Friday, November 24, 2006

Planning a Comeback with the Performance Manager

Tanya making her return to racing on 18 November
US Independence Day 2006 was the same day my good friend and former coach, Tanya, went under the surgeon's knife at Sydney's Prince of Wales Hospital. Diagnosed with bowel cancer a couple of weeks earlier, it was quite a rude shock to realise there was a substantial tumour needing removal. Especially as Tanya was in final build phases in preparation for a trip to the UK to compete at the World Masters Track Cycling Championships. Indeed it was her inconsistent responses to training that led Tanya to investigate possible health problems. Just as well.

The surgery was successful and Tanya was fortunate that there were no complications. Chemotherapy was an option but deemed unlikely to provide an improved long term prognosis, so Tanya decided against it, preferring to get back to her normal life as soon as practicable. Her recovery was pretty quick but "activity" in the sense that competitive riders know it, was still some way off.

First off it was to get home from the hospital, then gradually to move about, short walks, longer walks and so on, until the first chance to put the bike on the trainer and gently turn the cranks.

Exactly eight weeks after going into surgery, Tanya had her first ride outdoors.
Tanya runs a full time cycle coaching business (Onyabike Cycle Coaching) and has for many years understood the importance of power measurement as the objective means of determining fitness and tracking improvement. Tanya has her own Computrainer but did not have on-bike power measurement. That was all about to change and Tanya finally took the plunge and ordered Powertap wheels for her road and track bikes.

Then she asked me to guide her training back into the sport. Quite an irony really, pupil becoming the coach's coach! I knew this would be a challenge but how on earth do you plan, track and monitor
training loads for someone who's been through all that? Not a light responsibility by any stretch. Especially a coach so eager to learn!

Enter the Performance Manager and the Charts it provides (PMC). Combined with the lessons from applying the PMC to myself and being most fortunate to be a member of the eweTSS (PMC) beta test group (the PMC brains trust), I knew that this was the perfect tool to help manage Tanya back to fitness.

We both decided that a medium term goal was the best thing and so Tanya chose to aim for getting in good enough shape to ride the shorter option at the Alpine Classic Audax event on 27 January 2007. After that, well, let's get there first and we'll see....(but a comeback to racing was always the intention).

So, we started gently, with the
first couple of weeks about reacquainting herself with riding and getting back that "it's normal to be on the bike" feeling. It was also a time of learning how to use the Powertap and Cycling Peaks (and solving a troublesome download problem - which turned out to be a loose connection in one of her laptop's USB ports).
It was far too early to be asking her to undergo the stress of MAP (maximal aerobic power) or FTP (functional threshold power) testing, so I estimated her MAP & FTP and set training levels based on a previous ramp test, of which we had plenty to choose from - so I picked one from when she was just starting out and the least fit. Being precise wouldn't matter too much in the first few weeks, and we would schedule formal power tests eventually.

Tanya being Tanya though, had to do a bit extra on a couple of days (simply so keen to get back into it) and we saw relatively high TSS on those days. The impacts were felt in the days after and so eventually we agreed the merits of a conservative build.

A month after starting back on the bike, Tanya went on a family break with her husband Eddie and took the mountain bike for something different. So I gave her some guidelines on what type of rides to do and how we were going to estimate TSS on those days she wasn't using the power meter.

Here is a picture of her PMC to date (click on it to see a larger view - or right click to open in a new window):

Tanya's PMC since 27 August 2006

Since returning from her holiday, it's been a matter of gradually building the duration and/or intensity of her rides and fitting these around her busy schedule of delivering cycle coaching and courses. We were also able to conduct formal testing with the power meter and reset her training levels accordingly. In her case we did both a MAP test and two short TTs to help set benchmarks and FTP via the Monod Critical Power model. I give her estimates of TSS I expected to see from each ride/workout and as the "ride library" grows, we are both able to better manage the overall stress and day to day effort.
So we see from the PMC that Tanya has managed a steady ramp up from a zero base over 12 weeks to a CTL in the low 60's (a ramp rate of just over 5 points / week). For some that would be a tough rate but given we were starting from zero and her fitness (FTP) would likely improve through this phase, we found that ramp rate has been sustainable so far.

Tanya also takes her Performance Manager Chart to regular checks with her doctors and specialists, so she can prove she's not "overdoing it"!
Happy to report that just 12 weeks after getting on the bike for the first time since her surgery, Tanya competed in the same club crit as I reported on here - and did rather well hanging in there for many laps. Here are her stats:

Club crit:
Duration:___ 37:40
TSS:________ 84.3 (intensity factor 1.159)
VI:__________ 1.08
CTL_________ 61.4
TSB:_______ -12.3

I think from those numbers (especially the Intensity Factor) we may need to retest as it would seem Tanya's fitness has taken another leap forward.
Tanya can see her fitness has improved significantly since starting back and is beginning to entertain thoughts of competing at the State and National Masters Track Championships in March 2007, something we didn't really rule in or out three months ago. So, after discussing that, we will begin to introduce more track specific training into her weekly routine, since that is what she loves doing the most.

In summary, the Performance Manager is giving both Tanya (the athlete) and myself (the coach) a quantifiable means by which to plan, track and manage training loads appropriate for her comeback to competitive cycling.
It gives both of us confidence we are building her return to fitness in a sustainable manner.

I will report again on progress in a few months.


Anonymous said...

Hey Tanya.....Glad all is well and you go girl....Stay focused and I look forward to seeing at racing again..
Love Rossco