What a surprise!

Today the weather was dismal. It drizzled for most of the day and I had to walk my dog, Freddie, wearing a kagool, in August. Yes, I’m going to blame Global Warming again. This kind of drizzle is a penalty of living near the west coast, with no real hills between ourselves and the sea. If we lived further inland we would have been more likely to have had periods of rain, interspersed with dry spells, which would surely have been preferable. This evening my wife was attending a jewellery making course and the weather had improved to almost, though not quite, dry. I had been champing at the bit to get out so now was my chance. It would have been foolish to ride off road because it would undoubtedly have been slimy so it would have to be a road ride, even if I was still riding a mountain bike.

The problem with a road ride, for me and probably the majority of mountain bikers, is that it will lack the excitement of sliding around, jumping and bashing over obstacles, which we love when off road. The way I’ve found to get some excitement back is to make sure I work hard on a road ride. If I just circulated around a road route there would seem little point in the exercise so I planned a very tough section. I’d ride to the reservoirs and use a steep, 2 stage climb, where I’d push myself to the limit and see how it felt. I took the gentle descent from home to the traffic lights but knew that the climb which followed was a segment on the app. Strava. This knowledge had the predictable effect of making me work hard from the start. It was going to be a Fartlek ride, then.

Fartlek (speed play) is a training method, for runners and cyclists in particular, where you ride at a steady pace all round the route but push yourself to the limit on chosen parts. What you shouldn’t do is stop to recover after the big efforts. You return to your steady pace because this will improve your ability to recover from tougher parts of future activities. I’d almost accidentally chosen my first tough section and pushed the pace up to the ice cream parlour. I wasn’t exhausted but was still glad to reduce the effort, even at this early stage. Later I was slightly disappointed to find that this was only my third fastest time on the segment, until I looked closer to find that, at 1 minute 54 seconds, I was only 2 seconds behind my fastest ever. Not bad considering that the damp ground must have cost me something.

I rode at my steady, though still quite quick pace, to the 2 stage hill which had always been my big target. I intended to give it everything and not worry at all about pacing myself. I got up out of the saddle and sprinted for all I was worth until I could feel lactic acid accumulating in my legs. I backed off at this point and even relaxed a little later on the nearly flat part. Then it was up steeply again and once more I sprinted full out. This time I intended to ride through the lactic acid and could see a farmyard ahead where I’d allow myself to relax. I can only say that his idea seemed impossible to execute. My pace started to drop precipitously and my legs felt completely drained. I had to drop back to a steady pace but didn’t stop, which might have been a more natural reaction.

Although there were several other hills on the return home I didn’t take myself to the limit again but what a surprise. I’d had a great time! Pushing to the limit like this had added a good dose of excitement to what could have been a mediocre ride, if I’d ridden all the way at a steady pace.

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