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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4 responses

15 01 2010
Spokane Al

Eric, it sounds like we are on a similar track – working on increasing FTP and VO2 Max. I guess spring will show us how our off season efforts have paid off.

Keep rocking and pushing!

15 01 2010
Eric Abbott

You too Al! Let me know if you’d like to discuss training topics sometime.

16 01 2010
Barb Chamberlain

My question as a real beginner is how I will know when it’s time to increase intensity and take it to the next level?

You say you did one workout for a week and a half before feeling you were ready to take it to the next level. What perceived effort, heart rate, wattage or other signal helped you know it was time?

@BarbChamberlain

21 01 2010
Eric Abbott

Hi Barb,
I use a combination of perceived effort and measured signals. When I finish a workout and think, “Well that was manageable” AND I see that my power average for the session was within the parameters called for, then I can think about moving to the next level. I have to be honest with myself and usually I’ll complete a couple of sessions with this result to confirm the trend. Heart rate can be an indicator too but I usually use the power metric as I consider it the “honest broker” because it’s not as influenced by environmental variances with nutrition, sleep, or stress.

To cap it off, I should see the increase in capacity or performance at the end-of-month power test.

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