Better results with Reduced Breathing

Went out on final (perhaps) workout prior to the Ventoux race on Sunday. Decided to do the same course as the previous two times with the climb to Granier. Despite starting off with the intention of going slowly I was soon enjoying a full-on workout. The idea now was to ensure reduced (nasal) breathing to get a good rapid recovery from the workout ensuring less accumulated fatigue for the actual race. 
The interesting thing about today was that contrary to expectations about the constraints of nasal breathing I ended up recording a significantly higher overall heart rate (more anaerobic threshold zone) than on the previous occasion. In fact I’d deliberately used a less efficient higher gear to work on leg strength and try to reduce cardiovascular work. The result was that the time was only 1’30” behind the maximal effort with unrestricted mouth breathing despite the inefficient gearing. The expectation was that it was not possible (at least at the moment) to maintain such a high anaerobic output comfortably with reduced breathing – but it was! The result time-wise was half way between the two previous efforts (different breathing) and significantly closing the gap on the unrestricted (mouth) breathing personal  record time.
Perhaps what made it hard to restrict breathing a few days ago was a very slight cold and headache – which causes the system to hyperventilate. Christiane had a misearble cold but I could have been fighting off the virus too – perhaps more successfully. This load on the system may have made it too hard to constrain the breathing at the time. The thought went though my mind at the time but only now does it appear to fit the evidence.
Why was the correct pedalling technique so elusive? Well when you start pedalling bikes at age 2 you probably develop some ingrained habits. Until my mid thirties all the bikes I used had toe clips and even my current mountain bike has simple flat pedals (but with small grippy spikes). My under-used steel framed racing bike had Time quick release pedals – but after a lifetime of pedalling a certain way there never appeared any good reason to change. Pulling up on the pedals always seemed like a temporary, excessive and tiring action. Recent literature even describes that the pedal shouldn’t be pulled up – but only the leg pulled up, taking the weight off the pedal on the up stroke. Other’s describe “scraping” the foot backwards at the bottom on the stroke and pushing it forwards at the top. I’d tried that too but felt very little. The real connection comes from joining up the push down with one leg and the pull up with the other at the same time. There is a slight delay in perception so this actually corresponds with the “scraping” backwards (like trying to remove muck from your shoe). The real problem appears to be how people communicate their experiece to others – and getting across the message that there really is an alternative to just pushing down on the pedals.

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