Saturday, March 07, 2015

Guesstimating Climb time from power

If you have access to a power measure and are planning a ride involving lots of climbing or if you just want to measure yourself up against the pros then this application may be of interest.

By plugging in some basic info about yourself and the climb it comes with an estimate of the time to climb. I have found it to be remarkably accurate. 

By way of illustration the table below shows some numbers for a variety of different riders on the principal climbs used on the Marmotte. (The "pro" is David Lopez, data from the 2013 TDF stage where they climbed the Alpe twice, shows the difference between "tempo" and taking it "easy")

The difference between actual and calculated is small. Even where they are "wrong", on the Glandon, it illustrates an interesting point. This climb as a vicious little V valley midway up that will slows you up. It is also the first climb in the event so it gets congested and time is lost working your way through the field. Those going faster and/or starting at the front suffer less from this.

Rider Kg Climb Distance Gradient Power Act Time Calc Time Difference
Pro 67 Alpe D'Huez 13 8 360 45 43 2
Pro 67 Alpe D'Huez 13 8 288 55 52 3
RiderA 74 Alpe D'Huez 13 8 313 54 52 2
RiderB 71 Alpe D'Huez 13 8 222 70 69 1
RiderC 70 Alpe D'Huez 13 8 247 64 65 -1
RiderD 70 Alpe D'Huez 13 8 263 58 59 -1
RiderA 74 Galibier 18 6.6 306 66 65 1
RiderB 71 Galibier 18 6.6 224 84 81 3
RiderC 70 Galibier 18 6.6 223 82 81 1
RiderD 70 Galibier 18 6.6 241 74 75 -1
RiderA 74 Glandon 23 4.8 331 64 62 2
RiderB 71 Glandon 23 4.8 254 83 74 9
RiderC 70 Glandon 22 4.8 274 74 69 5
RiderD 70 Glandon 23 4.8 245 81 75 6
RiderA 74 Telegraph 12 6.9 335 40 41 -1
RiderB 71 Telegraph 12 6.9 250 50 51 -1
RiderC 70 Telegraph 12 6.9 259 50 49 1
RiderD 70 Telegraph 12 6.9 241 48 52 -4

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Criss Cross Progression

Did third criss-cross of 2015 yesterday and showed some nice progression

Ride here

Cut the rest interval and extended the work ones, especially the last so that it took just over 60 minutes. For focus I concentrated on the calves, really pushing through to the bottom of the stroke and "scraping the mud off the cleats". I expected at some point they would burn but didn't even on the overs, upper leg gave the biggest pain. Will push them even harder next time.

Comparing to first one

Latest session
Interval Time  9:25 (last 13:15)
Interval Power 283W/328W avg 300W
Hour stats: 279W/290NW HR avg 152bpm HR peak 161bpm

First session
Interval time 9:11
Interval power 280W/325W avg 294W
Hour stats 259W/278NW HR avg 152bpm HR peak 168bpm

So power up and HR down, latter reflected in fact that latest session felt easiest yet. Average power for the workout was enough for a sub 60 minute ascent of Alpe D'Huez.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

CrissCross - favourite turbo workout

Over the course of the last 10 year or so I've tried lots of different workouts. There is one that stands out, both because it works and is enjoyable to do. It's especially good for turbo sessions and I would recommend everybody try it out.

This is the "crisscross" or OU workout. See here for a basic guide

There are a number of reasons why it's excellent:
  • It's at threshold. There is no getting away from the fact that if you want to improve your power you need to spend time in this zone. The standard workout for this is "2x20" or variant that requires you to hold threshold power steady for an extended period of time. When done on a turbo I find these pretty mind numbing. This workout is more fun since it breaks the long interval down into more manageable "very hard"/"slightly less hard" chunks. In terms of the end result the average power/training benefit will be the same.
  • It's very time efficient. In terms of training stress/minute or calories burned/minute it's amongst the highest. Because the first part is slightly under threshold you can get away with a short warmup (or even skip warmup altogether and do the first 2 minutes as a fast ramp up to threshold. The first 5-6 minutes will feel very tough but by the end of the first interval you should feel normal). Also if pushed for time you can cut recovery, the description recommends 4 minutes, I find 3 is more than enough.
  • It's good race preparation.  The article mentions one, working in a small race group, but that's not the only example there are others. In the real world any course  will have some bits that are tougher than others. The best way to pace these once they start requiring 20 minutes or so+ of effort  is go a bit harder on the hard bits and a bit easier on the less hard bits. In the case of TTs the reason for this is basic physics, for long climbs its better not to change gear every time the gradient shifts since this wastes  power.Also starting slightly under threshold is not a bad idea for events 20 minutes and up. You are unlikely to win them during the first 60 seconds but may lose them if you go off too hard and have nothing left for the hard bits/end.
  • It's good mental training. Since it's more like real life its possible to imagine doing a real ride. If there is a particular course, e.g, a 10TT then you can set the O/U to correspond to its contours. 
  • Also the U sectors will feel, comparatively, easy. This helps with pacing as you can push harder for a bit if you know you will have a bit of a "rest" shortly. Having this in mind is also handy for the inevitable occasion when you pop during a threshold effort. If you can fall back to an effort that's still comparatively  high then you finish better than if you crash right down to your endurance pace. You can see this happen on long climbs when some riders apparently drop off  but then claw back and rejoin.
  • It's hugely adaptable. You make lots of tweaks to keep the sessions varied/interesting and/or extend the area being changed. Just some e.g.s
  • > Make the U lower (around top of Temp) and the O higher (well above threshold).This really will feel like being in a tiny group trying to get to the finish ahead of the pelaton.
  • > Make U high sweetspot and O low threshold and increase the length of each work interval and reduce/eliminate  rest. Eventually it's possible to do a full 60 minutes this way, I have found this to be the "easiest" way to do a sol one hour at close to FTP. 
  •  > Make some of the Os much higher than the others and imagine you are in a race. The first could be first is trying to get a gap with a couple of others then hold it. The last is the final effort to hit the finish first. 
  • You can use the different sections to work on other things as well. E.g. varying cadence. One set can be done by keeping cadence constant and increasing resistance. The next vice versa. Or start the first section at 50rpm then increase 5 rpm each time until you max out. Or try getting the extra power for the Os through a specific muscle group, e.g. push harder with your glutes or concentrate on "scraping the mud of your soles" a la Some combinations may feel more comfortable than others, which ones may surprise you. Even if not just doing this will  make the time pass quicker.
 As an example here is a recent example. The main session consists of 5x9 minutes criss-cross. Power ranged from 90% under 105% over, so not too extreme as main objective was just to accumulate threshold time and set a benchmark for the future. I'll include a session like this each week, firstly increasing to 5x12minutes then reducing recovery with target being non-stop 60 minutes.

The first set of 3 was done increasing power by increasing cadence, then a second set of 2 keeping cadence more constant and varying resistance (which felt easier). Interestingly the HR for each set shows how each U has a bit of recovery following it being pushed up by the O. Quite apart from anything else this gives a handy check of my current FTP guesstimate.


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,.

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.