Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Testing Times

Well today was one of my regularly scheduled fitness tests – the 16km (10 mile) Time Trial effort. I’m not so much interested in the time it takes to complete the course as I am in the average power output for the duration of the effort.

If my fitness has improved (and I’m not too fatigued), then I should put out more power on average than I did last time I tested. It’s a much better gauge of progress than a stopwatch, especially on this day as conditions were quite different.

Regular testing is a really important part of any training programme - firstly it helps determine what your current capabilities are (as measured by average power output over a given duration or distance). That knowledge is then used to shape training plans suitable to improve the capabilities specific to your target event or cycling goal. Finally tests ensure that training is having the desired physiological impact. Adjustments to training can then be made according to results. Besides, tests are great workouts in themselves, so they should be part of any regular training cycle.

Well first let’s get the excuses out of the way…

This week we moved to summertime in Sydney, so the clocks have just gone forward an hour. My mid-week workouts are early morning, so getting up at 5am was really getting up at 4am… I’m not sure the body was quite adapted to surfing the pain curve quite so early in the morning. Then there was this strongish westerly blowing in (an unusual breeze that one) and that was going to make pacing a challenge on the circuit I use. Then in the warm up I’m thinking, why does it sting when I’m not really going that hard?
Oh just shut up and get on with it….

Anyway, with that lot out of the way, we get into the test. But how hard do I go? Well a couple of weeks ago I set a new 20 minute mean maximal power (MMP*) PB in a criterium race at Olympic Park. So I figure, that’s what I’ll aim for. Nothin’ but the best for me!

Ay yay yay! That hurt! In the course of a 4 x 4km laps I rode laps 1 & 2 at around the nominated power, then for some unknown reason I have visions that I can or need to go harder (surely I can go harder?), so I do and lap 3 is cranking (and hurting). Lap 4 was ugly.

Well I beat my last test average power by about 10 Watts and set a new 20 minute MMP PB in the process! So there you go. Not so bad after all. Did I say lap 4 was ugly? Yep, it sure was ugly. I was definitely hurting more today that last time though… or maybe the pain memory of my last test has simply subsided.

Oh, and this is a 46 Watt improvement over my first test in August.
Test day stats:
CTL: 93
TSB: -8 (so reasonably neutral but on RPE it felt more like –15 or so)
And why is it that on power test days you swear the Power Meter reads low?

Here's a pic of the test results (click on pic to enlarge). Note how variable the speed was compared to power. This was partly the slightly up n down nature of the loop I was using but also the wind which was creating a pacing challenge. See the ugly last lap?

Dashed horizontal lines mark average power (yellow) and average speed (blue) for the course.

*MMP – the highest average power output for the nominated period within a ride (e.g. the best average 20 minute power within a 2 hour ride). Often shortened to 20min MMP, 60 min MMP, 5 sec MMP etc.

Why 20 minute power?

Well it’s a fairly common marker of aerobic fitness and is a duration that is readily repeatable either in normal training or regular testing, especially where 60 minute efforts are less frequently undertaken.