End of Phase II—Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? Using HRV in a Training Plan

31 12 2014

I’ve found curious results when considering heart-rate variability (HRV) readings in the training plan. For the most part, the two analysis domains followed the proper trend, that is to say when the LF/HF ratio was high, the dominance level of HF power was low as was the index for the natural log of rMSSD x 20. That being said, I look back over the respective phases and think about where I am versus where I thought I would be. Maybe there’s more “art” to this than “science.”

Back in September, I wrote about a phased training plan that I would use to organize my off-season training. Soon after, I learned a bit more about HRV and it’s value as a factor for day-to-day training decisions. There are two types of analysis that I pay attention to: time-domain and frequency-domain. Fortunately, the Kubios HRV software puts the results side-by-side for easy comparison.

There were roughly 21 medical and sports journal articles that I studied when I decided to check what I call the “big picture.” That is to say, I would watch the Mean R-R, SDNN, and rMSSD variables from the time-domain analysis, the LF/HF ratio (Fast Fourier Transform,) and LF/HF ratio and HF (AR) variables from the frequency-domain analysis. The reason I did this was because most of the journal articles held conclusions for particular domains (and metrics.) Since I was extracting the report variables all at the same time from the Kubios software, there wasn’t any extra work involved to create the tracking graphs. (I feel that I should at least mention that the “non-linear” group of variables were available, but that I didn’t see enough recommendation or acceptance within the art to call for tracking them.)

Day-to-day decision rationale: I mostly consider the following graph (Figure 1) for training vs. recovery decisions. If the index is low (near or below the lower standard limit,) I opt for a day of rest. If the index is between 47 and 52, I’ll workout, but maybe with a lesser duration. If the index is higher than 52, I’ll definitely put in a hard or extended workout. I do look at the other tracking graphs, and if they point the other way, I’d re-consider…again viewing the big picture. Thus, a higher index indicates increased capacity to engage a tough workout and benefit from it.

Line graph of the natural log of rMSSD times 20

Figure 1. rMSSD variable from the Time-domain analysis

Some remarks about the various phases:

  • Resistance Phase/hypertrophy (P1h)—I had the impression that my legs mass-gain would be more…granted I added 16 pounds of body weight and a 5% increase in body fat compared to this time last year. Then, the BF calipers indicated less than 10% so the current level of 15% objectively puts me at the “fat body” self-ranking. On the other hand, my wife says my thighs definitely got big and my butt got rounder (she says she likes it, whatever.) Graph-wise, I thought I should see larger swings as I lifted the big weights and then into rest/recovery.I still think that I goofed my 1 repetition max test by attempting six lifts when I should have attempted a higher set by using only three lifts (instead of wearing myself out faster with six.) The hypertrophy part was characterized high lifting volume with moderately high resistance.
  • Resistance Phase/strength (P1s)—this portion was characterized as reduced lifting volume and increased resistance. There were some definite sore points within this period, although at the end my system seemed to spring back with some better index numbers at the end. I think the percentage lift points would’ve been higher…noted for next time.
  • Resistance Phase/power (P1p)—characteristics include increased lifting speed, reduced resistance, and sprint interval workouts. This was a volatile combination. Most of the period saw lower index points where near December 10, I forced a couple of recovery days less I continued to dig myself into over-training. The need to lift “faster” eventually found me lifting the squat bar enough to “hop” into the air. Again, these workouts were draining, and it reflected in the index plot.
  • Aerobic Endurance Phase (P2)—the graph shows a higher index trend, which I believe reflects the lower measure of time spent on riding near/above the 76% FTP minimum target. There were sprint and muscle endurance intervals intended to complement the endurance riding, most of the time the difficulty was not in completing the intervals. The problem was in accruing time-in-the-zone (TIZ) at the minimum target for the specified duration. Try as I might and even with best effort, the most effective extraction to stay in zone two (above 76% FTP) was only 44% to 51%. In other words, I could ride for three hours, yet only have half the ride time above my target. If I rode for five hours, again roughly half would be credited towards correct TIZ. So, to accomplish four to six hours at zone, I would have to ride for six to eight hours…not a realistic idea. The cause was this: riding outside, I’m subject to traffic, stop light and signs, pedestrians and speed limits on multi-user trails, etc.—constraints to my effort. There’s nothing I can do to omit those factors. On the other hand, I could decide to do that time requirement on the trainer, and I did for most of it. However, about 3 ½ hours was all I could muster on a trainer, any more than that I just could not get my brain around. Note: the 76% figure comes from Morris’ designation of the lower limit for the endurance zone on his scale. I figure he’s got a good reason for making it that way. Overall, I did not gain the volume target for this period, and that’ll likely hurt me later on. Because the phase intensity/impact was less extensive, the graph shows higher index marks. (My reasoning anyway.) I had played with the idea that this phase indicated that some type of “form” had incurred, but then I hadn’t done much riding comparatively for me to truly accept having any “form.” I had also extended this period by two weeks to try to meet requires. Next year, I’ll try to find a longer, uninterrupted stretch of road like a secondary state highway to meet the TIZ requirements.
  • Aerobic Endurance Phase/rest week (P2r)—this is the built-in rest week for the second phase. It has its own training regimen oriented around rest days and a few (but more intense) short interval workouts. This is also the week that I spent out-sick courtesy of the local flu bug, so not really much training to speak of, nor of much quality rest either. Kind of a waste of a week progress-wise. It’s why the graph’s index numbers are swirling around the bottom of the plot, again, dashed lines indicate non-training days.
  • Phase 3 Supermaximum Sustainable Power Intervals (P3)—the first two days of this period were sick/non-training days. Although I did try part of the first workout during the second day. Not bad results, I made the target wattage, but was not able to complete the full workout. I deemed it “OK” after being sick for a week.

In closing, I’ll keep watching the “big picture.” Next year this time, I’ll use the lessons learned after this evolution to make the program better.

Thanks for reading. My next post should show how I was able to integrate the BSXinsight Lactate Meter into the training program…and I’m really looking forward to learning that! See ya.





2015 Four-Phase Plan: Hypertrophy Period—Raising the Bar

18 10 2014

It’s mid-October and I’ve been getting antsy about getting started since mid-September. For the last few weeks I’ve walked here, jogging there; trying to be active without being in the saddle. Nothing crazy, just different. I’ve also been doing preparation work with the Olympic bar in the squat rack, evaluating my form to help avoid injury and to anticipate the heavy work to come later. The specifics of lifting form are prolific on the web; just use a browser search and you’ll find them.

Phase I Hypertrophy Period

So in my mind, working backwards in a process context—to be competitive I must create and sustain higher power outputs than I was accustomed to producing as a Cat 4. In order to produce higher power outputs I must create and/or change the muscle fiber needed. In order to create or change the muscle fiber I must use the proper training, nutrition, and rest regimen.

Phase I is where I create the muscle mass. Specifically, the purpose is to: “stimulate muscle growth by requiring a high number of repetitions against moderately high resistances.” According to the author, “…these experimental models elicit significant increases in muscle size in relatively short periods of time.” I’m rather curious just how much of a mass gain will be realized. I wonder if I’ll end up looking like the character “Champion” from the animated movie The Triplets of Belleville:

Picture of the animated character

“Champion” Huge legs and tiny upper body

 

Performance Cycling author Dave Morris prefers that during this period we should not ride at all or very little because of the high work volume. He also recommends that many riders pay close attention to their response, while discomfort is expected, chronic soreness specifically from the joints should be followed by a reduction in either weight or sets performed.

First thing to do is determine my one-repetition-max (1RM.) Note that I’m using the low-cost concrete discs that I cast. Your discs will weigh a bit different. I’ll start this with a warm-up routine: 6 to 8 repetitions with the 19 lb. weights that ended my preparation period. Next, start the lift attempt sequence. Allow 2 to 3 minutes rest before trying the next level:

  • First attempt: 45 lb. set (135 total lbs.)
  • Second attempt: 45 and 7 lb. sets (149 total lbs.)
  • Third attempt: 59 and 7 lb. sets (177 total lbs.)
  • Fourth attempt: 59, 19, and 7 lb. sets (215 total lbs.)
  • Fifth attempt: 59, 45, and 7 lb. sets (267 total lbs.)
  • Final attempt: 59, 45, 19, and 7 lb. sets (305 total lbs.)

Crap. I was able to do the third attempt successfully, a total of 177 lbs. But when I tried the next level, 215 lbs., I had nothing in my legs and slowly sunk to the safety bars of the squat rack.  My second try at it resulted the same way, so I guess it is what it is—a starting point. I would have liked to have made the ~200 lb. level though.

All this lifting’s going to require food (based on my body weight):

  • CHO quantity—on heavy days-576 grams to 780 grams, on light days—390 grams to 476 grams
  • Protein quantity—117 grams per day.
  • Fat grams will make-up what’s left using a 65% CHO/ ~15% fat / 20% protein scheme.

In other words, I want to eat my minimum CHO and protein per day then allow fat calories to take up what’s left. I’ll use the Fitbit’s software to track food intake and burn rates. It worked really good for me last off-season for weight control so I’m going to stick with it.

Lift Schedule

Sets

Reps

Percent of 1RM

Rest between sets (min.)

#1 and #2 10 to 12 65 (light day 60) 1½ to 2
#3 and #4 10 to 12 70 (light day 65) 1½ to 2
#5 and #6 10 to 12 75 (light day 70) 1½ to 2

Weekly Plan

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Heavy Light Day off Heavy Light Day off (or team ride if I’m recovered) Day off

I can expect to get some aches but I need to watch out for chronic soreness in the joints…if this condition presents itself, I’ll decrease the training load by reducing resistance or sets.

Speaking of recovery and how to measure it. One new thing I’m trying is called heart rate variability (HRV) monitoring. This method has been around since about 2006, but I think it’s really starting to make its way into training regimens. Basically, the stress your body’s system is under manifests itself as changes in the beat-to-beat time period of your heart rate. When your body experiences stress, training input let’s say, it responds in certain ways, and one of those ways can be measured as trends in HRV.

In the next post I’ll write about how I’m using HRV in this year’s training program. Thanks for tuning-in.

 





2015 Off-Season Training Phase Summary—Looking for Better Results

12 09 2014

So I had some success and some not-so-success for race season 2014. Looking ahead, I hope that I can learn from the past and plan correctly for the future.

The season highlight was getting my teammate Steve T. on the top of the podium after the Tour de’ Bloom road race. (Yeah I know, I need to work on my victory V):

Picture of Steve and I on the podium in 1st and 2nd place.

Steve and I in the 1st and 2nd spots

The other part of this was that I placed 2nd in the GC, and that was cool.

In thinking about the off-season’s training, which is just around the corner, I wanted to dump the training stuff that I felt didn’t help and incorporate the lessons-learned. The off-season for `14 started like this:

Bar graph for the 2014 off-season training period

Accrued hours per week in various intensity zones

I want to keep the time identified as the yellow bars and move this portion of training into Phase II. The dark blue/power zone 4 will move to the power period in Phase I and the pink/power zone 5 time will move to the Phase III portion. See that light blue/tempo stuff? That’s going to go away. My original idea was to use the intensity levels in a “current level builds the foundation for the next level” sort of way, but I think I should have invested the time spent in tempo to time spent in and above power zone 4.

Let’s get to the kind-of-exciting, sort-of-motivating training plan. The plan lasts about 20 weeks in itself and should include one or two weeks for Murphy’s Law. We are all busy with work and family and it’s beneficial to have a bit of flexibility on our side. Here’s Morris’ plan (rest time added):

Four-Phase Plan Summary

Phase

Number of Weeks

Purpose

Major Components

1.Resistance Training Hypertrophy Period, Two to Four Stimulate Muscle Growth High lifting volume, moderately high resistance
Strength Period, Two Build muscular strength Reduced lifting volume, increased resistance
Power Period, Two Train muscle to produce great force at fast speeds Increased lifting speed, reduced resistance; sprint workouts
2.Aerobic Endurance Approx. three + one for rest Build aerobic and endurance capacities of cardiopulmonary and muscular systems, maintain power built during resistance training Long, low-intensity rides; sprint, lead-out, and muscle endurance intervals
3.Supermaximal sustainable power intervals Approx. three + one for rest Build cycling specific power output Short, very high intensity intervals
4.Maximum sustainable power intervals Approx. three + one for rest Increase high-intensity work capacity Longer, high intensity intervals

The reason I’m starting mid-October is because I want to do well at the start of our season; typically the Tour de Dung I & II races in the first two weeks of March. (Race date and time TBD.) Furthermore, like 2014, I’d like to focus on the four separate stage races that occur in the first half of our season.

A long time ago I read a research article (reference coming soon) that concluded that weight training had no significant correlation to cycling-specific strength in highly-trained racers. Since that time, I have never seriously integrated resistance training in my off-season program. (Note: for a short time, I did lift some weights during the 2010 season—maybe that partly explains how many of my all-time power peaks were achieved then.)

However, during the latter portion of the 2013 and the full season of 2014, while competing in the Category 3 level, I painfully realized that I was missing something in training. It was the quality of muscle fiber needed to produce and sustain the higher levels of power beyond what I experienced as a Cat 4. Hence, I was intrigued once I read that Morris had developed a method of enhancing type IIa and IIb muscle fibers with endurance qualities.

Phase I

According to Morris, “Because strength gains are speed specific, a resistance training program should include periods of high-speed lifting to allow strength gains to transfer into increased power output on the bicycle.” This tenet allows the segue from the Olympic bar to the bike; while giving a nod to the principle of specificity. Particularly,

…the methods used by researchers to elicit muscle growth appear somewhat non-traditional by the usual strength and conditioning community. However, these methods produce significant increases in muscle size in a very short time, and appear to be superior to the traditional method of lift-rest, lift-rest

and so on. This plan is more like lift-lift-lift-rest.

The second idea of this phase is to increase the intensity of the nerve impulses that reach the muscle groups. Basically, improving the nervous system’s ability to create more-intense impulses allow the muscles to produce a more-forceful contraction. So, improving muscle fiber mass is just as important as improving the firing impulse. Fortunately, both subjects respond to training input.

I’ll begin this phase with what I call “preparation.” The Olympic bar weighs 44 pounds, and I’ll start without weights because form will be important. This means quality over quantity. Additionally, poor form can lead to injury and I’m not about to do that. Here’s the preparation schedule:

1st Week—Two sets of eight repetitions, 7 lbs. x 2 + bar. Three times this week

2nd Week—Three sets of eight repetitions, 19 lbs. x 2 + bar. Three times this week

3rd Week—Four sets of eight repetitions, 19 lbs. x 2 + bar. Three times this week.

4th Week—(as needed for plan flexibility or readjustment.)

I visited a local gym just blocks away from my house (this would have been convenient.) However, they wanted ~$50 month and maybe an initiation fee. That’s when I decided to build my own squat rack. With a total acquisition cost of ~$101, my break-even point is after the second month of use:

Picture of DIY Squat rack made of dimensional lumber and concrete-cast bar weights.

DIY Squat rack. Features taken from various designs online.

Early picture: this design’s easily constructed, made of available material, and easy to disassemble. (Note: I purchased the Olympic bar from a private seller on Craigslist.) The concrete weights in the foreground are about 45 lbs. each. The weights behind are about 59 lbs. each.  I’ve since molded 19 lb. pairs. I’ve also lowered the safety bars to allow my hip crease to be lower than the top of my knees—based on my understanding of proper form. I’ll be able to perform the high/low back squat and dead lift. As a compromise for having my own stuff versus the gym membership, I will not be able to perform the inclined leg press, which is a different machine.

That’s it for now. It was cool to have a couple of high-points during the season, but I think I could have performed better. Having a vetted plan with specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals should speed me along to doing well at the various stage races this season.

Next post, during the hypertrophy period, I’ll discuss how the plan’s proceeding and what I’ve learned.





Training to Meet the New Season, Part 2

29 01 2014

Link to Part 1

So after discussing how benchmarking helped me compare training goals vs. racing performance, I concluded by saying that I needed to choose a performance target for racing in the new season. I would appreciate having a power file as a Cat 3 on a course such as the Longbranch road race, but I do not have one yet. Dr. Coggan and Andrew Hunter in their book, categorized a table based on the known performance abilities of world champion athletes and untrained cyclists. Their suggested four index durations best describe the different energy systems measured from the vast collection of many cyclists. One division, described as “good” between “untrained” and “world-class,” represents the Cat 3 level of racers. This is the benchmark I’ve chosen. Here are the range of intensities  (w/kg):

5 seconds 1 minute 5 minutes FT
17.24 8.63 5.01 4.18
16.97 8.51 4.91 4.09
16.70 8.40 4.81 4.00
16.43 8.28 4.70 3.91
 16.15 8.17 4.60 3.82
 15.88 8.05 4.50  3.73
15.61  7.94 4.39 3.64
15.34  7.82 4.29 3.55
15.07 7.71 4.19  3.47

Now that I’ve identified my training target, I need a method to get there. I like the concept of targeted systems training as a method of periodization. In this scheme, the idea is to target and overload one intensity area, say the endurance system, before moving to the next. The first area to work on would be the endurance level, followed by sweet spot, threshold, and finally VO2 max. A strength of this method of layers as I call it is that I can maximize the build on a lower layer before using it as the foundation for the next. Other areas of riding may degrade in the meantime, but I can work on those in later efforts.

Pyramid of Power

Pyramid of Power

Each layer forms a foundation for the layer above. I thought about the “size” of the endurance layer—the wider my triangle, the higher I might peak. Having a wide endurance foundation, or base as some call it, has its roots in many older coaching regimens. Indeed, plenty of cyclists have heard the term “getting in the miles” or “base miles.” So how wide should my base be? Edmund Burke, PhD, author of Serious Cycling, says “4 to 6 hours per day for senior male amateurs.” I don’t have that kind of time each day, but I can manage 10 to 14 hours per week. Another PhD, John A. Hawley,  says that the conditioning or preparatory phase “should last as long as possible for a (state level) rider.” Apparently then, I should keep my time-in-zone continual while integrating work at higher intensities. Here’s a graph for how much time I’ve invested in the first two layers:

Stacked-bar graph depicting accrued hours in training intensity zones

Accrued hours by week in various training intensity zones

The mass of yellow bars represent the endurance-level hours since the off-season began. The wedge of light blue is the amount of time in the sweet spot (or low-tempo area.) The dark blue represents threshold, and pink-VO2 max. As I complete each level, each latter color also forms a “wedge shape” on the graph.

At the start of October I started doing longer, governed rides than my teammates were doing. By governed endurance rides I mean actually watching my HR number on my Joule GPS and ensuring I stayed within my endurance zone.  I learned that on grades such as 4% to 6%, I could pedal my lowest gear (34 x 25) at a pace only a bit faster than walking. It also meant that on the downhills, I’d have to press hard to keep my heart rate from dropping too low. The slower pace meant longer rides, sometimes around five hours. I also tried to pick smoother, flatter routes to maximize the pacing control.

After a couple of months of the routine (now November) my RPE or rated perceived exertion felt lower. It felt like the riding was getting slightly easier. Coincidentally, the general team schedule also called for adding tempo efforts, so what I did was add 6 x 10/5 235 watt minimum average intervals on the tail-end of the indoor workout. Note that I include this “sweet spot” level within the “sub-threshold level.” After all that work, I can show how my average session HR (the red connecting line between groups) has trended lower:

Time-series graph with trend line of six-interval means

Time Record of Six-interval Means after a Three-hour Z2 Session

This graph represents each time that I did an inside trainer session of three hours at endurance level followed by these six intervals in the sweet spot. There are groups that have a lesser number of completions. These were sessions where I was physically worn-out or where I just wasn’t motivated and ended-up bagging the rest of the workout.  

The quadratic method has the best accuracy measures as compared to linear, exponential, or logarithmic. Based on this plot, the best-fit curve between November 26 and Jan 28 has a decreasing slope—this should signal adaptation as I understand it. According to Allen and Cheung (2012), the defining change of improved fitness is signaled by an increase in cardiac output (bpm x stroke volume.) This means that as my system becomes more efficient, I should see a reduction in bpm because stroke volume increases. Of course, once I started tinkering with the target effort  (Jan 7 and 11.), my HR average went back up, which might have meant that my system was reacting to the increased training stress.

I think these two ratings, RPE and decreased average HR/same effort, are the at-hand metrics that will show when I am ready to move to the threshold level of work. Since Dr. Coggan’s sweet spot zone covers 88% to 94% of functional threshold power (FTP), I expect training in this area possibly until March as mid-range power is my weak point. I’ll have reached an initial goal if I can get my 60-minute/FTP greater than 272.

This minor goal relates to the Cat 3 target scheme mentioned before. My best-ever, 60-minute average was 272 watts in August of 2011. That power-to-weight ratio (w/kg) was 3.6, which at my current weight of 162 pounds calculates to about a 266 watt average—fairly reasonable I think, just on the low-end of the target scale. Basically I’m going to try to meet the new target power-to-weight ratios in each category of the target scheme, i.e. 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute, and 60 minutes as I progress up through the pyramid toward race season.

My definition of success started with learning about training sessions, followed by understanding of when to end a training session. A common factor of my earlier regimens was that I completed a pre-determined workout for a specified time. With a targeted training systems approach however, my advancement to the next level isn’t based simply on completing a number of workouts within a time period. The progression requires adaptation to the training level’s stress. This is my definition of plan success: 

  • To perform within the Cat 3 target range specified in Dr. Coggan’s power profile during training bouts
  • The ability to finish a Cat 3 or Cat 3 Master’s race with or ahead of pack

As always, a good plan haphazardly executed is rather pointless. So to safeguard against straying off-course I’ll use the plan-do-study-act process control and improvement method. I have planned my work as mentioned before and I’ll execute as intended. I’ll track my information like I always do and compare the performance against the training targets. I’ll also make sure that I’m only comparing identical trainer sessions. In the case that a variance occurs I will try to isolate the cause of that departure and learn if I need a plan adjustment. Eventually, I should see a similar graph pattern evolve as noted above for the new training level.

I think it’s time to start working on higher level sweet spot efforts with an intent towards sub-threshold and threshold-level workouts.

Thanks for reading and best wishes on your effort. See you on the course!





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.

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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.





A New Team, a New Bike. What’s not to Like?

19 01 2013

Alright, so here we are, smack dab in the middle of the Emerald City puzzle-palace. Actually, it’s not too different from what my expectations foreshadowed. The downtown never stops moving though, and maybe I can use the number of sirens or emergency vehicles that pass our second-story window as a gauge to how nuts the day is going to be…maybe not. I knew moving over here would involve some deviations from the routine I had become accustomed to in Spokane, but these weren’t anything too crazy. Our condo is tiny (500 sf), one of our neighbors has friends come over during the evening hours to beat on drums, pluck strings, and mostly sing on-key (it gets repetitious though). Other neighbors have killer Chihuahuas and bulldogs that sound the daily bark when you walk past their door en route to the elevator. Another neighbor’s bulldog doesn’t make a sound, but its wall-eye provides a comical appearance. For a building this size, I’m surprised that I don’t run-into more people having lived here for five months already. I’m starting to think most of the units here are weekend-use or odd day dwellings as I just don’t hear people moving around—and I’m a light sleeper too.

But enough of that stuff. You didn’t click-in to read about social dwelling commentary. My homeowner’s insurance policy had paid-off only about $1,333 on the theft of my Madone 5.2. So my effort to recreate a decent quality race bike was going to be creative and extensive, and short-term. Every day I was off the bike increased the fitness gap and I wanted to build a new steed as soon as practical. Most of my sources were non-retail, that is to say like Ebay, Craigslist, and local bike shop used-parts and consignment venues. One of my biggest requirements frame-wise was a round seat post. I wanted the extended adjustment granted by flipping the seat post clamp forward, not like my old Madone 5.2 asymmetric post, where I was never able to get my saddle forward enough where I like it. After scrounging around for about two weeks I found a 2012 Scott CR1 Pro frame on Ebay for a cost of $854. The reviews looked good, the company reputation looked good, and the manufacturing process (my master’s in engineering and technology management degree came in handy) looked good. This would be my new frame. Here’s the appearance:

Picture of 2012 Scott CR1 Pro build

2012 Scott CR1 Pro…my race bike for 2013

  • SRAM Force crankset
  • FSA Wing Pro bars and Gossamer brake calipers
  • Shimano ST-6700 shifter and derailleurs
  • Bontrager Race Lite ACC carbon seat post
  • Speedplay X-10 pedals
  • Specialized Toupe saddle
  • ITM Millennium Super Over stem
  • A couple of Bontrager RL bottle cages.
  • My old HED Belgium C2 wheelset (with SL+ Powertap).*

There you have it, a suitable substitute for my old Madone 5.2. In comparison, this frame feels slightly less vertically compliant and has a bit more give in the BB when I put the beans to it while out of the saddle. I’m not going to whine too much though—I like this frame. At any rate, the fit window for this frame is so much better for my body geometry, it just feels better on the road. While I’ve yet to have it in a race, I expect the bike to do fine. Newer models of the Madone 5 series also have a round mast cap that I could flip forwards. I’ll always wonder what this frame would have felt like on the road, but at $2,600 a pop, purchasing one is a pipe-dream at this point.

* A note about the front wheel: before I had completely worn-out the brake tracks on my C2 rims I converted the front-end to a disc compatible brake (just for the foul-weather season). I’ll probably discuss this more in another post. Suffice to say that from October (when the weather here turned wet) to now I’ve likely worn the tracks down to the minimum width. I’m awaiting a response from the engineering folks at HED Wheels on what a safe minimum width would be since these rims were not produced with a track or pin-punch wear indicator. I wasn’t happy at all about this condition— or about going through a set of Ultegra caliper pads every two weekends. That was just nuts. I expect to buy some replacement C2 rims and re-build the wheelset probably sometime next year.

And about those fenders? Yes, well the new team requires us to have fenders on the bike during the wet season. We don’t cancel training because it’s raining. This is more for the teammate behind me than for me. In March we’ll take ’em off when the weather dries up (for the most part). These fenders are from Toba, and I have to say that they work pretty darn well. Installation, even though I did a small bit of customizing, was straightforward.

As far as the new team? I knew from the WSBA rankings there were at least three teams in the area. One of them I could not find any contact information for…strange as it sounds. The second one wasn’t too forthcoming about their meet-the-team ride or any organized rides for that matter (just weird). I found this web page on the last team I wanted to learn about.  That’s more organization than any team I’ve seen to date. This team’s big. On the weekend training rides, as many as, or more than as many people show up as some race categories that I’ve competed in. The training’s proceeding well and I’ll start the season with the largest base foundation that I’ve ever had. Thus far the team seems to be a good fit, and I have some good expectations for the coming season.

The team’s shop host is fantastic, and the mechs are top-notch. (Surprise! their benches are clean and organized. I haven’t seen that very often.) If an item that I wanted wasn’t available on the shelf, it was there in two to three days. I wouldn’t hesitate referring my friends to them as I know they would be treated right.

By the way, the west side (as I call this side of the state) has more metal in the road surface than I ever imagined. That is, man-hole covers, pipe access covers, grates, and caps. Wet metal and road tires do not mix too well. And if that wasn’t enough, the concrete slabs that comprise some of the roads have uneven edges, as if frost heave has lifted them enough to make you think a pinch-flat is imminent. The roads here are a challenge in them selves. I miss the rural roads of Spokane. Yeah, their roads may be chip-sealed, but you could roll scores of miles and not see one man-hole cover.

What’s not to like huh? See you on the road.





The Winter Doldrums: In the Clutches of the Off-Season

16 12 2010

Well here it is–winter, cold, boring, endless skies of drab and gray. Classic symptoms of cabin fever mark my weeks. It seems it won’t ever be warm again. I forgot what it feels like to ride with just a jersey and bibs.

I’ve been on my trainer since September. (Yeah, I hear you periodization populists remarking about the appropriate phases.) Last years volume-based plan crashed and burned as life fired salvo after salvo of its vocational guns. I don’t mind the trainer, not at all. I like being able to focus on specific energy systems; it’s very quantifiable. It’s not riding with the guys in my squad that bugs the heck out of me during this time.

This off-season plan is based on intensity vs. duration, goal-based training sessions that has plenty of recovery time built-in to avoid over-training. In this regard the program has proceeded quite well. I’m experimenting with using Dr. Coggan’s Training Stress Balance (TSB) methodology too.

All of my workouts target the FTP and a bit of the glycolytic energy systems. In November, I tested for my lactate threshold points and have been doing targeted training sessions ever since. There’s no doubt that the greatest (initial?) gains in increasing FTP are made when training is done just under, at, and just above threshold. So by just completing the sessions I was able to increase my respective wattage categories (horizontal axis) by an average of 12.3% from late September to early in December. This increase is represented by the difference in area between the graph lines:

Graph of off-season training results

Seeing visual results like this helps motivate me during this part of the season. At the end of December I should see an increase in my overall FTP, and that will be motivating too. Part of my success has been the inclusion of a power meter during training…couldn’t measure this without it.

So I’ll continue with the plan, complete the workouts, ensure that I recover, measure and record the data, and keep putting in the DVDs. (Note that during a lot of these workouts I can’t focus on the movie. But that’s just fine.)

I hope your winter training goes well. See you in the spring.








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