Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Class #105 Cycling Tuesday 4:30 p.m. (Heather)

This is my third and final class from Heather Isbell who is one of the most popular cycling instructors at the Club. As a newcomer to Heather’s class, the first question you’ll hear when entering the room is “fan” or “no fan”? This isn’t a fan-club issue (everyone here is a fan of Heather’s) but an inquiry about air movement preference. For some reason, there’s a group of regulars in Heather’s classes (unlike any other class that I know of) who really don’t like the fans blowing on them.

In today’s class, the ‘no fan’ section is easy to pick out – it’s the one with hardly anyone in it. I’m no glutton for punishment so I stop just short of the dead air zone and wind up back on the anti-magic bike (see blog # 97). On this bike the gearing is a little harder than the regular cycles so I know my wattage “score” will be off somewhat but I can still keep track of my heart rate, which tells the real story anyhow.

As class gets started Heather tells us that we’re going to be doing the Hawaiian Ironman course today. Since that’s one of the most grueling races on the planet, I’m thinking ‘uh oh’. Of course, I know that the Ironman typically takes nine hours or more to complete and this class is only 50 minutes so we’ve got that going for us.

The microphone is on the fritz today so Heather is speaking over the music and/or giving hand signals. It’s a lot harder for the teacher when there’s no voice amplification but Heather handles adversity (here and elsewhere) with a great deal of aplomb. Basically, she takes such difficulties in stride and just keeps going.

At the beginning of the Ironman, Heather explains, there’s a big rush to begin the 2.4 mile ocean swim and a sprint to the first buoy to reach open water as quickly as possible. For us, it means a high gear and a short intense sprint right out of the gates (we’ve all been warming up for five or more minutes so we’re ready for it). My legs though are somewhat worn out from a hard Sculpt class this morning and when I shift into a high gear and start to sprint, for just a moment, I think my calf is going to cramp. In a flash I ‘foresee’ the embarrassment of having to bail out of class after the first few minutes. Almost simultaneously, my mind richochets off into a wonderment about whether anyone’s ever had a leg cramp at the beginning of a real Ironman and if so, what a drag that would be after so much training yada yada yada. (And, so goes the discursive mind in bike class….)

The sprint to the first buoy in the Hawaiian Ironman

I pull back a gear or two and my leg settles down immediately. I’m definitely not going to be the first one to the buoy - more like the last one - but it’s a long race and I figure I can catch up later.

Heather talks us through the whole race, giving us landmarks, weather reports (we encounter high winds several times) and asking us for periodic pushes along the way. On the long bike section (it’s 112 miles in the real Ironman) she wants us to catch and pass four separate riders who somehow have gotten in front of us. Each time we catch one of the riders we shift to a high gear, stand up and sprint to get around our imaginary opponent.

The long hot ride along the Kona coastline

The visuals Heather creates of this race along with her great selection of music keep us inspired and entertained as we spin on down the road.

Near the end of class, Heather tells us we’re going into the ‘energy lab’, which is something, apparently, her class practices occasionally but about which I am clueless. In the ‘lab’, she turns off all the fans and the lights and we become one big ‘no fan’ zone. It only lasts for a few minutes and because of the short duration it isn’t really a problem. It’s simply a fun little twist that Heather’s figured out to keep folks guessing and to make the class more interesting. The real challenge for all cycling instructors is how to keep a cycling class like this from growing stale. We’re fortunate to have really great instructors at the Club and they’ve all learned how to pull a rabbit out of the hat from time to time to keep us engaged.

Heather Isbell

My average wattage is better than the last time I rode this sluggish bike but it’s still only 130, which isn’t too high. My average heart rate is 132 (not bad) and my calorie burn is about 400 for the 45-minute work portion of the class.

There are 12-13 in class today and atypical of most of our classes, the majority are men. The $25 gift certificate goes to John Bilger.

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