Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And now the good news

It's the last day of 2013. Time for a bit of reflection and the BBC web site is full of reviews of the year. 

One is here The Year in Numbers 

First bullet is a real good news story and one that flies in the face of the torrent of horror stories/depression/cynicism that forms the bulk of most comment for most of the time.

When asked how happy they were, on a scale of 1-10, the average Briton rated themselves 7.3. Only 10% rated themselves 4 or less.

I'd say this was pretty much the best news of 2013 and a fitting way to end it. 

(FWIW, I wasn't asked but had I been I think I'd score a 9)


Monday, December 02, 2013

No food needed

I've got to the point in my training plan where I am starting to do some long “sweetspot” workouts as described by Hunter Allen here,.http://www.hunterallenpowerblog.com/2013/11/four-keys-to-powerful-winter-training.html?utm_source=November+2013+Power+News&utm_campaign=November+Power+News&utm_medium=email

I thought I would use these to take the opportunity to check my previously stated assertion that you don't need to take any calories in the form of sports nutrition for workouts less than 2 hours long, moreover doing so will often be a mistake. (You do ofc need to drink, but water is fine)

So yesterday I did a 2+ hour workout comprising a warmup, 90 minutes of sweetspot at around 90% FTP and a warmdown.

I had some porridge for breakfast around 2 hours beforehand and during the workout nibbled one apple just to keep my mouth fresh and not have an entirely empty stomach. I drank around 2l of water.

Stats for the workout were:
Warmup 30 mins averaging 205W (bit longer than planned due to some setup issues)
Sweetspot 90 minutes averaging 268W/153bpm (FTP c 300W atm, HR@ FTP 166bpm) so spot on in terms of target power and HR zone
Warmdown 20 minutes averaging180W

The sweetspot session was reasonably intense, equating to just over 1.5 climbs of Alpe D'Huez at 57minute pace.

Looking at energy use the total for the ride was just over 2000kj=pretty much same kcal. ( Using the results of a recent ramp test I can guesstimate roughly 1500kcal of this came from carbohydrate mostly glycogen with around 80kcal for the apple and maybe a bit from the porridge.)

This is not just an n=1 example. Some aspects of the workout are, I would argue, broadly applicable to most riders regarding the question of whether and how much needs to be eaten during a workout in order to achieve a workout goal.

Reason for this is that most folks should have ample stores of glycogen to fuel such efforts, easily enough to do a 1-2 hour session at a quite strenuous level. Maths are that it is usual to have around 400-500g of glycogen are available for use, 1G of glycogen = 4kcal. So immediately, for a 2 hour session you need to be doing a workout burning more than 800kcal per hour which is pretty tough (Note these are real calories as measured by a powermeter or similar, not the inflated figures some products produce to make their consumers feel good). Further, not every kcal burned will come from glycogen. Some will come from food in the process of being digested, some from fat. Fat only contributes a significant proportion at low intensities but still even the hardest of most workouts will include times of low intensity.

Taking all this into consideration bottom line you need to be capable of and actually do around 280W+ non-stop for a full 2 hours before you need to worry about feeding to accomplish a training objective for short <2 hour="" span="" workouts.="">

If you are not doing sessions as hard as this
  • If weight loss/control is one of your objectives I would absolutely recommend not taking in any significant calories during such workouts. Sports “nutrition” is mainly just junk food in the form of sugar. The calorie deficit short hard workouts produce will be far better filled by larger portions good healthy balanced meals at normal mealtimes that will stop you feeling hungry and/or allowing yourself a treat or two to make dieting more tolerable.
  • If weight loss/control is not an issue. I would still advise not using any sports products as a default. Rather do without for a bit then, perhaps, introduce some in a controlled manner to see if they actually do for you what they claim on the label. Alternatively they can be an option if you hit a plateau level where you cannot improve when you can try using something to see if it helps. It may (though chances are reason will be as much psychological as physiological) in which case great, but then I'd advise weaning yourself off it to reserve for the next training plateau or as a boost for race use.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Weekly Summary 31/10/13

i'll start publishing some summary figures for my training weeks from now on. 

First below.

Week ending31/Oct
Weight 150.0
Fat 14.0
Cal Balance -1131
End Watts 198
End Time 03:46
End Drift 3.23%
Tempo Watts 266
Tempo Time 23:40
Tempo Drift 2.48%
Tempo HR 148
Thresh Watts 282
Thresh HR 158
Short Watts None
Short HR None

  • Cal balance is total calorie deficit for the week. So last week I actually ate a bit more than I used up.
  • Watts are the best recorded of the sessions for the week. All are a bit low at the moment as it's early days in the training season. HR ditto. Plan is that all should increase slowly but steadily over time
  • Drift in the Endurance and Tempo columns is a measure of how much HR has increased over the interval. Target for Endurance is 5%

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Endurance Workout

Just completed an endurance workout and thought I'd review it since it covers a lot of training points. There are quite a lot, which might seem a bit like overkill, but in practice I don't stress over most of the stuff here, most has become habit and adds very little in terms of time needed over and above that needed for the cycling itself.

Objectives: I'm a believer in making a effort to get as much out of workouts as possible, over and above the basic ones of improving fitness and, hopefully, enjoying the exercise. 

This applies double to endurance workouts which, by their nature, can be a long old slog.I find having a number of things to think about helps complete them.

So this workout I had the following aims:
  • Develop endurance using result from recent tests to set zones.
  • Measure current state of endurance fitness
  • Gather some baseline data for later simulations of long distance TTs
  • Work towards a self test for measuring glycogen levels
  • Monitor fluid levels needed 
  • Increase cadence, get out of 7x rpm comfort zone and see what 80+ rpm feels like
  • Burn lots of calories
  • Listen to some old favourites (via Spotify)
Workout The workout was just a bit short of 4 hours and was done on my turbo. This may sound a bit tough but I much prefer to going out on the roads at this time of the year. It consists of 3 "hills" each an hour long going from start of endurance zone to just nudge lactate threshold then a final 45 minutes of a couple of shorter "hills".

I had a breakfast bowl of porridge an hour or so before starting but only ate couple of tangerines during the workout itself.

Results Power data is below 

There are a number of points most of which I was very happy with.
  • Average power was just short of 200W with a slight negative split which is pretty smack middle of my endurance zone
  • Average HR was nice and low at only 128bpm with a max of 145 near the end
  • HR tracked power very closely with very little drift, only 3.4%
  • Cadence was on target an average of 84rpm. This actually felt very comfortable and probably felt easier than previous efforts in the 70s.
  • Ride felt comfortable up to the very close to end, final "hill" felt a bit tough.
  • kJ was 2600, breaking this down (using data from test a couple of weeks ago) I'd guesstimate I burned around 2400kcal made up of roughly 90g of fat and 400g of carbs. This may explain the tough end as I was probably running my glycogen levels quite low and my body was warning me of this
  • I drank 4.25l of water. I weighed around 500g less at the start of the ride compared to the beginning so this amount of water was probably just about spot on.  
  • I reminded myself just what a great band Black Label Society are.
 Future plans I'll extend this workout to around 4 hours then up the power bit by bit (by increasing the "valleys") to move average power up towards my lactate threshold level of 225W. This will provide useful info for a 12 as this will be my target wattage for that ride. 

I'll then push it further with the aim of hitting an average of 240-250W which is top of my endurance zone and the power I'll need to improve my 100 time. 

At some point I expect my HR drift will increase to past 5% which is a fair indicator of when I am straying out of my pure endurance zone. It will be interesting to see how this then changes, in theory if I get fitter it should come down.

I'll continue to do the workouts on no food and at some point I guess I will  bonk. This won't be much fun but should give me some steer on my glycogen levels. Once I've hit this I'll start to eat just to check if this sorts things out and to give some indication of what level of feeding will be needed on "real" rides.

Cadence felt good at 80rpm+, so I'll make that a goal for all future rides of this nature.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Power -3 pronged approach

My approach for improving power is three pronged.
  • On bike training, the first phase of which I covered in my last post
  • Working on riding better, in particular pedalling more efficiently and descending 
  • Core and strength work to improve general fitness and help with both the above.
  • In the next few posts I'll cover the latter two in a bit more detail.

It's a kinda magic

On another subject, we went to a magic show last night, first one in ages.

It was courtesy of Morgan and West Time Travelling Magicians    and it was utterly superb.

Magic is one of those things you have to really see live to fully appreciate. You know it's all tricks but simply can't figure out how it's done.

The delivery matters a lot of course, not only to make the tricks work but as part of the entertainment and this was one of Morgan and West's many strengths. Their patter was razor sharp and very funny. 

Show took place at the New Greenham Arts Centre and was full to overflowing. Nice aspect was that, literally, the audience had a full helping of folks from all ages, lots of children their along with quite a few parents and grand parents. We were integral to the show with most of the tricks involving the participation of a least one of us but this was done in a fun way and not even the most timid of folks looked embarrassed. 

Pick of the tricks for me was the "travelling cards" that somehow made their way from one side of the stage to the other, a close follow up being the "mystery biscuit" routine where one of the audience not only had her favourite cookies divined but got given a packet of them as well.

Also mention has to be made of "Hobbit the Rabbit" who survived a harrowing process of natural selection to become a much loved pet, along with personalised medal.

Very highly recommended, if Morgan and West are playing anywhere nearby go and see them, stupefaction guaranteed. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Knocked Knees

I paid a return visit to Cycefit recently to get properly fitted for my TT bike, with a view to training in this position over winter, hopefully with a result that the gap between my TT power and climbing power will narrow from its current level of around 30W.

It proved to be very worthwhile and I ended up with a position I felt a lot more comfortable in.

I also got a bit of a shock. The assessment included a front on view of my pedalling action, highlighted by the use of a couple of lasers. My knees were noticeably off plane, both being too close to the top tube, the right knee especially so. 
A radical change to the wedges on my shoes helped improve matters. My left leg is pretty much sorted. My right is still away from perfect but is probably as good as it will get given my genes combined with the effect of the injuries I sustained 

Good news is I have the winter to sort out not only my TT position but my slightly knocked knees 


3 on, 3 off and a rest day

So far I have been concentrating on losing weight and it's gone pretty well. I've managed a couple of milestones, my low of 67.3kg is an all time best and I've consistently been under 70kg/11 stone which had been a bit of a bit of a blocker in the past.

Now I've scheduled a change, mainly for a bit of variety. I'll continue with the  endurance sessions that have helped shed the pounds but will mix them up with some higher intensity workouts as well 

Each week I would hope to do:
  • 3 x Endurance Sessions: These will be main calorie burners. Currently they are just over 3 hours at around 200W.  I'll eat normally beforehand but during them only take on water, then eat normally afterwards. I have no problem completing these at the moment. I'll extend them to 4 hours at the same power then slowly increase watts. My hope is to get to around 240W which is pretty close to power needed for a 4 hour 100. At some point I'm guessing I will need to eat during these sessions which should give me some indication of how my glycogen levels are. 
  • 1 x Tempo Session: This is a slow ramp up to tempo level then hold for a longish interval, take a 5 minute break then a second interval. I'll use HR to pace this one, starting with 20 minute intervals and adjusting power until my HR hits 151 which is the bottom of my tempo zone. Once I have established the power I'll extend the interval times, hoping eventually to hit 2x60 minutes.
  • 1 x Threshold Session: I'll use Chris Boardman's routine for this. It comprises a set of 15>12>10>8 intervals at threshold with 5 minutes rest between each. It's "easier" than the classic 2x20 but mainly on the mind, you still get a good chunk of time at threshold and if it's good enough for Boardman it's good enough for me. I'll start these at an easy wattage then nudge up each week until I can't complete. While doing these I'll include some of Bradley Wiggins' pedal routines. This involves doing repeats of 1 minute 50 rpm, 4 minutes "normal" rpm. 
  • 1 x Short Interval Session: Another Chris Boardman routine, 3 x 3 minutes threshold++ then 3x2 minutes threshold++ with 7-10 minutes between each interval. Again I'll start low in terms of power and nudge the wattage up a little each week.
  • 1 x Recovery Session: In the past I haven't felt the need for much in terms of recovery so I'll just have the one session a week to start. The 3 sessions above will help me judge how I am doing and if I feel rough I'll schedule in some more recovery time. I don't plan to take the recovery day fully off, I have an idea for a "CO2 threshold" test that involves doing an easy routine so I'll do that.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

VO2, MLSS, MHR, peak power

The other measures from the tests I undertook were all about peak efforts.

My "MLSS" was 300W, 4.48w/kg, 166bpm
VO2 was 62.8

Max HR was 180rpm

Power at VO2 max was 375W 
Power/weight at VO2 max was 5.59 W/kg

The protocol to get these values was 
  • Start at 150W
  • Increase 25W every 3 minutes until MLSS
  • Then increase 25W per minute until crack

The results don't come as a big surprise. I have not been doing any top end work recently so they are all a bit low, apart from max HR which is higher than I expected. 

The VO2 is a bit lower than my last test in 2006 when it measured 63.9 (and I was a bit heavier)

All should get better once I up intensity and lose a few more pounds. 

Lactate Threshold - another surprise

One outcome of the recent test I did was to find out my "lactate threshold".

I thought I knew what this meant but in fact I've been wrong all these years. My believed this was the same as my "threshold power" but in fact its much lower. 

Wiki explains all here

So the lactate threshold occurs quite early on as you ramp up power. For me it occurred at 225W/133bpm. 

This point coincides with the point where you need to start breathing through your mouth so is quite easy to monitor. 

Cycling Efficiency

The physiological assessment I undertook recently measured my "Cycling Efficiency".

This is a figure representing how much oxygen is required to generate power. It is measured in ml/min (of oxygen) per watt. 

The lower the figure the better.

Mine was around 11.3 at 200W (my power just before lactate threshold). 

This is rated as typical for club athletes, for pros it will be below 10.

Since this is the first time I have had this test not sure about how this will change with training. Will be interesting to see what happens.

Fuel from Fat

I recently took some physiological tests to measure my fitness. My intention is to redo these next year and hopefully see some changes as a result  of my training.

I'llg/ do some write ups on these to serve as a reference for the future, starting with the one that surprised me the most.

This was the one that showed where I was getting the energy to cycle from. This will always be a mixture of fat and carbohydrate,  with a greater proportion of fat at lower intensities,  carbohydrates taking over as intensity increases to provide pretty much 100% at peak levels.

The table below shows the results at the key transition point when carbs take over from fat.

Watts             CHO g/h        Fat g/h      CHO kcal/h  Fat kcal/h Total kcal/h     Calc kcal/h
150                   46                 45              188             417              667                540
175                   113               15               465            139              665                630
200                   100               17               410            154              621                720
225                   114               25               470             235             776                810

There are a couple of interesting things in these figures

  • The transition from fat burning at 150W to carb burning at 175
  • 150-200W consumes the same amount of calories, showing how rough the rule of thumb that calories = kJ is (the last column shows the KJ figure)

Goodbye Mr Fox

Our daughter Katy has spent the past few years living in London, firstly studying and more recently working. 

So we have made quite a number of trips to see her over this time and I have noticed two very nice happenings.
  • The number of cyclists on London's roads has exploded.Whereas you may see the occasional chap on a bike taking his life in his hands now you see hundreds of them (and just as many chapesses as well). Bikes have become really cool and you see all manner or weird and wonderful machines on the road now. 
  • Craft beer has hit the UK. I was sort of in on the beginning of this, having been a long term fan of American speciality beer. This has crossed the Atlantic and now there are 10s of breweries in the UK, loads of pubs selling craft beer and what feels like hundreds of different varieties to choose from. Having been in despair about the "youth of today" drinking slop like Stella its great to see so many swap and drink real beer, 
These two trends sort of coincided this week. I went into Cyclefit to get properly sorted out in terms of TT position. The fact that a business like this can exist and apparently prosper is testament to just how cycling has grown. 

This trip gave me the opportunity to meet up with Katy for one last time in London, in just a couple of weeks or so she will be starting a new chapter of her life in the USA. 

I thought it appropriate we should have a drink at her "local",The Fox a great pub with a huge range of beer and not a bad burger to boot. We had a drink here on the day I helped Katy move in a year ago, since then its just got better, with an even wider range of great beer to choose from as the picture below attests....

For food we went somewhere new (for me). Duke's   which has its very own beer and a quite stunning range of  meat including the biggest rib of beef I have ever eaten.  This place was all of about 100yards from the Fox, it's amazing, so much goodness in so small a distance.

So, slight disappointment I won't be making quite as many trips to London in the future. But every cloud and such, Katy will be in New York soon and that opens up a whole new world (well country) of beers to explore. And the ribs there probably make even Dukes seem like a starter....