On Wednesday, I met Mike, Joe, and another rider (whose name I can't remember...darn) at the Arboretum duck pond for a short but hilly ride. We headed south down Capitol of Texas Highway, then crossed Bull Creek and connected up with Ladera Norte. A screen capture of the route is shown below, and the link to the ride data is here. As you can see, there's some nice terrain around Ladera Norte and Far West. In fact, over the 17 mile ride, there was about 1500 ft of elevation gain (and loss), with 17% maximum grade. It wasn't a killer, but it was a nice lunch hill climb.
In contrast, a few weeks ago I had a great Sunday ride with the Team McAllen "elite" group. The bulk of the ride was in the 22-24 mph range, with a total distance of 53 miles. It was totally flat. I felt really good about my performance, and I also felt that I had physically pushed myself and had ridden a challenging training ride.
Of course, since I'm an analytical engineering type, I've been comparing and contrasting these rides in my mind since Wednesday. On the Duck Pond Ride, I felt like I maxed out my heart rate on the hills, and my lungs opened up and really burned. On the Elite Ride, I sustained a high heart rate, and my quads burned, but I never felt like I couldn't catch my breath. The Elite Ride was much longer, but I felt about the same when I finished as I did when I finished the much shorter Duck Pond Ride.
But what about data? Here's a quick and dirty heart rate distribution:
When I first looked at the data, I was a bit confused. For the Elite Ride, the data is shifted towards Zone 4. For the Duck Pond ride, the bulk of the distribution is around Zone 3. At first glance, the heart rate distribution for the Duck Pond Ride seems to indicate it was an easier ride, which contrasts with how I felt during the ride.
My take on the data is that as you move up in the HR zones, there's a non-linear relationship to the effect on your body and your exertion level. In other words, spending time in Zone 5, even a little time, can wear you out quickly. Since the Duck Pond Ride spent double the percentage of time in Zone 5, it had a bigger impact on my lungs and exertion. Couple that with a healthy amount of time in Zone 4 and Zone 3 during the Duck Pond Ride, and you've got a good lung burning ride.
Oh yeah -- I'm not a physiologist, but I can BS about exercise with the best of them. Just ask my spouse, who is having a birthday tomorrow! Happy 29th, Vic!