Why you should ride repeated circuits.

Back in the day, before my riding companions decided they were too old for mountain biking, we would never ride repeated circuits. Everyone seemed to think it was boring to ride a section of trail more than once but my view always differed. For one thing you can perfect the speed at which you ride a trail because if you make a mistake first time round, you can get it right on subsequent attempts. Another reason, which was my main justification for repeating a circuit 5 times today, is that you can time each circuit and know whether your pace is changing. The fastest way to complete a number of laps will always be to ride them at an even pace, gradually increasing your effort as you tire. You then need to reach the finish line and collapse in an exhausted heap, crying “Never again!” This scenario will perhaps give your pride a boost if you set a fastest ever time and will always provide excellent training.

With all this in mind I rode to Healey Nab today for 5 circuits of the hill top trail. Each lap has approximately 170 feet of ascent and descent in around 0.9 miles of action packed track. Today, after many days of sunshine, the ground was parched. The dust meant that I had to moderate my speed on some of the downhill corners to avoid a loss of grip. Stones were also coming loose from the surface to add to the thrills.

Of course it’s easy enough to talk about maintaining a constant speed but actually achieving this is not so easy. Obviously I timed each lap but to get consistency requires a lot of planning and continual attention. A thinking persons bike ride, then. I’ve noticed previously 2 things which are simple to get wrong. The first is to set off on the first lap, when it will never feel so easy again, and ride a lap which you have no hope of matching subsequently. I moderated my pace at this stage today and completed in 10 minutes 48 seconds. Maybe I didn’t change anything whilst still feeling fresh on lap 2, which I completed 2 seconds slower.

The second important thing I’ve noticed in a 5 lap ride is a Middle Lap Syndrome. I don’t consciously up my effort sufficiently and lap 3 ends up being perhaps my slowest. By listening to my breathing I made sure that I worked harder this time around and maybe put a fraction too much in since my time was 10 minutes 38. This is still a small margin so I was happy enough. Lap 4 and I’d broken the back of the ride. I just needed to keep breathing and allow some tiredness to build up in my muscles, which produced a time of 10 minutes 43. A 12 second window for my first 4 laps look good and the last lap is always going to be unique.

On the last lap I could afford to push myself far closer to exhaustion and frankly I did need a sit down when I’d finished. The knowledge, however, that I didn’t need to ride this way again today, made the lap feel less daunting than it could have been. I finished with my fastest lap at 10 minutes 25. The conclusion could be that I was too slow on the first couple of laps and that I could have saved a good chunk of a minute. Riding each lap at 10 minutes 30 would have saved me 34 seconds but I ended feeling on a high regardless. It had been a really good training session with plenty of excitement on the twisty trails. I now have another trip away from home for 5 or 6 days so will once more compromise my fitness. It’s a small price to pay since we’re going to see our son who now lives in Northern Scotland, some 380 miles away. The weather is due to remain fabulous which will make it even better.

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