Specialization Phase…the Dark Side of Training

15 01 2010

Periodization post link

This is where the rubber meets the road, concerning off-season training. I’ve spent the previous months building my aerobic engine by completing 1 to 2-hour efforts in power zone two and later by integrating resistance training. I read an analogy somewhere (wish I’d remembered the source), which said that foundation training is like a pyramid–the wider the base, the higher the peak.

I call this phase the dark side of training because until now the efforts have been easy to moderate on my rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale. Near-term efforts will having me training just underneath, at, and beyond my FTP point. VO2 max efforts will arrive at the tail-end of the phase. There’s going to be a lot of pain and soul-searching during this time. That’s the price of goals in the road-racing world though.

My plan started with transitional training right after last season followed by general preparation with foundation and basic strength phases. Here in the specialization phase, I have 13 weeks to focus on shifting my lactate threshold “to the right” and improving the weak points found after completing Coggan’s power profile test.

After some sleuthing around whether to record peak wattage figures or the average wattage figures during the power profile test. I learned that you’re to record the highest average wattage figures for the 15-second, 1-minute, and 5 minute durations. Note–record the best 5-second portion for the 15-second duration when plotting your numbers on the chart. Since I hosed the test execution, I’ll have to re-take the test.

I completed my FTP validation, and reconstructed my training zones accordingly.  This was in December when my raw FTP was 266. At the start of specialization in January I had increased my number by 4% (277). Again, I reconstructed my training zones.

Power Zone % of Threshold Wattage
Z1 56% <150
Z2 56%-75% 151-203
Z3 76%-90% 205-243
Z4 91%-105% 246-284
Z5 106%-120% 286-324
Z6 121%-150% 327-405

During this phase I’ll have to constantly evaluate when to knock-off on any interval when I start to fade. Coggan suggests a metric based on a percentage drop in average power.

Interval Span Average Drop in Power
20 minutes 3-5%
10 minutes 4-6%
5 minutes 5-7%
3 minutes 8-9%
2 minutes 10-12%
1 minutes 10-12%
30 seconds 12-15%
15 seconds *

*When peak power drops by 15-20% or when average power for the interval drops by 10-15%

Carmichael recommends adding a minute to your recovery period rather than cutting your workout short when your power output starts to fade. I think I’ll try this method, although I’ll have to hit the “pause” button on my interval training software to do so. I usually program my interval routine into the software’s playlist and get started. The routine is straight–forward…I just follow the prompts.

I love this quote from Carmichael,

The human body is designed to respond to overload, and as long as you overload a system in the body properly and allow it time to adapt, that system will grow stronger and be ready for the same stress in the  future.

Thus, I began with the sub-threshold workout, an excellent place to start building my FTP.

Task Time Power level
Warm up 15 minutes <68%
Ride 5 minutes 100%
Ride, 15 minutes rest interval 2 x 20 minute 88-94%
Ride 105+ rpm, 2 minutes rest 8-10 x 1 min. 85-95%
Cool down 15 minutes <55%

I did this routine for a week-and-a-half before feeling I was ready for more. At that point, I added the next interval series to my software. According to Coggan, I can continually improve my threshold power. I’ll need to sustain one hour at FTP by the end of February (aggressive goal). Here’s the threshold workout:

Task Time Power Level
Warm up 15 minutes <68%
Blow-out effort 5 minutes 100%
Easy pace 5 minutes <68%
Ride, 10-15 minutes rest 2 x 20 minutes 96-105%
Cool down 15 minutes <78%

My friend Phil said Fitness Fanatics had issued a 20k time trial challenge to be performed on their TacX Virtual Realty trainer. I thought this would be a fun way to gain ride data. It was fun…in a strange way. The stats: 13.4 miles (20k), average power 222 W, peak power 617 W (sprint at finish), average rpm 110. Based on the “bin drop-off” method my FTP is likely between 226-240 on this TacX system. (Calibration unknown.) I thought these results were within expectancy at this point in my training.

Histogram for 20k TT

20k TT Power Distribution

All of my testing thus far has used a Kurt Kinetic power meter combined with their Road Machine.

Picture of Kurt Kinetic Road Machine

Kurt Kinetic Road Machine

I would like to do the same power analysis and planning using a meter which measures data using strain gauges or accelerometers, but that money will have to come at a later time. While the KK meter is a good product for what it does, it doesn’t have the capability for data analysis. I understand that a future version will have a data download feature, but that remains to be seen.

I particularly like MetriGear’s Vector, but apparently sales at the retail level might not happen until later in 2010.

At any rate, here’s where I’m headed, training at VO2 max is essential for cyclists to race. According to Coggan, there’s a high effort winning pattern–breakaway, establishing separation, settling to threshold pace, and finishing with short burst. I need the anaerobic strength for the breakaway, and the high-FTP capacity to sustain and exploit the separation. (Don’t forget tactics>>future post.) Here’s the VO2 boost workout:

Task Time Power Level
Warm up 15 minutes <68%
Blowout effort 5 minutes 100%
Recover 5 minutes <70%
Intervals, 3 minutes rest 6 x 3 minutes 117%
Recover 10 minutes <70%
Intervals, 4 minutes rest 4 x 2 minutes 113-120%
Cool down 15 minutes <78%

So this is my bottom line during the dark side of training…complete each level and move on to the next, measure accurately and consistently, plan appropriately, and be honest with myself. Not doing so will sabotage my efforts to compete in the coming race season.

Picture of Watt meter

More, more, more...wire me up!

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The Radiant Lake Criterium

7 01 2010

The Course

I previewed the course Monday morning, noted the topography, direction of the prevailing wind, the condition of the road and it’s characteristics. I knew this was going to be a fast ride. I also knew that if I wasn’t able to draft much I’d burn my reserve and not have much left for the finish line sprint.

Race day arrived, and the family and I found a parking space near the registration tables and finish line…cool. The kids and Barb didn’t have to move too far to see the race. It was right there in front of the camping chairs on the sidewalk. My kids got busy with the still and video cameras, while getting to sit on top of the van too.

The wind was hustling and the temperature was near 87F, upwind riding would be done in the drops to reduce my profile drag. Being able to draft would help reduce energy spent. “B” pack was already making laps on the course, so I set out to the road in the middle of the lake to warm up. I wanted to stay warmed-up until just before we left the finish line. Time turned to about 6:30, I dropped off my extra gear at the van and found a spot on the starting line next to Larry #162. We chatted about Trek bikes as he also had a Madone. The safety brief ended, we clipped-in and pedaled off.

Right away, the pack lead stretched to five or six riders deep in a single pace line. My position in the middle of the rear pack was not where I wanted to be. I had mentioned to Alan that my plan was to get to position number four to six and stay there. This way I might catch any breakaway attempts. If I could not make the jump, it might be tough to bridge up by myself, “Better to stick with ’em and draft,” I thought. There were many surges but none sufficient to maintain the gap and get away.

Somewhere on the southeast side of the course, at the start of another surge, Alan yells to “Get up there!” It was good advice and aptly timed, I needed to shake-a-leg and move it. Usually, the break would feel the burn and slow to be absorbed by the pack once again. I had positioned myself near the front by this point and felt alright with the pace being set. My cyclometer indicated an average speed of 22.8mph. I thought we would be a little faster than this.

The laps seemed to drag on, surge here, surge there. Burn, burn, burn. I lost my focus somewhere and ended up pulling everyone a lap or so. I could hear my friend Phil’s words bouncing between my ears, “Why are you leading? Get back into position!”

I signaled off the front and eased my cadence putting myself back into the draft. The wind in my contacts caused double-displays from my instrumentation…rpm good, H/R in the red, speed good. I am doing OK– maybe. I noted the lead of the pack was tending to dive and drive into the final left turn. Dave holds up two fingers, “Two laps to go!” faintly wanders into the back of my hearing.

“Get into position now! It’s time,” I thought. Burn, burn, burn.

We hit the final lap. I am on the outside about eight places back from the lead thinking that I’m screwed. There’s going to be just seconds to go after the final turn and I’m sitting out here swinging in the breeze. Great. The pace line re-forms 30 yards before the final turn…and drifts toward the outside of the lane. The inside line is open! The thought crashes into the place somewhere between my eyeballs and my brain.

In a split second, we are into the turn, I clear my left and lean in. My move worked, I am now about four back on the inside and gaining. I think the other riders were thinking more about the draft. There is no chance to get back in…I can see the finish, it’s now or never and the other guys are sitting in their pace line waiting for someone to make a break for it.

Slow motion, sprinting now, my handlebars are waving side-to-side, 50 yards to go and I feel like I’m stuck in molasses. 30 yards to go and my left knee makes a bid for the sky. “What?” My left leg’s hanging out, un-clipped, no power to the pedal. A blur passes me in my peripheral vision. I roll over the finish wondering what happened with my pedal. I coast for a while and thank the guys for a clean race. Phil tells me I made second place. “Incredible” I thought.

What a race.

2nd Place at the Finish Line Picture

2nd Place at the Finish Line








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