Regular readers (both of you) may recall I got all excited in the summer when I discovered the Strava goal feature, a method of taking a troublesome Strava segment and resolving to hit a target time by a date of your choosing. As I rather detested the hill going north out of Playford, I selected that one. My best time had been 3:12 and I set my goal 2:45 within a month, which would take me to August 29.
I made some improvements over the weeks, but ultimately just missed out, getting as close as 2:47 on August 9. I was not too downhearted as I knew I was making slow but steady progress.
But something has happened to my cycling ability in the past week or so; I’ve got an unexplained turn of speed from somewhere and have been hitting personal bests on Strava left, right and centre. Now seemed the time to take another crack at Playford, so I pushed hard down the hill going into the village and then powered through the bottom of the climb before gritting my teeth and putting in a lung-busting lunge at the summit. Once over the top, I felt I had done enough but could not be sure until uploading the data from my Garmin to Strava when I got home.
I did it in 2:19!
That not only achieved my Strava goal, it smashed it by 26 seconds and was much more than a minute ahead of my early-summer times! I really have no idea what’s going on here. I have actually put on a few pounds in weight in the past month, so it’s not that. I did change my tyres from my Specialized All Condition variety to the ones that came new with the bike, but surely that would not account for my new-found speed? The only thing I can think of is this:
Around two months ago a pal told me to use the ‘wiping dog mess’ method of pedaling – that is, powering through the bottom of the pedal stroke and continuing back up for a while, just as you might if you were scraping something unmentionable from the bottom of your shoe. Essentially, it uses your core strength on hills or when you want a turn of speed, taking some of the pressure off your poor old legs on the downstroke.
I’ve been working on it these past two months or so, and I can only assume I have had decent improvement in my core strength as a result, and it is this that has given me the recent startling change of pace.
Another measure of the difference is towards the end of July I did a very fast (for me) 46-mile run to Orford and back averaging 13.5mph. I was absolutely spent after that, yet last weekend I did the Ipswich Cycle Swarm, completing 51.5 miles at a much improved average of 14.2mph – and I felt good afterwards, meaning I should have been pushing harder.
So I’m really pleased with the past couple of weeks. Sadly the weather is closing in and the season for pleasant rides out is over.
Happily, however, I have today splashed out on a Tacx i-Genius trainer. More about that in an ‘unboxing’ post to come, but needless to say winter should be much more fun and productive than expected.