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Epic Training: Week 18

Oscar Foulkes January 8, 2017 Cape Epic No comments
My Strava feed is full of people clocking some serious miles on their bikes. In a way, it reminds me of cramming before exams, except that Epic is 10 weeks away, and cramming usually happens the night before. However, in the context of Epic, the final two to three months is crunch time. The deadline may be some time off, but now is the time to do the work.

After last week’s exertions, this week almost seemed casual, but in these matters I have to trust Lezandré’s programme. Extrapolating my rudimentary knowledge of training racehorses tells me that athletes can’t train at the same intensity all the time. There are ebbs and flows in the effort, with recovery interspersing periods of high intensity.

On Tuesday, I had to do three eight-minute climbs in a difficult gear (inevitably with low cadence). Conveniently, it takes about that long to do the Piesangvallei climb to the N2 from the golf course entrance. This is about building strength, but it’s also great for assisting the body in learning to recover from exertion.

Wednesday was a rest day (nice change after the previous week), as was Friday (I didn’t know what to do with myself). Lezandré was low-key for Thursday’s instruction, with an innocuous seeming “4-5 hours spin”. I rode from Plett to Harkerville, entering at the Kranskop viewpoint after traversing the adjacent MTO forests. That view just never gets old!

I found my way to the Red Route, following it to Garden of Eden, where I crossed the N2 to climb the initial single track section (or final one, depending which way one has ridden it) of Petrus-se-Brand. Then I turned around and bombed down it. What fun.

I cobbled a return route through Harkerville, and then retraced my tracks to Plett to end up with a ride lasting 4:27. All good.

Saturday’s ride comprised a set of yummy intervals – six repeats of five minutes in zone four, interspersed with ten minutes of recovery. Conveniently, the Robberg climb at the end of Longships Drive takes just a bit longer than that, with a perfect ten-minute return loop for recovery. Intervals may be boring to ride, but they are super-effective. In fact, they’re so good they could be the training equivalent of cramming.

I was going to leave it there, but I should add something about the experience of doing these intervals. I put extra effort into the start of the climb to get my heart rate into the right zone (no point hitting zone four halfway up), which is not necessarily the most pleasant way of doing these things. The last third of each interval involves the body and lungs doing their best to convince the brain that this is an extremely kak idea. The final two intervals are an exercise in dismissing pain, because the muscles’ initial freshness has been depleted. It’s amazing how quickly the body recovers during the ten-minute spin back to the start, which is part of the reason why intervals are such great training.

Thank goodness for banging rock music, because intervals would be even worse without the distraction.

Sunday’s ride saw me doing a similar ride to Thursday’s, except that I skipped the Petrus-se-Brand section, and did a full Red Route in Harkerville, to clock a solid 3:40 on the bike (a comfortable over-delivery on Lezandré’s required three hours).

The next time I’ll be on a bike is back in Cape Town. It feels a little emotional to be saying goodbye to the Garden Route trails, but I’ll be here again for the Knysna Bull, towards the end of February.

This video (not mine) gives a sense of what it’s like to ride through Harkerville. It’s a seriously special experience!

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