Heart Rate Monitors and Training

Last week the Fat Cyclist did a post on Killing Your Heart Rate Monitor. It was a good post which basically pointed out the difference between training/racing philosophies of “balls to the walls” and a “formal/regimented”. It also talked about the short comings of using a heart rate monitor and doing formal training. I will say right from the start that “ball to the walls” works for Elden. Even if he won’t admit it, well he is pretty fast (for a “fat” guy anyway!). Last summer he finished, showered, and had eaten at Leadville while I was still fighting my big bonk. You need to know who you are and what works for you.

I train with a formal coach and training plan. I use a heart rate monitor to set the intensity level of a ride based on a scheduled racing plan. It’s a little less organic, but I like the structure. Being a data driven scientist/engineer type it makes sense to me. I see the rational for what I am doing.

It also prevents me from over training and burning out. Elden seems to have this ability to ride and ride and ride, though it is hard to tell from just reading his blog. I suspect there are some easier relaxing days in there. Hard riding makes for better stories. Recovery relaxing rides don’t usually make for good stories.  I need to mix in hard and lighter.

I also use a heart rate monitor when I race. I don’t race to any particular heart rate zone, but I use it as a sanity check to meter out my effort for a long ride. Shorter rides or races? Yeah all out. If you were to look at my heart rate record at Domnarski Farm you will see that I was at or near my threshold for the entire race. Balls to the walls! Did I mention it was fun hammering people up the hill on the course? Yeah, it was fun. But I had the same tank to burn in an hour as I will at Willmington for 5-6 hours. Hammering up hill means something completely different in a 73 mile race with 9000 ft of climbing.

Here though is the one funny thing I have noticed about training to heart rate zones. How hard a ride feels in some ways doesn’t depend on how hard the ride is. Let me explain.

I will in a given week do a longer “endurance” ride. Sometimes that ride is in zones 1-2 (which is fairly light) and sometimes the ride is in zones 2-3 (much closer to race pace). Somehow when I get a 1-2 ride the time in zone 2 feels hard. When I get a 2-3 ride zone 2 feels easy. Same effort, much different perception.

I do think that it also has something to do with warming up and sustaining a higher level. I think my body sort of settles into an effort and then once it is in a mode relaxes making it easier. But I also thinks it’s  mental. It’s like I calibrate the top effort of a particular ride to be “hard” even if it really isn’t.

Today? Well 2:45 zone 1-2 endurance ride. It’s pouring out. (It’s also likely to continue all day, but at least its warm.) Time to work on some mental training.




2 thoughts on “Heart Rate Monitors and Training

  1. Doug, I’ve been reading the blog for a while and wanted to let you know how much I’ve been enjoying it. I too, am on a journey to ride Leadville. For me, it started last year after a friend who qualified for the 100 died of cancer. He passed away around the time of last years race. I told him I would try and ride in his place sometime.
    Riding whiteface this weekend and hope to meet you.
    Chris Brechbill
    Pennsylvania dairy farmer

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