Monday, October 30, 2006

A Tale of Two Rides

Last weekend I had the chance to go on 65ish-mile rides on two consecutive days. The first ride was advertised as a relaxed-pace charity ride but I knew differently. I would guess that of the 50-60 participants, over half of them race competitively so it was a fast-paced ride and--from what I could tell--nobody stopped at any time during the ride even though there were reportedly two SAG stops along the way. The second ride was a leisurely solo ride over rolling hills, the purpose of which was to continue to develop the endurance that will help me during two of my "A" races (both of which are over 100 miles) next year.

The fact that I was able to ride at all was pretty darn satisfying given that Wed-Fri of last week was a total rainout. In fact, up until about 2 hours before the Saturday ride, I wasn't sure if the rain was going to let up. By the end of Sunday's ride, the sun was out and were it not for the wind I would not have even needed arm warmers. The combination of the two rides made for one of the most enjoyable cycling weekends of the year.

Here's a comparison of the two rides:

Saturday: About three hours, 67 miles, 23 mph, NP of 255 watts
Sunday: 3 hours 45 min, 68 miles, about 18 mph, NP of 230 watts

Saturday's ride was typified by high intensity surges and drafting; Sunday's ride was more of a steady-as-she goes effort with a couple of hill efforts. I spent neary 40 non-contiguous minutes above 320 watts on Saturday but only about 16 minutes at that wattage on Sunday. My average heart rate on the Saturday ride was a full 20 beats-per-minute higher than on Sunday. On Sunday I intentionally did not look at my speed, heart-rate, or average power during the ride--I just got out there and rode.

What's interesting is that the Training Stress Score for Saturday's ride was actually thirteen points lower than Sunday's ride (223 compared to 210), due to the fact that it took me 45 minutes longer to complete. Since meeting my goal at next year's Assault on Mount Mitchell will likely require a TSS of over 400 points, I need to plan on one or two long rides every week between now and then.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What happened to Fall?

As one who likes to ride in cool (but not cold) weather I was looking forward to Fall here in North Carolina. It's normally an absolutely fabulous time of year for long rides and the good weather seems to last into mid-December some years. Last year, I was able to do lots of outdoor riding during January and February, too. This year the weather went from uncomfortably warm to uncomfortably cold in a week's time.

Speaking of weather... October 22nd was the first of several Winter Time Trial training events put on by the local club (of which I will be a member for the racing season next year) and I had been looking forward to these monthly 11-mile sufferfests as a way of staying motivated during the off-season. However, on Sunday morning the conditions were not exactly ideal for a ride. It was rainy, windy and cold.

I drove over to the start a bit early hoping the rain would stop but it got progressively worse and worse. I was surprised to see several other riders who were apparently unphased by the weather and were planning to do the TT anyway. So, I hopped out of the car, put on my warm weather gear and joined them.

I got absolutely soaked and, in fact, my PowerTap actually stopped working for two minutes during the TT because of the water. It was wet and windy enough that I wasn't comfortable going as fast as I could on the downhill stretches but--for better or worse--the course is essentially one rolling hill after another so there were plenty of opportunities to go hard on the uphill sections without going dangerously fast.

My goal for the 11-mile course (and it turned out to be around 10.5 miles I believe) was to end up with a normalized power of 315 watts. I ended up with an NP of 312 but given the weather I'm not going to get my chamois in a wad over coming up a few watts short. Here are the numbers (keep in my that the PT was frozen up during part of my ride):

Norm Power: 312
Distance: 9.552 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 642 305 watts
Heart rate: 128 181 176 bpm
Cadence: 24 183 93 rpm
Speed: 0 35.1 24.6 mph

Not earth-shattering by any means but I did have the best time of the 5 guys who braved the weather. Assuming dry weather next month I'm going to shoot for an NP of 320.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sometimes those online velocity predictors are DEAD ON...

I did a 10-mile time trial tonight at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. In the days prior to the event I used my power meter and this online velocity predictor to predict my time based on how much power I figured I could produce in the aero position for around 20 minutes.

It's essentially a flat track, and I assumed negligible wind, so I plugged the following into the velocity predictor:

Average power: 310 watts
Rider weight: 163 pounds (including shoes and clothes)
Bike weight: 18 pounds
Tire type: clincher
Position: aerobars (I have clip on bars)
Grade: 0.0%
Distance: 10 miles
Temperature: 70 degrees
Elevation: 675 feet
Trans effect: 95.0

The predicted time based on that calculation was 22:02.04.

I ended up averaging 308 watts instead of 310. The temperature was indeed about 70 degrees and there was essentially no wind. According to the velocity predictor, my finishing time should have been 22:05.28. My actual time was 22:05.52. That's pretty amazing if you ask me!

Admittedly, there's a lot of "hand-waving" going on with the predictor (ie. what exactly constitutes an aerodynamic position, and where does the trans effect of 95.0 come from, etc), but still it's pretty cool to see that I can potentially predict future improvement with accuracy if I can increase my wattage or decrease my rolling resistance (i.e. tubular tires or a full TT bike).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Planning for 2007

My last cycing event of the season is a 10-mile Time Trial on October 4th. After that, I don't have anything planned until racing season begins in April of next year so I'm not sure how to proceed. I have Joe Friel's book and I have a power meter but my perception is that not everyone buys into on the whole "off-season" concept the way he does.

According to Friel, I should have no more than three "A" races per year in which I try to be in peak form. For the 2007 season, my "A" races are the following:

(1) A criterium race on or around April 22nd

(2) A hilly 100-mile race on June 11th

(3) A hilly 100-mile race on September 15th

During the spring and summer there are various crits and short road races in which I'd like to do well but they are lower priority than these events. There is also a semi-monthly 10-mile time trial that I'll probably enter a couple of times.

Some details about me:

- I'm 6'0" and weigh 73kg. I'd like to get down to 70kg by June 11th.

- My FTP is roughly 300 watts. I'd like to improve this, but I'm not sure what would constitute a realistic goal. 320 watts would be fantastic.

- I've only been in three Cat 5 crits, so my sprinting and cornering could use work. Even though 2 of my 3 top priorities are long distance events, I would like to gain crit proficiency since most of the races around here are short. I'm not sure how early to focus on anaerobic training, however. I suspect this is something I should begin in the January timeframe.

- My best 5-hour solo average power is 230 watts (250 watts NP). Improving this will do nothing for my crit racing ability but would do wonders for the 100-mile races. I'd be tickled if I could improve my 5-hour average to 250 watts.

- I need to find a way to get in some sustained hill climbs. Unfortunately, there are no hills within riding distance longer than about half a mile so I may have to resort to climbing and descending the same hill over and over again.

My tentative schedule (subject to change):

10/05/06 to 11/18/06: I'm going to run a half marathon on 11/18 so I will run three days a week, bike three days a week and lift weights once a week for the next six weeks. My cycling days will likely be: (1) 1:30 minutes including a 2x20 at L4, (2) 1:15 minutes with some L5 hill intervals, and (3) a 2-3 hour endurance ride where I deliberately try to stay in the L2 zone.

11/19/06 to 02/11/07: Here's where I'm not really sure what to do, but it's essentially 12 weeks of what Friel would call "Base" training. I'll likely drop the running but continue to lift weights once a week and increase my number of rides per week to 5-6. Or I might continue running 2x per week and ride 4x per week. The question is, what kind of riding should I do? Is it OK to work on FTP during this phase? Is it too early to start doing sprint intervals?

02/12/07 to 04/01/07: Eight weeks of Build phase in preparation for spring Crits

04/02/07 to 04/15/07: Two weeks of Peak phase in preparation for spring Crits

04/16/07 to 06/10/07: Eight weeks to prepare for 100-mile Assault on Mount Mitchell

06/11/07 to 07/08/07: Four weeks to revamp Crit skills

07/09/07 to 09/09/07: Eight weeks to prepare for 100-mile Bridge-to-Bridge race