Thursday, February 16, 2012

Y Bike >,< or = Road?

In order not to get too far behind on clicking off the 112 miles of "bike" time I am working towards (as part of the CTER 140.6), I drug my ass to the YMCA tonight.  I called Susan and hinted at her going with me, but I think she thought I was nuts (it was 7 PM when I called and after 8:30 when I finally went).  I did stop by her house to get instructions on taking care of her dog this weekend and then headed over to get on the stationary bike.  I haven't bitten the financial bullet to buy a road bike or a trainer so unless we get some warmer weather (fingers crossed), most of the 112 miles will be done like this (ugh!).

I put on my music and just started cranking away.  I had set the workout program to "random" to try to simulate riding outside.  I set the "average effort level" as "10" (but I don't know out of how many that is).  As I rode, I watched my RPM and MPH.  When I ride on the road (on my mountain bike), I think I average 10-12 mph.  I tried to go a little "faster".  I don't have any way to know what my RPM is on my regular bike.  And I don't own a heart rate monitor.  When I ride outside, I just try to make sure there are at least a few times in the ride that I feel like I am about to die and then call it good.  The bike at the Y is a really nice LifeFitness model with the little metal heart rate monitor grips.  I have no idea if these are even remotely accurate, but I tried to keep it close to 160 bpm (??). 

Gee, can you tell I have no idea what I am doing with this?  When I finished, the screen told me that in 49:24 min, I went 12.00 miles, "climbed" 5165 feet, averaged 14.57 mph and had an average heart rate of 158.  All I really know is that I was a sweaty mess and I was glad it was time to go home and shower.  Part of the time I could really feel the resistance change, but I had almost no time I felt like dying.  Should I change the effort level?  Is this even somewhat representative of bike training?  I want to get outside, but I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to freezing temps on the bike.  The forecast is for warmer temps tomorrow (when of course I'll be in KC all day) and mid-40's for the weekend.  We'll see what the weekend brings.

Regardless, this inches me a bit closer to the goal (deadline 3/10):

Swim: 0.97/2.4
Bike: 16.5/112
Run: 3/26.2

As an aside, tonight I signed my kids and myself up to repeat the Pewaukee (WI) Triathlon.  My son will "age up" into slightly longer distances. I really should get him to at least attempt to do some training this time (last time he was in the 7-10 age group and the distance weren't that bad for him).  My daughter has been stoked to do another tri since doing this one last year and coming in 4th.  With a little luck, she might get some hardware this year. :)  This was my first tri (last year) and my goal then was to just finish.  I'd like to improve all of my times from last year which seems like it should be doable.  I don't expect to be crazy fast, but just not as slow. :) My sis, her husband, his cousin, and her father-in-law are all going to do the race again this year.  Kind of cool family event!  I still need to sign up for some other races as I figure out schedules.  Haven't plunked down money on any others yet. 


  1. Nice. According to the bike's computer you basically climbed Alpe d'Huez and then some.

    A HR of 160 BPM against what you seem to suggest your rate of perceived exertion was seems a little off.

    But whatever, time in the saddle is what you need and you got it so all is good.

  2. Forging onward and inching're getting the work done :) I have no clue about the baffles me, too. At least if you fall off the stationary bike, you probably won't get road rash.

  3. Thats climbing a mountain in 50 mins, its impressive

  4. Bike effort, when you're not actually riding a bike outside, is hard to judge. There's a couple factors. Your muscles will be used to working a certain way on your bike based on how it's been fit to you. (Ah, it HAS been fit to you, right?) Riding on other bikes is good, but there will be subtle differences in how much each joint bends and each muscle stretches, which changes your perspective about how much you're working.

    Then there is the measurements the spin bike supplies, time, height, distance, speed, heart rate, maybe watts. Off all of these, I would only believe time, heart rate, and take watts with a grain of salt. I don't know how they compute the other numbers, and suspect they bear no real relationship to what you would experience on a bike on the road. Time will be accurate, as will heart rate, providing you don't let go of the metal sensor. If they provide watts that might be accurate, but x watts on a spin bike might feel different than x watts on your own bike because of calibration issues or the factors mentioned in the first para.

    My first few years I got on my bike and did the workout my coach gave me. I came perilously close to puking a few times trying to keep up, then buried my ego and did what I could. It sure didn't seem very repeatable, and I was always disappointed on my first outdoor rides. I would keep track of heart rate (incredibly variable), and how it felt in the various gears at various rpm, but that was pretty vague.

    Part of the problem is that most spin sessions have you doing all kinds of crazy stuff, broken up into sets a few minutes long with recovery time, all to what is typically terrible music. Maybe this really is the scientifically proven way to be a better bike rider, but I think what it trains you to do is all kinds of crazy stuff with a break every few minutes relying on music to keep you going. Personally, I think it's to keep people from being bored. And what do you do in a triathlon? You get on your bike and try to ride at a steady pace that is just a hair below where your body starts building up lactate that it can't process. For what could be several hours. With no music. Granted, there are skills the spin session is trying to build, and some bike specific stuff like hill climbing.

    All that said, anything is better than nothing. But my take on it is that if you can't repeat the workout from week to week or month to month and compare how you feel, you won't know if you're improving or not.

    Since I got the power meter on my trainer, most of my workouts have been a sustained effort at a particular power level. I want to train myself to be able to ride at a steady effort for hours. I was surprised at how easy the "endurace pace" was at first, and how it felt after 1.5 hours.

    There are ways of training based on heart rate, and you might want to look into those. Take it with a grain of salt though, because heart rate can be affected by a number of factors that have little to do with your workout.

    Food for though.

  5. I've been working with a coach and most of my bike/trainer rides have been much easier than what you described. In fact, she advised me not to do spin class because the effort would be too hard. We are working on building an aerobic base so most of the rides feel actually pretty easy, with some harder stuff built in, but it's for short bursts. I've ridden my road bike outside once, for about 10 miles, and it's easier than riding inside because there are downhills so you rest a little. As Keith said above, learning about heart rate zones can be really helpful and it actually allows you to not work quite as hard and still gain benefits. I learned this especially with running. To keep my heart rate low, I have to run really slow, but then I'm not so exhausted at the end of what is supposed to be an easy run. This is good because then you are not destroyed and unable to do whatever workout you have planned for the next day (and you don't burn out).

  6. Wow, good effort. If your RPE is high then you are definitely putting in the intensity.

  7. In my opinion... don't worry about how accurate everything was (HR, how far you went, how fast you went, etc). Just count it as time in the saddle (T.I.T.S as I call it) which is great. :) Trying to compare is just too hard.

    And I wouldn't go by that HR monitor at the gym. They can be way off. Just stick to perceived effort!

  8. I agree with Colleen! Just keep logging the TITS! :) Way to push it!