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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been using an HRM for several years. At first it was just kind of a toy -- try to hit a new "PR" every ride. I'd come home and tell my wife about a new HR PR and she'd freak out and say "you're going to have a heart attack and die!" Naively, I thought that was funny.

She gave me Joel Friel's HR training book for Father's Day last year. I realized she might be right, I should stop going for HR PRs, and I started trying to establish HR zones and do interval training and everything.

When I started trying to establish training zones last year, I used the 220-46=174 guideline. It seemed accurate because around 168bpm I'd start feeling like I was going to explode. I had a few 171-172 experiences and they were short-lived. Sure seemed like 174 was probably the entrance to Heart Attack City.

But late last year, I had what seemed like a "breakthrough" ride -- I did a severe climb that I'd done many times before at 168-170, but this time I did it at 172-174 all the way up (approx 35 minutes). Though it was extreme exertion, it also felt pretty comfortable. Well, not "comfortable". But not the "gonna-die-gotta-back-off" experience that typically occurred at >168bpm.

Ever since that ride, I've been able to operate in the 168-172 range without the "death-is-imminent feeling"; that seemed to move up to about 175.

A couple weeks ago, I had a 2nd "breakthrough" ride where I did that exact same climb at 177-180bpm all the way up. And now I've done a few more climbs where I felt fine at 175-180bpm.

Is this normal? I hope I'm not teetering on the edge of a stroke or heart attack. I'm 47 years old now and it seems strange that my body is getting used to significantly higher HRs. Is it normal to go from a top end of 170-172 up to a top end of 178-180?

I should mention that on the 2nd breakthrough climb, I did have 4 different instances of my face feeling like I was too close to a fire -- very hot all over my face, could kind of feel my pulse through my skin. But it was just my face, no other body parts. Each of those 4 times, I looked down to find my HR at 181-183. And backed off each time.

So my basic question: is it normal to have these "breakthrough" rides where you seem to have increased your top end HR for that ride and subsequent rides? Is it a good thing to have climbed to the top of a new plateau so to speak? Or does this sound kind of weird?
 

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That happened to me too. My max HR (observed, on the bike) when I was 30 was 205. I quit riding and got out of shape. When I started again at age 41, anything over 170 felt bad and I couldn't maintain it for long. As I have gotten fitter I have been able to both reach a higher peak HR and maintain a higher threshold HR for a period of time. That seems to have leveled off a couple years ago (I'm 47 now). The gains I am seeing now are that I can go faster at lower HRs but I can still reach the high HR if I'm trying (i.e. in a race). The highest I have seen recently is 192.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
My expectation has always been that I'd gradually increase my ability to stay near max HR, so I'm not surprised by the increases. What I am surprised by are what seem to be "breakthrough" rides -- for years, 172 seemed like the limit, then on one ride I was riding at and above that for >35 minutes and felt fine, felt sustainable.

Then I stayed on that plateau for about a year and had another "breakthrough" ride at 175-177 that felt sustainable and that has continued on subsequent rides.

So, I'm wondering if it is normal to have what seems like a ceiling for a year or more, then POP!!! go through that ceiling to the next level and be able to sustain an extra 5bpm in one seems like a single event.

Here's my entry in my training log for May 10: "Mt Falcon – race simulation 33:32 to the first picnic tables + 4:14 to the lookout point = 37:46 total. Felt like I was working very hard, but HR was in Zone 5 (>168bpm) only 9:25. Felt like I was giving it absolutely everything, but couldn’t push to 172bpm or more."

So that reflects what seemed to be my top end -- 172bpm. There are other entries like that -- giving it my all, maximum exertion, but hard time cracking 168, never got to 172.

Then, on June 19: "Mt Falcon climb -- PR of 16:30 halfway/33:24 to picnic tables w/31:08 in Z5, max HR of 183, HR breakthrough ride: stayed 175-177 most of the way. It was hot – 80 degrees at the time we started. Experienced 4 “hot flashes” where face felt like a furnace, looked down to find HR >180, had to ease off. But 175-177 felt surprisingly good and sustainable."

And I've been able to ride at 175-177 in the weeks since.

So is that normal? Months and months with a top end of 172, then BANG my top end moves to 177?

Just seems weird to me. I expect gradual progression, not "breakthrough" rides with sudden increases in top end.
 
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