Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sharing my data - Make your training mimic your events.

It is never to early to begin practicing for a big event. As I mentioned previously, I'm starting early. Adding miles, increasing endurance, and riding with more purpose. Although I'm not doing many structured intervals, I'm not just riding around.
Riding with purpose can have many forms. Long steady-state intervals, varying cadence, varying terrain, varying road surface as I plan to do some dirt road races. How about simply riding more in the drops to get my back and neck to acclimate to the lower position? Always look for something you can add to your workouts in order to increase the benefit.
I had this in mind during recent workouts. I did about a dozen road races in the Spring of 2013. I analyze races to find trends. Then apply training strategies to prepare for common race scenarios. Let me share two race files with wildly different circumstances but a common pattern. 
In the Tour of the Battenkill, nearly all race categories explode on difficult climbs towards the end of the race. Only the leaders of each race ride together to the end. Everyone else is left behind and fights to minimize their loses.
During my 2013 Tour of the Battenkill, I was fighting to minimize loses much earlier than I anticipated. You can see exactly where that happened in the graph. Lot of haphazard efforts for an hour or more while sitting within the group. After being left behind, the effort became much more consistent.
The next weekend at the 2013 Farmerstown Road Race, I went out to crush people. Halfway through the race, I broke away to catch another rider while leaving everyone else behind. Notice a similarity in the graph? The second half is significantly more difficult with very few opportunities for rest.
These two events were among my hardest of the year. Although every race plays out differently, this is the type of scenario I need to prepare for. I recently did a couple Endurance-building workouts. My current priority is extending my endurance. Additionally, I'm trying to build resistance to discomfort and fatigue. Resistance to fatigue and endurance are very similar. I want to do more than endure. I want to overcome. Train through discomfort. Ignore the burn. Ignore all the signals asking you to slow down. Focus on the task and put everything else aside. I am making mental preparations for those max efforts I will do in future training. 
During this 10/16/13 Tewksbury Loop, I started at just a moderate intensity. I mixed in some hills and rode them briskly but well below a max effort. I wanted to generate fatigue. During the second half, I hit my lap button and punched it all the way back. I rode at Zone 3-Tempo for the remainder of the ride. It started relatively moderate but becomes a race-like effort towards the end. 50 minutes at Tempo at the end of a three hour ride is not easy.
This past Thursday, I did this 10/24/13 Princeton Loop. Very similar. This time is was 57 minutes of Tempo. This was a killer on a windy day. At this point, I am not ready for short and very intense intervals. If you visualize a pyramid of fitness, I'm building the foundation. The wider the base, the higher and more stable my fitness will be. I will top off this Pyramid in March and April. We don't know what it will look like but construction has begun.
This is why I nag you about your goal events. I need to know well in advance. I will dissect previous versions. Look at course maps and profiles. Consider your strengths and weaknesses and figure out what you need to do in training to prepare. Vague goals leads to vague training. You end up with vague results. We can do better than that.  
Don't just go out and ride. Ride with purpose. 
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Sharing my data - I have a sweet tooth.

Those of you who have gotten to know me have learned that I have a sweet tooth. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. This email isn't intended to talk about my eating habits though. I'm going to highlight Sweet Spot Training (SST).
Sweet Spot Training is a phrase created in 2005 by a panel of cycling coaches and exercise physiologists experimenting with power meter data. One goal of their study was to figure out what level of exertion produced the greatest overall fitness benefit or "Bang for the Buck". The test subjects trained exclusively at a specific exertion or Training Zone. Throughout the study, the rate of physical adaptation was recorded. The results indicated which level of exertion produced the greatest overall fitness gain. Sweet Spot is used to describe an intensity that is manageable for the athlete to do regularly while being hard enough to stimulate a significant adaptation.
The table below shows how SST fits in among the other common training zones. The harder we can train, the greater the benefit. SST produces greater results than training in Zone 3-Tempo. Although Training at Zone 4-Threshold is even better, it is too difficult to repeat often. SST provides balance between Zone 3 and 4.
SST is often incorporated on the calendar between the Base and Build training phases. The long endurance rides have been done. Fundamentals have been established. SST is done before the more intense event-specific training. SST is often described as the training that increases the size of your engine. Car enthusiasts say, "There is no replacement for displacement." The bigger the engine, the greater the capacity to perform.  We will do some tuning later as we approach goals. Ahead of that, SST will provide the best bang for our training buck.
After a month of training with increased purpose, it was time for me to incorporate some SST intervals. I headed to a flat canal towpath. SST is a very small window of exertion. Too intense and you'll pop. Too easy and you will see less benefit. These intervals are a test of our ability to pace ourselves. This flat terrain allowed better control over my exertion. I also chose this location because I would be riding after dark. Riding in the dark has inherent dangers. I wanted to focus on my intensity without concern for hazards in the road, traffic, etc.
As you look at the workout graph, you can easily recognize the intervals. I did a long warm-up including two Spin-Up intervals. Then I went on and did four SST intervals. Each one progressively harder. Have you ever done a race that got easier as you got closer to the finish? No likely. Our training should often imitate that trend. Hold back slightly early to ensure that you can complete the entire workout. As you get closer to the end, you can risk a little more and go harder.
Sweet Spot is 88-93% of FTP. For me, that means 220-233 Watts. The average of the first three intervals was 223, 229, 242 Watts. During the third, I increased the training benefit by lowering my cadence about 10rpm. I was grinding in order to build strength in the glutes, quads, and lower back. I was pretty cooked at the end of the third interval. Also recognize that my rest intervals were really slow and easy. For five minutes, I rolled at a walking speed just moving my legs. Maybe unclipping to stretch. Allowing myself to relax as much as possible before beginning the next interval. Work hard, rest easy.
For the fourth interval, I returned to my preferred cadence and lowered my average target. It ended up being 232 Watts. Still at the upper end of my SST range but I could no longer continue to go higher. I also ended this interval at 16 minutes as I arrived in Lambertville. Even at night, there are people using the path to get around town.
With Lambertville behind me, I still had a long ride back to the start point. I decided to add in more training efforts. No "junk Miles" on this ride. I did ten minutes within Zone 3-Tempo plus a Form Sprint every minute. Remember, a Form Sprint is a short out-of-the-saddle sprint of 8-12 seconds. Focusing on form rather than power. That is good because by this point, I was running out of power. Although I was tired, this last intervals provided interest and entertainment as I finished the ride. Instead of feeling exhausted, I felt invigorated and determined to finish strong until I was ready to start my cool-down.
It was a great workout. Many other small things were going on that are simply too detailed to explain via email. Give me a call the next time one of these SST workouts are on your calendar. I'll show up and help you to get it right.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sharing my data - A New Beginning

During my build towards the 2013 Tour of the Battenkill, I shared my thoughts and personal training data to provide some insight that may help you in your own training. I received great feedback from many of you. Believe it or not, the time has come for me to begin again. One of you asked recently when I was going to begin training for Battenkill again. My response was, "About a month ago."
What have I been doing? I enjoyed my off-season. Yes, Summer is my off-season. It is when I focus my attention on all of you. I do your workouts with you, instructional skills sessions, and provide support at events. I made an effort to improve my poor spine and back condition which continues to be a problem for me. That is why you are not seeing me racing my CX bike this year or last.
Additionally, I was enjoying my kids as one was leaving for prep-school. Helping my friends at Halter's Cycles during their busy season. I attended coaching seminars. I was on my bike but not really training. After decades of riding, I can ride all day at any point. I do lose the sharpness, race-preparedness, or my "top end speed".
I did an FTP test with clients at the end of July. It resulted in a concerning 9% drop in Functional Threshold Power (FTP) power since April. I spent the next six weeks hosting Cyclocross skills clinics with most of you. One huge clinic for the public. I also spent two long weekends at clinics hosted by other coaches. Some additional family time didn't allow much opportunity to train. I did another FTP test a month ago. Another 2% drop in FTP power. "Okay, that is enough! Time to get back on the horse!"
I have spent the time since increasing the duration and intensity on the bike. Simply riding with more purpose. When legs feel good, do something with them. Not much structure required. I simply followed the old Eddy Merckx recommendation, "Ride Lots!"
Feel free to take a look at my test data. You may notice that I do not put out impressive numbers. You won't hear me bragging about my huge engine. I picked the wrong parents. I like to think I extract every bit of power from myself with excellent coordination and efficiency. Coupled knowledge and experience, I can still surprise a few people.
In the future, I hope to share my thoughts and data from key workouts. I began introducing some structured intervals last week and will share one of those workouts in the coming days. In the future, I hope to share about one workout per week. We'll see how things go.
The intent is to help you in your own training. I do many of the same workouts you do. I practice what I preach. I always enjoy your feedback and questions and look forward to hearing from you. 
Thanks for reading.