Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Big Gear

So last evening WB dished out the following workout for me to tackle. I went into it all confident and feeling like it would be easy...and when I was done I'd been humbled. Not as easy as it sounds...if you even think it sounds easy. See for yourself...

Big Gear Bike ride
The aim of the big gear is to get you pushing a bigger gear without it really costing you - it’s not supposed to toast you, just get you going a little faster. The time checks from your ride this weekend [on the Fairlee bike course] tell me what I kind of thought before – the time you spend on the hills isn’t that significant compared to the time spent on the flats. You’re more likely to save time by riding faster everywhere apart from the hills.

So, the big gear is all about gaining functional bike strength. You need to find a stretch of road that isn’t too hilly.

Ride for 10-15 minutes, spinning, just to make sure everything is working and you are warmed up. Have a drink, and get to a good flat stretch of road, and find the gear that you would normally ride so that you can keep your cadence at 70-90, and your heart rate at where you want it to be when you’re racing on the flats. Ride in this gear with this intensity for 6 minutes. Back off for 2 minutes, drink have a breather, turn round so you’re on the flat still, and move your gear to the one harder than you would normally ride. Now you have to concentrate – try and hold the same speed (at least). Check your heart rate and cadence. Don’t let the HR blow up, but it’s ok if it goes up. Don’t mash the cadence, it shouldn’t be that much lower. Do this for 6 minutes, sit up for 2 minutes. On the last repeat, crank it up one more gear. Again, speed is the same or higher, cadence is still good, HR will be higher. Hold for six minutes. Sit up, drink and warm down for at least 10 minutes. Stretch off the bike and run for 5 minutes.

WELL...I was thinking that I spend a lot of time in my biggest ring, because Amelia has only two rings and when I want to go fastest that's where I go. But I realized last night that I definitely need to work on holding my cadence steady. I know this in my brain but I guess I hadn't realized until I watched my bike computer for 40 minutes that I vary wildly from about 50 rpms to 100 rpms. Not so efficient.

I had to do 4 repeats because the place I chose to ride was about 10 minutes away - and once I got there, I kept riding in the direction away from by the time I was done with the third repeat, I was as far away from home as I ever was on the whole ride. Knowing this, I used the first repeat to experiment and see where my comfortable spin at 80 rpms first, I was sure I could handle two rings down from the smallest ring (on the rear cassette, for you bikers newbier than I)...but it turned out that I could only swing a cadence of about 70 in this ring and it was HARD. Crap...I wouldn't be able to go any higher.

So I backed off to the 5th smallest ring and started the first repeat there. Not too bad. Cadence of 80, able to hold about 20 mph on the flat.

The second repeat was a little tougher but I could still do it and my HR only went as high as 75-78%... cadence of 80 rpms, avg. 22 mph. Cool.

The last one is where things got ugly. I tried to hold it for as long as possible but there were a few small hills on this stretch of mostly flat road and I dropped as low as 55 rpms at one point. OUCH. I have sore muscles today that I only today learned that I have. I was able to hold about a 70 cadence for most of the 6 minutes and my speed fluctuated from 18 mph to 24 there's where I'll be able to judge my progress, or lack thereof, from now on. Isn't self discovery fun? I'm taking it easy tonight, taking tomorrow off, doing an easy ride on Saturday and will race my first sprint of the season Sunday. I feel good about it...

One thing I've really noticed lately is that my HR and aerobic fitness are not limiting me much at all. It's all strength that I need to build right now. I was going as hard as my legs could go on the last repeat and my HR wasn't even to 80%...or ever NEAR my lactate threshold. I suspect my heart and lungs are stronger from swimming and all the breath control stuff we do... but also that my strength is lacking in relation. Nice to know what direction to focus though, eh? I feel good about it.

Next time I get on my bike, I'll just picture Lisa Bentley on her Cervélo and imagine that someday I'll get where I want to be...


Blogger Bolder said...

good choice in Lisa Bentley.

definitely an inspiration.

she's no Amelia Earheart mind you, but maybe she just needs a good quote attributed to her...

4:51 PM GMT-5

Blogger Chris said...

I'm not sure why, but Lisa Bentley is one of my favorite female triathletes.

Big gear work is something that I desperately need to do. But nice job with your workout. And what are you talking about? Your speeds look plenty fast to me!

8:52 AM GMT-5

Blogger Barb said...

Would 'Big Gear' replace hill training or maybe be alternated with?

10:45 AM GMT-5

Blogger Spence said...

Barb - I'm not sure. I think the muscle groups are slightly different and with cadence you're working on building a faster get speed when you can turnover at the same rate as you move into higher gears. With hill training, I imagine you're less concerned with turnover and more with power. But they're so closely related I'm not sure there's too much of a distinction. Anyone else care to weigh in?

11:00 AM GMT-5

Blogger JC said...

Oooh, Spence, I am totally stealing your workout. That sounds like a wonderfully blissful kinda pain.

Good luck this Sunday. I'll send you good vibes. Stay cool and hydrated in the heat.

11:31 AM GMT-5

Blogger Cliff said...


Great workout. I gotta borrow that.

I find that too with my bike. I am weak in strength. My HR is nice and low but i can't push my cadence up.

In Going Long, Joe Friel caution about cadence below 60 as it might do damage to the knees. I have done that before when I climb hills.

2:17 PM GMT-5


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