Monday, February 20, 2012

A 5-month review point

On September 17, 2011 I purchased my first (and so far only) road bike.  After making the purchase, John made a point to bring me over to the Swamp Rabbit Trail (SRT for short) and show me the path as a training ground.  It's still an area I love, and I intend to bring the girls out there one of these weekends for a ride to get them riding somewhere new.  It's mostly level, although it does get into a 3% incline over by Furman (about 7 miles up the trail).  Where's it's more interesting from the vantage point of this post is to review my performance comparing a few specific rides.  The first is my ride from 9/17:

Since this was my first ride on the new bike, and I didn't have a real bike computer yet (this data was taken from my phone), it's interesting from the time perspective.  Only my memories really document how it felt to slog up SRT for the first time.  When we got through Furman there is a sitting area, and for the first month or so it became my "turn around" point, and a place where I could take a break, sit down to rest and get a quick snack.  Just getting this far on the bike was a real effort most of the time, although if you dig through my Strava report for September and October you can see where I often went further up the trail.  I borrowed a HR monitor watch from John back then, and I remember having to make a conscious effort to make sure my heart didn't go over 160 while going ~12mph up the trail, and my cadence was sporadic at best, needing to often stretch out my legs.

The second of the rides would be the first SRT spin that I had the bike computer.  This also happens to have been my first group ride with the Spinners up on their "Ice Cream rides" on Sundays.

This had a different start place, and went a little further, but you can see that I was able to ride further and harder than the first ride.  This one is interesting because I have the cadence and heart rate data to compare to other rides.  You can see that my heart rate is still going over 170 here, even in the more flat areas of the ride (and in some cases downhill).  You can also see the first real data I have for cadence, and you can see even 3 weeks later I'm still not spinning for any serious length of time.  Some of this is because of the nature of the trail, although you can see that I'm more than likely pushing a big gear to keep up more than really trying to keep a decent cadence.

Fast forward to today.  Today was an easy spin up SRT, up and down Paris Mountain, an extended trip up SRT to Traveler's Rest, and then back to downtown.

What you will see here is that until we got to Furman my heart rate is sub-130, and recovered extremely quickly when we had rests.  The trip up Paris Mountain was a challenge, but it was a manageable task and I didn't reach max heart rate until I was powering over the last grunt on the trek.  You notice on the trip back down that my heart rate recovered very quickly.  You'll also notice that the cadence stays strong throughout the ride, and you notice when the cadence stops is typically at a crossing point where we actually had to slow down and stop.  The entire 25 minutes it took me to go up the mountain I was peddleing without any major break.   The cadence was a little low (sub 60), but it's improving.

What it's showing me is more proof on how my cycling skills are improving.  I spend a lot of time being upset that I cannot keep up with the Brookwood Rides or with some of the guys from work when we go out.  I don't want them having to wait up for me all the time.  The fact that I can see the gains that I'm making right now is encouraging, and knowing that the efforts I've been putting forward as a part of Rob's Big Losers is paying dividends is comforting.  I now look at a ride up SRT as something to do for recreation instead of for fitness gains, and I need the challenge of extending the ride just to make it worth going out.  I look forward to a time when I can say that about more rides.

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