Winter training update
Not too much to report, been training away. Power has been rising steadily, which is just what the doctor ordered. I’m currently working off 275w FTP.
Last time I wrote, I was concentrating on sweet-spot sessions, at around 90% of FTP, and trying to up the ante by 1w per ride. I did this for 3 weeks continuously. I managed to up the power, but perceived effort and HR rose at a similar rate, so the sweet-spot sessions quickly became threshold sessions. Rather than slavishly sticking to that plan, I decided to tweak it quite a bit.
My training at the moment is based around 4 key sessions:
- 2x20min at 100% of FTP
- 1x60min at 90% of FTP
- 3x10min at 106% of FTP
- 8-10x3min at 120% of FTP
The 2x20min at FTP is forming the bedrock of my current work. I don’t mind it. It’s hard enough to make me think it’s doing me good, but not too hard that I hate it. All these sessions are being done either on my turbo or on the Wattbike at work. I find that the hardest part of training indoors is the heat. The longer the effort, the hotter I get and the more HR goes up. Perception of effort doesn’t necessarily go up, but feeling of unpleasantness does. So the 20 minute interval is not a bad compromise of power output vs heat management.
Because of heat, I am really not enjoying the 1x60min sweet-spot efforts, at 90% of FTP. On the Wattbike I really struggle, because there is no fan in the gym. It’s air conditioned but I can’t control my body temperature well enough. Also, the WB saddle doesn’t suit me at all in TT position, so I can’t get comfortable and stay there for 60 mins without spending sometime riding in a more upright position.
The 3x10min intervals I have been doing for a while. I got a bit disheartened with them, because I’d set off trying to hit a certain power level, then fail and get off the bike altogether. I have changed this now so that I do the first two at 106% of FTP, which is manageable but hard, then I try and do the highest power I can for the last one. That way I hopefully finish strongly, with a feeling of success.
The 8-10x3min set I have only done once so far. It’s going to become an important session for me, I think. There’s something about it that makes me think it will help me produce higher power over longer durations.
Today my mentor, Ben of Kinetic Velo came round to supervise me doing a 20 min power test, to see what sort of power I could produce right now in a 10 mile race. Ben’s completely different to me. I’d approach a 20 minute test by deciding what power I was hoping to achieve, then hit it and try to hold it. If I was able to maintain it, getting into the last few minutes I’d try to raise it. If I failed to even hold the power, I’d hope to complete, but more often than not I just get off in disgust.
Ben’s approach was to have me start around 270-280w and then slowly build to over 300w so that I’d reached an average of 290w at 10 mins. Then up it again to around 310w, raise it further at 15 minutes if possible, then really nail the last two minutes. I was hoping for 300w, but managed to push 303w average for the 20 minutes. Result! Having thought about it, I think this approach to doing it is very good. The first 10 minutes was not too bad, the last 10 minutes was very hard and the last 5 minutes extremely hard. The last 2 minutes was off the scale. In addition to hopefully hitting the average you want, this approach also takes you into territory you would not ordinarily visit – high power when you’ve already been working hard for a period of time.
For example, in this case I pushed an average of 313w for the last 10 minutes. That kind of effort will hopefully count for something when I’m trying to push 313w for the first 10 minutes! I flirted with defeat in the last 5 mins, averaging 305w for the 15-18 min spell. But I had a good last two minutes at an average of 341w. It seems to me that pushing that kind of weight when the body is already screaming ‘no’ is probably better for development than sitting at the overall average of 303w for 20 minutes. For the same reason that doing short intervals at well over race power is beneficial. Any thoughts on that?
I wouldn’t race like that. Generally speaking, constant speed is the best way of pacing a flat time trial. Of course no time trial is absolutely flat, so you have to adjust power to suit the terrain, within limits. But for training, I think it’s a great way of approaching it.
In summary, all is well at the moment, I’m where I want to be power-wise, but lots still to do before the season starts, which for me will probably be the end of March. If I can make good gains between now and then, I have a reasonable chance of being a bit better than I was last year.