Showing posts with label FTP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FTP. Show all posts

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Revolver Road

Next in the series of indoor sessions completed on the road is Sufferfest's Revolver, essentially 16 1 min intervals at 133% FTP (400W for me) with 1 min recovery intervals between. I've done it a couple of times on the turbo and it gets a bit challenging around the 12th interval. Today I planned to do 2 sets of 10 intervals and hit a Strava segment in-between, the one I failed to beat yesterday.

HR=red, Power=black

The first bunch of intervals went well but started to grate a bit towards the end, but I was regularly exceeding the target 400W and regularly around 420W. HR was always under control and the first 20 minutes averaged 290W (xPower 314W and NP 340W).

A short 6 mins recovery later I was lined up getting ready to hit the Strava segment start point (traffic lights) at full speed. It started well, but I caught the second set of lights and that killed my overall time but I did knock 20 secs off my previous best time and I moved from 6th to 5th. I'll have to keep trying.

The second set of intervals was done on busier roads so they were a bit more disjointed and I had to do an extra one because the 4th one was stopped short by traffic and extend the 8th as I caught traffic lights near the end of it. At the end of this set of 10 I was spent and pleased to stop, achieving just 399W with a lot of grimacing on the last interval.

As sessions go, it was quite interesting to do a turbo session on the road and I seemed to suffer less than the indoor version. It's quite a simple session too, so easy to remember.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Mike's Guide to Turbo Training

The aim of this post is to provide guidance on the use of Turbo Trainers for those that haven’t used them before or have recently started. It’s based on my personal experience; other views are available and might be more sensible.

warning: if you're really fat, pregnant, stupid, diabetic or have a history of heart attacks, please consult a medical expert before attempting anything written below or it may kill you.
In fact, just close the browser now and walk away, these are not the tips you're looking for.

The Real Basics

A turbo Trainer allows you to use your bike to exercise by producing a resistance to counter your pedalling force. There are many types of resistance units (wind, gel, magnetic, nuclear fission) and a huge range of prices, so I won’t discuss which is the best as there are lots of reviews on the internet. But remember that a turbo is for life, not just for the first 3 weeks of a new year so think about getting a good one. There are lots of good quality second hand ones being sold by people who didn’t follow the kind of golden advice below and have given up on their dreams, so the classifieds may be a good place to get a lightly worn uber-trainer for little money.

What you’ll need. Other than the bare minimum of a bike and a turbo, there are various additions you may wish to consider to make your turbo session more enjoyable, or less horrible, depending on how you feel about turbo training. Some of these are physical things, some are mental things…

Physical things you need

The right environment. You will sweat on a turbo so make sure you have an area where you can work without worrying about sweating on your new carpet. Your bike will probably shed a small amount of chain oil too and can be quite noticeable on a cream Wilton. It’s good to have a surface nearby to put your‘ gubbins’ on so you don’t have to dismount. Kitchens, garages or even outside are good places to do a workout. Your mum’s living room is a bad place. Plan for success.

A drink. Particularly for longer sessions, you’ll be glad you prepared a cool refreshing drink to sip between the intervals. The most obvious side-effect of a good turbo session is the pool of sweat under the bike when you finish so staying hydrated is very important.

A towel. I like to have a towel draped across my handlebars to remove the sweat from my face. While it’s a great feeling to know you’re working hard enough to leak like a sieve, it’s also very nice to not have the rivulets of salty sweat running into your eyes. Riders who want to look more‘continental’ may consider a headband as well.

Entertainment/distraction. 60 minutes on the turbo sounds great when you’re sitting surfing the internet buying the thing. Once you’re through the first few sessions you’ll very quickly start to tire of the whirring noise, and the sweating, and the burning in your thighs. I use a complicated series of distraction techniques to make my turbo time less horrible including loud dance music and YouTube clips of the Tour De France or the European Spring Classics. If you’re using a laptop it’s best to use a mouse rather than a touchpad (due to the sweat) and have everything ready to go before you start. The entertainment should not distract you from your planned session (more on that in a bit), but it should enhance the experience. You will not be able to read a book or magazine on the turbo. If you can read on the turbo, you’re doing it wrong.

A big fan. I’m not talking about getting your loved-one to cheer you on, I’m talking about a remote controlled 30+ inch industrial fan to blow refreshing cooling air over you to reduce the sweatiness and keep your temperature under control. I’m too tight to spend money on a fan, but lots of people swear by them. I tend to open as many windows as possible to make sure there is some airflow across my sweaty back.

Loved-ones. If you’re turboing correctly you won’t want to spend your precious time discussing ‘trivia’ with somebody. Explain to likely distractors that you need some ‘turbo time’ and would prefer to not be disturbed. While your husband/wife/girlfriend etc is being considerate by trying to tell you about what that bitch Julie said to her at work or wanting to discuss what you want for dinner, you’re unlikely to be able or willing to properly engage in the discussion while you’re turning yourself inside-out on the fifth interval of a set of six. You’re likely to swear at him/her. If you find you are regularly disturbed during your turbo time you could return the favour and ruin something they enjoy.

Clingfilm. As a cheapskate I use clingfilm on my bars to stop them getting sweat-soaked and smelling bad for the rest of the year. If you turbo with a bike computer it’s also nice to stop the sweat dripping off your nose and into the delicate electronics of your so-called waterproof electronic device. Clingfilm works on touch-screens and laptop keyboards too.

Minimal clothing. On the turbo I wear shoes, socks, a heart rate monitor and tiny shorts. With a headband I look like a 1970’s German fitness instructor, so I save that for special days. It’s nice to have a t-shirt to hand for the warm-up and cool-down, but I wouldn’t plan to be wearing it when you’re putting down the power.

Shoes. Cycling shoes are best for transferring your power through the pedals as their solid soles will stop your foot flexing which may become uncomfortable after a while. Clipless pedals or toe clips allow you to use more of the pedal stroke to transfer power. Flat pedals will do if you don’t have anything better. Oh yeah, and your shoes will get sweaty and may start to smell.

A method of recording your efforts. Whether it’s an expensive powermeter or a cheap cycle computer, being able to record your efforts and improvements is essential. If you feel like you’re getting fitter it’s great to have evidence to back it up. If you’re not improving, it’s time to change your workouts so that you do improve.
Mental things you need

A target. Setting targets will allow you to have a proper plan and give you the determination to complete it. Want to lose weight? Want to win races? Want to get away from ‘The Antique’s Roadshow’? Whatever, have a target and record your progress towards it and make sure your targets are specific, realistic and achievable. At 45 you’re not going to shed 40 kilos and win the British Road Race Champs next year, so don’t demoralise yourself by thinking you can then realising you can’t. A good example of a target is something like: By 1 June I will be able to ride for 60 minutes on the turbo at an average speed of 18 mph. This allows you to progress towards the target and monitor your progress. A bad example of a target is something like: I want to get fitter. After 2 days you’ll have achieved your target.

A session plan. This is probably the most important aspect of turboing. Without a plan you’re just mucking about and turning food and drink into sweat and noise. With a plan you’re turning your dreams into reality (providing you have a decent plan). The internet is full of great workouts and some rubbish ones too, so be careful who you listen to. Trainer Road (nothing to do with me) is getting increasingly popular as a source of training plans and individual workouts. I haven’t used it, but a lot of people think it’s great for motivation and there are several threads about it on the internet. Having a public record of what you’re doing is a good way to improve your determination to complete your plan.
A power test (optional). To properly determine your ideal workout load you should complete a power test to see what you're capable of. This is the pinnacle of suffering and any woman who says childbirth is painful hasn't completed a 20 minute power test. Basically, once you have warmed up you go as hard as you can for 20 minutes and then use the result as a guide for how hard you should be working for different workouts. If you average Xmph for 20 mins, you'd take 95% of this speed to give you an estimate of what you could achieve for 60 minutes (effectively your FTP), and scale workouts based on this figure. There are other ways of testing yourself and, using speed rather than power, there are lots of issues regarding repeatability, but if these are controlled you have a pretty effective cheap system. Add Trainer Road for a more expensive system, add a power meter for a really expensive system.

Determination. Once you have your plan you need to have the determination to complete it. However, just getting the turbo out and attaching the bike to it is usually the hardest part of any workout; that takes real determination. You know the feeling: your favourite soap is just about to start, you’ve had a very hard day at work sitting down in front of the computer, you deserve some ‘down time’, right? Wrong. You need some determination to get up, get nearly naked with a roll of clingfilm and give that turbo a seeing to. Think of it like this, your body is full of the physical energy as well as the mental ‘innergy’you need to turn your potential into success. Is that cheesy enough for you?

Bail-out plan. There will be times when you can't complete your chosen workout either because you're feeling weak or you've planned to do something beyond your capability. This is not a problem and everybody has bad days. Rather than just stopping and sulking, it's a good idea to have a bail-out plan so that you still get a decent session out of your time. For example, if I'm struggling I may decide to back my power off to a certain level until I recover, or let my HR come down to a certain level. Don't give up, give less, but make sure you give something.

Recovery. This is the period when your body turns your effort into fitness. If you plan to do 7 days of hard workouts a week you’ll end up doing 7 days of mediocre workouts and you’ll stop getting fitter. Bradley Wiggins has recovery days. You need recovery days. Some days you won’t be able to train due to other commitments; maybe you’re going to court or you’re confessing your sins on the Oprah show. If so, plan these days as recovery days and train around them.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Weekly Summary

I've had the luxury of a week off work to allow me to focus on getting some good training in and hopefully make some more progress towards my targets. I've even had the the opportunity to get out on the roads and do some normal cycling rather than the relative monotony of the turbo.

This week has been my biggest since the start of the experiment:

Time riding: 8 hrs 44 mins
Work done: 7700 kJ
Bikescore: 650

This is most obvious in the graph below showing time in power zones 3, 4 and 5. I've done more in each of these zones than in any previous week and at the end of it I still feel keen and strong; much better than I expected to. It will be interesting to see how going back to work will impact on my turbo workload.

I've also managed to reduce my weight to around 74.8 kgs (based on 3 days' measurements) so cutting alcohol and reducing chocolate seems to be doing some good. With the race season about 2 months away I'm not really that bothered about my weight yet, but I'd like to be a kilo lighter next month.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Road Hill Repeats

I woke up to a surprisingly mild Yorkshire day so I thought I'd make the most of it and get to a local hill for some intervals. I live about 8 miles from the lovely village of Crayke, which sits above the surrounding flat countryside like a beacon of pain. So my plan was to take a steady ride to the foot of Crayke mountain,completing smashing a Strava segment on the way there, and then do 6x5 minute hill repeats with a target power output of 330W (about 105% FTP), with roughly 4-5 minutes of downhill recovery between. I don't normally do this kind of specific training on the road, preferring to cover a variety of terrain over distance rather than turbo-style intervals.

The ride out went well and I felt good about smashing my previous time on the Strava segment by 36 seconds, getting it down from 6:10 to 5:36 and taking a King of the Mountain in the process. It also served as a good warm-up interval averaging 360W (115% FTP). It felt really good to be out on the bike and getting all the benefit of air-cooling and not having to suffer a stream of sweat dripping off my nose.

After a brief recovery I was into the 6 Crayke intervals. Below is a close-up of the 6th Crayke interval (the grey background shows altitude, red=HR, black = power, green=cadence and blue=current FTP).The altitude profile starts off quite undulating for the first mile or so, gently climbing 100 feet in the first mile and then ramping up another 150 feet in the last half mile. So, it's not exactly steep, but sticking in the big ring at the front means I have to get out of the saddle for the end of each interval. At the end, HR is in the low 170s which, for me, means I'm working quite hard.

The whole ride looks like this (without cadence and altitude)

The 6 Crayke intervals were: 5:21 at 337W, 5:19 at 350W, 5:14 at 341W, 5:11 at 333W, 5:14 at 342W and 5:15 at 344W. So there's not a lot of correlation between average power and time, which I'll have to look into.

On the way home after the intervals I thought I'd throw in another 330W interval on the flat, but 30 seconds in I thought again and backed-off until I got home. The Crakye intervals had done their job and my legs were quite tired which probably shows the limited road mileage I have done over the last couple of months. It's all very good having good 5-8 minute power, but not if you can't finish the 2 hour race!

Looking at the power profile for the ride it's very obvious that there is a big difference between road and turbo sessions. Rather than specific peaks for targeted zones, there's a flatter look and even some Zone 7 in there too. I find it hard to get quality Z6 and Z7 time on the turbo because I'm always seated.

After the ride I went out for a very gentle 5.7 mile run.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Hell of the North - as a recovery ride

I felt quite 'lactic' after yesterday's effort so I needed an active recovery day. After lunch I got ready to do a toned-down version of the Hell of the North workout that I love so much. I did the last 50 minutes using 300W (96% FTP) when Boonen was on screen and 260W (83%) when he wasn't.

power = black and HR = red.

After a 10 minute warm up I got into the 50 minute interval and felt very comfortable throughout. In fact, about 35 mins into it I realised I was ramping up my power above my target 300W and not letting it get down to my 260W recovery either. Once I'd flushed yesterday's tiredness from my legs I just felt stronger than I thought I would. In fact, my average power for the first 40 minutes (288W) was the same as the last time I did this workout (289W) but back then I was unable to continue and had to have a rest. Today I was just fresher and with a much lower HR.

Looking back at the period around 6-7 Dec I think I was either slightly ill or run down. I had several workouts where I seemed to lack power despite several periods of rest. I didn't have any obvious symptoms, just a general lethargy. Maybe having 2 weeks off work over Xmas is helping. Maybe I should go Pro!!! Maybe at 42 I'm past Pro.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

December's 20 minute power test - weighed and measured!

After 4 weeks of turbo time it was eventually time to complete another 20 minute power test to see if I had made any improvement. I tried to control as many variables as possible; so I used the same bike and powertap on the same turbo, with the same pre-ride calibration and I even used the same kitchen.

Before I started I didn't feel very motivated but I know that it's pointless doing interval sessions to improve power unless I test myself regularly to see if they're actually working. If they aren't I need to know so that I can change my routine.

Anyway, the headline is that my 20 minute power is 331W today compared to 322W 4 weeks ago. This 9W equates to a rise of roughly 2.8% which is well above what I had expected. I was hoping for a 1% improvement per month which would get me to my 345W target by May 2013. This equates to a 14 sec improvement over a 10 mile TT.

Here's the plot from today's power test (Red = HR, Black = power):

After a decent warm-up including a 320W power test to make sure everything was OK, I had a poor start and went off too hard and had to wind myself back, but I was settled in after a minute or so. I noticed that I was continually nudging above my 325W target and after 10 minutes I had averaged 328W. The last 10 minutes were hard and sweaty with a couple of weak periods but not the big crash I had previously experienced around 17 minutes.

Below is a comparison of the 2 power tests showing December's test (Red line) compared to November's (Blue). The obvious differences are the stronger start and the improved performance towards the end when I didn't crash in the Dec version. Dec looks much more under control.

Comparing HR across the 2 sessions looks like this:

The difference between HRs at the start of the session is due to slightly different warm-ups and is maintained until around 12 minutes, but at the end the HR traces are almost identical. This is interesting because I use power to pace myself during 20 minute tests but my limit seems to be HR-related. Without a powermeter I'd certainly start too hard and achieve a lower average power over the 20 min test. Average cadence for the 2 sessions is very similar too at 84 rpm for Nov and 86 rpm for Dec.

So what have I learned?
  • At the moment I haven't learned anything. 2 data points are not conclusive but I did feel a lot better on today's test so I'm assuming that the power improvement is genuine; I just need more data to prove it. I have seen how my performance can vary from day to day so it may just be that I was weak on the last test and strong today but that I haven't made any actual improvement. Time will tell.
  • My work-outs over the last 4 weeks have targetted power Zones 4 and 5 so I would expect to see some improvement in a Zone 5 power test (which is what a 20 minute test is) and I have purposely avoided harder intervals. However, this doesn't mean that these were the best intervals; I may have showed a higher 20 minute power increase just riding for an hour at 90%FTP for 2 hours a day.
  • I will need to increase my work-outs to reflect the increased FTP and to continue to provide an impetus for my body to adapt to the increased stress. Again, this is the reason regular testing is essential.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Recovery Day Musings

At the end of the third week I have achieved: Rides: 3 - all turbo sessions totalling 3 hrs 35 mins (last week 5 hrs 50 mins). This reduction is largely a result of having 3 days off at the start of the week due to other commitments.

Total Bikescore (TSS): 274 (last week 456)

kCals burned (incl warm-ups and cooldowns): 3277 (5391)

I didn't have a planned TSS for this week, but I woke up this morning feeling a little throaty so I feel I have achieved as much as I wanted to in the last 3 days. We have a 'house cold' which I'm trying to avoid so I don't want to overdo things and get ill. I have been looking at the various ways I can compare workouts since I started to lose confidence in TSS/Bikescore as a useful metric. Below is a graph comparing my work done (in kJ), Bikescore and TSS. As you can see, and as I would expect, they are all pretty much the same across the last 4 weeks.

This week's times in various Zones show how easy I've had it compared to my 'big week' last week.
Total time in Zone 3: 0:33:37 (last week 57:10)
Total time in Zone 4: 1:32:36 (last week 2:17:34)
Total time in Zone 5: 0:16:50 (last week 0:38:23)
Total time in Zone 6: 0:01:20 (last week 0:03:37)
Total time in Zone 7: 0 (last week 8 seconds)
The last 4 weeks' Zones 3-5 durations are shown in the table below:

On every measure I have had an easy week. I have had 2 hard workouts and an easier one but I've  compressed all my work into 3 days and I'm now feeling a bit lethargic as a result and I feel I need a recovery day. I'm due (and dreading) a 20 minute power test soon to see what benefit the preceeding 4 weeks of turbo work has given me. I'll probably aim to do this next weekend so I'm planning turbo sessions on Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri (probably with a hangover after the office Xmas party on Thurs evening) and then the test.

Looking back at the same period last year I was doing a lot more riding on the road and racing CX too so I was getting a lot more time on the bike than this year. This year the Yorkshire roads are terrible to the point of being dangerous, with massive puddles and potholes. It will be interesting to see whether the turbo work has been sufficient to maintain my 20 min power output without the longer road rides I usually do.

Friday, 7 December 2012


This is a description of the terms, abbreviations and concepts that I use in the blog. There are better guides on the internet, but this is how I understand them in the context of this blog.

FTP - functional threshold power. This is the maximum power I can output for a 60 minute period. As I have never done a 60 minute test I use a 20 minute maximal test and subtract 5% from the result. For example, I recently completed a 20 minute power test at 322W, so I can calculate an FTP at 322x0.95 = 307W. The highest 60 minute figure I have ever recorded is 291W but I still use the 307W figure for planning workouts.

Bikescore or Training Stress Score (TSS). This is a measurement used to estimate the training stress of a workout. If I did a 1 hour workout at FTP I would record a TSS of 100. 30 mins at FTP is 50, and so on. I don't like this figure very much as I find it very blunt and it hides a multitude of information. For example, a 60 minute FTP ride gets 100. A 3 hour ride at 175W gets 100. The 1 hour ride would kill me and the 3 hour ride would bore me.

Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR). The exercise intensity at which blood lactate starts to accumulate faster than it can be cleared. The highest average HR I have recorded in a race was 174BPM which is taken as my LTHR (based on training industry norms). Since I got a power meter I use HR less but I always have an eye on where my HR is compared to LTHR. In steady state I start to feel uncomfortable at around 162BPM and I'm hating life at 174BPM. My HR on a turbo is different to my HR on the road or racing so there is difficulty using a race LTHR as a real guide on the turbo. Also, as HR varies from day to day, LTHR is really only a guide.

Interval. Basically an interval is a period of exercise where power output is at a certain level. For example, I may do a pair of 20 minute intervals at FTP or 5x5minutes at 120% FTP. The theory is that doing hard work for short periods allows you to stress your body more effectively. I'm lazy and sometimes mix the term Session with Interval when I really mean Interval.

Traditionally these are written as the 'number of intervals' x 'duration of intervals (usually in minutes)', for example 2x20 or 3x15. There is, by definition, a rest interval (RI) between the work intervals but this is not usually stated.

KiloJoules (kJ). A measure of the work done during an interval, session, ride etc. The greater the number the more work has been completed. It is often used as a proxy for calories (kCals) burned during exercise as there is a conversion rate of roughly 1:1 between them.

Powerzones. There are 7 power zones based around a rider's FTP.

Zone 1 - Active Recovery - 0-55% FTP
Zone 2 - Endurance - 55-75% FTP
Zone 3 - Tempo - 75-90% FTP
Zone 4 - Threshold - 90-105% FTP
Zone 5 - VO2 Max - 105-120% FTP
Zone 6 - Anaerobic - 120-150% FTP
Zone 7 - Neuromuscular - 150% FTP+

Sweetspot. To confuse things, the sweetspot is further defined as 88-94% of FTP. This is generally considered to be the most efficient region to train in if you're looking to improve FTP.
The Quits. During hard workouts I often get a dose of the quits or the weakness. It's the point where I pathetically want to give up and do something else. Usually accompanied by whimpering.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

I'm getting lazy

I've had 3 lazy days with absolutely NO exercise due to lots of travelling with work, 12 hour days, long cold nights and a cheap bar. I didn't really want to do anything today but I knew that I should, so I compromised with myself and planned a 2x20mins sweetspot session which then changed into a 1x45 at 93% FTP once I got going.

As workouts go, this was quite easy. I got bored after 35 minutes and started to vary my power output, a bit of out-of-the-saddle to get rid of some 'numbness' and then a final little push at the end. Not sure if the session did any good, but I needed a gentle reintroduction to the turbo before the next 3 days of planned turbo sessions.

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.

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.

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.

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.