Thursday, February 14, 2008

Did y'all think I had quit riding . . .

and was just making bamboo bikes?!  Well, that is definitely a big chunk of my time, but the riding has been going very well.  I sold my SRM because TPC (Time Pro Cycling) is riding SRAM so we are getting some sick SRAM SRMs, but I had been riding "without power" for the whole month of January.  It is nice to get on the bike and know that no one is "constantly watching me" but I also really miss having the hard data on how I am doing and what each ride actually accomplished.

Then we bought a "team Powertap" for the Princeton Cycling Team!  We had a lot of donations this year and realized that we could get a wireless Powertap with an Open Pro rim built up for under $1300 brand new on eBay, so we bought it.  I have been using it for the last couple of weeks and it is great!  I understand that you would want another rim for racing, but still--it is cheap and works perfectly and is SO easy to setup: just pop the wheel onto your bike and ride, that easy.

Well it is mid-February now, and I am starting to do some actual intervals!  I still like going on 4-6 hour tempo rides and really hurting a bit on the hills, but I know that I need some specific timed intervals at 100% effort to get me up to speed for racing.  I attended an excellent seminar by Hunter Allen (he wrote Training and Racing with a Power Meter for all of those cyclists who have been living under a rock for the past couple years!) and he analyzed my 3rd Boulder TT (flyer) my Sunshine Hillclimb (results), and my Espoir National TT rides up on the big projector--VERY COOL!  He is an excellent guy.  He also gave us his two-day testing protocol for determining power levels at various time intervals (think test day 1, rest day, test day 2), and I went onto the trainer Tuesday night to get the first laundry list done . . . OUCH OUCH OUCH OUCH!

The first day consists of tons of intervals 5 minutes or less, and they are INCREDIBLY painful after a huge winter of endurance and tempo riding with heart rates never exceeding about 85% of my TT heart rate.  However, I chalked them up as "baselines" and realized that they hurt a lot but they are very short and not nearly as demanding as a 5+ hour ride in freezing weather with massive hills and headwinds!

The second day was today: the 20 minute TT.  This is the be-all-end-all for cycling performance: what is your lactic threshold?  If this number rises even a few watts, it means that a much smaller percentage of time in a race will be spent "above threshold" and you will be able to last much longer and have plenty left in the tank for a "race winning interval" (as Hunter likes to call them).  You will also be able to time trial much faster, and y'all know that is what I am all about!  So I set out in a full jacket, long-sleeve, tights, skull cap, and lobster gloves to do a race-pace, bleeding-from-your-eyes 20 minute time trial--YIPEEEEE!
Results?  I KILLED THAT SHIT!  To put the following in perspective, my national TT ride averaged 351 watts for 30 minutes (and sustainable power for 20 minutes is only 1 or 2 percentage points higher than it is for 30 minutes) . . . I averaged 380 watts in freezing weather in the middle of February on a road bike!  The weather definitely doesn't help, but the TT bike actually produces more power because of your seat position (far forward) and your hip rotation causing more of your muscles to be used (that is why your rear end is so sore after time trials, and why Cancelara's ass is so huge!).

One thing I like to do for a test like this (besides look at how my cadence changed or where my power was too high and spiked my heart rate) is to break it up into four 5-minute TTs and analyze how I did at four "checkpoints" in the effort.  Here are the four parts:

What you'll notice is that Part I is quite high, which you would expect since I am freshly warmed up and haven't done anything too taxing.  Then Part II is the lowest (lower than Part I by almost 20 watts!) because I overextended myself in Part I and am starting to pay for it a little bit.  Also notice that my cadence in Part II is MUCH higher than in Part I because my legs are starting to feel the burn and I am trying to flush them a bit.  Then Part III is in-between Part I and Part II as I am getting into a rhythm and finding my gear and getting my breathing right (the power and the cadence are EXACTLY between that of P1 and P2!).  Finally, Part IV is where I see the light at the end of the tunnel and start to kick it up a notch, basically staying in the same gears but spinning an extra few rpm for more power.  Here is the last minute of the effort:

Not too shabby, eh??  Notice my speed: I was on a nice consistent climb and that made it easy to really give it everything in a steady manor and squeeze the last juices from my legs.  Funny thing is, after a few minutes of soft pedaling and catching my breath, I was fine and continued to do another couple hours at 250 watt tempo with some 350 watt efforts.

I also did a quadrant analysis.  This attempts to determine how much time was spent pedaling at high- or low-torque and high- or low-cadence.  You can read all about it here.  I made my iso-power lines correspond to 100% of the average power for my effort (just a little higher than my FTP) in red, then 95% and 90% in orange and yellow, respectively.  Then the y-axis is a cadence of 98 rpms, my average for the effort.  The plot looks similar to any other TT, where the points are highly concentrated at the center because cadence and torque are optimized to produce maximum power.  However, it is interesting to note the outliers in Quadrant II, where my torque was quite high and my cadence was low, probably corresponding to being in the big ring on a climb just before dropping to the small ring.  However, the power is always significantly higher than my 380 watt average . . . looking at the data reminds me of something I realized last season: slightly lower cadences help me focus more on the pedal stroke and prevent power spikes, and I recorded consistently higher averages with a lower cadence (i.e. 94 instead of 98).  The only issue with this line of reasoning is average power is not the be-all-end-all: there are times when power spikes are necessary (i.e. maintaining momentum on a hill less than 1 minute long).  The winner is the one who most effectively uses his/her power (and of course has a lot of it!) which means adapting to different courses and different conditions, something a higher-cadence style encourages because the legs never get "bogged-down" or full of lactic acid without constantly being flushed.  I think I will go with my gut and just pedal my bike!

I am really feeling good and know that when I start doing some serious TT work the form will come quickly.  I have improved a lot this winter, and have been doing much more specific, consistent training (think 24 hours per week average instead of 16 like the last two winters!) and sleeping at 9000 feet of altitude and eating right and . . . ENJOYING MYSELF!

The last thing I have to say: my bamboo road bike is going to be wrapped in some nice unidirectional carbon this weekend and then all the finishing touches (understated paint scheme, cable stops, water bottle bosses) will be put on early next week and we should have a sick road bike in 7 days, just in time for the Rutgers Season Opener!


Sam Ritchie said...

Pretty nice score, dude... I pulled a 321 on the same test the other day, after a few five minute pieces. Watch out!

Sam Ritchie said...

I'm 74 kilos, so I'm back at 4.34 watts/kg. Sometimes I wish I could shed some upper body muscle and slam that number upwards with no extra training at all...

chem 139 said...

FYI, you can also score a used PowerTap for $400-500 and have Saris overhaul it for you.

They'll put completely new innards in it for $200 or convert it to wireless for $500, at which point it's as good as new.