Shortly after posting yesterday’s blog I mounted my bike to the car and drove over to Wekiwa Springs State Park for some mountain biking in the Wekiwa Forest. I was feeling extremely bloated from this past weekend’s sloppy diet, and so I was really in the mood for an extended ride. I wound up doing my longest 100% off-road mountain biking adventure ever: just over 31 miles.
I knew when I set out that I was going to go for a long ride, but I hadn’t planned to do 31 miles. In an effort to save a little weight I didn’t fill my Camelbak HAWG to it’s maximum water capacity of 100 ounces, choosing instead to take just 70 ounces. The 30 ounces of water I left out of my reservoir lightened my load by about two pounds, but it was a mistake: I ran out of water at about the 29 mile mark. Thankfully the last couple of miles are well-shaded and not particularly challenging, but I was parched after hours of riding in the humid 90 degree heat. I had an extra 24 ounces of water in the car, so I was able down that as soon as I got back. I won’t make that mistake again–100 ounces every time from now on.
I spent most of the ride pushing myself hard. After a couple miles warm-up, my pace was relentless. It’s been weeks since we’ve had any rain here, and the sugar sand was extra sandy and extra deep. There were a couple of places that I barely made it through without dismounting, but I managed. This brings me to the main point of today’s blog…
About 10 miles into my ride I arrived at one of the most challenging sections (from a cardio standpoint): it’s a fairly short hill where the trail turns to nothing but deep sugar sand. There are also roots and a few other obstacles dotting the path to the apex. As I approached the uphill section I glanced down at my Timex Ironman heart rate monitor: 181 BPM. Note that I was maintaining between 175 and 180 BPM throughout the vast majority of the ride; I’m able to sustain this relatively high heart rate for extended periods because over the past 5 months I’ve specifically trained for it. Anyway, I hit the sugar sand at full speed, and started my climb. I went over and around the usual obstacles as I’ve done dozens of times before, but the sugar sand was extra deep, dry and evil. About halfway up the hill there was a fallen tree right across the trail. I thought, “How the hell am I going to bunny hop this log while going uphill in pure sand?” I decided to try, and while I made the jump it wasn’t pretty (I’m glad I didn’t break my derailleur, because I smacked it on the log). With the top of the hill in sight, I glanced down at my heart rate monitor: 195 BPM… 196 BPM… 196 BPM! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. For years and years my maximum heart rate was 193 BPM and not one beat higher. In fact, I would have bet my last dollar that my heart was not physically capable of beating any faster than 193 beats per minute (short of a heart attack, which certainly crossed my mind at the time!)
Clearly I was not having having a heart attack. What I was doing was making a very important discovery: we are capable of so much more than we realize. For the past eight years I knew that my maximum heart rate was 193 BPM–it was a FACT . Every time I did HIIT cardio and I saw that my heart rate was 193 BPM, I would pat myself on the back and say, “Job well done, Stone! You’re pushing as hard as you can!” I’ve always said that I wore my heart rate monitor while doing HIIT to “keep me honest”. If I didn’t hit 193 BPM while going all-out, I wasn’t working hard enough. It never occurred to me that perhaps I was capable of more, and that seeing that “193” blinking on the heart rate monitor was actually limiting me.
That hill turned out to be a one of the most educational and eye-opening events of my entire transformation… a revelation. I will never again make assumptions about my physical limits. There’s always more, you’ve just got to dig deep and really believe it.