Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I haven't worn a HR monitor for the past 4-5 years. I used to wear one all the time starting 10-14 years ago when I first started training for racing xc-ski events like the Birkie and Noque and also when I did In-Line roller blade racing for 5 years in the late 90's, early 2000's, when I was in my early 40's.

When I starting riding mtn. bikes more seriously, in the early to mid 2000's, along came speedometers and I used the HR monitor on my mtn. bike rides as well as skiing. It was fun to try to figure it all out, to train and race trying to use the monitors to improve philosophy back then as it is now, was to train in the 75-90% max heart rate for any session less than 2 hours. I figured that if I only had limited time, I needed to push it for all I as worth to get the maximum benefit. All in all, I think that approach was the best.
I consider hills as interval training and for the Ultra's, I feel training hard builds up reserves and strength and trains the body to be strong as possible for the 30-40 hrs. it takes to complete them. Of course some long distance training is required, but how many times does someone have 30-40 straight hours to train for them? A different strategy has to be developed and for most, it has to be customized for what works for them.

Further, as I got older, I got a bit bored with the "racing" aspect and just competed as best I could to have fun. Racing became more of an excuse to meet with friends and just have a good time. Races gave me a bit more of a reason to train and to get out of the door when it was more comfortable to just skip a session or maybe not pushing the session.
I don't mind paying the entry fees to local grass roots events as most of the money is supposed to go to local trail maintenance and building of new trail.
I didn't want to totally embarrass myself myself at the races, but didn't want to turn the sport into a job, either. When I wasn't having fun (which included too much pain while training) I backed off.

It got to be a  bit of a drag to train to a device, I mean, who cares, what's the difference of a few minutes of finishing time? I hated trying to catch a few glimpses of the HR monitor on my wrist when bike riding/racing in singletrack when a second of lost focus could put you in the ditch.
I didn't like disrupting my poling action while skiing to flip my wrist to see what my heart rate was. Further, my eyes were getting "old man disease" and I couldn't see the numbers on the wrist device anyway.
I thought I kind of knew where my heart rate was after a few years based on the time of year (fitness level (pain) depending on which sport) and which trail I was on and how long it took to finish. After doing the same trails for a decade or better, one gets to know every hill and how one feels during the session to determine fitness levels. The only time I ever remember actually using a HR monitor during a race was during a roller blade race when I looked at my wrist and noticed I was really dogging it, so I kicked it down a bit and pushed harder.

About 3-4 years ago, I knew there was something wrong and I was going to have a terrible Birkie just from how I felt training the weeks leading up to the race. I wasn't able to pull the hills during training like I should by that time of year and for the amount of training time I had put in and I just could not improve and it showed as my Birkie race was horrible. I'd never had to stop during the race before and that year I had to pull over to catch my wind and recover so many times I lost count. It was only a few years before this that I averaged a HR of 150 for the 3.5 hour race which at that age was a zone 5 effort. My 3rd wave status was pushed down to 5th wave and even that was questionable.

I initially thought it was just an age thing....but it seemed odd how only a couple of years earlier I was doing ok (although getting noticeably slower every year) and the next thing I know I dropped off the cliff. I also thought I just wasn't mentally handling the "pain" part of the equation as well, but I always kind of relished the uphills and even though being a clydesdale (over 200 lbs.), it was a strong part of my game as I could push through pain ok.
I went to the Dr. after that Birkie and discovered my iron level was a bit low. After a year or so of taking an iron pill every day, I got the iron level back up and my training and races came back in....90% of my activities really weren't affected that much by the low iron, but to get that final 10% in a 3 hour race which has a ton of climbing, whether it be skiing or biking, it took being as close to 100% as possible to train effectively and then to race decently (by whatever standards "decently" is).

Then I decided not to have a speedometer on my bike or if I did, it was only for total miles during the season and didn't bother with HR monitor at all. The wrist receiver started to act up about the same time so I just stopped using it.

The brings me up to the past 18 months and getting involved in the ultra scene. They require less short term "pain" as in dealing with lactic acid build up and sustaining a high HR. So less of a reason, I thought, to be tied to a HR monitor.
Then, one of the races I did last winter required a gps or speedometer on my fat bike. As I didn't want to mess with the speedometer and the race required que sheets and a gps or speedometer, I dicided to bite the bullet and look into a gps.
A "friend" on FaceBook, that I never met, saw my post and offered me his used Garmin Edge 705 at a real decent price I thought, so I bought it.

I really was a bit intimidated by it and I didn't want to go back to the geek days of staring at a device vs. what's around me when I'm out on the trail, but I decided to give it a try to mainly develop some long distance bike routes off the beaten path to avoid traffic for training and to use when the singletrack is too wet to ride.
I tried to use my iPhone map and/or google map for this, but due to poor AT&T reception in central WI, the iPhone is not dependable, so the next logical step was to try to us the Garmin to create some routes to use for myself and to share with some interested friends. As I'm starting to do some 5 hr. plus training sessions in preparation for ultras I was motivated to learn the Garmin to stay on course.

I have to say, I'm enjoying using it more than I thought I would and once I started using the HR monitor, I realized how much I'm leaving on the table and how with a just a bit more effort I could be improving my fitness levels.
In the past year I've also make a more concerted effort to drop a few pounds and have gone from around 210 to 195 and want to get to 180.
So, this week, after using the Garmin with the HR monitor for a few rides, I rather want to take advantage of it in my training to improve my fitness levels by training in a higher HR zone and also to stay more in the "fat burning zones" when desired. I had known about the fact that when one gets into a higher HR zone fat burning stops and carb/sugar? burning takes over, but really didn't know where it was.

I found that a comfortable ride right now on the road can be pushed a bit to keep me in solid training zone 3 for optimal cardo and fat burning and a bit extra effort in the singletrack riding can get me into the highest training zones to improve speed and power. Between the two different style of rides, I hope to in improve in both areas, so I'll see if this helps.

Interesting chart as it tells what fuel is burned for the various levels of HR.

My zones based on my age:
Max: 165 (actually, 163 but rounded off a couple bpm high)
Zone 1: 83-99
Zone 2: 99-115
Zone 3: 115-132
Zone 4: 132-149
Zone 5: 159-165

We'll see how long I keep interested.
A few rides with data.
Fatty to Abby
Alamogordo to Cloudcroft
Plover to Standing Rocks park and back.
Urban Ride West
Plover to Fremont w/Singletrack Standing Rocks/Hartman Creek
Lowes Creek, Eau Claire, WI
BLAST, Elk River, MN

Random spring shots:

New Trek/Gary Fisher Superfly 100 AL elite:

Getting ready for the annual spring canoe trip. Could be interesting with the high water this spring.
 Mille Lacs, MN. Still iced in.

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