Sunday, December 21, 2008

Swiss Watch

"The body responds like a Swiss watch. You just have to figure out how to wind it." - Dave Harris

OK, alright, I got a complaint about my blog. Like, "you haven't posted anything for ages!". Well it's been twenty days to be precise, but who's counting?

I've just been busy with quite a few things, so I'll try a catch up with this post.

Since my benefit night, training has continued along very nicely. In the first three weeks of December I have accumulated a little over 21 hours of riding and 1457 TSS with an average Intensity Factor of 0.83. That means that those hours, on average, were ridden at a level of exertion of 83% of my estimated 1-hour maximal (threshold) power.

Which is a technical way of saying very little training time has been wasted, and all efforts have been quality. Training has basically been a mixture of core endurance rides, solid tempo efforts, threshold tolerance intervals along with some track sprint work.

Here is a pic of the "thin blue line" to date:

Again, you can see the steady progression of the chronic training load (blue line) indicating the continual progressive increase in load/stress being placed on my body. The leg has been holding up well to the increase in workload and the body is also continuing to adapt. How well is it coping though?

Last week I was scheduled to do some performance tests, one a time trial effort of around 16km (10-miles) and the other a Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP) test. While not a formal test, I have also been doing some sprint work at the track to see how my maximal (neuromuscular) power is going.

First up was my time trial at Centennial Park. Here's the power file chart:

An average power of 287 watts over 26 minutes. So TT power is up 39 watts (nearly 16%) on the test I did on 23 September.

I sometimes surprise even myself. That's 9 watts more than same test/venue (albeit on a cold day) on 8 Aug 2006. I was a few kg lighter back then though. For reference, my best power on that course is 328W (and at a lighter body mass as well).

I followed that up with the MAP test on Friday, riding Thunderbird 7 (my indoor trainer bike). Here's the graph:

My MAP was 385 watts (mean maximal 1-minute power during the test). Yikes! That's up 30W (8.5%) on my last MAP test on 25 September.

What's even scarier is that's only 14W shy of my best ever MAP of 399W (as measured by Powertap on a Computrainer). Allowing for some drivetrain power losses for recording with Powertap vs SRM, that still means my MAP has attained nearly 95% of pre-accident levels. That is pretty remarkable under the circumstances. It's only six months since I put the bike into a home trainer and tried to pedal.

What about my sprints?

Well for a couple of Sundays now I have gone to my local track for some sprint work. I am now getting peak power > 1200W on several occasions. Pre-accident, I would regularly be ~ 1350W and occasionally up to 1400W. So sprint power is not too bad either.

So my body is indeed a Swiss Watch. It seems that coach has worked out how to wind it quite nicely!

Of course one of the consequences of that testing is my estimated Functional Threshold Power has gone up from 240W to 275W. Since my daily training stress is calculated relative to FTP, it means that rides have to be at a higher power now to earn the same Training Stress Score.

As they say, it doesn't get easier, you just go faster.

This morning I woke late, and then checked what was on the program today. 2.5hrs, that's what! Holy smoke! OK, so I saddle up, head out the front door and get into it doing a run to Kurnell, being my first proper solo run back out there in the world of Sydney's roads.

A little over 2.5 hours ride time later I get home, with two short stops along the way to remove, dry and replace my leg liner which seems to accumulate the contents of Sydney Harbour while I'm riding.

Average Power: 186W
Normalised Power: 198W
TSS: 130
Distance: 71.4 km

Ironically, I came home via "that gate". It was definitely open when I rode through.

One last thing - I have chatted to my prosthetics specialist George and we will hook up again in the new year to start looking at the design and construction of a leg dedicated to cycling. Picking the right time for that is tricky, as since I am now trimming down, that affects the fit of my stump in the socket. So getting the leg too early might reduce its useful life.

I did however use some of the funds raised to purchase a new leg liner (or as Paul Craft calls it, the big blue condom that goes over my leg) and distal cup (the current cup is looking a bit worse for wear). That was $1300, so the benefit funds are already being put to good effect. I'll now be able to rotate the liners and hopefully get a bit more useful life out of them. Early in the New Year, I'll probably add a third liner to the stable.

So there you have the latest. All going well as far as training goes. More hard work ahead of me though, and probably a few races over the next month.

Read More......

Monday, December 01, 2008

Benefit Night Photos

OK, time for some pictures from my benefit night.

These are courtesy of Chris Belyea at his photography site:

David & Goliath lining up for a one-lap screamer. On the left is club mate and triple World Masters Champion Andrew Burne:

Another couple of club mates. Liz Georgouras (recently back from the Oceania Championships) on the line waiting for the start of the wheelrace with Peter Barnard, showing us what it's like to listen to Paul Craft's commentary:

The women's races were hotly contested:

Chinese champion rider JinJie Gong, currently world #1 ranked in the Women's 500m TT and Kierin was there racing and supporting the event. With her is JinJie's coach, former World Sprint Champion and buddy, Sean Eadie:

Here I am on the start line getting my instructions from Chief Commissaire, Peter Tomlinson:

And a couple of me with my "crap this is hard" race face!

Boy - have I got some kilos to shed still!

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thank you

OK, it's the morning after my benefit - which was a really fun night of racing and a humbling experience as a I watched people open their wallets to bid for the items generously donated for auction.

Something between $5000-$6000 was raised (after venue hire expenses were paid), which was really amazing. I won't know the exact amount until all the various remnants of bid money and entry fees appear.

There was also the small matter of my 500m time trial to see how much I could improve on the time I set back in August.

My time:
28-Nov-08: 41.9 seconds
08-Aug-08: 46.5 seconds

an improvement of 4.6 seconds in 3.5 months. :D

Power peaked at 1122 watts, with a 10-sec power of 1063 watts.

Cadence reached 122 rpm, which on the 50x15 (90") gear equates to a top speed ~ 51kph. (I didn't have a wheel speed sensor operating).

Earlier in warm up I did a test 1/2 lap fly and managed a top speed ~ 58kph (141 rpm in 49x15 (88") gear).

As PeterB said, OK, now to break 40. Thanks Pete LOL

When I get some pictures, I'll be sure to post a few up.

The money will all go to helping me fund prosthetic equipment dedicated for cycling. Once I have final details of monies I'll post on the blog and keep a running tally of where it goes. I'm not sure how long before I actually get a dedicated leg made up. Once my prosthetics specialist is happy that my hip has sufficient strength to re-align the leg (currently my "foot" is laterally offset by ~ 25mm), then that'll be the time to do it. All I can really say is it'll be sometime in 2009 I expect. In the meantime, I have other less sexy but essential items like leg liners and socks to purchase so I can continue to enjoy training and competition.

Once again a huge thanks to everyone involved in putting it all together:

- the volunteers on the night (Fred & Helen Vella, Chris Greaves our video man, Mike O'Reilly, Peter McCrystal, Samantha Kosky and others judging and organising - how does one get all the names!!, Ray on first aid, the triple-bunger photography team of Ernie Smith, David Lane and Chris Belyea, Sean Eadie on the derny, UCI Commissaire Peter Tomlinson, and Rik Fulcher who teamed with Paul Craft for the best commentary and auctioneers team one could hope for)

- the staff and management of Dunc Gray Velodrome and Bankstown Sports Club/Handlebar Tavern for the venues and catering

- Cycling Australia and Cycling NSW for their support

- the very generous sponsors who donated some tremendous prizes ranging from wine, to books, software, two sets of wheels, a day's hire of DGV with coaching by Gary Sutton, signed jerseys especially for the occasion from Stuart O'Grady, Anna Meares and Sean Eadie amongst lots of other items

- all the riders who I'm sure had a blast

- everyone who came along to enjoy the night and who spent their hard earned after tax dollars

- others behind the scenes supporting me along the way, including all my friends, work colleagues, blog readers and forum buddies around the world, the specialists helping me with the prosthetic equipment, current and former club mates, my coaching clients, fellow amputee cyclists who have encouraged me along the way, Steve Hogg for his support in helping me to be able to pedal, and especially my family and coach Ric Stern.

- and a special thanks to Paul Craft for making it happen. You're a legend dude!

Thank you to everyone, sorry if I missed a name. :oops:

If motivation to keep on motoring ever wanes, I'll be sure to remember this night.

Read More......

Thursday, November 13, 2008

CTL = Fitness


It's been a little while since last post. Forgive me, busy days lately.

So a quick update. My training continues and my leg is holding up OK. A little while back I talked about the "Thin Blue Line". Here is the lastest version:

As you can see, the blue line continue to move onwards and upwards at a steady rate. To keep that line rising, you have to train a bit more and/or a bit harder than you did the previous week. It's relentless like that. Back off the effort and the blue line starts heading south again.

Training now comprises a variety of workouts including basic core endurance work, some focussed tempo and time trial pace efforts, and some lactate tolerance work thrown into the mix to give me a bit of a boost for when I attempt that 500m TT in a couple of weeks from now. I am riding 5-days a week now and doing the occasional race.

Last weekend I raced a local criterium at Heffron Park. I rolled over the line for 3rd, although my attempt to sprint for a win never eventuated as a couple of guys next to me crashed and so I pulled out of the effort to ensure they were the only ones to hit the deck. What my training has lacked has been some time at the track to do some sprint and start practice. Getting time for the track has been a bit tricky lately. I'll need a couple of sessions before doing my TT.

So, back to the blue line (Chronic Training Load). As shown in the chart above, my CTL has now reached the 50 TSS/day mark. And today marks exactly 5-months since I first put my bike on a trainer and tentatively pedalled for 15-minutes. So it's not a stellar ramp rate in training load (roughly 2 to 2.5 points/week) by any measure but being a CTL "hare" is not smart training anyway. It is a prudent and manageable increase in the training workload.

One of the "old" power training sayings is:

CTL = Fitness

Well it's a pretty broad statement but I thought I'd give an example of what it means.

Under the chart above (the one with the blue line) is another chart covering the same time period. This one shows my best 60-min power in each 4-week block. The orange and blue columns show my best 60-min power expressed as Normalised Power and Average Power respectively. As you can see, as the CTL blue line rises, so has my 1-hour power.

Simple really. Train more, get fitter. It will keep doing that for some time. Until it doesn't of course! But that's another story.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

My cycling leg

This post is especially for Jason and anyone else that's interesting the the specific set up I have for cycling.

Jason commented on my previous post about his desire to tackle the Alpine challenge. Jason is a below the knee amputee as well.

The Alpine - that's awesome!! No way I could imagine doing that at this stage. I wrote about coaching a rider who did the Alpine a couple of years ago in these two posts.

You go Jason!

So, in summary, have a look at these posts which show my cycling leg set up in a little more detail:

My new leg and socket design

How my cycling leg attachment works

The cycling cleat attachment and adapter plate

The urethane adapter to provide lateral roll for out of saddle efforts

My prosthetics guy made my everyday walking leg socket with quite a shallow rear cut away with cycling in mind. The rear of the socket is such that I am able to pedal with a full length crank.

But remember I have the cleat directly at end of the pylon and so the knee doesn't need to bend quite as much as if the cleat was positioned further forward simulating an "under the ball of foot" position.

The socket also has some funky design at the front.

The other adaptation I haven't shown in pics is some soft foam-like material I place at the front of the stump below the knee, in-between the sock and liner, so that it fills the gap between the stump and top front of the socket when you are pedalling. Bend your knee when sitting and you can put your hand/fingers into the largish gap that forms betwen the stump and socket.

The gap isn't there when standing up of course but with the knee constantly bent on the bike, I found filling that gap really helped with power production and provides a much more secure feeling. I just got some off-cuts from a Clark Rubber store.

As my prosthetics guy says, the aim is to maximise the contact surface area between stump and socket. That will be something we look at when designing a dedicated bike leg socket.

Eventually I intend to have a dedicated socket / cycling leg made, however before that happens I need to further strengthen my hip so that the lateral offset of my "foot" can be brought a little more in line with the hip and knee.

For a permanent cycling leg, I envisage something like what Jody Cundy of Team GB paracycling squad had made. Anyone who can do a 65 second kilo sure has a leg that works!

See this item for more details:

Jody Cundy Interview

In there you'll see his new (the carbon leg) and old leg set ups. I don't expect to have my cleat positioned as far forward as Jody has his - he simply replicated what he was used to with his prior set up when wearing a cycling shoe over a prosthetic foot.

The one thing you have to consider with a direct cleat to pylon arrangement is that you can't walk on it. So logistics becomes a factor when planning on going for a ride.

Another thing I've noticed, since I have more than one bike, is that I am now much more sensitive to the different Q-factors of the cranks on my bikes - to the extent that I need to alter the angle of the prosthetic cleat attachment in order to ride a bike with different cranks. My two road bikes have 175 mm Campagnolo cranks however one is a Record crankset and the other a Chorus model and they have different Q-factors.

I never realised until now how much the ankles do the job for us, managing all the lateral roll when out of the saddle and coping with the small differences in positional set up.

What did Joni Mitchell say to us in that Big Yellow Taxi song?
Don't it always seem to go
That you dont know what you've got
Till its gone....

No parking lots here though!

If you want to drop me a line, just use:
alex A T cyclecoach D O T com

Anyway Jason, good luck with it!

Read More......

Saturday, October 25, 2008

3rd in line

I've been a bit busy of late, so my posting rate has slowed somewhat.

I was supporting some clients and buddies at the World Masters Track Cycling Championships last week as well as doing some other stuff. I'll write a bit more about that another day (it was a very successful championships for my club, my buddies and clients). Despite the "busy-ness", my training continues and so today I took myself down to Heffron Park for a criterium race.

Signed up for D-grade and it seems there were enough for a separate D-grade bunch today. Not sure how many we started with, maybe 12-15 riders. A moderate North Easterly wind kept the pace down on the back half of the circuit. It was a nice afternoon (race starts at 5pm), sunny and ~ 23 C.

Race is 14 laps of Heffron's 2.04km circuit.

Something new today - I bought a new leg liner during the week - that's the compression liner that goes over my stump and has the metal pin at the base that secures my stump into the socket. My existing one is tatty, worn and with holes appearing and getting bigger. So I swapped the pin over to the new liner and wore it in the race today. It would seem that cycling is quite tough on the liners.

One liner @ $1000 thank you very much. Ouch! So my first one only lasted a handful of months. It would seem the strategy is to have multiple liners, so that you can rotate them and allow each one a chance to recover properly before using it again. It looks as though I better save a few more pennies and get some more liners. That also means some getting extra pins sorted as well.

We keep learning....

So with the new leg liner on and a 20-min warm up on the circuit out of the way, I head to the start line and off we go for a 14 lap adventure.

I finished 3rd. Didn't want to leave you in suspense now, did I :)

Not entirely sure what to expect of myself, basically I was just there to see how I would fare. Pace was fairly steady, which was fine by me. A few surges by some enthusiastic souls who seemed to like riding into the wind. That was OK and at one point a lone rider put on an effort down the main straight. Seeing that nobody was going to go pull them back, I decided to try myself and it wasn't that hard to close the gap. They didn't last long anyway and soon we were together again.

So I just kept my nose out of the wind, noggin side up and never really had to work all that hard. Indeed at times I was just seeing how much soft pedalling/coasting I could do at various times, practicing basic race skills.

I unintentionally unclipped my prosthetic leg from the pedal a couple of times and I'm not entirely sure why, so I'll need to look into that. Since the pace wasn't on, it never really was a problem - I was able to calmly clip back in, but in a harder race it sure wouldn't help matters.

There weren't many left by the end, maybe a half dozen.

Duration: 50:19
TSS: 83.7 (intensity factor 0.999)
Average / Norm Power: 220 watts / 240 watts
Distance: 28.566 km
Cadence (max/avg): 109 / 86 rpm
Speed (max/avg): 50.5 / 34.0 kph

So given I didn't rate that as a super hard race and I had an IF of 0.999 for 50 minutes, then it would suggest my fitness is going along OK.

I'll probably have another crack in a couple of weeks.

Read More......

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Thin Blue Line

Time for a catch up on how my own training is going.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the results of my performance tests, namely a time trial level effort, a MAP test and some sprint efforts. Results were:

Time Trial power (20-minutes): 252 watts
Maximal Aerobic Power: 355 watts
Neuromuscular Power: 1074 watts (5-second max average with a peak of 1109 watts)

Estimated Functional Threshold Power: 240 watts.

So with those results locked away, training has been continuing. One thing to notice is the ratio of TT power to MAP. In my case, my TT power is a relatively low percentage of MAP (or if you like, my MAP is a relatively high percentage of TT power).

Hence my maximal aerobic abilities are really not a limiter (at this stage) to the ongoing development of my TT power. This helps to determine what my training focus should be for this next phase of training.

As with most cycling (except for track sprint/BMX), the focus is almost always on increasing your TT power, since it's the most import physiological marker of performance potential.

Of course rolling around the track is fun and so I will keep doing that. It also provides a safe environment for maximal sprint type efforts. Training should be hard work but it also needs to be enjoyable (mostly) otherwise we lose motivation.

So, my training will continue to be focussed on improving my sustainable TT power. Core endurance, tempo and threshold level efforts are now staples in the aerobic development diet. I'm also going to throw in a local criterium race or two as a challenge (and it's good training anyway).

My training workload is gradually increasing each week, and as I train my body is adapting to the new stress levels and responds by allowing me to continue to increase the workload. This ability to manage a continually increased workload is shown by the steady rise in the blue line in the chart below (the blue line depicts my Chronic Training Load (CTL) since I first hopped on the trainer just on four months ago).

The rate at which that blue line can rise is typically limited to a maximum of 5-8 TSS/week. Going above that rate for any length of time is usually met with an increased susceptibility for illness and possibly leads to a degrading of performance. In the opening block, I was increasing CTL at ~ 4 TSS/week and following a break from training I have been increasing at ~ 2 TSS/week. Due to the recovery from injury, it pays to be a little conservative in the rate at which CTL lifts.

Of course, for the blue line to provide such good indicator of changes in workload levels, it requires one to have an accurate understanding of their current fitness level. Hence the testing a couple of weeks ago. Not only does it set a benchmark for fitness, and provide solid data from which to determine what elements of my physiological profile need the most attention, but it also provides a sound basis on which to determine the appropriate workload and the rate at which it should be increased.

There is a period where the blue line heads south. I was having some trouble with my stump - it wasn't coping well with the stresses inside the socket and became quite sore. I thought it would need a couple of days rest but it turned out to need a lot more than that. Hence almost no training for a week and a half. It turned out that it was a technical problem that I managed to solve and so once the soreness faded, I was able to start training again and arrest that downward decline.

So far so good for the "thin blue line".

Read More......

Friday, October 10, 2008

Benefit is On!!

OK, Paul Craft has waved his magic wand and it's all systems go for my benefit night.

Date has been re-set for the evening of Friday 28 November 2008.


There should be some cracking racing, with the 3-person team format (a Sprinter, an Enduro and a Women making up each team) and teams can be club or trade-team based. It will be fast and furious fun, so if you're not racing, it will certainly be entertaining to come and watch.

Details of the racing and function are listed on Crafty's RAW Track website here:
Alex Simmons' Benefit Night

The event is now on the CNSW calendar and can be seen here:
CNSW Race Calendar - Alex Simmons Benefit

Entries via the CNSW web site.

Towards the end of the racing, I get to do another 500m TT and see how much I can beat the time I set back in August.

Once again a huge thank you to Paul Craft for putting it all together and for everyone that's helping out and/or contributing to the auction pool for the evening. There are some smashing items up for grabs.

Hope to see you there!

Read More......

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Benefit Postponed

My benefit race and function, originally organised for Saturday 1 November, has been postponed by a few weeks due to a clash of dates on the CNSW track calendar. A last minute change by the Wagga Club and CNSW sees their Cat 1 race carnival being re-scheduled to that day and so to avoid a clash Paul Craft has been asked to find an alternative date for my benefit.

I know a new date was chosen and appeared to fit in OK but I can't confirm that just yet - Paul is organising it all. It will likely be a Friday night event now, instead of a Saturday afternoon as there are now no free Saturdays on the summer calendar left.

Look out for more details directly from Paul.

I'll post an update once I have confirmed details.

Read More......

Monday, September 29, 2008


OK, here is my links page with a short description for each:

Richard Stern Training
(my coaching group)

Specialist Cycling & Training Forums:

The Wattage Forum
The original and the best. This is where the leaders in
training and racing with power will be found.

Cycling Forums cycle training forum.
A mine of information including the famous
"It's killing me..." thread.

Cycling Forums power training forum.
Another mine of information, specifically
on the topic of training with power.

Fixed Gear Fever
Especially for all the track and
fixed gear specialists.

Timetrialling Forum
A predominantly UK based forum
dedicated to all things TT
(and a few that aren't).

Bike Radar
Various cycling & training forums

Wattage Training
A new forum for power meter users.

Information about Training with Power:

Understanding Power by Ric Stern
Learn about MAP Tests and using
power in training

Training Peaks Power 411.
The items on training with power
is a valuable resource.

Train with Power
A quick reference site with lots of
additional links and references

Analytic Cycling
The place to go for working out the
equations for cycling...
e.g how much power is required to
ride up a 6% grade at 20km/h?

Cyclefit Centre
The experts on issues relating to
fitting bicycles to people.
Lots of very helpful articles here.

News sites:

Cycling News.
Nothing fancy, just crammed
full of news every day.

Cycle Sport News
A new news site, Australian based
with world coverage of many cycling disciplines.

A nice alternative, with plenty content.

Read More......

Thursday, September 25, 2008

MAPpity doo dah, MAPpity day

I did my final of three power tests today to determine my Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP). If you want to know a bit more about what that is, just click the link.

Before we get to the result of my test, a little background Chronology:

11 Apr 07: My accident, admission to hospital emergency and multiple operations ensued.

16 May 07: Left below knee amputation.

15 Aug 07: Discharged from hospital

24 Oct 07: Collect interim prosthetic leg, begin to learn to walk again

04 Jun 08: Collect new prosthetic leg. Start to stand and walk again with comfort.

13 Jun 08: first ride on indoor trainer since accident. 15-min at 100 watts and using special short 100mm left crank arm (as my knee wouldn't bend sufficiently for a normal crank) and a flat bed pedal to rest my shoe and "foot" on.

28 Jun 08: first ride on special indoor ergo bike.

29 Jun 08: MAP Test - 246 watts

31 Jun 08: first ride using special prosthetic cycling leg attachment

11 Jul 08: first ride outdoors at Centennial Park for 45-minutes - now using a 155mm left crank

19 Jul 08: first race

21 Jul 08: now using a 165mm long left crank

22 Jul 08: MAP Test - 289 watts

26 Jul 08: second race

01 Aug 08: first ride on track

08 Aug 08: 500 metre time trial at Dunc Gray Velodrome

12 Aug 08: Some problems with stump - experiencing some pain and skin integrity issues. 10 days break from riding while I sorted this out.

13 Sep 08: now using full length cranks on all bikes (165mm on track bike, 170mm on ergo bike, 175 mm on road bikes)

21 Sep 08: trial use of poly urethane bushing under cycling cleat to aid out-of-the-saddle sprinting control

23 Sep 08: Time Trial test - 20-minute power 252 watts

25 Sep 08: MAP Test - 355 watts

What can I say, other than I am personally a little amazed. My previous best able-bodied MAP test result was 399 watts. So today I hit 89% of that. It's only 6 watts less than my MAP test from August 2006!

OK, if we want to get technical, the MAP tests this time were measured with an SRM power meter, which given it's a crank based power meter, will give ~ 2% higher reading than my Powertap, which is what my previous MAP tests were measured with (since the Powertap is a hub-based meter and drivetrain power losses are typically ~ 2%).

And for the technically minded of you, yes the SRM is calibrated and zero offsets checked and stable.

Even still, I consider it a pretty amazing result so early in my comeback.

Power chart here:

So much more work to do.....

Read More......

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Testing Times #2

In November 2006 in this post I wrote about one method used for testing my current level of aerobic fitness - the time trial power test. It is a test to see how hard you can ride for a given distance. As a test for fitness, it's not the time taken for the course that matters so much as the average power you can sustain during the effort.

Time taken to complete the course isn't a great indicator of changes in fitness, since time can be readily affected by conditions on the day (wind conditions as an example). But power is power, provided you are conducting the test in a reasonably similar environment (altitude, terrain and it's not hideously hot or cold). It also helps to make sure you are not overly fatigued on the day of the test.

The length of the test is typically 10-miles or 16-kilometres. Doesn't need to be exact as it's power we are interested in, not the precise distance or time taken. Of course, if you ride 10-mile TTs regularly, then they are perfect opportunities to use as tests.

Today I was scheduled to do my first such test since returning to the bike.

So what happened?

Well of course today it decided to be a stormy rainy yukky sorta day, didn't it. And right now I don't need the hassle or riding in the rain.

So that left me with the other alternative - to get on the ergo bike and go for it. So that's what I did. Only trick is I have no speed/distance data on the indoor ergo bike, so I opted for a 25-minute long test.

Unsure of how hard to start with, I decided on starting at 220+ watts and then to go by feel from there. Here is the power chart from my effort (yellow = power, green = cadence):

Overall, for the 25 minutes I had an average power of 248 watts and a peak 20-minute average power of 252 watts.

So that's not too bad all things considered.

Testing continues later in week, with a Maximal Aerobic Power test.

Read More......

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Kilo What?

Training is going well. I'm back on a program and so far so good. Yesterday was a solid but not super hard roll in the park - an hour at 200 watts, which clearly means my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) is now higher than 200 watts!

I'll have a better idea of that this coming week as I am scheduled to do a 16km time trial test run and also a Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP) test. That should be fun!

Today I ventured back out to the Dunc Gray Velodrome. This was the first chance I've had to test out my experimental "bushing" for my cycling cleat. I had previously mentioned how I found the bike behaves a bit strangely when doing out of the saddle accelerations, as there was no lateral ankle roll anymore on the left side since there is no ankle, just a straight pylon attached to the cleat and pedal.

So I thought about what I could do and had a few ideas but first I wanted to test the theory to see if some polyurethane under the cleat would do the trick by allowing a bit of sideways flexion.

So while looking for suppliers of polyurethane I also decided to have a closer look at one of my other ideas - to use something like a skateboard truck, which I thought would replicate the ankle flexion quite nicely. So off I go the skateboard shop to have a look...

While there and looking at the trucks on display, I told the shop assistant what I was trying to do and had brought my cycling leg attachment with me. He said, hang on - I might have something for you - and showed me this (the black thing with the H cut out of it):

It is a polyurethane spacer which goes between the skateboard truck and the board - used to provide a little vibration damping and protection for the wooden board from the metal truck. It looked about the right size and hardness, so I took a couple with me to try it out. It has a nice flex to it:

I drilled extra holes and then simply placed it between the cleat and the metal adapter plate, like so:

Not worried about cutting it down to size at this stage (since I didn't know if it was going to work or not) I decided to give it a go and see what would happen. Well today I rode it at the track and after about 30-minutes of rolling around, I decided to do some standing starts.

It worked really well. Once up to speed, the bike was giving me the ability to rock it side to side in a more natural manner without the sensation that I might pull my "foot" out of the pedal.

So after a few of those, I started to get adventurous and rolled around mid track, waiting for some others doing acceleration/speed work. As they passed under me I would get out of the saddle and accelerate down the banking, chase and pass them on the finish line if I could (which I did).

So finally, I decided it was time to get right up the banking and do a sprint effort a la the ubiquitous 200 metre flying time trial. So I rolled around the top and gave it a crack, doing a 3/4 lap effort. I had to sit in saddle a bit earlier than I would normally like but that was OK.

I hit a top speed of 55 kph. OK, so it's not that fast but 55 is OK for now (I was using an 80" gear (49x16) for those that like to know those things and had a max cadence of 142 rpm).

One other thing. On my second standing start of the day, I noticed I had a peak power of 980 watts, so I thought, hmmm, what chance of cracking the kilowatt mark today? So on my third effort I gave it a go.

1053W (5-sec MMP 1020W). :D

Mission accomplished.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On the Radar

Well my first Bike Radar article appeared today. It is meant to be the first of a series, so we'll see how it goes.

Here's the link

Ideas for articles appreciated!!

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Monday, September 08, 2008


Today's post isn't written by me. It's a copy of an email sent out by Paul Craft, promoter of the Friday night RAW Track Racing Series and all round cool dude.

What else can you say about the sport of track cycling when this is what they do for you?

Well the least I could do is provide a link and show the RAW logo!!

Dear Club members.

Could you please include the following letter as correspondence at your next committee meeting.
Cheers Paul

Dear CNSW club

I am inviting your club to participate in the Alex Simmons benefit night on the 1st of November 2008, to be held at the DGV with a post race function being held in the HBT, including an auction of cycling memorabilia and other goods. The plan is to raise enough money to purchase Alex a purpose built cycling leg attachment (est. value $5,500).

Specifically, I am asking your club to enter a three person team consisting of 1 x Women, 1 x Sprinter and
1 x Track endurance rider to compete in a short but jam packed 1 ½ hour race program. Team entry is $100 and all proceeds go towards purchasing Alex a cycling leg.

Information About Alex Pre accident:

Alex Simmons is an accomplished cyclist from BiciSport club. In the summer of 2006/7 Alex won silver at the Australian Masters Points Race (MAS2) and consequently earned the right to wear the Australian skin suit at the pending World Master Championships to be held in October of that year. Other than his accomplishments on the bike Alex had also become a coach
of many of Sydney’s aspiring cyclists as well as a number of Master riders. He also became a CNSW commissarie and was regularly seen at open events he wasn’t competing in. Added to all this he is also a cycling columnist for Velosport Magazine as well as his very popular Cycling Blog which takes a big interest in Sport Science.

The Accident:

11th April 2007 - Alex was on a normal morning training ride as scheduled by his coach. As usual it was an early morning ride, out at about 5.30am. He rode south from his home out to Taren Point, a route he had ridden literally hundreds of times over the past decade. Turn around via Sylvania Waters and back over Taren Pt Bridge on the way home using the cycleway on the eastern side of the bridge. That cycleway leads you into the car park of the St George Sailing Club in Sandringham and straight onto Riverside Dr. It was 6.15am as he crossed the bridge. Coming off the cycleway Alex was greeted with a closed boom gate, he hit it flush at speed, no time for braking or avoidance manoeuvres. The left leg, just below the knee took the full force and this impact. Multiple operations and many weeks of treatment later, the complications could not be resolved, resulting in the need to amputate the now non-viable lower leg. Alex spent the next 4 months in a hospital bed.

The below quote is from Alex’s Blog dated August 2007:

“So I went from my best ever personal race result, to losing my leg in a short space of time and dreams of competing at the world champs dashed. I was really looking forward to donning the Aussie skinsuit in the points race (an honour granted due to my result at the Nationals).

Still, I look forward to getting my prosthetic, walking again, losing all this puppy fat and ultimately getting back on the bike and being as competitive as before. It will take a while though but it will happen.”

Post accident;

Alex has become an inspiration to cyclist all around the world, many of whom regularly comment on his blog site; Alex is also the regular commissaire at RAW Track. He was instrumental in organising the Women’s Master Day at the DGV recently and continues to coach a number of Athletes. He has also gotten back on the bike and recorded a 500m time on 8th of August at RAW Track and competed at Heffron Park. Alex continues to give back to the sport he loves.

About the racing event.

• Track program starts at 5:30pm 1st November 2008.

• Program is run as a club omnium with points bei
ng awarded to the clubs in each of the three categorised races, Women’s, Sprinters and Endurance.

• The final event is a club team sprint.

• The club who win the most points will be crowned best all round NSW Track club.

• Alex Simmons will be riding a 500m TT to beat his previous time of 46.51 set Friday 8th August 2008.

• If you are struggling to fulfil one of the required team positions please contact us as we may be able to assist.

• Track program will conclude at 7pm.

About the Post race function

• Function starts at 7:30pm in the HBT main room.

• Cost is $15 which includes first drink and Canap├ęs.

• Members of the Australian Paralympics team will be welcomed home from their successful Beijing campaign.

• Video replay of racing event on big screen.

• Winning club from racing event will be presented with Trophy.

• The Auction is scheduled to start at 8:30pm.

About Auction

• All proceeds go directly to the purchase of purpose built carbon Fibre leg for Alex.

• Items can be pre bided on before the Auction

• Successful bidders must put down a minimum 30% deposit on item.

• Items for Auction so far;

1. CSC Jersey signed by Stuart O’Grady specifically for this Auction

2. Australian National Jersey signed by 2002 World Sprint Champion Sean Eadie specifically for this Auction

3. DGV rental for private club training day/night with CNSW coaches including world renowned coach Gary Sutton

4. Velocity Track wheels

5. Framed Signed Photo series of Robbie McEwen’s Successful TDF, Green Jersey, Yellow Jersey and Australian Jersey.

6. Framed Photo of Beijing 2008 Australian Team Sprint, team with signed Olympic ticket.

7. More to come

I have since learned there have been other very generous donations to the auction, including an Anna Meares signed jersey and some carbon race wheels from an
anonymous sponsor.

My only other comment is a minor correction - I won the Bronze medal in the MMAS3 Points Race at the Australian Masters Track Championships, behind the ever fast Graeme Albon and uber-cool dude Victorian Stuart Vaughan. It was an honour to share a podium with riders of that class.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I have a new T-shirt on order. Can't wait to wear it out.

It was spotted being worn by a British Paralympic track sprinter (running). I suppose you have to appreciate "amp humour" to get it.

Bit like how I can only count to 15 now.

Or the poor guy that suggested I give myself a kick up the bum, which I explained was going to be harder than normal to do.

In an argument I often don't have a leg to stand on. But I usually put my best foot forward. Of course being stumped has a whole new meaning!

I'll leave you with these images:

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Team Bicisport

Shane Sutton must be pretty pleased with himself at the moment. The Aussie and former Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist is head coach of the Great Britain track cycling squad and has overseen their rise to a remarkable dominance at the Beijing Olympics (and the most recent World Championships). It was great to watch all those world beating performances and the world records by the Team Pursuit and Team Sprint squads were tremendous. The bar has well and truly been lifted.

I coach myself, mostly individual riders but at times I help out with squads. Over the last couple of months I've been helping out with my own club's (Bicisport) efforts at the State Team Time Trial Championships. It's a great event to participate in. Four riders work together to complete the 40+km course in the shortest time possible. Just like the team pursuit, it is the time of the third rider across the line that matters.

Our club fielded five teams, all in the Masters racing categories. Two womens and three mens teams. The race was yesterday.

All the teams rode very well, with no mishaps. The women went one-two but unfortunately only two womens teams qualified to ride, which was disappointing.

The big result came with our MMAS 1-4 squad (under 50's), who won the championship in a time of 1:01:30, with a margin of only four seconds to the second place Manly Warringah team. I believe that is a course record for Masters. Team2 were one minute off the podium in ninth place and our MMAS 5+ team were eighth in their division. Unlike the women, there were 40 teams in the Masters mens.

A winning combination:
Ian, Phil, Mike, Alex (coach) and Jayson

It was great to watch them ride, with the key elements of team work showing through.

A big thanks to Mike O'Reilly for getting much of the logistics sorted. Nice work Mike. Also to all the others who helped out and riders that supported the training efforts.

The photo at the top is of the winning squad with me on the right showing off Schooner II. For my mate Phil, this was his 12th attempt at the event. Persistence pays off! Well done lads, a great ride.

As for me, well training had to take a back seat for the past week and a half. I was beginning to have some problems with my leg stump - a kind of bruising type of pain and it was aggravated when I rode and hurt when I walked. Not good. I thought it might go after a couple of days of rest but it didn't, which got me down a bit as I was going along really well with my training.

I called my prosthetics guy (George) last week and arranged to go and see him today and we talked it through. It would seem the solution is about the way I am using the socks that go over my leg liner. I won't bore you with the details but I now have something to try. I mocked up a sample of what I need and then did a 30-minute trainer ride this afternoon. Got through that no problems, so will get back to training again now.

George looked at the way I walked and could see the dramatic improvement in my gait from last time.

Everything is new again and I keep learning about the challenges along the way. I have said before, the mental challenge is the hardest part. Recognising what's important now and doing what you can do now to get to the next step is what matters. I can be a little hard on myself, which is OK when you are trying to train hard but I also have to temper that with the realisation that losing a leg ain't no small deal and in reality I am doing well.

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Monday, August 11, 2008


OK - a couple of pics for your viewing pleasure. Here I am on he start line about to do a 500 metre time trial at Dunc gray Velodrome on Friday night 8th August.

That's Brad Cox (Lionel's son) doing his best to lift my considerable mass off the ground so I can get the pedals in the right place for a start.

Normally I'm a natural left foot starter, so I need to re-learn the start using the right leg. I suppose I could try to start with the prosthetic leg but the forces are highest on the first push down and I think using my good leg first makes sense.

On my first start attempt I pulled my prosthetic "foot" out of the pedal so I had to roll around for a second go. No issues second time out of the blocks. You can see the way the pylon of my leg attaches directly to the pedal. It is like having a pedal cleat placed directly under your ankle, just forward of the heel.

And here I am at some stage on my way to a world of suffering as I try to hang on after lap 1.

Lap 1 was OK, not quite as fast as I thought I might go, but it's a start and I can only get better from here.

Lap 2 was pretty forgettable, I really tried to keep it going but I have no anaerobic endurance whatsoever (understandably) and well it wasn't a pretty sight. But I finished OK. 46.something seconds.

Track TTs are not my favourite event. But the skills involved are crucial for good trackies, so I'll keep trying to improve on that and all the other aspects of track riding.

I have been thinking about the pedal security issue (really important when riding in general but especially critical when on a fixed gear track bike - believe me I know having previously suffered a broken bone through pedal failure).

I sense a different feel when out of the saddle acelerating. The motions are different, the firing sequence is a bit different and so I'll need to re-learn so that it becomes natural again and can give it a maximal effort with confidence.

Since there is no longer an ankle on my left side to naturally manage the sideways forces caused when the bike is rocking side to side, when I push down on the left it tends to straighten the bike up more than normal - but only on that side. If I use the upper body to create the opposing force, then I get that feeling I might be putting too much lateral force on the pedal which might cause it to disengage.

So I was think of experimenting with a hard rubber bushing at the cleat to give that little bit of natural side ways flex so that the foot can pivot sideways slightly on the pedal before it attempts to disengage.

It's just another idea to play with. Each step along the way throws up new things to consider and I learn something new each time. In a weird sort of way I'm rediscovering the pleasures as everything on the bike is new again.

Other than that, it's not complicated. Just get on and pedal. Hard. For as long as you can.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

On Track

This morning I had not intended to ride as we had our club Team Time Trial training session scheduled up at Calga/Peats Ridge (which I am supervising/coaching). That went well. When I got home, well it was such a glorious winter's day, clear blue skies, light wind and about 17-18 C, so I decided to throw the bike in the car and head on down to the park for a roll. Back to that later.

On Friday, the planets aligned for me and so I had the opportunity to dust off the track bike (poor thing, it's been badly neglected), get down to DGV and get myself on the boards for the first time since my accident. So I circulated no problems. Saddle height needed an adjustment (I had installed slightly shorter cranks so the saddle needed to come up a bit). About 30-minutes of rolling around just reacquainting myself with the boards.

Then it was time to see if I could do the sort of stuff I'll need to do when riding on a track - namely accelerate, hard!

I rode up the banking to do an acceleration down the banking, which I did without incident.

So then I rolled slowly along the front straight and then popped out of the saddle and tried an acceleration. OK, so I wasn't going to set the world on fire but I was able to do it and that was the main thing. One more half lap effort, this time a bit harder and out of the saddle for the whole turn and down the back straight. There sure is a bit of re-wiring needed and the sensations are difficult to explain. Some stuff is the same, some I need to re-learn. Practice Alex, practice.

While I was there, Sean Eadie (2002 World Sprint Champ) was there coaching a Chinese rider. So I got Sean to time a standing 250 metre lap. 24.9 seconds. But the nice thing was simply being able to go out of the saddle for more than half a lap.

So back to today. My legs were a little sore but after a couple of laps they came good and I ended up doing a solid hour and a bit. That then gave me a 5-day block of riding and a nice little boost to my training loads. That blue line is on its way up :D

I also tried something new - putting an extra sock over my leg liner before riding, which provides addition compressesion of the leg stump inside the socket. This had the effect of maintaining a more secure fitting, not allowing the leg to sweat as much and so there was not much pooling of perspiration in the lower part of the liner creating that insecure squishy feeling. So that was pretty cool.

I'm going to sleep well tonight me thinks!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Two by Twenty - Take 2

Way back I posted about a workout known as the 2 x 20. It's pretty simple. Ride for 20-minutes at around your time trial pace/effort/power, have a short break and then do it again. Combined with a warm up and cool down, it makes for a nice tight one-hour workout that's exceptionally effective at developing one's aerobic engine.

On a power meter chart - it looks a bit like this:

The squiggly yellow line denotes power output and was around 200 watts for two efforts lasting around 20-minutes. The horizontal dashed line shows 200 watts.

In between efforts I stopped and hopped off the ergo bike to remove my leg and dry the liner and leg, and replace so I could go again. It's a challenge I face at the moment as the leg liner tends to fill with perspiration making it a little weird to pedal. Imagine pedalling in loose gumboots with water in the bottom of them.

Of course there is nothing magical about 20-minutes. Overall it's about getting enough time at these levels. Some do 3 x 20-min. Others 3 x 15-min. Some ride the hour straight at that power. Typically though we break up efforts into smaller duration "chunks" (known as intervals) so that we can maintain perhaps slightly higher power than we may otherwise have the motivation to do all in one go.

So what's actually happening when I train at this level? Well lots of good things. The main physiological changes that are brought about by riding at these intensities include:

- increasing my muscle glycogen storage capacity. Glycogen, along with free fatty acids are key sources of chemical energy which is converted by our muscles into mechanical energy (and heat). Basically this means I develop the ability to ride hard for longer.

- increasing muscle mitochondral enzymes - these are the "mini power plants" inside our muscles, which use the available oxygen for the conversion of chemical energy to mechanical energy (as well as heat). The greater the number and density of these suckers we have the better

- increased lactate threshold - which is another way of saying one can go harder for longer. Blood lactate concentration is one way of determining how effectively our working muscles are performing at various intensities.

Now you gain these benefits by riding at lower intensity levels as well but the rate at which improvements occur is greatest at these intensities, which is an effort level equivalent to how hard you could maximally sustain riding for about an hour.

They are also effective at increasing my blood plasma volume, increasing my heart stroke volume (amount of blood moved per beat) and maximal cardiac output (maximum amount of blood I can pump per unit time) and for increasing the amount of oxygen I am capable of both delivering to my working muscles and actually utilising (my VO2 Max).

There are other funky things too, like increasing the density of blood carrying capilliaries inside the muscles - which enables a greater and faster transfer of oxygen to the working cells. On top of that, our (slow twitch) muscles fibres also grow.

The body is an amazing thing. It knows how to adapt when it is provided with a training stimulus. The trick is to keep providing that stimulus in the right doses.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Birthday Bash

It's my birthday today!

So what does any self respecting bike rider do on his birthday? Race of course!!

Last week I reported on my effort at a local criterium race, which did me in before 10 minutes had passed. This time it wasn't so bad and I lasted 30 minutes before withdrawing gracefully.

I had a lap out for "leg mechanical" and then rejoined for a lap but lost my momentum and decided I'd had enough and had done what I'd set out to do (which was to show I can get around OK in a race). It's a bit tricky with the leg, the liner I use fills up with (yuk - wait for it) sweat and it gets a bit squishy to pedal when it's like that. The liner also tends to slip down the leg a bit. So I pulled off to the car quickly to remove the leg and liner, dry them off and put them back on again. It's probably not technically a mechanical but I don't think the race officials are too worried!

Here is the race file with 30-second smoothing.

Heffron Crit D Grade:
Duration: 32:30 (34:56)
Work: 354 kJ
TSS: 57.9 (intensity factor 1.035)
Norm Power: 207
Distance: 18.457 km
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 747 182 watts
Speed: 3.7 45.9 34.1 kph

With my warm up / cool down, that was a 97 TSS day and so that was plenty. I was a little stiff 'n' sore from last week's race, so no doubt I'll feel this one as well in the coming days. But as they say, the more you train, the more you can train.

Proof is in the pudding, so to speak. Here is my training since 13 June:

My chronic training load is just a touch shy of 30 TSS/day.

I also did a MAP Test during the week. 289 watts. That's about 70% of my prior accident MAP level. I'm also ~ 20% heavier at the moment, so on a power to weight basis, I am classed as "untrained".

I upgraded my crank length twice this week. I tried a 165mm left crank arm earlier in the week, and yesterday I did an easy spin on the ergo with a 170mm crank. That was OK once I'd lengthened my leg a bit, so I put that crank on the race bike and that's what I rode today.

This is very cool news. 170mm is the crank length I use on my track bike, so I have already attained a range of motion sufficient for that, and my normal road cranks are 175mm. So I think in essence I have developed sufficient knee mobility for cycling. It still needs to improve but it's a lot better than it was.

From hereon it is about improving the functional performance of the leg, some weight loss through increased training and diet control and developing the aerobic engine required to drive me faster and put the hurt on a few guys.

Tomorrow is the State Time Trial Championships, so I'll be heading up to Calga to support a few of the lads who are riding.

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