If one of your upcoming events is on a "hilly course," it is reasonable to plan to ride some hills in your training. But, "go ride hills" isn't specific enough.
This blog is continuing the series for self-coached athletes. Those of you following along on my training posts know that in the last month I've posted three different hilly rides. Below are the rides and a bit more info:
63 miles, 3:35 ride time, 3388 feet of ascent, hill rating 54 ft/mi
26.2 miles, 3:34 ride time, 4155 feet of ascent, hill rating 158 ft/mi
23.74 miles, 3:13 ride time, 3847 feet of ascent, hill rating 162 ft/mi
The event I'm training for will last some 10-11 hours over 102.3 miles with 12,440 feet of ascent and a hill rating of 121.6 ft/mi.
The rides I plan and the sequence of planning for my event would be much different if I were doing an event such as the Sunshine Hill Climb. This event has a total ascent of 3226 feet in 9 miles. I suspect that event would take me over an hour and less than an hour-an-a-half to do this course with a hill rating of 358.4 ft/mi.
When athletes are building fitness, the first thing I plan for is event endurance. My rule of thumb is to have the athlete complete some 50- to 80-percent of the estimated race completion time in training. (Later, I'll aim for 50- to 80- percent of the elevation gain.) If the event is very short or the athlete is very fit, I may have them doing over 100-percent of the estimated event time. If the event is very long (ultra runs, ultra bike rides, Ironman triathlon) I use one to three days, usually sequential, to complete the 50- to 80-percent rule.
After the athlete has strong aerobic fitness, I begin to look at building event-specific speed. If the event is a "hilly" event, some of the things I want to know include:
How much overall elevation is gained in the event?
What is the hill rating?
What kind of hills? (Few and long? Multiple and short? Steepest hill grade? (Mtb only) - technical single-track or more fire roads?)
Does the athlete need primarily lactate threshold fitness, muscular-endurance, power, overall aerobic endurance or some combination?
Even though I used cycling races as examples, today's key points work just as well for running and triathlon events.
1. When you are planning your training, examine the profile of your key event.
2. Estimate the overall time you think it will take you to complete the event.
3. First plan to have the capability to complete 50- to 80-percent of the estimated event time in your training.
4. After solid fitness is built, then more course-specific speed can be added to the mix.