The ‘I’ Word

We are well into our 6th month of living with Covid. Does anyone think we will ever be able to move around in public without a mask again? I keep trying to imagine Newsom or Fauci standing up in front of the cameras and saying “Take them off, you don’t have to wear them any more.” I’m not holding my breath, and with a mask on I need all the breath I can get.

All this masking up has given me a zit, right where the mask meets my cheek. I’m not alone: the condition even has a name: “maskne”. I thought I got over that in high school.

Like most sane people, I’ve been a little crazy at times during this panicdemic. I can’t do the bike tours I want to do. There are no club rides, which cuts my social life drastically. And all the usual Covid restrictions: No indoor dining, group gatherings, live sports, massages (I really miss those), haircuts, movies, concerts, etc. And if you are out of work because of this, you really have my sympathy.

During this strange time I have always been able to find refuge on the bike. No matter how dismal my outlook at the start of the ride, by the time I finish I invariably feel better. I may not be riding where I want to, or with the people I want to, but I can always get out on the road for a little endorphin therapy. This, combined with moderate daily doses of vin Cote du Rhone, manages to get me out of my Covid funk.

Even when the brutal hot weather arrived about two weeks ago, I was still able to ride by starting really early and finishing before the heat hit. But that was before the lightning storm that I saw in Sebastopol early last Sunday morning started these massive fires and sent choking levels of smoke into the valley and most parts of northern California.

The air is unhealthy to breath, which means it is really silly to even consider exercising outside. And it looks like the smoke is here to stay for many days. So now I’m really going crazy.

This morning I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I rode indoors.

When I got serious about cycling, and was still working, I did a lot of riding indoors on a trainer. Since I retired the only times I have done stationary cycling were during walnut season (when I still work) or at a hotel or on a cruise ship. My records show I have not done any indoor cycling since 2016!

Indoor cycling is a great way to get a workout, but it is really low on the endorphin production scale. A session is more like a visit to the dentist, or eating your Brussels sprouts: something unpleasant but good for you.

To make an indoor workout work, you can’t just sit there and pedal, you need to have some structure. That is where “The I Word” comes in. I did some intervals.

During the pandemic I’ve been riding alone a lot, and I usually do some kind of workout with intervals. The idea is to ride hard, recover, then ride hard again. The interval length and power and heart rate targets can vary, but the idea is effort, followed by recovery, repeated.

Today I did 1 minute intervals at something like 125% of my FTP. This means at the end of 1 minute I am really panting and happy to reduce the effort for a 1 minute recovery. I did 10 repeats: here’s the result.

The ‘I’ Word Data Display

The 10 intervals ranged from 248 to 295 watts, averaging 274. But I want to point out that this data came from my Stages Power Meter, which only measures my left leg power. I also have two dual sided power meters, and the Stages is consistently about 10% lower. So my actual watts were something over 300, which is what I expect to able to do for 1 minute intervals. Pros can do 300 watts for hours!

Another interesting thing is how this graph demonstrates ‘cardiac drift’. Note that the power levels are pretty constant, but my heart rate goes up throughout the interval before dropping rapidly as soon as I reduce the effort. But each heart rate increase reaches a higher peak that the last one. By the final interval I hit 159 beats per minute, and since my maximum is 163 (lab tested by Athleticamps in January 2019), that is as high as I can go.

So until the smoke clears, I’m staying inside and cycling without going anywhere. Seems appropriate for Covid times, we mostly really aren’t going anywhere either.

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