a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Friday 16 November 2018

Training with power - no soft tapping this winter.

To start this week's post on my first experience of training with power first a very brief summary of my 2018 season. It started really well and I was encouraged by my early results, always near the front and finishing in the top ten. In the middle part of the season the races seemed to get harder and my results got worse, too much racing, too much training and too much travelling - yep I had definitely overdone it, over trained? under recovered ? whatever it was, I was cooked. With hindsight thirteen races in May was maybe a little bit too ambitious, lesson learned. MayTourLVRC In the last third of the season after a period of recovery I felt back on form but the races were not going that well and usually under very similar circumstances.

                                                               Heading out, ready to press harder on the pedals.
Often in races I found that I was under pressure and sometimes lost contact when the road dragged up for more than a couple of minutes. I was just not strong enough compared to the best guys in my age category, especially towards the end of a race. AgeGroupRacing So one of the things I need to do is get better at this type of effort. There is an old adage that says if you keep doing the same things you will keep getting the same results ... or words to that effect, and after reflecting on my race season I decided that I needed to change the way I train to try and improve on the efforts that were letting me down in races.
Having talked to Jack (my son/coach) at length on how to approach my winter training we agreed that I needed to start using a power meter and do my winter training a bit differently this time round. You can read more about training with Jack, here Polarisedtraining and here HowElitesTrain. Jack put me in touch with the nice folks at Pinpoint Consumer Electronics who very kindly supplied me with a Precision power meter and a Viiiiva heart rate monitor to go with it.

I am trying to be realistic in terms of the benefit I can get from training with a power meter and I am not really expecting to find significant number of extra watts over the winter. In fact one of the reasons that I haven't  used a power meter in the past was that I felt that as I am sixty three this month I would potentially just be gathering data on my inevitable decline - not particularly motivating !
The Precision was really easy to install and set up as it comes already fitted to a new left side crank arm, old one off, new one on, wake it up by turning the pedals backwards and it pairs to your head unit. Position the cranks arms vertically to calibrate and that's it - sorted, it took me fifteen minutes max and as I am normally absolutely useless at stuff like this I was well pleased. A detailed review on the Precision power meter by CyclingWeekly4iiii here.
On my first ride I immediately noticed how sensitive the Precision power meter was to pressure on the pedals - I know that's blindingly obvious but I was still surprised ! If you ease off on the pedals the power meter instantly tells you and the second you stop pedalling - BIG FAT ZERO. This very simple realisation quickly changed the way I ride, no more free wheeling after cresting a slight incline, no more soft tapping when riding in a tail wind, no more easy pedalling on the wheel to keep the beard out of the wind, the power meter was a game changer almost immediately.
                                                      Only three weeks in and I've noticed a difference already.
Somebody said to me that using a power meter makes you a lot more honest about how hard you are actually training and yes I have probably been kidding myself in to thinking I was doing everything I could. So my training is going to be much more structured from now on and having already changed the way I ride my training time will be used much more effectively. To be clear though I will still be soft tapping to my favourite cafe The-Mockingbird-Deli-Yarm two or three days a week.

To set my 4iiii power training zones three consecutive days of testing started fairly appropriately with five minute efforts. The protocol was a progressive warm up followed by three efforts with thirty minutes of recovery between. This testing was done up a long drag, very similar to the sort that have been causing me problems in races. The efforts were really hard and I didn't enjoy them at all, the cool down to the cafe was OK though.
The second day of testing was the twenty minute effort done on our local time trial course out and back between two roundabouts in a crosswind, hard but I think I paced it just about right and was on my maximum heart rate for the last 2-3 minutes. Day three (above) required a long straight road with an even gradient, light cross-wind and legs feeling good ... well er no actually they didn't, but I did the test anyway, which was 3 x 1 minute efforts with 10 minutes recovery between, a lot harder than it sounds.
I got everything out on the final one minute effort, and I had my finger hovering over the lap button for the last three seconds desperate for it to be over, I had so much fun doing these tests ... not.
But, I hear you ask, if I don't expect to find much in the way of a power increase, then how do I expect to improve my 5 minute effort ? Well simply by doing lots of 5 minute efforts up longish drags at a specific power output over the next few months, and the power meter will enable me to do that accurately. What I hope will happen is that simply by doing them every week all winter at a specific wattage, I will begin to get better at them. In addition, I will have an accurate record of every effort I have done, so when it comes to my 2019 races I will know exactly what I can do for a given period of time. Hopefully I will have also improved my ability to repeat these efforts when fatigued towards the end of races, that's the theory anyway.
So before I finish and in the spirit of transparency here's what you really want to know, my test numbers. My 1 min effort was 370 watts, 5 min effort 235 watts and my 20 min effort 212 watts and by multiplying my 20 minute power by .95 I now know that my functional threshold power (FTP)  the average power that I should be able to sustain for an hour is 201 watts and that feels about right. Three weeks in to power training and I have already made a slight improvement on my 5 minute effort, its going to be a hard winter for sure and my old knees are starting to complain already but I am happy with our plan and more than happy with the Precision power meter.

Thanks for reading, I will do an update towards the end of the winter and you can also see how it goes on MyStrava and on Instagram @tony_rees123

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