Thursday, October 26, 2006

First week in the bag

I completed my first week of training with a power meter. I really enjoy downloading my data and analyzing it.

One of the cool things I found you can do with WKO is graph your power data by your training zones. Here is a graph of my ride from Saturday.

This lets you see exactly how much time you spend in each zone.

You can also graph you heart rate data the same way. Here is a graph of my heart rate from the same ride.

It is interesting that my heart rate graph is nothing like my power graph. I can think of a couple reasons why this would happen

1) I have the wrong value set for my lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR)
2) My power changes instantly when I stop pedaling but heart rate takes much more time to change
3) The graphs just show that heart rate is not a good metric to use to determine which training zones your efforts occurred in.

It is very possible I don't have my LTHR set properly. I forgot my heart rate strap when I did my 20 minute time trial to determine my functional threshold power. I do the test again in 3 weeks though. I will make sure I bring my heart rate strap this time. The number I am using now for LTHR is slightly higher than my average heart rate on a previous 2 hour max effort group road ride.

I think I will post this question to the Wattage list and see what the experts say.

I also posted a question on mtbr about high cadence and one leg drills. I don't like these workouts. They give me terrible saddle sores. I read this article that said they are not even beneficial. I think the workouts would be more tolerable if I knew for sure what I was doing was helping me get faster.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Training with Power

When I first started training two years ago, it was pretty easy to see that I was getting faster each month. I made huge changes in my fitness those first couple months. However as the length of time I have been training grows longer, the increases in my fitness have grown smaller. The changes seem so small now that I wonder if I am actually making improvements. Wondering whether I am improving by killing myself on a threshold interval makes it really hard to stay motivated.

I feel like I started a new adventure yesterday. I did my first functional threshold power (FTP) test. This is a hard number that basically tells me how fit I am. I can repeat this test every month and compare the number to previous months to see if I am getting faster or slower. I can also compare my number to a chart of rider profiles to see how I compare to other riders.

You might not just ask why don't you go ride the same loop every month and time yourself? That is much cheaper and simpler way of doing it I guess. It doesn't take into account though things like changes in the wind or rain or tires or temperature or etc... I think if I had been timing myself every month for the last two years it would have been better than what I have been doing which was nothing.

The power meter also buys me some other things.

I can track how hard and how fast I have to pedal on different types of rides using a techinique called Quadrant Analysis.

This is important because it not just how long you train but how close your training matches your actual races. They call this specifity. Basically it just means if all your training rides were long slow flat rides and your race was a short fast hilly ride then you probably won't do very well.

I can also use my functional threshold power results to create Power levels. These levels will help me make sure I actually resting on my recovery rides or make sure I am actually over my threshold on my high intensity rides.

I can also track how much power I can produce at different intervals using the Mean Maximal Power Curve.

This will tell me what my strengths and weaknesses are. For example a very good sprinter can go for 15 seconds or longer without a significant slope change on their MMPC. Someone with excellent VO2 power(3-6minute power) will have a slight 'rise' in the curve during that time period. For a Time trialist, the curve will have very little slope change throughout the entire curve.

I can see after a ride where I went over my limit and how that affected my power afterwards. The WKO software will quickly highlight where I went over my threshold power.

Cylists call this burning a match. The idea is that when you start a ride you only have so many matches in your matchbook. Everytime you go over your threshold you burn one or matches. Once you use up all your matches then you run out of energy and either quit or limp home.

While I am riding I can see how much effort I have expended and at what intensity. My ergomo pro power meter will track Total Stress Score and Intensity Factor. Total Stress Score can be seen as the total amount of energy I have expended. The Intensity Factor is basically the rate at which I am expending my energy. As my IF goes up, the duration I can ride goes down.

I can also track my training loads through a season to make sure I am not overtraining or undertraining using the performance manager chart.

This chart will show me both my long term and short term training loads. It will also give me a numerical value to tell me how rested I am. It is up to me to find through trial and error how much stress I can handle before I need to rest and how much rest I need before I can race, but once I figure these numbers out I can use the chart to repeat those same numbers in the future.

So considering all these things I think it was smart to get the power meter. I have a mathematical brain and having hard numbers makes sense to me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gene Hamilton's Betterride

I went to Gene Hamilton's Betterride clinic this weekend in Fruita. I have always wanted to go to Fruita so the clinic gave me a great excuse to fly out there.

We flew to Salt Lake City then to Grand Junction. The views from the plane were amazing. I always thought Google earth looked fake but after flying over those mountains I stand corrected.

The mountains really do look cartoonish once you get to a certain height. How the land can be perfectly flat in one section then rise up into the crazy folds and peaks in another is incredible.

After we got off the plane we stopped at a pretty good coffee/sandwich place called La Paninoteca. The sandwiches were actually paninis. Now I not would call myself a panini man per se, but as far as paninis goes these weren't too bad. I got some spicey sausage that tasted pretty good. All of the ingredients were very fresh and of high quality.

After lunch we drove to Fruita and found a great place to stay for $45 bucks a night. The Balanced Rock motel looked a little sketchy on the outside, but the inside was really nice and clean. Our view overlooked the interstate and railroad tracks. The noise from the trucks and trains reminded me of home. :)

I picked up my bike at Over the Edge Bike shop. The guys there were great, and the shop is really nice. They did their best to get my 7 year old bent front derailleur adjusted properly. I think next time I will just rent one of their high end bikes. Shipping your bike to and from somewhere is a hassle.

Friday morning I got up early and rode my bike over to Reed park for the clinic.

Gene went over bike setup, body placement, vision, and wheelies. We did drills in the parking lot so we would feel comfortable while learning new stuff. If we had started on the trail then we would have probably been paying more attention to the trail than the skills we were learning.

I had a hard time looking up. I guess I normally look a couple feet in front of my wheel. I usually clear the first obstacle I am staring at, but if there is another obstacle immediately after the first obstacle then I just crash into the second obstacle and fall over. If I can force myself to keep my head up, then I am sure I will be more prepared for the things ahead of me.

Later that afternoon we drove over to Rustler's Loop and practiced the skills we learned on the trail. It was great having Gene giving you advice as we rode. He also stopped several times and had us play around on some interesting trail features.

Friday night all the campers went to Fiesta Guadalajara for some Mexican food. It was nice sitting around talking getting to know each other off the bike. The food was excellent and the margaritas were even better.

Saturday the rains came down. We ended up in small covered parking pad in Grand Junction. It was freezing but it was better than sitting around in my hotel. Gene taught us about cornering, step ups, bunny hops, and switchbacks. My cornering has gotten really crappy lately so I was really happy to learn how to corner correctly.

We practiced cornering by setting up a figure 8 out of orange plastic cones. Gene showed us how to weight our outside foot, lean the bike not the rider, apply counter pressure to the inside grip, lean forward with elbows out to weight the front tire, and most importantly look up and through the corner. It is hard to do all those things at one time so we practiced each piece at a time. I will need to do this drill a couple times a week for as long as I ride my bike.

Sunday we met again at Reed park.

The rain had stopped but the trails were still soaked. We spent a couple hours reviewing what we had learned the previous days and did some fun slalom runs in the parking lot. Again Gene showed us how much easier things are by keeping our head up and looking past the cones. I admit it was almost comical how much easier the slalom was when I stopped looking right in front of wheel.

Then we headed over to Rustler's again and practiced our cornering skills. We did repeats on this one long downhill. Gene would ride in front of and behind us giving us tips as we rode. It really helped solidify the things he taught us the day before.

Monday I woke up and didn't feel really good. I ended up taking my bike back to the bike shop early and spend the day exploring the Colorado National Monument with Amy.

It was a good decision and I had a great time.

I didn't get to ride any of the trails I wanted to but the clinic was better than I expected. I learned a bunch of drills that I can use to improve as a cyclist. It is going to be tough because I have so many bad habits to break. I feel confident that I can do it though now that I have the knowledge Gene gave me.