Sunday, 31 July 2011

Hills, hills and more flipping hills

This week I've spent more time pointing upwards than I think I will in a long weekend in the Pyrenees.  It's not all been cycling though - the week breaks down into 1 turbo trainer session, 2 hilly rides on the bike, and 2 days walking in the south Shropshire hills with t'son.

So, in predictable and chronological order a brief account.  The trainer session was on Monday thank God, as the week could only get better from there.  One of my favourite, no that's a lie, one of the most effective preparations for cycling uphill for protracted periods is to raise the front wheel of the trainer, bang on a high resistance, and sit there holding a medium-high power output until you're so tired it feels like you've not slept for a couple of weeks.  The key things you're developing are muscular endurance (which can be very challenged at surprisingly low levels of power), and lower back strength.  In fact, going back to the muscular endurance point, a) this is entirely different to stamina, and b) contrary to what many cyclists think, lack of muscular endurance is the main reason they get cramp on hilly rides - not dehydration, not lack of electrolytes, but simply not enough practising making your muscles work really hard for an extended period (30 mins or more), and repeatedly.  The other things will certainly exacerbate the effects, and in maybe 20% of cases cause the cramp, but in the other 80%, they're probably blameless.  Anyway, that was Monday - an hour of discomfort.

Tuesday and Thursday saw early evening hilly rides.  The weather is undoubtedly helping, but (dudes), I'm really feeling the road vibe at the moment.  The great thing about this week's rides were that they both local and short (33 and 34 miles respectively), but I managed to find new, interesting roads to go down too.  Thursday was the highlight - to my shame and chagrin I'd never gone up Pym's Chair the difficult way (via Jenkin Chapel), it being the highest point in Cheshire, higher than Cat & Fiddle (of last week's blog fame) by a handful of metres.  The climb out of Kettleshume up to Pym's Chair is tough, but the one from Jenkin Chapel is a mile of real, genuine difficulty.  It reduced me to the granny gear for the first time in ages, and even with that I was verging on hyperventilation.  Tough but fun.  The descent from there takes you through Goyt Valley, which is another scarcely known wonder of the Peaks, up through Derbyshire Bridge, and back to the currently omnipresent Cat & Fiddle.  There were more hills, including the Brickworks through Pott Shrigley, which is another cracker, but those were the most notable.  Do you know what?  I suddenly realise how damn lucky I am to have all this fantastic cycling country on my doorstep.

I can't really remember Tuesday to be honest.  I remember the bit that was new - turning right at the bottom of the Gun Hill climb (when done the "wrong" way round - ie ascending from the Wincle side) in Meerbrook, and emerging in the middle of Leek a few miles later.  I then tackled the climb up to Biddulph Moor, which is surprisingly hard, and the bit that hurt the most, though the pain was entirely self-inflicted - I attempted to go up Bosley Cloud in the big ring.  I managed it, but I must have been down to 45 rpm on the pedals - lactic acid-a-go-go.

Something that has been pleasantly lacking just recently - possibly because I've been sticking to the back lanes, not that that makes loads of difference on occasion - is Bad Behaviour from drivers.  This weekend though I've chalked up a new experience - road rage from a driver when I've been walking on the road.  Astonishing.  Not once, but twice, from the same one, when he was travelling in different directions.  "Get off the f***ing road" he yelled at me and Seb when we were strolling, rucksack-laden, into Craven Arms this morning.  I had to look down to make sure there wasn't a bicycle between my legs, as that's the normal cause of such an intemperate attitude.  But no, we were definitely on Shank's Pony.  I let it go the first time, but on his way back, to Seb's amusement/embarrassment/surprise/admiration (delete as appropriate), I let rip with a brief advice involving travel and procreation of my own.  I almost hoped he'd turn his car round and ask that I repeat myself, as my dander was up by now, but he was on his own on the return journey, and his bravery levels were accordingly lower.  Scumbag.  As is my tradition in these situations, I shall wish no more evil on him than a nasty groinal irritation for a period of some days.

Right, I'm about to be fed, and I don't know how to save these posts for later, so the account of our yomping and camping is gonna have to wait....

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