Economic Cycles

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Numbers Don’t Lie

with 2 comments

I’m into my second week of structured training and I’ve got some good data collected already. The great thing about training and racing with a power meter, heart rate monitor, and GPS unit is that the data you collect gives you an undeniable, quantifiable look at your fitness at a particular point in time. This is great when you see your numbers going up and your fitness improving. You can say with certainty that you are getting better, instead of telling yourself, “I feel like I’m getting better, but I’m not sure by how much.” Training devices tell you exactly how much.

The downside to having these devices and data collection is seeing how much worse you are after a big layoff.

Knowing that I did some solid 2 x 20 threshold and TEMPO intervals back in March right before I got seriously injured, I decided to take a look at where I was back then and where I am today. In March right before I pulled the plug, a typical 20 minute session of zone 3 TEMPO riding was to average around 245 watts at an average heart rate of around 170 bpm. My threshold intervals were typically 20 minutes at an average of 275 watts with an average heart rate around 180 bpm. (My best 20 minute effort in March was 285 average watts).

Fast forward to my TEMPO workouts now and we see a huge decline in fitness. An undeniable, in your face, can’t dispute it sort of decline. Now I’m averaging only 230 to 235 watts when my heart rate is 170 bpm. And to get that 245 average wattage, I need to push my heart rate up to the mid 170s. For example, today I did a few 10 minute TEMPO efforts and noticed that to hold that mid 240’s power, I had to keep my heart rate hovering around 175 bpm. In other words, I’m getting a good 10 watts less output for the same input. Before I could average 245 watts at 170 bpm, now I can only do 230 to 235 watts at the same heart rate. SUCK.

As you can see, working with both a power meter and a heart rate monitor allows the rider to see what output they can get from a certain input. It’s sort of like a “bang for the buck” measurement. You want to see a larger output (wattage) for your input (heart rate). The ultimate goal is to see big time power with very little cardiovascular effort. My personal long time goal has always been to push 300 watts for my 2 x 20 threshold workouts. I was definitely closing in on that goal before I got injured. Now I’m building myself back towards it, slowly but surely.

There is no doubt in my mind that I will get my fitness back to where it was. Better yet, I know I can blow away those numbers I had in March. It’ll just take time. I have to be patient and keeping working hard. And I will. Just ask the burning anger in my stomach.

Postscript: The great Joe P brought to my attention that I may have the input/output ratio backwards. He might be right. Reflexively I saw it as, “how many watts can I push at X heart rate?” Where my output is the power and my input is my heart rate. But I recall having conversations with Joe and others in the past where I’ve considered heart rate to simply be a response to stimulus. I think I got it right back then. Anyways, either way you cut it, I’m getting lower wattage at each heart rate. But, my form is coming along and each ride is becoming a confidence builder.

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Written by jlongo12

June 1, 2011 at 10:43 am

Posted in cycling

2 Responses

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  1. […] biggest change I can see aside from the reduction in output for any given input is that my heart rate cannot go above the low 180s now. Before I could break into the 190s pretty […]

  2. I think you have it backwards…HR is the output and power is the input. My HR is always really low in the cold, and really high if I’ve come off a lot of rest.

    Joe P

    June 7, 2011 at 6:24 am


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