Monday, December 31, 2007

TT Trunk Angle

Copied from http://biketechreview.com/performance/pareto.htm:

"Getting the trunk angle lower can have a significant impact on aerodynamics and performance as summarized in the “rule of thumb” table below (values generated using a mathematical model which uses an average power constraint to determine the optimal pacing strategy for a given TT course):

Table 1. Cherry Creek TT performance and how it is affected by trunk



This is how trunk angle is defined.


It looks like I'll need some new bars (and maybe some yoga lessons) to get to 8 percent trunk angle or better:

I know it doesn't look like it in the photo, but this position actually feels very agressive on the bike. It feels like I'm way out over the front wheel. The ninja-dude's position must feel like he's sitting on the front wheel.

The time listed with each angle is the time saved on a 40K TT IF POWER IS CONSTANT. That's a big IF with extremely aero positions.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

CTL

This is an overview of my CTL (chronic training load) since Spring 2006, when I started training for bike races:


I read somewhere that for steady, long-term CTL building, you should aim for a CTL each November that equals your prior year's April CTL. Even without specifically trying to do that, I have fit into that pattern over the last two years.

Another interesting item: October was my off month (I rode a little, but didn't train). My CTL constant is set at 42 in Performance Manager, and my current CTL (12-26-07) is 81.6. If I had done a 125TSS workout on October 15th, almost 75 days ago, my CTL would now be 82.1, half a point higher. It's a common misconception that if your CTL constant is set at 42, then only the last 42 days of TSS data will contribute to your current CTL, but that's not true. I believe CTL is calculated using a radioactive decay equation where 42 would be the half-life of the TSS generated in the past. So the older TSS points don't count as much, but they still have an effect. So my October off time is still having an effect on my current CTL.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

1972

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

FTP Improvement

The plan is working..... but can I maintain the progress? We'll see.


(From empirical evidence, I know that my road FTP is 106% of my 45min power on the Computrainer).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What's the Point?

Several folks have asked me: "What's the purpose of your winter training plan? I know it's important to ride lots in the winter, but what exactly are you trying to accomplish?" It's a simple question, but it got me thinking about exactly what I want the plan to do to my body, so here's my best shot at explaining it:

In reading this, it might be helpful to reference the 2008 Winter Training Plan and Coggan's energy systems table.

Winter training goals, sort of prioritized:

  1. Increase L4 - FTP (functional threshold power). During the racing season, and particularly towards the end of the racing season, I usually find myself either recovering, riding 1 to 2 hour hard group rides, or doing short, intense races lasting from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Recovery is a requisite, and there are many benefits to hard group rides and races, but neither is great for increasing FTP. By late season my aerobic engine needs maintenance. By the end of my off-month (October) this year, my FTP had fallen by about 20 watts to 260 watts from my season peak of about 280, which occurred in July or August. Nine base weeks of mostly L2/L3/L4 work including at least one long (3.5-4.0hr+) group ride will rebuild my FTP. Since November 1st, I've measured a steady FTP increase of 2.25 watts per week. If I can keep up that rate of increase, I'll be back to last year's peak of 280 watts by the end of the nine-week winter base training period. I'll start the year with last year's peak number - a larger base on which to build the season.
  2. Build Chronic Training Load. My CTL had dropped to about 70 TSS (total stress score) at the end of October. I want my CTL to be at least 100 when the racing season starts, and I probably should build it to around 110 if possible before the 5-day, 8-stage Tour of Atlanta in May. One of the best ways to increse CTL is by doing 4.5-hour Peach Peloton rides every Saturday that routinely deliver between 250 and 350 TSS points. TSS=(NP/FTP)^2 x 100 x hours. A good rule of thumb to make steady year-to-year progress: raise CTL each November to the level of the prior April.
  3. Regain/maintain endurance ability (L2/L3). The absence of frequent long rides during the season might diminish my ability to ride comfortably at L2 or L3 pace for 4 to 6 hours. The long Saturday rides in my winter plan reestablish and strengthen whatever biological systems enable me to do that. To be honest, I'm not sure exactly how those endurance systems differ from the ones involved in 45min FTP workouts, but I'm sure there are differences. (Probably fat burning ability vs glycogen burning ability?). Being able to ride comfortably at L3 for 5 hours isn't critical for a cat4 bike racer who's races rarely exceed 40-50 miles in length. But the BBQ Bass Ride and the Six Gap Century are more than 50 miles long and I'd like for them to be fun.
  4. Maintain/develop L7 - neuromuscular (NM) sprinting ability. I'm no sprinter. But I've recently learned that a little sprint training goes a long way. I've increased my sprint from about 950w max to 1160w max in 10 weeks with only eight 15sec sprint intervals per week. I think most of that increased power comes from establishing muscle memory and NM adaptations. If you've ever started lifting weights from scratch, you know how much progress you can make in the first month or two - an awful lot. Most of that initial increase comes from teaching your brain and nervous system how to lift the weight - not from larger or stronger muscles. Your nervous system has an automatic governor to prevent you from injuring yourself (you've read about crisis situations in which people display almost superhuman strength - their brains have temporarily turned the governor off). As you do sprint intervals, your NM system slowly raises the level at which the governor will kick in (the adrenaline rush at races does the same thing). That lets you put out more wattage with the same legs. Doing one L7 workout per week during the base period maintains those adaptations so you don't have to learn them again in April. It also does a tiny bit to maintain your ability to tolerate lactic acid.
  5. Maintain ligament and tendon strength. Very simple - sprint workouts keep your ligaments and tendon's strong through the winter so they're ready for the more intense work in spring. I think this makes injuries less likely.
  6. Maintain VO2max and anaerobic systems (L5/L6). The November and December 4-hour Peach Peloton rides on Saturdays often have 20-minute attack zones. The AZs are a good way to keep the anaerobic engine from atrophying over the winter. Too much L5/L6 work in November/December and you won't have the legs or time to develop the aerobic side properly; but I think a little each week will make it easier to kick-start the VO2max (build) and anaerobic workouts in January and February.
  7. January L5 -VO2max. This is transition territory. The 5-minute interval workouts at 110% FTP in January continue to build your aerobic system, but also begin to strengthen your lactate tolerance as speed skills gradually revisited. See training level 5 in Coggan's table. L5 is not that much different that L4, but lactic acid tolerance is initiated.
  8. February L6 - Anaerobic. There is a dramatic difference in the way your body is powered when putting out L6 power compared to when it's putting out power in the L1-L5 zones (see Coggan table above). That's why you can't stay powered at L6 for very long. The 1-minute interval workouts in February develop your L6 (anaerobic/lactic acid buffering) system and prepare you for the intense race efforts required during the season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Training Plan Changes


I've made some winter training plan changes - just tweaking mainly. I've been pleased with the plan so far.

See an image of the new plan to the left. I've posted it for download in Excel format at 2008 Winter Training Plan R2 in case anyone would like to use it as a template or modify it as you see fit.





So what changed?
  • I've corrected an error in the week numbers.
  • In weeks 7, 8, and 9 I've thrown in a 20-minute interval at L4 between two sets of 4 x 15 second sprint intervals. (most of my TTs are 20-min length)
  • I changed all Wednesday 2hr L2 workouts to 1.5 hours of L3 (I'm convinced the benefit is the same or more and it saves time).
  • I changed all Monday 1hr L1 workouts to 45min at L2 (same reason as above). If I feel that I really need the recovery day, I'll just take the day off.
  • In weeks 10-13 I've moved my FTP tests to Thursday and included a FTP test every week instead of every other week.
  • I updated some of the TSS numbers for Peach Peloton rides to be more realistic. I was assuming 225 to 250 TSS for those rides and I've routinely generated over 300 TSS.
  • I added the Pine Mt. Challenge
  • I added the Race Around Macon
  • I added the Tundra Time Trial.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Winter L4 work on TT bike - yes or no?

I'm of the opinion that alternating from road bike to TT bike for my weekly 45-min power test is a good way to improve my power on the TT bike for spring. And even if my power is slightly lower in TT position, I think I still get great benefit from a physiological perspective.

A few contributors to Google Wattage and a friend of mine have very different opinions. They say that I'm wasting my time by riding the TT bike in December when I should be using every valuable minute of L4 winter training to increase road bike FTP. They say I should be on my road bike for every L4 workout until February.

I think I'm going to be stubborn and continue to do every other week in TT position because I think the benefits outweigh the costs. If you have an opinion, enter it into the poll on the upper right corner of the blog.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Agony, Agony, Agony

Some days you just don't have it. I suffered through my 45-min test in TT position on the Cervelo last night. I never felt comfortable, constantly looking for the right cadence and getting weaker as I went. The experience was quite unpleasant. It sucked - 228 watts (that corresponds to a FTP of 242 watts for my aggresive TT position (for a variety of reasons I can generate about 6% more power on the road). Maybe next time will be better.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cycling Frontal Area

I found this photo and thought it was interesting:

I guess whoever created this didn't have a TT bike? My guess is that TT position would be somewhere between the two recumbent photos in frontal area.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Power-Equipment-Speed Relationships

I spend and awful lot of time and energy measuring my power on the bike. But power doesn't win races, speed does. For the foreseeable future, power will be the best way to track changes in fitness; and it will be the best method of structuring a training program.

But in order to step back and see the big picture or to run through various equipment scenarios, I think it's important to know:

  1. how much faster will I be on a flat TT if I increase my FTP by 20 watts, or

  2. how much time will I cut off a climb if I lose 5 pounds, or

  3. how much time will I cut off a climb if I buy a bike that's 2 pounds lighter, or

  4. how much energy (power) will I save sitting in a 25-mph paceline if I swap my Ksyriums for Zipp 404s, or

  5. if I do a solo break away with one lap to go on the rolling Augusta road race course would I go faster with my lighter box section rims or heavier but more aero deep section rims, or

  6. what will the winning gap be if I sprint with 800 watts over 150 meters against a 180-pound guy putting out 970 watts? And more importantly, who will win? And if it's not me, how many more watts do I need to win?

There are many variables involved in answering those questions, but almost all of them are measurable to a fairly high degree if you have the time, equipment, patience, and desire. I've already answered many of them for myself, but I've used different spreadsheets or methods or web sites for almost every question and situation. And those spreadsheets, methods, or web sites often make assumptions that I don't agree with or simplifications that don't apply to what I'm doing. So it's hard to be consistent across the board with answering the questions and be confident in the answers.

So I decided to create a spreadsheet that ties all the physics together to the best of my abilities. I'm well aware that I'm probably the 10,000th person to attempt this task and that it's been done by folks with a lot more knowledge that I have. My spreadsheet might be better than some and will not be as good as others you might have seen. I hope it is accurate from a physics and math standpoint, but I'm not 100% sure. If you find errors, please let me know so I can make corrections and minimize the embarrassment factor.

But if nothing else, going through the tedious process has helped me understand the physics behind the above questions better than I did before, and that's reason enough to do it.

I've named the spreadsheet Badger because all the other names I thought of were about a mile long and sounded like the title of someone's masters thesis. This is bike racing, not study hall. It's a work in progress, but if you assume a rolling resistance coefficient, you can calculate almost anything else (use Crr=0.005 if you aren't sure. There are field tests to measure Crr, and I'll work on those later).

My spreadsheet is available here: Badger

In a nut shell, this is how it works:

  • The first sheet, "CdA calc", uses your input data (weight, weather data, distance, time, slope, and assumed rolling resistance) to calculate the forces against the rider (rolling resistance, air resistance, and slope resistance). Start and finish speeds should be entered so momentum can be accounted for, but results are best when start and finish speeds are equal. All the forces against the rider are set equal to the wattage you put out (to satisfy conservation of energy), and the equation is set up to solve for your drag coefficient CdA. For coast down tests, use wattage equal 0.
  • On the second sheet, input your weight, weather data, and the CdA that you calculated from the first sheet (you have to manipulate Cd and A to get the right CdA). Use 0.40 for A if you aren't sure - as long as CdA is correct it really doesn't matter). Assume a rolling resistance coefficient (Crr). Then you can set up each segment of any course to see how changing variables such as wattage, weight, rolling resistance, and CdA will change your finish time for the entire course. If the totals on the left side of the spreadsheet show errors, just delete any cells on the right side of the spreadsheet that aren't being used and that should solve the problem.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Strange Time for New Sprint Records

My sprint power:

Old Records: ------Peak-1042w; 1s-1062w; 5s-979w; 10s-880w
Today's numbers: Peak-1149w; 1s-1119w; 5s-1061w; 10s-919w

Either the Thursday 8x15s intervals are having an effect or I have a fresher anaerobic system this time of year because I'm doing mostly aerobic work. Maybe some of both.

Thank you Otter and Badger for serving as carrots on the 1/5 second and 10 second records, respectively. I lost both sprints, but maybe I was close enough for you to hear me breathing for a change.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Time Trial Pacing

I've always read how important it is to pace properly in TTs. My last two FTP tests on the Cervelo are hard evidence of that fact.

Two weeks ago, I started out too hard. My first 5 minutes I averaged almost 300 watts. I ended up averaging 251 watts over 45 minutes and was completely exhausted at the end - I didn't even have a good finishing kick.

Last night I started out correctly. My first 5 minutes I averaged 263 watts. I ended up averaging 265 watts over 45 minutes. I felt better throughout the test and had a very strong finishing 5 minute push.

My motivation was pretty low last night, so I attribute the entire wattage increase to proper pacing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Orbea FTP Test

Last Tuesday was a 45-min FTP test on the Cervelo in TT position on the computrainer -- average 251 watts.

This Tuesday was a 45-min FTP test on the Orbea in road position on the computrainer -- average 274 watts.

That's a 9% difference and realistically probably 10% becasue I was fresher for the TT ride. That's about the difference that I expected between the two bikes/positions. The Orbea ride was also paced much better and I felt much more powerful throughout the test. It wouldn't surprise me if my TT ride wattage next Tuesday is higher due to better pacing alone.

The unexpected part of the whole deal was finding out that my computrainer wattage is 10% higher than the wattage measured by my Ergomo (mounted on my Orbea). I'm confident that my Ergomo is accurate, and this confirms a 10% difference between the two that I found last week when testing a teammate. I thought maybe his left leg was weaker due to a prior injury (which would result in an Ergomo/CT discrepancy), but I guess not. You'd expect the computrainer number to be a little less than the Ergomo number (maybe 2-4%) because of drivetrain losses between the crank and the road, but not 10% different.

All of my Tuesday night FTP tests will be on the computrainer but not always with the Ergomo, so I'll use CT numbers in my winter-training tracking charts. Measuring change is the important part, not measuring accurate wattage. Plus using the CT numbers will make me look stronger than I actually am, which is always a bonus!

Bottom line: My road FTP is about 265 now. Hopefully when I test in early January it will be at least 280.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cervelo FTP test

My winter training season officially kicked off this week, and Tuesday is my FTP test day. I plan to alternate each Tuesday between my Cervelo P2K and my Orbea Orca. (winter plan is posted at http://jasperga.blogspot.com/2007/09/new-2008-training-schedule.html) Two reasons to alternate: 1. I'll get good L4 workouts in TT position and road position and 2. I'll find out how much power I sacrifice in the TT position.

Last night's FTP test was 45 mintues long. I started out much too hard, although I didn't realize it at the time. My first 20 minutes average was 265 watts, but my total test average was 251 watts.

I'm not sure exactly how to interpret the numbers. This summer I developed a theory that 20-minute ave power on a computrainer is equal to FTP (for more infor on that theory, see http://jasperga.blogspot.com/2007/06/ftp-testing-and-hammerhead-sharks.html). So the 265 watt 20-minute average is what I would expect this time of year on my Orbea. The 251 watt 45-minute average should be multiplied by probably 1.03 to account for trainer vs. race motivation factor, which would give me 258w for FTP. That seems about right for TT position. I hope to find that my road bike FTP is 10-20 watts higher than my TT bike FTP.

It'll be interesting to see what the Orbea numbers look like next Tuesday. Maybe with better pacing I can yeild a FTP in the 275 range with the Orca. If so, then my February target FTP might be in the 290 to 295 watt range (4.4 watts/kg). That would be a very good platform from which to begin higher intensity training for 2008.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sunday Dirt

I'll be doing a 2- to 2.5-hour mountain bike ride on rural dirt roads between Monticello and Macon on most Sundays at 2pm from November to February. I'll change the route from week to week. Anyone comfortable with a 12-14 mph pace (steady, but not hard) is welcome to join me. I'll post each week's details at http://sundaydirt.blogspot.com/. E-mail me at robert@jordan-eng.com to let me know if you plan to ride. Some Sundays it'll just be me, some days there will be others.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tick Tick Boom

The 2007 season is a goner.

TTB.mp3


7242 miles, 243,576 kilojoules, 394 hours, 28 opportunities to podium, lots of good rides, and very few that sucked.

My 2006 to 2007 progress was good -- I can't expect to repeat that from 2007 to 2008. But I will find a way to tweak a little more speed from this bag of bones. Maybe hypnosis?





BBQ Bass Ride










Jake with his Daddy in Rome

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No BS

Cycling is the best sport I've found, and I've tried quite a few; but there's a boatload of bullshit in cycling. Most of it comes from marketing folks who greatly over exaggerate the benefits of this or that upgrade. But I've also found that a lot of it comes from folks who study exercise physiology or the physics of cycling. It's a complicated subject, and a little knowledge can be dangerous. It's easy to sound smart but not know what the hell you're talking about.

As I said in my last post, I've been trying to figure out exactly when to put L2 workouts in my plan to do me the most good. After a lengthy literature search, I couldn't find an answer that satisfied me. So with some hesitation, I decided to place a simple post on the Google Wattage discussion group (not the best place to go with stupid questions).

The thread bounced around a little but finally got down to one simple question: "For base training when does it benefit me to do a 3-hour L2 effort (TSS=133) instead of a 2.2-hour L3 effort (TSS=133)?"

I expected some long-winded sermon about mitochondrial density increase. But instead, I got a straight, honest answer from Dr. Coggan: "I don't know, and I don't think anyone else really does, either."

I'll have to admit that I was surprised and impressed by his candor. He could have gotten away with a bullshit answer, but he didn't try it. The greater part of wisdom is knowing what you don't know. And if he doesn't know, I can guarantee you that no one else reading this does.

So ride lots, experiment, and try to find what L2/L3 combination works best for you. And ride Peach Peloton pace as much as you want during the base training months, just make sure to recover properly so you can hammer in the Attack Zones.

I think I was wrong

My last post praised an article in Pez that basically said: Don't do too much L3 (tempo) riding. Try to ride more L2, L4, L5, et cetera.

Although the article was not completely off base - some people, mostly those who don't structure their training, get in a rut and do L3 ALL the time. That can cause problems. First, it might keep you so fatigued and mentally fried that you can't do your higher-intensity workouts properly so you don't get the full benefit. Second, riding L3 all the time, day after day, might put you in the position of not getting enough recovery time and then you can't get the periodization effect working in your favor. So there was some merit in the article.

But then I studied this chart again:

If you take a good look at all the aerobic training zones, L1 through L4, they all impact the same metabolic systems. As you increase intensity from L1 to L4, you get more training effect per minute of workout for every aerobic adaptation (except you get more muscle glycogen storage response at L3 than at L4), but the effects are the same for all of those levels. There are limits to how long you can train at L4 (probably more mental than physical), so you have to throw some lower level (L2 and L3) workouts in your plan to stress your aerobic systems adequately for base training adaptations to occur.


L1 training days are better than taking an off day because they increase blood flow to the legs and accelerate your recovery process without adding additional fatigue. But why is it important to train at L2? Don't we get the same metabolic benefits by training at L3 in a shorter period? Wouldn't that allow us to stay mentally fresher for those dark basement trainer rides? Why not do all aerobic base training at L1, L3, and L4?

I have posed that question on Google Wattage, and so far, no one has really answered the question. I'm beginning to think that there is no specific reason to do L2 work instead of L3 work as long as you carefully track ATL, CTL, and TSS and include proper recovery.

I guess people ride L2 because it's harder to maintain L3 effort for long periods. But unless any of you haven't noticed, bike racing is hard.

I'm still looking for answers. And if I find any, I'll update this post.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Avoiding Zone 3 Syndrome

This is good stuff:
http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/?pg=fullstory&id=5392&status=True

Riding Peach Peloton on Saturday is great training -- but mix it up on the other six days of the week so you don't get in a rut.

The base phase of my winter training specifies 3-5 hrs of L3 (tempo) riding on Saturdays. But then I have a couple of hours of dirt L2 on Sunday, a little L1 on Monday just to get the blood flowing to help recovery, some L4 training/testing on Tuesday, L2 on Wednesday, L7 on Thursday, and rest on Friday. (See the plan in "New 2008 Training Schedule" in the September archives).

If I do it correctly, I'll be ready to include L5 and L6 workouts later in the winter when I've finished concentrating on FTP development.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Upgraded and ready for winter

I've been aware for a while that there was new firmware available for my Ergomo power meter, but I didn't want to mess with it during peak season. Yesterday I upgraded the firmware. The biggest change is customizable screens. Before now, I'd have to press a button to scroll through various screens to see averages, maximums, NP, AP, distance, et cetera. But now I've put all the stuff I need on one screen. My main screen now looks like this:
_____________________
POWER----------SPEED

AVE PWR------AVE SPEED

NORM PWR--------TSS

Ride Time----Ride Dist
__________________________

It's set up from a PC using software that lets you move the numbers around:















I also upgraded my Computrainer software. Computrainer now inlcudes Normalized Power, Intensity Facotor, and Total Stress Score information. I guess they purchased the rights to that stuff from Dr. Coggan.

Lastly, I upgraded my coaching software (it runs ERG files on the Computrainer).

Computrainer and Coaching software now both have a customizable aero factor so when I'm riding my TT bike on the CT, I'll get more real-world speed numbers.

Now I'm ready to upgrade my legs to the 2008 version.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Middle Georgia Cycling Map

Every year I explore more routes, mainly in Jasper, Monroe, Jones, Putnam Counties. And once in a while I update my map with the new routes. The map below is the current version. The best road bike routes are shown in a solid green line. Usually those are smooth-paved, low-traffic, county-maintained roads. In general, green and yellow mean good and ok; red means avoid if possible. A continuous line means smooth pavement and a dashed line means rough pavement. Dirt roads are shown in gray.

I've also shown a couple of 2-hour dirt road routes in pink (Wayside 8 and Round Oak-Stanfordville) that I plan to frequent this winter at an endurance pace on Sunday afternoons at 2pm if anyone is interested - more on that later. If anybody wants a better-quality pdf version of the map, just e-mail me and I'll send you one (robert@jordan-eng.com).

Most of my recent additions are between Monticello and Gray and north of Hwy 83 in northern Monroe and southern Butts Counties. There are lots of paved county roads in that area, but it's a little difficult to access from Monticello.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Breaking the Hour Barrier with Geometry

When I modified my TT bike setup a couple of months ago, I pushed the saddle back and lowered the bars a little. It was more aero, but it bothered my back and I didn't feel any more powerful (I thought I would with the saddle further back.)

Here's my July position with angles depicted:


Notice the 87-degree hip angle. That's too acute according to TT position experts - and I could tell that it was too acute becasue my back hurt after a hard 90-minute effort and I didn't feel powerful.

My latest position feels super. I'm as powerful as on my road bike and I'm lower and more aero than I was in the previous setup. Even though I lowered my bars about 4 cm to achieve the second setup, moving the saddle forward about 6cm actually opened up my hip angle and allowed me to breathe better. The 90-degree hip angle and the closer-to-90 shoulder angle also both feel more powerful.



I won't mess with my position much more, because this one works. This summer's position changes have lowered my 40K TT time from 1:04:30 to about 59 minutes, even though my road bike Functional Threshold Power has barely changed. That kind of improvement is worth the effort.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Six Gap Century power data

Here's my data from Sunday's Six Gap Century in Dahlonega.

Neel’s – AP258, NP260 18:34 3.3mi
Jack’s – AP242, NP259 25:02 5.5mi
Unicoi – AP242, NP261 13:24 2.2mi
Hogpen – AP228, NP238 42:54 6.9mi
Wolfpen – AP228, NP230 20:52 2.8mi
Woody – AP201, NP230 20:52 1.5mi
(AP-average power; NP-normalized power)

Power and elevation graph scaled by distance:

I found the Unicoi power trend interesting. Jake hit the climb hard early and I gradually and very steadily ramped up my effort to finish with him at the top.

Power and elevation graph scaled by time:

Thursday, September 27, 2007

September Sprints results

I was skeptical that I could improve my short-interval anaerobic power very much in only 5 weeks, especially at the end of a season where I'd had a fair amount of unstructured short interval work in races and hard group rides. And my 5-week plan didn't include as many sprint intervals as I'd planned to do.

But as the graph below shows, just a few weeks of about two sprint interval sessions per week (8 x 15sec) have resulted in a pretty good uptick in my 30-second, 60-second, and 2-minute max power. I've thought about whether there is another reason for those improvements, but have no other excuse than the sprint intervals. As I've said before, I'm no sprinter, but improvement in those time intervals should help me stay closer to the front in bunch sprints.




Like they say, your body can't do what you don't train it to do, and I've always hated sprint intervals and not done many. I found that the more I did them, the less I disliked them. I think even one sprint interval session a week throughout the season would make a noticeable difference, and they can be done quickly before a longer ride so they don't mess with your schedule very much.

It's also interesting to note that my winter training plan includes L7 (10 to 15-sec sprint) intervals one day per week during the L1-L4 (base) training phase. According to the folks who study this stuff, you can do L7 intervals and if you recover completely between intervals, they won't negatively affect your aerobic adaptation becasue you aren't really stressing your anaerobic metabolism in such a short time, you're just stressing your musculoskeletal systems. But if you try to mix in L5 or L6 intervals during the base training period, your aerobic adaptation will be reduced, so avoid them if possible.

That tells me that the sprint intervals probably aren't helping me through better anaerobic energy system development, but through neurological adaptation. The muscle memory and nerve signal systems are improving, which is the same thing that happens when you start lifting weights after a long layoff and you get big gains in the first few weeks without any muscle growth.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New 2008 Training Schedule

I recently posted a training schedule for '08. Ignore it. This is the real one. I developed it after reading "The Road Cyclist's Guide to Training by Power" by Charles Howe with Dr. Andrew Coggan's input.

I read all kinds of stuff about training with power, but this is by far the most concise and applicable document that I've seen. And its free at http://www.freewebs.com/velodynamics2/rcgtp1.pdf

My trainin plan looks like this:


Friday, September 21, 2007

TT improvement

My experiment with a new TT position has to be considered a success. I feel just as powerful as before and I'm much more aero. I will do a final tweak this week by lowering my bars another cm and bringing my seat about 1-2 cm further forward, then I think I'll leave it alone. It's difficult to see my improvements without a power meter on the Cervelo, but I know they are there based on my recent rides.

Three times in the past 5 weeks I've done the Thursday Worlds course in Macon with the group ride:


Chasing or being chased helps tremendously with the motivation factor, which is critical for an hour and a half TT ride at full power. The first two times I averaged 21.9 and 22.1 mph. I skipped a week and last night averaged 23.2 mph. That's a huge improvement. Some of it is due to a shortened course the third time that did not include Moran Road, which has a long false flat. But I know it was not all due to the course change, because I was averaging about a mile per hour faster at the Montpellier Rd turn this week compared to the other two weeks.

Also very importantly, my back was not sore this time. The rearward saddle and low bars position I tried before put too much strain on it. The new position is much more comfortable. I could have ridden for another hour at the same pace, I think, if I'd had food. Long TT skills don't really help me in Cat4, though, because our TTs are usually only 10 to 25 miles long.

I've ordered a replacement for my slow Tufos (Vittoria Chrono EVO CS tubulars - hopefully with at Crr 0.0004), but they won't arrive in time to be mounted and dry properly for the State TT in Rome in about 10 days, so Tufos and a Crr of about 0.006 it is. I didn't need that 30 seconds anyway.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

It's the TSB, stupid

I last posted wondering why my performance had improved in the last month and provided a few possible theories. Then I received a comment on my post from Stuart Lynn (http://tt-training.blogspot.com/). He suggested that the increases in performance may be due to a positive Total Stress Balance (TSB). One glance at my TSB trend over the summer (see my recent "2007 Training Load" post) almost proves that he's right. My TSB hovered around or below zero from March to mid-August, but has been between 5 and 15 for much of late August and September. That's mainly due to the ATL/CTL spike I got at RAGBRAI.

If I put any faith in Andrew Coggan's Performance Manger, then the the obvious answer is that the RAGBRAI effort has indeed paid dividends 4 to 8 weeks later. That means I'm crazy if I don't try to repeat that type of effort a few times a year at the appropriate times.

Thanks, Stuart, for helping me to see the obvious.

RR power and Crit power

Sometimes the more charts I have to study, the less each of them means to me. If I wanted to boil my long-term cycling training progress down to two numbers, they would be:

1. Functional Threshold Power (FTP) - sustainable power for an hour

2. Crit Normalized Power (CNP) - sustainable power for 35 minutes

The first is well-known. I just invented the second one.

Those two numbers are indicative of my sustainable power in road racing (FTP) and criterium racing (CNP). Here's a chart of how those numbers have increased for me over the past season:



Both numbers showed substantial improvement through the winter and early spring, then plateaued through the summer, and have started trending upwards again. My FTP is now at 280 and my CNP is at about 292. Why the late season increases? Here are some theories as to why the numbers might be going up again:

1. Cumulative effect of entire year of hard training (this one may be the most likely explanation)

2. Delayed effect of huge weekly effort at RAGBRAI in late July (8 weeks, that seems reasonable for adaptation to the effort?)

3. Effect of sprint training that I started in mid-August (unlikely, I think, but possibly a contributor).


Keeping the numbers headed northward is one thing. Next and just as importantly, I have to learn how to use the power more efficiently in races - staying at the front of crits, attacking at the right time in road races, working effectively for teammates, etc.

Friday, September 14, 2007

2007 Training Load

Here's my 2007 CTL chart. I started last November at about CTL=40. CTL is chronic training load, expressed as TTS/day. It's not an average, but a power function with a half-life of 42 days. (The yellow is total stress balance [TSB]. Check out the CTL spike and the TSB valley of doom that I endured for about a week after RAGBRAI in July.)




Anyway, you can see that it took me all winter last year with Peach Peloton rides on weekends (see the little spikes in the blue line from November to February that faded back during the following weeks) and riding the trainer and doing weight workouts on weekdays to get from 40 up to about 65 by the time the season got underway and I started working on some intensity.


This year I plan to use erg files, computrainer racing against others, and more riding during the week to prevent my CTL from dropping below about 70 or so. I'll also keep some intensity included in my weekday workouts. Hopefully, I'll be more prepared for intensity when next season's races start.


Also, I hope to maintain my current FTP of around 278 watts so that the Peach Peloton rides this year will give me an intensity factor of about 0.74 instead of the 0.85 that I got last year. The 0.74 should be more effective in giving me the endurance mileage that I need without requiring me to take so much time for recovery during the early part of each week. (Those numbers assume that my normalized power on Peach Peloton rides will be about 205 watts, like last year. If I work more at the front or if the rides are faster than last year, I might be looking at IF=0.85 again).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tracking Functional Power

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is the highest average power you can hold for a 1 hour steady effort. I performed a 1-hour road test for FTP in December 2006 and found it to be 240 watts. I tried again in April and got a result of 268 watts. My next sheduled test was August, but when I attempted the test, I couldn't get through it mentally - I stopped after 20 minutes. I guess it was just one of those days.

The difficulty of accurately measuring FTP on any given day got me thinking. I compared my FTP testing results with my 60-minute best normalized power (NP) for the same period and saw a very strong correlation. So I think I might make the formal FTP test a thing of the past and just monitor my 60 min NP to determin my FTP - it seems to be just as good or better of an indicator that one test on a single day and it uses data from hard training and racing, requiring no training-to-racing conversion factors. (With FTP testing in training, I always threw in a 1.03 factor to account for motivation of racing, etc., and I'm always a little wary of generic factors). So from now on I'll use racing data and keep the factors out of it.

FTP is a good indicator of road racing and TT fitness, but to get a better handle on my crit fitness, I'll also track what I'll call CTP, or Crit Threshold Power. It's nothing more then mean maximal 35-minute NP. It includes more of the anaerobic effort required for short crit races like we see in cat4 races, so it might not track exactly with FTP throughout a season.

As you can see below, my FTP climbed over the winter and early spring, levelling out at about 275 watts, which I think is accurate. My CTP pretty much mirrored FTP except for a jump in the last month, which I attribute to the sprint training I've started to do. I look forward to see where that goes with more work.

One last caveat: in order for this chart to accurately reflect my fitness, I need to make sure to do at least one or two hard 35-minute and 1-hour efforts in each two month period, even during the winter. Do crits exist in January?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

October off? Nope.

Once upon a time, about a month ago, I had decided that I'd take October completely off the bike again like I did last year. Now I've changed my tune. The Sprints experiment is going well and I don't want to lose too much form heading into winter, so I've modified my plans to keep my TSS from dropping below 65 or 70 (it's about 85 now).


I'll do three workouts per week in October: Each week I'll ride the Tuesday Worlds in Macon, I'll do sprint intervals on Thursdays, and do a 4-hour endurance ride on Saturday or Sunday. In November, when the time changes, I'll begin Computrainer workouts during the week and ride with the Peach Peloton on Saturdays.

It will look like this through December:





A little explanation of the rides listed on the calendar:TSS is the Total Stress Score I expect for each ride.
CT 90-90-90 is a Computrainer ERG workout that I've created. After warmup, ride 20min @ 90% FTP, then do 2 x 5min @ 90% 5min max power, then 3 x 30sec @ 90% 30sec max power and cool down. Takes about an hour - TSS 83.
The sweet spot is 90% of FTP (250w for me). I'll do three 15-minute intervals at 250w with 7 minutes rest between intervals, then finish with three 20-second sprint intervals and a cool down (TSS 97).

Sprints are working?

I think my September Sprints experiment is working.

It makes sense that your body can only do what you have trained it to do, but I didn't fully appreciate it until I saw the numbers. After only two or three weeks of very unstructured sprint workouts (in some cases that means just throwing in a few sprints on my endurance rides), I can already see a difference. Yesterday I was doing a just tool around town kind of recovery ride. I decided to give one big effort up Persons Street to open my legs. I went hard, but didn't feel like I was hell-bent. My 30-second power from that spur-of-the-moment effort was 575 watts, 30 watts higher then my previous 30-second best power. That info nugget along with the data from my Grant Park crit on Saturday (best 40-min normalized power ever by 20 watts @ 295w).

Based on this preliminary anecdotal success, I'll continue the experiment into October to see where it takes me. I'll never be a sprinter, but I think this type of workout could really help me race crits better next year.

Monday, September 10, 2007

End of Season Assessment

I've completed my last race for 2007, so it's a good time to look back and see how the season went. I'll take the next few posts and look at several variables and how they changed from 2006 to 2007 and throughout the 2007 season.

First, I'll compare overall fitness. Two charts pretty much tell the story when it comes to my 2006 fitness vs my 2007 fitness. The first is Mean Maximal Power 2006/2007, shown here:




My Cycling Peaks WKO+ software searches the data from all of my power meter downloads throughout the season to compile this chart. The x axis is the time interval on a logarithmic scale, and the y axis is my best 2007 average power for each time interval. It's worth noting that my time trial data is not included because I don't yet have an Ergomo bottom bracket for the Cervelo.

It's pretty obvious that I've made huge gains since the 2006 season. My peak sprinting power has increased from about 800 watts to about 1000 watts. My 1-minute power has increased from about 300w to 460w, and my 1-hour power (Functional Threshold Power) has increased from about 210w to about 280w. Some of that is not reflected directly on the chart, but most of it is there.

Here is the same data presented using Normalized Power, which is essentially equivalent constant power (it needs at least 5 minutes of data to work, so there is no 0-5min data here):



My power has increased across the board, but the increase from about 240 watts to 300 watts normalized power for the 30-minute interval has probably made the biggest difference. That improvement has allowed me to stay in all my competitive division crits this year. With last year's power, I think I'd have been dropped in all of them. I held a normalized power of about 290 watts for 40 minutes in the Grant Park crit last weekend and still only barely was able to hang onto the end of a very hard charging front group. Maybe next year I can get that number to 310 or 320 so that I can contest those races instead of just hanging in there.

I'd say my 2007 improvements were due to:
30% - Peach Peloton rides last winter providing me a much better early-season base
30% - Tuesday Worlds hard rides making the longer high-intensity rides easier to do
20% - A fairly regular racing schedule (about 25 races over 7 months)
10% - Computrainer ERG workouts to maintain some intensity in early-season training
10% - Targeted training and self-analysis made possible by Ergomo power data and Cycling Peaks WKO+ software

Friday, September 07, 2007

TT Position - Phase II

Aero is important for going faster - that's obvious. But cycling past age 40 would be nice, too, and I'm 39. My new aero position is undoubtedly more aero than my old position, and therefore it's faster; but it puts more strain on my lower back than my old TT position did (and much more than my road position does) because my legs-torso angle is more acute. The last thing in the world I need is a bad back - that'll shut you down fast and for a long time. So I'm going to change again to save my back.

The reason my torso angle is so acute is that I lowered the bars and slid my saddle back at the same time when I developed my new position. I lowered the bars to flatten my back and drop my frontal area - that's standard. But I figured my power output would be higher if I slid my saddle back to something similar to my road position. I think it works - my power seems good. And moving the saddle back gave me an important unexpected benefit: it increased my reach so that my upper arms are at about a 45 degree angle with vertical. That lowers my shoulders and upper body more.

So I need to increase my legs-torso angle without going back to the higher shoulders-torso position. The first obvious thing to try is to slide the saddle back forward - maybe not as far as it used to be, but several inches, at least. That'll raise my shoulders because my upper arm angle will get back close to vertical. To lower my shoulders back down, I guess I'll take spacers out and lower the bars again.

One thing that I have learned in messing with this stuff is how cool Levi and Floyd's positions are on their TT bikes. I mentioned that I changed my upper arm angle away from vertical and lowered my shoulders by stretching out more. They have taken the exact opposite approach and changed their upper arm angles by bringing their bars in closer to the saddle, giving them the 'mantis' look. I'd love to try that, but I'd need a smaller TT bike frame - probably not going to happen. Before I move my position again, I'll photograph it and compare it to my old one so I can see how the angles are changing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

September Sprints

My racing season is over, so I've planned an experiment for the last 6 weeks before my October break: sprint training.

I rarely do sprint intervals -- partly becasuse I can't sprint, so I figure why worry -- and partly becasue they can be rather painful. But in looking at my 2006 data, I've noticed that even without any anaerobic-specific training work (except for what I get accidentally on Tuesday nights and in races) my maximum 5-second wattage has climbed from about 810 watts in 2006 to about 1000 watts in 2007. Maybe more importantly for practical application in racing, my maximum 10-second wattage has jumped from the mid 800s to 930 watts in the past couple of months.

Although I'll never be considered a sprinter, I want to find out how 6 weeks of sprint-specific training will affect my 5-second, 10-second, and 15-second maximal wattages. If I see a significant improvement by the end of September, I'll make sure to include sprint intervals in my training next spring. If my numbers don't move much, I'll leave out the sprint intervals next year and spend that time on hill repeats and TT threshold intervals.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Augusta Georgia Cup

MAX had another solid Georgia Cup weekend. A short summary:

Prologue
TT was a 4K relatively flat loop around a pond in a park. The first 150m were uphill, then most of the remainder was pretty flat with a few technical turns. Only Drew and I raced from Macon. I took 23rd with a 5:18 and Drew took 27th with 5:23. Drew lost a few seconds avoiding a car, but it was otherwise uneventful.

Crit
After inspecting the 1K crit course with a chicane at one end and pronouncing it 'wrecky,' Drew kept the rubber side down. (Drew, Trey, Jeff, and I all rode in the competitive crit). About half way through, the guy in front of me went down in turn 4. I had no where to go but over the top of him. Luckily, he and his bike padded my crash pretty well and the only major damage was a chainring tatoo on my hip and a little upper arm road rash. I replaced my chain and took to the pit for a free lap. I got back in an held on to the back of the main group for a 27th place finish and no lost time on GC. Jeff took 5th and picked up a $50 prime, and Drew placed 13th with a strong finishing sprint. Trey got caught behind the crash and delayed, but he didn't get a free lap because he didn't go down, so he was forced to battle for the remainder of the day.

Road Race
Jeff raced in the elite division in the morning and took 2nd in a 3-man breakaway! Congratulations, Jeff. It was very hot at 1:30 when Trey, Drew, and I got started, so they reduced our race from 4 laps to 3 (about 44 miles). The 14.6-mile loop course has a couple of significant hills early, rollers in the middle, and a little climb to the finish. Other than one long solo breakaway that got about a minute on the field in the middle of the race, it was pretty uneventful. We finished in an uphill sprint. Drew took 9th, I took 12th, and Trey was a few spots behind us. Only Drew and I from MAX entered all three races. I snagged 5th in the GC and Drew took 8th GC to finish off the season with a positive note.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Happy Talk meets the TT course

Ok, my last post was a bunch of happy talk about how I was so much more aero since I'd improved my position, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Numbers are interesting, but the subtitle of this blog is 'Notes on my attempt to ride a bike faster,' not 'Notes on my attempt to prove mathematically that I have a better aero factor.'

So -- today I did a time trial.

A little background:
I started training for races in April '06. For the first 6 months, I didn't own a power meter, but I wanted to track my training progress. So I established a little 6-mile out-and-back hilly time trial and ran it hard every few weeks. In early '06 my times were in the 17:30 range. I made a May goal to do the TT course in 16 minutes by the end of the season (September 2006). I worked hard, but the best time I could muster in '06 was 16:29 (21.4 mph). I was sort of ill with myself for setting an unrealistic goal - in retrospect, I thought, 60 seconds improvement on a 6-mile course was not realistic.

This year I have a power meter, so I didn't need the TT course to monitor my form. Also, my favorite races, Rome, Dahlonega, and Augusta would have a TTT, an uphill TT, and a 2-mile prologue, so I didn't work on my time trialing much this year. In May, when I thought my form was good and I'd go out and crush my pitiful '06 TT efforts, I ran my TT course and turned in a 16:45. Damn - 15 seconds off last year's best. I pretty much stopped using the course after that.

I tried the course again today. I knew I was more aero, but I was skeptical that I could maintain adequate power in my new TT position to go very much faster, particularly on a short, hilly track like my test course.

Well it turns out that I'm faster -- a LOT faster. I did the course in 15:29 (22.9 mph) in a slight breeze. That's a minute over last year's best, which was run when I was fresh - I'm not even fresh this week. That gives me real world proof that all my efforts are paying off and I'm getting faster.

Am I faster because I'm more powerful or am I faster because I'm more aero - probably both, but who cares - I'm faster, that's all that matters.

I'm now eager to work hard this winter in my new TT position and kill my personal best time in the Tundra Time Trial on the Silver Comet in February.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New TT position

I have worked very hard over the last 5 weeks to improve my time trial position to lower my CdA (drag coefficient x frontal area). On July 4th I performed aero testing showing my CdA to be 0.297 with my skinsuit, TT helmet, shoe covers, and the body position that I've been using for the last 6 years. That body position was set in a bike fit when I purchased the bike at All3Sports about 6 years ago.

I have made three significant changes gradually over the past 5 weeks, one at a time between rides. The first was a lowering of my bars by moving spacers from beneath the stem to above the stem. I've only lowered the bars about 2 cm so far and could probably go at least one more cm over the next month or so, but I only drop 1/2 cm at a time for acclimation purposes.

The second change has been a narrowing of my elbows by bringing the elbow pads on my bars closer together by about 2 cm.

The third change (the one that's made the most difference) has been seat position. I knew that my triathlon seat position was set a lot more forward than my road bike position. Triathletes need to save their hamstrings for the run, and the forward position also opens the waist angle to allow better breathing. I found that my road bike saddle was about 12 cm further back from the bottom bracket than my tri bike. That's a lot more than I expected. I flipped the seat mount around backwards on my Cervelo and also pushed the saddle back on the rails to move my saddle back about 8-10 cm from it's original position.

The original reason I did that was to get a similar saddle-to-pedal relationship to my road bike so that I'd use those muscles similarly and not have to train additional muscles for the TT bike. That's still a good reason, but I've discovered an even bigger benefit: by shifting my hips back 8-10cm, the angle of my upper arms relative to horizontal has moved from about 90 degrees (which maximizes my shoulder height above the bars) to an angle that might be about 65 or 70 degrees to the horizontal. That has had the effect of lowering my shoulders even further relative to my hips.

It does reduce the angle of my torso to my legs, but so far it seems manageable - I'll know more after riding that way for a while and doing some power testing on the computrainer.

The end result is a reduction of my CdA from 0.297 on July 4 to 0.270 on August 13th). At first those are just numbers on the page, but when I calculated the effect of that improvement on TT times for various distances, I was quite surprised.

IF I can hold a similar power in the new TT position as I held in the old one (a big if), I can expect to save about 45 seconds on a 10-mile TT like Perry-Roubaix (and most GA Cup races) and I can expect to save over 12 minutes on the Rock-n-Rollman half-iron 56-mile course. It seems almost ridiculous, but that's what the math shows. No wonder Levi gets himself into that crazy position for TTs - there are huge benefits to being so aero.

In the best-case scenario, I can get the aero improvement and generate more power due to the more road-bike similar position. I'm going to stop moving my position now and work for a few months on getting powerful and comfortable with the new setup.

My next task is to address rolling resistance. Based on published data, I can save chunks of time by ditching the tubular Tufos on aero wheels I'm now using (maybe Crr=.006) and replacing them with good aero clincher tires (maybe Zipp 404s) using latex tubes (maybe Crr = .0045). So next I'm onto the flat road coast-down tests for Crr calculation.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dahlonega GA Cup Race Report

Here's my biased, mostly accurate, but certainly incomplete account of the Dahlonega Georgia Cup race for MAX Cycling Team:

Neels Gap TT
The course was about 5.1 miles up Neels Gap at 5.6%. The first bit was downhill, followed by a 1/2 mile of false flat, then a steady climb to the top. This was my first time trial using a power meter because I used my road bike -- having it to aid me in pacing was a big help. I stayed steady a little above my threshold power and had a good ride for me - 21:43. That put me 24th for the competitive division. Doug turned in a great ride at 19:55 or something like that to grab 2nd in competitive - 30 sec off the leader. Jeff 'Stoney' Clayton was 3 seconds off my time and Jake and Drew were not too far behind us. Christian rode 17:55 in Pro-1-2 to take 8th.

Black Mountain Road Race
It was a hot 19-mile loop with a short, steep climb up to Stonepile Gap early in the loop and lots of small hills to follow. Doug and Jeff both tried to go off the front, but both efforts failed. I think those were the only real attacks in the race. I started at the back of the 75-rider pack and spent most of the 45-minutes trying to fight my way forward around a couple of small crashes, flats, and chain drops, finishing maybe 30th (I was the last rider to get the same time as the winner). Jeff took 5th in a tough uphill sprint finish. Doug and Drew were somewhere ahead of me in the sprint, and Jake fought his way back to finish just behind me after getting caught in the yo-yo back part of the peleton.

I have to learn to either start closer to the front and stay there or I need to get better at moving up - but it's very difficult in a short, intense race with narrow roads. I burned a lot of unneccesary energy yo-yoing at the back. I need to be more aggressive on shooting through gaps in the peloton whenever possible.

Doug remained in 2nd for the GC race.

3-Gap Road Race
We rode a few miles, then Jake went off the front and gapped the peloton over the steep Stonepile hill. He was caught at the base of Woody's by a group of about 25 or 30 that started up Woody's together. I dropped off the front group to stay in my zone. A little later, I passed Jake, who was still recovering from his hard early breakaway effort. Then I apprached Drew in a group of about 6 half way up the climb. I accelerated and passed them, hoping he would jump on, but he stayed with the group. After I had a good gap on that group (30 sec?), I settled back into my rythem. A few minutes later, it was great to see that Drew had put in a huge effort to drop his group and bridge up to me. The two of us worked together and topped Woody's alone, then made a hard descent int Suches, where we caught a few others and rode to Wolfpen in a group of about 6 that included Tres Cordin, the big guy in the green Kenda kit (same guys I was with in the chase at Rome), and the red-haird guy from Harbin.

I accelerated on Wolfpen and had a gap of maybe 25 or 35 seconds on the group when we topped Wolfpen Gap. I tried to kill the very technical descent and felt I had done pretty well. At the bottom, I was amazed again to see that Drew alone had out-descended his group and caught me - Mr. D has found that going down hill quickly is a strong point of his to say the least!

Drew and I worked together up Neels, catching a few folks until he told me to go ahead about half way up as he jumped into a group of about 4 or 5 riders. I think I had about 30 or 45 seconds on his group at the top of Neels. I descended as fast as I possibly could down Neels, hoping to find another group to ride in from Neels to Stonepile, but I'm light and not very fast going downhill. Drew's group caught me at the false flat on Neels where the time trial started.

Then I made a huge tactical mistake: At the TT I had stashed a water bottle in the grass on a false flat going down Neels. I was completely out of water with an hour left to ride, so I made a decision to sprint a little ahead of the group, thinking that I could easily pick up the bottle and rejoin for the remainder of the descent. It only took me about 10 seconds to grab the bottle, but all my efforts could not get me back on the group. I almost caught them at the bottom of the climb, but by the time we reached Turners Corner, they had about 20 seconds on me. I chased hard for another 5 minutes, but was loosing ground on them. I had spent lots of energy for nothing and lost the group. Utter stupidity on my part. They probably gained 2 or 3 minutes on me between Turners Corner and Stonepile Gap, and I was very tired from the chase.

I didn't know it, but Jake had been chasing just behind Drew and I for most of the day. Jake caught up with me on the 2nd Woody's climb and we worked together for a while. About half way up, Jake told me to go and I went as hard as I could to the finish. Jake outsprinted a couple of chasers at the top when he arrived.

Doug and Jeff spent most of their day at the front and Doug picked up some KOM points and time bonuses, which may break an almost exact time tie and put him in 1st place in GC. Jeff's strong finish will probably put him in the top 10 GC. Drew's very strong descending, steady effort, and smart tactics might have moved him up into the top 25 in GC. Jake and I both felt good about our rides, but likely did not get any top 25 GC points.

If Doug wins GC, that's 2 races in Georgia Cup yellow in a row for him and for MAX - a very strong showing.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Strange Days Indeed

Most Peculiar.

It's been almost 2 weeks since I returned from RAGBRAI and 500 hard miles in 7 days. I still have not recovered. The best word to describe the past 2 weeks might be 'strange'. For the first week or so, I could tell that my body was working hard to repair itself because I'd wake up in the middle of the night with a noticeably higher heartrate than normal, and I was always hot and sweaty - both during the day and when sleeping. I had the familiar deep muscle fatigue that I feel when I wake up the day after hard ride, but it never went away throughout the day.

As the first recovery week progressed, I continued to ride, but shorter and mostly easier than normal. I'd feel great on the road one minute and like I wanted to climb off the bike the next. Steady tempo efforts were sometimes very difficult, but then I'd try a short hard effort or do a hard climb and feel much better.

Then 7 days into recovery, I made the brilliant decision to ride a century in 98 degree heat. I felt ok, but I'm sure it set back my rebound by a week or two.

I have a hypothesis that the long steady Iowa rides heavily stressed my slow twitch muscle fibers and sub-threshold energy systems, but had little effect on my fast-twitch muscle fibers (yes, I do have a few) and superthreshold energy systems. That's why I'd feel fine powering up a hill on a group ride, then think I was about to die when we eased into a tempo paceline.

I went out today and did a few hill repeats on my normal training hill to loosen up my legs and I set a new time and wattage record without even going all out. I climbed my little training hill in 44 seconds and averaged about 510 watts -- about 16 seconds faster than in April. But my legs felt horrible the entire time - go figure.

I'm not sure what it all means for the Dahlonega race this weekend, but I'll know pretty soon.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

CTL Increase

As I mentioned in my last post, I'll be very interested to see how 7 days of hard riding in a row will affect my performance over the next weeks and months. I was surprised at how much my training loads were affected by the week.

This graph reflects CTL, ATL, and TSB for the 2007 season:















This graph reflects my CTL since I started training for cycling in spring 2006:

Monday, July 30, 2007

RAGBRAI

This is mainly a training blog, so I won't bore with a lot of RAGBRAI stories, but it was a unique week and I'm sure Google will give you all the stories and photos you want. There is no way you can get 15,000 cyclists across 500 miles of corn fields without some great stories.

Betty Jean and I rode our tandem. Most riders were recreational riders and many drank LOTS of beer every night. I drank beer and had fun, but also enjoyed riding hard. Betty Jean is a strong stoker. That meant that we probably passed about 70,000 riders during our 7 days of riding. We didn't intentionally count, but we were probably passed by fewer than 20 riders throughout the 7 days of riding, and kept an average speed between 19-22 mph.

Many riders made a game of jumping from one paceline to another. We made a game of blowing up pacelines. Whenever we saw a paceline in front of us, we'd gain speed and blow by them to see if we could get by without picking up any passengers. Most times we could, other times we'd see how long it took us to drop the riders who jumped on our wheel.

The end result is that I rode pretty hard for 70 miles a day for seven days. I feel good, but look forward to seeing how that type of effort affects my performance over the next few weeks. My guess is that I'll be stale for a week or two, then see some benefit. I'll post my performance manager chart soon. My CTL jumped from a steady 84 over the past few weeks to about 104. If I see a big benefit from the long 'training' block, I'll start throwing in a block like that every couple of months during the season if possible.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

MAX took Rome

A follow-up to my last Rome Georgia Cup report:

MAX Cycling had 5 riders in the top 20 GC and would have had 6 but for Drew Slocum's flat in the road race (our 7th, Todd Wilson did not compete in the GC). Also, Jeff would likely have taken 2nd, but got caught behind a crash with 2 to go in the crit. A very strong showing -- we're ready for Dahlonega next.

Doug Ott - 1st
Jeff Clayton - 3rd
Robert Jordan - 7th
Trey Gavin - 19th
Jake Andrews - 20th

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rome Georgia Cup Race Report

What a great race! The MAX Racing Team was born in Rome this weekend, and I hope we can keep it rolling. There is so much to report about Rome that it's impossible for me to give a complete report. This is not intended to reflect everything that happened -- I'm sure there's lots of stuff that I missed and it's probably unintentionally biased, but here's some of it from my perspective:

Racing for MAX in Rome:
Drew Slocum
Todd Wilson
Trey Gavin
Jake Andrews
Jeff Clayton
Doug Ott
Robert Jordan
(Chad Madan also raced for Pacesetter)

TTT - Great conditions, relatively flat 14-mile course with some rollers and false flats, four U-turns, and one 90d turn. We started well with 30-second pulls in a single paceline. After the first turn I still felt good. We shortened pulls to about 15 seconds and I was starting to struggle somewhat when pulling around Jake at the front. Jeff instructed us to move it 'up' to about 90% effort. The problem was that I was already way above that. At the 6 mile point I knew I was weakening and would not be able to hold out until the end, so I decided to do three more pulls as strong as I could, then get out of the way. I did that and peeled off at about mile 8 or 9 because I felt that I had started to slow the team down. I kept up a steady pace and eventually joined Trey and Todd, who did their work and peeled off later as well. Doug, Jeff, Drew, and Jake drove the train for the last few miles with Drew then Jeff peeling off nearer the finish. Jake and Doug drove the train into the station with Doug nipping Jake at the line. Average speed was around 26.1 mph. We later learned that we finished 3rd. We hoped for a win, but it was a strong first-time performance.

Crit - Downtown Rome, long, rectangular crit course with a significant little bump after turn 2. The field included about 70 riders. The race started very fast, as usual. Four of our 7 riders had never raced a crit, which put them at a big disadvantage from the start. Todd and I ended up starting at the back of the pack because of our late team podium presentation, so that made it even tougher to get started. I struggled in the first few laps, but finally clawed my way up into a more comfortable spot in the peloton where the yo-yo action was a little less severe. I could see Doug and Jeff constantly at the front attacking and bridging to other attacks. The PA announcer was constantly talking about the MAX attacks and tactics. Jeff and Doug even tried once to bridge together, which the announcer called a 'very rare move' I think. Being new to crits and getting caught behind crashes (and in Drew's case, in a crash) eventually caused Todd, Jake, and Drew to lose contact with the peloton. Jake made a valiant solo chase to no avail. Trey and I did some blocking in front a couple of times as Doug and Jeff set off the fireworks at the front, but it was a pretty uneventful race for me. Jeff got caught up in a crash with two laps to go. He got back going, but lost 1 minute to the field. I finished last in the peloton sprint (26th) as Trey sprinted around me for 24nd place. I don't know Jeff's and Drew's finish places, but they didn't podium. Of the four of us, only Jeff lost any time in GC. That was my crit goal, so I was satisfied. Doug, Trey, me, and Jeff sat at 5th, 6th, 7th, and 11th in GC, respectively after the crit thanks to the strong TTT.

Road Race - The 70-rider field started rather calmly over 5-8 miles of rollers with a couple of breaks that went nowhere. All 6 MAX riders sat in the top 25 spots, but did little work except for Jeff doing some. After a 1K climb that got everyone's heart pumping, we started a long false flat, then a long (5 mi) very gradual downhill run to the base of Horne Mountain (a 3K 6% climb that took about 13 minutes). During the 10-mile run-in to the mountain, Drew and Jake did lots of hard work and drove the MAX train in the front and completely controlled the race, not allowing anyone to think about getting a break before the climb. Doug sat out of the wind in 3rd acting as gatekeeper so Jake and Drew could roll unimpeded. As we reached the climb, the pace was very strong and all 6 MAX riders were near the front. I was amazed at how hard some of the riders started the climb. Did they not realize that it would last 13 minutes? The peloton quickly ceased to exist. A long string of riders intermittently topped the mountain, with Doug and Jeff getting KOM points and time bonuses. I'd guess I went over in about 20th place. I worked very hard on the descent and eventually gelled with 8 other riders to form a chase group behind a lead group of 7, which contained Doug and Jeff. We passed the feed station with a 30-second deficit to the 7-man break. It took my chase partners a few minutes to figure out that I had two teammates in the break and was more than a little unmotivated to chase. I gummed up the works as best I could for 5 or 10 minutes as about 10 to 15 more riders bridged to us. After the 1K climb, I was pleased to hear that the lead group had expanded it's lead to 1:10. I sat on the back and had an easy next 8 miles. The next time check was 2:20 to the lead group, so I knew Jeff and Doug's group would not be caught. About that time, Jake pulled his group of about 8 (I think he did most of the work) into our chase group. He had been working very hard to rejoin. We hit the base of Horne Mt. for the final ascent with about 30 riders. I got in a groove and was doing well -- sitting about 4th in a long string of 30 from the chase peloton. About 200m from the finish I stood up to 'sprint.' I think fast-twitch muscles do not exist in my body anyway, and any that I had at the start of the day were dead. A couple of riders passed me within about 25 feet of the line and one guy went around me on the finish by half a wheel - I finished 14th. Doug finished 2nd and Jeff finished 3rd for the stage. Drew flatted on the 1st climb, but restarted and passed lots of folks before the finish. Jake and Trey finished well also on the tough climbs.

The GC finish order was not posted when we left due to a scoring problem, but I think Doug might have won the GC! Jeff was probably top 5, and I might have squeaked into a top 10 GC.

It was a super successful first-time team effort for MAX. And we probably had as much fun away from the races as in the races. I'll update with more info as I have it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

TT Frontal Area

In my methodical attempt to improve my time trialing, I plan to do coast-down aero testing to try changes in body position, etc. But before I start doing coast-downs over and over I need to nail down as many known variables as possible to make sure I'm not wasting my time and getting junk numbers (although the testing is a great way to get in good hill repeat sessions).

One of the variables is frontal area. Most folks just combine frontal area (A) with drag coefficient (Cd), call it CdA and are done with it. But if I have a good measurement of A, then I can isolate Cd pretty accurately. Then when I make positional changes on the bike, I can get a preliminary idea of how much it will help just by measureing A again.

To measure A, I took a digital photograph, imported it into AutoCAD, properly scaled it using the tape measure in the picture, traced my frontal area, and measured it directly. I found it to be 4.185 square feet, or 0.3888 square meters. I was pleased to know it was fairly close to the 0.35 square meter estimate I had been using. Based on the limited coast-down testing I did the other day, I think my current CdA is about 0.297. That's good news, becasue that's not a great number. For my size, I should realistically be able to lower it to something between 0.230 and 0.265 depending on whose research you read. Conservatively, that would be at least 89% of my current drag.

Power required to overcome drag is directly related to CdA, so a 89% improvement in CdA would mean I could go the same speed at 89% of the power output it used to take. That type of improvement would be well worth the effort. It might not show benefits at first, though, because a more aggressive position might limit my power output to 89% of my old position until I can train enough in a new position to get the power back up. Six months of once a week time trial training should do the trick, I hope.

Here's the photo with my frontal area hatched in AutoCAD:










Andrew Coggan believes the optimal position on a TT bike for aerodynamics and power output is having your shoulder 5cm above your hip. I don't know if I measured properly, but as you can see in this photo, my shoulder is at least 18cm above my hip in my current position:

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Poor man's wind tunnel

I wanted to know what effect my TT bike, Aero helmet, and skinsuit had on my drag coefficients and TT finish times, but didn't want to pay $2500 for a couple of hours in a wind tunnel. So I found the longest fairly low-traffic hill near my house, a 0.6-mile climb with a 3.5% average grade. Starting at a constant 20mph at the top to eliminate momentum factors, I coasted down the hill lots of times with different aero setups to determine my drag coefficients. I know that my power was 0 watts, so I was able to eliminate power measurement from the list of uncertainties. My typical average speed was in the 23mph range, so I know my numbers will be valid for my average TT speeds.

The only factor pushing me down the hill was gravity, so weight was important. I carefully weighed myself in my kit/shoes/helmet and the bikes prior to testing.

I ran at least 3 'no-car' runs for each setup and averaged them. (I found that each car that passed me during the tests cut about 1 second from my finish time, so I threw out all the runs where cars passed me during the test). There was little or no breeze, it was 88 degrees, and I alternated test runs with various equipment in case the environmental conditions changed during the testing.

The spreadsheet I used required entry of a drag coefficient and/or a bike and rider frontal area and factored those with an air density number to get an 'A2' factor that it used in the calculation. I got everything to work well in the spreadsheet, but I still don't know exactly what my frontal area and drag coefficient are, but I'll work on that later. I used a rolling resistance of 0.004 (which I realize now might be too low for my tubular tires - it's probably nearer .0055).

Here are my averaged results for each setup:
Orbea Orca with standard team kit and helmet, riding in drops - 1:34.5
Cervelo P2K with standard team kit and standard helmet, in aerobars - 1:30.0
Cervelo P2K with standard team kit and TT helmet, in aerobars - 1:29.3
Cervelo P2K with skinsuit and TT helmet, in aerobars - 1:25.8

I was pleased to find that even my low-tech testing was able to accurately measure the effect of even changing helmets on a minute and a half section. The repeatability of the runs was very good, usually within 1 second.

The biggest surprise was the skinsuit. Changing from the team kit to the skinsuit has as much effect at going from the road bike to the tri bike! And the numbers are huge. For a 40K TT, the skinsuit would save 1 minute, 46 seconds. That's a lot of time. Based on my time in the recent half iron man, I saved 4 minutes and 18 seconds purely by wearing the skinsuit and TT helmet. For the short 10-12 mile TTs usually included in the Georgia Cup races, I'll save almost a minute by wearing the skinsuit -- that's amazing to me.

And these numbers are not wild guesses, they are real world measurements that can be easily and accurately extrapolated to racing.

Don't stop training hard -- the bike won't power itself. But for God's sake, buy a skin suit if you're going to ride TTs.

Next I plan to play around with my bar height, bar angle, etc. to see if I can get any measurable effect. And rolling resistance is also on the list of things to investigate.

Since originally posting this earlier in the year, I've fine tuned my analysis spreadsheet. You can view or download it at Badger 3 if you are interested.