Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Bionic Man

Someone sent me this link to an article about another champion amputee cyclist. This time Czech Champion Jiri Jezek.

Here he is competing in the Pro crit up at Sufers Paradise. Yep, that's Aussie pro star Henk Vogels on the front.

Jiri's story is on Pez Cycling News here:
Jiri Jezek on Pez

And another item sent my way - this time about the development of robotic limbs - in this case a robotic ankle. Pretty funky stuff. Move over Steve Austin, the $6 BILLION dollar man is coming your way soon!

Story is here:

See ya!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Blistering Pace

Well after my effort yesterday, I thought there were no ill effects but I discovered in the evening that I had created a small blister on my shin (akin to what you get on your heel with a new pair of hard leather shoes). Presumably a bit of skin rubbing going on inside the prosthetic, which I still can't feel as the nerves on that part of my skin are pretty much non-existent. It wasn't large or anything nasty looking so I wasn't that concerned with it.

Today was a bit different. Having managed to actually turn a crank and prove to myself that it was possible (albeit in a modified way) it meant of course that I now need to keep up the effort, gradually building up my capacity to train again. But I still need to be careful and make sure I don't go like a bull at a gate. So with these conflicting emotions, I actually needed a bit of psyching up to get on the trainer today - which I eventually did during the evening news. Here's the file:

OK, this time I did 15 minutes averaging 108 watts, with a 10-minute max of 116 watts. That's 1/3rd of my all time best 10-minute power of 345 watts! (not that I've done any specific 10-min efforts mind you). So a long road ahead.

One thing that really sticks out in the file is how the leg discrepency, combined with the Powertap's aliasing effect (see link for an explanation of aliasing), shows up in the power line, which jumps contantly between appoximately 100 watts and130 watts. I'm guessing my cadence is not that fast, probably close to 80 rpm, which puts it right in worst zone for aliasing to show up.

So, session #2 completed. At the moment I doubt I'll have trouble holding myself back. Pedalling with Schooner is not the most comfortable thing in the world to do, so a constant reminder is there tempering the effort. And I took a peek at the leg afterwards and my blister had burst exposing a bit of raw skin underneath. Such is life. It'll be a while before my leg toughens up to the demands of riding.

Other news - I got my crash bike back the other day and dropped it into Hoggies for a check over and repair of relevant items. Interestingly, there is a small dent and a long white streak along the top right full length of the top tube. The front wheel is out of true so it clearly got a knock. The white streak is from the paint of the boom gate I hit but what I simply can't work out is how the bike managed to get damaged there. Weird. Anyway, we'll soon find out what the damage is.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

279 Days

Well I did it!

I managed to get on the bike and ride. OK, so it was on an indoor trainer but who cares? That's the first time I've turned a crank since 11 April 2007. That's 279 days but hey, who's counting? ;)

OK - so how did I do it? With a bit of help from my friends, that's how. I have described before how I was unable to pedal a full revolution on a bike as the range of motion in my left knee was limited (both by my knee and especially due to the nature of the prosthetic, which was designed to get me started with walking but definitely not for riding a bike). Schooner is definitely the walking type - so bike riding is a new adventure for him.

Enter the machining genius (well in my eyes anyway) of club mate Steve Dixon, who with some assistance from Peter Barnard, who fashioned up a special short crank for me. In this case a 100mm crank. My normal road bike crank is 175mm, so it's quite a bit shorter. What we were trying to do was to enable me to pedal but with a largely reduced pedal circle on the left side. Up top is a pic of the crank.

Cycling fit guru Steve Hogg helped put the crank on the bike for me today and loaned me the flat bed pedal so I could just put my left "foot" with running shoe on top of the pedal. Note how short it is! So short it doesn't even reach the cadence sensor. But who needs cadence anyway when you've got a power meter. Yeah - that's right, before I hopped on, I made sure the trusty Powertap was connected and working, even doing a torque zero just to make sure I was getting a true reading.

On with the bike shoe on the right foot, which still has the normal length crank and pedal/cleat arrangement. So on I hop and off I go. Took a little while to work out where to place my foot on the pedal, most comfortable was basically mid-foot, a bit further back on the sole than usual but it wasn't so easy if I tried to put the shoe back further (pedal further forward). Remember that there is no ankle to flex as you rotate around the pedal stroke - my "ankle" is fixed.

Anyway, it's a start. Once I have a leg more suitable for riding and the knee improves, I'll graduate back to a normal length crank.

And how did I go? - well here is the ride file:

5-sec smoothing as the data is exceptionally choppy, no doubt in part due to the leg imbalance as well as the Powertap's infamous precession "feature". All up, a little over 10 minutes at ~ 110 watts. A far cry from my 10-min all time best of 345 watts.

So, another little goal* ticked off on my journey.

Today was a good day. Most of 'em are anyway but this was worth shouting about.

See ya next time!

* which was to earn my first TSS point once out of hospital.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Graphical Representation of Training Levels

OK - a break from talking about my rehab progress and back to matters concerning training and racing with a power meter.

Above is a graphical representation of training levels and associated physiological adaptations to help explain the relativities between using Coggan training levels (based on FTP - Functional Threshold Power) and Ric Stern Training zones (based on MAP - Maximal Aerobic Power).

Click on the image to see a larger hi-res version.

The left hand side of the graphic shows the training levels/zones and how they relate to each other. I also show what is commonly referred to as the "Sweet Spot" for training.

I always took Sweet Spot to be upper-L2 to L4 (Coggan) although I put a limit in the graphic at FTP since the idea of sweet spot training is that it's good trade off between duration and intensity that gives Chronic Training Load (CTL/fitness) a great boost in the "bang for buck" sense. Once you go over FTP, the sustainable volume starts to decline somewhat.
The nice thing with RST zones is that there are three pre-defined (overlapping) levels that fall neatly within the sweet spot.
At the end of the day, it's the nature of the training and not what we call it that matters. But it sure helps to have a common language. I thought this might help translate between two commonly used training levels/zones.
It should be noted that the FTP:MAP ratio can vary a bit and I have taken a typical mid-point of 75% (typically 72%-77%). It wouldn't change the graphic much either way since levels/zones sort of blend into one another.

The right hand side of the graphic is my interpretation based on the Coggan table showing adaptations and number of ticks per level indicating impact of training at that level.

All I did was to represent that in shades of grey, with the darker areas indicating the relative power level where the adaptation most strongly occurs and fading out to white for power levels with little to no impact. In the same way the training zone/level colours blend into each other to show a continuum, it was an attempt to graphically demonstrate the non-discrete nature of the training impacts.

I also re-ordered the adaptations to show those primarily occuring from lower to higher relative power outputs.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thunderbirds Are Go!

Last night was the first night of Team Pursuit training for the squad. Looks like we'll have three teams, which is great. We have some new members in the squad and it's great to get 'em all going.

I did learn one thing - two hours standing up/walking around = sore leg. I had planned to try the gym out for the first time today but I'm afraid the leg is too sore today for that, so maybe tomorrow. Next training session I think I'll use the chair a little more!

Apart from that, I've had a couple of visitors this last week. My brother David came up and we went to watch a day at the SCG Cricket test match Australia v. India. For what was an interesting and at times entertaining contest (in more ways than one), we did seem to pick the slowest day's play with Rahul Dravid scoring slower than a sloth on dope. A stylish batsman normally, Rahul was unfortunately incapable of entertaining on this day.

After that, my good buddy Eamonn visited for the weekend and we did what mates do - go for a drive, visit a couple of pubs and see an action film (well sort of - I Am Legend). The return trip to the car park was a bit of a bugger as the entrance I used on the way in was locked down afterwards and meant a lot of walking and stairs to get back to the car. So a couple of days on the feet a lot have taken their toll and today is an indoors rest up day.

Another buddy of mine (an athlete I coached, before an nasty racing accident cut his riding back severely - sound familiar?) sent me an iTunes album. Now I don't own an iPod and have never used one, so it was off to the iTunes shop to download the software and work it all out. Looks like I'm gunna have some fun ripping my CDs to mp3 for long play disks in the car. What, no iPod?! Crikey - time I made into the 21st Century.

I also managed, after years of never figuring it out, to recover all my old emails from the time I was in hospital and from my last (now dead) PC and import them into my current email (MS Outlook). Considering they were in different email formats (MS Outlook Express & Mozilla Thunderbird), that turned out to be trickier than it should. But I got there in the end. I found a utility written by some geek that sorted out the Thunderbird files, import them into Windows Mail, then into Outlook.

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