Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Friday, December 19, 2014

Broken Heart Rate Monitor?

I use a heart rate monitor with my Garmin computer. Before I got a power meter, my heart rate monitor was the only equipment I had to gauge my intensity. We also use heart rate monitors in my spin class, and so I’ve gotten very familiar with the levels of effort associated with the various heart rate zones.  This guide was developed by fitness expert Joe Friel:

Level                     Name                                    Maximum Duration
Level 1                  Recovery

Level 2                  Endurance                             All day

Level 3                  Tempo                                  1-5 hours

Level 4                  Subthreshold                         45-120 minutes

Level 5a                Superthreshold                      15-60 minutes

Level 5b                Anaerobic Endurance             3-7 minutes

Level 6                  Power                                   1 minute

Level 7                  Sprint                                    15 seconds

These zones correspond with a percentage of your threshold level, i.e., the highest power that you can maintain for one hour. With training you can increase your threshold level, which indicates better fitness.  Threshold level can be assessed quite accurately as 95% of average power in a 20-minute test.

It’s important to note that your threshold level is different from your maximum heart rate, which is genetic.  Furthermore, although the various zones are calculated as percentages of threshold power, they commonly are correlated to heart rate because heart rate is cheaper to measure than power.  (A heart rate monitor costs a lot less than a power meter.)  Evaluating intensity with heart rate works well, but it’s not foolproof, as I have discovered in recent weeks.

In spin class and at Tuesday Worlds, we ride a lot at Level 3 and Level 4 with occasional forays to Level 5a or even 5b. Additionally, in spin class I’ve learned to assess my effort level pretty accurately just by perceived exertion, which I can confirm with my heart rate monitor.  This ability has translated fairly well to riding on the road, too.

In the last several months it’s gotten harder for me to get my heart rate level up in spin class.  My 10-minute warm-up often isn’t enough even to get me to Level 2; only jumps or sprints will start elevating my heart rate. I haven’t thought too much about it, simply attributing it to the huge amount of endurance riding I’ve been doing for the last couple of years.  However, I’ve only just realized how this manifests itself on my road bike.

On a typical solo road ride in the 30-mile range, I usually spend most of my time in the upper endurance/low tempo zone, around Level 2.8 to 3.5.  In the last few weeks, however, I started noticing that my heart rate zone was usually around 0.7 to 1.8 – even though my perceived effort seemed much higher.  I told Robert that I thought my heart rate monitor was broken! He asked if I had looked at actual heart rate, not just the heart rate zone. Aha! Why didn’t I think of that? (That’s why I pay him the big bucks.) Sure enough, my heart rate has also been much lower. My heart rate monitor is working correctly after all.

Robert pointed out that when I’m riding my bicycle for 8 to 13 hours, as I do when I ride a 200-or 300-km  brevet, there’s no way my heart can sustain a high heart rate for that long.  Although that should be obvious from the zone chart above, it still doesn’t quite explain why my heart rate is lower even on the 30-mile rides. I was intrigued and decided to do a little research.

The average adult resting heart rate is about 70 beats per minute (bpm). Although I was already well aware that endurance athletes usually have a much lower resting heart rate (as low as 40 bpm or sometimes even less), I didn’t know that endurance training also decreases the submaximal heart rate. In other words, with a lot of endurance training, your heart is also going to beat more slowly while exercising.  One reason is because your body adapts to utilize more oxygen (VO2max increases).  Also, the stoke volume of the heart (the amount of blood pumped per beat) increases.  These processes allow the heart and body to work more efficiently for a given effort.

Now I better understand the difference between power and heart rate.  While training with intensity increases threshold power, endurance training lowers the heart rate during exercise. Doing both types of training is important and results in better performance, whether you’re a sprinter or a randonneur.  For the past couple of years I’ve been very happy with the effectiveness of my training mix: the intensity of Worlds and interval training as well as long, slow centuries and brevets. I think I’m just now really seeing pronounced effects from my endurance training.

Yesterday I was glad to find that I still can get my heart rate up even during a shorter ride. I did one of my favorite routes, which is 31.3 miles. A typical ride on this route will yield data approximately as follows:

Average speed = 17 mph
Average power = 135 W
Intensity factor (= normalized power/threshold power) = 0.70 to 0.75 (Normalized power is slightly higher than average power.)

Now check out yesterday’s data:

Average speed = 18.4 mph
Average power = 176 W
Intensity factor = 0.884

I had already planned to do a longer than usual lunchtime ride yesterday because of an atypical schedule. Little did I know how therapeutic it would prove to be.  In the morning I went to a meeting that made me sick to my stomach (politics triumphed over science).  I worked out my frustration on the bike. Maybe I should use this training strategy more often: get mad before I ride.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

RAAM Raffle and Wine Tasting

I am so looking forward to the Race Across America (RAAM) next June! Obviously, I'll be posting a lot more about it between now and then, but for now, here is some basic information:

I'll be racing as part of a four-person, all-women team as the Sorella RAAM Cycling Team 2015. My teammates are Korey Gotoo, Jennifer Klein, and Lauren Schrichten. We'll have a crew to drive support vehicles, navigate, prepare meals, maintain our bicycles, etc. RAAM teams begin the race on Saturday, June 20, 2015. The route goes from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. We plan to complete the race in about eight days.  One of the four of us will be on the road at all times, day and night.  We hope to partner with a women's charity to raise awareness and money for them; we're close to working that out.

Yesterday we kicked off our fundraising with a raffle and wine tasting. Korey, our multi-talented team leader, created a beautiful sculpture called "Tierra" for the raffle:

We sold raffle tickets for the last few months.  I thought it would be nice to have a special event in conjunction with the raffle drawing. Thanks to my greyhound adoption group (Southeastern Greyhound Adoption), I knew of the Marietta Wine Market.  The Marietta Wine Market holds wine tastings twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, using the occasions to sponsor local charities. They select a different theme, winery, or region for each tasting and provide complimentary hors d'oeuvres.  I contacted Karen Giese, one of the owners, and she graciously set up our tasting for yesterday.

Jennifer, me, and Korey. (Lauren lives in California!)
It was a delightful event all the way around.  When I arrived, I was so happy to see that the featured wines were from the Hess collection. My husband Robert and I visited the Hess winery a number of years ago when we did a bicycle tour of Napa Valley, CA.  Not only were the wines delicious, but also the winery featured an extensive art collection.  The Hess wines at yesterday's tasting were wonderful, too. Larissa Dubose, the Southeast Field Sales Manager for Hess Family Wine Estates, guided everyone through a flight of five Hess wines: chardonnay, pinot noit, a red blend, and two carbernet sauvignons. How wonderful to have a special connection to the wines at our tasting!

We had a suggested donation of $20 per person.  Karen explained that the usual protocol at the shop's wine tastings is to subtract the cost of the wine from the total collected, with the sponsored group receiving the net proceeds.  Yesterday, however, Hess donated their wine, and so our RAAM team received all of the proceeds!  Thank you so much to the Hess Collection and the Marietta Wine Market for your generosity!

The Marietta Wine Market is a great store to visit even apart from the tastings. They feature all kinds of wines, including some from Georgia wineries and certain varieties that I can't find as readily in the shops closer to my home. Robert and I love wine; I wish we could afford to drink it every night! The Marietta Wine Market offers a 5% discount on six bottles and a 10% discount on 12 bottles. I selected the Hess Treo (the red blend from our tasting) and two of my favorite Georgia wines, a cabernet franc from Three Sisters and Inclination, a white from Frogtown. I also wanted to get a viognier, which I don't get to have very often, and a relatively dry riesling. Karen's husband Randall made some recommendations for these and also suggested another red blend to round out my six bottles.  Robert and I are set for a while now!

In addition to a terrific wine selection, the Marietta Wine Market also has some cheeses and wine related gift items. As if that weren't enough, they even have Nelson the wine dog!

I really haven't even gotten to the best part of our event. I was thrilled and humbled that so many good friends came out to support our RAAM team. My Georgia Tandem Rally friends were well represented by John and Mitzi Boland, Eve Kofsky, and Roger Strauss. Robert and I join them and about 100 other tandem teams every May for an incredibly fun, tandem-only long weekend. (Sorry I didn't get any photos of y'all yesterday...)

Also, my friends Felicia and Charles Hardnett came all the way from Conyers to join us!

Felicia and I were high school classmates, and Charles was a year ahead of us. I'm so glad we've been able to keep in touch over the years. That's definitely one of the best things about Facebook!

Two of our RAAM crew members joined us as well, Dan and James.  (We're still assembling our crew but have a great start with these two and Brigette, our crew chief!)  Other supporters included several Sorella cycling club members, some friends of friends, and even a few local people who just like to come to the Marietta Wine Market.

Between the wine tasting and raffle, we made about $1,000 - a great start to our fundraising! Thank you again to the Marietta Wine Market, the Hess Collection, and all of our friends for making is such a fun and successful day.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Silk Sheets 200K Brevet

On Saturday I did the Silk Sheets 200K brevet.  It was a fun and special ride for several reasons.  I did this same brevet a year ago.  It was my first brevet as well as my last ride in A Year of Centuries (www.ayearofcenturies.blogspot.com).  So, I had fond memories as I pedaled along the same course on Saturday.  One thing was very different from last year, however.  Whereas last year I rode the whole thing by myself, this time I had a terrific riding companion.  It wasn't just any riding companion, though; it was Jennifer Klein, one of my Race Across America (RAAM) teammates!  Yes, I'll be doing RAAM next June!  I'm so excited!  I'll post more about this sometime in the near future as we get a few more details ironed out, but for now I know for sure that I'll be part of a four-person, all-women team, the Sorella RAAM Cycling Team 2015!  My teammates are Korey Gotoo, Jennifer Klein, and Lauren Schrichten.  Korey and Jennifer are from Atlanta, and Lauren is from California.  Stay tuned for more info.

As for Saturday's brevet, the best part was seeing what a trooper Jennifer is.  Not only was our 129-mile ride the longest she had ever done, she also wasn't fazed a bit by starting in the rain.  It wasn't just a drizzle, either.  It rained steadily for about the first 50 miles.  The temperature stayed in the 50s most of the day, which made the rain much more bearable.  It would have been a lot tougher if it had been even 10 degrees cooler.  Fortunately, we both had good rain gear, which kept our cores warm and dry.  I was actually fairly comfortable.  I think the good companionship had a lot to do with that, too.

Our second control was an information control, where we stopped at a historic building:

Jennifer and me
Some friendly horses were hanging out right beside it.  I enjoyed sharing my apple with one of them:

I forgot to wipe off the lens of my phone camera before the picture, but this does convey the rainy nature of the day.
We lingered long enough at this control that some of the guys caught up with us.  It was nice to have several of my regular rando buddies - Daniel, Ian, and Robert (Newcomer) - join us for the second half of the ride.

The remainder of the ride was relatively uneventful...until we got to the last big climb.  It was on Northside Drive about four miles from the end.  I sort of remembered this climb from last year, but I guess I was so elated about completing A Year of Centuries then that I didn't remember just how steep it is.  For about a mile the grade is as much as 11%!  That's like climbing a gap in North Georgia.  I wouldn't have believed that a climb this steep and long exists in metro Atlanta.  It's also quite a little kicker after you've already ridden about 125 miles.

Although the weather was probably the least ideal that I have experienced on a brevet (but certainly not the worst in my cycling career), it still was a very enjoyable ride.  Thank you to all of my riding companions, Neil for the route support, Chris for taking on RBA duties for the day, and regular RBA Kevin for setting up this brevet.  See you all on the road next time!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Like Buttah

As much as I love cycling, I love my husband Robert even more.  That’s a lot!

Not only is he my life partner, he’s also my favorite cycling partner.  As a bonus, he’s even my soigneur, encouraging me on all my cycling adventures and keeping my bicycle in good working order.  He just put a new chain on my road bike.  Whoa, I can’t believe how much smoother that makes my riding – it’s like buttah!


Frankenbike’s shifters can be a little finicky.  I know their feel and usually can finesse them, but every once in a while I throw the chain when I shift too hard.  That happened to me a couple of nights ago I took Frankenbike out on the dirt roads near my house.  I’ve always been able to get the chain back on the cassette, but this time I managed to get the chain so twisted that I couldn’t untangle it.  Fortunately, this occurred only about ¼ mile from the end of my ride, and so I just walked the rest of the way home.  I need my soigneur’s help on this one.  It’s definitely not like buttah.