October 10, 2009

Without Mercy

This graph expresses the highlight of my Low-Key day, setting a personal record on our renowned local benchmark climb, Old La Honda Road. My official time was 31:54.

The diagonal line represents the climb, with a gradient averaging 7.3%. The grade looks constant, but note the bumpy line at the bottom of the graph. That line represents my speed; for the most part, if my speed goes up, the slope has gotten flatter.

Finally, there is the relatively steady horizontal line at the top. That would be my heart rate, which climbed above 170 beats per minute after the first 35 seconds and averaged 177 for the duration of this exercise.

Like most Bay Area cyclists, I know this climb well. I know that I am stronger than the last time I charged up this hill. I knew that the rush of competition would make me go faster. I believed I could push myself very hard and make it to the top without fading. No mercy, today. I would glance at my heart rate monitor from time to time: 177, 180 beats per minute. Was my pace slowing? No. Well, no reason to back off, then.

When I reached the edge of the rough pavement near the top of the climb, I knew the end was near. I glanced down at my time ... I was close to finishing under 32 minutes! I accelerated ... I could hear the finish line ... the mailboxes were in sight. I crossed the line with six seconds to spare. Now you understand that final upward blip in speed (and heart rate) at the end of the graph.

Today I shaved two minutes, eleven seconds from my previous best time, and it was worth every heartbeat. All 5,646 of them (give or take).

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