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Thread: Help! Hills!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    2

    Cool Help! Hills!

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    Greetings from Seattle! I'm a 52 year old who started cycling last August with the idea of losing some weight and training for the Seattle to Portland ride (a two day, 200 mile ride) on July 12, 2014. To sign up for the associated training series, they said that we should be able to ride 25 miles at 10-18 m.p.h. on the flats. So, I trained through the winter on flat courses and was able to average about 14 m.p.h. and signed up for the 12-14 m.p.h. group. The training series started yesterday with a 30 mile ride. I kept up with everyone on the flats, but I struggled significantly on every hill, whether short or long for two reasons, I think. Lack of training and no clipless pedals. I've got the pedals and will need to train with them. But here are the questions: 1. Do I have enough time to train for the STP this year...hills and all?
    2. If so, what is the fastest way to increase my endurance on hills?
    I am not afraid of hard work, but I want it to count.

    Thanks for all of your suggestions!

    Trish

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,824
    1. I think you have enough time, as long as your schedule allows you to to ride at least 2-3 times per week on a regular basis.

    2. The fastest way to increase endurance on hills is to ride hills as much as you can.

    I did the Livestrong Challenge in Philadelphia five times and that's a long hilly ride. I generally ride twice a week. I trained for the Livestrong rides by doing a relatively short, hilly ride one evening each week. My route varied from 16-20 miles. On weekends I did my longer rides, which were a mix of hills and flats. This worked pretty well for me, and although I haven't done a Livestrong ride in a while, I still like to do the weekly hill ride, because it keeps me ready for any terrain I might encounter on my weekend rides. I average about 14 mph on longer rides that have varied terrain, but closer to 11 mph on the short hilly rides.

    Also -- I'd recommend getting used to the new pedals on flat, familiar terrain. It's easier to clip out on a flat surface, and you'll want to make sure you're comfortable with them before you add the hill aspect.

    And, welcome to TE!

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    251
    I live in Flatsville too, and must either resort to bridges or drive an hour to reach hills. No idea whether or not STP would be reasonable - but I would think you can at least tackle the hill problem by July.

    First - USE THY GEARS! Were you doing that? If not, get a feel for shifting down when going up a hill (this is where you'll use your front derailleur a lot more) to where you can keep a decent cadence and rhythm. You'll go faster in a lower gear - really! Then, when you're going downhill, try not to coast too much - gear up as much as you can so that you can get decent speed going down the hill, which will give you momentum (less work needed!) into the next hill. Keep pedaling down the hill, even if it's easy pedaling, because it will help you keep a decent rhythm when you hit the uphill (at least in my limited experience).

    Other hints that come to mind - try to keep your heel down as you pedal - you'll get more power out of your push. Also, don't slow your pedaling down as you start to approach the top of the hill - keep pushing hard until you actually crest it.

    Your endurance will build with time.

    I'm sure those who live in hillier terrain, and who have more experience, will be able to help a lot more.

    Good luck!
    "Susie" - 2012 Specialized Ruby Apex, not pink/Selle SMP Lite 209

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Pac. NW
    Posts
    353
    You can totally do it!!!! First of all, STP is probably WAY flatter than the Cascade training rides. With your speed in the flats at this point, you will be fine. I wouldn't worry about your speed on the few hills. So long as you go fast enough to keep rolling up them, you will be fine!!!! Oh, and when you pass those men that are younger than you (and you will), you will find some inner energy to keep you going.

    Day two was STP's worst kept secret for me. They don't seem to ever mention that there are many rollers and the highway in Oregon is very busy (wide shoulder). I mentally was not prepared for either, physically I was fine. Just letting you know so you won't be surprised by them. Oh, I suck at hills! I averaged 14 on the ride, which was my average on flats for training.

    I have since learned to embrace hills. Make friends with them. I've improved greatly since taking a positive attitude vs neg. no more panic and fear. They are not the enemy! I can climb hills! I can climb hills, yes I can, so can you! Not yet ready to say I like them, maybe next year!

    I was in so much fear of the hills prior to the STP that I rode the Napavine hill and drove the Puyallup hill!!! I did fine on both (slow and steady).

    Get going on the clip less pedals. They are super easy. Clip in/out until it becomes second nature. You won't go back.

    Also, remember --- this isn't a race. Your current speed is great and you will be getting faster. You will be so proud of yourself when you finish!

    And enjoy the training too, it's half the fun. Can't wait for your post ride report (it's sorta a requirement)!
    2011 Specialized Ruby Comp
    2015 Giant Liv Tempt 3

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Katy, Texas
    Posts
    1,828
    another couple of thoughts on hills.
    1. don not grip your bike in a death grip or lean over the handlebars too much. Instead sit up as straight as possible and breathe deeply. Think "floaty" feet and don't clench- it is an energy waster.

    2. It is better to get yourself into the lower gears before starting up the hill, think spin rather than trudge.

    3. Resist the urge to stand, it is a waste of energy unless it is for the last 8-10 pedal strokes at the very top the crest.

    4. the top of the hill will still be there when you get there so find a doable pace and find a song to sing that helps you hold the tempo.

    good luck!
    marni
    Katy, Texas
    Trek Madone 6.5- "Red"
    Trek Pilot 5.2- " Bebe"


    "easily outrun by a chihuahua."

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    3,473
    Quote Originally Posted by tbyers1 View Post
    Greetings from Seattle! I'm a 52 year old who started cycling last August with the idea of losing some weight and training for the Seattle to Portland ride (a two day, 200 mile ride) on July 12, 2014. To sign up for the associated training series, they said that we should be able to ride 25 miles at 10-18 m.p.h. on the flats. So, I trained through the winter on flat courses and was able to average about 14 m.p.h. and signed up for the 12-14 m.p.h. group. The training series started yesterday with a 30 mile ride. I kept up with everyone on the flats, but I struggled significantly on every hill, whether short or long for two reasons, I think. Lack of training and no clipless pedals. I've got the pedals and will need to train with them. But here are the questions: 1. Do I have enough time to train for the STP this year...hills and all?
    2. If so, what is the fastest way to increase my endurance on hills?
    I am not afraid of hard work, but I want it to count.

    Thanks for all of your suggestions!

    Trish
    Trish, you definitely have plenty of time to train for STP. They usually post an example of an STP training plan somewhere on their website. You don't have to follow it exactly, but if you try to implement something like it, you'll do fine. And. If the route is the same as the times we did it, there is a short steep hill towards the end. I didn't know that the first time. The chorus of "Oh NOOOOOO"s you hear as people turn the corner and see the hill is pretty funny. So just know it's there, and it's short and you WILL be able to do it.

    Totally agree with the "learn to use clipless on the flats" and otherwise do hills regularly. And the two big hills on STP are totally doable, not steep but more the slow and steady, just-keep-the-pedals-turning kind.
    "My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved;I have been given much and I have given something in return...Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and an adventure." O. Sacks

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    2
    Thanks to everyone for the encouraging posts. I'm going out for a ride after work today and will keep all of it in mind. One really funny thing one of my coworkers said at work after hearing my story: "Never blame yourself when these things occur, its always your equipment....I should've lubed my chain, the chain came off during that hill...whatever you can come up with will suffice." Hee hee.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Katy, Texas
    Posts
    1,828
    chain coming off isn't necessarily lack of lube. You could have shifted wrong or under pressure. Just sayin.
    marni
    Katy, Texas
    Trek Madone 6.5- "Red"
    Trek Pilot 5.2- " Bebe"


    "easily outrun by a chihuahua."

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    104
    Some of the hills in the PNW are no joke. Investing in granny gears 42/32/22 really made the difference for me. What do you have on there now?

    Scrappy

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Central PA
    Posts
    13
    I'm a believer in the only way to get better at hills is to consistently do hills. I do a ride with hill repeats 1x week. Also, like others have said, increasing cadence helps on hills. Spinning faster and easier rather than slower and harder. I'm one that enjoys getting up out of the saddle on hills, but most times I reserve it for when I'm getting closer to the top. The clipless pedals will also be a benefit.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    california
    Posts
    1,200
    Great ride!! I did the STP last July with some friends from Portland on the Sunday one day ride. There are hills but no really sustained steep climbs. There was a hill about 40 miles into the ride that’s probably the worst one, grade wise, of the ride and even that one isn’t that long. There are more rollers, flats and downhills than climbs.
    I’d stay with the organized training series and supplement it with some hill intervals. You’ll get better and stronger through the spring and early summer if you do that. Plus you'll get to know people who are also going to do the ride!

    Another important preparation is mental. Realize, for you, it’s going to be two days of long rides. You’ll get tired and your body will get sore. Come to grips with that and prepare yourself mentally to deal with it.
    Last edited by rebeccaC; 04-23-2014 at 08:52 PM.
    ‘The negative feelings we all have can be addictive…just as the positive…it’s up to
    us to decide which ones we want to choose and feed”… Pema Chodron

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
    Posts
    543
    Quote Originally Posted by tbyers1 View Post
    Greetings from Seattle! I'm a 52 year old who started cycling last August with the idea of losing some weight and training for the Seattle to Portland ride (a two day, 200 mile ride) on July 12, 2014. To sign up for the associated training series, they said that we should be able to ride 25 miles at 10-18 m.p.h. on the flats. So, I trained through the winter on flat courses and was able to average about 14 m.p.h. and signed up for the 12-14 m.p.h. group. The training series started yesterday with a 30 mile ride. I kept up with everyone on the flats, but I struggled significantly on every hill, whether short or long for two reasons, I think. Lack of training and no clipless pedals. I've got the pedals and will need to train with them. But here are the questions: 1. Do I have enough time to train for the STP this year...hills and all?
    2. If so, what is the fastest way to increase my endurance on hills?
    I am not afraid of hard work, but I want it to count.

    Thanks for all of your suggestions!

    Trish
    I just have to say I am deeply impressed that you are doing 14 mph average, having just started cycling in August! You will be fine by the time STP comes along. Try to do two long rides (at least 60-75 miles two days in a row at least once before you go, that will give you some idea of what it will feel like on the 2nd day. Just time in the saddle will be the biggest help of all. I did STP the first time having only done ONE 75 mile training ride (as my longest ride that is), and I did just fine (I was 54!). I was slow, but I was lollygagging way too much at the rest stops. Have fun and enjoy it, the feeling when you cross that finish line is awesome. Good luck!
    "Don't go too fast, but I go pretty far"

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Posts
    1

    Hello The Left Coast (from another 50+ rider)

    Hi Trish,

    By the time you read this, you will already be over the hump and have found your best routine. But as a 51 year old who also just recently encountered hills, (Appalachian foothills), I created an account to be able to reply to your post to tell you how inspired I was just reading it.

    It isn't the numbers (although I think 14 mph avg fantastic) as much as your goal-driven, solution-oriented mindset. I moved from southern California accustomed to riding miles and miles in sunny, arid, flat terrain. I thought myself in decent shape until my first Atlanta outing. Heck, you were only lagging---I had to get off and PUSH! I did discover later that my companion had e-assist, but my ego was already bruised.

    In the beginning, I had more success by NOT including hills too often. I used Google and a more observant eye while driving to plan long routes. I also planned a few ridiculously short (SOLO) rides with one or two steep hills on the way out while I was fresh. Being able to easily coast home built my confidence more than my stamina, and made me eager for more each time.

    Another thing that helped was tweaking my seat and handlebar height to allow me to get up out of the saddle and use my weight and allow the bike to rock naturally. I know the mechanics aren't endorsed by the Tour de France set as efficient, but it worked for me. It was actually a little scary at first, because I hadn't stood up to pedal since I was a kid, but it did wonders for my balance in other areas, as well.

    I still do not use clips regularly, but I have found them beneficial since moving here. I completely agree with Scrappy about the granny gear. I still never use every gear my bike is capable of, but I love low, medium and high, or 42/32/22 for the techies.

    I have never done the STP, but I have managed 75 + like AppleTree. It really isn't about speed for me, it's about setting a goal and accomplishing it. Anyway, I have to repeat that I am deeply impressed and inspired. I look forward to reading more, especially if you have tips.

    Oh ... and TOTALLY agree with your coworker about blaming the equipment. My favorite is blaming the equipment I was born with ... still laughing ...

    Kate

 

 

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