Trail in a misty surrounded by mossy trees, early spring

Six Sprints

Published 2012-09-04

Since mid-July, at least twice a week I ride a thing I call “Six Sprints.” Inasmuch as I “train,” Six Sprints is it. I tried a more-structured regime: I checked out a copy of Chris Carmichael’s Time Crunched Cyclist, tested my max HR, and plotted a six-week interval training regime. About which I promptly forgot. I’m just capital Not the kind of cyclist who rides with that kind of iron discipline (that would be Thom). Instead, I’m the kind of kind of cyclist who rides

  1. a lot,
  2. over hills,
  3. in all weather,
  4. with lots of weight on my back.

As a training regime, this is about 50% of the way there. What’s missing are:

  1. long endurance or tempo rides, and
  2. structured intervals.

For #1, dream on. With two jobs, two-plus kids, and five dependents (counting the dog) — daylong centuries are no longer a Thing I Do.

For #2, see my comment re:discipline, above. If my training relied on following a calendar, I’d be screwed.

Lucky for me, Strava exists. Between Strava and my (cheap-cheap) GPS-enabled Heart Rate Monitor, I can turn my everyday commute into a pretty solid 60-minute workout. I do this by stringing about six segments into a sequence I call Six Sprints. I do them as sprints, not intervals. Meaning: I push straight to my max; I push well past the point at which I should pull back and recover; and then I recover a lot longer than recommended. This is almost certainly not a good substitute for intervals, but it’s a great improvement over “not pushing myself at all.”

My Six Sprints are:

  1. What you Got?: SW Terwilliger from Boones Ferry Rd. to Taylor’s Ferry Road. This is a short, 6%ish kick, less than a mile from our front door. I’m not usually warm enough to attack it properly; I try to get my HR up to about 180 for about 90 seconds.
  2. Menefee Sprint: SW Menefee Drive, cutting off the switchback of Westwood Drive. Strava won’t let me make a proper segment here. This is about a 9% grade and I aim for a 190 BPM HR over a minute.
  3. Hessler Drive: from Northwood to Fairmount. Usually my hardest sprint of the day. About a 10-14% grade, I try for 200 BPM HR over two minutes.
  4. Spring Clean for the May Queen: Between the two radio towers at either end of Council Crest. This comes after two heavy efforts and I seldom give it 100%. HR 175BPM over 5+ minutes.
  5. Hewett (Actual): This is the entire 1.7mi length of Hewett Drive, a road so beautiful I’m loathe to sprint along it. Most days I treat this more like a time trial and aim to finish under 5 minutes at about 175BPM.
  6. Highland-Upland-Fairview: Three quiet residential streets between Canyon Court (along US-26) and Fairview Blvd. (behind Hoyt Arboretum). I discovered this route as a cutoff for Skyline to Fairview and I’m surprised I never see another cyclist on it. A beautiful mix of grades (3% to 12%) over about 0.7mi. I try to push this at 100% (HR 200+) when I’m feeling spunky, although I often putz out after the first 12% jump, especially because it comes after two stoplights and a descent.

It’s a good day when I can do all six sprints, or even try to. If I skip sprints, usually I’ll skip 1, 4, and/or 5. The beauty of this workout (for me) is that it requires no bookkeeping or even planning, and relies for motivation only on my ability to push my HR ever-higher. It also exploits geography to create at least two hard intervals (2 and 3) which are almost impossible to do at a recovery pace.

Keep in mind also that I’m usually doing this on my heavier commuting bike, and always with a full backpack.

And if I’m feeling too lazy even to monitor my HR and do my sprints properly, I have one last trick. I’ll do the entire commute on my big ring (or even a single gear), and let physics force me to work harder than I want to. This morning I rode my commute on 53/17T — a better than 3:1 gear ratio.