Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The data says I'm weak and slow- but lots of room to improve!

This morning I went for my last tough FTP ride- 3x15 with 4 minute rest intervals. In general it went pretty well, was able to hit the numbers, though just barely with the last interval (more due to stop/start, turns, etc).  I am new to training with power, and still learning a lot about what the numbers say about me.

There is definitely a bonus of having power numbers- it keeps you honest. I always use to say that running, I knew how to pace myself. I knew an easy run vs. a hard run (though still can’t run at Z1). Biking was another story. I could just ride along, or I could sprint. In workouts I never knew if I was pushing hard enough, so usually I didn’t. I trained almost exclusively by distance. Occasionally I’d follow my plan of intervals, but they were loosely done. In races I also never knew if I was going hard enough or too hard. I guess it usually worked out- I ran pretty good half marathons in HIM off the bike, but maybe I could’ve pushed the bike more? I usually had a speed goal but that wasn’t perfect. I remember doing an Olympic (Big Foot) last summer after training with larger volume than ever, expecting a great bike time. There was a decent wind and I spent the bike looking at my mph and getting disappointed. If I had power, I could instead be seeing that I was still putting in my best effort. Then when I did Muncie last year, my computer broke and I rode with no data whatsoever. I actually really liked that- rode by feel, no speed to tell me I was sucking. I chose to ride Door County also without a computer. Both times I had a decent run.

Last winter I started the outseason plan with Endurance Nation, and used TrainerRoad virual power. I loved it. I had a target, I felt honest, I was working harder than ever on the bike. This was my solution. I went ahead and bought a PowerTap, of course before the prices dropped like crazy, just my luck.  I went for my first ride with it and wanted to cry. First, the numbers were jumping like crazy, which I did not experience inside. How was I going to train like that? Second, the numbers were LOW. TrainerRoad claims to be accurate, but have an offset compared to a real powermeter. I was hoping the offset would be in the opposite direction. I definitely have some gains I can make on the bike.

Overall, I’ve started to get the hang of trying to hit a specific power, despite it jumping around. Of course, this is Chicago where it is mad flat. I find I can hit the FTP intervals on my Wednesday sessions. I can hit my “race pace plus” intervals easily (usually overachieve- oops). Where I struggle are the Z3 rides on Sundays. I just can’t seem to find that sweet spot. And my legs are usually toast (see overachieving on RPP rides on Saturday… oops again) and the ride ends up being barely Z1. Again, room for improvement.

A number I am now just starting to pay attention to is cadence. So they say cadence around 90- today’s ride was 70. Huh. I knew I rode at a lower cadence, just didn’t know it was THAT low. I think when I hit FTP intervals, I prefer to grind out a high gear- I can feel my legs working and its uncomfortably comfortable.  I got nervous seeing how low my cadence was. Isn’t this going to screw me over on the marathon? WWCWD? (What would Chrissie Wellington do?). Good thing my idol is a low cadence rider. I found this quote:

" I love to push a big gear. It’s a misconception that you need to spin a smaller gear at a higher cadence on the bike. You don’t, " Wellington said. " Doing that actually raises your heart rate and makes you more tired, which doesn’t serve you very well in long distance racing. Cranking it down and pushing a bigger gear lets me lower my heart rate. It’s what feels natural to me and enables me to go the fastest I can go," she added.

Good enough for Chrissie, good enough for me…  because obviously we are at the same level of fitness. I looked back at my Garmin files from my rides on the Wisconsin course- average cadence of 80. Well that sounds better, and that includes grinding up some hills and some (sorry coaches) coasting.

Obviously it is too late in the season to try to fundamentally change how I ride, but we’ll add “playing with a higher cadence” to the winter to-do list.

In completely unrelated news- saw this gem today:

Don’t worry about the snakes in Lake Monona- the crocodiles ate them all.”

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