I have had an issue for a while when I am cycling. I never can seem to "hit" my target HR zones. When I was with Train-This, we used Joe Friel HR zones for both the bike and the run (I believe, Mary can correct me if I'm wrong) with a Z1 (recovery), Z2 (endurance), Z3 (tempo) and Z4 (short races). There was an offset between bike zones and run zones, like usual, and I still have a hard time understanding WHY there is an offset, but I attempted to follow these HR zones to the best of my ability. When I am running, I have no problem dialing into the required zone. I can run all day at my endurance zone, and I can hit and run at tempo pace when it's scheduled.
But I just CANNOT seem to ride in my cycling zones. For instance, my Z2 for last year on the bike were (approximately, I can't remember exactly) 142-162. So, for the majority of my rides (all my long rides, all IM bike splits) should be ridden at a HR somewhere in there. But, where do I tend to average my HR for long rides? In the 120s (if I'm lucky). This happens on the trainer, outside, all the time. During IM Wisconsin, the only triathlon where I have worn my HR monitor, I actually averaged in my Z2 (on the high side even) but this was a race situation AND it was hot as balls on that bike.
Mary figured that part of my issue with this (because it was an ongoing issue over 2 seasons) was that I was just cooked from 2 Ironmans in one year. Personally, I felt like I was just being too lazy on the bike. I felt like I was riding at endurance pace, based off of perceived effort, but it's hard to tell sometimes!
When I made the switch to QT2 two weeks ago, my HR zones changed to the QT2 system. They are ZR (recovery), Z1 (endurance), and Z2 (tempo). I ran a 5K in October and Mary used that data to structure my new zones. They are smaller and lower than the previous ones I used, so I thought that I finally might have a chance to actually ride in my endurance zone. My first bike ride in, I was absolutely determined to hit my HR zone, and I did it, by sprinting my ass off for 75 minutes. My Z1 was 134 - 145, and my average HR was 134. So even riding above my BSE (best sustainable effort) for 75 minutes, I BARELY made it into Z1. And I don't think I could ride at that intensity for much longer than 75 minutes, so that is going to prove to be problematic for long rides.
By this point, I was super frustrated.
I wanted to run this theory by Mary, so I hopped over to the QT2 forum and posted a question for Mary with some background (for other members who read the forum), my "conversation" with Keith, and asking what her thoughts were on the matter. Sidenote: because I am a QT2 Mission Plan Athlete, things have changed a little bit since being a Train-This athlete. Questions about training, races, switching workouts, and other questions in general are posted to Mary's QT2 forum instead of emailed to her directly (if you want that kind of communication, you have to be a 1:1 athlete, but I can't afford it). It works out fine because Mary is very diligent about checking the forum and answering questions, and you can also see what other people post and her answers to their questions. Also, since she is now one coach among other coaches, she can actually brainstorm problems her athletes are having with other knowledgeable people in search of answers. I believe this is what Mary did, since her and I had no idea what was going on last season.
Long story short (ok actually it's long, sorry!) we think the problem is a lack of leg strength. It's kind of crazy when you think about it, because I don't look like I lack strength in my legs. I am pretty solid, my quads are pretty big, and I've done a LOT of training the past 3 years. But, this also does make sense to me. I might be strong endurance-wise but in terms of actual strength, I don't have a lot. I think this is why my quads blow up in marathons, IM marathons, and even at the end of a hilly long run.
To try to fix this, Mary is going to have me doing a lot of lower body max phase strengthening exercises (and I think my max strength phase is going to be extended) and a lot of low cadence, big ring trainer rides over the winter. I am just glad that this problem has been figured out, that it's not my fault, and that there is a solution that will hopefully make me a stronger, faster athlete!