By analysing my last 2 mountain bike rides using the app. Strava I found that I was riding rather slowly for much of the time. I’d like to improve my fitness so this clearly isn’t good enough. Last time out I was obviously still fresh towards the end of the ride because this was the only point when I set some fast times. I firmly believe that just going out for a ride will keep you fit but to improve your fitness you need something more targeted. I didn’t feel fresh enough, today, for a monumental effort but knew I needed to do something. I chose to ride 3 laps of my local hill, Healey Nab, where I’d ride one lap very quickly then continue, still at a good pace. Tiring yourself during a ride, which you still need to complete, should help your body to get used to recovering without resting. This is an asset in cycling but especially in mountain biking, where steep, hard climbs force you to use maximum or near maximum power.
I rode to the top of the hill, working hard most of the time, and completed a fairly energetic lap of the top loop which took 2 minutes and 18 seconds in today’s muddy conditions. I then set off down the hill for my fast lap and put a big effort in from the start. There are plenty of opportunities to pedal hard, even though the gradient generally takes you downwards. As I climbed I mused about the best way to pace myself. Spinning the pedals quickly promotes breathing whilst turning them forcefully stresses the muscles. There must be an ideal combination of speed of rotation and torque which will also be dependent on the length of the effort. I’m sure that science could determine an ideal level for speed and torque but all I had was the sound of my breathing and the feel of my legs. I only know that I reached the trail head for the second time breathing heavily with muscles which had worked hard. My time of 10 minutes 19 seconds was around a minute faster than each of the 5 laps which I rode recently during training and my fastest since August when dry conditions would have made the lap naturally easier.
I didn’t rest for long in order to make sure I was riding whilst recovering. I even used a steeper ascent to work my legs even harder, though I was now riding at a more steady pace. I used an exciting “off piste” downhill on my way back home. It uses part of the intended ascent as a downhill so can only be ridden when the area is quiet. I’d been surprised to find no other riders on the hill today. I certainly put some work in today and will continue to work hard this winter in an effort to improve my fitness.