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Date: Sunday, August 30, 2010

Time: 6:30 AM

The other day Matt Dixon asked if I wanted to do a long ride on Sunday. I think of long rides as 200K, and Matt knows this, so I was excited to have a riding partner for a permanent. I love doing these rides, and don’t mind riding for hours alone, but it is nice to have company occasionally. I had been wanting to do this route because Molly and I have done it twice on the tandem. It’s a great route, starting in La Jolla, going up to Del Dios Highway where it follows the reverse Swami’s route through Elfin Forrest, and then a right up San Elijo Road. From there the route goes east of the I-15, eventually to Rainbow, then returns through Fallbrook, Bonsall, Oceanside, and then back to La Jolla along the coast. I like this ride because there are several good climbs, and they are all finished (except Torrey Pines) during the first half.

My goals for this ride:

  1. Ride the TT bike and stay in the aero bars where ever it was safe to do so
  2. Push the hills, especially Del Dios
  3. Get some good 90% of FTP efforts in the aero bars once I hit Oceanside (about 90 miles)

The ride was going well, but at 45 miles Matt had a horrible failure of his rear wheel. We couldn’t figure out what he hit, but it had crumpled enough to put a couple tears through his tire. This caused a sudden flat while we were probably going 40+ MPH downhill in the aero bars, but he was able to stop without crashing. The inner tube spun inside and sheared off the valve. We tried to figure out if we could salvage it enough to ride back to the car, but the next tube would have probably blown as soon as it was inflated, or the rim would have probably crumpled more he had tried riding on it. So, we hated to do it, but Matt had to call for a ride. I decided to push on.

My ride went well, but I definitely let up a bit once Matt left. I wanted to do well up Del Dios because I had set a PR 8 days prior on the road bike, and I wanted to hammer it out in the aero bars to see what I could do. Unfortunately I came up short.

Here is the ride profile and the hills that I was able to compare results in on Strava.com:

Here are the Del Dios leaders. I didn’t beat my ride from last week!

Here are the recent results, showing my 5:44 time. I was a little surprised that I rode that much slower on the TT bike, but look at the power difference!

Here is the leader board for West Valley Parkway. I achieved KOM on this one!

Next is San Elijo Rd. I placed 6th on this. My power was quite a bit lower than I had just done on Del Dios and West Valley Parkway. I tried to rest and recover through Elfin Forrest in anticipation of the climb, but still was feeling it.

Here is the decent down Twin Oaks. I wasn’t even pushing it, just got nice and aero and relaxed.

Old Castle is a nice climb. It seems to get shorter every time I do it. Unfortunately this is after Matt had to get a ride, so he missed on the fun.

Couser Canyon is another good one. My legs were getting more and more tired, and I didn’t have Matt there to push me.

My chain fell off on Rice Canyon, which definitely slowed me, but again, I wasn’t pushing that hard.

Here are the leaders for Torrey Pines. My best of 6:59 isn’t anywhere near the KOM.

This ride I did 9:55, my 12th best attempt at Torrey pines.

Here is Campus Point, a short climb as you go into UCSD.

Since I am 6 weeks out from Kona, I looked at a 200K I did 3 weeks prior to Kona. I had ridden that ride “hard” (perceived exertion). The route was different, and the temperature was definitely higher, and my legs were fresher, but thought it would be good to compare to see how my training is going. This is one of the benefits of keeping a training log.

Metric

11/1/2009

8/29/2010

Distance

126.9

122.6

Ride Time

7:13

7:18

Elapsed Time

7:41

7:58

Rest/pause Time

0:28

0:40

Elevation gain

7060

6865

Avg Speed

17.5

16.8

Total Energy (KJ)

5536

5212

Weight

189

196

CP5

316

329

CP10

303

306

CP20

297

297

CP30

290

290

CP60

270

254

CP90

261

231

CP180

244

217

NP

232

232

 

The goals of the two rides were similar in that I wanted to ride on the TT bike, spending hours on the aero bars. The rides differed in that last year I was trying to maintain a higher steady power throughout the ride, which is evident by the higher CP60, CP90, and CP180. This year I wanted to push it up the hills, and take it easy on the flats. I ended up with slightly higher powers for the shorter efforts this year. Overall I find this rather reassuring. At this point it is very easy to think of all the training that I didn’t do. Trying to make up for that now is a set up for overdoing it and arriving at Kona burned out. I felt similar last year, very concerned about the training I didn’t do, but ended up with a great race. Now, using my training log I can reevaluate where I am and feel that despite having several bad months this year, everything is going to be okay.

I look forward to sharing my Kona experience with you. I have been doing triathlons off and on since 1986, and this is my first trip to Kona. Who knows, it may be my last, so no matter what I plan on making the best of this dream come true.

Thanks for reading.


Date: August 28, 2010

Location: Mission Bay, San Diego, CA

Distances: Swim 1 mile, Bike 38.3 miles, Run 8.4 miles

Today’s race was a repeat, with some modifications, that the Tri Club had put on last year. Last year’s race was approximately ½ iron distance, so this one was a little bit shorter. The swim was located in De Anza Cove in Mission Bay. The bike route started from De Anza Cove and headed South on Mission Bay Drive to Fiesta Island, where we did 8 laps of the “big loop”, and then exited the island to transition at De Anza Cove. The run headed counter clockwise around the eastern half of Mission Bay.

A week ago yesterday I started to feel the fatigue from my large training weeks. The past week I only did a fraction of my planned workouts because I was so exhausted. I needed the rest, there’s no doubt, but with only a few good training weeks available before my taper for Kona I was trying to squeeze the most out of the time I had. I started feeling better during my Thursday and Friday swims, and worked in a decent ride on Friday too. I’m a bit cautious now, not wanting to fall apart in the next few weeks. I didn’t know what to expect from the race today, but decided against any warm up or taking the race too serious. I figured I’d start each leg easy and work into it as I felt.

I decided to swim without a wetsuit. There are no wetsuits allowed at Kona, and I need to start figuring out what I want to race in. Today I raced in a single piece tri-suit. I usually don’t do triathlons with my heart monitor strap but figured today I’d collect some heart rate data. At the start of the swim I dolphined into the water and the strap immediately slipped down to my waist. That was a bit annoying, and I decided that I would just take it off as soon as I finished the swim. I also noticed that there were several swimmers that seemed to get far ahead from the start. I knew there were some fast swimmers there, but couldn’t believe how far ahead they got in just the first few minutes.

I cruised the beginning of the swim, and after about ½ of the first lap (of two laps) I was feeling good so I picked up the pace. By the time I was heading into the second lap I realized I wasn’t swimming faster than the guy next to me, so I just settled in on his feet. Fortunately he seemed to hold a good line to the buoys. I could tell he was a little annoyed when I’d occasionally tap his feet. I really wasn’t intending to hit his feet. I’d rather he didn’t know I was there. The visibility was so poor though that I never saw his feet and was only trying to stay in his draft. When I tapped his feet he would kick harder, which only helped me stay in his draft. By kicking harder he probably created a bigger draft, and he also created more bubbles that made it easier for me to see where he was.

Onto the bike… My transition was fair, not especially fast because I was dealing with the heart monitor strap and I took an extra couple seconds to knock some of the sand off my feet. My power starting off was pretty low, but I wanted to ease into it until I got on the island. Once I was on the island I was holding 270-300 watts and feeling pretty good with that. After about 3 of the 8 laps on the island I realized that the bike was probably going to take just over 90 minutes, and that this would be a good opportunity to set a new best 90 minute critical power (CP90). My average power at that point was about 284 watts, and I knew I could bring it up because the first 5 minutes was less than 250 watts. I brought my power to 290-310 watts. I brought with me a single water bottle that contained about 200 calories of Carbo Pro, and decided I would drink from it after 2, 4, and 6 laps, which is exactly what it took to drain it.

During my 5th lap I was approaching several triathletes, and a green truck that was maneuvering past them. The driver passed some riders on her right, and it looked like I could probably pass fairly easily on the right. As I was rapidly approaching, she suddenly cut over to the right, looking like she was going to turn off the road. Most people do turn off to the right, because that is where the water is, and there aren’t a lot of turn outs to the left. Well, as I quickly decided to swing over to her left to pass, she turned hard to the left, cutting me off. I slammed on the brakes and yelled, and quickly decided to go off the road into the sand instead of hitting her truck. This was absolutely the best move. If I had ran into her my race probably would be over, I’d be injured, and there would be insurance/legal stuff to deal with. She was apologetic, I was dirty, and only had a minor knee contusion. My Garmin flew off the bike and the chain fell off. I quickly got back on track. The total stopped time was 42 seconds, but with the slowing and starting back up I definitely gave up a good minute.

I must have had a good adrenaline rush though following that, because my power quickly went up to 340+ watts, and I was able to hold that for the rest of the ride. My CP90 history includes 284 watts, which I did 12/17/2009 and 1/30/2010, and today I set a new best: 294 watts. This is a great measure of my improved muscular endurance. I had already improved my CP180 recently, from 253 watts on 11/22/2009 to 258 watts on 7/24/2010.

Onto the run… I wasn’t expecting much from the run. My running has not felt good nor been fast for a while now. My first mile split was 7:10, and I thought “Nice, but I’m not going to worry about pace. Just relax and keep good form and cadence.” The run actually felt pretty good, but I was concerned that it might fall apart soon. I pushed it hard on the bike to get the higher CP90, realizing that I may be sacrificing some running ability due to the extra fatigue. At mile 5 there was an aid station, and I didn’t see Matt Dixon, or any other runner coming yet, so I decided that it was time to be concerned about pace. I didn’t want to give up the win at this point. I ran the rest at sub 7 pace, finishing with a 7:07 average pace for the 8.4 miles. Overall time was about 2:58, and I held off second place Matt Dixon by about 2 minutes. It feels great to be getting back into shape!

As always, the Tri Club, race director Brian Wrona, and the volunteers put on a very smooth race. These club events are some of my favorite events. I’ll be looking forward to the next one!


Maintaining your momentum during a time trial is key. I don’t see many articles that address this. Usually I see articles addressing strategies such as pacing, maintaining a steady power at a percentage of FTP, or keeping your heart rate in a certain range. While all of these are important things to consider, I think it is extremely important to create momentum quickly, and then maintain it as much as possible.

Some of these details come with experience in riding and racing, because you still have to be aware of what intensity you should be able to maintain for the length of the race. In the book Daniel’s Running Formula, running coach Jack Daniels claims that the best pacing strategy in a marathon is such that the last mile is at the same pace as the first mile. Of course the first mile is going to feel easy, and the last mile is going to be all out. There are other views on this, but the point is that it is the more efficient to run a race with even pacing. This certainly holds true in time trialing, where as in other bike racing surges and sitting in (resting) are better strategies because of the benefits of drafting.

So, let us suppose you are doing a race that is very flat with no tactical turns, and no winds to deal with. If you are racing with a power meter you have an advantage in that you know fairly certain what power you can maintain for the length of the race. Although the danger in racing is starting too hard in the beginning, in a time trial you initially want to create your momentum as fast as possible. Your gear selection for the start should be planned so that you can accelerate quickly. I prefer to start in one of the easiest gears with my large chain ring. I do not want to pause or slow at all to change from the small to the large chain ring while accelerating. I have a general idea of the speed that I want to achieve quickly, so I will accelerate as quickly as possible, hopping through the gears as my cadence goes above 100. Once I have gone slightly above my cruising speed I will settle down and start to look at power. Now that I have momentum, it becomes all about my steady power and maintaining momentum. In a flat, no wind, no sharp turn race, maintaining momentum is all about keeping a nice aero profile and a steady power. There really is no place for pausing and coasting, or for surges. I should see my pace remaining the same, so if it is dropping I had better evaluate my position and power output quickly because I do not want to give up any momentum. It is easier to maintain momentum than to have to keep creating it again.

Most races are not completely flat without wind. Hills and wind will rob you of your momentum. When you are going downhill or with the wind your speed will likely increase even with a lower power output. Before I had a power meter, I noted that on the slightest descent or tailwind my speed would increase, and I felt great. I figured the increased speed must make me feel energized, maybe from an adrenaline rush. After I got the power meter I found out the reason why I felt so much better was because my power dropped 100 watts. Although I didn’t think I was letting up at all, I was letting up a lot because I didn’t need the same effort to go fast. As it turns out, this isn’t a bad strategy because if I had maintained the same effort my speed (and hence momentum) would not have changed much. That effort is better saved for when speed starts dropping again, or for efforts going uphill or into the wind.

You can think of hills and wind as being rather similar, except remember that a headwind really requires you to maintain the best aerodynamic profile as possible. When climbing a hill you are still better off maintaining an aero position, and to focus on maintaining momentum. Efforts greater than your planned average power will be necessary during climbs and headwinds, realizing you will recover on the other side.

Cresting a hill requires some planning and strategy to maintain your momentum, and if done well can make up a lot of time against your competitors. Way too many people see the top of the hill, and stop their push while there is still a positive grade, thinking that they have made it to the top. Gravity will quickly take over in these situations and they slow, requiring them to have to recreate any momentum they gave up at great expense. “Extending the hill” is the best strategy. You want to maintain your high power effort (or even higher as you start to accelerate) until you are going so fast on the descent that you are spinning out your highest gear, and then throw yourself into an aero position and rest. If you do this right you should see your speed climbing while not pedaling. Even a few seconds rest in this position while you are taking advantage of all the momentum you created can recharge your legs. When your speed starts to drop, let it drop until it is just above the speed you think you could maintain at your goal power. You don’t want to let your speed drop too low because you still need to maintain that momentum, but you don’t want to give up your short rest to start hammering where your speed may not improve much. With experience and practice you can get a sense of how low you want your speed to drop while coasting before you start hammering again. I know that if I start pedaling too soon, I’ll sacrifice aerodynamics and will actually slow down instead of gaining speed from pedaling.

On these descents my aero position consists of being in the aerobars, rolling my shoulders back so that I can get my torso lower, bringing my feet parallel to the road, and squeezing the top tube between my knees (also aids in stabilizing the bike). I will generally try to lean forward, but be certain that the extra weight on the bars is only on the elbow rests. You do not want to put weight on the ends of the aerobars. An aerobar that breaks or slips can send you face first into the road (I’ve seen this, and it’s not pretty). Putting your weight far forward might help in accelerating, but is not as relaxing or as stable as sitting back on the seat, so depending on the situation I usually will change between these positions.

If you paced your race right the final portion should feel “all out” without much of a change in your power output or speed. Remember these: 1) Get your speed up fast (at start and at the top of hills) 2) Don’t let your speed drop 3) Expect higher effort uphill and with headwinds 4) Take advantage of the rest from a descent once you are up to speed 5) Extend the hills.

Thanks for reading. Pass my blog onto a friend!


Yesterday I started my ramblings on improving time trialing. The focus of training for a time trial is increasing your threshold power so that you can maintain a higher steady power throughout the race. There are ways to get additional speed, regardless of where your FTP is. Even if you still have some improvements to make in your training to increase your FTP, you can make the best of where your fitness is today. Hopefully a lot of this is very basic to you, but I always see people at races that have not learned or applied some of the most basic things to improve your speed.

Rolling Resistance

I remember all the magazine ads in the 80’s were about tires and rolling resistance. There seemed to be a lot of concern about tires and bearing slowing you down. I guess that bikes have improved enough, and the standard tires you purchase are probably almost as good as the most expensive tires. More importantly though is the recognition of how much more significant wind resistance is. Still, I want my ride to roll smoothly in a race. There are a lot of suggestions about tire brands, but I think you should find a slick tire within your budget that you are happy with. Use a thin tube. The thicker tubes probably won’t do much for preventing a flat. If you inspect your tires regularly, you can remove a lot of debris imbedded in small cuts that could eventually cause flats. Especially when repairing a flat, be sure to pinch the removed tire at every small cut you see in the outside of the tire and look for pieces of glass and metal.

When you prepare your ride for a race, it is essential that your tires are well inflated. Do not over inflate them. Almost every race I hear a tire blow out, probably because it was over inflated (or had a pinch when installed). If you change your tire before a race, do it at least a day ahead of the race, inflate it fully, and try to ride on it for at least a few miles. Regardless, you always want to inflate your tire the evening before the race, and first thing in the morning check it to see that it is still holding air. A slow leak can kill your race. If you recently inflated your tube with a CO2 cartridge, expect the pressure to drift down much faster than if you had inflated it with a pump. I like to inflate my tires again before I leave the house or hotel in the morning before a race, and never at the actual race site (although I will pack my pump with me). Things can go wrong when pumping your tires, such as damaging the valve, and I want there to be plenty of time to deal with problems before the race. If I am at home I have all my tools, extra supplies, good lighting, a good floor pump, and still have plenty of time to take care of things. If you are pumping your tires 10 minutes before the start of the race (we’ve all seen it!) then you are really testing fate and can create a lot of stress before your race.

Latex tubes improve the rolling resistance within the tire. The portion of the tire that is on the road becomes flattened under the weight, and inside the tire there is friction created between the tire and the tube. This is so minimal that I am not convinced latex tubes are worth the expense. Latex tubes also do not hold their pressure very well either, so for long events it is likely that you will not end with the tire pressure that you really want, especially if you inflated your tires well ahead of the event.

Thinner tires and higher pressures theoretically reduce rolling resistance. The resistance of the tire against the road is due to static friction. This friction is our friend when we rely on it to keep the bike upright, accelerate, or brake. If static friction is so low that the forces overcome it, we start to slide, and sliding friction is much less than static friction, so your bike will go down rather quickly. A 23 mm width tire is plenty thin enough to race on, and provides sufficient static friction for safe riding on most paved roads. The recommended tire pressure is enough, but may be too much when conditions are slippery (wet). By reducing your tire pressure you increase the contact area of the tire and the road, thereby increasing the static friction and rolling resistance. The tire may not be as fast, but will be safer.

Underinflated tires increase rolling resistance (may be desirable in wet conditions), will make for a smoother ride as the tire will absorb more road shock, and are more susceptible to pinch flats. Overinflated tires may slightly reduce rolling resistance, will make for a rougher ride and increase bounce on bumps, and is more prone to puncture flats. Your best bet is to follow the pressure recommendations from the manufacture. Some pumps do not have a pressure gage, and even ones that do may not be correct. I recommend investing on a separate pressure gage to check your tire pressure after pumping. If you do this, and are confident that your pump’s gage is accurate, then you probably don’t need to use it very often. Sometimes you have to use someone else’s pump though, and double checking the pressure can be prudent.

Aerodynamics

Although I could probably go on about rolling resistance, I think good tires and good tire pressure are your best investment. Aerodynamics is by far more important in triathlon, and even though people seem to know that, I am always seeing people forget it.

Bikes and Wheels

Everyone wants a time trial bike and wheels, and the bike shops want you to buy these. These are important things to consider, but even if you are only going to be doing triathlons and time trials, I really think your first bike should be a road bike. I am convinced that training on a road bike is much better than training on a time trial bike, day in and day out. You definitely need to work the TT bike into your training, but the types of training that you need to do require a road bike. You can still slap a pair of aerobars on your road bike and race with it until you are ready to invest in another bike. I can go on and on about this, so it should be a topic for another post if anyone is really interested.

So, you have to address aerodynamics, and although a TT bike and race wheels do this, people on very expensive rides are doing a horrible job at addressing aerodynamics.

Clothing

Clothing is very important. Choose clothes that are snug, don’t flap around in the wind, and of course are comfortable. I’ve experimented with a fair amount of clothing designs. I want to them to be comfortable and aero when on the bike in a very aero position. I keep the zipper all the way up, and look for bagginess and gaps between my skin and the clothing when in the aero position. Some jerseys and suits may look like they fit well when you are standing, but when sitting on the bike and in the aerobars they take a different shape. Pockets are okay, but I want snug small pockets that aren’t going to be flapping around in the wind.

Aerobars

Your next best investment is aerobars. Have them, and use them. If you are on a TT bike, then you already have them. If you are on a road bike, try to adjust your bike so that the using the aerobars is a decent position for you. You may need to push the seat forward and slightly raise the seat. If you are doing ultracycling, the aerobars become an extra position for you, and you can take advantage of the aeroposition on descents. In a TT or triathlon, you have to use the aerobars to their fullest. This is one reason why I don’t like training on my TT bike every day, because if I am on the TT bike, I need to be in the aerobars all the time. During a TT or a triathlon it is absolutely essential that you make yourself aero, and using the bars the entire ride is the only way to do that. A few months ago I did a TT with my road bike, in the drops 100% of the time, and somebody started passing me. We turned into the wind, requiring more effort to keep up the momentum, and the racer sat up out of the TT bars. He immediately caught the wind, slowed down, and I never saw him again. He had a very expensive bike that he was not utilizing.

Helmets

An aerohelmet is a good investment for aerodynamics, but this is an extra helmet. Be sure to buy a decent vented helmet first. The aerohelmet is constructed so that the tear drop rests along your spine. This requires you to keep your head up (looking where you are going!). I like to feel the helmet lightly grazing my back, and if I don’t I’ll bring my chin up more so that it is.

Accessories

There are a lot of aero-accessories out there, particularly water bottle cages and drink systems. These can be good, but their ease of use is also important. If you are messing with accessories and meanwhile slowing down, losing momentum, then your system is not efficient enough. Usually people have too much on their bikes. If you don’t need it, don’t carry it. If you are losing bottles out of a bottle cage behind your seat, adjust it so that the vector from bounces does not result in ejecting bottles. I find having the bottle less vertical keeps the bottles in place better.

Position

Your position on the bike affects your aerodynamics the most. If you are riding a road bike, you need to be in the drops and dropping your elbows below your knees to get your body down. If you are using aerobars, use them! If you are not comfortable staying in the aerobars, then you should work on it. Improving your core strength is the biggest thing. Do plank exercises and push-ups. Doing good push-ups build arm, shoulder, chest and back strength, and improve your core strength. You want to focus on doing the push-ups slow enough that you can focus on engaging your core muscles (abs and back). The plank exercise is performed by holding a position on your elbows. If you do this exercise with other people you may find you are motivated to do more than you want to. I prefer to do the plank at 1 minute rotations, and include a full extension (push-up starting position) and a lowered push-up position (just off the floor) into the cycle. So I’ll set my watch timer to alarm every minute, and do Up, Down, Elbows, Right Side, Left Side, then repeat. Here are some pictures of Elbow position and Right Side positions:

Hopefully you’ve read a couple points that you can implement into your next race. Thanks for reading!


I recently received a question from a fellow TCSD member regarding increasing his 20K time trial speed. He is training with power, and using intervals from 6-20 minutes at FTP, or slightly above, and has been doing some VO2 training with 2-5 minute intervals. He feels that fatigue resistance may be a weakness in his ability in bringing his time trial speed up.

The topic is rich. Articles, lectures, blogs and forums are full of advice and comments about how to get faster. I’ve thought about this a little, and decided I may as well add to the discussions out there. I don’t have decades of experience coaching high level athletes to a higher level, but I have been involved with coaching many new runners and triathletes. I am also self-coached, and have read ridiculous amounts of opinions and have tried some out myself. I’m not sure those are great qualifications, but I have no doubt that some of the stuff out there is written by less qualified athletes and coaches. I’ll at least add something for you to ponder as you develop your training and racing plans.

Time trial speed can depend on a lot of things. To avoid a super long post that I never get around to finishing, this will be broken up into segments. I’ll address FTP first. Some other topics that come to mind when I am getting ready for a time trial include: Aerodynamics, Rolling Resistance, Warm Up, Fueling, Momentum, Fatigue Resistance, and “Go Time”. I’ll review these in future posts (hopefully soon).

FTP

Functional Threshold Power: This is the theoretical maximum power that you can maintain for 60 minutes. Unless you are actually doing a time trial that takes 60 minutes, it is not likely that you could accurately measure this. Recommendations for testing your current FTP typically are doing a 20 minute test instead of 60 minutes because it is easier to focus, and then subtracting 5% from that value. This is an estimate of your true FTP, but so would a 60 minute test because you are assuming that this is the best you could do. There are a lot of potential errors in doing any of these tests, so some cyclists prefer to have a specific training week and routine for their test. The test can be done on a trainer, rollers, or on the road. Generally, it is recommended to do the test on a fairly flat road, without stops or turns that require much slowing, and favorable weather conditions (low heat, low winds), although some athletes prefer a stationary trainer so that they can reproduce the testing environment. Significant test results can only come from a well designed plan and successful test. I have tried this and sometimes end up with a poor test. What do you do with that? A poor test doesn’t give you the information you need. I prefer to track my CP20 and CP60 for different races and rides, and when one stands out I’ll usually use that to determine where my FTP is.

Now, what do you do with that number? First, I use it in WKO+ and Training Peaks, where the FTP is used to calculate intensity factors and training stress scores. The TSS is used in the performance management chart to track changes in fitness and fatigue, which I am finding rather useful. FTP is often referred for use in training and racing (particularly in time trials). If your FTP is 300 watts, you can theoretically expect that you can hold that power for 60 minutes. So, if your time trial is going to take you 30 minutes, you should be able to hold over 300 watts.

Using the power meter on every ride, and becoming familiar with where your power falls at different intensities is very valuable. The power meter gives a very objective measure of your effort. Speed varies too much depending on winds, road conditions, and elevation changes. Of course speed is the end result you are looking for in a time trial, but speed varies too much to measure your performance in training and racing. It is extremely valuable in becoming familiar with your perceived effort and the resultant power output. Hills, temperature, winds, cadence, gear selection, fatigue and position on the bike can all affect your perceived effort. By referring to your power output and how you feel, you can learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses. Heart rate also provides feedback. I don’t use heart rate very often to change what I am doing, but I want to know about how I am riding affects my heart rate and my perceived effort, and do they match my power output. If my heart rate and power are low, but my perceived exertion is high, then I might be too fatigued or my cadence and gear selection may not be optimal.

I think it is crucial to learn how your riding is affecting you and your actual power output. There really is no short cut for this. You have to spend a lot of time on the bike, and you have to experiment. You probably have a style of riding that is comfortable to you, but who knows if that is optimal. Performing different types of intervals (length of interval, length of rest), riding different terrain (hills of different lengths and grades), and trying different gearing and cadence can provide some great variability in training, but also provide new pieces of information. I am pretty much always interested in how my legs feel and the power output. I also compare my respiratory rate, or just how hard I am breathing to how my legs feel, the power output, and occasionally my heart rate.

There are a lot of training recommendations for increasing your FTP, but if you can figure out how to increase your power at the same perceived exertion, then your FTP would likely increase. This is somewhat analogous to Jim Vance’s “envelope runs“.

With so much talk about increasing FTP, it is obviously important. FTP is quite individualized though, and I find it interesting when someone on a group ride asks me what my FTP is. My FTP is going to be quite a bit different from most people’s FTP with similar race performance because I am a larger athlete. Power to weight ratio is probably more meaningful, but people don’t ask me what my power:weight is. Tracking your own FTP is valuable in measuring your improvement.

Specificity in training has its value, but is also talked about too much sometimes. In preparation for an important race, some race specific type training can be helpful, but I suspect that too much specificity won’t be enough stimulus for improvement. Variability in training, and an occasional breakthrough workout where the training stress or intensity is much higher than you are used to can provide a lot of improvement. So, doing intervals 6-20 minutes long at just above FTP can provide some improved fitness and a slowly improved FTP, but I think more benefit may be seen from more variability. Periodization can help organize some of this variability into your training. The training cycle usually is thought of consisting of macrocycle, mesocycle, and microcycle. In more familiar (and simplified) terms, the macrocycle is the plan for the year, the mesocycle is the plan for the month, and the microcycle is the plan for the week. Breaking up the annual training into segments allows us to plan for the week (and the day) what workouts need to get done. I think the further out you are from the key event, there should be more variability in training. So, for cycling, getting out the mountain bike, riding a single speed or fixed gear, doing intervals that you challenge your weaknesses, or doing different types of races than your key race can provide a lot of stimulus for growth.

Exercise is a hormesis model, where the stress from exercise (although initially damaging) provides stimulus for adaptation during recovery where you become stronger and more fit. If you are training at your FTP all the time, you’re probably well adapted to that and are just maintaining your level of fitness rather than boosting it. Doing less specific training, things that you aren’t well adapted to already, you can create a lot of opportunity for growth. I can give a lot of examples, but I think it’s good to just be on the lookout for new ideas. Using suggestions in articles, books, blog posts, and training with different groups can provide ideas of workouts to do that you normally do not incorporate into your training. Here is a short list of ideas I have used.

-Attend a spin class, and if the class is not very difficult, make it more difficult by adding more resistance to the flywheel.

-Do over distance training. Pushing your legs to ride beyond what they have previously done is one stimulus. Another is riding to the point of fatigue, and then see how long you can hold your FTP.

-Intervals such as 1 min on, 1 min off X20, or 30 sec on, 30 sec off X20 allow you to not worry about the power because you are just riding as hard as you can. Review the data later and see your progress. Remember that the last half is where the real workout is because you are fatigued.

-Explosive intervals (5-20 sec) with long rest, or working short explosive intervals into your long ride.

-Spin-ups, spinning as fast as you can for a minute.

-Isolated leg training. I’ll often end my ride with 5 miles of ILT, riding with only one leg, alternating every minute or so. Powercranks would be awesome for this, and the testimonies are quite impressive.

-Ride a long hill standing. Try doing it at high cadence and at low cadence.

-Ride a long hill, trying to increase your power by 10 watts every minute.

-Ride a long hill, changing your cadence every minute.

-When cresting a hill, keep pushing, shifting up every time your cadence approaches 100. Once in your highest gear and approaching a cadence of 100, sprint for 5-10 seconds (however long your legs can take it). Extending the hill is a good workout, but can have great advantages in racing too.

Motor unit recruitment an important component of training. When you push yourself to higher intensities, you will recruit additional motor units to fire. This also happens in long distance training because as motor units become fatigued, new ones are recruited. If you only do work at or below your FTP, you are not tapping into these additional motor units and are limiting your power output. I’ll go over this more when I write about warming up, but realize that working some very high intensity work into your exercise routine will allow you to do your aerobic intervals at higher powers.

Why is there so much about FTP? Although there are a lot of components to bike racing and time trialing, we generally train to get more fit so that we can be faster. Your FTP is your best power for an hour, so if you can improve that, you should be racing faster. Don’t give up the long intervals just above FTP, but mix in some other challenging workouts stressing all your physiologic mechanisms while you learn more about your strengths and weaknesses.


Date: Sunday, August 8, 2010

Route: 228K from Carlsbad to Sunset Beach, and return

Saturday was the San Diego Randonneurs 300K Brevet from Old Town to Sunset Beach and back. Molly and I had to miss the event because we did the Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon. On our way up to Camp Pendleton we saw a group of about 4 randos taking the I-5 past Camp Pendleton, and a single rando taking the route through Camp Pendleton.

Following the Triathlon I rode my bike home, getting an extra 48 miles in. It was a great ride. I felt great, and was able to bring the power up pretty high when I wanted to. This was a great indicator to me that my muscular endurance and fitness were doing well since I had just finished a race but could ride hard. I looked for randos on the way, but I must’ve been a little bit ahead of them. I thought of swinging by the 300K finish, but if I was ahead of everyone, Greg Olmstead might not have been there yet to visit with. So I pushed on home taking the 56 bike path from La Jolla to Black Mountain Road instead of swinging through Old Town.

I had done the 300K last year with Drew Peterson, and was looking forward to doing it again. One cool thing about randonneuring is permanent routes, which you can schedule to do at your own convenience. Molly and I decided to do the Sunset Beach Safari Permanent, which is mostly the same route as the 300K, but a little bit shorter. It starts and finishes in Carlsbad instead of Old Town. This was my third time doing this route, and Molly’s second.

The first Sunset Beach Safari I did was on September 1, 2008. This was with a bunch of randos and some riders for Ramona Fun Riders. I rode my single speed that day, and did it the day after doing the Rollers to Bonsall 201K permanent. I finished in 9:18 on tired legs. I love the feel of the single speed for some reason. Maybe it’s the steel frame, or relying on a wide range of cadence, but it feels great.

The second time I rode the tandem with Molly, on February 15, 2010, and our finish time was 9:18. That’s crazy! I didn’t notice until now that the time was exactly the same. I remember the first time I rode I started falling apart on the return in Dana Point, so I stopped and had some pizza and soda near Golden Lantern. The second time I was falling apart in San Clemente, but refueled at 7-11 and flew through Camp Pendleton (nearly killing Molly). Molly recalls getting through the last few miles in Carlsbad to be extremely bad for her. It was her longest ride at that point, and her third permanent.

This time Molly and I discussed riding the tandem versus riding solo. We decided to ride solo, and finished in 10:08. Longer, but we took the entire ride easy with a couple extra stops to eat. We also stopped and visited George Vargas at Bike Religion (which we had done in February as well). We both started the ride feeling very tired, but ended the ride feeling great without any melt downs! Molly and I are both experiencing the benefit of doing more frequent long rides. Focusing on getting 100-200 miles in over each weekend has really improved our tolerance for the distance. Molly was flying up the rolling hills along the coast. She has only been riding for two years now. Her long rides used to be 20 miles, and she hated the smallest of hills. I keep telling her that she has to learn to love hills. I don’t think that she’s there yet, but she seems to enjoy passing me up hills.

The ride was great, but the traffic had some bad points. We just took it extremely easy and slow when it was crowded. I couldn’t believe how many rude drivers we saw. During some of the permanents we do that head east we’ll only experience polite drivers, but the beach traffic seems to attract a lot of people that hate cyclists.

The brevet calendar is over for the year for San Diego Randonneurs, but Molly and I are planning on doing the PCH Randoneurs 400K on September 11. This ride starts at the Amtrak Station in Simi Valley, and ends at the Amtrak Station in Solana Beach. We will be taking the Amtrak and our bikes up the night before on the Amtrak, and then ride down. This will be our first 400K, but think it’s a good step with PBP only a year away. Here is a short description of the 400K from www.pchrandos.com : This is a fun and very interesting ride. Starting at the Amtrak Station in Simi Valley, we will run out to Balcom Canyon Road and go over “the easy way” to a quick pit stop in Fillmore. From Fillmore we will head west to the beach at Ventura and will hug the coast from Surfers Point all the way down to Solana Beach. 


I’ve been a bit lacking on my posts recently. This is purely the result of no time. I’ve had a lot of great workouts recently, but will try to catch up on some events that I’ve done recently. Last week I did the TCSD 20K Time Trial on Wednesday and the Camp Pendleton Sprint Triathlon on Sunday. These types of events create opportunity for hard efforts that I can look at to measure my current fitness. I’ve been doing a lot of high volume workouts lately, hoping to rely on that for a successful race at Kona, but the ability to generate speed is key for a fast race. Fortunately measuring and comparing efforts of shorter events is easier than longer distances.

The TCSD Time Trial is a great way to test your Functional Threshold Pace. Some of these “tests” that are prescribed in training plans or recommended by most cycling and triathlon coaches can be quite a challenge. They require focus to get such sufficiently high intensity that you actually are testing your threshold pace. These tests are best done it fair conditions, and when you aren’t overly fatigued. I have been fatigued for a while now, trying to get a lot of mileage in. The Wednesday morning my workout consisted of a 2.5 mile run to the Toby Well YMCA where I did a one hour spin class, and then finished with a 2.5 mile run home. This was a good workout for me that I plan on continuing on Wednesdays when it isn’t easy for me to get to the pool. Then it’s a full day of work, followed by a rush to get out to Fiesta Island. Last month I just couldn’t make it to the time trial despite really wanting too. Trying to rush home, throw the bike in the truck and getting changed, to barely arrive in time to start without a warm up would have been worse than staying home. This week, recognizing I’d have the same time pressure I prepared a little beforehand and arrived in time to do short warm up. I got in about 10 miles for a warm up, which was less than I would have liked. I certainly did not feel fresh, and had some trouble even bringing the power up.

When the time trial started I jumped on it, and the power came up nicely. I was a little surprised (my warm up must have been better than I thought), and became a little concerned that I would blow up. I actually held the power pretty steady, and never felt much burning in my lungs. My legs felt tired, but were working surprisingly well. The time trial took about 27 minutes, and 22 seconds, and my peak 20 minute Normalized Power was 360 watts. FTP can be estimated to be about 95% of a 20 minute test, so that would be 342 watts.

The last club TT I did was in June. I had done some prior to that, but was on my road bike instead of the TT bike. Comparing the two efforts:

 

8/4/2010

6/9/2010

Difference

% Change

Time

27:22

28:40

-1:18

-4.5

CP10

368

356

32

9.0

CP20

360

345

15

4.3

Avg Speed

27.0

25.8

1.2

4.7

 

At the Camp Pendleton Sprint I was hoping to get a good warm up in so that I could start the bike strong. It was a 30K bike, so I figured I should at least be able to maintain my new FTP of 342 watts. I got a short 15 minute warm up in on the trainer, and a 1 mile run warm up, which was about ½ of what I was hoping to get in.

The swim had a strong current that was pushing north, so I tried to start a little south of the buoy and swim a little bit left (south). The surf actually turned me so that was swimming more parallel to the beach (in the wrong direction) instead of swimming out through the surf. I saw a lifeguard yelling at me to swim the other way, so I turned and realized that I hadn’t been going through the surf, just churning in it. I thought that this was a bad replay of the Encinitas Triathlon. Once I got back up to the bouy, I didn’t actually see any red swim caps (from my wave) ahead of me, so I figured I recovered well enough. On the way back in the waves appeared huge. I was about a body length behind the first wave, which pushed me forward a little, but it wasn’t a successful ride. The next three or four waves just tumbled me, keeping my head underwater much longer than I would have liked. When I got through enough to dolphin my way out of the water I saw Steve Hazlett ahead of me on the beach ripping his wetsuit off.

Onto the bike! I felt okay on the bike, but never fell into the groove that I was looking for.

I was a little concerned about the run, because my running still hasn’t started feeling as good as I’d like. I’m seeing some improvements every week, but I definitely haven’t recovered my running speed yet. With about 1 mile to go John Hatala blew by me. I tried to latch onto his pace, but couldn’t come close to holding it.

Here is some summary data, comparing the efforts of this year with last year.

 

2010

2009

Difference

% Change

Total Time

1:18:26

1:18:48

-0:22

-0.5

Swim Time

10:27

11:54

-1:27

-12.2

T1 Time

1:08

0:50

0:18

36.0

Bike Time

47:01

46:13

0:48

1.7

-CP10

331

332

-1

-0.3

-CP20

321

324

-3

-0.9

-CP30

316

320

-4

-1.3

-NP

315

317

-2

-0.6

-Avg Speed

23.7

24.1

-0.4

-1.7

T2 Time

0:36

0:51

-0:15

-29.4

Run Time

19:14

19:00

0:14

1.2

-Avg Pace

6:20

6:13

0:07

1.9

Although my power on the bike wasn’t as high as I would have liked, I am still very pleased to see my performance to be so similar to last year’s race. The time trial and race are giving me some confidence that my fitness is returning, and that in two months in Hawaii I should be ready for a great performance.

Congratulations to Phillipe Krebs (1:16:07) and Sean Silberman (1:17:08) for taking first and second overall, and to John Hatala, first military overall (1:18:09).


July is over, and I’m pretty pleased with how my training is going so far. Of course I wish that I had maintained a high level of fitness since March, but life doesn’t always work out the way you hope for. I also wish that I had done in June what I had done in July, but I’ll have to deal with what I have for now.

This month was a big push for mileage, cycling more so than running, and running more so than swimming. I feel that I can boost my fitness faster with a high level of cycling.

Here are the totals.

Swimming: 13.7 miles

Cycling: 1019.1 miles

Running: 137.7 miles

I’m pretty sure that this is the first month that I have accumulated over 1000 miles on the bike. There are bigger months in my future, but I probably won’t break that mark again this year. The focus on cycling is going to be more on sustaining higher power over time, instead of just focusing on a lot of time.

I do intend to push up the running mileage. I am still running much slower than I’d like. Instead of focusing on speed though, I’m going to run more until the running feels better. Then I intend on doing more tempo runs, but I think doing the tempo runs now will just end up in low mileage and pathetic workouts. This week I ran over 45 miles, which is the most I’ve run in a week since August 2009. Here is a chart of my weekly running mileage since April 2009.

Here is my training summary for the past 5 weeks. I still totaled almost 22 hours of training this week even though I am back at work.

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