Time to train.

I noticed on the app. Strava that I’d only ridden my mountain bike 4 times so far in January so yesterday, the 24th, I knew it was time to train. I like to maintain my fitness year round but this winter has brought us some snow and ice which has impacted on my riding. The weather is milder at last with temperatures in low single figures Celcius which is plenty warm enough to be outside. I thought that I’d ride to Birkacre for some laps of an entertaining circuit but must have been thinking about something because I soon found myself riding along the canal bank to Healey Nab!

The trails here are weather resistant, though often muddy. You can virtually always ride an uninterrupted lap and today was no different. In fact the winds had dried the more exposed area somewhat so it looked good for a 3 lap session. I’m intending to ride 10 laps later in the year as one of my annual challenges. The aim will be to complete the laps at an even pace but leave nothing in the tank at the end. There will be a big element of psychology in such an enterprise. I’ll need to make sure I neither slow nor exhaust myself before the end so my plan is to gradually increase my number of laps ridden and today was my first taste of what’s to come.

I started my effort as soon as I reached the circuit which is half way up the long climb. The first lap appeared to consist of a climb, a level then downhill section and a final climb but on multiple laps there would be no break in the climb. I stopped my watch at the end of each lap and rotated in a tight circle before starting the next lap. First time round it felt tough. I could feel the effort in my muscles even though I was trying to take it easy. I didn’t want to ride my only fast lap first time so didn’t push the pace and completed in 11 minutes 31. It’s impossible to determine how good a time this was since the trail conditions would always have a big impact. I deliberately allowed myself to feel as if I was working harder on the next lap by listening to my breathing. I must have warmed up a little more or something, though, because my muscles felt more relaxed. I was considerably quicker at 11 minutes and 6 seconds.

On lap 3 I knew that it would soon be over so worked hard to keep the pace up. There are many elements which make up fast riding including not slowing over rougher ground. On easier surfaces I ensured that I was rotating the pedals around 90 times per minute whilst still feeling that I was using some force. I finished in 10 minutes 52. These times would not have been great If I’d been in a race. It’s far better to keep the lap times consistent whilst increasing the feeling of effort. The actual power applied through the pedals should be as even as possible and you’re bound to feel more tired as the laps progress.

I’ll probably do something different for my next ride but will soon return to try 5 laps with the aim of being more consistent in terms of time. This time I rode 9.34 miles in 80 minutes with 937 feet of ascent.

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