(I wrote this and am posting it not necessarily to motivate anyone else, but more so that the next time I am in the same situation, I have something to reference it to.)
Cycling this afternoon, I came around my first loop with the straightforward intention of getting in a good ride. The wind had lightened up since the day before and it was actually almost warm, in the low 60s probably. Riding into the wind, I hit the straightaway from the flagpole past the fire station, old chapel and refectory, checked my heart-rate monitor, and set myself the task of raising my heart rate to 80% of max from 64%. I got distracted somewhere along the half-mile stretch and reached the turn with the monitor still stuck at 64%. I passed the Funny Hat People running and singing their goofy songs, as is their custom in the afternoons, then came around for a second loop.
Learning from the first lap, on the second I focused intently on the pedal stroke to get my HR up and when I made the turn I was at 81%. I didn’t get down to below 70% until I got to the Leticia straightaway (There’s a clamshell structure there permanently under construction, with the word “LETICIA” in wrought-iron letters mounted on the crane above the clamshell; it always looks striking because when I ride in the afternoon, I see it with the setting sun as a backdrop.) and felt like I was falling a little short of vim.
Feelings notwithstanding, as I came around the tight turn, onto the back stretch, I checked the stopwatch: it read 1:09:58, and I had started the loop at the other end at 56:50. So I had only taken 13′ and change to complete the out stretch, fighting the wind the whole way. That was a pretty good sign, so I sipped some water, grabbed the drops, tucked in and pedaled hard, with the wind at my back, all the way past the dump around to the loop starting-point by the barrels. The entire seven-mile lap took 22:32, a pace of 18.6 mph (my target is 23:22, which is an 18 mph pace; if I’ve looped around faster than that, it’s a red-letter day).
I kept up a crisp pace on the way home from the barrels, and even sped up a little bit at the end, trying to get in under 1:40, my full-ride reference time (I always assume it takes 100 minutes to get in an afternoon ride), and missed it only by a couple seconds. Not bad for a ride where the first fifty-six minutes were pretty poky.
I guess the conclusion to draw from today’s experiment, which I’ve apprehended before but have been absorbing only slowly, is that the first good push is critical to getting my heart starting to beat fast enough to maintain a swift, satisfying pace. The only times I’ve kept that 18 mph pace, I’ve had an average HR for the loop of over 70%, which means that I need to do some serious hammering over the 23 minutes it takes to loop around. On days when I’m feeling slow, it’s hard to push past 65% at all, so averaging more than 70% is more of an achievement than it might seem. On the other hand, as I go over my records, I see that I only rode an 18-mph loop five times in the entire month of December (twice on the 30th). I’ve already matched that sum for January, although I haven’t felt as strong this month.
Attached picture is my ride, in today’s late-afternoon light.