…and a few more things are starting to fall in to place or build momentum: eg. equipment, nutrition strategies, overnight stopping points and most importantly, training.
Several times recently, I’ve been asked the question: “ So how do you train for this?” With the collection of colds and minor ailments I’ve been putting up with the past few months, I’ve been sorely tempted to quote the old Irish joke of “well, I wouldn’t start from here!” given the planned training time and sessions that have gone by the wayside. Nevertheless, regarding my projected fitness level, there’s a clear difference between not quite being in 100% condition and seriously underprepared - so I’m going ahead with the planned 18th May start date.
For those that are interested in such matters, I’m building a ‘base’ with 3-4 aerobic endurance rides a week, interspersed on alternate days with interval training sessions – the latter being held on a variety of local hills which take between 1 and 7 minutes to climb at close to maximum sustainable power. The aerobic endurance rides are 75-90 minutes duration. Ideally these sessions should occasionally be 3-4 hours in length but lower back gremlins have prevented me from doing those kinds of rides for more than 10 years now. Fortunately, I can still get most of the training effects that I need from the shorter rides.
I’ve cut back on gym-based strength training to allow a small drop in upper body mass and improve my power to weight ratio. Although that upper body strength (and core function) is essential when aiming to ride up 25-30% inclines, I’m hoping the residual conditioning from the last few years of training - mainly as a track sprinter at Masters level - will stand me in good stead. It’s all relative though as I’m dropping from 77kg (in January) to a projected 72kg in May along with a small but significant drop in body fat of 12% to 8-9%.
The biggest challenge from a training perspective, however, is mimicking and preparing for the specificity of the cumulative fatigue. Not just the multiple hill efforts (up to 12 in any one day) but also the daily/overnight recovery process.
As much as some of the particularly ‘savage’ climbs instill an uneasy ‘fear factor’, I believe the biggest hurdle to overcome will be the daily recovery requirements and in some ways that can’t be reproduced until the 'event' itself.
I am planning two dress rehearsals over the next two weeks of one half day of 5 climbs and one full day of 10 climbs to test out my current physical level as well as practice logistics. This will include driving stints in between climbs and evaluating the turnaround time of parking, unloading, warming up etc.
All of which will be important fact finding missions but I’m very much aware that come Day 3 or 4 onwards of the route itself, I’ll be going into the unknown!