Doing More With Less Since 1972

Category: Cycling (Page 5 of 5)

How Heat Affects Heart Rate, Or At Least Mine

Filed under “Experiments With Bodily Functions”

I’ve been riding the spin bike a lot lately. I had some self-induced mechanical issues with my TT bike for a while. And it was hot. And I usually don’t get a chance to ride until after 10 pm anyway. So it’s been really convenient. But I’ve noticed that I have a really hard time getting my heart rate up on the spin bike. I’ve done some interval workout videos where the folks on the video are working in the mid to high 160s, while I’m at a perceived effort level of 4/5 and not getting over 140. And the averages for these rides are always in the 120s. I know what pushing feels like, and I “feel” like that’s what I’m doing, but the HRM doesn’t show this work I’m feeling. And when I’m just spinning at a perceived level of 1/5, I’m lucky to break 110.

Yesterday I went out on my TT bike for the first time in a looong time. Weird, but no problem getting my heart rate up there. I was sustaining ~160 on 3 minute intervals, and averaged 144 for the 20 mile ride. During the cool down portion of the ride, my heart rate was ~133, and that was with a perceived effort level of 1. I could have sung opera (if I could sing).

The one major difference between riding the spin bike inside and riding a real bike outside is temperature and humidity. With the spin bike, I ‘m sitting directly beneath an air conditioning vent and a ceiling fan. But still, riding in a cool and humidity-free environment couldn’t have that much effect. Or could it?

I must employ the scientific method to find out for sure–had to collect some data.

During lunch today, I put on my my HRM and sat in the floor, leaning against the sofa for one minute. I then started a split and collected HR for one minute, and got an average rate of 52.

Then I went out to the driveway and sat down, leaning against the car. I waited for 5 minutes…just long enough that my feet were no longer cool and I felt like I was about to start sweating. Another minute with my HRM, and I got an average rate of 67.

So it takes me 15 more beats per minute to do nothing in the heat than it does to do nothing in the cool! And it was only in the mid-80s today!

One thing I’m not exactly sure about is how I can accurately extrapolate that data based on temperature though. Do I use a constant change of ~15 bpm when comparing hot weather workouts to cold weather workouts, or do I use a percentage (30%?!?!) difference. I’m leaning towards the first option, but I probably need to collect more data.

That means more spin bike. Outside. In the heat.


Keeping Your Own Training In Perspective

The next time someone thinks you are crazy for going on a “short” 10 mile run or spending three hours on your bike, let them know about Charlie Wittmack’s World Triathlon.

12,000 miles total, beginning with a 275 mile swim down the River Thames and ending with a climb of Mt. Everest. And sandwiched in between:

The 9,000-mile bike ride might seem relatively easy compared with the swim and the climb up Everest, but even there Wittmack has his work cut out for him.

“I have to get to the border of China and Kyrgystan by the end of October in order to get over the Tibetan plateau to India,” Wittmack said. “I’ll be riding over harsh deserts through areas with political instability.”

So…(talking to myself now)…you probably can squeeze in that workout today you’re not sure you have time for.

The Spin Class I Want To Go To

I was chatting over email today with an old rugby buddy of mine about the benefits of spin class. One of the ones he pointed out was that “mean” instructor who you love. In his case, it’s a South African who reminds him a lot of our former rugby coach from SA. This guy was a real jerk. His name was Eugene. I don’t think I ever knew his last name. None of us liked him at all–at least not as a friend.

But we loved him as a coach. He squeezed more out of us as a team and individually than we could ever have imagined. We lived out of our comfort zone for the duration of every training session, and it made us better. We never knew from day to day what kind of crazy fitness drills he’d have us do or what new and creative way he’d contrived to expose our weaknesses and punish us for them.

Two of the things I really like about spin classes are that I never know what’s coming next, and there’s a little bit of an extra push implied just because someone else is telling me how to ride and what to do. So I was thinking, if I could create the ultimate spin class, what would it be like?

A lot like Fight Club.

  1. You do not talk about this class. It’s not on “the schedule”. You have to ride your way in and be invited to attend. (This probably keeps me out of the class, thankfully)
  2. Bikes are arranged in a circle, so everybody can see everybody else. That turns the level of competition up about two notches automatically.
  3. No verbal cues. The class is too hard for that. The instructor is too gassed to tell you what to do. You just have to watch and follow.
  4. Better yet, there isn’t even an instructor. The lead moves around the circle with each person trying to kill the group more than the last person did.
  5. The lights are on. Again, everybody can see what everybody else is doing…or not doing. (Plus I like to be able to see my HRM).
  6. The door is locked. Can’t hang? Get off your bike and stand in the middle of the circle until the session is over. Oh, and the first one to quit has to clean up everyone’s bike when it’s over.
  7. Class will go on as long as it has to.

Some of these are obviously a joke, but I think there’s some actual merit to an idea like this. If a gym offered a two hour class that you had to ride your way into and was super tough, there are plenty of people who’d be happy to subject themselves to that kind of suffering. Unfortunately, the gym I go to has a high population of older folks, and there probably wouldn’t be much of a market for it, but I can honestly say I’d pay by the class for a chance at that kind of punishment.

Seats, Rashes, and Butt Paste

It’s crazy to me that the hard and uncomfortable seat on my bike is actually much more comfortable than the cushy seats on the spin bikes. I think it has much more to do with the shape and width of the seat than the cushiness.

Butt there’s a fix. And apparently, I’m not the first one to try it out.

Let’s just say I slept like a baby last night.

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Awesome Bike Route Close To Home

One of the things I miss about living in East Tennessee is being able to ride my bike on nice country roads. I don’t miss the dogs tearing through yards when they see me coming, and I don’t miss having people honk and yell, “Git off tha roawd!!!” either. But hilly, curvy country roads are definitely a plus of living in Knoxville.

On the flip side, one of the really nice things about living in a small town in Florida is that you can leave right out of the house and go on long flat rides. Safely. Yeah, no hills means no chance to get stronger going up hills, but it also means there’s no opportunity for rest coming down hills. The result is a long, steady pedal in aero position. Besides, you can always go do intervals on a causeway or hit a spin class if you really want hills.

I’ve been riding loops in a nice safe residential area, but it was getting kind of boring. So last night I jumped on to MapMyRide to see if there were any rides near my house that locals have posted. I found a course that passes right by my house and picks up a nice country road about 3 miles away from home. I checked it out with streetview on Google Maps, and I couldn’t wait to get out there this morning.

It didn’t disappoint.

No hills, but it’s pretty nice when you have to keep refocusing on your ride because you’re constantly on the lookout for dolphins instead of cars. The one caveat is that I had to jump out onto US-1 for about a half a mile–traffic’s not too bad at 6:20 am, but a little more traffic on the way back at 7:30. I ended up doing two loops of Rockledge Drive this morning, only passing two cars on my first loop and maybe 6 or 7 on the second. Love riding a course where the number of cars is tripled by the number of runners and cyclists. Even better when your bike speed is the speed limit! I shot this video at 20 mph as the sun was coming up.

Ok, not the greatest video because I have a Hero and not an EVO (HD), but I shot it while my CardioTrainer app and mSpot were both running. That’s right iPhone<4 owners…I been could do that!

Needless to say, my new favorite ride.

Best While-You-Work Television Ever

If you have multiple monitors, there’s nothing better than throwing the live coverage of the Tour de France onto one of the screens to listen to the race in the mornings and glance over to see what the announcers are talking about when you hear excitement in their voices. This is the only televised sporting event I really care about watching (or listening to) live.

I don’t care if they are on steroids, HGH, doped blood, meth, or monkey dung. They still have to get on those bikes and ride them a long way up some steep mountains. And since everyone is cheating anyway, the playing field is level, right?

It’s going to be nice to listen to something besides talk radio and Texas country music for a couple of weeks.

Here’s the stage schedule.


Those  greedy fat cats over at Versus are charging to follow the tour online this year. How dare they try to make a profit on an event held in a socialist democracy! The Tour belongs to the people and accounts of it may not be produced without the express written consent of the NFL and commissioner Pete Rozell.

To The Jackass Who Almost Ran Over Me

When you are almost hit by a car

My paint job is messed up. His in intact.

The big fat line painted on the parking lot you were exiting and the big octagonal red “STOP” sign were directed at you. Luckily (mostly for you), I’m a much better cyclist than you are a driver. If that weren’t the case you’d be dealing with some actual legal problems. I realize you were in too big of a hurry to get somewhere to at least roll down your window and ask if I was ok. Hope it was important. Please tell the Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy I said thanks again when he stops by your house.

Also, a big thanks to Jesse, who works for Brighthouse and called in your plates. Poor guy thought you actually hit me. I guess your car was in the way when he saw me go Supermanning over the handle bars, so he couldn’t see me bounce off the pavement instead of your vehicle.

Again, I’m ok–very little damage done, other than me being very angry. On second thought, maybe it is best that you just drove away.

Triathlon Training–How to Finish a Half Ironman MY Way

NOTE (2.7.2014): I get lots of traffic on this post, but please remember it was written in 2009. I’ve learned a lot since this was written, and have gained some valuable race experience along the way. There’s much more sound advice in the articles listed here.

For example, I talk a lot about bricks in this article, but have since developed the opinion that traditional bricks aren’t that valuable for long distance triathlon training, at least for me.

Most of the text below is probably a lesson in what not to do, so read at your own risk. I leave it posted for two reasons–to give me a way to remember how much I’ve grown and improved, and because it’s probably good for a laugh here and there.

What’s “my” way? The fat and lazy way.

My buddy “Dirty Matt” is training for a half iron distance triathlon in May and was asking me for some advice. Why would he ask me instead of his other friend who does full iron distance races on a whim? Because I’m going to let him off easy. See, my training regimen relies heavily on rest and tapering. In fact, I like to start my taper a couple of months before the actual race. You definitely don’t want to show up tired on race day, right?

I did a half iron distance race in 2006, and I learned quite a bit about training for regular people who are short on time and long on injuries. It doesn’t hurt to be a little lazy and have a propensity for sleeping late either. I used this training guide as my base, but after a few weeks I tweaked it to fit my lifestyle body shape laziness schedule.

I’m making a couple of assumptions here about the person who wants to train my way:

1. You aren’t trying to win the race, but you want to finish with a respectable time
2. You can already run 8-10 miles at an easy pace without much trouble
3. You’re an ok swimmer. My method will NOT improve your swimming much. You don’t have to be fast, just comfortable with swimming 1000 yards.
4. You are fat or lazy by triathlete standards–it helps to be both

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If you’re like me, when you first hear “1.2 mile swim”, it’s very intimidating. I promise you that when you finish training it will seem like nothing. In fact, my whole training philosophy is based on the premise that the swim is nothing.

Here’s the thing–if you didn’t grow up swimming, chances are you will probably never be great at it. In order to get fast you have to swim A LOT. I’m not really interested in that because (a) it’s boring and (b) planning for a 6 hour 1/2 ironman means you’ll be swimming from 30 to 40 minutes on race day. It’s just a warm up for the rest of the race. Losing or gaining 2 minutes or so in the swim is pretty negligible, and I want to get the maximum race time reduction for each minute spent training.

I went to a master swim class for a few weeks when I first started swimming, and the coach helped me work on stroke efficiency. The first day I swam one lap, and she counted 23 strokes for a length of the pool (25 yards). She stopped me, told me two things to change, and I was immediately down to 19 strokes per length. I kept going back until I was down to 15 strokes, then left with her tips and eventually got down to 12-13 on my own. All the while, my speed was improving. Makes sense, because I was not tiring out as fast.

I also started noticing that swimming “harder” didn’t gain me much time. It gained me a little, but not a lot. But swimming hard was jacking my heart rate up to ~160, while I could swim easy and keep it at ~120. All this work and training for, at best, a 5 minute gain on race day? No thanks. I worked my way up to 2,200 yard (1.2 mile) nonstop swims, and then did one swim a week of the full distance, making sure I kept my heart rate down. This was basically to keep myself mentally prepared to do it.


The bike is where you can gain the most time. Again, I was aiming for a six hour race, and that was going to mean around three hours to cover the 56 mile bike ride. Ride your bike! Ride it some more! If I could change one thing about my training, I’d have spent more time on the bike. It’s not just that the bike is the longest leg of the race either. The bike doesn’t tear up your body like the run does, and it isn’t as boring as the swim, so the training is much more enjoyable, at least for me.

I also know that Dirty Matt is coming from the same place I was coming from as well, which is a pretty solid running base, and I think cycling is a great way to build on that. For me, the bike takes weight off too, which helps a lot with the injury issues I can have with training for the run.

I worked on controlling my heart rate on the bike too, due to the way I trained for the run.


I love to run, but it tears me up, mostly because of my weight. And to be honest, these triathlon schedules take up a ton of time. Again, I’m just looking for a way to minimize my time on race day. Instead of doing separate run and bike workouts, I decided to just brick the mid-week bike rides with a 10% run immediately after. So a 30 mile bike ride would be followed by a 3 mile run, a 40 mile bike would be followed by a 4 mile run. It’s actually one thing I’m glad I changed from the training program, I’d done a few sprint tris and thought that those short runs would be no problem after a short bike ride.

I was wrong. Bricking the runs not only help your legs get used to the transition, but they give you a feel for how far into the run you will be before you legs feel normal again, which is a nice thing to have mentally.

Another change I made was to swap the weekend runs and bikes–doing the long bike on Saturday and the long run on Sunday. Sort of a “rested” brick. Maybe not a super smart move, but I was fighting off some injuries the whole time, and they didn’t get any worse, so maybe there’s something to it.

Other Considerations

I didn’t do ANY quality workouts. I think that’s something I would consider if I was going in to training fit enough to do the race, but I was building fitness for the entire duration of training and didn’t want to overdo it.

I don’t go back and pick up missed workouts unless they are the long ones. Missing a short bike ride or a short run isn’t that big of a deal to me, but the long ones have to be done. I probably would have been ok with even less swimming, but it helped mentally to do it at least once a week.

I did a few open water swims, just to practice spotting and going the right direction, which is tough for me. I still probably lost a couple of minutes in the race zigzagging. Dirty Matt lives on Maui, so open water swims are probably more convenient (and fun) for him than pool swims are.

Sorry this was so long. You could have probably already completed the whole damn race along with the training it the time it took you to read this.

Passing a Cyclist

Passing a cyclistPatrick Beeson has a nice article with some tips for drivers. It’s a good, quick list of pointers, but I’m assuming this will be of interest only to the drivers who don’t make a habit of yelling “Git off da roa-ohd!” or throwing stuff at cyclists.

I was riding a lot on the roads a couple of years ago when I was training for longer triathlons. I decided it just wasn’t worth the risk of getting hit by some a-hole after a guy was killed on one of the routes I rode often. I started riding on Cherokee Boulevard exclusively–plenty of space, and people are aware and considerate of cyclists there for the most part. That kind of sucks for longer rides, but the monotony built up my mental fitness and it paid off in races.

Sure, a cyclist has just as much right to be on the road as a motorist, but I’m still not comfortable putting my life in the hands of someone who doesn’t know or care about that fact. Drivers should actually be happy that more people will be on bikes. The decreased demand for gasoline will have prices falling in no time.

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