June 15, 2012

Plans, training, Pyrenees

Yes, a palm tree behind the wires on the left.

Today's pictures will be of memories and inspirations, all taken in the Pyrenees during  September 2011. They are in anticipation of this year's trip.

There is a reason I want to learn to remove my derailleur, as reported in the last post, and that reason is to more securely pack it for air travel.

Between Aubisque and Soulor

Recently prices dropped a tad, and I bought myself a ticket from Boston to Toulouse. From there, my plan is to take the train to St. Jean-de-Luz on the Atlantic. Attentive readers might note that it is the 4th time in as many years that I've gone to Toulouse. It is a fabulous, beautiful, historic, international city, with great rail connections to all of southern France and loads of international flights.Very good cycling is within a short train ride.

Time is such a slippery beast to get a handle on. Somehow it manages to disappear incredibly fast, while simultaneously fairly recent events seem like eons ago. That might be looking at the same phenomenon from different angles.

The road to Col du Soulor, from St. Savin
No doubt before I know what has happened, it will be time to load my panniers back onto Papillon (for the benefit of any new readers, that is my touring bike) and go for a ride.

Before I return to France, though, I'd like to become as strong a grimpeur, oh I guess that would be grimpeuse, let's just say climber ...  as possible. It is not that I want to climb fast, it's that I'd like to climb easier. Hmmm....I guess in cycling terms that means with less suffering, a concept other attentive readers know I have a hard time wrapping my head around. 

Farmhouse near Marie Blanc
One goal is to climb with as much grace and ease as possible because my plan, this trip, is to spend longer in the Pyrenees Atlantique. Also known as the Pays Basque and the Bearn. Also known as  Departements 64 and 65. Also known, especially to cyclists, as the location of many beautiful and famous cols, some of which I rode last September, when my trip took me from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean through the Pyrenees. That was my first time on a bike in high mountains. I'd ridden before in the Cevennes, but in the much higher and steeper Pyrenees I doubted my abilities on some of the tougher climbs, and limited the number I took on. As it turned out, I was thrilled with Col de Marie Blanc, Col du Soulor and Port de Lers. It's almost time to go back for more. I'll put a dream list in another post.

The Pyrenees
 But back to training plans, and becoming as strong a climber as possible. Training plans, hmm, wouldn't I just love a coach. But alas, I only work with books, for two years with Joel Friel, since January with Sarah Bernhardt. Following their advice isn't so easy ....to train for touring, ride in terrain similar to that which you will be riding in. I love that idea, maybe I'll go to another mountainous area for 10 or 12 weeks. Of course, my very supportive husband, not to mention my boss at work, might not like that. Or, after age 50 (they don't even mention 60) recovery takes longer, build in 48 to 72 hours after hill repeats.  I don't have time for that, couldn't bear it. Over 50, work on strength, not endurance ... or, for touring, work on muscular endurance.


But in actual riding, the 100 miles a week or so I'm riding before again starting actual training (whatever that might mean) doesn't feel wildly strong. Maybe what I am experiencing is the actual feeling of, not the intellectualizing of, but the actual living, feeling, of the oft-quoted phrase, I believe from Greg Lemonde,  "It doesn't get easier, it just gets faster."

The road climbs above houses with classic slate roofs
What it feels like is ... I train and train, but my lungs don't seem to support my legs ... or is it my heart support my lungs ... support my legs ... or is it my legs just need to get stronger. It's hard to separate out these elements of cycle training, maybe it is always just the whole kit and kaboodle taken together. What makes sense to me is the simple maxim, to get better riding hills, ride hills.  And so,

Ahh, those switchbacks

I'm writing my own training plan now. Climb. Climb. Climb. Also, continue riding with the two groups a week. Try to keep up. Remember to take some days off. That's when the experts say you actually get stronger. I'm good at days off.


  1. I love the plan, Suze, except for the fact you won't be coming to stay with us, of course! If it makes you feel any better, I don't think this year's training feels easier at all compared to last. It just gets harder, just hopefully we DO get faster ;-)

    1. Hi Gerry,
      Some day we'll manage to meet up and go for a spin .... Maybe you'll be mesmerized by the Pyrenees during Etape II. And need to to back! Indeed, let's hope it gets faster. Actually, I hope YOU get faster, and I get enough stronger that it is an option not to be redlined (if that is the phrase) every single second of those climbs! Stronger, still slow would work in my world.

  2. Sounds like a good plan. I have also followed Friel for a couple years and he has helped immensely with my climbing. Mountain rides and hill repeats will be best, while mixing in recovery and base miles. I look forward to reading about your adventures.

    1. Thanks for reading, and commenting, and good to hear from you. Interestingly, one of the (really, truly) experienced riders in a group I' m riding with suggests paying lots of attention to Friel's advice on force and strength, and to plan in one more recovery day. As I understand it, that is also essentially what Friel says in Cycling Past 50. So more (slow) hill repeats for me.

      I went briefly to your blog, and will go back to read more ... are you in western or central Virginia, near the Bue Ridge? Beautiful country!

    2. I used the Cyclist's Road Bible. Agreed on the strength and power. I followed his strength workouts pretty closely this offseason and noticed dramatic improvement when I got back on the bike.

      Thanks. I am in SC, just on the edge of the Blue Ridge mountains. That's where I do most of my serious riding. I'll be up in Boone, NC this weekend for a big mountain ride. It is beautiful country, but not quite the Alps or Pyrs. I'd like to give those a try someday. :)

  3. Have a wonderful time in France cycling up all those mountains! Wish I had your energy ...

  4. Thanks! Wish I had something more of your access...


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