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Peak heart rate of 202 as I set two new Personal Records.

Friday, July 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


When I rode yesterday I decided to focus my efforts on breaking my existing personal records on two segments of trail. The primary segment I went after was Marker 13 to Marker 19 (Red Blaze), which is a fairly short, but intense, 1.4 miles.

The trail changes quite a lot over the segment’s 1.4 miles, so it’s a pretty fun and challenging all-out sprint. Things start off fairly flat and fast, then there are a couple of sandy hills in the mid-section, and you eventually wind up on some single track running through a pretty dense section of forest. There are a lot of so-called “pedal catchers” in the forest section (mostly small cypress stumps), and they are often hidden by the overgrowth; keeping speed up in that final section of the segment requires a lot of concentration.

Sugar Sand Hill

Sugar Sand Hill

There is a mini-segment within the above segment. It’s called Sugar Sand Hill. This section is short, but challenging if you keep the hammer down. The mini-segment is only a little over 1/10th of a mile; the grade on the uphills is around ~10% most of the way, but is closer to 14% near the top. What makes this hill challenging to charge is not so much its distance or the grading, it’s the sugar sand and roots.

I’ve actually written about this sandy hill before. You may recall that in my May 10, 2011 blog (“Revelations“), this little hill reminded me that our minds often limit what we are physically capable of. You can go back and read the blog if you want, but in short my heart rate hit 196 BPM on this hill after years of thinking my maximum heart rate was 193 BPM.

Peak Heart Rate of 202 BPM.

Peak Heart Rate of 202 BPM.

Yesterday as I approached this hill I was already riding all-out in an attempt to break my personal record on the Marker 13 to Marker 19 (Red Blaze) segment. I wasn’t paying attention to the stats on my Garmin Edge 500, but if I had looked down I would have seen my heart rate was at 196 BPM before I even started climbing.

I’m glad that I didn’t look down at my bike computer before I started my climb, because if I’d seen that I was already at what I believed to be my maximum heart rate, I probably would have unintentionally self-limited.

As I said in the opening paragraph, I was gunning to break my personal record on the hill segment, but I knew it was going to be tough. My existing personal best was 38 seconds, and I set that PR in May the day after a rain when the sand was somewhat packed down. Yesterday the sand was dry and loose.

I charged up the hill with every ounce of power and energy I could muster, and as I crested it I looked down at my Garmin. I thought I saw that my heart rate was at 212 BPM, and that scared the crap out of me. Turns out I was just seeing double through the sweat and pain; my actual heart rate was 202 BPM, which is 6 BPM higher than it’s ever been since my initial transformation almost 10 years ago.

Once again that hill has reminded me that we often limit our true potential with our minds. I never would have thought I was capable of a 200+ BPM heart rate (short of a heart attack) and, once again, I would have been wrong.

It occurred to me that the peak heart rate might have been a glitch–an abnormal spike. When I examined the data in detail, I found that was not the case (click to enlarge):

Heart rate on Sand Hill.

Heart rate on Sand Hill.


As you can see on the above chart, my heart rate is at 196 BPM before the elevation rise, and at 202 BPM just after cresting the hill. My heart rate rises as I climb, and drops off gradually after the climb. This was not a glitch, this was a training break-through.

The icing on the cake? Two new personal records! I beat my best time on Sugar Sand Hill by 4 seconds(!), and I shaved 3 seconds off my best time on the Marker 13 to Marker 19 (Red Blaze) segment. My average heart rate on the hill was 198 BPM, and on the main segment 191 BPM. Truly an all-out effort.

Two new personal records/KOMs!

Two new personal records/KOMs!


You can check out the complete ride on Strava and Garmin Connect.

The dry conditions, high heat and thick humidity made the new PRs especially satisfying. I’m happy with the ride, but only until my next one. 🙂

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