Saturday, October 28, 2006

2 Races in One Day

Here I am (yellow shoes) sucking wheel as usual! For the uninitiated - this is the exit to a fast left hander, note how I am right on the wheel in front. Letting gaps form when cornering in a crit wastes lots of energy. Note the riders behind - they have to put in extra effort to close the gap. All those little extra efforts mount up and can send you out the back in a hurry.

Today was the annual Snowy Wilson Memorial criteriums open racing carnival hosted by RBCC at Heffron Park, Maroubra (one of Sydney's beachside suburbs). As is typically the case at Heffron, the wind was blowing - and it was pretty strong Southerly today, making the long home straight a real slog fest. With 10 corners per lap, Heffron is a real tester of a circuit, with handling skills combined with race nouse and brut power needed to be successful. The race format was graded scratch crits, followed by an all-in handicap criterium.

What's a Handicap Criterium?The handicap crit format is where riders of all grades race together, with graded bunches sent off at different times. First past the post wins. So the front bunches are trying to stay away while the back markers are chasing hard. It means groups have to work together well in order to maximise their chances of catching and/or staying away. It is very different to scratch racing - we'll see the difference in the race power stats.

Race #1 - Team tactics take their toll
My first race was the Mens Masters A/B grade scratch race. I commented last week that this was likely to be a team dominated affair. Well I was right with team riders taking turns to attack forcing the rest of us to cover moves constantly. During that early softening up period, being a bit jack of the tactics I countered a couple of times myself but of course the teams chase you down.... With Easts riders attacking until one, John Kenny, got away with Liam Kelly (SCC), then it was simply a matter for the rest of the Easts boys to mark the counters and generally spoil the chase effort. Still, I had a go where possible but we just couldn't overhaul the front two. The large field was pretty well shelled by now and the chasing bunch was eventually down to about 8 riders. Liam Kelly (a former World Masters Crit Champion) ended up winning the day. I managed top 5 or so (can't really recall) after trying another surge with 2.5km to go (and getting caught).

Then I had a couple of hours to kill before the next race, so with a few mates we rode up to Queens Park for a cafe stop and a quick bite to eat/drink. Then back to Heffron for Round 2!

Race #2 - At the Handicapper's Mercy
I felt good in this race - since you have to work more together as a bunch, there is less surging and little likelihood of attacks happening, so while you are on the power all the time, it is less taxing mentally. Having said that, it seemed to me the pace was insufficient to overhaul the front bunches, so I thought, hell why sit back - it's not that big a race, so I just put myself up the front and drove hard. Unfortunately not all could come with me, so I was constantly finding myself having to ease off and go back to the bunch.... The best method is for the group to roll over like a TTT but not everyone is willing and/or capable on the day, so sometimes a few have to take charge. Well we swept up all but one rider and had not been caught ourselves by the A-grade scratch markers, so everyone else thought - we've got this guy in our sights, no need to hammer now. Boy were they wrong. He held on for the win and good luck to him. It served our bunch right - all those glory boy sprinters not doing enough work and missing out on the big cheque.

I placed 5th overall (after starting the sprint a bit early in the headwind and having the glory boys roll me), which in this race was a podium spot and some prize money to boot. Sponsor doubles our prize monies, so I asked it be donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Societies' fund raising ride to the 'Gong, being ridden by a couple of club members next weekend.
Special thanks to Stan, who rode a strong last couple of laps to give me a break before the finale. Onya mate!


Race Day Stats:CTL: 94
TSB: 0 recovery week - thanks coach ;)
TSS: 279

MMAS A Grade Scratch Crit (5th place or so?):
Duration: 30:48
Avg Power: 295 Watts
Norm Power: 338 Watts
NZAP: 320 Watts (8% coast time)

All in Handicap Crit (5th place - podium):
Duration: 31:19
Avg Power: 310 Watts
Norm Power: 338 Watts
NZAP: 328 Watts (5% coast time)

Normalised & Average Power

Note how Normalised Power was exactly the same for both races, yet Race #1 had an Average Power 15 Watts less than race #2. This is a perfect example of how comparing Normalised and Average Powers is a great means by which to assess the physical demands of two quite different race types.

Normalised Power takes into account the highly variable nature of power output and is a clever means to provide an estimate of what average power you could have attained had you ridden the same course at a steady pace (rather than the surge then coasting style of riding common in a crit or road race). It also enables you to sensibly compare the physical demands of quite different rides/races.

So what this is telling me is that I rode both 30 minutes races with a Normalised Power of 328 Watts but my average power in Race #1 was less as the nature of the race involved much more coasting (after surges and attacks) than Race #2 which was a smoother effort. So it looks like I put in a pretty good effort in both races!

A more detailed explanation of Normalised Power can be found here.

All up, another successful day's racing and power numbers are looking good (especially average power numbers which are up near all time highs).

Always nice to get some prize money too!

This coming week I do a performance test - a 16km TT. Hoping to set another power PB. Wish me luck....

Read More......

Monday, October 23, 2006

My Performance Manager Chart

Well I've mentioned the PMC before and have alluded to TSS, CTL, ATL & TSB. Any more TLAs and I'll be working for the government!

So, just to show that the PMC is more than a few letters strung together in random order, here's a picture of one (click on the pic to see a larger, clearer version):




This chart covers my training since 1 August. There are four items charted here:

TSS:

The light blue columns represent the level of training stress each day as measured by TSS (Training Stress Score), which is calculated from both the overall duration and intensity of a ride. The harder you ride, the more points you score and of course the longer you ride the more points you score. So it is possible to score more TSS on a short hard ride than a longer easy ride (and vice-versa). This is all calculated from the data collected by the power meters on my bikes and by some clever maths built into the Cycling Peaks analysis software I use (although you can also do it in Excel).

You will note the consistent blocks of training each week, with one day per week with no riding at all. The tall columns are the longer weekend endurance rides or races, with typical time constraints keeping mid-week workouts down in TSS levels.


CTL & ATL

The next two items to note are the Blue (CTL) and Purple (ATL) lines. These represent a measure of Chronic Training Load (the accumulated amount of training load over the past couple of months) and the Acute Training Load (the amount of training load over the past couple of weeks). So these two lines show a trend of what I've been doing long term vs short term. (The maths behind the calculation of my daily CTL & ATL involves an exponentially weighted algorithm which I won't explain here).


In this chart you will see that the blue CTL line rises steadily, in my case at approximately 3.5 points per week for the period shown.


Note also that the purple ATL line is a little more up n down. This is because ATL weights your most recent training more heavily in the calculation than is the case for CTL, and so even one big day on the bike, or a day off, will have a bigger impact on your ATL than it will on CTL.


So what?


Well in order to get fitter, we need to continually provide a training stimulus in order to gain the adaptation required for our riding and/or racing goals. This is tracked very well by the blue CTL line, which basically equates as a measure of Fitness.


ATL on the other hand, since it is looking at your most recent training, is more a measure of your current levels of training fatigue. If you've been going hard lately, then your ATL will rise, but if you have a recovery week, then ATL will fall.


Have another look at my chart where I mark the State Masters Championship Road Race & Crit - see
how my ATL falls in the week leading into the race as I have a short taper for the road race and coach had backed off my training.

TSB

Well with a reduced ATL I was quite fresh since my recent training was "easier" than what I had been accumulating long term. Hence the term, Training Stress Balance (TSB), which is the yellow line on the chart. So TSB is the difference between long term and recent training loads. Expressed mathematically it is simply:

TSB = CTL - ATL.
(A much simpler formula than used to calculate TSS, ATL & CTL).

Now this means of course that TSB can be either positive, negative or neutral.

Best performances are generally (but not always) associated with a positive TSB and hence it is desireable to plan training so that both CTL is high and TSB is sufficiently positive so that you have the two things that matter leading into an important event: Fitness and Freshness. Put these together and you will be going well.

Practical Example
So what about that race weekend? Well I went in after a steady build of my CTL, training was backed off in the week leading up to the race, which saw my ATL drop below CTL, hence going into positive TSB. In these circumstances, CTL falls a little as some "fitness" is sacrificed to be sufficiently rested and primed for the event.

The Result
In this instance I set new personal bests for Mean Maximal Power output for 60min to 2hrs, placed top-10 (7th) in a hilly road race (I'm no climber) and
set an all time power PB and placed 4th in the crit. Very successful outcomes given I only had a 2 month build.

There are many uses for the Performance Manager, and assisting a rider/coach evaluate a build and taper strategy that works best is one of them. It provides the opportunity to "dial in" peak performance on any given day.

Pretty nifty, huh?

Want to know more?

Go here.

Read More......

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Olympic Park Crit

Yesterday I competed in the Criterium at Olympic Park circuit. Photo of circuit here:





As you can see it's not a complex crit circuit - 915 metres per lap. Basically a flat, counter clockwise loop but on this cold (for Sydney) spring day there was a strong headwing coming up the wide and slightly uphill Olympic Boulevard making it a tough finishing straight.

I raced the same circuit a few years ago (only other time it's been used I think) and had a good day (took the prime and 3rd place as my mate rode to a solo win) but today the quality of the field was far higher.


Pace was pretty hot in Div 3. I was a might surprised actually and ended up setting a 20 minute Power PB in the first 20min of the race as I was trying to either initiate or get into an early break. Two riders managed to get away on a counter attack. I tried twice to bridge across, once with one other rider (who didn't quite have the legs - shame, we got to within about 10 secs) and again solo but that was futile as the bunch was more intent on catching the chasers than the leaders.

So a bit of "hide in bunch recovery time
" before a last ditch effort to grab 3rd place with a solo break at 2km to go but unfortunately I didn't quite have the legs to finish it off and was swallowed up in the finale just short of the line. Pulling 600 watts into the headwind was going to take its toll at some stage! Never mind - I had a crack and came away with a Power PB to boot!

Stats:

CTL: 89

TSB: -11

Pavg: 309 W

PNorm: 348 W

NZAP: 342 W (only 10% zero power time)

Last week's training saw a lift in intensity, with 2 days of hard 3-minute hill repeats and some time trial pace intervals mid week. Easing back a bit this week to consolidate power gains made in recent month.

Next week it's the Snowy Wilson Memorial crit at Heffron Park. Usually a team dominated affair, it will be another slug fest I'd say! Can't wait!

PS - I saw one other Power Meter user in today's race - Amanda Spratt, 2004 Junior World Points Race Champion. Amanda had SRM cranks/PCV on her rig. She was strong too, duking it out with the men in fine style. Go Amanda! Wonder what her file looked like? You can view Amanda's
Palmar├Ęs here:

http://www.cycling.org.au/Content/NavigationMenu/HighPerformance/RiderProfiles/FemaleRiders/Amanda_Spratt.htm

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Team Time Trial and the Performance Manager



The performance manager is a killer tool for TTT efforts - and IMO would be the perfect type of event to illustrate the relationship between top end and TSB. A couple years back I did a few TTTs, some at positive TSB, some negative. The negative TSB TTTs were incredibly painful just to hit substandard Pnorm values...the positive TSB TTTs were as you say, exercises in restraint.
~ Dave Harris
A couple of weeks ago, three buddies and I contested our State Championships TTT (MMAS 2-4 category) on the constantly undulating Calga Course, about an hour’s drive north of Sydney. It was a late decision to enter, so no chance to get in a prior test run as a unit. There is a bit of a write up here and a couple of photos to boot.
Since three of the team are knowledgeable power meter users (including two members of the eweTSS PMC beta test group), I thought it would be interesting to see what the Performance Manager was telling us as a team.
If you want to know more about the Performance Manager, then this article on the Cycling Peaks site is a good place to start.

So who was where on the Performance Manager Chart curves?
Team CTL TSB
Peter 35 -12
Phil 82 +31
Stan 65 0 (as a rough estimate only)
Alex 84 –5
So before we started, we had a pretty fair idea of where we stood. Some sizeable CTL/TSB mismatches there.
Predictions anyone?

What the CTL/TSB mismatches really mean is that you'll probably have a better idea before hand as to whether you'll be the one doing the shouting or the listening!

Given the course in front of us was a hilly 43km out and back, FTP watts/kg was going to be as important as FTP alone (and we had a 22kg weight spread between us). Putting that together with the PMC data we knew/predicted/decided that:
  • Pete would be the sacrificial lamb

  • Phil would likely be ripping the cranks off and would have to be careful not to blow his mates
  • Stan we weren’t really sure about but he rode well in a test effort the week prior
  • Alex would be good but not as good as the weekend before when he entered the road & crit race championships with +ve TSB.
  • We thought had a chance of making the podium
So armed with that knowledge we already had a fair idea of how to attack the race.
So what happened?
  • Pete made it a little past half way (a fine ride if you ask me given his current weight disadvantage and low CTL).
    37 min; Pnorm 359W; IF 1.198
  • Phil was ripping the cranks off and basically had to hold himself back all day to ensure the team stayed as a unit.
    65 min; Pnorm 280W; IF 0.984
  • Stan did what Stan does best and rode a little hard early on, requiring some firm communication to bring him into line. He paid for it in the 4th qtr of the race (where his lower CTL perhaps was showing itself up). To be fair, Stan is the only one without a PM onboard to help him dose his effort.
  • I did what I could, felt like I struggled mid race but came good in the back half. Ended up with Pnorm bang on FTP but down on previous weekend’s peak.
    65 min; Pnorm 295W; IF 0.999
It was a fun outing and we came away with the bronze medal for our efforts (despite a slow change for Stan’s puncture – we did the maths, somewhere between 40-60 seconds lost or one step on the podium).


So in the end, the PMC was smack on in terms of predicting how we would go as a unit.
Lads on the podium.... (we're on the right)

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Current Cycling Goals

    I am presently working hard to improve my cycling performance - my current goals are to attain PB performances in the individual pursuit and attain new levels of achievement in the points race at State and National Masters Track Championships in March 2007. Along the way I plan to perform credibly at the State MMAS Road and Crit Championships in October 2006.

    After that my main goal will be to back up with an improved performance at the World Masters Track Championships in October 2007, with the focus again on the IP and to make the points race final.

      Recent results include:

      2006:
      • Member of SCC Team at State MMAS Team Time Trial Championships: 3rd (Bronze)
      • State MMAS Crit Championships: 4th
      • State MMAS Road Championships: 7th
      • State MMAS Track Points Race Championships: 4th
      • Member of SCC Team at State MMAS Teams Pursuit Championships: 2nd (Silver) again!
      2005:
      • State MMAS Crit Championships: 3rd (Bronze)
      • State MMAS Road Race Championships: 4th
      • SCC A-Grade Champion
      • SCC Crit Champion
      • SCC A-Grade Road Race Champion
      • SCC Clubman of the Year
      • Snowy Wilson MMAS Crit: 3rd
      • Ken Dinnerville Memorial 90km open road handicap: 7th
      • Member of SCC Team at State MMAS Teams Pursuit Champs: 2nd (Silver)

      Read More......

      Wednesday, October 11, 2006

      Killing Nerves

      Below is a post I made to the Fixed Gear Fever forum. It was a summary of my thoughts and learnings so far about how to control nerves and anxieties before championship events.

      The full discussion can be found here at FGF:

      Like Spinal Tap - this one "goes all the way to eleven". :)


      I previously commented* on my first ever track race (teams pursuit) which was many years ago now but the nerves were mostly about not letting the team down. I didn't, 'cause once I was out there and you're going full-bore, well that's all you can concentrate on!

      Lesson #1:
      So from then on I knew, once the race started, any nerves I had before hand would usually disappear.


      * I remember my first ever track event - it was a teams pursuit. There was absolutely nothing left in my bowels before that race!


      We made podium with a 3-man team and gave the other teams with many current or former National and World Champion riders a shake. Being on the podium with a World Champion’s jersey standing next to me was building confidence (OK - I didn't know the world's jersey next to me was owned by a sprinter and not an enduro but that didn't mater at the time!).

      Lesson #2:
      Results built confidence and lessened my anxiety/nerves next time round.



      Since I was lucky to have success in a team event, this turned out to be the way in which I was best able to attain championship race results in the early years. Half a dozen team championship medals followed in the years to follow.

      Lesson #3:
      Team results built confidence more quickly for me even though as an individual rider I didn’t have the capability (yet) to attain individual results but I was able to contribute to team results – hence Lesson #2 came into play more quickly.



      Then I raced as much as possible to gain knowledge and experience in a wide variety of events, mostly 'cause I loved it so much but also it gave me a fair idea of what I was (i) best at and (ii) what I needed to improve and eventually focus on.

      Lesson # 4:
      My nerves have been lessened through sheer volume of racing. So get out there and get into it Alex!



      So after racing for a while, I improved and thought I'd start racing at individual championships, State and National (our States are pretty similar standard to Nats anyway). Well my first championships were fine - no nerves because I had no expectations of myself. But as the years progressed, I started to expect more of myself and there was a growing mismatch between what I wanted to achieve and how good I was at the time. That mismatch then fed performance anxieties which would start several weeks out and go right through to race time. That was probably the worst I ever felt. Championships were no longer enjoyable. I needed to step back, set realistic goals and remember why I was there in the first place.

      Lesson #5:
      I learned to set realistic performance goals. With realistic goals, my anxiety was lessened as success became redefined and more attainable. And remember Alex – “I do this because I love it”.



      In my racing, I began to introduce the idea of having a strategy, or at least some tactics to use in races. This I found was a great way to both improve and find out what I was actually capable of - races became more than just another race, it was a challenge to try something out and I was looking forward to racing even more. Importantly I had something positive to focus on before the race and I still got something out of a race that either I didn't win or perhaps was unlikely to anyway due to the level of competition. I also remember leading into an important race (an individual pursuit qualifier) having “brain fade” – result: I seriously underperformed compared to what I was physically capable of on the day (and I have the data to prove it)! That mistake was a great lesson to me about pre-race thoughts.

      Lesson #6:
      Now I will try to have a strategy/plan/tactics in mind before a race and replay them to myself - then I am focussed on what I want to do, rather than what I can't/shouldn't do. Takes up brain time otherwise used feeding nervous energy!



      I also realised that with support of others, nerves and anxiety could be lessened as you were both supporting your mates and as well as being encouraged to do well by them. I avoid the negative talkers. I do let this creep into my language at times, so some of my buddies now recognise when that happens and are pretty quick to get me back on track.

      Lesson #7:
      Hanging around riders with a positive and successful attitude, created a similar thought process and helped reduce my nerves.



      So then I began to understand the individual events better and started to simulate the racing stresses in training. I had a coach guide my conditioning. I earned coaching qualifications myself. I ventured (enthusiastically) into the world of training and racing with power meters. Suddenly I knew the demands of what I was aiming for and where I was currently - I had a road map of how to get there. Then after following the map - I had a breakthrough, an individual podium result at championships. I record important data and make full use of the fantastic tools available for tracking performance (e.g. Cycling Peaks WKO and Performance Manager) - the lessons and data collected are invaluable aids and help me focus on what's important. But caution – it takes time and experience to properly interpret the data and you can draw the wrong conclusions (but don’t be scared to make mistakes – we learn more that way).

      Learning to make use of the new tools available for tracking and managing performance / training is giving me confidence in my conditioning and training (especially the data from power meter). It means I’m learning to determine beforehand what I’m capable of and how to get the most out of what I’ve got. Reminding myself of this before races helps me.

      This last one is getting better and more important for me with experience and a growing bank of historical power data. Only last weekend I was able to confidently predict my form on the day, which was a significant contribution to wringing the most out of myself (through appropriate pacing) and earn yet another team championship medal (this time a road TTT).


      Lesson #8:
      If I can, I try to simulate race conditions beforehand in training – then on race day they seem normal and I can remind myself of the fact, e.g., “Pace the first lap and a half just like in training”.


      Lesson #9:
      Learning to read and predict my own form has reduced my fear of the unknown. I now know pretty much what I’m in for before I start (and how that might influence my strategy in a race).

      Lesson #10:
      I realised over time that some pre-race nerves are good and are normal (so I am used to feeling that way as I know it means I have the right level of arousal). It might be slightly counter-intuitive – but I get worried when I don’t get a little nervous before a big race!

      Lesson #11:
      I’ve realised that I must make sure I don’t forget to have fun, celebrate and have a good laugh at having been nervous in the first place!

      Read More......

      Tuesday, October 10, 2006

      Aerodynamic Drag Testing Using a Power Meter

      Earlier this year, with the assistance of Dr Andy Coggan, I put together a protocol and spreadsheet to assist those with power meters to undertake their own aero drag testing.

      The sheet can be found at the trainwithpower.net site here:
      CdA-Crr.xls

      All instructions are contained within the Excel file. Thanks to Charles Howe for developing the trainwithpower site and hosting the sheet.

      The online discussion at the Fixed Gear Fever Forum can also be viewed here:
      FGF Forum Discussion on aero drag testing

      Enjoy!

      Read More......

      TTT



      Last weekend, 3 buddies & I competed in our State Team Time Trial Championships. We were entered in the Masters 2-4 category. Here we are early on - with Phil having just peeled off and Stan surging a little hard, some shouting was necessary. Pete was following my wheel and was our sacrificial lamb for the day (he's only just started back into training - otherwise I'm sure he'd be tearing our legs off).

      The idea was to have a fun outing, given it would be the last chance for us to all ride together as a team (we are all leaving our club and moving on - but that's another story).

      Well we came away with the bronze medal, despite time lost through a puncture change, so that was a pretty good result. I'll post some data and thoughts on power files and performance management data later on.



      Phil, Stan & myself on "Blood Hill" a few km from the finish. This nasty 2 min hill saw me punching up at 390W. Stan was struggling a little by this stage but we got there!

      Read More......

      Power to the People


      For those that have seen my posts to the various online cycling forums, they will know I am an advocate of training with power. I plan to use this blog to better record my progress and share learnings along the way.

      * I am also an advocate of riding bikes too, especially racing, so commentary may digress into related subject matter.

      Read More......