Emerging from a pandemic snafu, part 2

Previously I documented how I evaluated my physical condition after my first (and, I hope, only) dance with COVID19, using my indoor training gear, power data, and heart rate data. After those first couple of indoor trainer rides, I was pleased that at least outwardly, my heart and lungs recovered from the illness relatively unscathed and without any alarming vices. This augured well for my December audax aspirations.

Week two post-COVID19, then, was a good opportunity to push harder with less restraint. The first thing I did on the trainer was a 20-minute FTP test, set on RGT’s Borrego Springs flat time trial route. Unfortunately, WiFi hiccups forced me to stop for a few minutes halfway through the test inverval, which in my opinion ultimately rendered the test invalid, strictly speaking.

It wasn’t a total waste, though. Since an FTP test requires one to hold maximum sustained power for 20 minutes, coincidentally it’s a good cardiovascular and pulmonary stress test. I had no concerns or complaints in either area, which is about as good as I could hope for. Also, flawed and invalid as the test may have been, the 190 W FTP figure it yielded seemed like a believable estimate. I’ll have to redo this some time, but I intend not to do so immediately as I don’t want another onset of sesamoiditis so close to the audax.

My next session on the trainer that week brought a surprise. The RGT team had rolled out a brand-new course called Dunoon, set in Scotland. A single 14-kilometer lap is 70% gravel, and hosts three climb segments all cresting at 9-11%, eventually culminating at about 500 m elevation gain.

Yet another physical stress test, then.

I’ve ridden up enough hills, virtually or otherwise, to know how my body operates as it goes through the business of scaling them. Usually I aim to click through an easier gear with each 1% greater incline, although pre-COVID19 I was able to slog through 10% and 11% grades with the two largest cogs left still. I’m glad to report that’s still the case.

Similar to FTP test intervals, sustained climbs raise one’s heart rate and keep it pegged for the entire duration. It’s not unusual to have heart rate stay at 95% of maximum even while seated if the climb is steep enough, which was what happened to me. As before, the important thing is for heart rate to slowly back off once the road becomes horizontal or downhill and less exertion is needed, and after repeated climb efforts of at least three minutes apiece, my ticker still responds correctly.

As of this writing I have still to have myself tested properly by a doctor. However, these latest rides have been very promising. Sure, I’ve lost quite a few watts’ worth of FTP, but more importantly much of my base fitness is still intact – and I’m feeling very confident about December. The doctor visit might just be a formality at this point, but I’ll wait and see.


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