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.