Grand County Weekend

The Goal


Elevation_Gravel
GrandLoop_Terrain
Map_annotated



Day 1




Day 2


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Taft Hill Two-Up Team Time Trial Number Two

Power summary of Will and I’s second attempt.

The champions from last week didn’t return to defend their crown, but Will and I still lined up to race the clock. I had done 60 miles the day prior but had skipped worlds and wasn’t absolutely depleted at the end of Wednesday. I had a good sleep and while my legs didn’t feel perfect on the ride in to work on Thursday morning by the time mid-afternoon rolled around I was feeling quite excellent. That really got me excited and by the time I made it to the start line I was buzzing with adrenaline. I also did a better job hydrating all day and when en-route to the course after I warmed up I downed a bottle of about 150 calories of brown sugar and 12 grams sodium citrate.

Race recap from last week, 37:15 duration, average power 327 Watts. Normalized Power™ (Peaksware method) 336 Watts, and Normalized Power* (my method) 335 Watts. I’ll just [link] to the discussion rather than re-hash it. Oh yeah, and we lost the race by 7 seconds.

THTTWin - PowerProfile

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THTTWin - Normalized Power
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This week: 36:25 duration, average power 339 Watts (+3.6%). Normalized Power™ (Peaksware method) 351 Watts, and Normalized Power* (my method) 354 Watts. V.I. increased from 1.027 to 1.035 which is aligned with my sense that I felt the recoveries were easier this week. Pacing across the race was really good, maybe even excellent. The only real critique of our pacing last week was that after a good solid start to get up to speed we kept that “start effort” going a bit too long. The first couple trades after the traffic circle U-turn are a bit low, but the speeds were incredibly high, I was locked into the 11-cog for a long stretch there and we got up past 40 miles per hour. Being a shade low on power when the speeds are that high is strategically ok.

THTTWin - PowerSplit

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The power split between leading and drafting is a bit larger than last week. This plot shows I was doing 50-150 more watts on the front than when in the draft, depending on where we were climbing gradually and also where the headwind/tailwind portions are. The two lines come closest together on the most climbey-portion of the course. Last week Will led over those climbs and I was hurting in second wheel. This week I led over those climbs and I presume Will wasn’t hurting in second wheel because that chunk of the course was more of a headwind than last week.

Summary of this plot is 372 Watts average while on the front, 287 Watts average while in the draft. The “on-the-front” Watts are higher than last week by 4.5% and the drafting watts were lower by 3.4%. The wind conditions affected this, there are actually 37 seconds of coasting compared with 19 last week. The u-turn and corner accounted for almost all of last week’s coasting. That would be replicated again this week so the extra 18 seconds of coasting are while drafting on some downhills. 18 seconds might not sound like much but that’s 2% of my time spent drafting was spent coasting. I attribute the remainder of the lower drafting watts to a concious decision by myself to do more of a “sprint” to get onto Wills wheel when dropping back to 2nd position than I did last week. Last week I sped up with maybe 10 pedal strokes, that capped the peak power of those efforts, but it made for more time when I wasn’t sat in the “sweet spot”. This week, my mental goal was totally focussed on getting to the sweet spot as fast as possible. As a guess, that strategy change is worth maybe a 1% drop in my drafting watts. #MarginalGains

THTTWin - Effort of Pulls

Same as last week I broke up the efforts showing the discrepancy between front and back position. The power variability while drafting was higher in the part of the course where the power discrepancy between front and back was the highest (from 50-80% of the course). One possible interpretation is that when you’re going *really* easy in the back position, I am getting a good recovery and therefore don’t pay much mental attention to doling out my effort. When the 2nd position is working harder, I have to pay more mental attention to metering my effort there.

THTTWin - Leading

This shows who was taking longer efforts on the front. My turn 5 was longer as a result of me deciding not to try and swap until we had passed another athlete on course so that we didn’t need to go three wide on the shoulder. Then on the way back I did some way longer pulls when the speeds we really high. I was feeling good and maintaining really good power and so I just stayed up there and kept driving the pace. Swapping does cost some momentum and so if there’s no need to swap, I figured I could keep going.

Sumtotal – quite a bit more imbalanced than last week. I did 7m44sec more time on the front

THTTWin - Cadence

Final plot is cadence. I got a bit bogged down just prior to the U-turn when we were fighting a headwind (~1100 sec). That was perhaps exacerbated by me not keeping my cadence up while in the draft behind Will almost all the way through the second quarter. The one really high spike in cadence I was spun out on the 53×11 cog. Overall, I executed better on cadence last week, perhaps out of necessity. My legs felt like crap last week so I needed to optimized. This week I felt good and so wasn’t as careful on optimizing cadence, it just played 2nd fiddle to focus on effort/power.

(Coasting is excluded from the trend lines)

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Normalized Power

What’s the best method to calculate normalized power?

Thesis: There probably isn’t one, but the PeaksWare method certainly isn’t the best.

Background: The objective of a normalized power metric is to report a value for relative ‘difficulty in output’ in executing an effort with a certain power profile. The specific desire is that this representative of the metabolic and cardiovascular challenge of the effort, it is not generally used to assess neuromuscular or strength or anaerobic difficulty. There have been additional metrics built off of Normalized Power, most notably V.I. for assessing whether or not an effort was well paced. I want to be specific that the criticism of NP algorithms that follows is an evaluation on the above-stated goal only, not on all of the various interpretations and rules of thumb based on it.

Normalized Power herein refers specifically to Normalized Power™, the most widely spread variant of this algorithm used by cyclists, trademarked in 2013 by PeaksWare LLC, the owners of TrainingPeaks and WKO software.

The PeaksWare method for calculation normalized power has two pieces of logic applied. Part 1, the power sequence is smoothed to better represent the load on the cardiovascular system. Heart rate, breathing rate, glucose consumption are smooth changes that occur over many seconds, more seconds than the Adenosine triphosphate and creatine phosphate energy systems in the muscles can supply. Part 2, the power sequence is weighted. The logic here is that the difficulty in sustaining the production of power goes up really quickly above threshold because limited reservoirs are being drawn down. Those reservoirs are basically blood sugar and blood oxygen content, and to a lesser degree, muscle and liver glycogen. They are not ATP and CP, those were theoretically addressed by the Part1 smoothing. Part 3, this weighted sequence is averaged to get a single value.

The PeaksWare method of calculation is to use a 30 second square window moving average to pre-smooth the power sequence and use a 4th power weighting function on the smoothed profile. The TrainingPeaks guys claim that this algorithm combined with these parameters achieves the outcome of representing metabolic and cardiovascular challenge, and that the balance of these parameters is generally correct for everyone and generally correct for all variations of efforts.

This is the point where everyone’s bullshit alarm should be blinking red and the sirens sounding. The 30 seconds square window moving average is clearly not correct for everyone. Some people are absolutely murdered by power variations on the order of 10 seconds, some people are not. Early in a base phase of training, going a little “into the red” can be a workout ender and require very long recoveries, whereas in the midst of a good season when primed up for racing, an athlete can go deeper into the red and recover from it faster. That’s a change to the anaerobic capacity following training that system. Should the results of a metric that purportedly assesses metabolic and cardiovascular challenge be sensitive to the high variability between athletes in anaerobic capacity? No, the metric should be generally insensitive.

Quick test on the PeaksWare method. 10 minute ride total. 9.5 minutes spent at 50% of FTP with a 30second sprint at 3x FTP in the middle of it. The average power is 63% of FTP. I would suggest that the normalized power for this effort should be lower than FTP. The athete didn’t demonstrate the capacity to cardiovascularly do anything above FTP. They showed an OK sprint. What does the PeaksWare method suggest for NP for this effort? 120% of FTP. I generally think that’s wrong.

Further, it’s my assessment (based on my collected power data alone) that the parameters of 30seconds and 4th power, even if they give good results for certain kinds of efforts, are more sensitive to the algorithm than they should be. If we had a better algorithm for normalized power we wouldn’t need to memorize the laundry-list of situations where “normalized power doesn’t apply”. The concept always applies, the algorithm however, sometimes fails.

Onto a recent example: The 2upTT I competed in last week [link]. The effort is particularly appropriate to inform the discussion as it is both “max effort” and not perfectly even pacing on the short time scale but is relatively well paced on the long scale.

The below plot shows which NP is reported (y-axis) for each variation in the power averaging parameter (x-axis) and the power weighting (colour-axis). The dashed lines show the intersection of the PeaksWare algorithm gives a value of 336.8 W normalized power for that effort. Is it reasonable – yes, it’s a reasonable evaluation of the effort. BUT, I do want to highlight a couple features on this plot. The “steepness” of the output curve for any weighting (colour) around 30 seconds is much steeper than the steepness around 60-90 seconds. The meaning is that for *some* efforts the PeaksWare NP algorithm in the region that it is used is quite sensitive to the parameters of the algorithm.

Power Normalization

Followup plot to the above. I put the colour-axis from the above plot on the Y-axis (didn’t adjust colours) and then highlighted all of the combinations of exponent and an averaging window that give the same result as the PeaksWare parameters. Basically, there’s a tradeoff, the more power smoothing you apply to the raw data, the bigger the weighting exponent you need to boost the value for NP up. The less smoothing you apply, the less you need to boost the weighting of the hard efforts. The argument for these parameters cannot be made from one effort, and I am not making one based on the 2upTT being analyzed. Just showing that you can get the same answer many different ways.

Parameter_Map

The question of “why the 4th power” is a glaring one. That rate of scaling is a red flag for me. It may be the most appropriate parameter to put into an algorithm with flawed logic to yield a correctresults. That doesn’t mean it is a good solution to the overall objective. Let’s assess for a moment, what a 30sec 3xFTP sprint thrown into the effort should mean for normalized power. The PeaksWare algorithm is going to weight a portion of that effort as 81 times as demanding as continuing to ride at FTP. Considering 3x the power was transferred, the effort is really weighted “up” by 27 times. Does the body really respond cardiovascularly by such an enormous factor? My experience is no. Substrate consumption efficiency is measured as degraded in the lab when you draw down CP, but it’s not a factor of 27. A factor of more like ~4-5 seems more appropriate. That parameter doesn’t get the “correct” result in the PeaksWare algorithm, but it could mean that the algorithm and parameter are co-broken and compensating for one another.

Final critique: PeaksWare provides no satisfactory analog for instantaneous NP. Such a concept shouldn’t be impossible. As they’re not in the business of providing ANT+ scraping and display to head units (like Garmin for example) they have largely evaded this shortfall. If you ride along with some power variability, it is not logically impossible to assess what the instantaneous draw on the cardiovascular/metabolic systems in your body is/are. Instead of spouting that “instantaneous NP has no meaning”, it’s more appropriate to make your NP algorithm provide the meaning that is logically connected to the concept.


Now, it’s easier to critique than to provide solutions… and I am sure to be critiqued for the above because people love to get religious about their power numbers. So, I’ll present an alternative.

I want to draw on first principles for muscle/O2 transport/substrate consumption energy systems. I am going to guess the weighting factor a-priori. The argument is that burning anaerobic fuel is done at a discounted efficiency compared with aerobic fuel burn. When I ask muscles to generate power above FTP, I’ll agree that I’m going in debt, but it’s not the 27x debt from an exponent of 4, it’s more like a 4x or 5x debt. If we consider that theoretical 3x FTP sprint that generally an athlete can do with cadence on flat ground (reasonably achieved with CP system, not a strength/neuromuscularly limited 4-5x FTP sprint, that they also are using torque and may only be able to achieve sprinting uphill) the exponent should be between log(4×3)/log(3) & log(5×3)/log(3) = between 2.26 & 2.46. If you think you can only sprint at 2.5x FTP maybe the exponent, is 2.5-2.7, but then you’re probably getting old, or you need to work on getting your gainz!.

Then that debt has the potential to be repaid as you work under FTP as extra O2 and glucose are delivered. How long that takes is basically an assessment of how long it takes you to catch your breath after a sprint. Coach Corey typically wanted to know peak HR and HR 1 minute after cresting Emily Murphy Hill (2min @ ~FTP into 40sec max effort sprint), which was certainly not resting HR, but I was usually back to zone 2 with a coasting/pedaling recovery and sometimes all the way back to zone 1. I don’t really have any other assessment for how long it takes to catch my breath except for that one example. It doesn’t matter so much, whether the HR or breathing rate is back down, but those are the simple markers that your body is generally not still trying to “catch up” from an anaerobic effort for much more than a minute after the fact.

InstNormPower

OK, so one simple proposal for power normalization is that you would weight power numbers with an exponent (w) and then take an exponentially weighted moving average with a timeconstant T. The weighting is done first, representing the effect of the instantaneous cardiovascular efficiency of the effort. The time averaging models the impact to the breathing rate or HR over time. There are assumptions here, but without growing the model to include three parameters I don’t have a bright idea for a solution. The appropriate parameters are guessed to be 2.36 and a weight of maybe 1/20 or 1/30 each second. Impulse response of a weighting of 1/20 will have decreased by 80% within the minute which seems appropriate. A weighting of 1/30 will have reduced by 80% of the original response before 90 seconds. The summary metric for this normalized power for an effort is simply the average of the instantaneous normalized powers.

Power Normalization EWMA

To start to analyze this algorithm, let’s map this normalized power metric against the parameter space for the same TT. I am using the denominator from the exponential weighting as a proxy for the square window width from PeaksWare. They aren’t identical but they are analogs so I am going to plot the same parameter space and using the same axis for NP even though it overflows the top with this version of the algorithm. Increasing the weighting of an anaerobic effort increases the normalized power as expected. The larger weighings give rise to much larger values, the cause is the order of weighting then time averaging vs time averaging then weighting. Easy to observe from the plot that increasing the time averaging also increases the normalized power. With the PeaksWare method, you don’t get this effect “in general” although in some cases you will. The interpretation is based on the principle of what we modeled. That is: if you believe the impact of going anaerobic takes longer to recover from (longer time constant), you simultaneously believe that the cardiovascular performance requirement to make that effort is a higher benchmark. Interestingly after 15-20 seconds of weighting, the algorithm becomes less sensitive to this parameter. The plotted values of exponent 2.3 and 2.4 are demarcated on this plot, showing a NP estimate in the range of the one provided by the PeaksWare estimate is achieved. It’s actually unnerving how close.

Parameter_Map_EWMA

Now perhaps most interestingly. What is the instantaneous normalized power profile from the 2upTT. I am plotting here with a ^2.36 weighting and 25 second EWMA time constant.

Power_Summary_EWMA

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The trendline points out two really big things. The hardest part of team time trials is the sprint to get on the wheel of the person pulling through. Easy to see that when Will pulls through he is putting me in the hurt box big time, it takes the better part of my effort to recover from those spikes. They are prominent after rotation 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 15… i.e. most of the swaps, I was most in the hurt-box after getting back on, not when I quit on the front. Interestingly, late in the race, it becomes more prevalent that I am resting when not on the front and going deep when I am on the front. The cause is basically that the speeds are higher due to the downhill and the draft is better.

Quick test on that sprint effort. 10 minute ride total. 9.5 minutes spent at 50% of FTP with a 30second sprint at 3x FTP in the middle of it. The average power is still 63% of FTP. Instantaneous normalized power peaks at 2.6x FTP which falls appreciably short of 3x FTP. That seems approximately correct to me, maybe a bit high. I had previously suggested that the normalized power for the effort as a whole should be lower than FTP and the result is indeed 72% of FTP. Increasing the EWMA time constant from 25 seconds to 90 would blunt the peak instantaneous NP to only 1.8x FTP, and change the result of the overall effort’s FTP by only 1%. This is not wholly unsurprising, I had previously shown that after 15sec the algorithm is not terribly sensitive to changes in this parameter.

Disadvantages of this algorithm: If you’ve got a really lopsided effort, going kinda hard in one part and really hard in the other part, it’s not going to give you as much “credit” towards an overall normalized power as the PeaksWare strategy would/does. If you think that’s a big disadvantage I’ll propose that you were construing more from your NP numbers than you should have been doing in the first place.

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Taft Hill 2-up Team Time Trial

Power summary of the 2Up TT last night with Will.

I think both of us were pretty cooked at the end of Worlds the night before (I did 55 minutes solo to finish) but we opted to go for it anyways. We found out at the start line that there was actually going to be a race against Jim and Mike, we had previously been assuming it was essentially just a race against the clock and the best time of the series, previously set by Will and Tim 2 weeks earlier.

Power_Summary

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First off, a power summary. Race time was 37min15sec. Average power was 327 Watts. with a 5% fatigue curve assumption, I should be able to do 103% of FTP… and well… that really didn’t happen.

Pacing was typical for not having done a whole heck of a lot of practice. It *felt* like I was getting pretty good recoveries in between some of the very first efforts and so I was pushing myself when on the front. A lack of 2upTT practice meant that I probably wasn’t reading the situation quite correctly. I did mention to Will that he was killing me when he pulled through after a few swaps, I think that comment may have helped to reign in both of our efforts and generally it was pretty good for the middle two quarters of the race. I had a weak patch from 28-32 minutes, which shows up in the power a bit but is better evidenced on a later image showing I was taking shorter pulls there.

Power_Overlay

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Next plot shows I was doing 50-100 more watts on the front than when in the draft. The two lines come together on the most climbey-portion of the course which Will led over the climbs and I pulled on the front on the flats between. I was OK with this, I had climbed better than Will the day prior so I should probably let him set the pace when the grade was up.

Summary of this plot is 356 Watts average while on the front, 297 Watts average while in the draft.

Effort of Pulls

Next plot breaks up the efforts, showing the discrepancy between front and back position was greater on the way home. Aerodynamics playing a larger role when the grade was slightly downhill and the speeds were higher. Evidenced also by Jim and Mike and all their aero gear helping to pull out a few seconds from us on that portion of the course. The lower plot shows there’s a much higher power variability when on the back, trying to stay in the sweet-spot of the draft.

Length of Pulls

Next plot shows who was taking longer efforts on the front. Generally we were pretty fair, I did a couple longer ones early, I think partly to help calm the pace. I then was only taking short efforts on the front late in the game when my legs started to struggle. For Will to take 4 efforts in a row during the closing stages that were 15+ seconds longer than mine was really really solid. That was the only thing that kept us close to the Great Divide boys.

Sumtotal – Hickey on the front for 22 more seconds than me.

Cadence

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Final plot is cadence. I was in the money zone. Despite having sore legs I did have enough focus to execute correctly and keep the cadence up. When the muscles are blown out it’s even more important to shift as much stress as possible to the cardiovascular system and running 95+ rpm is key for me there. You can see the two climbs in the first half where I stood out of the saddle when Will was on the front, even there I was still doing pretty good cadence to try and keep the stress on the cardio.

(19 seconds coasting excluded from the trend lines)

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The Motherlode

‘The Motherlode’ is the name given to the 210 mile course variant at the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder. The event leaves from Spearfish South Dakota and heads up and into the Black Hills. Last year I raced the 110 mile ‘Gold Rush’ course and decided to go for the big one this time around, more sightseeing opportunities… or something like that. There is also a ‘Gold Dust’ 70 mile option on offer.

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The “Grand” Loop

Pre-dawn rollout.

A photo posted by Joshua Krabbe (@jdkrabbe) on

Two miles high at 9am. #WYMTM

A photo posted by Joshua Krabbe (@jdkrabbe) on


the map
the profile
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Stagecoach Classic 2016

Rooftop Cartegena

I returned to Winter Park this past weekend to take in the 3rd annual stagecoach classic. I had attended the 2nd edition after having missed out on the inaugural event because I was in Cartegena with Jason in January 2014 and too busy drinking Club Colombia, sitting beside rooftop pools, and riding bikes up and down giant mountain passes to think about zipping around the nordic trails.

Notable discussion at the finish line about how/why the waxing was apparently slower this time around compared to last year even though the conditions should have been faster with the warm conditions. The tracks were perhaps a little softer than the previous year, but not so soft that they were breaking down as a result of hard kicking. Following the weekend I crunched the numbers to compare finishing times of people who competed both years. On average people were about 3 minutes slower than last year with 31/44 of those competing both years being slower than last.

Histogram
Also calculated as a percentage of finish time.

The wax probably wasn’t really the contributing factor. Upon review of my GPS data there were some course modifications, in particular one notable one that made the course longer. Mystery seemingly solved. I felt notably better on the long steep climb at km 8 than I did the previous year and felt notably worse in the double-poling sections than I did last year… probably due to having lived at 5000 ft long enough to have made some notable adaptations and also due to weak-ass abs. I served myself some significant double-poling intervals the next day to inflict some damage. Some core-improvement before the Birkie would really be nice, it’s too late to make a huge difference but probably worth trying.

Main Difference
The field near km ~17. Red line shows the longer 2016 route.

Finish
Finish descent.
Altered due to new road I think.
Km8
After Aid #1.
Different but not longer.

Overall I’m a fan of the changes, made the course closer to 30kms, it was still a bit short. There are some simple loops that could be added around km 7-8 that could add another bit of distance to the front half of the race as well without dramatically altering anything or making things too much more difficult, just padding in some extra distance.

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Mount Evans Hill Climb

A project in correcting power data for altitude to gauge aerobic stress.

The aerobic stress of a cycling effort is gauged “fairly” by using power (assuming the power meter is calibrated. c.f. Brailsford’s Bullshit) only when the relative aerobic effort stays fair across the measurement. In the case of going to altitude, the blood-delivery demands on the heart, blood, and lungs increases because the amount of oxygen being drawn into the lungs with each breath is reduced. The effect is a physiological state of “I am breathing like I am doing 330 watts, but I’m only getting 270 watts out of my legs”.

Below is my power data from the Mt.Evans Hill climb (July 25, 2015). I rode in the Pro-1-2 field and placed right near the back of the pack. I dispatched myself out the rear of the peloton at 9.7 kms (end of the blue datapoints) and rode solo (green datapoints) the remaining 33.9 kms. We had just surged for a minute at around 4.4 Watts/kg and I was going to find myself in serious trouble in short order if I kept with the pack. The result here is 280.0 Watts which amounts to around 3.22 Watts/kg. The duration of my effort was 140.6 minutes. My bike weighed an additional 17.5 lbs and I started with 3.3 lbs of fluids which I consumed by halfway where I took on another 3.3 lbs of fluids which I drank by the top.


power data vs time with splined trendlines
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The power data is exponentially weighted by the altitude that it was produced at (i.e. weighted by oxygen content of air at that altitude) and then corrected by the time-weighted altitude of the effort. The correction is linear and amounts to ensuring that the mean-power calculation matches the corrected and uncorrected data. (This finds that relative to sea-level [exp(0)=1] this power has a mean discount of 67.15% or equivalently the ride occurred at an average of 3185 m elevation). The formula is at right and the predicted trend for power is shown below in blue. Note that this trend is not itself exponential as the rate of ascent was not linear.


power data vs time with trend expected by altitude
Shows distinct difference between riding with the peloton and riding solo.
Click to Enlarge

Performance relative to the expected trendline is also calculated (i.e. flatten the blue line above to determine when I was going hard and when I was going easy in terms of oxygen delivery). The trend below matches to a much greater degree the perceived exertion during the race, the fact that I felt like I was absolutely lighting it up towards the finish is clear on this plot, and not clear at all from the power data alone. Following the short descent to Summit Lake around 6700 seconds I get onto the final switchbacks where I push myself 5% rising to 15% above the average “aerobic power” for the effort. Consider that Coggans power-zones are all about 15% of FTP wide I managed to lift myself almost an entire zone towards the finish. This was not a case of holding things in reserve to spend at the finish. It was the case of getting in serious anaerobic debt during the final 20 minutes of the effort.


Power trend relative to the expected flat-line based on altitude-weighted average.
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Finally a few extrapolations that show that the model is imperfect. It suggests that if done at sea level I should/would have been able to do 417 Watts. If done in Edmonton I should have been able to do 383 Watts. Some TT-like efforts in the 140 minute range that I have at much lower elevations are my two races at Oliver in the 93km TT where I managed 284 and 298 watts. Neither of those efforts in Oliver was O2 constrained. The model works well to predict fade as I move from where I am acclimatized (arguably ~1500 m) to where I am not (4200 m) because it accounts correctly for the rate-limiting feature of cycling ergogenesis in those conditions. Going from Ft.Collins down, the rate-limiting feature of my performance over a 2+hr effort would not be oxygen delivery and so the gains in performance would not be seen.


Sea level watts!
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Season Planning Seminar

The Invitation:

First thing back after Christmas (well at least close to first thing) is a good time to lay some plans for the next season. This is partly because everyone is highly motivated at this time of year and full of the ‘New Years Resolutions’ vibe. This week, we’d like to have a club seminar/workshop on self-coaching and season planning. The seminar to start will be informative, but informal, and I’m going to try and address some basics about training for triathlon and explain some of the associated jargon used to discuss this kind of stuff. I’ll also give an idea of how you can design and monitor progress with a training plan. We’ll finish off by each sketching out a plan for ourselves for the season ahead (2013!). Hopefully when you leave you’ll have an idea of what kinds of training lies between here and a successful event or events in the coming year, but also some self-coaching skills to monitor and adapt that plan along the way.

If you’ve attended the club seminar on this topic in years past I hope I can make the evening of value to you. While the actual training plan template I’m going to stick with is based on Joe Friel’s TTB which is the template we’ve used in years past, the seminar won’t be just walking through that process.

Details:

Room ED-177,

Tuesday Jan 15

8:30-10:00 pm

There should be enough time to shower and get over there by then. The club will be buying some Pizza for attendees. If you cannot figure out how to make it there by 8pm… then you really need to work on your transitions before race season.

Homework Part 1:

Homework is optional but recommended.

Please come to the seminar this Tuesday evening with some idea of what you’d like to do in the sport of triathlon (or swimming, biking or running as standalone sports) in 2013. If you’re hoping to sign up for your first ever race now isn’t a bad time to decide which one you might like to try. If you’ve been racing for years and have so many favourite races that they conflict with eachother on your calendar then now isn’t a bad time to start choosing. The race calendar in Alberta doesn’t change much from year to year, if you have a look at these websites you can probably get a pretty good idea of what your options may be for racing in 2013.

FYI:The club’s training plan is loosely based around an end of May race and/or an early July race. Examples would be Coronation Triathlon or Oliver Half Ironman, and then Edmonton ITU [out of date website at the moment] or Great White North. Registration for Great White North is still open but there are less than 100 spots left if you are interested in that.

Homework Part 2:

I have attached four documents. They are stolen directly from Joe Friel’s book about season planning for Triathlon.

  1. A survey of your basic abilities in Swim&Bike&Run. Hopefully this will help you identify what you need to work on in training.
  2. A good survey of your mental strength in sport. I have done this survey at the end of my season for 4 years running and learn something about myself each year. It is worth 5 minutes of your time, maybe not right now, but sometime when you need help procrastinating.
  3. A worksheet that can help you identify quantify what is most likely limiting your athletic success if #1 didn’t give you a good enough idea.
  4. A page that can help you outline the steps in training between now and success in 2012 by stating some goals and identifying what it will require of you. If you do take the time to fill it out, it will help you make a commitment to what you want to do. Putting things in writing can be an important step in the process.

Doing these surveys ahead of time is optional, but will likely be very beneficial.

Disclaimer:

Training methodologies are sometimes a bit like a religion. When you involve part of your life (i.e. all the training you do) with the way of thinking laid out by a certain school of thought (i.e. some group of exercise physiologists suffering from a severe case of groupthink) then you can become pretty defensive about the way you understand things to be. I’ll be among the first to admit that the way I understand and think about training is influenced by the people I have learned from, but I made an effort to do a good job in choosing teachers who knew their stuff. So, what I’ll cover is a very popular and very successful training methodology, it is not the only philosophy that exists. While I’m in the process of giving disclaimers, I’d better add another one: Triathlon is a fantastic sport but it’s a bad religion. We do this stuff for fun, think about that when you’re planning and setting goals for 2013.

Resources for the Season Planning Seminar

Also worth referencing for an “idea” but no more than idea… is Friel’s hours breakdown. As I will stress in the seminar. Appropriate load is the load that creates a training response that can be absorbed by your body, not by what some chat suggests. This is merely an idea of some typical patterns.

The presentation slides are attached here.

The Friel ATP chart is attached here.

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How hard?

I imagine that I’d like to relay some stories from the Pyrenees on this blog in the coming months. They should be accompanied by appropriate photos and I’m making an effort to edit the photos down to a bite-sized snapshot rather than just dumping them all on the internet. The world doesn’t revolve around quantity, it revolves around quality. Quality riding is what I went to France for this fall and it’s exactly what I found. Typical days I was on the road for ten hours setting off within minutes of the sun rising, sometimes a bit less than that (but never much less) and sometimes a bit more (twilight, but never pitch-black). The average day was 8 hours 45 minutes of riding and around four and a half kilometers of vertical. A fellow rider remarked to his son over the phone one night “We biked up Mount Everest yesterday and today! Tomorrow and the next day we’re going to do it again!”

I remarked on twitter that this was by far the most challenging thing I’d ever done. The hardest day, stage 3, which had me worried for my wellbeing was impacted largely by mental challenges in addition to the physical. That said, it was the most physically demanding ride to complete that I had ever done. It would later be surpassed by Stage 6 which was completed with relatively fresh legs after a day of recovery.

A number of people have questioned whether or not it’s possible that these rides were so much harder than all of the ridiculous ideas that I can think up for myself at home. The answer to that question is both “Yes” and “No”. I’ll illustrate with a couple graphs to compare. The first is a chart showing the energy expenditures for each day measured in calories. These are calculations, but they are calibrated calculations and quite accurate, especially relative to one another. Included is how much fuel (food) must be converted into actual cycling motion. This does not include general bodily functions, the demands of thermo-regulation which are very large when your body is displaying symptoms of hypothermia, and does not include the body’s activity of muscular recovery running overdrive all night long between the stages repairing some of the damage inflicted to the body one day so that more damage can be done the next. Also not included are the energy demands of chewing approximately five times an average human’s daily intake of food!

Photo from gallery: CCC Pyrenees 2012
Caloric expenditure for various rides

The ten stages of CCC are listed at left. To their right are the energy expenditures of four of the most insane training rides I’ve done in the vicinity of Edmonton. The first two are “PL2010″ and “PL2011″ which are 200 & 240 km training rides on my TT bike interspersed with intervals all the way from home to Pigeon Lake and back. “FullCM+” was Edmonton Road and Track’s ‘Full Calmar’ ride extended with a visit to Spring-Lake with added intervals to make it 230kms long. Finally “THawk” is a 180km Tomahawk loop ridden steady-tempo, the hilliest training ride that we have in the vicinity of Edmonton. The next three rides are from my Jasper Training Weekend “JTW:1-3″, done as preparation for CCC in Jasper National Park, trying to find as much sustained climbing as I could. Finally at right are four ‘event’ rides completed in the mountains. The first two are races at Ironman Canada in 2010 and 2011. Next up is a 300km ride over Highwood Pass and back, and the final ride, and only one in excess of 8000 cal is the Golden Triangle ride completed this past summer.

Within the energy expenditure for each ride I have highlighted in red, the energy expenditure that plain physics demands to complete the ride is in red. This is the amount of energy needed to lug my body and bike over the mountain, nothing extra for aerodynamic drag or ‘going fast’, just the energy to complete. A full 18 hills on the Thursday Night circuit is about 700 calories for me and I’ll typically blow away another 800-1000 calories on a Thursday evening by doing it “fast”. Up to 60% of my energy on a Hills-night ride is spent going fast. On a long flat training ride, more than 85% of my energy is spent going fast. In the Pyrenees every day I was doing rides that were nearly as big as I could possibly do in terms of energy expenditure and less than 30% of my energy was spent going fast.

The magnitude of effort required to complete the first stage of the CCC was about 50% more than was required to complete the Golden Triangle. We then did the same thing the next day… and the load just piled on with basically no respite until the end (if you can call those days respite. Stage 9 had abnormally low grades (only 7 or 8%!) on two of the passes because we were in Spain so the mileage was high but the climbing low. Stage 10 was slightly abridged so that we could finish with time to pack bikes before a celebratory dinner of pork cheeks and some fine Catalan red wine.

I’ll also post the following chart, displaying the average work rate in calories burned per hour (stipulations as above regarding the many calories that are ignored). It shows that on average the intensity of these rides was on the low end for something I’d be able to sustain for an incredibly tough training day at home. This is for two reasons, the first is that when I plan a ride that is as hard as I can possibly handle at home I normally have at most a moderate day before and a moderate day after, never another that is similarly difficult. The second reason is that about 50% of the mileage completed in the Pyrenees was done while descending. The roads are technical on the descents and generally it’s irresponsible to pedal because you’re trying not to gain too much speed so that you don’t overheat your brakes and destroy your wheels. Those descents provide a good opportunity for digesting food at a lowered heart rate, so while the chart indicates that on average the day-long work rate is lower, the up-hill work rate is higher (up to 25% higher = comparable with age-group winning IM average effort) and the down-hill work rate is essentially zero with a few exceptions.

Photo from gallery: CCC Pyrenees 2012
Work Rate (calories per hour) for various rides

I hope these charts give an idea of how hard is hard. I rode 86 hours and 15 minutes over the course of the 11 days on the trip but I think that’s possibly the most misleading metric for how hard the challenge was so I don’t think I’ll mention that stat again. It was hardly about the time, it was all about the quantity of work that needed to be done and so hopefully this has given an illustration of how much work that was. I’ll just make one last reminder that we did all 10 of those rides in the course of just 11 days.

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