Interval Training: Hill Repeats

Some years ago, when i was a relative newcomer to the world of cycling in its slightly more obsessional form, i used to ride with two chaps called Nick and Jon. They were a proto-team douche, if you will.

nick was by far the most experienced of the three, and he still rides a lovely F Moser with full campag record. Jon was the most competitive, however it was known that he had, on occasion, dipped a leprous toe into the filthy pondwater of the triathlon. we used to ride up highgate hill sometimes after work, at which point jon raised the topic of ‘hill repeats’. we laughed him out of town. it became a running joke. for example, when out of town and tackling toys hill, we said we’d wait at the top so jon could go go up another 8 times.

how things change. this evening i rode out to belmont hill, a favourite amongst people who live in bristol because of its length and technical changes in gradient. i rode it four times in succession, with just the descents to split it up.

1. 3.41, av 13.3mph, max 21.2mph, av hr 177bpm, max 188bpm
2. 4.16, av 11.5mph, max 20.8mph, av hr 167bpm, max 179bpm
3. 3.58, av 11.9mph, max 20.2mph, av hr 170bpm, max 184bpm
4. 4.40, av 10.3mph, max 16.4mph, av hr 162bpm, max 174bpm

that’s with 3 minutes between each one; time taken to descend, turn around, reset, wait for heart rate to drop to 50% of max, then floor it again. by the the fourth one i’d had enough. i deliberately went harder on the 1st and 3rd, and really, totally floored it all the way up on the 1st one. generally, it was one of life’s more hideous experiences.

so why do them? there’s a suggestion that repeated intervals at or above threshold increases general power and fitness quite significantly. in addition to this, i’ll be riding similar events in the hillclimb season; 5 minute total threshold efforts. i had a suspicion that in some events last year i had a bit leftover in the tank. i am now seeing how close i can get to oxygen debt before i haemorrhage time. using the same hill is also a measure of fitness.

it’s just one of the most horrible forms of exercise though. it requires extremes of willpower to keep pushing on, forcing the gear, riding at pace.

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