Friday, December 28, 2012

'Give your FTP some room to move up into'

The title was a slightly throwaway comment made in the recent book 'Cutting Edge Cycling' by Hunter Allen. The suggestion was that, before you start working at threshold intensities in the end base and early build phases of your season, you do some concerted work at VO2 max intensity such that you give your threshold some room to move up into.

This was something that I had never considered in the past, but made sense to me from a physiological point of view. It is commonly accepted that you can only reach 90% of your VO2 max at threshold, however well trained your aerobic system is. As such, if you neglect your VO2 max development over the off season and your early base building phase, causing it to drop significantly, then proceed with threshold training starting in the middle of the base phase, the physiological limit of where your threshold can reach will be lower than it was when your VO2 max was fully trained. By boosting it slightly with, say, 4 weeks in which you do one targeted session at that intensity per week, your threshold has that little bit more room to move up into. When you then concurrently train both systems in the late build phase, you can both increase your VO2 max and squeeze up the % of it that your threshold lies at, resulting in a peak of fitness.

It then occurred to me that it might be a good idea to adhere to this sort of principle throughout your yearly training cycle, so that you repeat the routine for all other levels of training. If we define 7 rough levels of training as:

Easy, steady, tempo, threshold, VO2 max, anaerobic capacity, neuromuscular power.

then what I am essentially talking about is this: begin the season with 4 weeks of easy and steady training. In the next 4 weeks, rather than introducing low or mid tempo sessions, train at the lower end of threshold or the tempo/threshold border. Following this, then do 4 weeks where you do a lot more low and mid tempo work. I think it is likely that you will be much more comfortable at these sort of intensities having done some harder work leading into it.

We then repeat the process: do some VO2 max work before your focused 4 week threshold block, some anaerobic work before your VO2 max block, and some neuromuscular work before your anaerobic block.

One thing to consider is that for these later stages, it will become tougher to schedule me workouts as you will already be doing some fatigue inducing sessions at the lower levels, especially when you introduce anaerobic work (you will still be dong threshold and VO2 max sessions during this phase). However, careful planning will allow you to find a day each week to do this session.

I will stop short of giving examples of each type of session in this post, but the general idea is to do a decent but not maximal session at the intensity level that is one step above the system you wish to focus on. When you eventually then start work at your goal level, you will both find we session easier and be able to push harder.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Training Summary: Base 3, Weeks 3 & 4

This will be a double week summary, as due to my week away skiing I only really did one week of training over the fortnight.


GOAL: 'Max effort aerobic before skiing'

That is, the goal was to fatigue my aerobic system more severely than usual given the upcoming week of recovery. I think that was accomplished.

Monday: Turbo inc 1h @ tempo

Data: tempo hour: 278 W, hr 150, cad 92

Notes: Beginning of a really cold snap, which inevitably lowers HR for the same exertion (as most of my turbo work is done outside)

However, the power was good for the RPE and I felt like I could have continued for a long time at this level.

Tuesday: 2x20' @ threshold - TT bike on the turbo

Data: 1: 287 W, hr 164, cad 88 (suggest actually 310-315 W). 2: 293 W, hr 163, cad 87

Notes: Power sensor slightly off for first one, reading should have been 25 W higher (so ~310 W)

Frustrating to be going hard for 20' and see low numbers. I had been in town all day and was very cold to begin with which made the first interval even harder (and explains the low average HR compared to threshold). I was pretty smashed after it so did the second one closer to sweetspot, which was OK but tougher than ideal.

Wednesday: Turbo inc 2x45' @ tempo

Data: 1: 266 W, hr 145, cad 92. 2: 277 W, hr 154, cad 91

Notes: First was 15' @ 80%, 30' @ 85%. Second all @ 85%. 5' TT bars, 5' base bars. Long session!

Yeah, it was long. Definitely the type of session to do given enough motivation, though.

Thursday: travel

Friday: skiing

Saturday: skiing

Sunday: skiing

Bike totals: 4h19m, 309 TSS

Summary: As planned, I got some pretty extensive aerobic work done before Thursday. I was pretty tired after it, but by the end of the work I was feeling very strong (i.e. 280 W for less than 160 hr). I get the feeling that doing more of this type of work will help my threshold, but I don't have the time to do another 4 or 8 week block as it won't leave me with enough race preparation sessions.


GOAL: 'Skiing & weekend racing'

Planned to get back from skiing and then just race both days of the weekend for some fun. However, we got back in good time on Thursday so I was able to fit in a quick session then, plus it was raining all day on Saturday so I decided not to trek to Hillingdon and instead go on the turbo and sort out the TT bike for its first race!

Monday: skiing

Tuesday: skiing

Wednesday: skiing

Thursday: travel + rollers 50' steady

Data: 220 W, hr 134, cad 94

Notes: Felt nice in TT pos. Need to straighten stem & move pads closer together

Work on the rollers will be useful for honing in the TT position, will try and do one day a week.

Friday: Road 70' inc rollouts

Data: 221 W (236 NP), hr 133, cad 86

Notes: Pads too close (narrowest setting), move to middle

Second ever ride on the bike outside! As said above, I put the pads on the narrowest setting to see how that affected things, but it was too narrow. Moving them to the middle setting made them feel OK. The rollouts felt good and were 350+ W but no speed sensor.

Saturday: Turbo 1h inc rollouts

Data: 206 W (214 NP), hr 135, cad 96

Notes: Power seemed a bit down today, but we shall see tomorrow! Too wet for Hillingdon.

Didn't feel amazing (or even average!) Xmas dinner the night before might not have helped.

Sunday: Race: Farnborough & Cambereley CC '10' (H10/8)

Data: Official time: 23:42, 325 W (328 NP), cad 91, hr 170 (jumped around a lot so don't believe the exact numbers)

Notes: Windy, hilly, poorly paced. Need to examine power file + photos to find improvement strategies.

I'll leave the race report & analysis for a separate post, as I want to consider all factors carefully. However, this is my slowest performance on a TT bike by a decent margin. I need to work out what to change.

Bike totals: 3h58m, 235 TSS

Summary: Got back into things nicely after skiing, but a disappointing end to the week.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How to approach a winter holiday

I sit here, in the lounge of a comfy hotel in Val Thorens, nearing the end of my week long ski trip. At various times this week I have considered how to treat such a break within the framework of your annual training plan.

There are various approaches that you might be tempted to take, ranging from a 7 day all out binge of uncontrolled eating, regular drinking and lazing around, to a strict regime of continued exercise, healthy food and abstinence.

After consideration, I believe that the best solution lies somewhere in the middle. It is a fact of life that when you are in a ski resort you will be surrounded by rich, heavy food, comforting vin chaud and a lack of opportunity to conduct your normal training regime. Totally succumbing to these temptations will leave you vulnerable to put on weight, get ill, and feel wrecked when you arrive back home. Attempting to resist will make you feel like you haven't had a holiday and will impact on your continued motivation to train hard upon your return.

I will begin by answering the obvious questions that spring to mind when you consider a week off:

-  Will I lose fitness?

During a period of complete rest we know that your strength and vo2 max will both decline. However, the demands of skiing and likely to provide some stimulus to prevent this. For a lower body sport such as cycling, the leg strength demands of skiing are certainly enough to keep you ticking over in that regard. In addition, doing a hard run certainly leaves you out of breath and gives a bit of a leg burn. Assuming that you haven't fully trained your vo2 max or anaerobic systems at this time of year anyway, you won't lose anything significant from skiing for a week.

Which leaves us with your endurance capacity. Whilst the decline in your threshold power is very small after a week off, there is a reason that we don't take this sort of time off on a regular basis. Consistency is the key to developing these systems and as such this may be a concern. The way to approach it is to make sure that your week skiing forms the only sustained break in your training over a long period spanning your holiday.

Practically, this means putting in a big block of training beforehand, and planning for afterwards. The skill here is in deciding exactly how big these blocks are, and making sure you get the most out of them. For the block before, you want it to finish immediately before your break, and to be more based on debilitating endurance training than normal. That is, large volumes of tempo, sweet spot and threshold training that chronically fatigue you over several weeks.

The only caveat here is making sure you recover from the block in the first couple of days of your holiday. As this period includes a day of travel, you must be extra careful. Keeping hydrated and well fed, thus allowing your glycogen stores to refill, should be a priority in the 48 hours after your last session. At this point, you will be fully recovered from your big training block.

On the flip side, you want to be ready to attack your next period of training immediately upon your return. This means making sure you are feeling fresh - 10 pints and a burger on your last night are unlikely to do this. Doing the partying side of things on the previous evening is a much more sensible option. Maintaining hydration on the travel home will help to.

- Will I put on weight?

You will naturally gain some weight over the first couple of days as you allow your glycogen stores to fill following a hard training block, as well as becoming fully hydrated again. However, there is no reason to allow this weight gain to continue past this point. In fact, as you aren't training hard you can be much less strict with your nutrient timing, and not having to eat for recovery purposes allows you to run a decent calorie deficit, or at least plan to. The inevitable big meals and alcohol will then simply use up this calorie defecit and leave you in equilibrium. In practical terms, this means there is no need for a big breakfast or lunch, especially if you have a large dinner planned. Conversely, a big lunch on the slopes means you can forgo a sit down dinner in favour of a light snack.

- What can I do in terms of training?

If your hotel happens to have a well equipped gym with a decent bike or treadmill that you can use, I guess there is no harm in hopping on it. However, this post is designed without this in mind. To that end, you can use this week as an opportunity to work on those two old chestnuts that everybody needs to improve but often forgets to work on: core srtrength and flexibility. There is always down time on such a holiday, and rather than spending that hour watching tv or browsing the web, do 20 minutes of core drills followed by 20 minutes of thorough stretching. You will find that by the end of the week, you feel much looser and stronger than you did upon arrival, which can only be a good thing.

- What are the positive outcomes?

For me, this is key. In every situation that initially presents itself as disadvantageous, it is imperative that we flip it on its head and ask how we may benefit from it. In this situation, the opportunity to achieve a deeper level of recovery than you do by taking an easy day or two should be relished. Of course, to achieve this recovery you must first be fatigued, but we have covered that.

The mental recovery must also not be underestimated. Winter is long, and training is tough. Having a break from this should mean you are refreshed and ready to attack the next training block.

In addition, the ability to work on potential weaknesses such as flexibility and core strength is important.

In Summary:

- Plan a hard training block to finish immediately before your holiday

- Keep fed and hydrated over the first two days to recover fully from your previous efforts

- In the last couple of days, make sure you do what is neccessary to arrive home fresh and ready to train hard.

- In between, relax! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Aims and Scope (Part 2)

In a way, the delay between the two halves of this post serve to answer the question posed at the end of the first half: what is this blog for?

This medium allows me to 'follow through' on a number of the trains of thought that begin in my head each day. Previously, I might be able to finish the thought coherently in my own head, never write it down, and then lose the clarity of expression next time I considered the matter.

Using this blog, I have the opportunity to immortalise these ideas, at least in the state that they were upon writing. Returning to any given post months or years in the future, I might have a totally different idea on the subject and be able to provide an update, or it may jog my memory about the topic and serve a useful purpose.

The ability to save a post before it's fully published is also pretty useful in this regard. I may be writing, and be unsure of how to progress without going away and doing some reading (or coding...) and in this situation, I will have the incomplete manuscript to return to once I have increased my understanding of the subject.


- To provide a way for me to clarify my ideas relating to sport
- To analyse aspects of sporting performance and training using scientific methods


- Anything and everything relating to endurance sport

This is a particularly broad scope, but I will give some narrower topics:

- Training methods
- Data analysis
- Analysis of specific demands of various races
- Planning training
- Goal setting

As well as the more traditional set:

- Recovery
- Nutrition
- Supplementation
- Equipment
- Technique

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Training Summary: Base 3, Week 2

I guess that, what with this being sort of a training diary for me, I should make some effort to expand on the snippets of information that I write down in my 'Data Diary' with regard to the more emotional and subjective bits of how training has gone in the last 7 days.

GOAL: 'Hone in new aero position'

I think this is a 'tick'. All the intervals on Tuesday-Thursday were done in the aero bars, and I felt stable and powerful throughout with a good muscular fatigue profile (i.e. the right bits of my legs hurt by the right relative amounts!)

Monday: 65' easy - TT bike on the rollers.

Data: 222 W, hr 132, cad 88.

Notes: Noticed that the pedalling action didn't feel smooth on the TT bike, specifically in terms of L/R discrepancy. I need to check out (when I have time) whether the crankset is on the bike correctly.

Also, the wattages are significantly higher now that I am on my new TT frame. Whether this has something to do with the aforementioned crank problem, or to do with the new position being powerful, or to do with the SRM sensor being in a different location, I don't yet know. It is characterised by a reduction in the 'zero offset' figure of the system (from 600 to 500, roughly) but surely this measurement must be accurate?!

My feelings are that, as is, I get numbers that are uniformly about 25 W higher than they were on my old frame. As it is uniform, I have no real problem with this and have simply increased my FTP estimate in WKO+ by 25 W, and also my expectations of how hard I should be going.

Tuesday: 2x20' @ threshold - TT bike on the turbo

Data: 1: 297 W, hr 157, cad 93. 2: 303 W, hr 160, cad 90

Notes: After my rollers session, I decided that I was 'slipping' forwards on the saddle when in the aero bars with respect to where I was set up on the bike by Andy @ Bike Science (who came highly recommended and did not disappoint).

As such, I made a decision to put a longer stem on the bike. The other options were leaving the position as it was (cramping my lower back), trying to sit in the original position (never going to happen when going hard, so why bother) or moving the saddle further back (closing my hip angle for any given back position). So, I got out the 140mm beast and chucked it on.

The two things I noticed were that 1) I am not more comfortable in the TT bars than in the base bars, and 2) I feel really relaxed. To begin with I thought I must have been in a relaxed back angle and therefore not aero, but a quick check in the mirror revealed otherwise. Good news!

The session itself: as it's a tough one, and I was coming to terms with the 'new' wattages, I kept it quite under control. I suppose that 300 W is now below FTP, 95% or so, and this certainly felt like it.

Wednesday: 60' @ tempo - TT bike on the turbo

Data: 266 W, hr 148, cad 88 (for the tempo hour)

Notes: Relatively low end tempo - was initially thinking of doing it a bit harder but it was very cold outside and my legs were struggling to get warm. It was goo

Thursday: 2x20' @ threshold - TT bike on the turbo

Data: 1: 298 W, hr 159, cad 90. 2: 311 W, hr 164, cad 88

Notes: As it was extremely cold again, I set off on the first interval at Tuesday's pace, which felt like it was around 95%. However the legs responded quite well to this, and so I clicked up a gear for the second piece and the new wattage felt definitely more like the 100% FTP that this session should be (it perhaps felt more like 101%(!) but that could have been due to prior fatigue)

Friday: off

Data: don't tend to get power data in the pub.

Notes: The best intentions can sometimes go awry. I had only planned for an easy spin, but it was raining when I got up so I went into the office intending to go on the rollers when I returned. After the office Xmas party from 2-4pm, I decided to go the pub for a couple of drinks, thinking that I could then go home and do the easy session at around 6pm (two beers won't hurt, right?). However, I stayed in the pub until 10:30. It wasn't a rolling around on the floor type drinking session, but was great fun and very good for the soul - I don't often do that kind of thing so the long-term effects are going to be negligible.

Saturday: Hillingdon - road bike on the road

Data: to be uploaded

Notes: Thought it would be nice to mix things up a bit and kick off some mild anaerobic training with a visit to Hillingdon for the Cat 3 crit race. I basically arsed around at the back of the bunch, normally semi-drafting about half a bike length off someone else, to achieve some decent tempo training but with the caveat of a highly varied effort profile.

This is in complete contrast with the last 8 weeks of training, in which I have tried to make everything as isopower as possible (for good reason), but I think that when it comes to doing a TT you need to have some ability to vary your power output, even if it's just getting up to speed again after the turn roundabout.

Anyway, I planned to move up in the bunch with a few laps to go and contest the sprint in a non-meaningful way, but at precisely that point the E123 breakaway came through the bunch and we had to slow down. By the time they were clear it was 1.5 laps to go and I was totally out of position. I sprinted, but only from the back of the pack to the middle!

Good day out though, will return in a fortnight for more fun. Also realised it was my first road bike outing for a couple of weeks, and it was nice to be back on it.

Sunday: 2h30 inc 5x3' @ VO2 max - road bike on the road

Data: to be uploaded

Notes: What a session! Much warmer day (still only 5-6 degrees though) meant it was very pleasant to be out on the roads, even if wearing winter kit. Rode to the BUCS TTT course, met up with Jerry, rode the first half of the course until we got to the climb up to Milton Common. Due to the strong headwind I decided to do my intervals up the climb.

Unfortunately, I punctured just before we started. Therefore, the first interval was done immediately after fixing the flat (i.e. after standing around for 5 minutes). It was horrible on the legs, felt like I wanted to cramp, and all for a moderate HR. Pieces 2 & 3 were solid but unspectacular, and I took the risk in 4 & 5 to stay in a bigger gear throughout - same gear changes up & down but just overall one gear higher. This, although clearly a much harder interval, in a way felt nicer and the searing leg pain was accompanied by lung pain & breathing very hard, suggesting that I was definitely at my VO2 max. Jerry said he was doing ~330 W in the final leg and I passed him on the uphill section going a bit faster, so I would suggest that I was pushing close to 400 W on the steeper sections, and 360+ for the rest.

We then rode the rest of the course and I headed for home, tired but happy.

Bike totals: to come

Summary: a decent week with some good turbo intervals and a weekend spent on the road, giving my body a taster of the supra-threshold work that is to come in January onwards

Monday, December 10, 2012

Normalised Power for TTT efforts

Having made a few tweaks to the code in the previous post, I now have a method for finding appropriate TTT replication sessions to do on ones own.

All I have really done since yesterday is allowed for changing of the drafting factor (i.e. how much energy is saved when not on the front), the total time for each on/off section, and the number of repeats that make up each interval.

In addition, I have realised that all the results will be directly scalable if you wish to use the workout at an intensity other than 100% FTP as the session's Normalised Power - simply multiply it by how hard you want to go.

From this, I have then entered a few representative values to get some basic sessions:

- Base case: each man is the same strength, the draft factor is 0.7, the total on/off time is 3', the total interval time is 15', and the workout is done at 100% FTP

P_on = 120.8 (1')
P_off = 84.5 (2')

- The strong man: the rider is sufficiently strong to be doing 50% of the work. The total on/off time is now 4', with the interval time 20'.

P_on = 113.3 (2')
P_off = 79.3 (2')

- The weak link: the rider is weak and only able to contribute 10% of the work. The total on/off time is 5', with the interval time 20'

P_on = 135.5 (30'')
P_off = 94.85 (4'30'')

This last session, in particular, is very interesting. It demonstrates that if a rider is significantly weaker than his teammates, he is essentially required to ride an individual time trial type effort for the majority of the time, interspersed with short, very intense efforts. Knowing this in advance can only help the rider in question (if we assume he cannot raise his relative strength with respect to the others) - he can train to be able to perform such a non-standard workout and therefore contribute maximally to the TTT effort.

Altering the sessions above to be done at 95% or 105%, for example, would be an easy way to adapt them to a 5x5' or 2x25' session. However, I think that 15-20' intervals are about right for this kind of work.

The obvious question from all this is: how do we determine how long each man should be on the front for?

I will be answering this question shortly, based only on knowing each rider's FTP.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A quick first attempt at Normalised Power based TTT sessions

(see previous post for more explanation)

Just the code for now, more to come but:

- Our initial session using equal times on the front WAS:

P_on = 125%, P_off = 87.5%

That is, 1' on @ 125% FTP, 2' off @ 87.5% FTP. Using the code below, it is:

P_on = 120.69%, P_off = 84,48%

First impressions are therefore positive! This seems much more representative intensity-wise.

function [P_on_new,P_off_new] = NormalisedPower(time_on)
% Normalised power calculation from uniform step on/off interval

% Input time spent 'on' and interval duration

total_time = 180; %seconds

% Intensities
P_on = 100/(0.7+0.3*time_on);
P_off = P_on*0.7;

% Get absolute time on/off (integers)
time_on = ceil(time_on*total_time); % change into seconds
time_off = total_time-time_on; % change into seconds

time_cycles = 40; % number on/off cycles (should stabilise as we increase)
data_freq = 0.01; % data recording freq (should stabilise as we reduce it)

% Create power file

for i = 1:time_cycles
    P = [P; P_on * ones(time_on/data_freq,1);...
        P_off * ones(time_off/data_freq,1)];

% Calculate rolling average

window = 30/data_freq; % number of points to get average for
mask = ones(1,window)/window; % overlay to get average
P_rolling = conv(P,mask,'valid');

% Calulate NP and AP

NP = mean(P_rolling.^4)^(1/4);
AP = mean(P);

% Calculate new intensities

P_on_new = P_on*(AP/NP);
P_off_new = P_off*(AP/NP);

An interlude - indoor sessions for Team Time Trial training

Despite my intention to finish the incomplete previous post this evening, a day spent largely discussing the specifics of training for a team time trial (TTT) led to me having a moment of clarity during my solitary walk home through the parks regarding training.

Whilst the methods for preparing for a TTT as a unit as simple in principle, and might be covered at a later date, I was initially stumped when I considered how to prepare for the demands of the race. However, eventually I realised that you can reduce the problem down to series of assumptions (that may be race-specific). Furthermore, these assumptions can be turned into parameters with a little more careful thought.

 As such, let's get going. We are going to use the real life example of the BUCS TTT race that is a target of mine for April of next year, and make the following statements:

- The race is 50km long.
- There are three men per team, and all three must finish.
- The difference between being Man 1 compared to Man 2 or 3 is 30% (this assumes that we can ride 6-12 inches from the guy in front, but that just requires practise)

These two statements can be turned into parameters, as will be demonstrated later. To complete the picture, we make three more assumptions:

- The course is flat.
- There is no wind.
- There is little difference between sitting in second or third man in the pace line.

From these six pieces of knowledge, we can construct a representation of the specific demands of the event:

- Each rider takes turns. Using that the race is around 70 minutes long, we suggest that each rotation of riders should be somewhere between 3 and 6 minutes. Any shorter and the energy wasted switching riders will be costly, much more and people won't be able to ride hard enough during their turn on the front.

- In the 'default' case that each rider is of identical strength, turns of one minute each are about right. If fully fit, one should be able to go slightly faster than their 10 mile race pace when on the front (i.e. around 115% FTP) and correspondingly softer when in the pace line (around 80% FTP)

- If one rider is stronger or weaker than the others, it is better to weight the TIME spent on the front rather than the INTENSITY. That is, whatever the relative strengths of your three athletes, your speed should remain constant throughout (given the flat road and no wind). This is the same principle that is applied to an individual time trial, and is not revolutionary.

From this, we can construct session that replicate the event specifically that can be done at home (on the turbo). Due to the nature of them, they are best done with power, as using HR or RPE will be very unreliable when going over threshold intensity. We now use the fact that 'default' sessions to prepare for a race of roughly an hour are 2x20' or 3x15' at race pace, or alternatively 3x10' or 6x6' at slightly above race pace.

The relative strengths of the rider in question compared to his two teammates is a continuum, and we can use 'feel' to map this onto the scale of percentage time spent at the front of the group - the extremes being that the rider is too weak to take any turn at all, or so strong that he must stay on the front for the entire race. Clearly in these situations, there is no need to undertake such training.

In addition, it is a good idea to put upper and lower bounds on the amount of time spent at the front. For example, if 'by numbers' the rider should only spend 5% of the time on the front, that corresponds to only 18 seconds even using the upper bound of 6' rotations. In this case the energy wasted by switching people is not counteracted by the recovery that the stronger two men would get from our 5% chap being on the front.

Somewhat arbitrarily, I will therefore place these upper and lower bounds at 20% and 80% respectively. It therefore remains to work out how much intensity the rider will need in each situation. If on the front for 33% of the time, in the case of equal riders, we have our first session:

- 1' @ 115%, 2' @ 80% 

Repeating this 5 times gives a 15' effort, for instance, but it could easily be done as 2x20' or whatever one feels is appropriate. We now change this session based on the amount of time spent on the front as follows:

- As you spend more time 'on the front', your % FTP will fall (for both 'on' and 'off' sections), so that once you reach 100% of time on the front, you are doing 2x20' (or 3x15') @ 100% FTP (sound familiar?) as and 'on' section.

- Conversely, as you spend less time on the front, your % FTP will fall, again so that once you reach 2x20' @ 100% FTP (but this time it will be 'off')

We now have these three data points, but how do we move between them - is it simply a linear relationship between time on the front and % FTP for 'on' and 'off' sections? If so, we would have the following:

- ON: 33% on -> 115%, 100% on -> 100%. Thus, 'on' FTP = 122.5 - 0.225*time on (%)
- OFF: 33% on -> 80%, 0% on -> 100%. Thus, 'off' FTP = 100 - 0.6*time on (%)

This may sound like a nice, mathematical way to approach the problem, but we are neglecting one fact: we know the difference in power between the 'on' and 'off' sections MUST be 30%, i.e. the savings due to drafting. How do we use this?

Simple: one more assumption! We assume that, whatever percentage of time we spend on the front, the AVERAGE power for the interval is to equal our FTP (i.e. 100%). This is perhaps not as good as assumption as working with Normalised Power (NP), which requires us to: 

1) starting at the 30s mark, calculate a rolling 30 s average.

2) raise all the values obtained in step #1 to the 4th power.

3) take the average of all of the values obtained in step #2.

4) take the 4th root of the value obtained in step #3. 

However, this does not allow for an easily calculation. Given an hour and some MATLAB time I might look into the NP method, but for simplification I will run with average power. Our problem is now reduced:

- We spent a proportion x of total time working 'on' at a power P
- We thus spend a time 1-x as 'off'
- 'off' is done at 70% of the power than 'on' is
- The average power is ones FTP

The formula is thus:

Average power = x * P + (1-x) * P * 0.7 = FTP

Rearranging, we have 

P = FTP/(0.7 + 0.3*x)

or in terms of % FTP and % time spent on the front (X): 

P = 100/(0.7 + 0.003*X)

We now have the ability to check the figures - how does this stack up with what we know? Clearly, if x=0 or x=1 we have the 'correct' answer. If x = 0.33 (as in our initial example), we then calculate than

P(33.3) = 125

This is significantly higher than our initial estimate done by 'feel'. In fact, doing a minute at 125% FTP followed by 2 minutes at 87.5% FTP is probably too tough to be done in training (untapered) for 2x20'. Plugging in more random numbers (20% corresponding to a weak rider and 60% corresponding to a strong one), we have:

P(20) = 131.5 and P(60) = 113.6

Looking at these, I know which I would rather do (let's say 1' on @ 131%, 4' off @ 92% vs 3' on @ 113.6%, 2' off @ 79.5%). In fact, as the intensity of the 'on' section is increasing, so is the punishing nature of the session. This brings us back to the concept of Normalized Power, which takes into account the variability of the effort and 'rewards' a more disparate series of efforts with a higher number.

Clearly, we now have two choices:

- Use NP to calculate our intensities. This will require a small amount of coding, but should be very doable.
- Change our assumption that the whole session must equal a certain % FTP to some other criterion.

In the interests of science, I am going to try out option (1) first, but haven't ruled out that giving spurious results either.

One more thing (before I sign off) that strikes me is that our formula for the session power can be altered to reflect different coefficients of drafting savings. For example, if you have a more upright stance than your teammates, the draft factor may be higher than 0.7, and vice versa. It is also possible to see how the effect of hills might be modelled - the drafting effect will be vastly reduced going uphill, and the overall intensity will be increased and correspondingly decreased for downhill sections.

I fear that this post may also need a 'part two' - I will endeavour to write it while the idea is fresh in my mind!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Aims and Scope (part 1)

The equivalent of a business' mission statement, the phrase 'Aims and Scope' will be all too familiar to those with a history of scientific publication. The concept is a simple but very useful one as it allows what are essentially a discrete set of disparate items - that is, a series of original research articles, review articles and editorials written by scientists from across the globe - to establish some small patch of common ground between them.

This commonality may be tenuous in the extreme, but it allows for easier searching of new and exciting literature by those who wish to read it. For example, you may be looking for new developments in a very narrow area, and knowing the handful of journals likely to carry such articles reduces trawling through volumes of paper significantly.

Why have I just explained this? 

The answer is that I believe the same concept to be applicable to the field of endurance sport blogging. I subscribe to an increasing number of RSS feeds linking to various blogs, and it's becoming clear to me that each has a (largely unspoken) set of principles underlying the type of content. I now know from experience as to where I am most likely to get information regarding nutrition, training, racing, equipment, etc. However, it's taken me a long time to figure this out.

The train of thought above made me think about this blog. What is it for? Who will benefit from reading it? On what topics will it focus? The first thing that struck me was that Question 1 ('What is it for?') is possibly better phrased as 'Why am I writing this?'. As such, it creates a third header for the title of this post: 'Motivation'. Once I started thinking about that, something stood out. In the course of a normal day, I have thoughts and insights into a range of topics that ultimately would be much more useful if I were to bottle them up, package them as a complete entity and store them somewhere for safekeeping. Otherwise, I am losing out on the potential benefit of my own advice, if you understand what I mean - I tend to forget the vast majority of what I am thinking. In addition, I forget the vast majority of what I am reading (whether it be a journal paper or a short article or even a one-line tip) and putting that information somewhere in a concise format will surely be useful. Lastly, I forget the vast majority of the conversations I have with others. This is another huge untapped resource that largely passes me by and should be distilled - to give an example, in the last 24 hours I have spoken to:

- A triathlete (in person) about detailed goal setting
- The same triathlete (on Facebook) about the way training heart rates change through the season
- Another triathlete (walking to my bike) about threshold bike training
- A marathon runner (via e-mail) about a technical problem with his Garmin
- A rugby player (at lunch) about strength/power supplementation
- A rower (over coffee) about the vagaries of a reoccurring injury
- Two scientists (in the pub) about mathematically modelling cycling time trial performance

None of these conversations were recorded, and if I allowed it to happen they would all be forgotten indefinitely. However, I am certain that each one contained potentially useful bits of information, both for me and for the other party.


- A huge amount of information, all of it potentially useful, comes and goes each day.
- The same information may crop up time and time again, but until it is immortalised in the cloud I am unlikely to remember it.
- Finding a way to put down that which I believe to be important will allow me, and others, to access this information at will.
- Once the information is readily accessible, it becomes a lot easier to apply, both on its own and in conjunction with other knowledge.

Next up

This post was meant to be a statement of the Aims and Scope of this blog. However, by the time you reach here, you will have found nothing of the sort. Whilst I apologise for the misleading nature of the title, I think it's now clear to me as to why I am writing on here. As such, the Aims and Scope will form a natural extension of the motivating reasons outlined previously, and will be more clearly presented in the next post.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Three years on

As the two people who viewed my previous 37 posts will know (I suspect both these people are myself on different computers), it's been a while.

I have a vague memory of using this platform back in late 2009 to try and have a more comprehensive and easily accessible training diary than the WHSmith Day-To-Page format I was using at the time. Clearly from the content I put up here, the idea was short-lived and in retrospect fundamentally flawed - this is not the sort of place to be putting complex training data for later analysis.

Since then the explosion of cloud computing, along with my purchase of more complex training devices, has removed the need for extensive recording of data. It has been obvious to me over the years that I am not the type to want to record my data in a hand written format day in, day out. As such, my purchase of a Garmin Forerunner 305 in August 2011 was useful in the sense that each and every heartbeat from that day on is (hopefully) immortalised both on my laptop and on the Garmin Connect service.

Whilst this in itself did not immediately make me more proactive in writing a 'proper' training log, it allowed me to view my data at leisure and at any computer. This was very useful in both the short and medium term, as it's quite easy to look at the data and remember back to what the session felt like - even as detailed as the weather and wind conditions, etc. However, it gives progressively less value as time passes. When I return to my workouts now, I wish I had put a bit more information down than just the briefest of workout summaries.

To this end, my 2012/2013 season is so far characterised by data in the extreme. I now have a power meter on my TT bike, though just the Garmin on my road bike, and as such the information gets beamed here, there and everywhere. A short summary of how I process the data is as follows.

SRM Data:

- Upload data from PowerControl to SRMWin & WKO+.
- Wipe data from PowerControl
- Upload data from WKO+ to TrainingPeaks (done in case of laptop failure)
- Take the major bits of data from the WKO+ format and put them into my training diary (
- If the session wasn't as planned, change what was actually done on my Year Planner (

Garmin Data:

- Upload data from Garmin to Garmin TrainingCenter, WKO+, Garmin Connect, Strava.
- TrainingCenter for physical data on my laptop, Connect for analysis, Strava for fun.
- Send data from WKO+ to TrainingPeaks.
- TrainingPeaks gives hrTSS data for the session, edit the WKO+ file to reflect this
- Follow bottom two steps as in the SRM Data protocol.

As you can see, this is quite a time consuming activity all told. It is no wonder that I didn't go through with this in the past when

i) All I had was HR data to upload
ii) Most of my sessions (rowing etc) ended somewhere other than my house
iii) Immediately after the sessions I was normally eating or going into work

To summarise, what would be my take home messages from this first (ish) post?
I will expand on all these points in subsequent posts, but for now:

- Keeping a training log is important, and is getting easier to do with technological advances.
- The more data channels you have, the more choices you have in terms of what to analyses and what to record.
- You need to develop a protocol for recording data that is both thorough and device-specific.