Sportive Blog Competition Entry - Chris Walker

Sportive Blog Competition Entry - Chris Walker

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Read Chris' account of his training for a huge year of sportive challenges

Above: Chris (third from left) on a recent training camp.

I love sportives. Whoever dreamed the idea up deserves a medal. If time (and my wife) would allow, I’d do at least two a month. I like ‘em long and hilly, mainly because my strengths are endurance and hill-climbing.

Having climbed Mont Ventoux last year and loved it, I decided to go for something even more ambitious this year – La Marmotte, which is a 180 km sportive with a difference. You get to climb four dirty great French Alps in one day! This is scheduled for 7th July. I’ve paid my entrance fee and reserved my accommodation last August! My wife and I are planning to make a holiday of it, so we’ll be driving down to Bourg d’Oisans a few days before and leaving a few days after the Big Day.

I’ve been using La Marmotte as a major goal to motivate me to train for it. I actually started this in December last year, on the premise that winter turbo sessions, tedious though they are, are a great way to keep in shape for the upcoming season and really build that endurance. I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Garry Palmer of SportsTest and, having gone through the pain of his assessment, we built a training plan which also has the blessing of my coach, Dan Bennett of Progressive Coaching.

I work full-time, and also have a second part-time job in the evenings, so don’t have a lot of spare time. The end result is that I do four one-hour turbo sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with a relatively unstructured ride with a group of like-minded souls on Saturday morning over a distance of at least 50 miles, sometimes further. Oh, and I cycle into work as well!

The key to success for me here was switching to do my turbo sessions in the morning before I go to work. Yes, you have to get up earlier, but if you get your routine right, you stumble out of bed and you’re on the turbo before you’ve had time to talk yourself out of it, which was the problem with trying to do these in the evening. Once done, it’s out of the way and you feel a warm glow of satisfaction because you’ve done your training for the day!

The concentration is on endurance. The Marmotte climbs are long – very long, but they only get really steep on short ramps, so the idea is just to keep going for mile after mile. My build is Bradley Wiggins-esque – 6’3” tall and 70 kilograms. However, there the resemblance ends, as he can generate power I can only dream of! (He is also half my age and has been cycling far longer, in my defence….).

At the moment, I am using heart rate training zones only, and aim to keep my heart rate at around 140 beats per minute (my maximum is 181), interspersed with a few longish intervals at around 150 beats per minute. This programme stood me in excellent stead for a camp in Denia, Spain, that I attended during the last week in March, where we trained on long, long hills Marmotte-style. I have, however, just arranged to rent a PowerTap wheel from Cycle Power Meters and am really intrigued to see what effect this might have on my training! I’ll keep you posted…..