Cycling Training in Richmond Park

Posted on April 18th, 2010 by Tim Bell in Cycling Training around London, Garmin Edge 705, The Road to Tourmalet

Time to give the knee another test. It’s been frustrating that I haven’t been able to train as hard as my legs and lungs want to, but I am at least getting a better idea of what is causing the issue. I think bike position and measurements had an initial effect which, in combination with a slight leg strength discrepancy, caused a painful niggle in the anterior knee. Any small factor will play a part when you’re performing an action over 25,000 times in the same session with the same joint. Probably the main factor was that I went into serious cycling training as a fairly fit person, but without any endurance experience either on or off a bike. Rather than making incremental increases in my training, I was trying to take giant strides. I wanted the feeling of exhaustion and muscle fatigue that tells you that you’re getting stronger, but my knee wasn’t letting it happen.

I got through the two big days in Nice with a lot of super-strength Nurofen. Those back-to-back rides were, in combination, probably 75% more effort than anything I had done up to that point, so I always expected some fallout. In that context, 10 days of anterior knee pain was getting off fairly lightly, with plenty of time left to ramp up towards the 180km and 4,000m climbing of the Etape du Tour (well, that was until the Icelandic volcano left me stranded in Munich…). I have to find a way to manage in one epic day the same amount of climbing we managed over two days in Nice.

So the objective now is incremental gains all the way. After a decent day’s work in Essex, I wanted another ride the following morning. On the Saturday, my sister had flown in from LA to surprise my brother at his 40th birthday party, and we had planned an early start the next day to get into the Surrey Hills, or at least around Richmond Park. The celebrations meant we started a little later than planned, but I decided to ride down to Kingston-upon-Thames rather than take the train as usual, to add a little distance to my ride. The Garmin Edge 705 completely let me down as early as Hyde Park Corner; an instruction to “turn right onto trail” when you’re dodging three lanes of cabs and buses is not exactly helpful, so I followed my nose and eventually reached my destination via a couple of A roads. On one of them, which entailed a fairly sustained climb, I spotted an electronic traffic calming sign saying “your speed is now slow”. Thanks a lot.

By the time I joined up with my brother he was raring to go and we had a fairly intense session around the park. I did 46 miles in the day at an average speed of 15.4mph, my highest on any ride of length so far (only beaten on a short burst around Regent’s Park since I’ve been measuring stats). I was surprised to have a relatively low average heart rate of 136 on the day, maximum of 185 (definitely notched while trying to stay on my bro’s wheel going up a hill). Over 2,500ft of climbing is not bad; Richmond Park is deceptively undulating. I was also pleased to have an average cadence of 89, having posted 81 on my last three rides. I think spinning the wheels quickly with low resistance is one of the keys to unlocking my knee problems, and it’s no secret that Armstrong and Contador both spin like catherine wheels.

As I write, I’m sitting in a Munich hotel lobby having been stranded by the ash clouds, and frustrated to have missed two planned rides this weekend. Guess I’ll just have to make up for it next time.

Here are some pictures of a very isolated early-morning London…


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