The weather has remained dry and I’ve heard that rainfall has been half what would usually be expected in January. There’s also little expectation of rain for the remainder of the month which is excellent news for the mountain biker. I thought it was time to start training for the coming season when I have one particularly big challenge in mind. I’ll climb around 4,500 feet in an off road ride of, perhaps, 40 miles which will be equal to a road ride of at least double that distance, so I need to ensure I’m well trained. Riding the same off road lap repeatedly is a good form of training because you can time each circuit, trying to keep your time consistent as you tire. I used the purpose built trails on our local hill, Healey Nab, choosing a circuit I know well with a long climb, a long descent and a final climb back to the start/finish. I could have started at the high point so that each circuit was just a descent and climb back up but I reached the circuit part way up the climb so started my lap from that point. I decided to ride 5 laps with no stopping.
It’s very easy when you’re fresh on the first lap to set a fast time which can’t be equalled later so I made sure I held back a little. The trail was completely dry in places and the mud which did exist generally had the consistency of potter’s clay, deforming rather than splattering under my wheels. This was nice riding and a real treat at this time of the year. It will need more sunshine and warmth to dry things up completely. I lapped in 10 minutes and 7 seconds. For my second lap I maintained similar effort, judged by my rate of breathing and the feeling in my legs but was slightly disappointed with 10 minutes 17 seconds. I know that I was less than 2% slower but I’m often more consistent than this.
In 5 lap sessions I’ve often found a Third Lap Syndrome. I’ve settled into the ride by this time and perhaps not concentrated enough on my pace, so lap 3 has been the slowest of all. I was giving this more thought today, allowing my breathing to increase as I started to tire and managed 10 minutes 6 seconds. I maintained my performance on lap 4 to record 10 minutes 7 again! 3 out of 4 laps all within a second of each other. It would be easy to imagine that it’s all about the climbing on a circuit like this and certainly most of the time is spent ascending but I kept thinking about my downhill techniques as well. It would be easy to lose 10 seconds or more by riding less smoothly. I made sure that I pushed the bike into the surface on corners to give me as much grip as possible and, of course, speed on the turns. I made certain I was in the correct gear, especially whilst climbing. Being in too high a gear exhausts the muscles more quickly but you equally don’t want to be spinning the pedals too quickly with less torque (turning force) since torque multiplied by frequency equals power and power means speed.
I felt the effort on the final lap but sped round in 9 minutes 55 seconds. Yes, I could have set a faster 5 lap time with even better consistency but I was very pleased with my ride and got a buzz from working hard for the best part of an hour. It also took my about 40 minutes to ride to the circuit and back so was a very good training session.