Weekly Summary November 18 – November 24, 2013: Setting a PR on a Climb, Fixed SRM and First Snow
Weight program: Core Exercises only
Tuesday: 20min warmup, 20min Z4 interval, 10min cool down Indoor ride
Wednesday: Core Exercises
Thursday: 1:15h Z2 indoor ride
Saturday: 1:30h FTP Climb+Descent, 295W Avg. for the climb
Sunday: 3:45h Z2 ride (Big Ride) 213W Avg/221W xPower
Total Bikescore/TSS: 340
Total Training Time: 7:10h bike+20min Core Strength
The forecast was unambiguous…snow and winter were just around the corner with the temperatures dropping below zero (doable) and snowing (not so doable) the following Monday. That being said I wanted to do some rides that I will not be able to ride until the snow and ice thaws in the mountains. The reasons were twofold: for fun and to have a benchmark for when I am able to ride outside again, without risking hypothermia and/or skating rather than cycling. So I went a little bit harder than I consider normal in the off-season. Nonetheless, excluding some encounters with some fiercely determined dogs on Sunday I had a fun week.
In addition I fixed my SRM just in time for my weekend rides.
As mentioned last week, I seemed to be ‘getting used to’ doing only Z2 rides so I am starting to include a Z4 threshold session every Monday.
Benchmarks and Setting PR on a Climb
It is nice to have something that you can challenge yourself with, in a way it breaks up the sometimes too mundane nature of training (and fitness testing). For me I have found my challenge in the face 19.5km (12.1mi) climb just outside of Sofia. Although not the perfect “power testing” climb I find it a nice way to measure improvements in my fitess and the results of my never ending search for fast/light equipment
Yarema (Ярема) – The Ox-bow
For reasons unknown to me the area of some villas outside of the country’s capital bears the name of the device used to tie down oxen for plowing the fields. It is a climb that although not extremely impressive ‘by the numbers ‘ I have found it to be quite challenging.
MapMyRide automatically adds climb details and categories when you map out a route. (MapMyRide is a very handy FREE tool). Even though each of the 3 climbs is rated Cat 3 at the highest, with grades barely going above 3.5%, as you can see each segment has a flat and even a downhill sections (50+kph, 30+mph easily). I find it really hard to get from the 39/28-25 to the big ring and keep up the power.
The first part is the steepest and quite winding left and right where even 39/28 is barely low enough to keep spinning smoothly, some of the turns are banked like a velodrome! After it flattens out for a bit and getting a slight break on the downhill section, the struggle continues. The burn really starts to kick in and it is really tempting to coast on the following ‘descent.’ The last part is much more gradual without any big changes in the grade, although the road seems to be composed of seemingly endless, motivation destroying straights, before the coveted top of the climb. A kilometer later there is a natural water spring where people from then nearby towns come and fill up with some pure water. It is a very nice place to stop to: cough up a lung after the effort, eat something and drink some chat up some locals who are pondering the combination of my mental sanity, shaved legs and shiny equipment.
The descent on the way back starts quite nice with gentle turns which when dry you can zoom through without touching the brakes. After the first village the road narrows down considerably and as (it is usually the case) traffic increases, making the blind corners an exercise in “spot the big orange bus before it hits me.” When wet the couple of short banked S-turns are a good point to exercise the maxim “NEVER brake inside a corner.”
Since weather conditions, body (and equipment) weight vary a bit, total time to the top is not a true measure of the effort. Average power for the climb is the BEST measure of how hard you pushed to get up there. As I mentioned earlier the profile of the climb is not ideal for steady state power efforts so even in my season peak I have not been able to get close to my FTP of 360W. So up to this point I have done 3 attempts.
July 2013: 290W Avg., 49:27min (Benchmark)
88kg, S Works Tarmac, Training wheelset, summer clothes, 2 full water bottles, end of week – fatigued
July 2013: 302W Avg., 48:15min
88kg, S Works Tarmac, Training wheelset, summer clothes, 1 full water bottle, end of week – fatigued
November 2013: 295W Avg., 53:15min
87kg, S Works Tarmac, Training wheelset, winter clothes, 1 full water bottle, after a day off – fresh
As you see, setting PR is a lot more complex than just pushing hard (or doing an FTP/fitness test in a controlled environment).
Even though my power was higher and I was 1kg lighter during my latest attempt (Nov 2013), the cold weather cost me almost 4min!!!
Besides trying to push up to my ‘redline’ such a climb is a nice exercise in optimizing my racing weight and equipment, freshness and fatigue balance.
The best time for a personal record (PR) on your favorite climb would be at a healthy weight (not malnourished…), with the lightest equipment you have available and on a windless warm day, after a day off or an easy week of training. It is a combination of all those factors that ultimately lead to a PR. Power and fitness are only a part of the equation. Oh and course knowledge in order to pace efficiently, however, since it is your favorite climb, I assume you know where you are going.
I plan on doing a test probably around February/March 2014 to see how my fitness is developing (weather permitting of course). Most likely I will do it on my winter bike (2kg, 4.4lbs heavier) and my true attempt at a PR would be April/May with all the bells and whistles (light racing wheelset, minimum water, etc.). From fellow cyclists I hear that the best time so far is in the realm of 42minutes, so if I go by my rough calculations of 4-5s per each additional watt, I should be able to come close. Bring on the challenge!!!
SRM (Battery) Problem Solving
After refusing to wake up, without showing the typical signs of dying batteries (shifting and/or unstable Zero Offset value) I was freaking out the most valuable training tool at my disposal, was just a pile of dead electronics. SRM claims 1400h or 2 years of battery life under normal conditions, so the 13ish months of regular use, after the last battery change, were pointing me in the direction of more serious problems…
In any case, all the (determined) user, myself included, can do is change the batteries. I couldn’t make it worse than not working… So first things first…buy new batteries…check.
Opening up the SRM…check
The moment of truth…measuring the old batteries…CHECK!!! 2.5V instead of the 3.65V of the new units. Needless to say I was pretty happy. After some quick soldering and Voila, it paired up with my Garmin Edge 500!
So as a conclusion, the way I see it, a SRM power meter is a pretty robust unit, so most problems can be traced to dead batteries.
It was a more intense week than what I consider as regular during the off-season/base period. The upcoming snowing weather made me adjust my training. Therefore after an intense week it is time to let my body absorb all the fitness (aka days off and recover), so next week I am taking a short vacation and going to do a FTP Confirmation Test to cap a nice 5 week training cycle.
The Dream is Alive!