It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

June 06, 2011

The Heat is On and Training Recap

Wow, we complained all winter about the miserable cold and snow....but no more.  The HEAT is on in Kansas City.  It seems like over night we went from a "too cold" Spring to the heat of Summer.  It went from 40 degree mornings to mid 70s with 85% humidity and temps during the day in the upper 90s!  I'm trying not to complain too much though, because I was so ready for the heat.  It's just hard to adjust that fast.  It's 4:30 am as I'm writing this and it's already 78 degrees with almost 80% humidity for my morning run!

I took a Triathlon 101 Class last year to help me get ready for my first Triathlon.  It's an all women's class and it really is awesome.  I enjoyed it so much I signed up for Tri 102 this year.  Sunday was our "meet and greet" group bike ride.  It started at 11 am.  I did one 12 mile loop then stopped and registered for the class.  Then we decided to do another 12 mile loop.  By the time I was finished with the second loop it was about 1:30pm and about 96 degrees.  It was just plain HOT.  There was no relief from the water bottle because my water was literally about 90+ degrees too.  The last mile or so I could really feel the heat coming off the pavement, and I couldn't seem to cool myself down.  I got a little overheated and once off the bike had to sit in the shade and pour some cold water over me and drink some cold fluid (a soda - I needed the sugar).  After a few minutes I felt fine and was ready to head home.  I had a nice heat rash on the top of my quads though - it looked like I had been burned.

Not only is the HEAT on, but in the Kansas City area it is also hard to get away from hills.  No matter where I run or bike it's always pretty hilly.  The 24 mile route on Sunday was no exception with about 1100 feet of elevation over 24 miles and a couple of pretty killer hills.  I am really, really, really, bad at hills.  There is one hill that is just over a 1 mile climb and about a 200 ft ascent.  I am lucky to stay above 5 mph on this hill, and I have been as low as about 4.4 when the wind is really strong.  Everyone told me when I got clipless pedals the hills would be so much easier, but I honestly haven't seen or felt the improvement.

So, all you cyclists out there - what is the secret to hills?  Is it leg strength, or hill repeats, is it about the gears?  

My friend Michelle mentioned to me today that it looks like my cadence is just too fast.  She said you literally look like you are just spinning going up the hill, which is exactly what I feel like.  When I go up the hills I have it in the easiest gear on my bike, and I think it's just too easy, but if I change it by just one gear I feel like I literally can't turn the pedals.  I think that is just leg strength, but I'd be interested in thoughts you guys might have.  I do think it might also have a little to do with my bike, it's a low end road bike, and maybe just doesn't have enough "in between" gears.  OK, I'm not a cyclist and I know I have no idea what I'm talking about, but it just seems like I have easy or hard gears....nothing really in between.  But I can't change my bike for now at least, so I need to work with what I have.  The good news was, I did 24 miles in my clipless pedals and didn't fall this time!!!

Speaking of clipless pedals...I had a request to share exactly what I was talking about for those of you who don't cycle.  There are actually a variety of clipless pedals out there, but basically you have a special shoe that has a cleat at the bottom.  This clips in to a special pedal on your bike and attaches you to the bike.  It's supposed to help with biking because you can use your leg muscles to both push down and pull up on the bike pedals vs. just being able to push down.

Bike shoe with cleat
Pedal the shoe fits into

Shoes attached to bike

I had another great week of training/racing!!

Monday: 5 mile easy run
Tuesday:  Master Swim (1600 Meters) 
Wednesday: 4 mile Track (Speed workout) - 1/4 mile sprints around the for me..with 1/4 mile recovery jogs
Thursday: BRICK  Workout - 12 Mile Bike & 2 Mile Run in am; Master Swim in pm - 2100 Meters
Friday: Swim - OFF
Saturday: 10K Race
Sunday: 24 Mile Group Bike Ride

Swim: 3700 Meters
Bike:  36 Miles
Run:  17.2 miles
Total Training Time:  9 hours and 3 minutes

Hope everyone has a WONDERFUL Training and Racing Week!  


  1. First, I hate the hills, but I have studied this too much for my hatred for them.

    I suggest hill repeats, to get good at the hills, you need to ride the hills, plus hill training will make your quads a lot stronger. Many coaches tell you to try and keep your cadence of 80rpm in a gear that is catching (not spinning out), stay seated and your shoulders square and head up. Once you crest, you can use the downhill for recovery.

  2. Kind of funny (not in a comedic way of course) that one minute it's too cold and the next it's too hot. We get that here too. Here in SoCal, we're never content :)

    Running up hills is hard but biking up hills just flat out sucks. Sorry, but that's the extent of my biking expertise. Considering my recent spill, you probably don't want to hear anything about cycling from me anyway ;)

  3. Thanks Michael for the tutorial on clipless pedals.

    I am super impressed with your training. You are hitting it hard. Way to go!

  4. i hate hills too! but i am getting better at them. i try to do hill training once every two weeks or so. i try to stay in a gear that im catching and able to maintain a decent cadence. i try to stay seated too, it seems that if i stand, it burns my quads out even faster. this reminds me....i need to do hill work, its been a while!

  5. I am incapable of biking up a hill. It's really sad.

    My bike has the little foot cages on it. I'm slowly figuring out how to get on and off the bike with those.

  6. Nothing wrong with a high cadence up the hill. The secret is a higher recruitment of the hip flexors and calves on the back and up portion of the pedal stroke. Adding the workout in this link once every week or two will pay big dividends now that you are on clipless - Single Leg Trainer Workout

  7. Definitely doing hill repeats!!!

    I don't have enough gears and have a really low cadence going up most hills...I just have a double crank and I'm always praying for a granny gear that I just don't have.

  8. when you find out the secret, let me know! ;) It is mostly hilly here too and I haven't quite figured out the trick. I can put it in the small ring up front but feel like I am just spinning. I am making forward progress but not very fast. Maybe that is normal? who knows...

  9. Enjoying all the tips...lots of hills here too. I'm lucky (or inexpereienced)enough to have a triple which makes hills a little easier, not sure I could make some of these climbs without. I have noticed some improvments recently because I've been doing so many more, but I still suck. I tend to do pretty much what is being said, keep it hard enough to not spin out but easy enough that it doesn't kill my knees. And often times depending on the hill I may end up in my in my granny gear. :)

  10. I hate hills but this year I am trying to embrace them. And you are right you need to develop leg strength at least according to what you described. I do the same thing and my coach told me to work on leg strength by doing the harder gear. It will come!

  11. How many gears do you have on your bike?

    I don't have much experience with biking besides doing some mountain biking in 2002, but Big Daddy Diesel's advice for riding hills sounds good to me. Sounds like you had a great week of training!

  12. Awesome workouts Michael! I wish I had advice for the cycling but I am too big of a wuss to even try biking so you are my hero.

    96 degrees!! You are so hardcore for sticking with it and finishing the 24 miles. Have a fabulous week.

  13. BDD definitely had all the advice I was going to give you. High cadence is the way to go, but not too high. If you've already got a Garmin, get a cadence sensor to go with it, they're not too expensive. Watching my cadence has definitely made me a stronger cyclist.
    I know you might not feel lucky, but think how hard race day hills would be if you never trained on them! You are on your way to being Super Cyclist!!

  14. Okay now I have more questions. Loved this post and reading the comments.
    What is the Granny Gear? (Lowest I am guessing) When I am in my lowest gear I don't feel like I am spinning. Prob. because I am so slow. LOL and I am not kidding.

    What are the pedals that don't clip? I thought the cage like things were clipless. What are those called? Are they like an inbetween step? Have you used those?
    I don't have a clue how you tell cadence. Future worries......too far beyond me.

    I bike plenty of hills due to where I live and I don't shy away from them so that has to count for something.
    Is this too many questions? Sorry. I wish I lived where there was a clinic. There are some in NY and this summer I may go to one.

  15. So, umm, super dumb question, but how do you get your feet to detach from the pedal without falling off? This has always concerned me when I hear about clipless pedals.

  16. Good advice.

    There are "toys" that can help with hill work. First, a cadence sensor if you do not have one already. It is much more common to have too low of a cadence as compare to too high. There is variability to the optimal cadence based on the individual but 80 is a good target. Lance Armstrong was an advocate of high cadence (normally about 100-110) so it can be done. Cyclists generally have higher cadences than triathletes.

    So, how to get better. To get all technical on you, climbing comes down to a power/weight ration. Power is typically measured in watts and weight is typically measured by a scale :) The higher power at the lower weight the better the climbing. You can measure power with a power meter (expensive) but there are several training options to increase power. Easiest is riding hard (read hilly) courses. Intervals help too. Hill repeats too.

    All that said, some of climbing is mental. Don't look up the hill to psych yourself out. Keep your eyes about 10ft in front of the bike. I also recommend that athletes get a stupid/fast song in their mind and "dance up the hill." Need a suggestion. Try Funkytown.

    Ping me if you have any questions.

  17. Thanks for sharing about the bike clips. haha. I NEVER could figure out how that stuff worked!

  18. Hill repeats. Ride the hills and get good at them. There is something to be said about 'spinning' but you want to be in a gear that catches and doesn't feel like your legs are about to just spin off.

    I do weight training for stronger quads as well. I do leg extensions, leg curls, squats and calf raises at 12-15 reps at 50%-60% of my 1 rep max and do them in an aerobic state. Meaning that I only take about 30 seconds of rest. 4 count on the exertion and 2 count on the recovery. You will breathe heavy and sweat but it is both strength and aerobic.

  19. @ajh:
    1) Yes, "granny" gear is the lowest, easiest gear.

    2) As for the clipless question, it is confusing but here's how it works. First there were plain old platform pedals. Then someone put cages on them. These were also referred to as "toe clips". The new style, even though it requires actual clipping, uses a pedal without the cage and is therefore "clipless" - or rather "toe clip"less. Yeah, it's idiotic.
    3) For your last question about cadence, that's simply the rate of speed your pedals go around in revolutions per minute (rpm).

  20. I keep seeing your face on the comments sections of different blogs, so I thought I'd swing by and say hi : )

    I have my first Tri this summer, so I'm glad I found your blog!

  21. I'm in the same boat when it comes to hills. I'm also told that I'm spinning to fast but I feel like I'm going to fall over if I get into a harder gear. I'm also using clipless pedals but this year I switched from what you show in this post to a SPD cleat and pedal I like it a lot better. It's a lot easier for me to get OUT of...which is important when I fall over on hills... :)

  22. I am worlds WORST hill climber too. I lose so much time in races on them, soo embarrassing!

    I pick a super hilly route once a week. Someone told me great advice, ride the hill and you should never feel like your legs are burning a ton.

    Strength and power will come if you keep riding those miles, thats all!

    Good luck.