FTP goggles

I might have just invented that phrase. But still, that’s my problem, chasing improvements in functional threshold power. Makes for great pub bragging rights (or a really dull conversation….) but it doesn’t translate well to circuit racing. I’ve raced a few rounds at Trinity Park and been dropped unceremoniously every time.

I’ve had two problems, not enough short intervals being one, but also my back falling to bits over the rough surface. Its weird really, i’m on the limit (obviously) but its pain rather than the legs that is chucking me out the back. Gradually it gets harder and harder to jump out of the corners, then bang, gone (again). I thought it was my back but after a bit of digging I think it might be a combination of tight hamstrings as well as the weak back.

I’m going to try some stretching, like so:

http://jomcrae.co.uk/bike-fit-blog-part-deux/

and some core exercises courtesy of my buddy Davina (laugh all you want). I’d forgotten all about these until I read that my buddy Michelle, the running astronomer and now an internet celebrity (Linky) was having similar problems. The core session is only 15 minutes long so I’m going to try and fit that in a couple of times a week.

Lets see how that works out!

Langham 10 – 1 July I fancied a break from the weekly Trinity Park kicking and I’d penciled the Langham 10 as a suitable distraction. A 10 is also a great way of incorporating a threshold test into an event as you always go harder with a number on.

It was a bit toasty to say the least, a TT on the hottest day of the year so far certainly helped to burn off a few cakes. I want to break 300 watts (no specific reason, just an arbitrary target) over ten miles and i’m getting closer. 284 watts this time out versus 281 last time. I think there is a little more to come with pacing. Heart rate is pretty good, a nice gentle slope to blurry vision and the need to vomit, but power is a little shaky. It will always move around but I found I was lifting off too much when I lost concentration. For me at least its harder to keep it at full gas than it might seem.Langham_10 I’m chasing power rather than time as i’m at hefty disadvantage on a road bike without extensions, but I was pretty chuffed with a 25:41. Slowly slowly catchy monkey.

https://www.strava.com/activities/337131386

Trinity Park Round 5 – 8 July

Same old same old really. Except for added wet weather and the cornering ability of driving miss daisy. Still, I stuck it out to the end and raced for last place. I really hope the field has come on as I was doing the same thing last year.

https://www.strava.com/activities/341937446

Onwards and upwards

I’ve not managed many miles through June so for July i’m going to go back to basics and smash in some miles. I’m not going completely old school so I’ll keep working on the intervals too. I’ve got a few road races planned in August along with a few crits and time trials through July to keep my focused. I’ve found double days to be pretty useful for getting the training in. Generally I’ll do a gentle recovery ride in to work (about 25 miles) and then use the way home to up the intensity and chuck in various intervals, be it 10-20 minutes at threshold or a block of 20/40s.

https://www.strava.com/activities/337475151

https://www.strava.com/activities/337719036

First park run – 4 July

In my quest to maintain fitness whilst the real world got in the way of my training I gave park run a try. It’s a really cool concept as it has a competitive element (mostly against yourself) but is also totally inclusive for runners of all ages, abilities and sizes.

My running ability has always been woeful, I once ran a 10k, or rather walked a 10k, after Erin signed me up for a charity run (which reminds me, I didn’t ever get her back for that….). That should have been an eye opener really as to how unfit I was. Cue hilarious photo of fat Pete and some guys that look vaguely like my friends but aged about 5.

Run fat boy runI haven’t run for about 18 months but I figured my cardio was good enough to get me round. I was right! I ran 25:29 as a first attempt over 5k which isn’t too shabby. My legs however were not ready for this and I spent most of the three days after walking like John Wayne. Ouch. I’d like to give it another go but I’ll definitely be sticking to the bike. Drafting in a run isn’t very effective for a start. Although if I didn’t swim like a drowning cat a triathlon might be tempting. Hmmmm.

Park run

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Always read the instructions

My first instinct is usually to tear open the packaging, switch on/build etc and start playing immediately. In hindsight this may not have been the best approach to power training. But when the instruction manual is this thick, who can blame me?

10906073_10152827627179270_916049177405175111_nI did read the first half of Training with power but my god it’s heavy going. I’m usually all for geekery but this really was too much. Which is why it has taken me six months and a beach holiday to finish the other half. Well, almost finish the other half. Based on the half I bothered to read I’ve been using power to measure two key aspects of my riding for the first half of the year. Measuring training load and tracking improvements in critical power.

The first is pretty straightforward, based on the intensity of a given ride you can plot the training load it creates. This creates a long term improvement in fitness and a short term increase in fatigue. Balancing the two allows you to manage form. Critical power is a compilation of best efforts over every time duration from 1 second out to 4 hours plus. Each ride is plotted against the existing graph so that improvements can be measured.

The foundation to power training is determining functional threshold power (FTP), ideally by performing a threshold test (similar to a 20 minute interval). An hour crit also gives a fair indication though and I’ve been using this to keep an eye on FTP. A 10 mile time trial happens to be pretty similar to British Cycling’s threshold test protocol so I thought I’d complete a specific threshold test to see where I’m at. Enter the Langham 10 course which happens to be on my way home from work. The problem with threshold tests is that you know they are going to be unpleasant, much like 2 x 20s.

https://www.strava.com/activities/326198055

Anyway, the result was a good improvement in FTP and a big step towards my target of a 300 watt 10. Two days later though I went back to Trinity Park and realised that FTP means nothing if you are not training specifically. Dropped again, bugger! Whilst I’m stronger and lighter than last year I’ve clearly neglected core strength and power over short durations.

https://www.strava.com/activities/327580562

A beach holiday gave me the chance to look at my power and fatigue profiles and plot out where I need to improve. I’d mistakenly thought that being stronger this year would see me get round Trinity Park ok. Errrrr no. Not quite! So then, the new focus will be my anaerobic and neuromuscular systems (short duration power, 1 second out to 2-3 minutes). Right now I think I could be outsprinted by just about any Sky clad MAMIL. Not cool. Core strength also needs some work, seems my back is made of jelly. I keep hearing that Pilates is pretty awesome. Maybe I’ll give that a try.

Topping up the roadie tan

Rovers time trial – Jock Wadley x 2 (14 miles) TT pic

Photo courtesy of Rick Laws

Conditions were ideal for a rematch with the Wadley circuit. My last TT had been mostly into a 20 mph headwind. Hardly conducive to a fast time, but good for power. Whilst a little too long for a threshold test (which should ideally be 20 minutes) this was a good check on progress. In March i’d averaged just under 260 watts over an agonisingly long 42:28. Whilst the time had been long the ride had been pretty well paced with a decent negative split. https://www.strava.com/activities/271669199 My aim had been to break 37 minutes. In the back of my mind I was more concerned with power than time, especially as I was riding this on a road bike. I set off pretty hard, probably too hard but I knew the course and there was time to be had on the Birch Bumps. I settled into a rhythm and knocked off the first lap. The second was agony, paying the price now for going out too hard. I crossed the line in 37:56. A long 37, not quite what I was after but a good result. Power wise i’d averaged 273 watts this time out. Power is skewed a bit over the shorter duration but still a healthy improvement over the last time out. I think there’s a bit more to come here as I did myself in a bit early. I need to give a 10 a go as that’s an ideal distance for a threshold test. I reckon a 300 watt 10 is possible before the end of the season. Going to take some work but its all good training. I’m not a natural tester by any stretch, long durations chucking out big watts are not my strength. Frankly, i’m just a bit of a wuss. Saying that though i’m already googling bar extensions….

https://www.strava.com/activities/317621243

Abberton Road Race 2/3/4

Photos courtesy of Matt Wing. Abberton 3Now this i’d been looking forward to. Local course again, the infamous Jock Wadley, with a strong field but no Elites or 1st cats. I wasn’t really sure what that would do to the race. Several said that the 2nds would basically try to thin out the 3rds and 4ths early on in the race. Not sure I like the sound of that. Weather was good, perhaps a bit too good. Wind was a nuisance but not really a factor. I was starting the race with loads of familiar faces. There were three in from VCR, four from Interbike and a whopping eight Rovers in the race. Just like a big chain gang really. The race distance had increased from last year to 72 miles plus an 8 mile neutral zone. That’s 11 laps of the Wadley, bit of a shock to the system.

I don’t really recall the neutral lap as the pace was pretty quick from the off. Once again I had no idea where the wind was coming from. Really must work on that. But then how do you work on that? Stand in a field slowly rotating? Who knows. Abberton 1 A break went away fairly early on, only four riders though initially so the bunch wasn’t too keen on chasing them down. Eventually seven were away and the pace ramped up for a couple of laps. Felt that! I was a little less on the limit than the Regionals so I was feeling confident at this point that I’d see the end. The break was caught and the pace settled down, plenty of attacks but none sticking so it was a case of closing the gaps and staying as far forward as possible now. Enter awesome photo below (courtesy of Matt Wing). I think this photo sums up racing to be honest, horribly uncomfortable but i’m sharing the pain with a few buddies. I think at this point Rads pointed out that 4 or 5 was pretty much the most number of laps either of us had ever done of the Wadley circuit. Not sure I needed to know that.Abberton 2 The race did settle down which is a good point to mention nutrition. The first hurdle to on the bike nutrition is getting your heart rate low enough so that digestion is possible. Whilst quicker, inhalation doesn’t seem to get the carbs to where they are needed. Its a case of consciously remembering that you’re burning off calories, particularly carbs at a rate of 60-80 grams per hour. I tend to take a couple of gels and a couple of baked cereal bars (not the crispy kind, they get stuck in your throat!) and eat one every 30 minutes after the first hour. Drinking is important too, its far too easy to forget.

I had thought I’d drunk enough but clearly not as with one to go my right hamstring went ping, followed closely by my left quad and left hamstring. Errrr less than ideal! I managed to shake that out and get my legs back under control. Cramp isn’t something that has bothered me much but this was agonising. I could barely turn the pedals. Whilst this little drama was unfolding I was still trying to keep up in the bunch and not drop back. A bunch sprint was inevitable at this point and I wanted to make sure I could get out when it all kicked off.

Disaster struck on the last time up the New Road, literally within a mile of the line my legs went again. The weird thing is that I wasn’t putting much effort in when it happened. But like the lap before my muscles seized one by one, but much much worse this time. Cadence dropped and try as I might my legs wouldn’t do what I wanted. I dropped out of the bunch, partly because the legs weren’t listening but also because I didn’t want to cause carnage by dropping back through a sprinting bunch. I got my legs back under control and rolled in 53rd of 54. Arse.

Like the Regionals power hadn’t set any new records. I’d positioned myself fairly well for the most part. Only for a lap or so did I let myself slip and then spend the following 2 laps getting back up to where I had been. I thought i’d drunk enough (2 x 750 ml) but I think the combination of the heat and not having raced that distance before did me in. Most of the guys got cramp too, just on the other side of the finish line…..

https://www.strava.com/activities/320249575

Trinity Park – E/1/2/3/4

So, back here again. I’d raced the Trinity Park crits last year and got dropped unceremoniously every race. Mostly within the first 15 minutes. I realise now that I was nowhere near fit enough last year. I reckon I’m fit enough this year but perhaps not on the back of a hard weekend’s riding and with legs still full of cramp. My sole point also conspired against me here and put me into the second group which meant I was starting with a handicap. We would not only have to keep the scratch group at bay but also bring back the first group of 4ths.

As ever the race was a series of 30 second and minute intervals. Positioning wasn’t great, I seemed to always end up in the wind on a certain part of the circuit. I spent more time chasing back on than I did hiding in the group. I did however seem to be closing gaps through the corners so that’s progress. I’d forgotten how brutal this track is on the body, particularly the wrists and back. I got gapped when the scratch group came through and as my back had been in bits for the previous ten minutes I sat up and dropped out. Not cool. In hindsight I should have dropped the tyre pressures and I think my legs were still recovering from the Abberton. These races are on my doorstep though so whilst I literally feel like I’m getting an hour long kicking I’ll be back next week.

https://www.strava.com/activities/322791829

Not finishing the Abberton in the bunch had been pretty crushing and dropping out of Trinity Park (again) was another blow to the confidence. Time to remind myself that my sole goal for this season had been to score a point. I’m already ahead of where I want to be and i’m only half way through the season. A long weekend off the bike will hopefully recharge the batteries and then its time to hit Trinity Park again next week.