My wife, Ali, and I are going away next week for a holiday which is likely to be a smorgasbord of cultural delights. So why should I need to train? Well this time I’m not taking a mountain bike and it’s unlikely that I’ll engage in any aerobic activities for the entire week. What I want to do this week is to get plenty of hard exercise done so that I can take next week as a week of rest before returning to my usual activity level. Even my return may be compromised, though, because I’ve been called to do jury service for the 2 weeks after we get back. This is something I’ve never been called to do before and I’m not looking forward to it. Some people who’ve done it have told me they enjoyed it but I just don’t see it as my kind of thing. The temptation is to go in wearing a Bob Marley T shirt with the legend “Set the captives free!” and see if they send me home.
Today I wanted to do a decent ride with plenty of climbing so decided to ride Great Hill. Riding to the top and back will always involve over 1,000 feet of climbing but to increase the ascending I rode over Healey Nab both outbound and on the way home. I used the steepest, most direct climb of the Nab and rode the rough gravel road down the back. Humps have been made to divert rain water and they provide excellent jumps for a mountain biker. Climbing to my high point at around 1,250 feet was uneventful but now I had a long and fabulous downhill to come.
I started out with no particular plan apart from to enjoy it but as soon as I clicked the stopwatch the inevitable happened. I found myself putting the effort in. Early on I didn’t seem to be working especially hard but gradually built the effort up as I descended. The dry, still conditions, with the temperature at around 16 celcius, were perfect. I also found that, since it was still only 9.30 am, the trails were clearer than I’ve seen them in a long time. I only had to slow once for a dog walker the whole way down. This descent is now very familiar to me but it’s worth reminding myself just how special it is. The number of corners, drop offs and other obstacles where you need to check your speed are too numerous to count. There’s a long, downhill gravel track to push yourself hard on and the thrills are there from top to bottom. I knew by the last undulating section that I’d put some hard work in and was rewarded with my best ever time of 13 minutes 20 seconds, 11 seconds faster than previously.
Over Healey Nab I was determined to improve my performance on one particular section which I’ve been having trouble with. It descends and can best be described as lumpy. I’ve worked out that it’s not the bumps so much as the dips which have me reaching the limit of my bikes 140/130 mm of suspension travel. Having read the coaching section of last months Mountain Bike Rider magazine (MBR) I thought I’d take the advice to get my body low to the bike with my legs well flexed. I tried this on my last attempt and gave it some more thought this time. I kept the bike wheels in far better contact with the ground than on some previous and rather dangerous runs. It felt easily manageable though I had taken some speed off on the approach. I need to go back and ride the section several times, gradually increasing the speed, to perfect it.
I climbed 1,703 feet in 16.22 miles and hope to get 2 similar rides in before we go away. I also want to take the boat out a few times so I should have a hard week, in a good way.