A lot of endurance training is based around doing things for a long time at an easy pace. Training for a marathon requires hours on the road, running along at an easy effort to get your cardio base built up. Heading out on the bike for even longer hours to get ready for a 56 or 112 mile ride, or whatever you're training for. Swimming is a little different, but still, there are long days. Getting that open water swim training in is tough, but going out for 30, 45 or 60 min is good, long training too.
But how do you get faster? How do you get stronger? Yes doing those long, easy training efforts will make going longer easier, but you want to get faster don't you? Then you've got to put yourself in some painful situations.
I've been doing a lot of biking, especially since I went under the knife for my knee surgery, and a lot of it was long slow and fairly easy. For the first month or so post-op, I was doing lots of 1-3 hour rides, generally in my lower heart rate zones. It was good base building work, and amazing for my knee. The range of motion came back quickly and I was doing well with my physical therapy.
But then it came time to face the facts. I wanted to be FASTER. I still want to be faster. It was kind of hard to tell how fast I was going, and how hard I was pushing it on the trainer for a while, but then I got my Garmin Edge 800 as well as a Wahoo Fitness cadence/speed sensor. Having these two tools really helped me to get a better gauge on what I was doing on the bike. Before these, I had no clue what my cadence was, or how 'fast' I was going on my trainer. I could get a good guess on the cadence, but honestly, I really wasn't into counting my rpm's. All I was going on was perceived effort.
Since then, I've become almost obsessive about getting my HR in the proper zones and pushing it. Especially on a controlled ride on my trainer. My favorite rides being a couple videos following along with the Sufferfest video series. Such as a 2x20 and 5x4 session. One getting me working at a TT effort for 20 minutes, twice, and the other getting me into my v02 max range and pushing my limits.
Now the trainer is nice and all to have in a controlled environment, but there's something about getting out on the road and pushing it that isn't the same as being indoors. So I decided to find some big hills near me and go throw down on them for somewhat of a 2x20 workout.
Out near Blue Mound State Park in Wisconsin, there's a big group of huge hills, and a lot of category climbs. I decided to pick two of them and get after it. I took a good warmup of about 20 minutes or so to get around to the start of the first climb. I got my legs to wake up after a few small hills and a nice long downhill stretch pushing upwards of 50 mph and getting my cadence up close to 120 rpms.
I got to the first hill which is rated a Cat3, and knew it was a long steady climb over 4 miles. But the thing is I wanted to get some power out of it. So instead of gearing down and going at it slowly, I kept my cadence a little lower, but tried to keep my speed up. I'm not going to lie, this sucked. But I could feel it was worth it once I reached the summit. It's not a constant uphill, as there's little breaks here and there to catch my breath and grab a sip of water if I needed. Throughout the whole hill I was working at threshold to work on my power as well as my pain tolerance. It took me just under twenty minutes and I got some good power work out of it.
Headed back for round two, I took the flats a little easier and the loop to get to the next hill was a little shorter. However, it was much much harder for me. The average grade being near 7% as compared to 3% on the other longer hill. Whether I wanted to or not, this hill was going to push me. Just to keep myself upright I was working at maximum effort, but sometimes being barely over 6mph. Despite it being shorter in terms of distance, it took so much more out of me than the longer climb. And there are no breaks. It just keeps coming one after another. However, I was able to keep that smirk on my face that I get when I'm doing something that most people find to be stupid. Who would do this to themselves? My answer, is those who want to get faster.
Being able to get through this ride was a huge confidence booster for me. I've been training for a little over a week straight without a full day off, and I was glad to be able to finish this ride and not bonk.
I'm feeling the pain today, but it's a good pain. I know I worked hard, and my muscles are exhausted. No aching pains that I feel need any extra attention other than some rest and recovery. Hopefully the training pays off and I've gained a few more watts of power in my legs. I may be able to find out next weekend.
Until then, it's back on the road, cranking out the miles.