#CycleFitChallenge – The Second Week

I’m now in my second full week of Cycle Fit Challenge aka my last ditch effort to get a bit faster and stronger ahead of the Red Hook Crit in London. Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve actually been enjoying having some structure to my riding as it means I can prioritise cycling and plan my days accordingly, and rather than finding being told what to do annoying, I’m relishing the purpose this training has given me.

I also like the break from thinking – I spend quite a lot of time thinking, planning and wondering and it’s quite nice not having to do that when it comes to cycling for the time being –  I just complete what’s prescribed. And the short, sharp intense sessions give me a real break from day-to-day worries because I’m so utterly focused on what I’m doing for the duration, to the exclusion of everything else. Read more about why this state of ‘flow’ is helpful here.


juliet elliott training Torbay velopark


After my race last week, on Friday it was time to try another Zone 5 interval session at the Velopark. I was really motivated to push hard and get my heart rate into Zone 5, which for me is above 178bpm, as I’d failed in my previous attempt earlier that week. Sadly, it was not to be and Zone 5 remains elusive. My diary reads:

“Terrible again. I sincerely hope that ‘trying’ is of some use and that I’m getting something out of this because I can’t complete it properly. Basically, I can’t sprint flat out for longer than 45 seconds so I blast off as hard and fast as I can in an effort to get my heart rate into Zone5 but then I’m totally done and for the rest of the segment it’s extremely hard to even keep going so I end up forcing out short bursts of sprinting and struggling. It’s so, so hard. I must be a wuss because I can’t handle the pain!”

Bummed out and feeling like a failure, I emailed James from High Rise Coaching with some feedback, quickly bashed out my bodyweight circuit training then headed off to a wedding to drink loads of champagne, Pimms and red wine and forget about cycling for a while. The ensuing hangover certainly took my mind off things!

On Monday I headed back to the velopark to try out a new Zone 5 interval session that James had suggested as I was struggling so much with the original one. This new interval session was made up of shorter max effort/Zone 5 intervals with shorter periods of recovery in-between, so I thought I might be able to successfully complete every effort as well as get into that bloody Zone 5. The session began with a minute flat out sprint, followed by a 2 minute recovery then I had to complete ever decreasing intervals of sprinting and recovering until I was sprinting for 20 seconds, recovering for 30 seconds, sprinting for 20 seconds, recovering for 30 seconds etc etc.

I began by sprinting off as hard as I could but as I seem to totally suck at this kind of thing after 30 seconds the pain had already set in and my legs and lungs were complaining. I then caught a pedal as I came out of a corner which kind of threw me and made things even more difficult. Determined to try as hard as I could, I carried on to complete the interval session as best I could but my best turns out to be crap, and when I checked my heart rate monitor at the end, despite the fact I felt like I was going to puke, yet again I’d failed to hit Zone 5. I do dislike the way people say ‘can’t is not a word.’ Screw you, because I bloody well can’t!!!


Comments (4)
  1. David June 16, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    This is exactly why I gave up training with heart rate and bought a powermeter. I was an early adopter and my Powertap SL is still going strong after 10 years, 3 rims and an upgrade to the internals!

    Like you I really struggled to get my heart rate up to the “correct” range and would get demoralised. This always ended badly with much swearing and a premature end to the session! I felt a failure as my heart wouldn’t do what it was supposed to, no matter how much I tried.

    Now I train exclusively with power. Interestingly I noticed early on that the day after a hard session, my power numbers are often up by my heart rate is slow to respond and nowhere near the figures I hoped for as prescribed by my training “plan”. I’m a slow beater, so have a stupidly low resting heart rate and a max in the 160’s (I assume – haven’t measured it for years!)

    With power you are measuring the output, not the input. Heart rate is often impacted by how much you’ve eaten, drunk, slept etc but that doesn’t always translate to producing less power. Power is absolute and repeatable. If you’re having an off day, the numbers really tell you that. If you’re having a great day too, that also shows. What your heart rate is doing at the same time is not that relevant (IMHO).

    If you structured your sessions around hitting a power zone, rather that a heart rate one, then if you can’t keep it in the zone, it’s time for an easy day. I’d be willing to bet that your actual output in these sessions is actually where you need it to be (and if not, you need to reassess the numbers).

    Keep up the good (power) work.


    • Juliet_Elliott June 17, 2015 at 7:44 am

      Hey David! Hmm, that’s interesting – I’d definitely be up for trying some power meter training, but as I’m only doing this for a month (although I actually may continue if I end up thriving on it and seeing results) I didn’t want to invest in a power meter. Maybe it’s something it might be worth borrowing or reviewing so that I can compare?

      I guess I’m not only getting annoyed that I can’t hit HR 5, I’m also just a bit annoyed that I can’t go hard for as long as I want without fizzling, and that’s at the heart of my disappointment. Hitting Zone 5 is more like a personal goal I’ve set myself just as a challenge along the way. I will continue to try and reach it but try not to get some bummed out if I don’t manage it.

  2. David June 18, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    You can hire a powermeter for £30 per month:

    The danger is you won’t want to give it back!

    Once you know your FTP, you’ll rarely have those interval sessions where you can’t get in the right zone and if you do, it’s time for an early bath!

    One of the biggest benefits I find is when I use it to pace climbs. I know I can ride short sharp UK sportive hills at c300w all the way up. If I keep it in that zone, I know I won’t blow up. It’s also amazing how many people you catch on a climb – the ones that went haring past you at the bottom and blow up about 200m into the climb!

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