RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Heart rate

Hmmmm. That Seems High.

Posted on

Heart Rate Line

I usually ride with a heart rate monitor.  I have a screen on my Garmin that shows, among other things, my heart rate.

I know the disadvantages of using a heart rate monitor.  Such as heart rate being affected by ambient temperature, your emotional state, whether you are tired, or whether you are over-trained.  The monitor itself can generate spurious data.

Nevertheless, my heart rate monitor gives me some data to quantify my level of effort, and more importantly, it tells me when I need to back off, or run the risk of blowing up.  Over time I have learnt that 160bpm is when I need to back off.

I could use a power meter instead.  Power output is a more precise way to gauge performance than heart rate is.  However a power meter is too expensive, despite where prices have fallen to, given the non-competitive riding that I do.

Heart Rate Maximum chiro-doctor com

Graphic courtesy of

I got to 157bpm last weekend, for the first time in ages.  It was at the end of a 500 meter, 7.1% average gradient climb.  That climb came after 110km / 68mi of riding at about 32kph / 20mph.  Faster than I normally ride, so cardiac drift had already pushed my average heart rate to about 140bpm.

The highest I got to the the six weeks prior was 155bpm, during the 141km / 88mi CIMB Cycle @ Seri Menanti event.  That ride had 1,100 meters / 3,600 feet of climbing.

Soon after the CIMB ride I went on holiday for a fortnight or so.  I ate a lot, and did minimal exercise.  It was a holiday after all.  But I was still very surprised when my Garmin showed 160bpm on my first ride after that holiday.

Heart Rate High medlicker com

Graphic courtesy of

Six days later I did another ride, and I hit 164bpm.  My maximum heart rate during those two rides was about 20bpm higher than is usual for me.  What was going on?

For better or for worse, I went to Google for answers.  Google didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.  Fatigue, overreaching, overtraining, too much caffeine, or a hot day could all be reasons why my heart rate rose above what I normally see.

I didn’t have any of the symptoms which would set off alarm bells, such as lightheadedness, nausea, or pressure, pain or discomfort in my chest, arm, neck or jaw.  Still, I wondered.

Heart Rate Good to Go wglt org

Graphic courtesy of

I needn’t have worried.  I went on a 70km / 43.5mi ride the next day, and my maximum heart rate was 125bpm.  Since then I have maxed out at an average of 147bpm, including last weekend’s outlier.

So what caused that two ride blip?  I’m not sure.  Probably a combination of jet lag and low blood sugar.

It is time for my annual physical exam.  Just to be on the safe side.


An Epic Ride – Though I Would Have Preferred it Wasn’t

Strava displays a “Suffer Score” along with other summary information about each ride that you upload.  The Suffer Score is a value calculated using your heart rate during a ride relative to your maximum heart rate, and the distance ridden.  The higher your Suffer Score, the harder you worked during that ride.

A descriptor is assigned to Suffer Scores.  100 to 150 is a Tough score.  151 to 250 is an Extreme score.  Anything greater than 250 is an Epic score.

I have only twice had a Suffer Score in the Epic category.  The first was during the Kuantan Century Ride last year.  My average speed was 28 kph.  My average heart rate during that ride was 144 bpm, over a distance of 161 km.  I felt trashed for the last 20 kms of that ride.

My second Epic effort was yesterday.  I rode with four other Flipsiders from Bandar Sunway to Morib and back.  This ride was  133km.  My average speed was 26.6 kph.  Despite the shorter distance and lower average speed, my heart rate averaged 140 bpm.  Not much less than it was during the Kuantan ride.  And again I felt trashed for the last 20 kms of the ride.

I have had rides that had a lot more climbing, and were therefore more difficult  – although this wasn’t easy either, given that the sun was beating down and that the temperature felt like 36 °Celsius.

I suffered, despite the flatness of the Morib ride, due to an alarming lack of fitness.  I knew that being inactive for more than three months would have a negative effect, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad.

The route took us west along the KESAS Highway.  It was my first time riding west of Sunway Lagoon, though my companions have done this ride before.

We exited the KESAS Highway at the Bandar Botanik interchange, where we turned left onto Jalan Langat.  I have been on that section of road before, during the ride to Port Dickson, and during the Klang Premiere Century ride.


We weren’t on Jalan Langat very long before we had to make a stop at a PETRONAS petrol station.  Justin had a flat tire.  I took the opportunity to take an opportunistic photograph.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We had stopped at the PETRONAS Johan Setia.

Two hours into the ride my left arm and shoulder had started aching.  I spent a lot of time sitting up on my saddle to give my arm and shoulder a rest.  Marco is smiling in his selfie, but you can see that Mark and I are wilting in the heat.  At this point we had another fifteen kilometers to go before we got to Morib.  Those were some of the longest kilometers I have ever ridden.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

It was a relief to finally arrive at Taman Seri Bayou Morib.  Marked on the beach side by this pretty art installation.

Morib Sculpture

We had ridden 75 kilometers.  There were serious doubts in my mind that I would make it all the way back to Sunway.

I didn’t look it at the time, but I did feel somewhat rejuvenated after these.

Morib Dutch Lady

Four cartons of cold chocolate milk.

The others looked cheery while waiting for their nasi lemak.  I had some too.  It was very good.

Morib Makan

It was about 11.00am when we started the return leg.  This wasn’t the last sit-down I needed before we got back to Bandar Sunway.

Morib Sign

The return leg was 17 kms shorter than the outbound leg.  We had done a loop to the east of Bandar Sunway at the start.  Despite the shorter homeward distance, my average speed dropped from 27.6 kph to 25.5 kph.  Even with the slower pace, my average heart rate went up from 137 bpm to 145 bpm.  That must be when my Suffer Score ventured into Epic territory.

I really was struggling over the last 20 kms.  I kept looking at my Garmin, convinced that I had covered three or four kilometers since the last time I checked it.  Only to find that I was only fifteen hundred meters further forward.  Right about the time I was going to pack it in and collapse on the edge of the road, a rest area hove into view.  There was only about 6 kms to go, but I wouldn’t have made it without that final fifteen minute rest in the air-conditioned PETRONAS shop – and without an ice-cream.

I would have preferred an easier ride.  Especially after such a long time off the bike.  It does however make me believe that I will finish the Malacca Century Ride next Sunday.

Hopefully it won’t be another Epic!

Then and Now

Posted on

Kuantan Century Ride 2014 Logo

I arrived at the finish of the Kuantan Century Ride 2014 in much better shape that I was at the finish of the 2013 edition.  One reason was the difference in the routes.  The last 40 km / 25 mi of the 2013 route included a 25 km / 15.5 mi out-and-back section along the Gebeng Bypass.  That section seemed interminable, and especially hot.  It was as much a psychological battle as a physical one to complete that part of the ride.  Everyone who rode in this event in 2013 was glad that the Gebeng Bypass was not part of the 2014 route.

KCR 13 and 14

2013 Route                           2014 Route

Another difference was that the 2013 route had more climbing, and most of its elevation was in the last half of the ride, when legs were tiring.

KCR 2013 Elevation Profile

2013 Route Elevation

The 2014 route had less climbing, and those climbs came in the early kilometers.

2014 Route Elevation

2014 Route Elevation

I think the crucial difference for me in 2014 was that I stayed much better hydrated.  A week or so before the event I read an article that said that if your perspiration stings your eyes, that is a sign that your body excretes unusually high amounts of electrolytes in your sweat.  My eyes sting like crazy when sweat gets in them.  So for this ride I put two Nuun tablets instead of the recommended one tablet in each 21 oz / .62 liter bidon.

I went through five bidons during the 160 km ride.  Plus two cans of 100 Plus, two cans of Red Bull energy drink, five servings of iced cendol and one bottle of plain water.  I estimate that I drank at least six liters during the ride.  I drank often, and I drank a lot.

A trick that I learned a few months ago is to loosely tie a bandana around your neck, with the knot to the front.  Then regularly soak the bandana with water.  That keeps your neck cool.  The water dripping from the knot keeps the front of your jersey damp, so evaporative cooling happens.  I confirm that this worked.  Augmented by emptying a bottle of water over my head at each stop.

I also made a conscious effort not to go into the red during the ride.  As it turned out, my 2014 average speed of 27.9 kph was not much slower than my 2013 average speed of 28.4 kph.  But there was a big difference in effort, as measured by heart rate.  In 2013 I spent more than half of the ride in the Tempo Zone:  133 to 149 beats per minute.  More exhaustingly, I did almost a quarter of the ride in the Threshold Zone:  149 to 165 beats per minute zone.  In other words, in the red.

2013 Heart Rate

2013 Heart Rate

By comparison I spent no time riding in the Threshold Zone in 2014.  More than half the ride was spent in the Moderate Zone:  100 to 133 beats per minute.

2014 Heart Rate

2014 Heart Rate

There was little difference in my moving time.  5 hours 40 minutes cycling in 2013.  5 hours 49 minutes cycling in 2014.  But I spent 30 more minutes at rest stops in 2014.

The lesson for me is clear.  I can’t do anything about the terrain, or the weather.  But I can manage my fluid and electrolyte intake, and manage my exertion levels.  Drinking six liters sounds like a lot, but I lost that much fluid through sweating.  I certainly didn’t pee much.

I’ll continue the two Nuun tablets per bottle routine.  The extra electrolytes seemed to make a difference.  I had some cramps in my thighs after the third and fourth rest stops, but the cramping didn’t last long, and my riding wasn’t compromised.

I finished behind most of my Flipside companions, but finished strong.   Very much preferred over chasing hard, finishing fast but feeling shattered afterwards.

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Evolution

Photograph courtesy of Cycling Evolution

Recovery Ride

Six of us had ridden either about 110 km or 130 km on Saturday.  Four of us turned up at D’Bayu on Sunday for a recovery ride.  The idea was to have a gentle ride to a nasi lemak stall near Kampung Kundang, have breakfast, and then ride back to Bukit Jelutong.

We got to the Kuala Selangor exit fairly quickly.  A sign of things to come.


The breakfast part went as planned.  We stopped at Selera Ria in Kampung Cempedak for the usual food and drink.


Photograph courtesy of Marvin Tan

The recovery part was anything but.

We rode about 57 km at an average speed of 28.6 kph.

Granted we went twice as far the day before.  That ride hadn’t feel slow by any means.  We averaged 27.6 kph.

So much for a gentle recovery ride.

What was clear was that I had recovered from the ‘flu that had made all my rides in the preceding two weeks feel harder than normal.  That was most obvious in my heart rate.  My heart rate was at least 10 bpm higher than usual.

This was my Saturday effort.  My average heart rate was 131 bpm.

Suffer long

Graph courtesy of Strava

On Sunday my heart rate had settled down.  My average heart rate on this faster ride was 120 bpm.  I spent much less time in Zone 4 – Threshold than I had the day before.  And conversely more time in Zone 2 – Moderate.

Graph courtesy of Strava

Graph courtesy of Strava

So the ride on Sunday was a recovery ride of sorts, despite the higher speed.