Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Surface Area

I haven't posted about my own training bits 'n' pieces lately. So a brief update.

All is going well. My training is now a regular 5 days/week routine, sometimes a 6th day recovery spin if I feel like it/have the time. Riding consists of a longer ride on Sundays, a solid tempo effort on Saturdays (now doing 1.5hrs of tempo ~ 85-90% of FTP), specific threshold development intervals midweek (your typical 2 x 20-min intervals at near TT effort ~ 95+% of FTP) and core endurance level riding otherwise, with the occasional race thrown in for a bit of fun.

The long rides have been ~ 2.5hrs so far and most other rides are typically about 1.5hrs. An interval session on Thunderbird 7 might be a little shorter.

Here's the latest chart showing how the training loads have been growing at a steady rate.

In terms of power output, well I can't say I've noticed great leaps in performance over the past month or so but that's not unusual as the training loads have been progressively increasing and so the legs are mildly fatigued. Also fitness gains can kind of creep up on you. The only problems I've had have been with some exceptionally hot days, when I struggled to hit desired training levels, so on those few days you just accept it won't happen and move on. Indeed, there have been days I trained indoors because it was too hot outside!

Certainly this morning I did my 2x20s OK, with the first completed at an average of 262 watts and the next one I let it rip a bit more, ending with an average of 274 watts (which was 264W 1st half and 284W 2nd half). My current FTP is estimated at 275W.

Australia Day Race

On Australia day I raced the, er, Australia Day Race, one I've raced several times before and reported on a couple of years back in this post. Apart from being the usual blast around Heffron Park, it's also a fund raiser for the Children's cancer foundation.

This year the race format was different - a handicap criterium with 3 grades. Not entirely sure where to ride, I just put myself in the limit bunch and figured I'd see how it would go.

Before the race I rode to Heffron Park and did a couple of laps of the circuit. Mind you I've been around it a gazillion times, so it was more a sense of assessing how the wind is as that helps me make some tactical choices about what to do at which points of the circuit.

Anyway, I might have been better in middle chase bunch as limit wasn't very hard and most of them couldn't corner all that well or go that hard to drive a break so I just rode like a good warm up waiting for the catch to happen. When we were caught by the chasing bunch, I immediately inserted myself into the faster group and then just maintained position working my way to front 5-6 riders with a lap to go. But rather than continue the drive and good speed, the front 4-5 riders shut it off (what were you thinking guys?!) - and of course that was enough for the scratch bunch to bridge the gap.

Cruising with the limit bunch. Still a few kgs to lose!!

So with 1km to go I ended up on the front of a 50 rider bunch keeping a good tempo and looking for an attacker (there's always someone who can't help themselves). Right on cue John Sunde came through hard on my left and I instantly got his wheel, and we had a gap with 500m to go but he shut down once we hit the main finishing straight(!) which meant I had the bunch back on my tail and was staring down at a 350m sprint into the headwind LOL. I lasted maybe 3 seconds before I was swamped. All good fun. But what's the deal letting a bloke with a bit of leg missing lead the bunch inside the last km? Gotta laugh.

Riding with a Prosthetic

One of the experiences when riding with a prosthetic leg is the way the liner, which goes over my stump and connects me to my prosthetic's socket, gradually fills with fluid (sweat) and begins to loosen over time as you ride. Every day is different as to how long it takes before I need to stop, take the leg off and remove the liner, drain out the contents of Sydney Harbour, dry off my stump and liner and replace before heading off again. I carry a small hand towel with me for the job. Some days I've gone 90-minutes without a change, other days I need to stop after less than half an hour.

Over time I'm beginning to get to know handy spots to do that - all I really need is something to lean the bike against and something I can sit on. Walking is not easy with the prosthetic cycling leg attachment, so I basically need to be able to ride up to the spot. As with most things, you get creative in working out little solutions for these things.

The reason why I need to stop is that as the liner works loose, the amount of surface area contact between my stump and the prosthetic socket reduces. Since the forces are transferred to the pedals via my socket, then the greater the amount of my stump's surface area that remains in contact with the socket, the less pressure is placed on any one part of my stump and skin. I find that as the liner becomes loose, it gets harder to produce the power as well as becomming less comfortable to ride. As soon as I remove, dry and refit it, there is an immediate improvement in comfort and power.

The other issue I have is since the socket I current use for riding is my general purpose socket (which is designed for standing/walking and not bike riding) the socket shape is not ideal for the angles the knee goes through when pedalling. A large gap forms between the front of the top of my shin and the front of the socket. Currently I fill that gap with some foam and need to keep adjusting how much I use, to get the right balance between filling the gap and having a secure stump-socket connection and actually being able to get the leg properly secured into the socket.

When I finally get a dedicated cycling socket made, the socket shape will be different so that it will be more suitable for cycling. That'll happen some time this year, the timing on that needs to be agreed with my prosthetics specialist. Since I am now getting much fitter, I am losing the weight and with that comes subtle changes to my stump's size and shape, which affects the design. It's a tricky business.

Anyway, for now it's not stopping me from riding but I know a better solution exists.


Ade Merckx said...

Great post Alex, I've been waiting for an update on your training...What has been the reaction from riders that don't know you when racing?

Alex Simmons said...

Hi Ade

I don't get that much comment (I'm not really looking for it), most find it great that I'm on a bike and having a crack.

One guy at Heffron said he wished his mum (who's was disabled) had the same attitude as I do. I don't think I have any sort of "attitude". I just love bike racing and don't see why this should stop me.

I raced the track last night and I think I surprised a few of the B graders.

It's kind of hard to say really, I mean I'm just another bike rider.

Occasionally I remind myself that 9 months ago I was struggling to walk on an ill-fitting prosthetic and it's less than 8 months since I first tried to pedal.

It's a combination of patience and keeping on with the work needed to improve. And I have a long way to go yet.

Anonymous said...

Looks like training is progressing well. Nice update! The training load has been ramping up for quite a while - how much longer are you going to keep increasing it?

Regarding the sweating problem, I thought you might find this interesting.


Not too sure how well Alum works but it seems that some have used it with some measure of success.

Keep up the great work!

Alex Simmons said...

The training load will continue to increase for as long as I can sustain to do so. A CTL of mid-60s is not all that high (I have hit 100 before) and I am also doing it with a lower FTP than before. I guess I'll probably creep my way up towards 80. That's a number I find where you can really start to get a bit of form going.

Nevertheless, in my first season back, I don't expect to be able to push it quite as much and have always viewed the comeback a needing 3 seasons.

I'll be doing a post at some stage about the future and my season plans.

olesendan said...

Hi ALex

My name Dan Olesen from Denmark. I have a request, I've been looking for excel training log, which is based on MAP zones. then you log the diff. intervals duration, KM + avg. power. Excel then calculates TSS + weekly time and KM in the diff. zones Have you seen anything like this.

Greetings Dan

Alex Simmons said...

Hi Dan
No, I'm not personally aware of something like that although there are a few files on the files section of the wattage forum (see "links" from blog) that do some of what you say.

Alex Simmons said...

Hi Buttsy
Welcome to the power club! Only one thing - the polar power meters don't have a great track record of working all that well on indoor trainers. You might be lucky, although it's a known issue.

Judith said...

I will be able to ride the bike outdoors too though so I will be able to do some comparisons.....Today I had trouble keeping my back wheel inflated...think it is time for a new "windtrainer tyre"...

Jason said...

Hey Alex,
Try Driclor.. it stopped a significant amount of the sweat for me.. but be warned it can ‘burn’ the skin a bit if you have very sensitive skin. I completed the 200km Alpine Classic in January this year (pretty hot conditions) and didn’t remove the prosthesis once… Did the Mt Buninyong Classic 100km Challenge at Ballarat a couple of weekends a go and also had no significant sweating problems. However, over those distances and ride times I find that the volume change in the stump is more of a hassle. After a certain amount of time the volume decreases to the extent the socket starts to feel loose and another sock has to be added… another thing to carry in the jersey pocket along with gels, etc etc
I had a specialist cycling leg made late last year but I have found it very unsatisfactory. It would be fine for track riding but on the road I find that every bump sends a shock wave up through the post into my stump. Mt prosthetist has added a vertical shock pylon but that has not really helped…only made the leg heavier. I will experiment with some dense ‘padding’ between the ‘foot’ (I have the cleat directly on the end of the pylon’ and the pylon but I don’t want to loose power transfer into the pedal. Anyway, at this stage I can still stay with the front bunch and do my fair share of the work wearing my ‘normal’ leg. I hope to have the cycling leg sorted for this road season.

Anonymous said...

hey alex i personaly have 0% experience with prosthetics but would some vents and maybe some kind of drain help the situation?

again i might just be way off target as i have not ever been there. good luck

Alex Simmons said...

Oilcan, I appreciate the thought but the answer is, sadly, no. Any holes in the liner/socket would just create an opportunity for the skin to "hernia" its way through.