Lactate Threshold and Critical Power Testing

 

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Test 1

Over the course of three sessions I’ve been one of many guinea pigs taking part in a study that will essentially assess the effects of recovery on the ability to work at anaerobic levels, and produce a repeatable test to measure it. I think the findings will be published sometime in the future and will undoubtedly contribute to the body of knowledge in Sports Science.  It’s a technical subject but interesting nonetheless and I look forward to seeing the finished article in the future.

From a personal perspective it has given me some up-to-date data carried out in laboratory conditions which I’ll describe here.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

BodPod

At the first session I was measured and weighed and my body composition was analysed. There were a couple of anomalies with this that are worth mentioning. The first is that I appear to have slightly shrunk since the last time I was “formally” measured. Apparently I am now 174.2cm in height, as opposed to the 175cm that I was in 2005 when I last had a proper medical. A bit of research suggests that we can lose up to 1cm every 10 years over the age of 40 so that kind of explains it, but it was a bit of an unwelcome surprise. The second anomaly was the results of the BodPod body composition analyser. It came out with a 24% bodyfat, even after a second go and a calibration. Which suggested I am overweight and that I’m carrying the equivalent of about 16 bags-of-sugar worth of fat!  To put that into some sort of context – if it is correct and I somehow managed to lose that amount of fat to get down to “lean” levels I could have a power-to-weight ratio not dissimilar to a Tour de France rider – not going to happen!  A series of 9 measurements were also taken using calipers and this apparently resulted in a measure closer to 12%. As all previous subjects had shown a close correlation between the BodPod and the calipers something was clearly a bit weird about me, but it’s probably safe to say the answer is somewhere in between (my Tanita bio-impedance scales at home report between 12% and 16% depending on hydration levels – but these are notoriously inaccurate).  I’m a couple of kilos heavier than I was this time last year – I’m currently in the process of shedding some of that!

Then it was time to have my finger pricked and some blood spots taken to analyse normal lactate levels.

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The ergonometer is behind the VDUs – we didn’t use the Wattbike

Onto the bike test, or more correctly, the ergonometer test. The ergonometer is a very accurate static “bike” that strictly controls the resistance of the ramp.  I was given a face mask and hooked up to a gas exchange analyser and off we went. After a warmup the power started at 100W and then slowly ramped up until I could do no more. I topped out at a tad over 410W and 175bpm. Another blood test and then I had to immediatly go as hard as I could for 2 minutes. The ramp was to clear out my anerobic energy systems and then the 2 minute effort would be all about my aerobic capabilities, from which my Critical Power (CP) could be assessed.  At the end of that it was back to a ramp, this time starting at 360W, I didn’t last long beyond that before I couldn’t turn the pedals. After a cooldown that was it.  The power and HR graph at the start of this post is the trace from the test.

My CP (equivalent to 20 minute power) came out at around a very surprising 333W – which means I’m not trying hard enough in 10’s!

The second and third tests followed a similar approach but without the CP test.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Test 2

The tests themselves seem innocuous enough until you are doing them.  In total they last about 33 minutes (for me anyway – if you hold the ramp for longer they will last longer!) and run out at around 40-ish TSS.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Test 3

The ramp itself is reasonably comfortable until you get to the pointy end.  Then I found that I became very aware of the mask and I often had a real desire to scratch my face!  At the point of failure I was gasping for air and my legs were burning, and the guys are shouting to keep going.  The ergononmeter doesn’t let up so my cadence just got slower and slower until I couldn’t really turn the pedals.  It’s a horrible feeling, and then you do it again!  That said, I found the experience very interesting and the data has given me a lot of food for thought.

Edit – results can be found in this post here

 

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Smarter Training – Joe Beer on the Cycling Time Trial Podcast

@markflorence11

@markflorence11

I listen to a few podcasts related to cycling.  Amongst them is one about time-trialling by a chap called Mark Florence and it’s called the Cycling Time Trial Podcast by Mark Florence.  You can subscribe to it through a few different sources – I use iTunes here.  Anyway, it’s a great podcast and he usually has guests who provide insight and information on a range of subjects, all related to time-trialling.  If you’re reading this blog for that reason, you should listen to this guy.

So his last episode introduced a coach named Joe Beer.  I have to say I’d not really heard of him but he’s been coaching endurance sports for a very long time – not just cycling.  He has a white-paper available for download from his website (until 11/2) called Smarter Training – here.  The crux of this paper, and his talk on the podcast, was about training “smarter” and was based on many years of accumulated evidence and data.  I’m not going to reproduce the report here – read it yourself – but I was interested to compare my training approach to the rules that he lists.  As an example, his rule 1 is that 75-90% of your total training time should be in what he terms zone 1.  He defines this as “low lactate” or working at an intensity of 55-80% of your maximum heart rate, so it isn’t the same as, for example, Coggan zones.  Now when I heard this on the podcast, I didn’t quite catch the definition of zone 1 so I thought it was very odd and certainly not something I do.  However, when I looked on TrainingPeaks I realised that his definition of zone 1 encompasses zones 1-3 on the scale I use (80% of my HRmax is around 146bpm and zone 3 tops out for me at 151bpm).  When I added those up I was surprised to find that since I started training at the end of September to now, I’ve spent 76.5% of the time in Joe Beer’s zone 1.  Who am I to argue with that!

Like I say, listen to the podcast and check out the website/white paper.  Very much worth your time in my opinion.

Time to Hit the Shed Again…

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Sports science test at The EnduranceCoach

So after my 2014 season which you can read about here, and broadly a month off, it’s time to hit the shed again and start training for next year.

This isn’t just about putting the bike on the turbo, jumping back on it again and riding as hard as I can three times a week.  I’m by no means an expert, but I know enough to know that an approach like that will, ultimately, lead to a plateau, rather than an increase in speed.  And going places faster is kinda the point!  Behind it is the principle of overloading and adaptation.  Your body adapts to the demands placed on it and if you don’t continue to overload it, it won’t adapt further.  So keep doing what you’ve been doing, at the intensity you’ve always been doing it, and you won’t make any progress.  That’s a simple fact.  Beyond that it gets a whole lot more complex, and different approaches will reap different rewards.  I am living proof that you can change your physiology through training.  A few years back I was an incredibly efficient (in the burning fat sense) long distance rider – at a slow pace.  My training more recently has been about speed coupled with endurance and consequently I’ve gotten faster.  But I’m way less efficient now  – burning carbs much earlier than I used to.  Okay for racing – no so good for longer distances.  So, if, like most amateurs, you have limited time, then you probably want the best bang for your training buck.  For example, in the lead up to this season I averaged a couple of hours training on the turbo per week, and probably four or five hours on the bike.  That led to me having a relatively successful (for me) season, especially in relation to 2013.  I want to make more progress next year, so I figure I need to up the training duration AND the intensity this winter.  With that in mind, there are a number of stages I’ve been through/will go through

  1. I’ve written down a set of goals for next season.  These consist of short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives.  On top of that I will be doing less racing but more targeted.  To quote Adam Topham in his highly recommended book – A races, B races and C races.
  2. I’ve taken my regular sports science test to reset my training zones.  This year I intend to use power as opposed to HR to guide my training efforts
  3. I’ve started to work with a coach who, based on my physiology, my available training time and my goals, will develop training plans for me and monitor my progress through the winter and into the start of next season
  4. At a suitable point before the start of the season I will look to make improvements to my position.  My coach has already identified issues with my hip flexibility that may be impeding the power I put out

Setting Goals

If you are one of the few regular readers of this blog you will know that I set myself targets in most things I do and look to measure my performance against them.  In my view, goal setting is one of the most important things to do if you are intending to try to improve at something.  How can you know you are improving if you don’t measure your progress?  The answer is you can’t.  I’m not going to share my specific goals yet – I may do just before the season starts – but I will share the process I have been through to arrive at them.

First are my short-term goals.  These will be goals that I have to meet in order to get to my medium or long–term targets.  Think of them as stepping stones.  They are there to give me something that is tangible, achievable and I can use to keep my motivation levels high when things get tough, as they invariably will do.  When I achieve them (when, not if – positive thinking!) I will set some more.  If I’ve made them too difficult I will reset them slightly – remember they are meant to help motivate me, not discourage me.

Second are my medium-term goals.  These are based around the season as a whole.  They are realistic based on an analysis of my results in 2014, but challenging in that they will need a considerable step up in performance.

Finally my long-term goals are more subjective, although still measurable.  I can still achieve this goal even if I don’t achieve my medium-term goals.  In truth, I’m not sure if I might change these – time will tell.

Training Zones

My whole training plan will be based around zones so it’s important I have the latest information to base it on.  Remember what I said about adaptation – your zones will change over time depending on what you do (or don’t do!).  I’ve written about sports science tests before.  They are invaluable.  I’ve had a much better season in 2014 than 2013 but my results are “worse”.  They aren’t really – this is down to the specificity of what I’ve been doing.  These tests give you data that will enable you to focus your training on specific areas of weakness or improvement – remember what I said about bang for your buck.  If you are time-pressed then focus on the areas that need most attention.  If you are embarking on any type of structured training I’d recommend this to you.

Coaching

New to my training this year will be working with a coach.  I hope to report back on how successful it’s been but only time will tell.  I have high hopes that he will provide me with the level of specificity, focus and feedback I need to improve to the levels I want to be at.  I was certainly very encouraged after my initial meeting with him.

So that’s it – time to retire to the shed and start the hard work again.  Roll on spring!

Training Update

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Sports science test at TheEnduranceCoach

So I’m about halfway into my winter training programme and it’s only 6 weeks to the first time trial of the season, a 2-up 25M event on the 1st March.  However, my view is that TT’s in March are part of training, so for me the season starts “proper” in April, building during May and aiming to hit my peak during June, July and August.

My training this winter has a number of elements to it.

Power – this winter I’ve included work to increase my power output.  I have a cycling specific weight training plan that works in 3 week blocks starting at sets of 14 reps and eventually increasing the weights and dropping to sets of 4 reps.  At the moment I’m in the hypertrophic block.  In addition, when riding, I’m using bigger gears than I normally would – especially uphill, where I try to maintain the big ring to improve leg strength.

Aerobic – I spent a decent amount of time riding in zone 1 and zone 2 and now I’ve started to add some interval training.  This includes intervals of varying lengths – from high intensity short intervals to intervals of up to 4 minutes.

Ade's Road Cycling BlogThe turbo in the shed is what I use for this, and Sufferfest videos are excellent for this.

Weight – my weight going into last season was around 65kg, meaning my 5 minute power/weight ratio was around 5.96.  I’m currently around 66kg, which with the added weight training I’m pretty pleased with.  I’m hoping to maintain this whilst building strength which will hopefully mean I can sustain a higher wattage for longer, and by definition reduce my times.

I’ll turn 47 this year which means time is very much not on my side.  The effort to simply maintain the same level of power and fitness increasing quite dramatically after around the age of 40 so continuing to improve and get better becomes harder and harder.  I’m working really hard because of this, and also because I know that I have some great competition this season from Phil and some of the guys at the club.  As ever, I continue to learn so if anyone reading this has any tips or secrets they want to share then do get in touch!

 

#Lejog Training Roundup – All the Stats

So I’ve finally finished my training for the LEJOG.  It’s been 20 weeks and I’ve been keeping track of all that I’ve done.

I started when the weather was freezing cold at the end of January, when getting out of bed in the dark on a Sunday morning at 6-30am was a real struggle.  I’ve been freezing cold (a lot), soaking wet (surprisingly not that much), hot and sweaty.  It’s been icy, windy, rainy, sunny and cloudy (a lot).

I’ve ridden around Greater Manchester, Cheshire (a lot), Lancashire, Yorkshire, Wales and flirted with Derbyshire.

I’ve been up hills and down dales, on mountainsides, in valleys, through villages, towns and cities.  I’ve seen wonderful scenery and beautiful countryside.

I’ve done long and lonely hours on my own and I’ve made some great new friends and ridden with great people, and some inspirational people.  I’ve enjoyed my own company and I’ve enjoyed their company.

I’ve fallen off, I’ve hurt my knee and I’ve seen countless idiotic drivers.  My knee has been sore, my fingers have bled and my legs have ached (a lot.)

I’ve absolutely loved it.

Here’s what I’ve done:

  • 2,153 training miles (plus another 530 miles commuting making 2683 miles in total)
  • over 142 hours of riding (nearly 6 days solid)
  • 78,400ft of climbing.  That’s equivalent to 2.7 Mount Everests.
  • I’ve averaged 15.6mph across those 2,153 miles
  • 116,706 kcalories of energy burned.
  • Gone from 189lbs to 172lbs and 24% bodyfat to just under 18%.  That’s at least a stone of unwanted fat gone

Weekly training mileage

The graph above shows the build up in mileage that I’ve tried to achieve to peak 3 weeks before the start, and then taper down.

More and more climbing!

Similarly you can see above the amount of climbing I’ve tried to build in on a weekly basis, and the following graph is my average heart-rate – which I think demonstrates that my fitness has improved over the time I’ve been training.

My fitness has been steadily improving

Is it enough?  I’ll tell you in a fortnight!  I was advised that 2000 miles of training would be the required amount and I’ve pleased that I’ve achieved that. Although I have a slight cold at the moment I feel very strong and fit, so I’m hoping that what I’ve done will stand me in good stead.

Cleaned, oiled and ready - the bike that is

Here are some five things I’ve learned

  1. Having a goal is really important – in this case the LEJOG provided all the motivation
  2. Structure works. Planning what you want to achieve, and how, means you can track your progress and build your confidence
  3. Shake it up – the same routes and the same things get boring.  Put effort into making things fresh
  4. Accept that some days will be hard for no reason, physically and/or mentally. For every 2 steps forward you may well take 1 back.  As long as you are moving forward it’s okay
  5. JOIN A CLUB – there really is no substitute for joining a cycling club and riding with others – it makes things a lot easier and more fun

One final thing.  A very big thank-you to my family, who have put up with me disappearing most weekends for hours at a time without a single word of complaint.  They have been behind me every step of the way, coaxing, cajoling and encouraging.  Fantastic support, without which I wouldn’t have been able to do my training.

I’m ready.  Wish me luck.  Better still, sponsor me.

Penultimate Training Ride – Saturday Club Run

A very gentle club run today in very sunny weather with the North Cheshire Clarion – including 4 new guest riders.

355ft of climbing

I didn’t ride to the ride – as I am tapering my effort down ready for the big start next week.  There was virtually no climbing and we averaged a very sedate pace at 15mph.  This was ideal for tapering as evidenced by my heart rates zones

Average heart-rate 106bpm

Overall we did 25 miles in 1hr 41m @ 15mph using 875 kcals

Saturday Club Run

Very windy morning today with a strong North-Easterly giving me a nice boost to the Swan in Winwick for the North Cheshire Clarion Saturday Club run. I arrived 15 minutes early thanks to the tailwind, having averaged 17.7mph over the 20 miles with little effort.  With a brand new guest we set off and did a very gentle 10 mile loop before doing a second 10 mile loop at much faster speeds

The ride back home was pretty tough into what was now a headwind, made worse by the East Lancs road being closed and backing traffic up.

The graph above shows my heart rate over the ride and the training zones I was in.  As you can see the first 20 miles to the Swan with a tailwind wasn’t too hard – with my heart being in the green zone much of the time.  The next gentle 10 mile loop you can see my heart rate is very low, and then it increases for the next 10 miles as we did the faster second loop.  The final 20 miles is the same route as the first 20 miles, but my heart rate is mostly in zone 5,  which highlights the significant increase in effort between a tailwind and a headwind.  It certainly hits the legs too, but a nice crisp ice bath at the end sorted that!

Overall, I did 60 miles at an average of 14.6mph on a fairly flat 1305ft ascent, using 3226 kcals.