Friday, 30 November 2012

2x20 at FTP

With only an hour or so before I had to do some chores I planned to do another 2x20 at FTP. The first session went well with a nice steady power output and a gently rising heart rate and beating the 307W target by 2W. The second session started well but quickly got ugly. After 12 minutes I started to have doubts I would be able to complete it with a highish HR and a lot of sweat dripping off my nose. It was then that the 'bouncing' started; periods of feeling OK interspersed with periods of feeling terrible but never feeling good. I've highlighted the suffering portion in the graph below:

Black = Power. Red = HR.

Normally I'd have stopped at this point, had a shower and put it behind me but I was determined to finish the session on target. With 3 minutes to go I started a hard push which lasted about 30 seconds before I had to back off and then with 2 minutes I started to ramp up to increase my average power from 304W to my target of 307W, rocking from side-to-side. I managed to finish with an average of 306W. So close but not quite there!

After a short recovery I was able to do some messing around to get my total calories up to 1000 and finished with a Bikescore (TSS) of 88.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Hell of the North - completed

After a day at work looking forward to an hour on the turbo, I snuck off early and got the torture chamber set up and ready for The Hell of the North (set up here). YouTube loaded, Golden Cheetah running, Garmin recording, Go!!!

The first 5 minutes is a fairly relaxed warm-up before the fun starts as Boonen attacks and the intervals start. I won't ruin it for you and let you know what happens, but here's the plot of the first 65 minutes with lots of Zone 4 work mixed with short rest intervals in Zone 2. I liked that you never knew what was coming next or how long the current interval or rest would last; it made it much more interesting and less of a chore than a normal interval session. The film is also really good and helps to take your mind off any pain you're suffering.

The power plot looks like this showing that it's mainly a Zone 4 workout. Black line = power. Red line = HR. Green line = Cadence.

Stats for the hour:

Average power: 272W
xPower: 274W - my FTP is 307 therefore it's roughly 89%
Average HR: 156
Max HR: 169 (my LTHR is 174)
kCals: 970
IF: 0.89
Bikescore (TSS): 79

If you run it with Golden Cheetah (or Trainer Road) and overlay YouTube it looks something like this (the video is actually better but the screenshot makes it look worse that it is):

Next time I'll do a longer warm-up (15 minutes) and then I'll be able to do the whole workout to the end and I'll hold back earlier on. I found I was letting my power creep up above the 307W or 270W targets which may have impacted later on in the workout. Today's hour went very very quickly.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Hell of the North (workout)

AMENDMENT on 7 Dec 12. See additional info in red at the bottom of this post for a slightly dfferent version.

While slogging away on the turbo yesterday my mind wandered and I started to think about how I could make my own workout videos, and then it hit me. Use existing videos of cycling events and add my own intensities based on what's on the screen.

Welcome to the first, The Hell of the North (named after the iconic Paris-Roubaix race used as the backdrop). Basically, load this YouTube video, press play and follow the rules below.....

The rules: Use mine or make up your own rules.

First 5 minutes is a warm-up - ride at Intensity 3
Whenever Boonen is on screen (including helicopter shot) - ride at Intensity 1
Whenever somebody else is on the screen - ride at Intensity 2
Whenever it's a helicopter shot (non-Boonen) - ride at Intensity 3

Intensities: These are based on my power figures with relative figures shown in brackets.

Intensity 1 - FTP: 307W (100% of whatever your FTP is)
Intensity 2 - 88% FTP: 270W (88% of whatever your FTP is)
Intensity 3 - 62% FTP: 190W (62% of whatever your FTP is)

At these powers the first 20 minutes after the warm-up averages 260W (85% of my FTP which is a good sweetspot session). If you do the whole race it's a 75 minute workout.

If you don't like these intensities, make your own up! If you haven't got power, come up with some speed-related intensities.

Here's a graph of what this looks like, well, the first 25 minutes anyway....

I know that this can be overlaid on top of Golden Cheetah, and I assume it can be laid over the top of Trainer Road. And it's free.

Postscript 7 Dec 2012: I varied the workout to reduce the number of intensities from 3 to 2 to make it simpler and a bit harder. If Boonen is on the screen I work at 100% FTP and if he's not I work at 90% FTP.

Wind the video forward to 10 minutes, press play and start your 10 minute warm-up then and settle in for 60 sweaty horrible minutes of Hell of the North.

Recovery Day musings

I woke up feeling very tired this morning despite what felt like a good night's sleep so today is definitely going to be a rest day. Part of my experiement is to record how I feel after workouts, particularly if I feel like as workload may induce illness. Earlier this year I had several bouts of being run down as a results of trying to do too much with insufficient recovery and I'd like to have an idea of what I can manage without hindering near-future training.
In the last 2 days I have completed 2 workouts with a combined Bikescore (TSS) of 115+78 = 193 (the equivalent of 1.93 hours absolutely flat-out). The Hunter and Allen book suggests that Elite athletes should aim for an average daily TSS of 100 for best results. I'm aiming for somewhere between 60 and 70 per day as I have a full-time job and a life and I can't (and won't) spend all my spare time training, but I am trying to make my training as efficient as possible.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Sufferfest: The Hunted

Feeling a little sore (a strange glute soreness I've never had before) and a poor night's sleep, I was expecting to suffer when I started Sufferfest's The Hunted. With BBC iPlayer fired-up and me sitting almost naked in a kitchen with all the windows and doors open, I clicked the start button. Things started off well enough, particularly as it takes 30 minutes before you get anywhere near a sustained FTP+ effort, but when it does it's a variable 9.5 minute feast of effort above and below FTP which raised my HR to my Lactate Threshold. After a short rest itI settled into the fairly relaxed 80% FTP session which allowed my HR to drop before the final 5 minutes of increasingly challenging intervals at around 115% FTP. With a couple of minutes to go I got the usual feelings of just giving up but I was determined to finish it and just grimaced and whimpered my sweaty way to the end.

Bikescore (TSS): 78. Black line = power. Red line = HR.

Afterwards I'm feeling quite smug that I've managed to complete 2 Sufferfests in 2 days. I'll probably have a day off tomorrow before beasting myself again on Thursday. 'You have to have easy days to make sure you can do the hard days' as a wise coach once said.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Sufferfest: Local Hero

After a day off the turbo yesterday and having a day off work today I was hoping for a couple of hours out on the roads to do some road sessions. Unfortunately the 2 days of continual rain has flooded all the local roads so I was doomed to another turbo session. I've had the Sufferfest Local Hero workout on Golden Cheetah for a while but I have never liked the idea of a 90 minute turbo session; today I thought I'd finally give it a go. Without the video I though it could get a bit monotonous so I ran old race videos at the same time to keep me entertained (more on that in a later post).

Here's the plot for today (complete with HR monitor faff at the start). Black line = power. Red line = HR.

Ignoring the warm-up and cooldown the session lasted 75 minutes with an average power of 263W (xPower 274) based on an FTP of 307W. At the end of the session I felt like I had some more left in my legs so I threw in a couple of extra  intervals taking the whole session up to 90 minutes with a total Bikescore (TSS) of 115. Looking at the trace you can see that the intervals just touch the top of power Zone 4 (light blue, 30 mins) and just into Zone 5 (green, 10.5 mins). My HR also looks like it was under control reaching  maximum of 168 so I was never bouncing off my Lactate Threshold and thinking about stopping or even that I was suffering too much.

So overall a good session and I felt a lot better than I expected to. Doing this workout again will probably let me know if the workout needs to be done harder or whether I was just well-rested for today.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Last Week's Summary

At the end of the first week I can now review what I achieved:

Rides: 5 - all turbo sessions

Total Bikescore (TSS): 390

Total time in Zone 3: 0:30:00
Total time in Zone 4: 1:54:00
Total time in Zone 5: 0:38:01
Total time in Zone 6: 0:03:34
Total time in Zone 7: 12 seconds!

kCals burned (incl warm-ups and cooldowns); 4430

The HR graph for the week shows how HR distribution varied for each workout. HR Zone 4 (163-182 BPM) is shown in orange and HR Z3 (144-163) is in red. 21 and 22 Nov are the same Shorter Harder workout, 18 and 24 Nov are the same 2x20 at FTP workout, but on the sessions where I was struggling (21 and 24 Nov) I had a very high proportion of the session in HR Z4. It is interesting to note how the HR profile varied for the same workout on different days. On some days, for the same power, my HR is much higher and when my HR gets to my Lactate Threshold HR (174 BPM), I suffer and think about stopping.

Using last week to plan for next week:

A Bikescore (TSS) of 390 in 5 sessions was achievable with no signs of fatigue, so I would like to aim for 4-5 sessions and 430 TSS next week. With 100 TSS being the equivalent of a 1 hour workout at FTP (306W), 390 TSS is quite a good workload for the first week but I would like to increase this gradually to identify what TSS workload becomes too hard and/or too tiring. Most importantly, I don't want to hate the turbo as this will reduce my willingness to train on it.

I'm planning similar workouts targeting Z4 and Z5 for the next 3 weeks until my next 20 minute power test to see what difference this makes. I might throw in a Sufferfest session to try to break things up a bit. Maybe There Is No Try or Local Hero.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

2x20 at FTP

I didn't do my planned Chain Gang ride due to heavy Yorkshire fog so I did a 2x20 at FTP (306W) turbo session instead. I didn't know how I'd feel after yesterday's session so I was pleased when the first session went well and I achieved 307W. The second session started off OK but I had a bit of a wobble at 16 mins and my power dropped off and I started to have those thoughts about a hot shower and a nice cup of coffee. I was determined to complete the session as planned following my mid-week display of humiliating weakness and a short while later I found the reserves needed to complete the session on target, albeit with burning thighs and quite a lot of whimpering. Black line = power. Red line = HR.

Looking back this has been the most turbo time I have ever done in a week and I've tried to specifically target Zone 4 (276-322W) and Zone 5 (322-378W). I'm going to have a day off tomorrow so that I can do a harder session on Monday.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Turbo Session

Today was a Real Rides Race Day workout on the turbo. Info here, nothing to do with me!

The workout is taken from an actual race and on-screen instructions let you know how hard you should be working on a scale of 1 to 10. I currently do it with 10 being 360W and subtracting 30W for each step down. It's quite engaging and tries to recreate the surges and recoveries you get in a criterium-type race and it's nice to see the HR trace gently increase over the whole workout. Its a shame it's a bit short at just under 39 mins, another 10 mins would be good. For the 38:36 workout I averaged 296W (298W xPower, 685kJ) of which 14 mins is in Zone 5 (VO2 Max), 9 mins in Z4 and 9 mins in Z3.

Today's trace looks like this (Black line = power. Red line = HR):

 Next time I think I'll add 10W to each of these levels.


For the last 3 days my weight averaged 75kgs. Using the same power recorded at the last 20 min power test, this predicts a 60 min PWR of 4.09, up from 4.03 at the weekend (obviously all due to the reduction in recorded weight!) which is a 1.5% improvement*.

*The reality is more likely to be that my recorded weight last weekend was too high as my activity and diet is unlikely to have resulted in a 0.9kg weight loss. Using the 3500kCals per lb guestimate of weight reduction, I'd have had to have used an additional 6900kCals to drop the weight, which I haven't, so such small changes are likely to be 'noise' and may have been caused by having a fuller stomach, being better hydrated or having a fuller bladder rather than any real weight loss. This is why I'm taking a longer-term view of the power and weight in my target.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


Mid-session data view.

I use Golden Cheetah v3 when I'm doing my workouts giving a live readout of key parameters. It's completely customisable and is great for post-session analysis too. Here's a screenprint taken at the end of today's session, showing the HR, power, cadence and speed traces in the main graph, short-term power and HR in the smaller graph, as well as target power, instantaneous power, cadence, HR and elapsed time in the smaller windows. The data is gathered from a Garmin HR strap (£32) and a Powertap G2 Pro+ hub (£loads). This data is recorded on the Garmin 800 (£250 ish) as well as straight onto my laptop via a Garmin ANT+ dongle (£25).


After a disappointing session yesterday I thought I'd repeat it with exactly the same set up.

Black line = power. Red line = HR.

As you can see, I managed to compete it and quite easily too. My heart rate was significantly lower than yesterday, with a peak HR of 167 compared to 175 which I think has something to do with my lower cadence (around 14 rpm lower than yesterday). I even managed a 480W blast at the end, just for fun.
So what have I learned? From day to day my performance varies a lot for no apparent reason. I just wish I knew why.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


After 2 days off I was looking forward to one of my home-brew turbo sessions called Shorter Harder.

Overview (based on a FTP of 306W)

Warm-up: 5 mins at 200W
8 mins at 270W
7 at 280W
6 at 290W then 3 mins rest interval (RI)
5 at 300W then 2.5 min RI
4 at 310W then 2 min RI
3 at 320W then 1.5 min RI
2 at 330W then 1 min RI
1 at 340W then cool-down

All was well until the 3 mins at 320W when I no longer wanted to continue. At the time, with sweat dripping off my nose and a lovely dinner waiting to be cooked, it seemed natural to stop there and then. However, afterwards I realised that I should have carried on no matter how uncomfortable it was; at 300-340W I wasn't going to hurt myself and I'm not going to get stronger quitting. So that's it, NO MORE QUITTING!

I last completed this session on 23 Oct to exactly the same power and felt quite good afterwards (according to the notes I took at the time) so I have no idea why tonight was so different. Here's the plot. I was going to have a pic of a pansy after my weak performance, but the plot is probably more useful. Black line = power. Red line = HR.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


Mon 19 Nov and Tue 20 Nov are days off due to other commitments. And I haven't lost any weight; still 75.9kgs.

Here's a kitten to make up for the lack of ride data

from here

Sunday, 18 November 2012

2x20 at FTP+

Tonight's Turbo Trainer session was a 2 x 20 min at FTP (target 306W) with 10 mins warm-up and 10 mins between the intervals. I felt OK for the first one (average 307W achieved) and had enough on the second to surge at the end (average 313W achieved). Again, it was a horrible hard and sweaty session and one I was pleased to get off the turbo at the end of. The 66 minutes went very quickly though.

Here's the trace showing a poor start to the first session (bike faff) and then a lot of power to try to get back to a 306W average. As I was above target towards the end of the first session I backed-off. The second session shows a big increase in power output from around 17 minutes. Black line = power. Red line = HR.


Fresh off the scales this morning I weighed in at 75.9kgs (3.9kgs above my target weight). Obviously a single snap-shot figure means little but it is the start of a more regular weigh-in so I can track my performance towards my target weight.

Using my 20 min power figure and 75.9kgs gives me a 20 min power-to-weight (PWR) of 4.24W/kg. My target figure is 4.79 so I need to generate a 13% improvement in 6 months (half of which will be weight reduction and half will be power increase).

Using an estimate of my 60 min power (95% of 20 min power) gives me a 60 min PWR of 4.03W/kg with a target of 4.55.

Considering I made no improvements in power in the last year and put on a couple of kgs despite regular training and frequent racing, this might be a bit more of a challenge that I originally thought!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Setting my targets

Target Setting...

I guess this is where I define my targets so that I have something to aim for. Conforming to the SMART goal principle, I have decided on the following:

  • 20 minute power: Increase to 345W by 15 May 2013.
  • White Horse Climb: Complete in under 7 mins by 15 May 2013.
  • Weight: Reduce from 75kgs to 72kgs by 1 Feb 2013.

Start the experiment...

I have decided to record my attempts to improve my power over the next 5-ish months. While I have taken cycling and training semi-seriously over the last year I don't seem to have improved much so I think I need to be a bit more methodical about it.

After 5 weeks off the bike I went on a training ride yesterday and was very disappointed at my performance on the White Horse Climb (aka Low Town Bank climb on Strava) , which I usually love. For some reason I was struggling up in the granny gear and on each of my 3 climbs I got slower and felt weaker. At the top on the last climb I could barely breathe and my throat felt very constricted so I'm hoping it's not fatal.

Anyway, here's a section of the power and HR trace from the 3 climbs. Black line = power. Red line = HR.

When I got home I analysed the data (on the fantastic Golden Cheetah 3 software) and noticed that on each attempt my power was lower than the last and my HR was lower too, even though I felt like I was trying as hard on each climb. While my best time on the climb is 7mins 10 secs, my fastest on this day was a terrible 8:57 and my slowest an embarrassing 10:04!

So, time to do things properly and train with a method and a plan. While I've had the excellent Training and Racing with a Power Meter for a while, I haven't taken it too seriously, but now I think it's time to as well as inputs from other sources to develop a plan aimed at improving my power.

The first step was to complete a 20 minute power test. Having done several before I knew the importance of pacing myself and not going too hard too soon. I was hoping I could achieve 320W for the 20 mins so I started off just below this and let my power build through the test. With 1 minute to go I dug hard to use every last ounce of energy but quickly went into deficit and had to back off, then managed to surge for the last 30 seconds to achieve 322W. Incidentally, this is exactly the same result as a 20 min test I completed last November so I hadn't lost anything, which is good. By the end of the test I had given it my all, I was unable to speak and just slumped over the bike. I don't like doing these all-out tests because they are painful and relentless and on the very limit of what your body can achieve (at least they should be to be an accurate test).

So here's the power and HR trace from today's 20 min power test. Black line = power. Red line = HR.

Note how the power trace is quite smooth for the first 12 minutes or so, then starts to wobble a lot, before going manic for the last 2 minutes. In the last 2 minutes I go from feeling exhausted to OK and back again as my body loses then finds new reserves of energy.