Can I get a Rescue Ride?

Where were we?  Ah yes – I’d donated blood for the first time and was subsequently told to avoid any physical activity for several hours.  This presented complications for the ride home.

Never one to take professional advice at face value, I suited up, saddled up, clipped in and pointed north a few minutes after five.  I’d spent a few minutes at the end of day putting together a chart to calculate the optimum heart rate range for fat-burning.  It would seem that the body utilizes different fuels or different combinations of fuel depending on its exertion level and given I have an excess of fat fuel these days, I figured it would be good to deplete that first.  Turns out, the optimum range is “zone 2″ (of 5) – a level of effort not particularly taxing.  I don’t spend more than a minute or two in Zone 2 unless I’m waiting for Eldest Boy to push his bike up the hill.  Again.  At any rate, I decided my post-donation ride would be the perfect time to cruise in a relaxed zone 2, burning fat all the way home. <it’s not as simple as heart rate x = fat burn – see bottom>

It started out well enough.  A nice easy gear and a casual pace for the couple of hundred meters, but then you need to sprint across the intersection the moment the light turns green to grab your bit of gutter.  The body’s response was positive – we like this it said.  I pedaled on without putting too much into it, wanting to get off the road and onto the path where one can truly relax.  I jumped on the path still feeling pretty good and made my way towards 17th ave and the first effort-required hill.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s to take advantage of any downhill section that will give you momentum for a following hill.  Doing this at 17th Ave is a risky proposition with poor line-of-sight as you head under the road.  It’s not often populated but when it is, there’s usually people splayed all about, not paying attention.  This is not a good recipe for building speed.  I headed down the slope, hand on the brakes, keeping it tobefore hammering away for all I was worth to roll up into Max Bell.  It worked exceptionally well and I was barely breathing.

I carried my <completely responsible, prudent and legal> forward motion through the first half of the section, marvelling at how easy it felt.  A glance at the heart rate monitor (fully Fred geared, except for the power meter – what can I say) suggested I was straying from my fat-burning plan but you know what they say – all good plans have room for change.  I pushed on, again pedaling down the hill to try to carry as much speed as possible on the up-side, once more leaving me surprised with the perceived lack of effort.  I climbed up and over Deerfoot and down onto the canal path feeling stellar but casual.  A rabbit appeared as I crossed the canal and any remaining thoughts of taking it easy went straight out the proverbial window.

Hammer down, mash the pedals, click-click-click down the cassette into high gear and away we went.  I was no longer cruising but working hard, hard.  Heavy breathing, sweat dripping and the heart rate monitor pegged well into zone 5, bumping off my peak heart rate.  I passed my rabbit with velocity and kept hammering away.  I’d been faster along that section but only with a tail wind.  I kept checking the heart rate monitor and was surprised to see it bouncing along in the high 180s, well into the purely carbohydrate burning mode.  I didn’t feel like it was that high.

I kept waiting for the physiology to catch up and shut me down.  Theoretically, one can’t operate long at that end of the heart rate spectrum.  I pushed on, revelling in the effortless speed I was experiencing.   continued to plow headlong down the pathway, speeding up hills and flying down, passing everything and everyone I could I find.  As I got to the end of the path and the beginning of my final leg of climbing, I sprinted as hard as I could making it almost all the way to top of the bus-trap hill before having to drop a couple of gears.

No longer dripping sweat but leaking like a faucet, I ran out of steam at the top, slowing to a crawl.  I burn out here every time, gamed by the thought of the climb that – really – isn’t all that bad.  It’s flat or may as well be flat from there to Centre street, a quick crossing, through the alley and then the steadily increasing grade until 4th street followed by the hill home.  None of it is killer and I’ve slowly beaten parts of it down into submission over the summer.  Mostly in fear of not being able to ride it when my new bike shows up…but that’s another discussion.  I pushed on, tired but invigorated.

In the end, I spent 7.3 of 14.6 kilometers – which was fully 50% of the ride time – above 175 bpm, most of it in one continuous stretch.  When I got home?  I felt like going again.  Donating blood hadn’t sap’d me of anything – it was like being juiced!

So what’s with the Rescue Ride?  That’s what I’ve decided to call this kind of session.  A rescue ride.  A rescue from the slogging, from the legs-of-concrete, the headwinds, the flatting – all of it.  A great big, gigantic reward ride.


Fat burning heart rate – this is a new area of physiology for me having vested the bulk of my learning in this area into…well, bulking up and getting leaner as a side-effect, not a focus.  At any rate, your body is like a car with a couple of tricks up it’s sleeves.  It requires fuel – we require fuel.  If you put more fuel than needed into the tank, it spits it on the ground.  Our prehistoric physiology is hard-wired for survival and bouts of fasting – any extra fuel is stored in fat cells.  Every day you will consume X amount of calories going about your life – where those calories come from depends on your level of exertion (and where they go to depends on your body composition – muscle requires energy – more muscle, more energy required, more calories required = more food required – muscle burns fat just by being there – how cool is that?).

I didn’t burn much in the way of fat calories on my ride – 44 seconds worth according to Garmin, but I used a lot of fuel for the ride – 15-20% of my daily food needs.  So food that could have been stored as fat, was used to get me home along with local glycogen stores.  Yay!