Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Ground Control to Major Tom

A few of you that follow this little blog will have noticed my steady progress in fitness and form.

It has been going great and I continued with my progress in 2x20-min threshold tolerance interval efforts, culminating in an average of ~ 320W in 2x20-min efforts week before last (an all time PB), followed up with a couple of efforts over 300W a few days later.

Then I headed off to Adelaide for a week and a bit for a Cycling Australia coaching course. I had expected that week to be a light one from a training perspective and after a couple of busy days and some very ordinary weather on arrival (gale force winds and rain!) I got out for a ride on one afternoon after the course was finished for the day. Legs not too bad but still carrying a little fatigue. Nevertheless able to crank it out just fine.

But then something happened to my leg/stump that night. I have no real idea why but it decided to swell. A lot. When it does that then simply putting my prosthetic on is a struggle and very painful. Houston, we have a problem....

Indeed it took me about 10-minutes the next morning to gradually ease my leg into the prosthetic and stand up. It's really painful when that happens. I nearly didn't go to the course that day but I persisted, doing as little time on my feet as humanly possible. Over the next few days I had to repeat the process, gradually getting the leg in there in the morning.

The swelling gradually subsided over the following days but it remained painful. Suffice to say that any ride plans went out the window, even an invite to a local race which I was looking forward to had to be canned.

The real PITA is not knowing why it does this. It's not common but it's really crap when it does this.

So today, eight days after my last ride I tried a light ride to see how it was.

Not flash. Knee was very sore, putting any sort of effort down was not very agreeable, getting out of saddle was not an option and after 10-min the sore spot on the inside of my knee was starting hurt as well. So I pulled the plug after 15-min lest I create more problems. Try again tomorrow. Amazing how quickly the amputation side loses its form.

Hopefully it just needed a bit of a spin to get it moving again and will be better next time. Fitness should return pretty quickly provide the soreness goes. I'm sure gunna need it!

Other things:

Cycling NSW have still not advised on the selection policy for Track Nationals. It's now less than eight weeks to go and I have no idea whether/how selection will happen. At present, the draft selection policy suggests that no NSW para cycling rider will be selected. This is in stark contrast to all other states that are actively promoting as many riders as possible to compete.

It simply sucks and is quite demotivating, certainly not something you want overlayed when you are dealing with injury as well.

In the coming weeks I expect to spend a fair bit of time at the track, trialling a few things from a position/aero perspective as well as start the track specific phase of training. So let's hope this leg gets better quickly!

And on Friday I will be dropping my cycling prosthetic in to George at the ALS to have the outer carbon fibre shell completed. Hopefully that won't take too long. Then I'll be able to show off the flashiest bike leg in the country!

Read More......

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do the work, and it will come...

Today I had a training session in Centennial Park.

It was what I call TTIs (threshold tolerance intervals), which were done as two 20-min efforts, with about a 5-min easy riding in between each effort. They are very hard going, ridden at time trial pace. I've written about these plenty before and I've been doing a block of them lately.

As many of you know, I use a power meter on my bike to help monitor my effort as well as record my performance. I've been doing this for many years.

My average power for each TTI today was 314 watts & 313 watts respectively.

That exceeds my all time previous best 2x20-min TTIs (313W & 310W) in January-2007.

That's two years six months after my amputation and one year five months after I attempted to ride for the first time on an indoor trainer (10-min at 100W).

Do the work, and you will improve. Even if you are missing a bit of leg.

Read More......

Monday, November 09, 2009

Granfondo 2009

The countryside surrounding Santa Rosa, California:

In early October 2009 I participated in Levi's King Ridge Granfondo.

It was the finale to a week long visit to Santa Rosa, California.

It was a great week of riding and the weather was excellent! Being a city bound lad, the ability to ride for just a few minutes from home and find yourself on country roads winding through the vineyards was fabulous!

I am especially grateful to my very generous hosts, the Palladino clan. Steve, Sharon and Shannon went out of their way to make me feel very welcome, and Steve not only loaned me a bike for the week but also took me out for some great training rides in the week leading up to the Granfondo. What a great place to live and train!

A couple of pictures:

Out training in the days before:

On the morning of the Granfondo, Steve, Sharon & Shannon hosted a Team Boba breakfast, with Shannon cooking pankakes. Yumm!! They were gooood.

I was an honourary "Fightin' Boba" for the day and wore the team kit:

Here's Steve enjoying the ride along with some of the Boba crew:

The roads had some pretty steep sections at times and I saw signs like this indicating an 18% gradient a few times along the way:

Of course going down also means going up, here I am with Steve making my way up the final major climb of the day from Coleman Valley:

One of the funnier moments was on this climb when a few riders were passing a cyclist who was off his bike, hunched over and leaning on the top tube of his bike, no doubt wondering how he was going to be able to continue.

As we were approaching him, another rider started yelling in that uniquely enthusiastic American way "Come on buddy, don't stop now, you can do it, c'mon!! C'mon, get back on!!"

To which the reply from the hunched over rider was, "Shut up, I'm praying!" No doubt he was!

And here are some shots of the scenery encountered along the way:

I also managed a close up view of the redwoods with a little off road excursion when I overcooked it a little on one steep winding descent (and didn't quite have the emergency braking finesse I am used to as the brakes on Steve's bike, while very good, are opposite handed to what I normally ride). It was funny enough and no harm done to me, the bike or the local flora and fauna. Climb back up to the road, dust myself off and get going again. Last time I did something like that was about 25 years ago on a motorbike.

Anyone for lemonade?

The ride itself is pretty challenging, a 103 mile (166km) ride with ~ 9,000 feet (~3000m) of climbing. The more difficult sections were an average gradient ~ 10%.

Ride stats for the Granfondo:

Duration: _______ 6:04:27 (6:29:27)
Work: _________ 3882 kJ
TSS: __________ 389.4
Intensity factor: __ 0.802
Average Power: __ 178 watts
Normalised Power: 224 watts

All up, a great week. I can certainly recommend it!!

Read More......

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Training continues apace. No easing up for me following World Masters Track Champs. None of this rest up for a month crap between seasons.

So with some good ol' fashioned solid endurance work during the week, today I was back to doing an old favourite workout, 2 x 20-minute threshold tolerance intervals (TTIs).

I've written about these before. Really top notch hard efforts designed to boost your power at threshold, which is the single most important physiological factor for success in endurance cycling.

Click here to read more.

Last time I did regular TTIs, was in October & November 2006, about six months before my accident. I've done a few as well since of course but it is interesting to note my progress relative to pre-accident levels.

In October & November 2006, my TTI power on road bike was consistently 295-300 watts. And in fact back then I was doing mostly 2 x 15-minute efforts rather than 2 x 20-min efforts.

In the above linked post, I note I also did a 2 x 20-minute TTIs with average power of 313W & 310W. That was January 2007, when I was right into some good form, had won an open crit and was cranking along nicely leading up to State & National Masters track champs (where I set some PBs). I note my comments at the time were that that was a "breakthrough workout" for me.

So how was today's effort? Well here a pic of the file (well the bit with the TTIs, I chopped off the commute to/from my training course).

That, my good readers, is 2 x 20-min TTIs with power averages of 306W and 307W respectively. OK, them's SRM watts versus Powertap watts, so a couple of percent for drive train differences, but still, that I gotta admit is pretty darn remarkable.

So it puts me at roughly 95-98% of pre-accident TT power.

And I'm only just gettin' started.....


Read More......

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Legs on fire!

Well, sort of.

At least that's how it felt racing last night at the Central Coast Track Open. It's been a few years since I've raced this carnival (for obvious reasons), that the ever energised Paul Craft of RAW Track fame organises. It's always been a favourite - all the good stuff you get from a country track carnival without having to travel too far - it's about a 90-minute drive from my place.

When I say good stuff, I mean you get value for money races. Lots of events, something for everyone and the usual Crafty entertainment value. Shame you can't say that for many of the events hosted in the city.

I went up early this year as they were desperately seeking extra commissaires for the junior carnival which was being held in the afternoon before the senior carnival. So I spent the afternoon checking junior gear rollouts and standing (sometimes sitting) in the sun making sure all the little tikes behaved themselves out there on the track. It's fun watching 'em go round.

Once that was over I pulled on the Bicisport skinsuit, pumped up the tyres and got out on the track for my warmup. Looking at the program I had been given a mark of 195 metres, which put me at the top of the C grade field. I think in days gone past I'd be closer to the 90-110 metre mark and in the B grade group.

For those not familar with what I mean, in Australia we have a form of track racing called a "Wheelrace". Riders line up on the track at their designated handicap mark, the gun/whistle goes and the winner is first past the post after a designated number of laps. So in theory all riders have a chance to win since the fastest riders have to complete a greater distance. The rider(s) off zero metres is/are called the "scratch" marker(s). So in this example, when I race the wheelrace I start 195 metres in front of the "scratchies".

Now what also happens is you can't have everyone who's racing the carnival on the track at the same time, so heats are run to determine who qualifies for the wheelrace final. There are many ways to do this so I won't bore you with the details.

Just before that race was the opening scratch race, which I came second in after a bit of collusion between two Bathurst riders prevented a fair sprint - with one deliberately blocking me for his mate (the winner also qualified for the wheelrace final). Collusion is not legal in track racing but the comms didn't pick that one up. Generally doing things like working hard to pull a mate along is OK but deliberately blocking another rider is a BIG NO NO - you must contest the sprint. I had a seriously good lunge at the line despite only getting to poke my nose out at the very last second. Damn I thought, the legs felt GREAT!!

Wheelrace heats were run as graded wheelraces and in my heat I was the next to last marker but I won my heat (and a few $ for my effort) by passing all riders in front of me. I think the extra motivation from the scratch race finish spurred me on this time. And good legs.

After the scratch race and wheelrace heat, there were Kierin heats, which I placed 2nd in to qualify for the final (three went through to final).

Then we had one of Crafty's special races, the "miss n out handicap". Simple race, riders roll out and every lap the last rider across the line is eliminated, except that in this case the A, B & C grades start at different points on the track. So in the opening laps a few A graders get eliminated early until they catch B and/or C grade. Once it comes together it reverts to a standard miss n out. Our race came together reasonably early so I did what I always do and be attentive to position in the bunch while other (often much stronger/fitter) riders get eliminated behind. In the end I was 4th last rider eliminated, with the remaining riders being the A grade road runner dudes. Once again, nice work legs.

Right after that was the Kierin final! I came second by about a wheel. And a few more $. Petrol money really.

Then the Wheelrace final. That wasn't so good as I had a slight mishap with my cleat off the start, which cost me too much distance to the riders in front and I couldn't make it up, so I retired gracefully and called it a night.

So six races with one win, three seconds, two finals and a 5th in the miss n out. And a few $ for my efforts.

On fire!!

Read More......

Friday, October 30, 2009

WTF is happening??

Ok, it's been a while and posting lately has been slow.

That's actually a good thing - I've just been really busy. I have lots to update on, so I'll get to it all. Eventually, LOL.

I had a fantastic trip to California to ride the countryside around Santa Rosa, participate in Levi's Granfondo and also deliver a seminar on training with power. So I'll get to those in separate posts later.

I also have been doing lots of training leading up to the UCI World Masters Track championships which were held last week. I had a really good championships, riding a good pursuit time and making the finals of both the scratch and points races. More on that later too.

Here I am am up front and personal during my Individual Pursuit last week:

I rode a 3:54 3km pursuit, which is about 6-7 seconds slower than my all time PB but it's still my 3rd fastest time ever. My average power was 375 watts.

Also, as part of the training I did some aerodynamic field testing, mostly for wheel choices, so I'll report on that too!

And some cool stuff on the coaching front as well..... like I said, I have been busy.

Ahead I have a really solid block of training in front of me as I prepare for the Track nationals in early February in Adelaide.

And more cycling performance experiments to perform.

And to finally finish off the leg - with an aero fairing.....

Also I go to Adelaide in late-November for a week long Cycling Australia coaching development course.

Stay tuned folks!!

Read More......

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Testing is Training....

One of the Pithy Power Proverbs is "Training is testing, testing is training." by Andy Coggan. It's really a way of saying that one shouldn't be afraid of "mucking up their training" in order to schedule a performance test, since by their very nature, tests are very high quality training efforts anyway.

Many think that one needs to taper or rest up significantly for such tests and that's what "mucks up your training". Well yes and no. A lot depends on where you are at in your training.

Certainly at lower Chronic Training Levels (less than ~70-80 TSS/day), then a significant rest up really isn't necessary. Sure, don't go and smash yourself the day before hand but not too much more concern should be had with resting up. At high CTLs then perhaps a little more recovery time is in order before tests.

So over the past couple of weeks I have been doing some testing. Coach Ric figured it was time we checked under the hood to see whether I was running a 2 pot screamer, a Wankel rotary, a turbo 4, the family 6 or a big donk of a V8.

Before I get to how that panned out, here's a quick summary of my training over the past 7.5 weeks in the form of a Performance Manager Chart:

You can see that following a break after the National (Apr-09) and Oceania (May-09) Paralympic road race championships, my CTL had fallen significantly (was at ~ 70 CTL at time of the champs). I had expected it to drop a bit as I was taking a week off and then some easy riding but a series of events led to quite a long interruption to my training of about 8 weeks. Initially I had problems with my new walking prosthetic and after that was finally sorted and I rode again for a couple of weeks, I took then ill for a while with some weirdo viral bug. So CTL dropped to ~ 32 TSS/day with lots of time off the bike.

OK, so once I was healthy enough to train and had my prosthetic sorted, it was time to ramp it back up again. In the period leading up to testing my CTL was rising at a little over 6 TSS/day per week, which you can see by that steady upward march of the blue CTL line in the chart above.

So after that five week block of training, I had a week with a 16km time trial (TT) scheduled for a Tuesday and a Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP) test on the Thursday. Those days are shown on the chart above.

Here's the power trace from the 16km TT:

Well it's actually a bit shorter than 16km at 15.3km. Four laps of Sydney's Centennial Park (a gradually undulating course) but it's close enough for the purpose and is a testing ground I have used many times. I did the TT on my road bike (no TT rig at the moment).

299 watts for 24:29 (37.4 km/h)
Peak 20-min: 301W
CTL: 69
TSB: -31

That's 92% of my pre-injury PB power (326W) on the same course.

Testing Part II was the MAP test on the Thursday. Here's the result:

MAP is the maximal 1-minute average power from a ramp test to exhaustion using a ramp rate of 20 or 25W/min (depending on category of rider). I use a 25W/min ramp protocol.

MAP: 410 watts
CTL: 70.6 TSS/day
TSB: -25.2

That's an all time PB MAP result for me and is 103% of my pre-injury PB (399W).

Note the Training Stress Balance (TSB) at the time of both tests - both what I would call significantly negative (meaning I was quite fatigued), yet I still produced post-accident PB power levels and in the case of my MAP, well I'm a little astounded at setting an all time best just 14 months after I tried to pedal on a bike again for the first time since my accident.

So astounded was I on the day that I decided to make a special effort to re-check the slope calibration of the SRM power meter on my ergo bike. It was slightly off and my numbers were lowered by 4W (initially I had 414W).

Here's a look at my previous MAP test results over the past two and a bit years. Also marked are the months where I had my accident and amputation, as well as when I started back on the home trainer:

One can wonder - was I fully developed as an athlete beforehand? Has that skewed the results?

Well probably not fully developed (I sure had plans of becoming more powerful), but I wasn't un- or under-developed either. I had an FTP well over 300W and a CTL of the order of 100 TSS/day. Up to that point I had attained podium in 6 team pursuit championships including a championship win in state record time, 1 x podium at teams time trial championships, 1 x podium at criterium championships as well as an open criterium win, and a podium at the national masters track points race champsionships (right before my accident).

Now I don't know what specific conclusions you can draw from this n=1 study, but as an athlete who has severals years of power meter data prior to and after a lower leg amputation I think it will no doubt be of interest to those who study the performance implications for such injuries and the use of prosthetics in cycling. Clearly there are many high performing athletes using similar prosthetics.

One outcome of testing is to establish or validate an estimate for Functional Threshold (~1-hour TT) Power (FTP) . On the basis of these tests (the TT in particular and my recent longer threshold tolerance intervals), I have reset my FTP to 280 watts as of the day of the TT. It was previously set at 270 watts.

So what now? Well one thing to note is the ratio of FTP to MAP.

Currently that puts me at a ratio of 280W / 410W = 68%
My previous best pre-injury I was 315W / 399W = 79%

That's quite a remarkable difference in the ratios and I'm not entirely sure of the reason.

Typically the ratio of FTP to MAP is in the range of 72% - 77%, so on both accounts I fall outside the typical range (it happens). Pre-accident I was always somewhere around the upper end of the range. Everyone's ratio is different and can vary through the course of training and be due to your physiological and power profile (anaerobic capacity, VO2max, % of VO2max one can sustain at threshold and so on).

One way to think of it is MAP is like your aerobic ceiling* and FTP is how close to that ceiling you are able to get when riding a TT. So in this sense, it suggests that my roof is plenty high and that I have lots of room to further improve my TT power before I starting bumping my head. Which is good!

* of course there is an anaerobic component to MAP as well (as indeed there is in shorter TTs albeit a smaller overall contributor to total energy output) but examination of hundreds, if not thousands, of MAP tests have shown it to be a reliable indicator of aerobic performance potential.

My testing isn't actually finished. Since I will be targeting the 3km and 4km individual pursuit (and track TT 750m and kilometre) over the next 6 months we have also scheduled a trial 3km pursuit effort for this coming week. That'll be fun.

Read More......

Friday, August 07, 2009

No news is good news

Yep, been a little busy of late so not so many posts.

A quick one for the record....

After the National and Oceania championships, I had a bit of time off the bike, which I wanted. A week was the idea, followed by some leisurely riding for a while. Best laid plans....

Then that became a lot of time off because I had trouble adapting to a new prosthetic. Took a while to sort it but it got sorted.

So a few weeks later I started training again and not long after caught some rotten lurgy, which coincidentally also made my leg swell up and I couldn't wear my prosthetic. So another 2 weeks of very little on the training front.

Never mind, get healthy first, train second. Well I've now had a really good few weeks back on the steed and the Performance Manager Chart shows clearly the impact to training loads of two longish periods of time off the bike. The blue CTL line looks like one of those Tour de France mountain stage course profiles.

This week, even after such a short time training again, I did 2x20-minute threshold tolerance efforts at 275+ watts in the park, which is already at a level I was prior to the championships.

My progression on these 2x20-min TTIs since starting back on the bike last year went something like:

Sep 08: 220W
Oct 08: 230W to 240W
Nov 08: 245W
Dec 08: 250W to 260W to 265W
Jan 09: 265W
Feb 09: 265W to 270W
Apr 09: 275W to 280W

And now, after these interruptions to training, I go and bang out 275+W with a little still in the tank.

So now the goal is 290W in ~ 5-6 weeks. Let's see, eh?

Oh, and keeping training in a consistent manner which will see that blue line rising for some time yet.

Next week I start track racing again - the RAW Track series, at which I have been Commissaire for so far this year (and all last season). So it will be fun to ditch the comm's jacket and pull on the skinsuit. Should be a hoot. RST is also a sponsor of RAW Track and RAW Track have supported me greatly in helping to raise money for my bike leg.

As for the bike leg, it is partly completed. I am using it and have been getting all the angles etc tweaked but waiting for one special component (a cleat adapter plate) to be finished by a machine shop friend (I'm currently using an adapter good buddy Peter Barnard made for me last year), so I can hook up the new pylon/clamp I have waiting, finalise the position (lengths and various angles) and then get the aerofoil section completed.

When done we'll make a small run of the adapter plates for future use. Its design will make cleat removal/replacement a lot easier and will be a bit more stream lined and light weight than the one I have at the moment.

It will be one funky looking aero leg when done....

Have also been very busy with coaching things, lots happening on that front but more on that later. One cool thing coming up will be a trip to Northern California at end September, where I'll get to hang, ride, deliver a seminar on training with power and participate in Levi Leipheimer's Granfondo on 3 October. Can't wait!

Read More......

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Sins of Sins (Testing FTP #2)

One of the most frequently referenced items on this good ol’ blog of mine (I can call it old, it’s in its fourth year – that’s officially old in interwebby speak) was an item I penned about ways to estimate your Functional Threshold Power (FTP - maximal quasi steady state average power one can sustain for about an hour).

That post was basically an expansion on the original information provided by Dr Andrew Coggan, publicly posted many years ago on the Wattage Forum and dubbed “The Seven Deadly Sins”.

Indeed since writing it, this one blog item has been viewed nearly 45,000 times.
Here is the link to the original post:
The Seven Deadly Sins

It was recently suggested to me (by Steve Palladino) that it might be worthwhile to pen a follow up to that post. One that explores some of the common mistakes people make when attempting to estimate their FTP. So here are a few thoughts on the subject.

As is often the case, none of this is particularly original, most of these are just accumulated tidbits of information and knowledge and it is by no means an exhaustive list. I may even have some of it wrong. You may have others worth adding or corrections – by all means, let me know – happy to add them to the examples listed.

Before getting into the list – The Sins of Sins – I will say that estimating FTP is important and the reasons for that are outlined in my previously linked post. It's not important in a “curing cancer” kind of way, but getting it right to at least a reasonable level of accuracy is pretty darn handy as there are many other very useful facets of training and racing with power that rely on having a good FTP estimate.

One doesn’t need to be completely anal about it and testing really often is not typically necessary (a few times a year is usually enough – the appropriate frequency depends on individual circumstances). Also nailing it down to the watt is not necessary either, the nearest five watts is typically more than sufficient.

The Sins of Sins – Top 10 (in no specific order):
SOS #1 – Not testing at all
SOS #2 – Not using an accurate power meter
SOS #3 – Using inconsistent methodologies
SOS #4 – Not replicating riding conditions in testing
SOS #5 – Ignoring signs that FTP has changed
SOS #6 – 95% of a 20-min mean maximal power = FTP
SOS #7 – Using NP from rides < < 1-hour
SOS #8 – Inappropriate use of the CP model
SOS #9 – Not performing maximal efforts
SOS #10 – “I’ve got an NP buster!”

OK, let’s examine each in a little more detail...

Sin of Sins #1 – Not testing at all
OK, this might seem a bit redundant, but honestly there are people who think they can get away with no testing at all but still want to know what their FTP is. Or that testing is such an impost in the training / racing schedule that it is “harmful” to schedule it. Bollocks.

Given the adage “training is testing, testing is training” then really there’s no excuse for never doing an effort or two in order to nail down one’s FTP more tightly than a lame guess. Stop wondering and go and do it. Gee, I feel better already.

Of course, an experienced eye can often inspect the mass of an individual’s power meter data and probably come up with a reasonable SWAG. But far better to schedule a test and be certain.

Sin of Sins #2 – Not using an accurate power meter
(and/or not using a power meter at all)

This is also a pretty obvious sin of sins but it happens. If you are going to use a power meter, it makes a lot of sense to ensure you are collecting accurate data. Otherwise how are you going to be sure that changes in power output as reported are in fact representative of actual changes in performance?

Check your meter’s calibration and make sure you perform the appropriate torque zero / zero offset procedure so that the data can be considered reliable. Neither is hard to do nor time consuming.

And if you don’t have a power meter, sure, go time yourself up a long steep hill climb and make an estimate of power output using, but then what? Without a reliable means to collect power data at other times, then the primary benefits of knowing your FTP and all that flows from it are not accessible. So use the hill climb as a good fitness test but the power estimate is essentially for satisfying curiosity or bragging rights at the coffee shop.

Sin of Sins #3 – Using inconsistent methodologies
This is pretty common. When you start out with a power meter, naturally you’ll want to work out the best, most reliable method for your particular circumstances. Everyone has different terrain to ride on, levels of traffic to contend with, opportunities to do a time trial, or time in which they can safely perform a test where they live, or can’t get outside for months on end, etc etc, so the sin(s) they choose to use as most appropriate to estimate FTP are different.

But once you have settled on a good method, then stick with it and replicate the same protocol each time. By reducing the number of variables that can influence the outcome, the more reliable is the data and what can be interpreted from it.

Examples of consistency might include:
- Using the same venue
- Using the same number of light, recovery ride or rest day(s) before the test(s)
- Performing tests in the same order, with the same break in between
- Performing the tests on the same number of days apart (or always on the same day)
- Using the same equipment
- Looking for similar environmental conditions if possible
- Performing tests over the same distance/duration

Of course it is not always easy or practical to replicate everything, every time, but at least consider these factors when deciding on a test method. Some methods lend themselves to more consistent protocol than others. A time trial over the same course, or undertaking a Maximal Aerobic Power test are examples of those which enable consistency without too much thinking involved.

Sin of Sins #4 – Not replicating riding conditions in testing
This might not be as bad as it can seem at first but it makes sense to at least use a test method using the bike/equipment/terrain/location/bike position etc that comprises the majority of your riding at that stage of your training/season.

This is especially the case when there is likely to be a significant difference in the performance (power) using the test method versus what you would ordinarily be able to produce. For example, if you only ride indoors occasionally and know you struggle to generate the same power as you typically do outdoors, then don’t use the indoor trainer to test FTP.

Sin of Sins #5 – Ignoring signs that FTP has changed
“I had a two hour group run today and my Intensity Factor was 1.07”.
Provided you are not falling for SOS #1 or SOS #2, then be on the lookout for signs that FTP may indeed have shifted significantly. There are a number of them and they include:

- Actual performance not consistent with current FTP estimate, such as AP/NP from a 40km TT that is significantly different from FTP

- An Intensity Factor (IF) > 1.05 for any ride or section of a ride of about an hour

- Regular long intervals at/near FTP becoming “easy(ish)”

- Perceived exertion for rides not consistent with intended level (e.g. a tempo power rides feels more like an endurance ride)

- a steeper than typically sustainable medium term rise in Chronic Training Load. e.g. your CTL has apprently risen at a much higher rate than you would normally expect to sustain without getting ill/niggles/overly fatigued (e.g. > 8 TSS/day/week but maybe less for some)

Now these are signs that FTP may need retesting but are not necessarily good tests in themselves. So ignore them at your peril but don’t jump to inappropriate conclusions or immediately adjust FTP. Gather some additional evidence.

Sin of Sins #6 – 95% of a 20-min mean maximal power = FTP
Well, this method of establishing FTP isn’t one of the listed Seven Deadly Sins in the first place, but it has become such a commonly referred to/utilised method (mainly due to its publication in the excellent book, Training and Racing with a Power Meter) that it gets its own SOS number.

Firstly, the main issue with this common Sin of Sins is that the ratio between 20-min power (or other similar shorter TT duration power) and FTP is not the same for everybody, and neither does the ratio remain static for an individual. One should recognise that due to several factors, not least of which is the contribution of anaerobic capacity and the exact protocol used (e.g. performing a pre-ride blowout effort), that the ratio is likely to be within a range and where someone is within that range is anyone’s guess.

So, FTP might be anywhere in the range of, say 90% to 98% of 20-min max average power. Personally, my FTP has been at both 92% and 96% of my then 20-min max average power. So, by all means use 95% of 20-min max power as a starting point but remember it may well be out by some margin and it would be wise to use an additional or alternative method to validate your FTP estimate.

Sin of Sins #7 – Using NP from rides < < 1-hour
“My 20-min max NP from that crit was 378 watts, so is my FTP 95% of that, i.e. 359 watts?”

Er, no.

Apart from falling for SOS #6, the efficacy of the Normalised Power algorithm in providing a “normalised iso-power equivalent” begins to drop somewhat as the duration shortens to substantially less than one hour. 20-minutes is in that grey zone. 30-minutes ain’t too shabby but I think anything less than 40-50 minutes is stretching the envelope a bit much for a reliable number from which to make an estimate of FTP.

Sin of Sins #8 – Inappropriate use of the CP model
The Critical Power (CP) model is a useful way to estimate FTP. See my previously linked item on the Seven Deadly Sins to find out a bit more on how it works.

The calculation of CP is sensitive to both the way data is collected and the data chosen to input into the model. So ignoring reasons for these sensitivities can introduce unwanted errors. Common SOS#8 mistakes are:

- Using data from inappropriate test durations. Ideally you will want data from within a range of durations – typically tests should be at least 3 minutes and no longer than 30 minutes duration. Tests from very short (e.g 1-minute) or long durations (e.g. 60-min) tend to skew the calculations somewhat. Besides, if you have a 60-min test, then CP is somewhat redundant.

- Using data from test durations that are too close to each other, e.g. 3-min and 6-min. It is far better to use one test of ~ 3-6 min and one of ~ 20-30-min. Can also include another from a duration in between but two really good points with sufficient spread between them is all that's really needed.

- Using multiple data points which include unreliable data, such as a test that was not truly a maximal effort for the duration or was tainted due to the protocol/method used to collect the data. Far better to have two very good data points than four data points with one or two suspect numbers.

- Not using the same test durations each time. E.g. using a 6-min and a 20-min test and next time using a 3-min and 28-min test. Pick your sample durations and stick with them, within reason. This is not as easy as it seems, since if you are doing a 5-min test, how hard do you go? It can be easier to pick a power level you expect to maintain for the duration and go ’til you blow. But if it becomes a significantly different duration, it may affect the outcome.

- Using a different protocol to collect the data. Principles of SOS #3 apply. If you perform both, say a 5-min and a 25-min test on the same day, then next time do it the same way and in the same order. If you perform the tests on different days, then be consistent about that protocol.

- Similarly, avoid cherry picking mean maximal power data from different rides, e.g. a local TT and last week’s crit and then next time a Level 4 training effort and the hillclimb during the local world’s bunch ride.

- Selecting non-contemporaneous data. Now that’s a big word. What I mean is, you don’t select your best 5-min power from three months ago and combine it with a 25-min test from last week. The data must be from the same time period (I suggest the limit for data collection be approximately one ATL time constant or around 7-10 days)

- Using Normalised Power. Don't. Use Average Power.

- Not weighing yourself or using the wrong body mass for the model (note that this doesn't affect CP calculations, just some versions of the model also quote or calculate CP in W/kg terms).

Note that the CP value calculated by the model is typically a better estimate of FTP than the 60-min power predicted by the model. The 60-min power prediction is usually a bit higher than the CP value.

Note added June 2013:
The Golden Cheetah power meter analysis software has a built in feature that uses the principles of the critical power model to provide a CP estimate based on your power meter files. I am not exactly sure of the means by which GC's implementation derives its estimate, but I suspect it is susceptible to the problem of cherry picking data, using inconsistent data, and possibly not including data from efforts of sufficient duration as mentioned above.

As a result, use of the CP model implemented in this manner routinely overestimates FTP. Initial data as assessed by Dr Coggan indicates a typical overestimation of around 5%. This presumes there is sufficient actual data with maximal efforts across various durations.

Sin of Sins #9 – Not performing maximal efforts
Testing performance requires one to go to the limit, otherwise one can never know where that limit is. There is some sub-maximal testing one can do, such as determining lactate threshold in the lab but for the purposes of using a power meter to ascertain FTP, then one does need to lay it all on the line.

Of course it goes without saying that one should be sufficiently fit and healthy to perform maximal effort testing. Undergoing testing while health concerns exist may well end up being the biggest mistake of all!

Sin of Sins #10 – "I’ve got an NP buster!"
No you don’t*.
It is 99.99% likely that:
(i) your FTP is underestimated, or
(ii) the duration you are referring to is not about an hour, or
(iii) your power meter data is suspect – reference SOS #2.

* OK it is possible, just highly improbable and some substantive evidence is required before making such a declaration and joining this rare club.

Finally, there’s not much point in taking your track bike to the local velodrome, doing a whole bunch of anaerobic efforts while tooling around the infield in between efforts, racking up some weirdo NP number due to all the breaks and then seeking to use it as guide to FTP. The test needs to be realistic for the purpose. This is a variant of SOS #4.

I’d expand some more on this, like “what the %&%$ is an NP buster?” and “I do so have an NP buster” but perhaps I’ll save that for another day.

OK, that’s enough for today. It was a bit long but hopefully it can help you to avoid some of the more common pitfalls when attempting to estimate your FTP. It's not all that hard.

Good luck and safe riding!

Read More......

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Goals Galore

OK, my first season back on the bike is over. I'm having a shortish break of a week or so.

So how did I go? I think pretty well all things considered.

After learning to walk again, I attempted to pedal for the first time in mid-June 2008. By mid-May 2009 I had won 2 Gold medals at the Oceania para-cycling road championships in both the time trial and road race as well as Silver medals in the same two events at the Nationals a couple of weeks earlier. Along the way I had attained an FTP of ~ 270 watts and a MAP of 385 watts. I reached CTL of ~ 70 TSS/day.

Some things, which seem minor to many, were not trivial to do. Things like getting a bike leg attachment sorted out, having short cranks made so I could pedal with a knee that wouldn't flex very well. Progressing to longer cranks. Being able to ride out of the saddle. Riding outdoors again. Riding on the roads again. Racing for the first time again. Riding on the track. Racing on the track. So much has been a rediscovery of bike riding. In a way that's part of what has kept me going, re-learning stuff that I had taken for granted before.

So all up a very promising start for my first (nearly) year back on the bike.

But what's next?

Well I've decided on a few longer-term and medium-term goals.

Longer Term Goal (as at May 2009):
To be re-evaluated after Feb 2010 track nationals.
Kilometre time trial to be priority, ultimately aiming to be top 3 of all para categories by 2011/12.
This pushes for 2012 Paralympic selection in the team sprint.

Medium Term Goals (as at May 2009):

1. Attain podium standard performance level at Track Nationals, Feb 2010 (whether that results in podium depends on competitor numbers at that standard).
- Stretch goal to be Silver medal standard by Feb 2010
- Specific events are Kilo TT and 4km Pursuit.
Event standards (Gold / Silver / Bronze):
Kilometre TT: 1:16.631 / 1:18.091 / 1:20.280
4km Pursuit: 5:03.404 / 5:09.075 / 5:17.582

2. Continue all round development as a rider
- ability to ride competitively with prosthetic
- Lift mean maximal power/mass ratio across key durations (FTP / MAP / 1-min and sprint)

3. Further prosthetic development
- new cycling specific leg in use by Aug/Sep 2009

4. Refinement of riding position with new prosthetic / work on better aerodynamics
- seek 5% reduction in pursuit CdA (currently ~ 0.26m^2)

So there you have it.

Now all I got to do is buckets of hard work.

Read More......

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Crocs, toads & mozzies...

OK, my first "season" is done. I finished it off with a trip to Darwin, in Australia's Top End, to compete in the Oceania Para-cycling road championships.

I finished that event with Gold medals in both the Time Trial and the Road Race for the LC2 category.

I also picked up a few dozen mozzie bites for my trouble, which have been persistent little buggers, itching for quite some time since getting home.

A few things about Darwin have changed in the 15 years since I lived there in the mid-1990s (but not all that much really - certainly not as much as locals would have you believe).

Firstly, you now see dead cane toads on the road. Next thing is part of the reason why you see dead cane toads on the road is because everyone is busy looking at the personalised numbers plates which seem to be on every other car, and clearly aren't seeing the toads they are running over.

Other than that, yeah there's a few more buildings, especially around the port area, more new apartments everywhere, some new hotels and some more shops here and there (like at Nightcliff).

Some things however, never change. The drivers pretty much exhibiting the same sloth like reflexes at traffic lights for instance. They'll run every red light under the tropical sun but take forever to start when the lights go green.

Then there's the NT News, the local paper. It is unique in Australia and the front page headline was typically a story about an animal (often crocodiles), alchohol and or sex. Extra points for combining all three.

Well here's the front page the first morning I was there:

Which was followed up a couple of days later with this little gem:

The fact that this latter one appeared the morning after the Commonwealth Government handed down probably the most talked about public budget in decades which appeared on every front page in the country, except the NT News. Well, that's if you ignore the "budget" reference to the photo of the python squeezing the life out of a possum!

Anyway, for the record, some power stats and comments from my racing over the last couple of weeks:

National Paracycling TT Championships (LC2):
Hilly course
Duration: 0:38:57
Average Power: 264 watts
Normalised Power: 276 watts
Place: 2nd (~2.5 minutes)

National Paracycling Road Race Championships (LC2):
Very hilly course.
Duration: 2:10:17
Average Power: 225 watts
Normalised Power: 271 watts
60-min mean max NP: 286 watts
30-min mean max NP: 308 watts
Place: 2nd (38 seconds down)

Oceania Paracycling TT Championships (LC2):
Duration: 0:52:27
Average Power: 264 watts
Normalised Power: 269 watts
Place: 1st

Oceania Paracycling Road Race Championships (LC2):
Duration: 1:52:34
Average Power: 216 watts
Normalised Power: 262 watts
Place: 1st

1st 46-min riding with Michael Gallagher (LC1 - categories were combined) before he finally cracked me:
Average Power: 225 watts
Normalised Power: 288 watts

Note: Michael also rode the open elite TT the next day. He won that.

Of all those rides I am most pleased with the National road race. That was a very tough course and I put out personal best power, and very nearly stole a march over my far younger and lighter competitor.

So, 11 months after I first tried to pedal again, and just over two years since my accident and 23 months since my amputation, that's not a bad start for my first season.

Planning for the season ahead has already started. I'm having a couple of easy weeks first though.

Thanks to Ron Bonham for the photos

Read More......

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Another Hour of Power

48.317 km.

That’s how far Jayson Austin was calculated to have ridden on his second and successful attempt to set a new world record for Masters Men (35-39) distance ridden in one hour. It added a huge 2.676km (5.8%) to the previous record set in 2007 by Jason Sprouse of the USA.

Jayson on his way to a new World Record

It is also the second furthest ridden by an Australian, with Brad McGee holding the honour of the furthest distance (not sure exactly how far but it is something over 50km).

It’s also about the same length as this post, so be warned!

I wrote about Jayson’s previous unsuccessful attempt in this post: An Hour of Power, which has been one of the more popular reads on this blog.

So what went right this time? How did Jayson add a whopping 3.649km (8.2%) to his previous attempt where he managed to ride 44.668km?

More excellent photos on the ride taken by Trevor Mullins can be found here:

As I have mentioned before, there are three things that primarily contribute to a fast time trial (or in the case of the hour record, to maximise distance ridden):
  • Power to the pedals
  • Piercing the wind (plus fast tyres)
  • Pacing the course
I’ve previously explained these Three Ps in this post: Old Skool.

OK, well let’s consider his first attempt at the record last year.

Power - Feb 2008
Average Power: 241 watts (4.0 W/kg)
Normalised Power: 259 watts (NP:AP = 1.07)

Jayson took quite ill in the weeks leading up to the event and he was clearly not in the form he would have normally expected come race day. In hindsight he probably should have postponed. However that is a difficult choice as the logistics to organise the event make that tricky. In addition, on the day the timing system failed and Jayson had to abandon the attempt after 5-minutes and do a restart. That certainly did not help his cause at all. Jayson also chose to use a gear far too large for his form on the day.

Average Power for his first attempt was 241 watts. Normalised Power was 259 watts, giving a ratio of NP to AP of 1.07. For an hour record attempt, that is a very high ratio and one would expect a very well paced effort on a velodrome would see that ratio being very close to 1.00.

Piercing the wind - Feb 2008
Using the data available from the SRM power meter on Jayson’s bike, I concluded his CdA (a measure of how slippery you are through the air) was in the vicinity of 0.190m^2. That is very slippery for a bike rider by any standard. So Jayson had a pretty slick set up and position. Riding 44.7km with an average power of only 241 watts certainly indicates he was piercing the wind just fine.

Combined with his power, the ratio that most determines the speed a time trial rider will travel at is their sustainable power to aerodynamic drag - FTP : CdA - ratio.

In Feb 2007 that ratio was 241 / 0.190 = 1268 W/m^2

Pacing - Feb 2008
In essence, in the context of his sub-standard form come race day, Jayson simply paced poorly, making the classic mistake of going out too hard and fading. Badly. Ignoring the pacing signals from his coach, this was well and truly demonstrated by the charts in the first linked post, showing how much he faded through the course of the attempt, finally hitting a brick wall at around the 45-min mark.

Breaking his average power down into 15-min sections shows the dramatic fade in power:
00-15 min: 302 watts
15-30 min: 272 watts
30-45 min: 242 watts
45-60 min: 151 watts

I suspect what Jayson did was to ride at a level he felt he would be able sustain but that turned out not to be the case. C'est la vie.

Using my pacing analysis models (something I haven’t written about in any detail here), I have rated Jayson’s pacing with a Pacing Score of 0.960, which is, in fact, the lower anchor point on my relative pacing performance charts (i.e. indicating very poor pacing). A best in class Pacing Score is 0.995 (with 1.000 being theoretically perfect pacing).

To put that into context, if Jayson had ridden with best in class pacing, even with the reduced power at his disposal on that day, he could have added another 1.5-1.6km to his ride distance. He missed the record that day by 974 metres.

These are tough mistakes to make and hard lessons learned. But we often learn more from having the courage to make mistakes. Certainly both Jayson and his coach would have felt a little burned by the attempt (what some may not know is that Jayson had, in training, already beaten the record, just not officially sanctioned with UCI supervision, electronic timing, doping control etc etc that is required for an official record to be set).

In the months following, Jayson’s riding, form and morale slipped somewhat and his coach (a friend of mine), who was moving onto other projects, suggested Jayson speak with me about taking him on and getting him back on track. So Jayson and I discussed where he was at and set ourselves the objective of having another crack at the hour (as well as other racing objectives along the way).

For me, what was going to be important was that Jayson demonstrated a willingness to learn from the mistakes made (both from the ride specifically but also in general). You can be sure that these lessons were not lost on coach, and I consider them to be a substantial contributor to Jayson’s excellent performance the other week.

The biggest failure this time round would not have been missing the record, but in repeating the same mistakes.

OK, so how did the successful ride compare?

Power - Apr 2009
Average Power: 302 watts (5.0 W/kg).
Normalised Power: 303 watts (NP:AP = 1.00)

That’s 61 watts (+25%) more than his previous attempt. Now that’s gotta help. How did he manage it?

This time round Jayson did not get ill before the event. Nevertheless he is still relatively prone to illness, niggles and for some reason, a little accident prone as well (he even had a crash a few weeks before the attempt which did disrupt preparations a little). Jayson also works a full time job, with a lot of manual labour required (he works in the commercial flooring industry). So the ramp up of his training loads were pretty carefully managed to avoid increased susceptibility to illness and at times recognise that his work was sometimes tough on his body and training needed to be cut back. Even so, there were times when Jayson would do more than coach liked, and guess what? – the niggles would appear soon afterwards and training would be compromised.

Over time Jayson really started to appreciate the sense behind carefully managing the training loads. It enabled consistency of training and from that follows a steady and sustainable improvement in form. Jayson told me his form “sort of snuck up on me”.

Of course I did not confine Jayson to just training. Racing was a reasonably regular part of the diet. Every rider needs that little extra motivation at times, and pinning a number on your back is an excellent way to do this. As well, in the final weeks before the attempt, we minimised his exposure to Sydney’s busy roads, with a majority of rides being either with me, a trusted mate, at Centennial Park, on the velodrome or on my purpose built ergobike, Thunderbird 7.

Clearly Jayson has an engine and can really dig out some excellent power at times. What he lacked when we began working together, some 40 weeks before his hour ride, was depth of fitness. Despite very low training loads, he is way too capable of putting the hurt on and suffering the consequences. For those that understand the numbers, his chronic training load (CTL) at the time we started was ~38 TSS/day.

At the time of his hour ride:
CTL: 86 TSS/day
TSB: +10 TSS/day (training stress balance)
CTL/ATL Time Constants: 42/7 days

I did not have Jayson doing huge volumes. What I did do was ensure Jayson was doing quality work. Good solid endurance. Plenty of sweet spot / tempo work. Threshold tolerance work. And during the specific race preparation period, high end aerobic power work and specific threshold work on the track bike and in aero position at the track. The limited taper involved cutting back volume while using short but relatively intense intervals at the higher end of his aerobic power level abilities.

Here is a comparison of his power last time and this time:

Piercing the wind - Apr 2009
OK, so I have already established that Jayson was pretty darn slick through the air. But was any further improvement possible? Well yes as a matter of fact. Some positional changes, a different set of aero bars (based on a British Cycling design) and use of double disk wheels resulted in Jayson’s CdA lowering to around 0.185m^2. That’s a 2.6% improvement. It doesn’t sound a lot but that is worth approximately another 420 metres to his ride.

The bike exactly as ridden.
Thoroughly checked to ensure full compliance with all UCI regulations.
Note placement of the SRM PCV under the saddle.
Of note was that on this attempt, Jayson rode with a standard "under ball of foot" cleat position. In Feb 2008, Jayson used a mid-foot/arch cleat position. The fact that improved aerodynamics was achieveable despite the higher saddle position required of the regular cleat position would not be lost on some astute readers. Jayson also received a lot of support from fit guru Steve Hogg, mainly addressing many of the regular niggles, minor adjustments, use of various stem options, different saddles etc.

During training at the track, where possible, changes in position or equipment were compared to assess the differences. An alternative aero helmet was tried for instance and found to be substantially less aerodynamic than the Uvex that Jayson used. This is one of the direct and practical benefits of using power meters. It removes much of the guess work and objective decisions can be made based on the data.

So now Jason's FTP:CdA ratio is 302 / 0.185 = 1632 W/m^2

Even so, I would say that further improvement with his aerodynamics is still possible. There are still several minor details which, with enough solo track time, I would like to have tried and tested but they will just have to wait for another day.

Pacing - Apr 2009
Well I’m glad to report that Jayson now has the unique honour of topping the pacing league table, with a Pacing Score of 0.998, the best score I have ever recorded, as well as being the low anchor point (0.960).

Let’s just say that of the things that were drummed into Jayson’s head, pacing was what I was most concerned with. I knew he had the power. I knew he was slick. But would he be able to execute?

To ensure that happened, we did a lot of work in the weeks leading up to the attempt focussed on pacing. I developed a means to clearly communicate pacing information to him and Jayson began to develop an excellent “feel” for how to augment his effort ever so slightly each lap to maintain a sustainable pacing level. His choice of gearing was part of that strategy.
One thing went against the “conventional wisdom” – Jayson’s average cadence was 112 rpm. Conventional wisdom says Hour Records are all but set with a cadence of ~100rpm give or take 1 or 2 rpm. Bollocks to conventional wisdom I say.

Pacing information, lap times etc were conveyed on a regular basis

We also knew that different environmental conditions would impact on the sustainable pace on the day and we trained on different days with subtly different conditions. On the day of the attempt I checked both the air temperature and air pressure and that would tell me what pacing would likely be sustainable (and what wouldn’t). Dunc Gray Velodrome is not climate controlled and the temperature can and does vary quite a lot.

For example, a 5C drop in temperature would reduce the distance ridden by ~ 280 metres and an increase in air pressure of 20hPa would mean another 315 metres lost. Fortunately it was not a cold (21C) nor a high pressure (1004hPa) day although it had been warmer in training. Also, we requested that all windows and louvres be closed so as to minimise any potential wind disrutption and to retain as much heat inside as possible (April is Autumn in Sydney).

Of course the athlete is the one that must make a call on how hard to go but I had developed a very good understanding of his body language and could tell when it was too hard. Jayson was never going to go too easy, that’s for sure. My main concern was keeping a lid on it in the opening minutes. Jayson was made well aware of the lap times and how that played out relative to the existing record. The pacing mistakes were made in training, and ironed out in training.

On race day, nerves and adrenaline took a hold (I expected it, heck coach was nervous too!) and Jayson’s pacing was a little up and down in the opening minutes. However he made rapid adjustments knowing full well what over cooking it would do. It took quite a while but once he settled into a rhythm, his pacing was metronomic. Average lap times around the 250 metre track were 18.59 seconds (not counting the opening lap).

We had planned for a couple of “rest” breaks, where he could sit up, stretch, relieve any pressure points for a lap or so but as it turns out he didn’t need that and remained firmly in position for the entire hour. At times he varied his pace a little, and sometimes pushed himself back in the saddle, which was quite deliberate and helped him to stay comfortable and keep his concentration going.

Here is a comparison of his speed last time and this time:

That's more like it!

Thank you to:
Apart from Jays actually having the gumption to have another crack and delivering, there were many others involved in helping him get there and all should rightly share the success, including his former coach (hi Peter) who introduced him to training with power in the first place and showed what was possible, sponsors, the officials who helped coordinate the venue/UCI/ASADA etc, our club chief Mike, Jayson's family/support crew, Steve Hogg who was very accommodating with equipment and constant positional adjustments, training and racing buddies who kindly lent special gear (wheels, bars) for the attempt and rode/raced with Jays during the build up. And then all those that showed up to cheer him on!

Just six days after his record breaking ride, Jayson was knocked from his bike by a car while on a ride by a “hit and run” driver. Knocked unconscious and very, very nearly run over by another oncoming car, who’s driver managed to stop with the bumper bar over Jayson’s head, he is lucky to be alive. Jayson was admitted to Manly hospital and fortunately suffered no broken bones. However he did suffer from a sizeable haematoma and severe swelling of the thigh which required emergency surgery to open the leg (a fasciotomy) so that excess fluids could be drained and the swelling would not prevent blood flow. That was successful but now he has a large open wound which will take some weeks to heal.

He has since been discharged and it will be at least eight weeks before he can work or ride. As you can imagine Jayson is pretty pissed off about the incident but otherwise is in good spirits.

So now it will be onto the next challenge, getting an injured soul back to good form. That's something I have some experience with.

Well done Jayson! A super ride.

Photos: David Lane, Action Snaps:

Read More......

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Brutal but good

Just back from a brutal road race - the National Paracycling championships being held in Murwillumbah - over same course as used for the Junior U19 men and women earlier in the day.

I am now officially tired and sore. 2nd again (4th overall in combined category race). Hard to combat those skinny kids! But I was close. They got away on the biggest climb on 1st lap of 4 (with 4 climbs each lap the last one is ~1.5km at 7-10%). Knowing there wasn't much point burying myself just to get dropped by them again, I sat up and waited for the leading tandem pair in the blind category who were only 50 m behind me and they towed me round the next three laps. It was hard enough hanging onto the tandem!

We were making ground and on the last lap (in the rain) and had them in sight, and on the penultimate climb, I said "thanks" and decided to make my move. I got to within 30m of them at the base of the final climb but couldn't quite bridge and had to watch them ride away bit by bit, so I probably finished maybe a minute down. Shame, I reckon I'd have done them in the sprint. This is same guy who won the TT by over 2.5 min, so I had a good ride but I sure needed that tandem!

Still, I was giving away 20 years and 20kg on these guys, so all up I'm pretty pleased with that effort.

2 x Silver medals at Nationals is good going less with than a year back on the bike. :D

Read More......

Friday, May 01, 2009

Silver Bullet

Well, not exactly bullet like!

Para-cycling road nationals on at the moment. TT was yesterday and road race tomorrow.

TT was good, I came second in my category (LC2) which given the hilly course I was pretty pleased with. About 2-min down on winner though, so some time to make up.

Other news of course was Jayson Austin's record breaking hour ride on the weekend, setting a new mark of 48.317km. I'll have more to write up on that in coming week(s).

That's all for now folks!


Read More......

Saturday, April 11, 2009

bon anniversaire II

April 11. Two years to the day since my accident.

How time flies when you’re having fun.

Year 1 was about hospital, doctors, nurses, surgeries (seven of them I think plus multiple minor procedures), drugs (and associated hallucinations), pain, basic recovery, the physical and mental highs and lows, never really knowing how long it would take to get better and just coping with crap. It was also a year of unbelievable support from family, friends and work colleagues.

Year 2 was about getting some normality back to my life (you know, silly things like being able to walk, being able to walk without pain, getting back to doing some work). Naturally, a large part of normality for me was starting to ride the bike again, which I’ve been doing bit by bit since mid-June 2008 when I first turned a crank over on the indoor trainer. And regaining some semblance of fitness as well as losing some weight. Again the support of so many good people shone through and that is good to think of when you have a less than good day.

So what does Year 3 have in store?

Well I have a few ideas, but mostly it’s about evolution and continuing to rebuild this body.

Today I celebrated by doing a quality endurance ride out to Kurnell with a buddy and one of my coaching clients, Jayson Austin. I’ll be writing about Jayson more later – he is attempting to set a new world record for the Masters age group hour record. That happens a couple of weeks from now. Our ride was good. 80km, and for me a workout intensity (IF) of 0.84 (for the main section of ride) and 175 TSS. 12 months ago I could barely walk.

Coming up are a few exciting things:

At the end of April I travel to Murwillumbah in northern NSW to race the National Paracycling Championships. There is a Time Trial and a Road Race. It will be my first attempt at a paracycling event, so there is much to learn in terms of how it all operates. I suppose it’s just another bike race. Done plenty of those!

Then two weeks after that I hop on a plane and travel to Darwin at the top end of Australia for the Oceania Paracycling Championships, which are being held in conjunction with the Arafura Games. Again that involves a Time Trial and a Road Race. It will be interesting to see Darwin again. I lived there for two years in the mid-1990s.

At some stage over the next four weeks I expect to receive a new leg. Well two new legs actually. My current one no longer fits as well as it should and so it’s time for a new one. So it will be bye bye to Schooner II and in with the new. I was thinking, in Cervelo bike naming convention, perhaps I should call this new leg the PC III.

I went in to see George at the ALC to be fitted just over a week ago. So I will get a new general purpose leg. But the best bit is I will also be getting a dedicated cycling leg. That will be uber cool! No more screwing on/off a leg attachment. Yay! The funds raised at my benefit night last November are really helping to make this all possible.

I am also in the process of putting together a time trial bike and am at the bits gathering stage.

Beyond that, I have a few things marked in the calendar but I have my eyes set on getting to the 2010 National Paracycling Track Championships and being in excellent shape and form. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have a crack at the paracycling hour record.

In terms of general progress, well the last update was summarised in this post.

That chronology went up to 25 September 2008, when I performed a Maximal Aerobic Power test at which I attained a MAP of 355 watts. So summarising since then:

28 November 2008: My benefit night and photos.

16 December 2008: 16km TT test – 287 watts
19 December 2008: MAP Test – 385 watts
Both written up as part of my Swiss Watch post.

26 January 2009: Australian Day Race

14 February 2009: Coaching the Bicisport Team Pursuit squad

1 March 2009: First Road TT at Calga

13-15 March 2009: State Masters Track Championships

5 April 2009: Calga TT Part II

Here’s my Performance Manager Chart since I began turning a crank 10 months ago. Click this link for an explanation of what it means (basically the dark blue line going up means I am training more and gaining fitness, and when it goes down I'm training less - not necessarily losing fitness, as that depends for how long the line keeps dropping). Click on the picture to see a larger version.

It shows how my training has steadily ramped up but I have had a few unscheduled interruptions. Early on I had some trouble with my leg not coping so well and needing a week and a half break. After that coach & I were able to continue to ramp up my training for six months, with just one interruption when some unexpected family business required my attention.

Then another problem with my leg happened just as I was approaching a Chronic Training Load (CTL) of 70 TSS/day. It’s frustrating but having had a similar experience already, I knew that it just needed some time to recover. This time it didn’t take as long and I was back on the bike leading into the track championships, which went quite well. However I picked up a cold/flu bug while competing and that knocked me off the horse for a week afterwards. I have since been working my way back from that.

Every day I get on the bike, it’s something new. You learn to adapt. I doubt that need will change from here on.

Bring on Year 3.

Read More......

Sunday, April 05, 2009

New Skool

OK, a follow up to this earlier post ("Old Skool") about a local time trial (TT) I raced last month on my normal road bike.

On that ride I completed the not quite 25km undulating Calga TT course in 42:55.

I also referred to the importance of the 3 P's of riding fast TTs (well as fast as one can go):

1. Power to the pedals
2. Piercing the wind
3. Pacing the course

With power meter data, the environmental conditions known and some special mathematical wizardry, I am able to quantify each of those three Ps from my ride last month:

1. Power:
My power average was 264 watts (normalised power 268 watts).

2. Piercing the wind:
I estimated a Coefficient of Drag x Frontal Area (CdA) of 0.334 m^2. The lower the CdA, the faster you go for the same power output.

3. Pacing
My Pacing Optimisation Score was 0.990, which ranks between "excellent" and "best in class" and means that in order to attain "best in class" level of pacing, there was another ~ 13 seconds of time savings to be found on course. Those savings can be found by dosing your effort carefully on the course depending on the terrain.

Of these 3 P's, the biggest gains (in a month) were going to come from improving #2: Piercing the Wind.

My pacing is already pretty good (but always room for improvement).

As for power, well that was a bit of an unknown for a couple of reasons, one of which I'll get to in a moment. The other reason was I recently had a bad head cold and needed a full week off training. That's never a good thing when you are training well to improve your power. If you have a good amount of training behind you, it often doesn't hurt your power much, provided you allow yourself to recover properly and don't start riding hard too soon and end up prolonging the illness.

So what about piercing the wind?

After my Old Skool post, a generous offer was made by a former coaching client of mine to loan me a TT specific bike (for a while until I can sort out my own rig). That was an offer too good to refuse, so last week the bike arrived and yesterday was my first and only chance to work on getting the set up right. It even has a Powertap power meter so that was a big bonus :D.

So it was off to Centennial Park for some time riding and making adjustments to the saddle position, the bars, arm rests and so on until I felt I could ride the bike OK. Main challenge was being able to pedal without the prosthetic hitting my arm on the upstroke. It's really annoying. I got it to a stage where it was hitting slightly but not enough to ruin a ride. I will have a solution for that, which I'll write about in another post (some news coming about my new legs).

Sometimes when you go from a road bike position to a TT bike position you can lose some power as you are not used to the different joint angles and so on. Typically you are looking to maximise your aerodynamic gains without much sacrifice in ability to produce power (in the end it's maximising speed that matters). That can take quite some time to optimise as you need time to adapt to the new bike position. I didn't have that luxury as the TT was today.

Here's the loaner bike:

Bike has an aero bar set up and 38mm deep carbon rims, so not a complete aero set up (which would have a rear disk wheel and a deep section front wheel). Also, I am not as yet using an aero helmet - I used the same standard road helmet as last time as well as a skin suit.

So what happened this time?

Conditions today were very similar to last time: calm to very little wind with the same air density at 1.179 kg/m^3 (different temperature, barometric air pressure and humidity between each day but all the variations cancelled each other out to end up with air that was the same density). In other words, the two TTs can be readily compared.

My race time was 41:14, which is 1 minute 41 seconds faster than last month.

So how did the 3 P's compare to last time? Here are the numbers (with previous month's TT numbers in brackets). They allow us to assess how much each component of the Three Ps contributed to my extra speed.

1. Power:
Average: 263 watts (264 watts) - basically the same power
Normalised: 269 watts (268 watts)

2. Piercing the wind:
CdA: 0.286 m^2 (0.334 m^2) - a 14% improvement

3. Pacing the course:
Pacing Score 0.991 (0.990)
Time lost compared to Best in Class pacing: 8 seconds (13 seconds) - so a 5 second improvement through better pacing

So it's pretty clear that the vast bulk of speed improvement was due to my improved aerodynamics, all achieved simply because I was using a bike that enabled me to ride in a much more aerodynamic position. Now if you ever wondered why some riders obsess over aerodynamics - well there's your answer!

Just to put the aerodynamic changes into perspective,
that's over 4 seconds per kilometre faster for the same power.

The nice thing about this is that there are more aerodynamic improvements to be made, and one would hope that my fitness will improve and that I'll have more power available once I adapt to the TT position. As for pacing, well I seem to have that pretty well sorted.

One final comment on the day. Last time I experienced some problems with my leg fitting becoming loose and painful in the latter stages of the TT. I didn't experience the same problem today. I packed extra foam into my leg this time and conditions were a little cooler which more than likely meant less sweat build up inside the leg liner. It still works loose gradually over time but it was much better today and no significant pain.

My next TT will be at the end of April, when I tackle the challenging Mooball TT course in northern NSW. That is part of the 2009 National Paracycling Road Race Championships. Should be a hoot (although I wish it were a flatter course).

Read More......