For the final hill climb of the series I decided to try something different. Instead of just going full gas and then dragging my oxygen-deprived body to the top, I tried actual pacing. This was partly from a realisation that the previous “tactic” wasn’t working for the longer climbs, but also because I didn’t feel like putting myself through that depth of suffering two days in a row. This psychological barrier is worth bearing in mind next season if I ever contemplate racing two days on the bounce again.
Burrington Coombe is my local hill and one that I use for most of my training rides, so I looked at my previous results on the ascent and set a target heart rate and power for the climb which was slightly above my PB. Not exactly the heights of scientific analysis but it seemed like a sensibly ambitious approach.
I also put deep-section wheels on my bike. There was a slight sacrifice in terms of weight, but I decided that this would be offset by the aero advantage on a 2 mile climb at 6%. Also, it made the bike look significantly more badass which cannot be dismissed in terms of an added psychological edge!
A few friends and family turned up to offer support which was greatly appreciated. It always helps maintain a positive mentality when you hear people shouting encouragement mid-climb. I gave them an anguished glance in the midst of my struggle, deciding not to smile. Smiling on a hill climb looks like you’re not trying. If I’m honest I’m not sure I could have mustered a smile, so I guess I must have been doing something right.
The race went to plan and I hit my target power. However I was below my max heart rate which indicates that I probably could have gone harder. My time placed me in the top half of the finishers, but I still felt like I could have gone faster. I did set a PB on the hill which I have climbed most weeks for the last 6 years so can’t really be too disappointed with the end result.
There’s a fine line between going too hard and taking it too easy. It’s obviously also very easy to think in hindsight that you could have pushed harder, but in reality once that number has been pinned on your back and people are shouting at you from the roadside, one of the the hardest things to do is pace yourself sensibly. Overall, my learning from this race is that riding too conservatively will not result in a fast time.
One thing’s for sure – whether you attack or try to pace yourself, hill climbing is hard. It’s certainly left me with plenty to ruminate for the next 11 months …