All that cycling is building up my cardio endurance and leg strength. Over time, I’ve been able to push up my watts and heart rate incrementally but each class remains plenty hard – I guess, that aspect doesn’t change much. Even as you get stronger and better conditioned, it just means you’re able to push that much harder, the end point is still a lot of sweat and gasping for air.
On the schedule the 2 p.m. Sunday class is listed as shared between Krissa and Betsy – both of them tough teachers – and I don’t know who I’ll get till I walk in. It turns out it’s the Betz, just back from a ten day vacation in Europe and she’s ready to work off those croissants and beignets. (It doesn’t matter to her that WE haven’t been eating them).
Betsy is as tough as nails and everybody knows that if they’ve been in her class before. She is from the school of – “I won’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do” but, by the way, I ask a lot of myself. She likes to challenge the class to make the most of their time and abilities and work to their capacity.
Shortly after the warm up ends Betsy tells us, “it’s been rumored that men can push higher watts than women. Well, let’s just say that’s true. I’m pushing 160 watts right now so surely you guys (there are 11 of us male types in class) are above that”. Well, actually, at the moment, um, no I’m not but give me about five seconds and I’ll be with you. Challenging one’s manhood is a pretty effective technique to propel the fragile male ego into action even though I have no illusions that I could outride Betsy over any meaningful distance.
Betsy uses “average watts” as the measure for where we should be riding. So, on a typical exercise, Betsy might say “for the next minute, I want you 30% above your average watts”. This means that along with riding hard and pushing up one’s heart rate, you also get to solve a little math problem.
One’s average watts, like a handicap in golf, are calculated by taking a number of classes and noting what one’s typical “score” (watts in this case) is at the end. I need to pay better attention but I think my average is usually around 130 watts. On the absolute high end I occasionally peak at between 300-400 watts but that’s only on very short anaerobic pushes. I can climb (i.e. out of the saddle) up above 200 watts for about 5 minutes but that’s exhausting. In today’s class, which I work very hard – thanks to Betsy’s pushing – I average 135 watts with an average heart rate of 135 as well.
The interesting thing to me is how the perception of work changes over the course of a class. At the beginning, even pushing 130 watts seems sort of hard, whereas at the end of a hard class, a steady state ride around 150-160 watts is very doable. This acclimation to work makes me think that I could probably improve my “handicap” a lot if I got really well warmed up before the class starts but that’s not really in the cards for me. I like to show up at the last minute (in fact, today, truth be told, I was five minutes late - oh the shame of it all).
Betsy gives a great class. She’s very motivating, plays good music, works herself and us very hard and even tells us some good stories along the way. Today, she shared one about going to the Eiffel tower on her trip and how there were two lines to go up to the top. One was about a mile long and led to an elevator on the ground floor. The other line was very short and required people to walk up three flights of stairs to another elevator. Of course, Betsy wanted to go up the line with no one in it where you climb a ladder on the outside of the tower.
There are 16 hard riding heroes in today’s class – 11 guys and 5 women. The $25 gift certificate goes to Bill Walker.