Sweet spot for a 50-year-old XC crusher?
I am sitting down and planning my training program to lead up to the USA Cycling Nationals next year in Super D. I use an online strength program and am anxious to supplement that with your Pump up the Base and then Prepare to Pin it! As I started reading Pump up the Base tonight I am immediately perplexed at the Sweet Spot. Here is why:
I am 50 years old
My max recorded heart rate in competition this year was 187 bpm.
I can maintain a heart rate of 168-172 for an hour (89%-92%of maximum heart rate)…my training rides are very often that intensity…I seldom see numbers in the low 160s.
For example, I won seven cross country races this year pinning it from the line on my heavy all mountain bike and making those XC guys (in a age group younger than me) hurt really badly. I’d push the envelope up close to 95% max heart rate and then settle down into 90% and hold that the entire race for up to 1-1.5 hrs. hitting a 100% max heart rate in a sprint with myself because none was within sight.
Below is a heart rate graph of a race where I was in the “Red” zone for 51 minutes of a 51 minute race. Heart rate range in red is 168-182 bpm)
So, of course I question any gains from working in the Sweet Spot, because to me that puts me in with the group of riders you say don’t work hard enough when they work hard.
My mind is open.
First Kent’s graph:
It sounds like you have something special under the hood. That is very cool, and I’m glad you’re wringing it out. If I wasn’t so busy teaching, I’d be out there battling with you.
If you do Pump Up the Base then Prepare to Pin It — and time them correctly — there’s a great chance you’ll be in awesome shape for Super D nats. I did a 24-week build to Sea Otter this year. Life got in the way of my road trip, but on dual slalom race day I shoveled my driveway and roof, then got on my trainer and put in 10 earthshattering 30-second intervals. Totally crushed my imaginary race runs. Plus I’ve been riding strong all season, and I’m restarting PUTB at a whole new level. The programs work.
Ok, here we go:
Sweet Spot can be defined as:
• The most efficient intensity at which to develop you aerobic system. You get the most benefit with the least trauma. Perfect for off-season building.
• 90-100 percent of your threshold power (the average amount of power you can sustain for an hour; pretty much the power you make in an hour-long XC race).
• 75-85% of your max heart rate. Heart rate is famously inaccurate: you’ve got individual variation (you seem gifted in that area), fatigue, dehydration, caffeine, etc.
• As hard as you can ride while speaking in very short sentences. Experienced riders can go by feel.
Pump Up the Base is meant to build early-season aerobic fitness, top sprint power and better pedaling technique. At this time, you should focus on the intensities that will let you prepare you for Prepare to Pin It and help you peak for your event. You should not be beating yourself down! You should be doing smart work. Shoot, the pedaling drills are worth a lot of power on their own.
IMPORTANT: You don’t need to crush yourself right now. You need to be patient. I’ve been told that many times over the years, and I’m finally understanding. Thanks to Coach Lester Pardoe at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine.
Power is best!
Wattage is the most accurate way to measure output, and it does the best job of accounting for fatigue, dehydration, technique, etc.
It sounds like you’re pretty into this biking thing. Do yourself a favor and invest in a trainer with a power meter and/or a power meter for your bike. Stages Cycling makes a fantastic on-bike unit. It attaches to a left crank arm. It will fit your Super D bike. You can use it in the real world. It costs way less than spider- and hub-based units. I have one on my Stumpy 29.
Right now the sickest indoor trainer on the market appears to be the Wahoo KICKR. As soon as I can justify the cost (aka sell something), I’m ordering one. I’ve been using the LeMond Revolution, which is a great unit (and it’s for sale!).
As for you
If you’re going by heart rate or feel, do your PUTB intervals a bit easier than you would an XC race. You’ll get plenty of higher intensity later in P2PI.
If you get a power meter, do a 60-minute time trial. Do your sweet spot intervals at 90-100 percent of that number. If you feel good, 100. If you feel bad, 90.
Don’t forget the sprints at the beginning of each interval! Bursting up to peak power then settling into sweet spot is not easy. I just re-started PUTB for the year, and — yep — sprinting at ~1,400 watts then trying to maintain 300 watts is WAY harder than just spinning at 300. (BTW: A couple years ago I was spinning at 200. These programs work!)
Don’t forget: Right now you should be building for next season. Take it easy. Follow the PUTB protocol. Work on your pedaling form. Trust the program. Then attack P2PI.
Maybe I’ll see you at Super D nationals!
Pump Up the Base
Prepare to Pin It
Know more. Have more fun!
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first…what age group are you???? ha ha
Thank you for the reply. You responded with what I was hoping and kinda anticipated. You are exactly right, I don’t need to pin it in all my workouts ..but it’s just so much fun.
I am investigating methods to utilize both Heart Rate and Power. This exercise physiologist makes a good argument against power training…curious to know what you think about it.
Will keep you posted and hope to get out there and take a camp next Spring.
That’s interesting. No question HR has its place, especially at lower/longer intensities. Power/speed is the best way to measure sprints. I use both on the trainer. HR at a given wattage tells me if I’m tired/sick/overtrained or getting fitter/radder. Wattage is just plain funner — and the funner your training is, the more likely you’ll actually do it.
Racing age will be 45 in 2014. I’m smoother, stronger and faster than ever. But also more busy and less needy …
Lee, can you tell me more about how you determine what HR means to your fatigue level? Is it simply based upon experience and you know that if you are above a certain HR at x wattage you are tired, or do you use another method (more scientific)?
This gets pretty complicated because HR can be affected by fatigue, illness, dehydration, heat, stress, excitement, etc. and etc. I’m sure there’s some science to this, but I’ve not explored the complexities.
I’ve only paid close attention on the trainer, because there are fewer variables.
If I am making normal threshold or sweet spot power, but my heart rate is 5-10 beats lower than normal, I take that as a sign of fatigue. If I push harder and the body doesn’t respond, I know for sure I’m tired.
On the other side, if my heart rate is higher than normal at a certain power level, I know something is going on there too. Maybe too much caffeine, poor form, coming from sea level, etc.
As my coach Lester Pardoe says, HR monitors will lie to you because there are so many variables. He suggests you get good at judging your perceived effort, along with your HR and power numbers. This takes experience.
Some of the top racers I’ve talked to (including Overend and Lopes) go by feel. They know their bodies very well.
I hope that helps.