Tuesday, December 30, 2008

PowerCranks – The First 6 Months and an Overly Complicated Data Analysis

Recall a few months ago I gave an “11 week report” on my use of PowerCranks. At the time I had invested some 75 hours of cycling into PowerCranks, but most of the training was in my tempo zone (no more than 245 W) or below. With the passing of November and December I have completed two months of more intense training with PowerCranks and brought my time with PCs to over 150 hours (and some additional hours on regular cranks by way of one weekly group ride). These two months had a focus on threshold (zone 4) and VO2 (zone 5) in an attempt to both raise my functional threshold power and prep myself for the upcoming racing season in Texas, which starts in January.

So did things pan out? Did PowerCranking affect my power positively and satisfy the claims of increasing power? Read on and see for yourself.

Coming in to November my power profile looked like the plot below. The black line represents my all-time best power, and the green line is my power in the one year before taking up PowerCranks. The red line is my power through October 2008. The plot is a combination of mean-maximal power and normalized power. Normalized power is used for durations of 15 minutes and up, and mean maximal (or average) is used for shorter durations. As can be seen, my use of PCs did not generate higher power for durations under 2 hours. Only above 2 hours did I see a boost in power. Was this due to PCs?

First off, the difference between the green and red lines is only about 8 watts, which represents roughly a 3 percent increase in power. It should be noted that in September 2008 my small training group, comprised of my closest pals and teammates, increased the distance of our Saturday training ride by over 8 miles. That added an additional 20 or so minutes to our route and initiated some of the bumps we see in the curve above. Most of my pals are incredible time trialists (55-57 minute range at sea-level). We hurt ourselves on our training ride, and it shows with the high normalized power at the longer durations. Personally, I believe the increase in power from 120-180 minutes is due to the change in our training ride rather than the use of PowerCranks. But honestly, the difference is only 3 percent so even if PCs are the reason for the increase, the increase is minimal.

But that was 2 months ago, and a lot can happen in that time. I approached each bike workout with PowerCranks as I would with regular cranks – I didn’t pussyfoot around. I hit my intervals full tilt. With the race season coming soon, I wasn’t about to sabotage my training. I can honestly say I used PowerCranks as hard as I could.

The plot below shows my training stress in terms of cumulative average TSS. The black curve represents a starting point of August 2007, the pink line a start of August 2006, and the red line August 2008. As can be seen from the graph, my TSS is much higher this training year than the previous two years. With this data and my focus on L4 and L5 work, I would expect to be at least as fit as past training years or even more powerful.
If we plot my power from August to October and compare it to the power over the last 2 months, we have the plot below. The good news is the focus on L4 and L5 is paying off. 20 minute power is up about 10 watts (around 4 percent) and 30 minute power is up 2-3%. So this begs the question; is this increase due to PowerCranks or the focus on L4 and L5?
Plotting my power from August to December of this year (my PC use) to past periods, we get the plot below. I’m ahead of my performance for the same time period as last year, but given the difference in TSS from last year (the plot earlier in this status report), that is somewhat expected. Regardless, I’m still well below (well, not that far) from my all-time best power numbers. I have this huge gap between 20 and 80 minutes to fill, and so far neither more intense training nor PowerCranks has filled that hole.
If I look strictly at mean maximal, or average power, things are even more dire. The plot below shows I’m actually less powerful in some respects compared to the same period as last year.
Now let’s examine 20 and 60 minute normalized power in more detail by looking at a yearly breakdown month-by-month. The next two plots show data going back to 2003. My PowerCrank use would be characterized by the red lines in months 8 to 12. The plots are busy, but one thing is clear - I’m not seeing any significant gains in either 20 or 60 minute power. As a time trialist, I wanted a bump in 60 minute power to cut precious seconds from my 40k efforts. My numbers so far can only be explained as my typical seasonal variances. Yes my 20 minute power is at its highest of the year, but by only a couple (as in single digits) of watts. For 60 minute power, my power has been consistent over the last 3 months, but the max over the 3 months is a mere 1 watt higher than February 2008, well before PowerCrank use.

Finally, let’s look at critical power. I’ve calculated critical power in two approaches. In one case, which I’ll call CP15, I’m using 3, 5, 8, 10, and 15 minute average power to calculate my critical power and anaerobic work capacity. The other case is what I call CP10, which is the same as CP15 but without the 15 minute power number. It is well known that the critical power model can be effective at predicting threshold power (i.e., critical power). One caveat is that for this data I did not go out each month and test to maximize power for each range. It is assumed that I’m hitting a maximum through my normal training and racing. My motivation in training is to push as hard as possible, and likewise in mass start racing the physiological demands push riders to the limit. For the most part, the R^2 values were 0.996 or above (indeed, most were three 9s).

The plot below shows a monthly calculation of critical power. Notice the upswing from September to December. That’s the result of focused training. But also note that my highest critical power was in July 2008, which was the month leading up to the Texas State Time Trial Championships.
At this point I was thinking that perhaps my adaptation to PowerCranks was negatively affecting my critical power calculations. I collected the monthly data and cherry picked over a quarterly basis (that is, picked the peak values over a three-month period). The fourth quarter of 2008 would represent the best time period for PC use. The plot below shows my critical power using this quarterly basis. Using a quarterly basis narrows the gap some, but still my summer power is higher, albeit by only a couple of watts.

So when you take in all this data and puke it out, what is it saying? First, my focus on L4 and L5 is showing a rise in threshold power (but heck, the same can be said for my teammates who are also focusing on these aspects). But more importantly it shows that neither regular cranks nor PowerCranks are a magic bullet when it comes to breaking through a plateau. I consider myself a “well-trained” cyclist based on the historical power data I’ve gathered and my ability to rather quickly maximize my aerobic power to its genetic potential. The plot showing my historical 60 minute power certainly demonstrates my sweet spot is in the 265-275 W range. I had one aberration in January 2006 which I attribute to measurement error rather than really nailing 287 W for an hour. To date I have sufficient data at hand that clearly demonstrates that PowerCranks, once adapted to (and given my ability to ride them for 4+ hours at a high pace or complete critical interval sessions as if they were fixed cranks), have not been able to raise my power.

I really, really, really (you can add some more reallys if you want) want to increase my aerobic power, and I was hoping the PowerCranks experiment would given me just a 5% gain. I’m not greedy; I’m not looking for that 40% power increase or 2-3 mph claim. Just give me 5%, or about 12 watts, which would be about 1/3 mph. Alas, no gains. I have 6 months still ahead of me with PowerCranks (and will be riding a ton this week), but honestly with race season approaching my training volume with PowerCranks will begin to taper off due to race weekends on regular cranks.

Is there merit in using PowerCranks? I think there is, particularly for some riders. I feel many riders don’t know how to truly push themselves on the bike. When the going gets tough, too many riders take the easy way out. For me, VO2 intervals are the absolute worst, yet they are effective at helping get the last few watts out. I have learned to suffer during VO2 workouts, and Powercranks are pain and suffering at the beginning as you adapt to them. The perceived effort I was getting with PCs in the beginning was akin to VO2 and anaerobic intervals, but with more volume. If they can teach a rider how to suffer at a new level and open up their eyes to more intense training, they’ve done their job. You can certainly argue you can achieve the same end state with regular cranks, but I personally feel too many riders take the easy way out when the going gets tough. In that respect, the old axiom “no pain, no gain” is correct.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Week of December 22

Monday – It was too freaking cold (low 30s) for the South, so a great excuse to not ride.

Tuesday – Heck of a 3 hour ride on Powercranks today. The workout started with a brutal VO2 workout. There was a reference posted biketechreview.com regarding an effective VO2 protocol. I typically do traditional VO2 workouts – 10x3, 8x4, 6x5, etc with pretty much equal work:rest ratios. This new protocol, which was shown to give slightly better performance gains than 8x3 with 1:2 work:rest periods, is to ride at max VO2 power for 60% of the time you can hold that power. Recovery is dictated by how long it takes your heart rate (an excuse to wear the HRM!) to drop to 65% of your max heart rate. For me, this all translates to around 330 watts for 3 minutes with the HR target being 110 bpm. Unfortunately for me my HR drops like a rock after the load is removed. Recoveries were between 90 and 120 seconds. The short recovery makes for a more challenging workout. The entire VO2 block of the workout was completed in just over 36 minutes. The plot below, with the line at 330 watts, shows how quickly things came and how well I was hitting my target (not very well as the workout went deeper).

Wednesday – I had limited time this morning as I had to make the drive up to Dallas to see family. I wanted a short and intense workout, which meant I dumped the PCs today in favor of the race bike with regular cranks. I did a quick 75 minute ride with 60 minutes of “surge tempo”.

Thursday – Was hoping for a solid VO2 workout similar to Tuesday, but the mind and body didn’t want to take part. Ended up just doing 65 minutes of PC riding with a variety of zones. A few VO2 efforts, some L6 stuff, threshold. You name it.

Friday – Drove back to Houston and didn’t ride.

Saturday – Usual blitz fest. I really humped it on the way out, but about 1/3 in for the whole ride I got a nasty side stitch which stayed with me the entire day every time I went hard. Still managed some strong numbers despite the limitation. A total of 4 hours on the bike racking up 284 TSS points. A strong day indeed.

Sunday – Given Saturday’s hard ride I wasn’t expecting much today, but I felt really, really good. My pals asked what I was going to do, to which I responded “Not sure. Depends on how the first interval goes.” It went well. I did a “race winning interval” (see the Dec 8 blog entry) of 30 seconds in L6, 4 minutes in L5, 4:30 in L4, then another :30 in L5, and finishing up with :30 in L6. 301 watts for interval number 1. OK. I’m good. 9-10 minutes of rest and go again – 300 watts for interval number 2. Some more rest and I hit interval number 3 at 301 watts. A little more rest and I go into the fourth bit of hell. The wheels came off on that one at only 291 watts, but it was a good workout nonetheless. On the way home it started to rain, which really sucked since there was a headwind and the temperatures were hovering around 50 degrees. My core was cold and it took a warm shower, a cup of coffee, plenty of clothes, and lunch to warm my body. The discomfort was worth it as this was a quality 2:10 workout on the PCs.

A great week overall. The volume wasn’t particularly high, but the intensity was. The average IF for the week was over 0.85 due to the high amount of VO2 work. Things paid off at week’s end with some new yearly bests and bests with the Powercranks. I equaled my 5 and 8 minute bests with the PCs though not beating my yearly best numbers. I set new 30 and 40 minute normalized power numbers by 4 watts.

PC time this week – 6 hours 15 minutes

PC time to date – 150 hours 10 minutes

Weekly status of power progression – I continue to be on a workload pace higher than last year. I’m currently averaging some 60+ TSS points higher per week. I expect this has something to do with the small gains I’m seeing. The plot below shows I’m still running ahead of my performance for the same period as last year but still haven’t bettered my historical power in the durations that count the most in mass start road racing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Week of December 15

Monday & Tuesday – Zero riding. I had to go to a conference at work these days, the First International Conference on Laser Peening. Huh? Actually laser peening, which is just like shot peening except a laser is used rather than shot, would have application to bikes. But that’s a story for another day…

Wednesday – Got out of the conference early and went to lunch with some folks. I made the mistake of ordering enchiladas and having a few too many chips. End result was that when I got home and tried to ride my belly was stuffed to the limit and I felt like I wanted to vomit. 50 minutes of torture with the Powercranks due to being full of Tex Mex.

Thursday – First day of Christmas vacation and it was spent on the road. Given I didn’t ride Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday was more of an opener than a real workout I was feeling pretty good. Perhaps a good day for an hour test? Um, nope. 8-10 minutes into an effort I realized things weren’t going to happen for me the way I wanted. I went out a little too hard and was having to pay back the power man. So I rescoped and worked on other threshold and tempo aspects. Unfortunately 68 minutes into my 2:50 ride my PT succumbed to moisture from the 100% humidity. The remainder was mostly tempo on the PCs.

Friday – 85 minutes of endurance/tempo on the PCs.

Saturday – Usual blitz fest but nothing stands out from today’s ride.

Sunday – A strong cold front moved in overnight and brought strong north winds and cooler air. That combination, plus a stomach ache and ankle pain had me cut my ride short at 1:45.

Overall a bit of a bummer week. The good news is I’m on vacation for the next few weeks.

PC time this week – 6 hours 50 minutes

PC time to date – 143 hours 55 minutes

Weekly status of power progression – Nothing new to report this week.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Week of December 8

Monday – If anyone thinks a recovery ride is impossible on Powercranks, they haven’t tried hard enough (or is that easy enough?). 30 minutes of PCing with an average power of 138 watts. 3 minutes were spent from 0-20 watts, so this wasn’t a lot of coasting to bring the average down.

Tuesday – I’ve got vacation to burn so my plan was to go into work late after a morning workout. It was a little overcast and the radar looked good, but luck wasn’t on my side. After a warmup and a short opener, rain came and effectively shorted out my Powertap. Being wet and with no data, I decided to head home with 30 minutes of riding under my belt. Went to work and came home early to complete the workout I intended to do in the morning. The goal was a VO2 workout but my legs and heart just weren’t in it. It turned into a hodge podge of VO2 and anaerobic efforts. It was a real stinker of a workout, though I still got 20+ minutes of VO2 work in. Overall for the day is was 2:25 on the PCs.

Wednesday – Got home late so no ride.

Thursday – Today was one of those great workout days. I got home a little early and hit the road for my own version of “race winning intervals” as found in the Allen/Coggan book. These intervals are taxing and effectively are longer VO2 efforts. 30 seconds at 140%+ of FTP followed by 3-4 minutes at 110-115% (today was 4 minutes), 4-5 minutes at 100% FTP (today was 4.5 minutes), 30 seconds back into VO2, and finally the last 30 seconds as hard as possible (easier said than done). 10 minutes of hell. See the plot below for actual ride data, where the horizontal lines are at 100%, 115%, and 140% of FTP. The first 30 seconds puts you into debt quickly such that the VO2 effort starts early. Then recovery from the VO2 effort at FTP teaches your body to recover at high intensity.

The first interval went great. A little fist pump when I saw I averaged 300 W. After about 9 minutes of recovery it was time for interval #2. Another 300 W effort. I couldn’t believe I was hitting these kinds of numbers while riding the PCs. Perhaps it was the freshly cleaned and lubed chain on the bike giving me a few extra watts. The third interval was progressing in much the same manner. I was pushing hard and felt really fresh. Then a school bus that was up the road stopped to let kids out with about 1 minute to go in my interval. I had to come to a dead stop and lose all momentum. Aargh! Oh well, the good was done. The first 9 minutes were dead on to the previous intervals first 9 minutes. I was well on my way to another 300 W interval. I rode home at tempo to threshold and was pleased as punch about the effort. A fantastic workout of 1:25.

Friday – Easy 60 minutes on the PCs.

Saturday – Usual blitz fest. I was bringing some of workouts I did this week into the group ride. On one section I tried to a variant of the “race winning interval” but my training pals are simply too strong. Hard to outride guys who are all top 10% in the state when it comes to time trailing. So instead I took the “rinse and repeat” method. Hit it hard for a couple of minutes, make them respond, rest for a minute, do it again. Try to break them down through attrition. The crosswind just wasn’t strong enough to make it effective. Nonetheless, I set a new yearly best normalized power for 15 minutes and just 1 watt short of my best ever. A great 301 W effort for the duration.

Sunday – A good tempo workout of 3:50 on the PCs. It was icing on the cake after a good workout and group ride. Normalized power of 210 for the duration.

PC time this week – 9 hours 10 minutes

PC time to date – 137 hours 5 minutes

Weekly status of power progression – Some new highs to report this week. I hit yearly bests in the 15-20 minute range and some bests on Powercranks in the 8-10 minute range. The moderate progress is shown in the plot below. The “PCs” line is slightly higher this week than last week in the 0-30 minute range. Woo-hoo!
I continue to run ahead of last year in terms of average TSS for the same training period. For grins, I plotted my training volume of 2 years ago on the same plot. See the plot below which shows I’m overtaking my training of a couple of years ago. If I plot my best weekly 20 minute power, you’ll see I was cranking pretty good 2 years ago but then had a 2 week block of no riding due to work travel and the form went to pot. Fortunately I haven’t had to travel this fall for work, so I’ve been on a consistent upswing.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Week of December 1

Monday – After last week I was totally blitzed. My TSS going into Monday was –34. I was in no mood to ride, so I didn’t.

Tuesday – Still tired but I got out on the bike and managed 66 minutes of L2/L3 riding on the PCs. Legs just didn’t want to go. Last week’s volume really took it’s toll, particularly Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday – Got home early but I had no motivation to ride. Great week, eh? Seems to be turning into a rest week. It’s my body telling me something – take it EASY!!!

Thursday – Got home late so I threw the bike on the Computrainer with the intent of doing a VO2 workout. Man did I forget how much I hate riding a trainer. I did the workout in the garage where the temperature was in the mid 50s. I was still sweating like a pig. I managed 2 whole VO2 intervals of 3 minutes each before I just had enough. 50 minutes of PC riding on the Computrainer was all I could take.

Friday – No riding.

Saturday – Usual blitz fest. I was apprehensive in how I’d ride. I know that with so much rest this week I often come in flat. On some of the harder efforts the lack of intensity this week certainly got the better of me. My stomach was cramping from intensity and I had to throttle back. Still, it was a good hard ride. Didn’t break any significant records today, and the intensity of the ride was down a few percent for me, but overall it was fun.

Sunday – I started the day thinking I’d do 5+ hours on the PCs. When we hit the road I was feeling pretty fresh despite the Saturday slugfest. I figured I’d try some VO2 efforts and see how that went. To my surprise they went really well. I was pulling off 5 minute VO2 efforts with relative ease, so I just kept up with that. First true VO2 workout on the PCs and it was a good one. Had a yearly best 5 minute power on one of the intervals (OK, by 1 watt) despite not really getting a recovery interval (a teammate was doing threshold intervals at the same time, so it’s hard to really recover at that tempo). I didn’t reach my 5 hour goal (indeed, only half of that at 2:30), but from a workout perspective, today’s ride was better than a long endurance ride.

Overall a pretty light week. My body appreciates it.

PC time this week – 4 hours 25 minutes
PC time to date – 127 hours 55 minutes

Weekly status of power progression – Some new highs to report this week. 280 W normalized for 30 minutes this week is my best yet with PCs and is the best 30 minute power I’ve had since June 2007 (well, by only a couple of watts). Bumped up 40 minute power a watt, and 50 minute went up 4 watts.

Still no significant improvements as a result of Powercranks. If we look at the two plots below, my power since using Powercranks is within the accuracy of the Powertap (around 2.5%) for all but the longest durations (and even then within 3-4%). In general I’m seeing better numbers than I was for the same time period as last year, but if we look at the second plot I’m running a high average TSS. It makes sense that my longer term power is better because of the higher average TSS. It’s not like I’ve been slacking. I’ve been busting my arse each week trying to bump up my power. The big test is December, which is a month focused on VO2 work.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Week of November 24

Monday – Frank Day had this epiphany that PCs could be used to reduce drag, but only on downhills. Since it was an easy day, I decided to go out and do some testing to see if I could find out just how much drag could be reduced between coasting both feet down versus both feet in the 9 o’clock position. Ended up with 66 minutes of PC riding in probably my easiest ride of the year, and I determined from 6 tests of each configuration (out-and-back for each test so a total of 24 runs) that coasting with the PCs in the “up” position reduces drag about 12%. An example of a series of tests is shown in the plot below. The normalized speed (speed divided by the initial speed) is on the y-axis, and the x-axis is time (minutes). The initial speeds were in the 20 mph range, so around 12 mph (or 0.6*v0) aero drag tends to diminish quite a bit in comparison to rolling resistance. The red curves are the feet up and the black are feet down. Just from the graph you can tell there’s a difference in drag area. The data below (and from all runs) was compared to a kinematic solution (i.e., solving F=ma with an initial velocity and the only resistance being rolling resistance and drag (with wind included)).

Tuesday – My longest ride on the PCs to date. I wanted to do a 100 miles but the winds were pretty good and I just wasn’t feeling it. I ended up with 4:45 in the saddle with a normalized power of 195 watts. I got some benefit by the ride as I spent a total of 2+ hours in level 3. Later that afternoon the winds went calm and it was just too freaking nice out. I jumped on the fixie for a quick 30 minute spin to refresh the legs.

Wednesday – Travel day to Austin but I got in a whopping 18 minutes of riding on PCs.

Thursday – I celebrated Thanksgiving with a 2:23 ride north of Austin. It was a good tempo ride with an IF of 0.81 overall for the duration. For the first time I was able to pedal out of the saddle on the PCs. That will come in useful for keeping the butt comfy.

Friday – It was rainy in Austin so I didn’t get out in the morning. By the time it dried we were headed back to Houston. No riding.

Saturday – Usual Saturday hammerfest on regular cranks. Had a fair amount of L5 and L6 time but TSS was down slightly from the previous two weeks. I wasn’t the freshest, perhaps due to Tuesday’s long PC ride and Thursday’s tempo effort in the hills of Austin.

Sunday – Plan was for 5+ hours, but cold fronts have a tendency to throw plans out the window. The temperature was fine, but the winds weren’t. What started with winds in the 10 mph range quickly went to 20+ with gusts approaching 30 mph. It sucked. I spent the first couple of hours with the group or our talented junior. I shadowed him on the way back as he was doing tempo efforts. With the wind, my larger body size, and my hunk of metal with the PCs, I was having to put out 20-30 more watts than he was. Ended up spending quite a bit of time in my threshold zone. Once junior left, I headed out for another 90 minutes of riding. The wind really started to hurt by then. Nonetheless, I persevered and ended up getting 4:11 of PC riding in with a normalized power of 211 watts. That’s my best so far on the PCs for that kind of duration, but still well away from my best ever 236 W on regular cranks. For the week I ended up with just under 950 TSS points. A long, hard week.

PC time this week – 12 hours 40 minutes
PC time to date – 123 hours 30 minutes

Weekly status of power progression – No change from last week as most of the riding was tempo and endurance.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Week of November 17

Monday – Since last Saturday’s ride totally floored me, Sunday was a recovery day. Combined with potential long days at work on Tuesday and Thursday, Monday was going to be an all-out hard workout. No usual recovery day today. And what a workout it was. I did a threshold workout on the PCs and had my best performance of the year. I would go so far as to say it was my best ever 2x20 session as I nailed both 20 minute intervals with yearly best powers. The power data is shown below in graphical form. Looks like I had plenty left in the tank at the end of the first interval so could have probably pushed a little harder at the start for a more even distribution. On the second interval I started out a little harder and didn’t have quite as much left at the end. Both intervals achieved identical powers of 285 watts normalized/average. An awesome day of 90 minutes of PC time.

Tuesday – Got out of work earlier than I thought so I rushed home and got in 55 minutes of L2 riding on the PCs.

Wednesday – Goal for today was 90 minutes of over-under time. I was at a local park loop and decided that each lap I’d do 290-300 W followed by a lap in the 230-250 W range. Unfortunately I had nothing in the tank. Legs felt dead and my motivation wasn’t there. Ended up with 1:55 of riding on the PCs. Despite the poor performance, I still had a decent L3 block of 82 minutes at an intensity factor of 0.85. A good “sweet spot tempo” session.

Thursday and Friday – Got out of work late and didn’t ride.

Saturday – Usual Saturday hammerfest. Felt strong in the first half and did a ton of pulling. Was getting fatigued on the way back and drifted off the back to go my own pace near the end. The ride was hard, but the TSS wasn’t as high as last week (though close at 244 for the 3 hour ride).

Sunday – Got in 90 minutes of PC time and 2:30 total. Had a flat tire so I came home and switched bikes rather than really fix the PC equipped bike. A solid tempo session.

PC time this week – 5 hours 50 minutes
PC time to date – 110 hours 50 minutes

Weekly status of power progression – No real change from last week except for the new yearly best in 20 minute power so no summary. I’ve got a run of 3 weeks with 20 minute intervals of 280 W or more. Me likes. Looking back at my logs, the last time I had a 20 minute power of 285 W was June 2007. I remember those 2 weeks well; I was west of Paris for work and I was in the midst of VO2 work. I was taking advantage of the late summer sunsets to put in a couple of hours after work.

Some may say this form is due to a significant increase in training load. While I am certainly
ahead of on the TSS curve, as shown by the graph below, the difference isn’t significant.. After 16 weeks, less than 500 TSS points separate 16 weeks of PC use compared to the same time period last year. The second plot shows my cumulative average weekly TSS. The second plot shows my overall training load isn’t too high. When I took a look at it my first response was that I need to up the training.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Week of November 10

Monday – Chill day. Didn’t ride. Lots of rain.

Tuesday – One of the benefits of working for the government is you get all those extra holidays, and today was such a day. Veterans’ Day today, so instead of sitting behind a desk today it was a good time to hit the road. My goal going into today was a 100 miler on the Powercranks. But I quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. I was lucky to even get out the door as morning rain showers almost demotivated me enough to stay indoors all day. But it looked like the rain was moving north and I’d have clear riding as I headed south to see pal and recent track accident victim Dan, who is recovering from busted ribs and collarbone. He lives about 35 miles south of the house, and unfortunately the winds were right out of the south at 15-20 mph. The whole way. The legs felt dead, and I was going into this massive, never ending headwind. I got to his house, visited, and headed back. Of course, now that wind was a heft tailwind and I was cruising at 30+ mph while only putting out about 200 watts. The ride was pretty uneventful, though it now represents the longest PC ride I’ve done at 4:05. I had done an effort of almost 4 hours a month or two ago. You can tell I’m accustomed to the PCs, as even today when my legs felt dead I still had a normalized power some 20 W higher than that previous long ride. When I downloaded the data I was surprised to see I spent nearly 2 hours in my zone 3.

Wednesday – Easy L2 day of 55 minutes on the PCs

Thursday – I was looking forward to a threshold workout today. With the earlier sunsets some of the guys have been hitting a local 1.4 mile park loop near the house. I got to the park with enough time for a 2 hour workout, and as I pulled the bike out it started to rain. I don’t mind getting caught out in the rain, but I hate starting in the rain. So home I go, and I decide to get the Computrainer out and do a ramp test for grins. I decided to first test myself on the Powercranks followed by a ramp test on my race bike with regular cranks. I wanted to test my current fitness as well as see if there was any difference in the results between Powercranks and regular cranks.

The testing sucked. I lacked motivation pedaling in my garage. I was dripping with sweat and my legs, lungs, and heart didn’t want to dig deep. In both tests I topped out around 320 W using a ramp rate of 20 W/minute. Given my FTP of 270-275 W and that I’ve recently done 5 minute efforts in the 330 W range, the 320 W peak was no measure of my current ability. Using a typical 72-77% rule for threshold power, that would put me in the 240 W range. Definitely something amiss with this test today.

So was there a difference between regular cranks and Powercranks? Nope. I wore a heart rate monitor and the heart rate traces were within 1-2 bpm of each other. Cadence was 1-2 rpm higher with the PCs, but honestly there was no difference there either. The first plot below shows power, heart, and cadence all on the same plot. The first test is with PCs, the second is with regular cranks. The second plot shows just the heart rate and cadence data in more detail. What this tells me is 1) if heart rate is a measure of adaptation, I’m fully adapted to Powercranks since the HR-power response is virtually identical, and 2) it does not matter which crank system is used in a ramp test given proper adaptation.

Friday – Felt lazy and didn’t ride.

Saturday – Return to regular cranks on the weekly hammerfest, but today offered a real test as a cold front moved in overnight and delivered some strong north winds. We hammered from the start taking advantage of the early tailwind. We set up rotating pacelines with my pulls in the level 5/VO2 zone. I put in a lot of work at the front in the first hour (NP of 262 W) and didn’t have anything left for the midpoint finish. Then we headed home. 15-20 mph winds the whole way but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm. We pushed hard the entire way and I pushed another 264 watts normalized over the next hour. We finished up with over a 21 mph average on this day with strong, gusty winds. It’s a testament to the team. I’ve got a bunch of great guys around me. A half dozen or so of us battling those winds and coming home strong. I set a couple of all time best normalized power numbers today in the 150-180 minute range. Overall, for a 3:15 ride I netted 258 TSS points (IF=0.89), some personal bests, and some really sore legs.

Sunday – Legs a bit dead but I managed 1:40 of PC riding.

PC time this week – 8 hours

PC time to date – 105 hours

Weekly status of power progression – No real change from last week so no summary.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A tale of 2 threshold workouts – 2007 and 2008

So this week I had a nice threshold workout, my best yet on the Powercranks. I’ve been communicating with the manufacturer of PCs, Frank Day, who thought it odd that I’d be doing this kind of intensity this time of year. I explained to him that the road race season in Texas starts early – mid January in fact. Now is definitely the time to be building up the base and moving into more intense workouts. Actually, we don’t have much of an off-season here. Road racing pretty much from January to June when road races take a break due to the incredibly hot weather. Road races pick up again in September for 2 months. But then you have crit and track season basically from April to September and the state time trials in August. When racing 10 of the 12 months, it means training year round.

With that as background, I looked back at some power files, and in particular focused on workouts around the same time in 2007 – last week of October or first week of November 2007. I wanted to see how a workout from that time on regular cranks compares to the Powercrank workout I had this past week. Both sessions were 2x20 L4 sessions. Looking at the file from 2007, it certainly looks like I used a different route as this week, but nonetheless the important aspect is the overall power profile. Similar rest periods between intervals were used.

I’ve taken the liberty of averaging the power data to smooth it out. The plots below for power represent a rolling average over 18 seconds. The blue curve marked P1 is from late October 2007 on regular cranks. The pink one labeled P2 is from early November 2008 on Powercranks. The first Powercrank interval got a little buggered up 18 minutes in due to a schoolbus interfering with the interval. Both intervals are pretty darn close to each other.

You can tell these 2 rides are awfully similar when you look at the average and normalized powers for the intervals. The table below shows that the intervals on regular and Powercranks were virtually the same. The first interval had the same average power, and the normalized power is just 3 W off, about 1% different. Same for the second intervals, and those both saw about a 3-4% drop off from the first. The most striking data is the cadence. I didn’t realize just how low the cadence was dropping on the PCs.

The thing to really take out of this is how you can train the higher workout levels with Powercranks. There was no degradation in quality of the session based strictly on the data.

Week of November 3

Monday – Chill day. Didn’t ride.

Tuesday – Today was a bit of a “the dog ate my homework” day. I am focusing on threshold during November, and today was the first threshold workout of the month. I had a great threshold effort a week or two ago on the PCs, but now things begin in earnest. Since I feel I’m fully adapted to PCs, I decided to check my heart rate on the ride. I never do that, but I figured it would be interesting data. Now I’ve got to Powertap CPUs. One just doesn’t pick up my Polar strap and the other does. The rub is that the one that does read it can get flaky, as in the battery shorts and things reset (date goes back to the default, memory wiped out, etc).

Knowing the risks I headed out the door with the flaky CPU. A 5 minute interval at the low end of L4 was a nice warmup. About 8.5 minutes of rest and then the first interval. I was on fire. I was riding in the 280-290+ W range and decided to push the duration up. 30 minutes for the first interval and I was thumping it. I knew I was hitting some yearly bests. 5 minute rest period and then another interval. Unfortunately after 10 minutes I was getting a horrible side stitch, so I had to cut it short. Another 5 minute rest and into another interval which again was cut short at 10 minutes due to a side stitch. So the good news is that I was really hitting it, but the bad news were these side stitches. After a brief rest, I went into some L3 riding to close out the workout.

Then the unthinkable. 2:05 into the workout the CPU resets. I was TOTALLY BUMMED about this. All that great data lost. Oh well. The important thing wasn’t the actual numbers but the total time (55+ minutes) spent in my L4 zone and a great threshold workout.

Ended up with 2:15 of PC riding, and I estimated my TSS for the ride at 165 points, which is comparable to other rides of this structure.

Wednesday – Easy L2 day of 75 minutes on the PCs

Thursday – I went a little longer Wednesday than desired. I saw a friend on the road and just had to socialize. I wasn’t sure how I’d respond today, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted threshold or tempo. After a 5 minute L4 prep interval I was feeling pretty good so I decided to make this another L4 workout, though I convinced myself to go with a straight 2x20 workout.

The first interval was going like gangbusters. My power wasn’t quite as high as Tuesday, but it still was higher than I’ve been seeing lately. In the first 18 minutes of the interval I was at a nice 284 W average. I’m out in the middle of nowhere on a country road and a school bus decided to pass me. Then a few hundred feet later it puts its lights on to let kids off. Being as Texas law says vehicles have to stop and a bike is considered a vehicle, by great interval was interrupted late in the game. I tell myself I’ll make the most of the interval by pushing out of the stop to keep the TSS up. I get cranking at 350+ W and 35 seconds later the bus stops again. Another sprint to the 20 minute mark. Ended up with 279 W average and 282 W normalized for the first interval. The plot below shows my 2 stops and starts pretty clearly. The horizontal dashed line is drawn through 280 W.

After a 5 minute rest interval I hit it again. Depleted a little from the first interval, I was able to push 271 W average/272 W NP. A great 1:55 workout on the PCs.

Friday – Felt lazy and didn’t ride.

Saturday – Return to regular cranks on the weekly hammerfest, but I think Frank Day jinxed me. He said I should ride PCs on a group ride. No thanks. I need this one day a week for testing and such in a race setting. Things were going well in the start as I just rolled off the front during warmup (the guys must have been having an ice cream social back there). I was away for about 11 minutes riding at 97% of threshold. As soon as everyone was on my wheel, I kicked it up to VO2 effort. I did a pull at 116% of threshold or 4+ minutes immediately after that threshold effort. Good stuff. I was on.

Then disaster struck. Flat tire. Fixed it and got going. A few miles later the tube is getting soft again. I tell the guys to go on but leave tube behind. I inspect carefully but don’t see anything. That tube goes belly up. Now I’m 15 miles from home with a flat and no more tubes. The tire holds pressure for a few minutes, so every mile or so I dismount, pump up the tire, and get on my way. My power file shows I did this some 16 times on the way home. As soon as I make it home I switch to the PC equipped bike and get an hour of PC riding in. I still got 2.5+ hours of riding in, just not the way I wanted.

Sunday – Pissed from yesterday, I was pushing early in the ride. One pal said he would be doing 8 minute intervals. Stayed in the draft while he was doing that and when he was done I’d take over and keep the pace high. I actually pulled out a 4 minute VO2 effort at 320 W on the PCs. Had another effort of 270 W for nearly 10 minutes as he was taking a break. Got to the turnaround point and saw a few other pals going the other way. I decided to break off and follow knowing it would give me an extra hour+ of riding. Ended up just being a real mix of L2, L3, L4, and L5 that day. 3 hours of PC riding with a normalized power of 216 W.

PC time this week – 9 hours 25 minutes

PC time to date – 97 hours

Weekly status of power progression – this week was a mixed week. I lost valuable data on Tuesday, and Saturday was a real bust in terms of pushing myself. I don’t expect much deviation, and the graph shows it. A yearly best for 20 minute power this week by 4 W, and just 4 W below my best 5 minute power in the last year. 707 TSS points this week (592 on PCs) which comes out to a IF of 0.8.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Week of October 27

Monday – Chill day. Didn’t ride.

Tuesday – After the trip to Japan, I need to get some TSS points in me and build up the CTL. What better way to accomplish that than with some sweet spot tempo riding. In this case, I upped it a bit with a “surge tempo” workout on the Powercranks. The protocol is simply to ride in L3 with occasional trips into L6, recovering back in L3. Basically I was doing continuous over-unders with 20s in L6 and and 160s at 85-90% of FTP. I did this a couple of weeks ago and managed 51 minutes of it. This time I was able to extend the pain game some – 81 minutes of this, plus another 13-14 minutes of straight L3 riding. See the figure below. At times the recovery in upper L3 wasn’t going as well, but I did try to minimize any rest. Overall the 95 minute block was at 226 W average and 241 W normalized. The 2 hours of Powercrank riding was a cool IF=0.84. A good ride.

Wednesday – Easy day of 45 minutes on the PCs

Thursday – Keep building that CTL. 2:15 long ride on the PCs with a 2 hour block of sweet spot tempo riding. Rather than the surge workout of Tuesday, today was a relatively isopower affair. The 2 hour block yielded an AP of 228 W and NP of 239 W for a 0.87 intensity factor. Overall the ride gave me a solid 161 TSS points, so I’m well on my way to rebuilding my CTL. Felt fine on the PCs the whole time.

Friday – Easy hour on the PCs before Saturday’s group ride with regular cranks.

Saturday – Return to regular cranks on the weekly hammerfest. Plan for today was to take 4 minute pulls in my VO2 range for the first half of the ride and ride upper tempo and threshold for the second half. Worked well as I got over 24 minutes of VO2 time in the first hour+. Didn’t really set any PBs this ride, but I did manage a 5 minute power just 4 W under my yearly best. Not bad considering I’ve only been incorporating VO2 work on the group ride rather than in a structured interval session. I didn’t push quite as hard on this week’s ride as I did 2 weeks ago (just a few TSS points lower this time), but it was still a great workout. 236 TSS points in just over 3 hours 12 minutes of riding.

Sunday – I was debating what to do today. I have to take my better half to the airport Monday afternoon, so a good ride Monday is probably out of the question. I’m also wanting to shift my key workouts to Monday and Wednesday so I can get an extra day of rest before the Sunday slugfest. What to do? Screw it; I’m riding hard. Showed up with the Powercranks and hit it pretty hard. 3 hours at IF=0.79 with a VI of 1.16. A nice mix of tempo, threshold, VO2, and anaerobic. Legs felt great on the PCs despite the hard ride on Saturday. I racked up 185 TSS points on the PC ride.

PC time this week – 9 hours
PC time to date – 87 hours, 35 minutes

I’m trying to see if PCs really are making a difference or not. It’s always hard to isolate how a stimulus elicits a response, and I won’t claim that I indeed can isolate it. Nonetheless, I’ll start tracking my power during this time of PC use and compare it to the same time period as 2007. Each week the graph will change as I’m comparing like periods together. For example, this week I’m looking at how my power looks in September and October of 2007 versus 2008. In both time periods I was doing similar types of riding (lots of tempo). I’d say I’m being a little more aggressive on the group rides this year, but the weekday riding is similar. Right off the bat I’ll state that for the 9 weeks covering September and October, my TSS points for 2007 were 4453, whereas my 2008 numbers are 5273 (3529 of which are with PCs). So I’m inducing more stress this year.

The graph below shows my power (average or normalized, depending on the duration) since using PCs, Sept-Oct 2007, the 1 year prior to PC use, and my all-time bests in the last 5 years. What stands out are 2 things: 1) across the board my power is up for Sept-Oct 2008 compared to 2007 and 2) my power is up in general compared to the entire period from Sept 2007 to August 2008 for 2 hours or more. The first item could certainly be explained by the additional training stress (the aforementioned TSS numbers, which shows a nearly 20% increase). The second item, my improved long-term power, is somewhat notable. The spread is at most 10 W (a bit less than 4% of my FTP), but it does represent some of my personal bests. For durations from 30-90 minutes, I just haven’t pushed myself yet since using the PCs. The group rides unfortunately don’t allow me the chance to push the 60-90 minute range (darn mid-ride stop). Now that I’m entering the threshold phase of my base training, perhaps I’ll see something even with the PCs.

A few things are certain – 1) I haven’t lost any fitness since using PCs and 2) you can ride on PCs (e.g., same workouts) the same way as regular cranks. However, I’m still looking for that jump in FTP.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Week of October 20

Not much riding this week. I had a trip to Japan for work which really dug into my training time. I flew out on Sunday, had some excellent food, gained a pound or two, and came back ready to roll. Arrived back in Houston Friday morning, stopped off for a burrito, went home and had a 90 minute nap, and then hit the road. Friday was just a 65 minute ride on the PCs with a couple of 6-7 minute intervals at threshold to wake the body up. Perceived effort was high which was not surprising given the 5 days with no exercise.

Saturday – Did the group ride on regular cranks and felt both good and bad. The good was that my threshold power really seemed alive. The bad was that I was lacking my VO2 range. My pulls weren’t as numerous or intense this Saturday. The overall power numbers, however, were still pretty good. Not as good as last Saturday’s effort, but decent nonetheless.

Sunday – The legs were are a little sore from washing 3 cars Saturday. They got even more sore about an hour into a 2:30 long ride on the PCs. The stress from Saturday combined with a longer PC effort left my limbs tired. Today’s ride was mostly endurance but with about an hour of L3 and above in there. Looking forward to a hard week of riding ahead to get the TSS back up there.

PC time this week – 3 hours 35 minutes
PC time to date – 78 hours 35 minutes

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Powercranks Status – The First 11 Weeks

As I sit here in Japan for work, giving my body a short respite from training, I have time to reflect on my use of Powercranks. I’ve got 75 hours of riding on them now since the Texas State TTs in early August. While I haven’t been using them exclusively, I have been using them as my primary crank. I’m a firm believer in the Coggan quote – “Testing is training, training is testing.” In that context, I want to get out on the race bike with regular cranks for each Saturday blitzfest to put myself in a situation where I have to push to the maximum. I want to see if the PC training is paying off. Those Saturday rides provide both the training and testing stimuli needed to verify the role of PCs in my daily training. Likewise, midweek workouts provide additional test points.

First, let’s look at the facts of my situation prior to starting with Powercranks. The figure below shows my max normalized power (10 minutes is actually average power) for a variety of time durations. The data covers late 2003 up until August 4 of this year, the Monday after a successful weekend at the State TT champs (first in M35-39 individual and first in Cat 3 team).

What is evident from the graph is that 2006 appears to be my best year considering efforts of 70 minutes and under. 2007 looks to be my best for longer durations. However, while the curves above look like they are distant from one another, it’s important to read the magnitude of the y-axis. For a given time, the powers from year-to-year are all within 10-20 watts of each other. One note about 2006 is that the big hump around 60 minutes was set in December of that year. I had just gotten off a HUGE block of training load. I was riding 18 or so hours per week for a few weeks and appeared to benefit from that training load. Further, December is a cool month in Houston, so my power is naturally better and you can’t discount thermal issues with the Powertap. Unfortunately it was a one-off performance. I haven’t been able to match that performance since. Indeed, if you look at my other best performances, the 287 W performance sticks out like a sore thumb. The rest are all 275 W and below. For the 275 W number to be real, I want it to be repeatable. Given that comment, I would say that the thick green line, which represents the 2007 training year (October 2006 to October 2007) envelopes my more realistic best yearly performances.

Let’s examine my best normalized powers in the months leading up to the State TT and in early August and a month beyond. Heat load during the summer was a serious concern, and it shows up in my data.

Date20 min30 min60 min
3/17 to 4/13280275257
4/14 to 5/11270267263
5/12 to 6/8267261250
6/9 to 7/6270267255
7/7 to 8/3285273258
8/4 to 8/31266257248

What we see is some pathetic 60 minute numbers. Going into my “A” event I wasn’t putting out much power, despite hours and hours of threshold training. Nonetheless, the power numbers were fairly consistent. What is also seen is that after the TT, my power took a small dip, owing to the fact I was riding for fun as well as starting up the PC riding in full swing.

Starting from August 4, let’s look at how my training volume has been divided. I’ve charted time in each zone, regardless of whether it was on PCs or regular cranks. Further, I was really struggling the first weeks with stamina on the PCs. Nonetheless, the times in zone are based on an estimated 275 W threshold (perhaps a little high even with regular cranks). When on the PCs in those early weeks, endurance felt like tempo, and tempo felt like threshold. The things hurt. My training volume over the last 11 weeks has averaged just under 10 hours per week.

In the 11 week period, the plot represents 6577 minutes of training, with 98 minutes of L6, 230 minutes of L5, 736 minutes lf L4, 1579 minutes of L3, and the rest L1/L2. Compare this with the 11 weeks leading up to the State TT, which saw 124 minutes of L6, 278 minutes in L5, 826 minutes in L4, 1171 minutes of L3, and a total volume of 6946 minutes. What isn’t accounted for in this time period, however, is time spent racing and training on the TT bike without a powermeter. Nonetheless, there wasn’t a significant increase in training load nor in composition. The compositions of these two periods are shown below. The main difference between the two 11 week blocks is that the pre-PC time was 100% on regular cranks, whereas the post-PC time was 66% on Powercranks.

So, now that we know the training load’s pre- and post-Powercranks are similar in both composition and total volume, have there been any benefits to riding with PCs? Yes and no. As mentioned, the first few weeks were rough. It took time for the hip flexors to be accustomed to longer rides. With time I was able to ride them for several hours on end, and now a two hour ride on the PCs is just like a two hour ride on regular cranks. In time, I’ve been able to maintain the same power for a given duration on the PCs as I have on regular cranks. One thing I have noticed, however, is a perceived benefit for durations lasting longer than an hour. My hour power hasn’t budged much, but the longer efforts have improved. Whether this is due solely to PCs versus cooler temperatures is debatable. Nonetheless, something is causing my long term power to increase. If we now roll in my normalized powers in the 11 weeks of using PCs and compare against my 2008 training year before PCs, my all-time bests, and last year (2007 training year), we have the plot below.

I’ve hit my best 60 minute power of the year since using PCs, but honestly the difference between what was and what is now my best is only a few watts. If I had seen 290 W rather than 270 W, there’d be reason for rejoicing. But for now, all I can say is that my threshold is in line with my seasonal variations and within the expected range. However, I have been hitting yearly best numbers for the 120 minute and beyond range. Indeed, since riding PCs I’ve hit some all-time bests in the 150 minute and beyond range. We are talking a few watts, so again, it’s not a significant change.

At this point, if I look at PCs objectively with my Ph.D. glasses on (my doctorate is in mechanical engineering, and I have some background in testing and the influence of test variables on outcome), I would conclude that given similar training stimuli (the composition and duration of my training), training with Powercranks offers no benefit compared to regular cranks for durations lasting under 90 minutes. Seasonal variations in temperature and humidity appear to be the more logical reason for a slight uptick in power for 90 minutes and under. I do however, feel that Powercranks may have a minor benefit for durations lasting longer than 2 hours. There may be some benefit in reducing overall muscle fatigue for longer durations.

Since I’m only 3-4 months into this year long study, I won’t come to solid conclusions yet. I still have plenty of training ahead of me. November will be spent primarily on threshold training, and December will introduce even greater volumes of VO2 work. The work will be performed on PCs with continued Saturday testing on regular cranks.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Week of October 13

Monday – no riding

Tuesday – Tempo day with the PCs. I hoped to do an hour and 45 minutes in L3, but I was still having some hip pain. I erred on the side of caution, though I still managed just over 90 minutes of L3 and lower L4 riding. A respectable 235+ W or normalized power for the duration and 225 W for the entire 2:07 ride.

Wednesday – Debated whether to even go out or not, but I did. Caught up with a pal on his fixed gear. I gave him pulls into the wind to give him relief with the fixie, and he took the tailwind sections. Even though it was a casual 69 minutes on the Powercranks, I still put in some L3/L4 time in the wind.

Thursday – I decided to do a “surge tempo” workout, which I credit with giving great race day fitness. Typically I do this workout in the big subdivision I live in. There are stretches of road anywhere from a few hundred meters to a mile. I ride in my upper tempo range, and each time I encounter a significant turn that I have to slow for or a stop sign, I ride in L6 for 20-30 seconds and recover in L3. After awhile this workout really starts to hurt. The prolonged time in L3 combined with the anaerobic efforts puts your body to the limit, but the payoff is enhanced race fitness. The different today, however, would be the Powercranks. I still haven’t mustered up the courage to sprint on the things, so all my L6 efforts would be in the seated position. I also haven’t done this kind of workout in awhile, so I didn’t know what to expect. I was hoping for 90 minutes in my zones. Didn’t quite get there. My legs started to fatigue and I could only manage 51 minutes of this workout. I rode in the country, so I timed my surges to be on the 3 minute mark for 20 seconds, so 20 seconds in L6, 160 seconds in L3, and repeat. For those 51 minutes I did hit 249 W normalized, so not all was bad. Plus the entire ride was 222 W normalized for 1:58. More TSS.

Friday – no riding

Saturday – Group ride, so back to regular cranks. I didn’t feel all that great, but sometimes perception is simply wrong. I was physically hitting on all cylinders. Because we’ve been going pretty quick lately, we bumped up the distance 11 miles. The extra mileage allowed me to set some all-time numbers for the longer times, and I also set some yearly bests for shorter times. All in all a fantastic ride. Too bad I always perform better this time of year when there are no races, but this form usually carries over to the late winter/early spring races before the weather warms up.

First the overall stats for the ride – 67 miles, 3:11, and 244 W normalized. That was a 250 TSS ride. I was totally beat by the end, and riding at nearly an IF of 0.90 for 3+ hours is good reason. Digging a little deeper, the portion of the ride where we really hit it (i.e., after warmup and before cooldown), 57.5 miles, 2:34, and 255 W normalized. Even had 230 W average. I spent 14+ minutes in L6, 27+ minutes in L5, 38 minutes in L4, and 21 minutes in L3. I tried to keep my pulls on the front half of the ride all above 320 W and 3+ minutes in duration. I set yearly best normalized powers in the 35 to 73 minute range as well as 2:12 to 3:06 (hours and minutes!). It’s created a nice little bump in my normalized power plot shown below.

Needless to say, I was worthless the rest of the day. My legs were like jelly.

Sunday – no riding as I flew to Japan for a few days. The time off will hopefully recuperate the hip. Slept like a baby on the plane.

PC time this week – 5 hours, 14 minutes
PC time to date – 75 hours

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Week of October 6

What a breakout week training wise, particularly with the Powercranks. After nearly 60 hours of use I finally feel fully acclimated to the blasted things. I can readily hop on the PC equipped bike and ride almost like my road bike except for very high end efforts such as sprinting.

Monday – Since today was a recovery day, I decided to get out the fixie. I rode the track bike around the neighborhood for about 40 minutes, just taking it easy.

Tuesday – A fantastic tempo workout. 90+ minutes of tempo riding on the PCs with an average power of 232 watts and normalized of 239 watts. I must admit that I did have a short 4-5 minute break after an hour. I was alternating my time between the road bars and the clip on aerobars. On the way back home I was getting a nasty left side hip cramp. I never cramp, so this felt really odd. I can only think that it was due to using the PCs under load in a relatively aggressive position (i.e., the aerobars). Nonetheless, I recovered enough to make the final 25+ minutes at 241 watts normalized. Altogether the 2 hour ride netted a normalized power of 230 watts and intensity factor of 0.84. A real solid ride.

Wednesday – I put some road bars and a front brake on the track bike and decided to take it out for a spin again for an hour. I just wanted to stay off the PCs to make sure I was getting good recovery before the Thursday workout. I was still getting some hip pain.

Thursday – I could feel the hip hurting off and on while at work. I was really unsure if I’d be able to ride, and if so, at what intensity. I was feeling guilty, so I felt I had to get out and try something. I decided to switch my training plan and shorten the workout with some threshold work. I figured a few short intervals would be a good substitute for the planned 1:45 of L3 riding. I’m glad I switched. I totally blitzed the threshold workout. Previously on Powercranks I have managed about 7 minutes of continuous threshold riding. Since I feel I’m adapted now, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the outcome of today’s workout. After the warmup, I cranked out my first 20 minute interval at 278 watts. After a 5 minute rest I started on the second and backed it up with a 275 watt effort. I even uncorked another 267 effort for 11 minutes on the way home. Over 50 minutes of L4 work with the PCs. And this wasn’t lower end L4 riding but right at IF=1.0. A great 80 minute PC workout. The 20 minute intervals were on par with my good performances this year with regular cranks.

Friday – no riding

Saturday – Group ride today, so back to the regular crank race bike. I got out before the ride for about 10 miles of solo riding at an endurance pace. Once I hooked up with the gang, we rode steady but hard. I made an effort to be in L5 on my pulls and make them at least 3 minutes in duration. I was feeling strong, and I averaged 220 watts and 248 watts normalized for 50+ miles over 2:13. We had a nice average speed as well – nearly 23 mph including warmup and cooldown at the halfway break point. Not bad for a very small group (around 8 guys).

Sunday – Back to the PCs on a “casual” Sunday group ride. 2:10 of riding with a normalized power of 194 watts. A little harder than I wanted since I’d like to go long Monday (Columbus day, no work).

PC time this week – 5 hours 30 minutes
PC time to date – 69 hours 46 minutes

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Week of September 29

Monday – no riding

Tuesday – Smack bam boom. Let the 2009 training year commence. I figure most of October will be spent doing loads of L3 work. I hopped on the PCs and set out for a 1 hour, 55 minute ride with about 60 minutes in my level 3 zone. What was really different about this ride was my position. I threw on some clip-on aerobars. I’ll been having trouble riding in the drops with the PCs, so the aerobars are meant to be a smooth transition between an upright and more compact position. I wasn’t feeling the absolute best due to the new position, and my power numbers showed it – around 220 W normalized for the hour of tempo. I could not spend the entire time in the aerobars.

Wednesday – A quick 71 minute ride where I just rode briskly. That meant some more tempo in there. I was feeling OK, but the nice thing is it really feels like I’m getting fully acclimated to the Powercranks.

Thursday – The past 2 days have given me a little residual fatigue. I was hoping to get in 75 minutes of tempo riding but just didn’t have the juice to push hard. I did manage a total of 60 or so minutes of L3 riding over 2 hours, but I certainly didn’t meet my goal for the ride.

Friday – no riding, thank goodness

Saturday – Saturday was a group ride day, so I took out the race bike with regular cranks. I felt STRONG. Everytime I was on the front I tried to take pulls at least 3 minutes long and also in my VO2 range. I never felt I was getting fatigued, and one of the guys said he felt I could have pulled everyone around for the whole 55 mile route at a high effort (I probably could have today!). During the 2 hours where we were really pushing, I had a normalized power of 245 W, which is very good for this time of year. Altogether I was out there for 72 miles over 3 and a half hours with a normalized power of 221 watts. Booyah! Equally positive was the 20 minutes in L5 and 10 minutes in L6.

Sunday – Back on the Powercranks today. Was with the group, which is usually casual on Sundays. I just couldn’t get a rhythm going unless I was on the front, and I felt guilty about being selfish with my pulls. When I’d get in the paceline I just couldn’t soft pedal effectively. Stop, go, stop, go. So I drifted off the back and went on a different loop. Coming back I saw one of my teammates cross my upcoming path. When I got on that road I noticed I was now halfway between him and the 80-100 second gap he had on the others. It took 8 minutes and 3 miles, but I closed the 40 second gap on my teammate while riding the PCs. My best effort yet on those things – 8 minutes at 273 W, and in the aerobars.

PC time this week – 7 hours 11 minutes
PC time to date – 64 hours 16 minutes