In yesterday’s blog I discussed an interesting observation about my heart rate during fasted LISS cardio. In short, my heart rate while exercising on Tuesday was significantly lower (roughly 10%) than it usually is when using the same resistance/cadence.
It seems clear to me that the 42 mile mountain biking ride I did on Sunday is responsible for the change. After riding for more than 4 hours with my heart rate averaging 85% of my maximum, I suspect that my body simply adapted and became more efficient.
The question is, how long will this after-effect last? More importantly, how can I make sure this positive cardio improvement not only continues, but becomes more pronounced? I’ll address each question individually with my thoughts.
I can report that this phenomenon was definitely still in full effect when I rode yesterday. I rode at Mt. Dora with my friend Mike and, in short, I felt incredible out there–probably the best I’ve felt in months.
I rode in the lead position coming down Gravity Destroyer and went right into the first lap when we reached the main trail. When I started the first lap I was riding hard, but I was not going all out. I felt like I was cornering pretty well, and the pace felt fairly fast. As we approached the first juncture Mike yelled up to me, “Do you want do this one for time?” I said sure, and continued on the Strava “The Loop” segment.
When we completed the segment, Mike mentioned that he felt like it was a sub-eight minute lap. Now, keep in mind that my personal record up until that point was 8m22s. I set that PR back in May, and I rode that all-out holding nothing back. I was surprised that Mike felt it was such a strong lap, as I didn’t feel that I’d put forth the same effort that I did when I rode the 8m22s. Added to that, I got hung up on an easy feature, and that cost me at least 10 seconds.
My time? 7m51s–a full 31 seconds faster than my previous best. I could not believe it! The lap just didn’t feel that fast to me, and I even made a significant error that cost me time.
My old PR of 8m22s was already 2nd on the Strava leaderboard (to Mike’s blazing fast KOM time of 7m12s) and, while I’m still not even within spitting distance of Mike’s time, after yesterday’s ride I’ve widened the gap between 2nd and 3rd quite a bit:
I’m confident that I can shave at least another 15-20 seconds off of yesterday’s time if I ride all-out and don’t make any serious errors. It feels great to join Mike in the “7 minute club”, but Mike’s already told me that he feels a sub-7 minute lap is possible (I think that’s his way of letting me know if I get too close for comfort he’s going to be that guy). 🙂
So, getting back to the question at hand: why did I improve so much on yesterday’s ride? I think there are several reasons…
First, equipment changes. The Wild Grip’r tires I’m running right now reduced my rotational weight by more than 1.5 pounds. That’s HUGE. Not only that, the tires roll much faster than my old tires. I have to say, the more I ride these tires the more I love them. They are excellent performers, particularly when cornering.
Second, my saddle height. I’d already raised my saddle quite bit compared to how low it was a year or so ago, but the second time I rode with Mike he said it was still way too low. Like 3 inches too low. I raised the saddle so that my legs were just short of lockout at full stroke, and the power increase was considerable.
Third, I’m cornering better than I ever have. I still have a lot of room for improvement in this area (especially when it comes to speed control entering corners), but I have made a lot of improvement over the past month or so. Also, that 42 mile ride at Santos on Sunday gave me about a million corners to practice on, and I did so conscientiously throughout the entire ride.
Finally, my cardio. As I mentioned above, I didn’t feel like I was exerting myself nearly as much as I did when I rode my previous best time. The heart rate data backs that up: when I set my previous PR my average heart rate was 187 BPM and I hit a high of 194 BPM, while yesterday my average heart rate was 184 BPM with a high of 190 BPM. Keep in mind I rode 31 seconds faster yesterday, too.
It seems clear that the positive benefits of Sunday’s ride are still being felt. As I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, the question now becomes, “How can I not only continue to enjoy these improvements, but also build on them?”
The answer seems very simple and extremely obvious to me: ride more, ride longer and ride harder. 🙂
I need to make long 40+ mile mountain bike rides a regular part of my training. If I did a ride like Sunday’s once or twice per month I have a feeling my cardio abilities would continue to improve drastically. Of course putting in all of those miles will make me a more skilled rider, too.
Locals: I’d love make Epic group rides at Santos a regular occurrence. Maybe once or twice per month. Anyone interested?