Friday, June 06, 2008

Cycling is Cyclical

Anyone who rides bikes or listens to Phil and Paul knows that good form comes and goes. That applies whether you ride for Slipstream Chipotle or Security Bank. But the length and depth of the peaks and valleys is probably quite different from rider to rider. I started my 2008 training plan on November 1, 2007. Through mid-December, I did 40-min FTP tests on Tuesdays, a few sprints on Thursdays, and long Peach Peloton rides on Saturdays (with L2 on other days). I added some L4 (threshold) intervals on Thursdays to take me through December. I saw very good FTP improvement for the first 8 weeks.

Throughout January and early February, I added an L5 (VO2max) interval session once a week. February would be my L6 (anaerobic) interval month. My plan was to have my first peak of 2008 occur in early March. Then I'd ease up on the gas a little in late April and early May and get form back for the Tour of Atlanta in late May. A final peak late summer would round out my year.

Things don't always go according to plan. I peaked far too early. Most of my 2008 power records occurred on training rides in late January. I saw it happening at the time, but by the time you see it, it's too late - you can't tell your legs to chill out for 6 weeks while your schedule catches up. So I basically peaked for training camp, four to six weeks earlier than planned. I'll have to give some thought as to how to avoid that in 2009, but maybe extending the FTP training block into January and more gradually starting the L5 stuff in February would work.

I held decent form until mid March. My threshold stayed up for Perry (I took 2nd in the TT), but by then I'd lost all my top end power (was dropped in the road race). I started getting dropped in training rides and generally felt terrible every time on the road. I knew that in order to be ready for ToA in late May, I'd better hit the reset button pronto.

So over the next two weeks I cut my training load in half, lowering my CTL from the mid 80s back to about 70 (my early November level). I maintained some intensity but gave myself much more recovery time between hard rides. In early April I started a new CTL ramp. I brought CTL back up to about 78, then did a short taper for the ToA. The 'restart' worked and I had good threshold form and decent anaerobic form for the ToA.

The graph below shows my CTL since I started bike racing in April 2006. Next winter I'll modify my winter plan to work more toward two peaks, one in late Spring and one in late Summer. It's a learning process - by tracking CTL and using the rear-view-mirror effect maybe I'll eventually be able to time my peaks more accurately. But one thing's for sure - riding form will never be static if you're trying to push your physical limits.


Christian said...

Interesting post robert. A couple observations/suggestions regarding peaking early.

First of all, it looks like your CTL gradually dropped after the end of peach peleton and training camp. It's more of a gradual drop then a quick drop indicating a peak, so that probably was part of your problem. Secondly, and more importantly, was your l6 focus period. Road racing's an aerobic sport, and a month long focus on anaerobic work is probably a bit too much. I think you're correct in extending your l4 focus period-in fact, I would leave that through almost the entire season. A few l5 focus weeks here and there can't hurt, but focusing on
L6 work seems like a lost cause for someone like you who's destined to never be a sprinter anyway.

And by the way, congrats on your win at tour of atlanta. Seems like you've had a good few weeks of racing.

Colin Griffiths said...

Mines a similar story, overtrained late Feb, not level 6 but keeping up with 20 year olds on long hard rides and not sufficient recovery before next level 4 session. Had to take a break and let CTL drop until I felt fresher again.