So there are these geeky terms that many of us cyclists use to gauge our efforts: Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and Functional Threshold Heart Rate (FTHR). FTP and FTHR are the numbers of watts, and heartbeats per minute, respectively, that you can theoretically sustain when riding at your hardest for an hour. I say “theoretically,” because most of us rarely go all-out for an hour. Training gurus have come up with all sorts of ways to approximate one’s hour-long potential without actually doing an hour interval. Most people just do a 20- or 30-minute interval and then knock off a few percent from their numbers. I’m still working on a way to calculate one’s hour-long power from a 10-second sprint (or perhaps just resting on the couch), but I haven’t worked out all the details yet. But there’s one event where cyclists often face the dreaded one-hour interval: the 40k time trial.
OK, just for full disclosure here, this race report is not about a 40k TT, because A) that would be a lot of suffering, and B) every 40k TT on the east coast this year is conveniently a schedule conflict for me. I instead did a 35k TT, but since the course map showed a few hills, I decided to gauge the effort as a 1-hour interval. Oh yeah, one more disclosure thing here: for the record, I personally believe that every time some toolbag talks about their wattage in public, a puppy is killed somewhere. So in the interest of protecting innocent creatures, I will use a substitute term for all further references to my…ehem… power (sorry!) in this report.
I was excited to use my time trial bike for this race, but then I remembered my TT bike doesn’t have a …ehem…puppy meter. So how would I know how hard to go if I couldn’t even see my puppy? Since I hadn’t trained with heart rate in years, how would I know what’s my FTHR? So I basically looked at some old numbers from three years ago and decided to go off of that.
Race day was sunny and humid, and I felt great. I took off and had exceeded my intended heart rate within the first two minutes. Uh oh, even after a meager warmup, I expected to take five or so minutes to get to my intended FTHR, let alone exceed it. I wondered if I was blowing up too early, or overheating, or going into cardiac arrest. I wondered what my puppy was, so I just stared at the blank field on my screen and slowed down a bit. After the turnaround, I saw that my teammate Josh had flatted on a pothole and had to stop racing. Crap. As the only QCW rider left, I tried to kick it into high gear and bring the team all sorts of glory. I tried harder but only marginally increased my speed, while remaining at a pretty consistent level of cardiac arrest. I again wondered about my puppy. I sprinted for the finish when it came in sight, and I later saw that I had reached the highest recorded heart rate in my adult life. This sufferfest got me second in the women’s category, with a time of 52:26 and a pretty impressive beating from Julia of Team Alliance Environmental. Lesson learned: always train with a heart rate monitor, even if you have all the other fancy gadgets. It’s important to know the difference between a mere puppy fluctuation, and more serious issues like dehydration or death.