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Thursday 30 April 2015

Wattbike Test at Inspire2tri: On Pain of Fire, Ants & Excrement

I'd stripped off in public. Something that would usually NEVER happen. Unless my clothes were a) on fire b) covered with ants c) covered in poo. And even then it would probably have to be someone else’s poo. 


However, my reason for stripping off wasn’t too do with insects, flames OR excrement. It was something much scarier. I was going to do The Wattbike Test. The equivalent pain of racing a 5k PB ... but condensed into 3 minutes. And in front of other people. 

I was going to be hotter than microwaved coffee hence the strip down to shorts and crop top but I was hoping the results would make it worth it.  

I was warming up on the turbo for 20 minutes on a structured warm up with the 10 other people in the room. The studio was filling up with the sounds of acceleration on the sprints, heavy breathing and nervous farts. Well my corner of it was, anyway.  

The Farty Corner

Coach Mary had planned it so we all started the warm up at different times. This way we’d have 20 minutes of spinning on our own bikes on the turbo and be ready to go on with the same preparation each. We had 2 Wattbikes in the centre of the room with our turbos ringed around them. A bit like a cage fight but with more pedals and farting. But about the same amount of sweat and desperation. 

The Wattbike Test is 3 minutes long and from these results I’d have accurate heart rate information which would mean I could make sure I’m training in the right zones. In other words making my training as efficient as possible. I’d know I was doing my easy rides easy enough and pushing hard enough on the REALLY horrible turbo sessions. I’d be able to judge it by my heart rate now through the readings I’d be getting on my watch via my HR monitor strap, rather than on my rather less accurate scale of ‘a bit sweaty’ to ‘legs feel wobbly now’. 

However as a result of going far too fast on the warm up due to a mixture of nerves and the adrenaline of watching other people do their tests on the Wattbike first, I was now boiling hot. I wasn’t ‘glowing’ or ‘perspiring’, I had reached ‘revoltingly sweaty’. Loz on the bike next to me and I exchanged glances. Yep. The vests were coming off. Being super organised triathletes *cough*, we’d worn cropped sports tops underneath in the event of an emergency (bee attacks, tummy button fires) and this was an emergency. A Wattbike emergency. We were in fact exposing far less skin than the average Victorian swimmer, but we were also in a roomful of athletes. Slinky, non-sweaty, buffed athletes. 

Sod it. We were BOILING. 

*Tops off*

People were just going to have to ignore any wobbly bits I was displaying. None of the INTERESTING wobbly bits, mind you but probably wobbly nonetheless.

The relief was immediate. But short lived. My turn on Wattbike of Death. 

Me being me encountered a problem. 1 minute into my 3 minute test – the point where I thought my eyeballs were boiling – Coach Mary realised that the HR displayed on the bike wasn’t mine. The perils of having 10 other people in the room also wearing HR monitors. 

So off the Wattbike, back onto my own bike for some easy spin and to let my heart rate drop back down from ‘hummingbird’ to ‘extremely nervous’. Or at least from ‘hum’ to ‘thunder’. 

But on the plus side, I’d had one go on the bike, hadn’t fallen off and it was already adjusted to fit me. I was impressed. It had taken 30 seconds to set it up (less than the average spin bike!) and through a few easy changes, it would fit both the 6ft Adam and the 5’4 me. At least I didn’t have to worry about not being able to reach the pedals.   

This isn't so bad ... (Source: Inspire2Tri)

Recovery time up and back on the bike. 3 minutes doesn’t sound long, does it? 0.5% of an exam. The length of time a crème egg lasts in my house. The time from leaving the house to realising your mobile is on the kitchen counter at home ...

But 3 minutes is a VERY long time.

And it’s very difficult to pace.

Ok ... this isn't quite so much fun now (Source: Inspire2Tri)
I knew that I would need to be trying my hardest to get the most accurate results I could, but it would be crazy to do my usual thing of flying off as hard as possible at the beginning and then dying about 45 seconds later. I’d need to go hard but try and pace myself to last the 3 minutes. And for 30 seconds it was fine. It was really fine. And then I realised I had to do that FIVE MORE TIMES.  

I really hit the all time low when Coach Mary announced I ‘only’ had two more minutes left. ONLY two minutes? That’s two minutes in which it appears my legs will simply give up on me, shrivel up, die and fall off. Two minutes in which my eyeballs appear to be forcing themselves down my nostrils. And 2 minutes in which I will simply suck all of the air from the room and die on the floor trying to fill my lungs.

And then it was over. 

I had no ideas of the figures on the display, I had been keeping my eyes purely on the cadence looking to hold the same revolutions-per-minute on the pedals. I was dimly aware that the display was flashing away, the same way I was aware of the cheers of the others as they encouraged me onwards and as I had encouraged them but it wasn’t important. The important thing had been keeping going. However now I WAS interested in the results. Wattbike users report significant gains in performance after training on a Wattbike (source), being able to keep an eye on the key variables and using the information you’re given as a tool to help efficient training are just two of the benefits. 

Max Minute Power (MMP): 274w
Max Heart rate: 176BPM
Power/Mass:                       4.72W/kg
V02 max estimate:               3.2 l/min, 55.6 ml/kg/min
MET:                                  15.9

But more importantly for me were my heart rate zones:

Training Zone HR (bpm)
Recovery            <106
Zone 1 Basic 107-114
Zone 2 Basic 115-132
Zone 3 Intensive 133-144
Zone 4 Intensive 145-157
Zone 5 Maximal 158-165
Zone 6 Maximal 166-176

Using these accurate training zones, I would be able to check I was riding at the right intensity while training. I have the terrible habit of trying to do everything at top speed, far too fast and not getting the benefit of the work I’m putting in. With this data, Coach Mary would be able to check that I was behaving myself and shout at me with terrible accuracy when I was slacking off or trying to do everything at high speed. And I would have no defence. The data would speak for itself. 

However, it would be me reaping the benefits. Rather than lots of junk miles, my training could be refined and now my sessions could be targeted. I could ensure that my training was pointing me directly at my goal. 

Now I knew what I SHOULD be doing. All that I need to do is actually to do it. 


  1. I would contest the points that microwaved coffee is actually all that hot... and I reckon a creme egg would be hella lucky to last as long as 3 minutes near you ;)

    1. That includes the time taken to open fridge door and spot the creme egg hidden behind the half opened box of mushrooms and the soup. Oh and hiding it from 5yo when she asks all innocently 'What have you got there, Mummy?" :)

  2. Eyeballs forced down nostrils - ended up with me snorting tea up nose and trying to cough my own eyeballs out!!! hahahahahahahaha!!!!
    Creme egg? What cream egg? Did we buy some? Must be mistaken! Oh - so we did, there they are on the receipt! Must have left them at the shop then. I'll go get some more.......!!
    Lastly!! Jiggly bits? You're one of those toned affleets that make me look like I'm Stay Puff the Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters!!!! With less goo!!

    1. I hide the shiny purple and yellow foil deep in the recycling bin! Creme eggs? Not seen any of THEM!
      Also great turn of phrase but Mr Staypuft didn't have a lovely hourglass figure or a history of running ultra marathons!! :)