Monday, January 21, 2013

Training Summary: Transition, Week 2

It seems like I have slipped behind with these summaries, so expect them to come thick and fast over the next couple of days. The second half of my transition was over the New Year, and due to very good weather conditions for the time of year I spent the vast majority of time on the roads doing some longer steady sessions. I put in a bit of intensity - the 4x1' session on Thursday to start boosting my anaerobic capacity, and the 6x3' on Sunday to start VO2 max work (which will be a major goal in the following 8 weeks)

I had a few bike problems with punctures and a tyre blowout, but got a lot of training in and was quite tired by the end!

GOAL: As with Transition Week 1, no pre-set goal.

Monday: 75' steady + rollouts   

Data: ave: 225 W (237 NP), hr 141, cad 91   

Notes: Indoors on turbo so HR a bit elevated. Last 30' of first hour around 250-260 W before 4 x rollouts @ 320-350 W

Tuesday: 3h easy/steady   

Data: 2h44m, 17.1 mph, hr 134, cad 85   

Notes: Puncture half way so rode home on very soft tire (slow!!), also moved saddle down 5mm and forward a bit (road bike)

Wednesday: 3h easy/steady   

Data: 3h15m, 17.9 mph, hr 136, cad 87   

Notes: Lack of puncture definitely made it faster! Headwind-ish for the majority of the way out, then tail for last 20 miles

Thursday: 2h inc 4x1' @ 170-200%   

Data: Pieces: 1: 562 W, 2: 527 W, 3: 518 W, 4: 548 W   

Notes: Done into headwind between Fencott & Murcott. Solid numbers but looking to hit 600 soon.

2h easy   

Data: 1h53m, 17.4 mph, hr 133, cad 86   

Notes: Recovery spin, felt sluggish to begin with.

Saturday: 2h steady   

Data: 1h49m, 17.1mph, hr 144, cad 83   

Notes: Solid steady ride then massive tyre blowout related adventure. Messed around on the turbo for 20 mins on the TT bike too

Sunday: 6x3' @ 115-120%   

Data: 1: 385 W, cad 96, 2: 382 W, cad 95, 3: 386 W, 89 rpm, 4: 384 W, 93 rpm, 5: 380 W, 91 rpm, 6: 392 W, 93 rpm   

Notes: Trying out head tuck position, seemed ok. Need to fix speed sensor to TT frame though! HR also playing up. Interval 4 felt best cadence wise.

Bike Totals: 15h16m, 810 TSS

Summary: Lots of good mileage in, but I definitely don't have the time to be doing this every week!

Monday, January 14, 2013

'The **** that kills'

Referring to a thread on the informative Google Group 'Wattage', this is the idea that training at the 'Sweetspot' intensity is the best way to improve your power numbers during the winter.

Put simply, the Sweetspot as defined by Dr Andrew Coggan is demonstrated by this graph:

The idea is that there exists a region that lies somewhere around 85-95% of your FTP in which you are able to:

1) train extensively in this region on any given day
2) repeat such sessions on a day to day basis without accumulating large amounts of fatigue
3) increase your threshold power when already reasonably fit

Returning to the Wattage thread, the author recounts his anecdotal evidence of significant training in this zone. His routine consisted of doing a turbo session every day from Monday to Friday that included 2x20' intervals ranging from 85-92% FTP, followed by a long steady ride on Saturday and a ride with some harder work on Sunday. He comes to the conclusion (paraphrased in the title) that the training is extremely effective.

At first glance, it seems to me that following this protocol means you miss out on training at your race pace intensity (let's say you are training for a one hour race that you will complete @ 100% FTP). This breaks one of the seemingly fundamental tenets of athletics, that you 'train how you race, race how you train', i.e. that honing in your race pace is of great importance to achieve success.

Combining this with the table below which outlines the expected physiological adaptation from training at certain zones (again from Dr Andrew Coggan), it would seem that removing race pace work from your program is not the ideal way to go.

Adaptation\Zone Z2 (60-75%) Z3 (75-90%) Z4 (90-105%) Z5 (105-120%) Z6 (above 120%)
Increased Lactate Threshold ✓✓ ✓✓✓ ✓✓✓✓ ✓✓

However, having considered the matter following my own 12 week base period in which I did sessions of various types at intensities anywhere between 80-100% of FTP, I can see some clear benefits to the 'Sweetspot' approach that go beyond the realms of physiology.

I am, of course, referring to the mental benefits of such training. I will give two examples that I believe illustrate the superiority of Sweetspot training over Threshold training:

1) 2x20' on the turbo

I am using this because it was the session outlined in the 'Wattage' thread, and also because it is common for cyclists to do 2x20' @ 100% FTP on the turbo.

Doing this session at 100% is tough. Although this isn't necessarily a bad thing, I think that:

- If you have to use a large amount of motivation and willpower for your regular turbo sessions, the risk of 'burnout' is increased.

- Doing this twice a week is thus about the maximum possible, and so you are only getting in 80' of work at your FTP

- On a given day during a hard training block, you won't be able to sustain 100% FTP for the whole hour that you could if fresh and rested - the number is probably more like 30'.

- As such, you leave the session feeling like there is no way that you could sustain that power for a whole hour!

At 90-95%, these negative issues are removed. The session is mentally very easy at 90%, and a bit tougher at 95% but still very comfortable. It's easy to see how you could carry on at that wattage, and you aren't left dreading your next turbo session. Doing it 5 days a week is manageable, giving you 200' of work at these intensities. 

2) 2 hours, including 60' @ 90% on the road.

The Sweetspot intensity comes into its own in this session. As a relatively new time-triallist, the thought of going hard for a whole hour can be daunting.

The pacing bands are so small - 5% too hard and you will be done after 20'. 5% too low and you will lose a minute or possibly more, which is not good for an important race.

However, this minute loss for going too easy isn't that much from a training perspective. If we increase the pacing 'mishap' to 10% too easy, then you have essentially done 60' @ 90%. The figure isn't exact, but you are likely to only gain 2:00-2:30 were you to do the course @ 100% (assuming constant pacing, flat course, no wind).

As such, you can establish a great baseline for your race pace by doing the session outlined. If the course has hills, you will be able to get some idea of how if will feel on the day to push a bit harder on them. If there is wind, you will be able to tell what that might feel like, too.

Not only that, but you will complete the course in a decent time, with total confidence that you can repeat it on race day. For example, if you are aiming to do a 25 mile TT in 57-58 minutes, you will ride 60 or 61 minutes for the course @ 90% (with kind-ish weather conditions).

From this starting point, you can identify where those last 3 minutes of improvement will come from. Sure, they will come from putting out 10% more watts, but the where and how you will put down these extra watts becomes more obvious.

On an undulating course, you might decide that you will stick to this 90% value on the flat sections and push on to 105% or perhaps a bit more on the uphills.

On a windy course, you may decide that you only need to ride at 90% with the tailwind, and 105% with the headwind.

On a flat course, you might decide that your baseline moves up to 95%, saving those last few watts for any small inclines and potentially for the last quarter of the race in which you ride at a minimum of 100%.

Overall, having this 'worst case scenario' (this is, only riding at 90% FTP for a 25 mile TT) already under your belt in training means that you will never lose more than a couple of minutes from your best possible time in a race, and that you are likely to figure out how not to lose these couple of minutes pretty quickly.


Sweetspot training has both physiological and mental advantages vs threshold training

- On the turbo, it is repeatable and requires less willpower (of which everyone has a finite amount)

- On the road, it establishes a baseline for your performance that you have 100% confidence in being able to achieve on race day.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Everyone makes them, but few stick to them.

To me, the key is to be more specific than making a general, sweeping statement concerning some aspect of your life that you wish to improve. The classic 'eat better, drink less, exercise more' just isn't going to work in the majority of cases. Moreover, laziness is often quoted as the reason for the failure of these resolutions but is rarely the true cause.

To illustrate an alternative method, I will now make my own resolutions (a few days late, I know, but then I have done 15 hours of training and lost a kilo of weight since January 1st anyway, so I am not too concerned).

The process will be to isolate the aspect of life (mainly sport for me) that I wish to improve, find something specific within that I am not wholly satisfied with, and come up with a simple and realistic plan to improve it. By following this method, I will ensure that the things I resolve to do are things that I want to do, done in a realistic fashion.

Ad so, I will begin:


- I am happy with my current weight, plus or minus a couple of kgs. As such, the effort required to lose weight is larger than both my desire to do so and the benefits that it would reap.

- However, diet quality is something that can suffer, especially when I am tired from training. The ease of eating a ton of bread or cereal to satisfy my hunger makes it something that I do too often given the lack of nutrients in these meals.

- My goal, therefore, is to reduce the amount of 'empty calories' that I take in after sessions. I have noticed that this relies heavily on satiety, which can be increased with protein and fat rich foods.

- My resolution is to have a thick protein shake with milk after all training sessions, along with a couple of pieces of fruit and a handful of nuts.

This should allow me to recover from the session without having 200g of carbs in the form of peanut butter sandwiches or wheat based cereal. I can then have a normal lunch or dinner in due course (my '3 square meals' tend to be balanced and nutrient rich with lots of veg, good fats, and moderated carbs anyway)

Core strength:

- I don't believe that my core strength is a big limiting factor in my performance. Therefore, I often skip my planned core sessions.

- I think that a cause of this is a lack of precise scheduling. I plan to do the sessions on the same days as my recovery rides (Monday & Friday) but inevitably forget.

- Incorporating a core circuit into the to my recovery rides, thus treating them as an integral part of the session, might go some way to improving my 'hit rate' with regard to the core work.

- My goal is to do 2 core workouts of 20 minutes each per week, every week.

- My resolution is to do them immediately before my recovery rides. Don't get on the bike until its done. If I have to cycle 20 mins less on a recovery day, then such is life.


- I tend to be well enough motivated to do my key workouts of the week, often on the turbo. However, when faced with medium or long roads rides and below average weather, I take the easy way out and sick to the turbo again

- For example, if I plan to do 2 hours with an hour of tempo, then it really should be done on the road in the TT position to get the right sort of practice in. On the turbo, the session end up being 90' (too short!) and I often don't do the whole hour of tempo in the aero bars due to the lack of comfort (restriction of hip movement on the stationary rig makes it uncomfortable, not a poor bike fit!)

- This is occasionally due to lack of daylight hours (easier to do it in the dark on the turbo at 5pm than on the road in the light at 2pm or in the morning) and occasionally due to the weather ('oh, it's a bit wet, let's not get the race bike dirty')

- When I have done these sessions outside, not only have I thoroughly enjoyed them, but I have found them very useful in terms of training effect. 3 hours on the road just isn't the same as 2 on the turbo, whatever others may say (a Watt hour is a Watt hour!)

- All that I need to do is figure out the best time of day for me to do these sessions. If its raining, I do own a rain jacket. It's light from 0800 to 1630 even at this time of year, that's enough time for a bike ride.

- If I am riding with someone else and they are expecting me, then I inevitably do the ride outdoors.

- My goal is to do my designated road rides actually on the roads

- My resolution is to plan these rides well in advance, preferably with a ride partner.

Training (II):

- I rely heavily on carbohydrates before training, which I think is more mental than anything else. I find it tough to contemplate a session before breakfast or if I feel I haven't eaten enough.

- During training I don't face the same problem, and am happy to do 2 hours or more with just water and BCAAs in my bottle.

- Not eating before a morning session, if its not intervals, will likely lead to a greater ability on the part of my muscles to use fat as a fuel source. This will certainly lead to better performance in longer endurance events, and may also improve performance at the lactate threshold (thought the research behind the second part is lacking)

- If I give myself time for breakfast before a planned morning session, I will end up eating it.

- My goal is to do any non-interval morning sessions in a fasted state.

- My resolution is to schedule these rides for such a time that I don't have time to eat, or to plan other things to do before the ride that will take the place of breakfast.


- Studying photos of me racing, my head is often not in the most aerodynamic position, especially when I don't know the course that I am racing on

- I have gone to some effort to put the rest of my body in a good position, but the head is a significant source of drag that I haven't minimised.

- Whilst training, especially on the turbo, there is no obvious reason to put your head in the tuck position and a reason not to: it's uncomfortable! However, I am unlikely to adopt a position in a race that I don't use in training.

- During road intervals, I wear a different helmet and so again the impetus to achieve the correct position is reduced.

- My goal is to get my head out of the wind during races

- My resolution is to practise this whenever I use the aero bars in training and to wear my race helmet when doing intervals on the road, or even on the turbo if its cold enough.


Analysing a small goal in the method presented above will lead to a resolution that is Specific, Measurable, etc (c.f. the traditional SMART goal setting system)

None of the areas I outlined require significant amounts of willpower to achieve on a regular basis, leaving all my willpower for those gruesome lactate tolerance sessions.

This will ultimately make it much more likely that the resolution is stuck to. A broken resolution does more harm than the good intention behind its conception.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Training Summary: Mid-Season Transition, Week 1

You won't find this part of the training year in the textbooks, but I think it's a great way to keep things going over the Christmas and New Year period. The idea came from my rowing background, whereby we would put in three months of predominately steady-state type training in running up to the middle of December, and then have 10-12 days to train on our own before resuming squad training in the New Year.

The New Year work would typically progress quite quickly into work at race pace and above. In between, I always found it most valuable to try and mix up the training and do things that we didn't normally do during squad training. Since squad training consisted of 2 sessions a day with long blocks between steady and threshold intensities, I would try and stay clear of this range and do some harder training above threshold along with some work at the low end of steady.

I found on a number of occasions that this worked not only to make me feel fit and strong after the Christmas break, but also to recharge my mental batteries. As such, it is something that I will implement in my bike training.

The basic idea is not to stress too much about getting in work at certain intensities. Go out and so some steady work, but also do some high intensity bursts to try and wake up my anaerobic system after 4 months of dormancy. This is reflected in my (rough) plan for the fortnight (as always, at

GOAL: None, really. Should be clear from the above that goal setting is not necessary.

Monday: Turbo 1h45 steady

Data: 224 W (228 NP), hr 135, cad 93

Notes: Got a bit wet towards the end.

Would have preferred to go for a spin on the roads as it was a medium day post-race but it was showery, so I stuck with the turbo (and still got caught in the rain). Standard session.

Tuesday: Turbo 60' + rollouts

Data: 200 W (221 NP), hr 131, cad 92. Rollouts varied from 300-400 W

Notes: Christmas morning. Intended to be a tune-up session before the Boxing Day TT.

Wednesday: 12 x 1' on 1' off @ 300-410 W (up 10 each time)

Data: See WKO file (

Notes: All done in TT bars, fun little session.

Definitely in keeping with the spirit of this fortnight's training. I got up far too late to go to the TT so decided to start off at a solid threshold-type level and just increase the power each minute until it got significantly harder. Perhaps not the kind of session that will elicit long term sustainable progress, but I only had 40 minutes and it got me breathing hard.

Thursday: am: 90' steady, pm: 50' inc 25' @ 85%, 10' @ 100%

Data: am: 228 W (238 NP), hr 137, cad 88. pm: 25' @ 282 W, hr 158, cad 91, 10' @ 308 W, hr 169, cad 88

Notes: am: very windy & the odd puddle. pm: last minute of the 10 had dodgy wattage, true avg maybe 305

Put in a big day of training after the Boxing Day indulgence that was our family party. My initial plan was about 2 hours of solid work on the road but I again got up a bit late and only had 90 minutes before brunch, so stuck the bike on the turbo before dinner to do a second session with some moderate intensity in it.

Friday: Turbo 85' inc 6x1' @ 310, 350, 390, 430, 470, 510 W

Data: See WKO file (, but final minute @ 532 W

Notes: Done in base bars, last couple were pretty hard. 4' rest in between.

This was to be 4x1' anaerobic, and so I decided to put in a couple of easier minutes in to get warmed up, as well as allowing me to feel my way into these high power intervals as I haven't done them using a power meter before. In the future these sessions are going to be much harder, but at least I now have some idea of what I can do. I think 500 W for all four pieces is a good target for next time around.

Saturday: 2x20' @ 90%

Data: 1: 285 W, hr 166, cad 87, 2: 289 W, hr 171, cad 89

Notes: Felt pretty shocking.

No idea if that was due to fatigue or dodgy power readings or food or whatever, but the numbers were well down for the RPE - felt almost like threshold!

Sunday: 2 x tabata (8 x 20'' on MAX, 10'' off easy)

Data: See WKO file (

Notes: 500+ to start, settling around 460 once up to speed.

Had about half an hour to train in (again). Decided in the interest of tiring myself out to do some old-fashioned HIIT. Went with the Tabata protocol as I know that it ruins you pretty quickly, especially with the large amount of torque required to speed the turbo wheel up 8 times in 4 minutes!

Bike Totals: 9h08m, 562 TSS

Summary: Always a very busy week with lots of distractions from training, but I think I managed a solid effort.