Saturday, January 15, 2011

l'alpe d'huez

there is a little mountain in a little ski resort in a little village in a mountain pasture in the central french alps, named l'alpe d'huez.
( that sentence feels like a set of those russian matryoshka dolls, the ones who nest inside each other and you discover them, one by one, until the tiniest one is revealed deep, deep within the fourth or fifth doll. )
shall I now invoke something spanish? or italian? or german?
no, I will return to france, to the famous l'alpe d'huez, key climb in the tour de france for decade after decade.
it's truly not that long of a climb at just under 14 kilometres, and as the alps go, it's not even that intensely difficult of a climb, holding an average grade of just under 8 percent. the fastest cyclists zip up it in less than forty minutes.
we won't discuss how long it would take me to climb that darn thing.
but I can tell you about how long it took me to complete the power camp version of the l'alpe d'huez climb: the same time it took everyone else, somewhere around an hour.

our power camp creator employs his sense of humor when naming some of our spin-bike experiences, and naming last tuesday's ride after this tour de france mountain stage is an example of such. a few times during the winter-long camp we are treated to these experiences where instead of systematic intervals to tackle we are given varying lengths in different high-intensity heartrate zones that when put together could simulate an actual climb.
we might spend 10 minutes just above lactate threshold, then five minutes in the zone above that, then three minutes in our top zone, before backing off for ten minutes a few beats below that, then heading back up to the top, then dropping back to lactate threshold for another 5 or 7 minutes . . . and then on and on.
and I actually like this kind of workout.
remember, I'm that workhorse that once warmed up, can work forever (not really) at a fairly intense level. (as long as I don't have to spin like a gerbil on amphetamines while doing so.) I'm a decent climber, mainly because I can work at those higher heartrates for quite some time.
I much prefer that kind of work to, say, sprinting, or yo-yo-ing back and forth from a recovery zone to the top zone 5 or 10 times.

what I need to work on, however, is the visualization. if I could learn to picture the mountain itself, to see the snow banked alongside the road, smell the green of spring beginning to peak its head through the remains of last year's growth, watch the sun bounce off the rock faces and feel its power soak into my skin, perhaps then I'd be better able to lose myself in the pleasure of the ride.
perhaps I need to take a trip to france.
to a specific place in france, to a mountain pasture in the central french alps where a little mountain sits in a little ski resort in a little village . . .
maybe I'll see you there.
or maybe I'll just see you in my visualization.
us and lance, powering around those switchbacks, muscles straining, climbing to the top . . .

maybe I'll just buy a poster.

or maybe I'll dream big, and start planning my trip to france.

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