It was dark, it was cold and I confess to asking myself just what the hell I was doing there.
I did the alternative approach to the start line by going up through Bardon and past Sommerville College. Yes, the soft way. At the right hand turn onto the mountain road, I stopped to adjust my headlight - it was very, very dark - and waited a moment deciding whether I would continue or not. But being there, it seemed silly to go back and I reconciled the situation by deciding on one only accent.
Just as I reached the start line, another cyclist came up beside me and said hello calling me by name. I had no idea who it was in the dark and must have looked puzzled until he said his name, Stephen.
Stephen is a very strong cyclist and was straight out of the saddle doing a strength exercise riding a 54/18 and continued to do so until he was out of my site some about 5 minutes later.
On crossing the start line, I hit the timer and just settled into my rhythm, aware that in the dark I was unable to read my bike computer or heart rate monitor therefore having no idea of speed, cadence, time elapsed or heart rate.
Having nothing to distract me, I simply concentrating on my pedal stroke and breathing.
My perception was of doing a reasonable climb but due to the recent hamstring injury restricting my training, I had no expectations of a great climb. I was thinking something around the 12 minute mark.
Up I went, pedal stroke and breathing. I overtook a few people and was aware of being overtaken (once). I was also aware I was not breathing anywhere near as heavily as the others on the mountain so I pushed a little harder.
This is a regular climb and I have several land marks I aim for. There is a part of the mountain that kicks a few percent for 300 or so metres. I have a tree at this part of the climb after which I allow myself to get out of the saddle but only until the armcor barrier starts again. (I usually count 100 pedal strokes). I was a little surprised to get to it seemingly quickly and in no distress so I clicked it up 2 gears, got off my butt and started counting to 100. And at 75, clicked it up another gear.
I settled back in the seat after 100 down thrusts and regained rhythm until the last 100 metres where I went for the line. Hitting the timer as I crossed the line I was thinking a time in the high 11 minutes. Stopping to get a look at the timer in the bike headlight, I was shocked and surprised to see 10 minutes 49 seconds. By far my best time.
So what does this tell me?
Perhaps it tells me that riding on feel and concentrating on doing the genuinelly important things really well is the key priority. After all, what is more important than breathing and pedalling when cycling.
Perhaps it also tells me that having speed and cadence data available means I actually hold myself back at some level of perceived (but not actual) maximum effort.
I do ride to some heart rate rules determined by my cardiologist. I therefore expected my monitor download to reveal that I had exceeded my required limits. But no, if anything, they were on the low side when compared to other Mt Coot-tha climbs.
The questions I have are:
- Can all the on board data we have available actually result in us applying some form of mental hand break on our performances?
- Is how we analyse and use our data in planning training and assessing race performances more important than having the information on hand during the ride or race?
By the way, does anyone have a spare power meter?
For the record, I completed the loop and then headed up the short side to the Cafe - just to cool down.