Cycled around the local high loop in the Tarantaise valley again today. It’s interesting to see the progress:
April 28 2010 5:01:33
April   5 2011 4:10:28
April   1 2012 3:46:03
May   7 2012 3:36:59
This time the main difference was that the final climb was solid. There was no big drop in performance, no fuzzy head and no physical pain. Afterwards there was no discomfort or drop in energy level – as usually happens. I don’t really know why. During the workout I drank less than a litre of energy drink. It was sunny but fresh. I hadn’t eaten much beforehand and afterwards didn’t want to eat a meal all evening – but felt good. I suspect that I’ll never fully understand those things.


Last week I deliberately did one workout on the bike when feeling tired. The aim was to test technique and find out if following through with the hip at the end of the push would compensate for tiredness. The result was that I kept a reasonable pace and even the hard Notre Dame du Pré climb was tolerable. However I was still way off the pace that is available when fresh and my back felt sore both during and after. The feeling is that this is not a good way to go. Perhaps the push through can be used for sprinting and short bursts where extra power is needed for short periods.
For this latest workout I decided to protect my back by using the original ChiCycling technique and focus on the hip only moving back during the extension – trying to feel the core muscles and a solid connection from the spine to the pedals generated from movement around the spine. As usual I tried to avoid using peripheral muscles. The result was that there was no back pain throughout or afterwards. I don’t know to what degree the success of the workout was due to technique or improved fitness – but times were improved on every sector and both physical form and a clear head were maintained throughout. 
In running I’ve become much more conscious of the connection between the upper and lower body – specifically how active use of the arms transmits down to the feet. This obviously happens through the spine and core. Just as in skiing this requires a very active rotation – but to any observer it looks static because the counter rotation of the upper and lower body cancel each other out. Increasing the activity around the centre line of the body vastly reduces the PEL (Perceived Effort Level). The same thing happens on the bike. When you bring the spine into the picture instead of working just from the hip joints then you accelerate, keep a higher momentum and feel like the effort is reduced. Danny Dreyer writes about “gathering to the centre” in ChiRunning. This could be partly interpreted as the leg recovery using the psoas (hip flexors) instead of focusing on pushing off. On the bike I noticed that when you “pull up” there is a sensation of pulling inwards – towards the centre. I focused on maintaining a strong feeling of connectedness right through to the pedals – all the time. The shaped chainrings really help with this. Even though my attention would wander at times I could use the motion around the spine to keep this connection constant. I think I lost it at one point near the top of the Notre Dame climb – and then realise everything had gone slack and I was slowing down. It only happened once. 

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