Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hill repeats

My friend from the UK came out this weekend, so on the Friday before he came I wanted to get in some decent training.  He was due to arrive around 3.30pm so that excluded the possibility of going a long way out of Zürich, incase for some reason I couldn't get back in time.

I decided therefore to stay in Zürich itself and go up and down and up and down and up and down the Zürichberg many times in succession.  It may not be the most interesting route to take, repeating the same course over and over again, but the advantage is that you can check your time on each ascent and see if you are starting to slow or not.  In addition you can stop whenever you have had enough and know that you only have a short ride back home.

I am not too sure which is better, lots of hill repeats or a very long steady climb, but I think that hill repeats could be the better option for improving performance.  The reason behind my thinking is that you can really attack each climb when you are doing hill repeats and know that you have enough time to recover on the descent ready to attack the hill again.  This means you can train at your lactate threshold on each ascent, whilst with long steady climbs you are not normally attacking the climb so hard, and it is more about pacing yourself.  On the other hand if the event you are doing containing long steady climbs then you also need to be prepared both physically and mentally to keep climbing for extended periods of time.  So a mix of both hill repeats and long steady climbs is probably optimal when training for an event such as La Marmotte.

I left the house and descended to Central, at lake level, ready to start the hill repeats.  From Central I followed the route of the number 6 tram up to the zoo and then did the small additional climb up to Hotel Zürichberg.  This was to be my bread and butter route for the next few hours.  The descent was a lot of fun although you have to be constantly on the ball, with tram tracks, trams and lots of side streets where cars may pull out in front of you to contend with.  After the first ascent and descent I looked at the clock and it took around 30 minutes.  On each subsequent repeat I was determined to keep it to 30 minutes or under.  The first 5 repeats were done with ease, and then it was time for a quick drink stop at the fountain opposite Hotel Zürichberg.  I love the fact that in Switzerland they put drinking fountains almost everywhere.  It is really cycling friendly, as when you are doing day long cycle rides you can't possibly take enough drinking water with you for the entire day.  I am really surprised that other countries like the UK haven't followed suit.

After the brief stop I continued with the repeats.  There were a group of builders that I kept seeing on each ascent/descent and I wonder if they thought they were in some kind of time warp.  I mean the same person passing the same point on the dot every half an hour must seem a little strange.  It would be like "Haven't I seen that guy before doing that same thing every 30 minutes for the last few hours - is it me or are my eyes playing me up?".  I noticed the fatigue starting to set in after ascent 6 was completed, partly physical and partly mental (from lack of change of scenery, like a caged animal), and decided one more repeat would complete my days cycling.  After repeat 7 I descended nice and gently back to the apartment and started preparing for my friend's arrival.  Based on the GPS data the distance covered was 58.41km (with 1,574 vertical metres) in 3 hours 26 minutes and 14 seconds.

The rest of the weekend was spent sightseeing, with a trip to Titlis.  I took Negrita with me and we saw they had a snow park but to get to it involved going on a chair lift.  If you asked in the UK if you could take your dog on a chairlift I am sure they would say no, but the guys on Titlis said sure no problem.  So I took her on it, and held onto her for dear life, to make sure that even if she struggled she would not break free and fall.  There were many Asians and Indians on top of Titlis and a lot of them were trying to take photos of Negrita.  I didn't mind at first but the novelty soon wore off with people asking me to stop all the time, and in the end I just didn't respond.  I am not sure what was so unique about Negrita that warranted so much attention - maybe it was just the fact that people aren't used to seeing a dog on top of a mountain walking on snow.  But here in Switzerland it is nothing unusual of course.  In the snowpark my friend and I did a couple of descents on various sleds and tubes, and I held onto Negrita so she wouldn't fall off.  I am not sure whether she enjoyed it or whether she was scared but I think by now she must realise that I always look out for her and that she doesn't get hurt.  It is like the other week when I was carrying her in a dog bag with one hand trying to stop the bag slipping off my shoulder whilst cycling along.  Some dogs could have been very scared by that, but she didn't seem too phased.  In fact she seems to get more scared of people and vehicles than she does with me on our little escapades.  The day I get ready to go out and she doesn't come running to the door after me will be the day I know that I have pushed her limits too far.

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