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Anaerobic Climbing Training: 3 Ascents of Old La Honda (negative intervals), a Week Later

A week prior, I had done 3 ascents of Old La Honda to initiate the anaerobic power/strength phase of my training for the season, deeming three double centuries on top of prior training an ample aerobic base. See the comments on goals for this workout in the week prior report.

These are “negative intervals” meaning that each repeat is faster. However, the 3rd ascent took a lot more focus than the 2nd one and it just barely qualified; fatigue was definitely at play.

Judging by the effort level and feel, my lactate threshold at present is probably around 315 watts, thus each ascent was pushing somewhat beyond that threshold, and this was clearly felt by the 3rd ascent. But that was/is the goal: to stress the anaerobic system in order to raise that threshold, my season goal being around 340 watts. Decent for a 50+ year old.

Discussion continues below.
Mouse over to see ascents #1, #2, #3. Click for full size image.

Old La Honda ascents


The workout above repeats the prior weeks’s effort, but with major time reductions.

I’d like to say it’s all a magical fitness gain, but here are some considerations:

  • Total riding weight was dropped by ~2.5 pounds by leaving water and saddlebag at the bottom, and a lighter front wheel. But due to considerably cooler conditions, much less fluid was lost on the ascents, so the 2nd and 3rd ascent TRW was nearly identical. So weight is a significant factor only on the 1st ascent.
  • Crank arm lengths were reduced from 172.5mm to 170mm. All these years I’ve ridden 172.5mm cranks (DuraAce). I like 170mm and I think it helps me climb faster and spin a little easier.
  • Temperatures were considerably cooler.
  • Two relatively easy days were taken prior, though one maximal 9 minute effort the day prior to this workout was used to “open up” the muscles. Just a trace of latent muscle soreness was felt in beginning these workouts.

The time differentials showed a HUGE improvement: 118 seconds, 114 seconds, 76 seconds on the 1st/2nd/3rd ascents. That’s about 10% faster on the first two ascents, and 6.7% faster on the third. For the first two, the weight accounts for a little, but really not more than 15 seconds or so for the 1st ascent—the reset of the improvement is simply a superior result. WHY?

Maybe the improvement was more rest, maybe the temperature helped, but I have to wonder if the change to 170mm cranks from 172.5mm* is just a better length for me—right way with the change a fews a prior, I felt that I could spin and make power more easily somehow. 2.5mm doesn’t seem like much but there is definitely a change in the feel of the pedal stroke. Makes me wonder about my 175mm cranks on my mountain bikes.

I’m extremely pleased to see the huge performance improvement in one week, whatever the reason. A perfect workout all in all.

* It was Kevin at, with his meticulous attention to detail, who suggested reducing crank length to me. When Kevin suggests something, it’s worth paying attention!

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