found it took me longer to run back down than run up! That is most definitely not like a bike. Running up is pure mental fortitude, not a whole lot of technique to think about. A bike has slightly more technique, such as pedal circles, not squares, spin or mash, and whether to stand or stay seated. My freewheel doesn't work very well running back down. I need to work on that.

Number two went well, so I decided to run up one more time. This one took 6:48. Was starting to feel it.  My calves were getting a little tweaky when I got back to the bottom. I had 10km on the odometer. I was happy. Time to switch over to the bike. I thought perhaps two times up would be enough, as I already had 20 minutes of VOmax effort sapped from my body.

My bike intervals on a hardtail with 25psi knobby tires fell in the 5:24 to 5:38 range. Only a minute slower than running. I didn't start slowing down until my fourth bike interval. That made seven 5.4-7.9 minute VOmax efforts in one session. Surely one of my best intensity workouts in a long time.

Note blue speed in first half. Running up was no slower than
running back down, unlike biking in the last half.

On foot, my HR would spike more quickly and stay at a higher level. I averaged 10bpm higher on my foot intervals than bike intervals. No wonder runners turned cyclists are so strong. XC skiing provides the same benefit, but with a lot less impact. I will probably work more of these sessions into my routine in the coming months. It will be interesting to see how this impacts my cycling performance. It could go either way.

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