New to racing and heart rate

Started TR back in late January, started using a heart rate monitor also. Wahoo TICKR X.

Inside my HR is almost always lower than outside, haven’t rode much outside this winter/spring.

Had my first race yesterday, gravel 81 miles, 3500ft, 5hours 39min.

Highest HR also recorded yesterday, 192bpm, 166avg. With the adjusted max HR, 166 was the exact cutoff for z3 tempo/zr4 threshold. Spent 43% in z3, 47% in z4.

I know many factors at play with HR, heat, hydration, accuracy, the individual, etc. My profile seems a bit higher when comparing to the other racers.

I know max HR won’t be ever actually known, my question is I guess is am I not pushing hard enough in TR workouts? Did I overcook it? Are these normal HR numbers to you veterans for a race? etc…

I nerd out about numbers and such, which doesn’t help.

Max HR is very individual but fwiw I’m 46 years and using 197bpm for a max (196bpm is the highest I’ve seen recently) and 90% + efforts seem to be correct to it. (I hit 202bpm on a 2 up TT last season but the lower value seems to be more %zone repeatable. Up to around 95% I can relatively quickly recover (depending on how many times I’ve been there of course), over that takes a bit longer to recover but is recoverable and I don’t want to even try 100% :joy:

1 - why do you think you can’t find / approximate your maxHR? Plenty of ways to try: smash a medium length climb, hammerfest group ride, zwift race, etc. I thought my maxHR was 190 for years and then did a zwift race where I hit 195 after 20min at threshold followed by a full gas 5min vo2max effort. So now I have a new maxHR estimate.

2 - I don’t think the goal of any TR workout is to get you to hit maxHR. Could it happen? Sure, dependent on environmental factors and HR kinetics, but I don’t think that is a goal. I never went above ~95%maxHR during TR workouts.

3 - Do you have power data for the event? I’d put more stock in power and RPE before caring about HR data, speaking personally. I think the answer to the overcooking it question is easier answered with power data (i.e. did my power drop over the course of the event, could I still produce high sustained power on climbs at the end, etc.) and RPE (at the end did riding at threshold feel like a vo2max interval? did tempo climbing feel like threshold or suprathreshold.)

I’m of a very similar age to @HLaB but our Max HR couldn’t be more different.

The highest I’ve seen my HR in the past five years is 185. That was after an hours crit racing, finished off with solid sprint effort. This year, the highest I’ve seen is 177.

As HLab mentioned, HR is highly individual. If I got anywhere near the 190 mark, I fear you’d be measuring me up for a box.

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I just go with the maximum heart rate you’ve seen on a sustained effort when going all out. For me that’s a 3% hill, at least 20 mins long, with no intersecting roads and little traffic. Seen same max HR on shorter 10% hills as well. In theory in a lab with someone shouting at me to keep going maybe I’d see 5 bpm more or something. But as far as I’m concerned training zones are a range and max HR from such a field test is good enough for that purpose.

Numbers seem fine to me.

My HRmax is 191bpm, I know it’s quite accurate cos i’ve nearly puked a few times when hitting it, by attacking climbs too eagerly!

Looking at a 3hr run i did last year where i gave everything (but paced it fairly well), my average was 165 and hit 187 as a max.

Z3 - 37%
Z4 - 56%

Cardiac drift.

Outside in the sun, you lose blood volume, which means you lose stroke volume, which means HR goes higher to accommodate the same power, or even reduced power, later in the longer events.

I’m guessing you don’t spend 5-6 hrs on a trainer usually. The same thing would happen on a trainer if you sat on it for 5-6 hrs unless you climate-controlled the room down to prevent sweating.

Cardiac drift is totally normal and nothing to be concerned about from a health perspective. It does harm performance though.

Can be staved off a bit with better hydration practices, but will still happen on long hard events. Goal: replace fluid losses from your sweat.


Your numbers seem fine. People that are super aerobically fit tend to have very low hr at endurance power but similar HR when riding harder.
On max hr, I only ever see my max with an all out sprint. Usually when I sprint twice in a row within a short duration (like 2 spikes in 1min). Otherwise the load isn’t enough to get my hr to max (193bpm for me).

To me, hr means very little. Power is much more important. I can be watching cycling races on TV riding z2 and I get a 10-15bpm increase for a minute when the TV shows an exciting scene. It’s very sensitive to psychological factors

Thanks for all the input everyone has shared. Just looking to improve and stay healthy.

That’s where it gets ‘weird’. I had a trainer that told me that someone on the same bike and same ride that has a lower average, and max heart rate is ‘more cardiac fit’, and that if I pushed my max, and also filled in with massive endurance/tempo/sweet spot, I too could be at that level.

Others have said that it’s total genetics, and some people can come in, off the street, and crush a workout and have a really low heart rate. And that someone can only go so far, and eventually hit a hard limit.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve taken the idea that I can improve my max, but I can also overtrain, and I have to build a better base, not shun the lower zones, and yet not avoid the upper zones either. (I also found out I have a genetic heart issue, which caused me to lower my max workouts, so it turns out that I was probably at the max that my ‘plumbing’ could handle) So ‘chasing the numbers’ really depends on you. (The test I had done isn’t very expensive, and showed a lot about my cardiac health. I was glad I did it, and the results answered a lot of my questions(It was a ‘CTA’))

I think that people that want to chase the numbers need to get a complete checkup to see if they have any conditions that could limit performance. If all the plumbing and electrical are good, chase away.

But I could be wrong. YMMV…