Flatten that Hill!

We’ve been blessed with an early Spring.  That means Tri season is upon us.  I got 2 multisport races on the schedule the next 6 weeks.  Both races have a little climbing on the bike route.  Thought it would be a good idea to review my climbing strategy.

This Sunday, I’ll be heading down to Oak Mtn to race in the Double Oak Duathlon.  The race is a 5K run, then 20K bike, and 2.5K run.  The run course is hilly but may be a little short.

My plan is to run the first split about 15sec per mile slower than my open 5k time (+/- 5% drop).  It may be a little slower due to the hills, however.  I don’t want to burn my legs up for the bike..first priority.

The bike course is only 20k long.  It has 530ft elevation gain for an avg gain of 41ft/mile.  That’s hilly around here.  There are enough climbs, albeit short climbs, to warrant a little respect.  The last time I did this race it was 5k run/40k bike/5k run.  It was an early season “C” race.  I went very easy on the bike and ran the same split for 1st and 2nd runs.

Climbing in cycling is a power-to-weight activity.  To climb better, one must lose weight, increase sustainable power or both.  When climbing, the main resistance is gravity.  The rider fights gravity getting up those hills.  If one weighs less, he/she can sustain the same speed with less power at least theoretically.  Conversely, on the flats, it’s all about aerodynamics and pure power.  Flats are relatively weight independent.  Big guys like me like the flats…Nice.

This race I want to push the watts on the bike.  So, at this point, I’ve hopefully run a fast but reserved 1st 5k run split.  I’ll try to bike near threshold.  It’s only 12.4 miles but the hills make it more challenging.  The course is an out-and-back also.  The turnaround is at the bottom of a screaming hill…oops…slam on brakes and bam…back up the hill.  I didn’t have my powermeter the last time I raced here, but I did some training rides here for IM Louisville last year.  I found an interval on the same course where I rode at near threshold  (97.5% of FTP).  I’d like to get my avg power higher this go around.  Should be able to go faster this year as my weight and power are improved from last year.

My approach to the bike climbs will be in 3 stages.  This is adopted somewhat from Endurance Nation’s climbing strategy for hilly triathlons.

  1. Upon entrance to hill, beware of any excessive power spikes.  It’s natural trying to maintain your cadence as you start the hill.  This unfortunately requires significant leg power.  Plan will be to smartly gear at the start.
  2. During the body of the hill, I’ll try to keep power consistent and gear to keep cadence up.  Some use a peak power on climbs of 110% of avg race goal power.  That’s especially helpful for longer races to save the legs.  For this race, I think I can get away with brief spikes of power at V02 max.
  3. Lastly, over the top of the hill, I’ll maintain the power output and keep cadence up.  I need to keep that effort up through at least the first third of the distance past the crest.  If I hit a flat section after the hill, I’ll keep the cadence very high to flush any lactate out.  If there’s a downhill, I’ll maintain the cadence even as I gear lower until I can’t pedal due to speed.  Then, it’s tuck and get aero.  If you can master those techniques, you can flatten all hills!!!!

If I get all that correct and have a little juice left in the legs,  I’ll sprint the last 2.5k.  I can always red-line for 10mins.  Gotta chase down those 20 somethings.  We’ll see.

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