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November 09, 2005

Ball Hockey vs. Bike Racing

The Soundcheck Slapshots were known for their grit and determination. They are remembered for the amazing fight they put up during every game. This spirit was always at its peak during games against their arch rivals, the Aardvarks Against Alliteration.

As a Slapshot player, one thing I remember is how damn hard it was to run around that tennis court. We compensated for our passes, our ball handling and our shooting with our hustle (and our 110% effort). That hustle made me want to throw up. It made my heart try to explode.

I'm now playing on a McGill intramural team, and to get a reference for this exertion, I decided to wear my heart rate monitor for a game.

That graph shows my heart rate during a 45 minute game and the warmup before. You can clearly see each shift I take. Notice the low heart rate in the final shift. We were leading 9-3 and we switched to a more defensive style game. Our opponents also took a time out midway through the second half. The major thing to note is the peaks in the heart rate. The maximum reached was 199, and I regularly hit 195. That hurts.

This second chart shows my heart rate for one of the weekly Mardis-Lachine bike races. You can definitely see that my heart rate doesn't get anywhere near 199. Actually, I think the max I hit in any race this year was 197. But, the average for the race was definitely higher than for the hockey game (makes sense, no shifts in a Lachine).

Lachine may not be the best example of a heart rate graph for a bike race. The heart rate is much too consistent. Normally in a race you see many more peaks and valleys, but Lachine is a good comparison because it's definitely the hockey game of Canadian bike races.

So which is harder? There's really no doubt that bike racing is more mentally tough. You get tired or you don't want to go hard and your race is over. In a ball-hockey game the pain may be intense, but you at least have teammates and you get to sit on the bench once in a while. Ball-hockey level of intensity only shows up once in a typical bike race (at the finish).

Finally, in hockey, half the competitors are winners and we all know that all (but one) bike racers are losers.

Posted by Alistair Howard at November 9, 2005 10:42 PM


So why does your heart rate drop at the end of the race? shouldnt it peak for the sprint?

Posted by: Malcolm at November 10, 2005 01:33 PM

Good point. Two things:

- First, the dramatic drop off at the end of the graph is the cool-down. The race finishes right where the heart rate begins to fall.

- Second, it began to rain at this Lachine and the last 10 minutes were incredibly sketchy. I think I finished about 10th (almost getting killed in the last corner by another guy going down). The conditions prevented us from going all out and so you don't see a big spike.

Posted by: Alistair at November 10, 2005 02:06 PM

I love the comparison of the graphs. Actually, that bike race looks like hell. You should try a bunch of sports and graph them: golf, triathlon, sky diving.

Posted by: Jeff Werner at November 10, 2005 09:55 PM

Ah the Soundcheck Slapshots... a mighty fine fine bunch they were. Nice graphs, they put everything in perspective. Slapshots R.I.P.

Posted by: sc0 at December 19, 2005 11:03 PM