Black is the New Black & Training to Meet the New Season, Part 1

31 12 2013

Damn. A lot has happened since I last posted. I re-built the training hoops with Pacenti SL-23s, built-up some tubular race hoops, and mortgaged the farm to pay for next season’s kit. Ha. The last one’s not too far off the mark. I wonder what other team members pay for their kit? Am I correct in thinking our annual kit cost ($400+) is outrageous? At any rate, I suppose the annual “sticker” shock is just part of being a roadie.

Let’s get on with it. The first part of this post will be about how my off-season training has changed a bit since last year at this time and why. I have no doubt that racing as a Cat 3 will put me through my paces, on the other hand, successes should feel really good in that I have accomplished something worth remembering. The last part of this post will discuss a couple of product reviews. Now I usually don’t do reviews outright, but I think the two items are at least worth mentioning.

So after the pummeling I received at last season’s Longbranch race, I needed to take a closer look at what training factors helped me race better.  Having added the results of my various races to the time spent training and racing in the various zones gave me an idea of what input can produce a particular output. At this point this idea is simply anecdotal because one of the biggest questions I have about racing and training is to quantify exactly what input will produce exactly what output. Here is what the data looks like:

Stacked bar graph of accrued HR endurance time and mid-level power zone time

Time in Zone (all data)

The main yellow color represents the amount of time I spent in the heart rate (HR) zone two.  I use HR Z2 to quantify how much training I have completed at the endurance intensity level. Next, you might notice the dashed vertical lines. These lines represent events on the timeline such as races or changes in the annual plan such as “off-season.” Last, each dashed-line number represents my finish placing in a particular race. (Yeah, I did more racing in 2012 which is why the event labeling is crammed together.) Just as the graph key denotes, shades of blue denote the accumulated time in each power zone. Note that the power zones 1 or 2 are not included as I use my HR metric (yellow bar) to represent that. In the years previous I accrued training time in the following distribution:

Year HR Z2 Pwr Z3 Pwr Z4 Pwr Z5 Pwr Z6 Podium1-3 Finish4-10 Finish11-20
2011 50% 1% 8% 1% 1% 1 2 1
2012 45% 1% 12% 1% 1% 2 3 5
2013 18% 1% 11% 2% 1% 1 1 1
2014 YTD 85% 4% 2% 1% 1%

Naturally, one should refrain from concluding causation from perceived correlation. Here, it would be premature to say that the extra time during the 2012 race season spent in power zone four caused the increase in placings. I know there seems more to the story than just that one factor. Specifically, what factor(s) of my training benefit me the most? Is the answer simply that the successful performance criteria experienced during the above races matched or were exceeded by the same metrics undertaken during training? If this is true then the process of backplanning or benchmarking a particular races winning performance should produce a training regimen, which when completed properly, would produce the needed adaptations to closely mimic those performance requirements. Or in other words―if you can do it in training, you can do in a race.

What might those benchmarks look like? If I use the above structure the Ravensdale road race intensities distribution would look like this:

Race Pwr Z3 Pwr Z4 Pwr Z5 Pwr Z6 Pwr Z7 Podium 1-3
Ravensdale RR 0% 6% 2% 2% 14% 1

But these numbers really don’t break-down into the essential parts needed to form a training session, namely, duration and intensity. What if we use Dr. Coggan’s power-profile structure to describe the same data?

Duration Watts W/kg
5 seconds 983 13.05
1 minute 520 6.91
5 minutes 333 4.42
60 minutes 196 2.60

A stepped, progressive training program could produce the  durations and intensities identified in the above structure. What might this program look like? This is the data record from the weeks before the Ravensdale road race:

Stacked bar graph for intensities, 2013 off-season to Ravensdale road race

Data Record for Intensities in Zone, Off-season to Ravensdale Road Race

The Ravensdale RR is indicated by the vertical, dashed-gray line with the “1,” and the off-season start is denoted as “rs13.” At the time, I used Carmichael’s “energy string theory.” thinking that the adaptation to stresses from the higher intensities would include those from the lower intensities, albeit with the decreased benefit timeline also mentioned by Carmichael.

The bench-marked race has the following intensity distribution compared to training beforehand:

Data Period  HR2 Pwr Z3 Pwr Z4 Pwr Z5 Pwr Z6 Pwr Z7
Off-season/training prior to race  15% 1% 11% 2% 1% 4%
Ravensdale RR  – 0% 6% 2% 2% 14%

At this point I regret not wearing my heart strap so I would know how much time I spent aerobically. Power-wise, I spent 76% of race time in zones one and two, so that helps a little. To characterize the course, my PowerTap’s PowerAgent file shows that most significant efforts 5 minutes and less (Pwr Z7) at wattages greater than 333 occurred in the last 5 minutes of the race. The remaining efforts of 10 minutes and more at wattages less than 257 occurred earlier in the race for a total of about 2 hours and 6 minutes. This suggests to me that the Pwr Z7 intensities were used to win the race with a sprint to the finish line, and that lower intensity efforts were used to sustain, maneuver, and finish the race with the pack.

How did the training effort support this win? Examining the data periods shows two key areas in my opinion. These areas are power zones 4 and 7. I think training in these areas, along with the supporting base layers of endurance and tempo training, enabled me to perform in these two areas during the race. I also think this microcycle is a good example of how specific and quantified training can lead to adaptations enabling equal or higher performance during racing.

That will do for Part 1. I will have to decide to benchmark a Cat 3 race (if data is available) or use Coggan’s Power Profile Output (w/kg) to derive the training schedule. Part 2 will deal with my decision and how I planned my training for the up-coming season, stay tuned.

*********************************************

So here’s the quick gouge on two pieces of gear that I really am pleased with buying. The first is the Gore Countdown Glove.

Picture of the Gore Countdown Glove

Gore Countdown Glove

Thus far this glove has prevented my fingers from transforming into painful ice picks while out riding and training in Seattle’s wonderful fall climate. They are warm, comfortable, waterproof, and windproof. As in many examples of product design there are trade offs. For me these trade offs are breathability and tactile feel. I use Shimano’s STI Ultegra shifters and I had to get used to the slight extra length of finger-space off the tips of my fingers when pushing the down-shift levers. (I use USA size XXXL.) The second quality- breathability is not as good. Whenever the temperature is greater than 40ºF and my effort level stays in the endurance zone, my hands stay dry and warm. However, when pushing into tempo effort levels and higher, my hands will get damp with a bit of chill.Temperatures below 40ºF will have my finger tips feeling a bit cold but generally they are fairly comfortable. Last, a bit more on the tactile feel. The median and ulnar nerve bundles traverse the base of the palm near the wrist. I’d like a bit thicker/denser padding on either side of these nerve paths to isolate the bundles from compression and vibration for increased comfort during rides longer than two hours and up to five hours long. Overall, these gloves were well-worth the ~$80 retail price from the shop that supports my team.

Last, I would be remiss if I did not mention the fine cycling jacket issued by Showers Pass.

Picture of the Shower's Pass Elite Pro Cycling Jacket

Shower’s Pass Elite Pro Cycling Jacket

This Elite Pro jacket is likely the finest piece of outer wear I have ever purchased. I wear a size medium. This torso-hugging jacket breathes really well and is equipped with side vents via water-resistant zippers. Additionally, a rear zipper just below your neck allows any hot moisture to vent away (in my experience.) Furthermore, the extended tail of the jacket is long enough to cover you while tucked into your drops.

Two minor features that I also like are the off-set main zipper near your neck. I have many center-sewn zippers on base layers, jerseys and the like that stack-up on the front of the neck where the zipper pulls can foul each other. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the product designers had the foresight to specify the sleeve length under bent-elbow conditions…like when you are tucked-in. This way your sleeve cuff does not retract and open a wind gap when you bend your elbow. That is some intelligent product design huh? Windproof, waterproof, small-packing, with seamed tape panels. This jacket is a GOOD piece of gear.

As an aside, our team had designated the jacket’s color black. I rather like it as it doesn’t matter what design the new annual kit will be, black goes well with anything.

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