It’s important to me to keep my riding exciting and I have a few techniques which add interest. Timing the whole of a ride keeps you focussed and working hard but you can equally time sections and allow periods of relative rest. Sometimes I create a challenge by targeting a usually uphill segment, which is difficult to clear without a foot down or a stop. I get a gratifying sense of triumph if I make it. My last ride involved riding to an area of woodland then completing 10 laps of a circuit of just over a mile. It has a tough 270 foot climb and superb downhill so was great to ride as well as deeply satisfying to accomplish. I’d drunk plenty of water during the ride and afterwards and think this probably helped me to recover well from my efforts. 3 days later and I was ready for another ride.
I first heard the term “Fartlek” on the app. Strava when my brother used the term to title his runs. I investigated to find that, as well as containing the lovely word fart, it is an unstructured form of training. The term is Swedish and means “Speed play”. You can break the activity, in my case a mountain bike ride, down into sections and play with your speed. You will put a big effort in on some parts and recover or go far more slowly on others. You may plan your fast and slow parts in advance, as I did today, or just play it by ear. Fartlek is an interesting word where the first syllable means speed and the second means play. I was born, not in Lancashire where I’ve lived for most of my life, but in the neighbouring county of Yorkshire. Before the year 1066 the north of England formed the Danelaw, ruled separately to southern England and controlled by Norsemen who had raided initially, then settled later. Many words of Norse origin are still used in Yorkshire and the word “play” is often substituted with “Laik”. You might say “I’m going to laik with my dog”, for instance. Or more probably in a Yorkshire dialect “I’m bahn to laik wi mi mut.” So nearly a thousand years after the demise of the Danelaw in 1066 the Yorkshire word for “play” is still very close to the Swedish word “lek”. Admittedly “fart” doesn’t translate in the same way. The last Norwegian ruler, Harald Hadrada, was defeated and killed at Stamford Bridge near York on 25th September 1066 by the forces of Harold Godwinson who had claimed the throne of England. News reached him that William of Normandy had landed on the south coast and after a long march he was himself killed at the Battle of Hastings on 14th October. Our current Queen, Elizabeth II, can trace her ancestry back to William.
Today I chose a familiar ride to the top of Great Hill which is 15.75 miles in length with 1,426 feet of ascent. I noticed that my ascent of a section which I used on my last ride, 10 times in fact, was not particularly fast compared to other riders so in a Fartlek style I’d ride it as fast as I could. My second hard part would be to climb a rough ascent of peat hags and rocks. Getting to the top is very hard and needs full commitment. On my way towards the hills I rode alongside some small reservoirs and although I started fairly slowly I quickly decided to make it another fast section. On Strava it’s entitled “Pot head car park to wooden stile”. Without the use of any narcotics I managed the 9th fastest time ever of 410 riders and gained a Strava trophy. My next climb was quite damp after overnight rain and I was slightly disappointed to find that my time, though my fastest ever by a good margin, only elevated me to 159th of 862 riders. I continued to the top of Brinscall Woods for my very hard section and managed to get up without stopping, which pleased me. I was well on my way to the summit at 1,251 feet and entered low cloud above 1,000 feet. It was a lonely scene on top.
I now had the prospect of my favourite downhill. It’s so varied under the wheels incorporating just about everything a mountain biker could want. The slippery surface had me slithering around at times but I kept it sensible and finished by climbing and descending my local hill, Healey Nab. It was a great ride and the bigger efforts not only provided excitement but are good training. I had to recover from the hard work and still had some energy left towards the end. I would recommend a Fartlek training session if you haven’t tried it already.