Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A New Approach to Training – Part 2: The Bike

Continuing the series started with this post, today I’m going to talk about how I’m training differently on the bike since having started a coached training program.

Like all of my workouts since the first of the year, rides are characterized by bursts of intensity and then recovery. This is true at both the micro and macro level. By that, I mean that there will be intense periods within a workout followed by recoveries intervals as well as full recovery weeks. Given how hard some of these workouts are, I think the recovery periods have been a key factor in staying healthy—i.e.: not injured.

Fundamental Changes

A couple of years ago, I actually invested some time in bike intervals doing multiple repeats out on the bone-jarring roads at Cherry Creek Reservoir. While I didn't much enjoy riding on the bumpy surface, I did get the benefit of improving my speed. When I ran the 2012 Greeley Triathlon I was second in my age group off the bike having been beaten only by the guy who one the division by a comfortable margin. It was a course well suited to sprinting being only 10 miles long and mostly flat.

Unfortunately, I did not stay with that effort figuring that it made more sense to just go for long rides as I prepared to do my first 70.3 race. Until I got back into it this year, I had not done anymore purposeful intervals. Hills on a long ride create a natural interval, of course, but on the trainer, I just got on and rode.

When my coach and I started working together this year, he gave me my workouts with some specific intervals and sections. Like all my workouts, they begin with a warm-up which is usually just some easy spinning and no specific heart rate target. Main sets consist of either a strength building series of repetitions or a set marked by high cadence. Both typically come with a set goal for both RPM and HR. So far, we have not used power, but I think that will be more likely when I start doing more and more outdoor rides.

I’ve gotten through all of the rides okay and they are starting to increase in time each week. All but one have been indoors which is testimony to what a lousy winter it has been here in Colorado. No, we’re not in the middle of the polar vortex, but even weekends (especially weekends) have been particularly nasty. The good news is that I can do a lot to control the terrain I’m riding in and more specifically meet the targets assigned to me by my coach.


Three years ago I started using my first Trainer. It was a Schwinn branded (yes, Schwinn) magnetic trainer that was pretty basic. I used gearing to change my resistance and while not ideal, it gave me a place to ride when it was cold and dark outside.

Back in November, I bought a Wahoo KICKR trainer which has proven to be more useful than I could have imagined. I figured its greatest use would be in its ability to simulate real world courses through one of the services out there. So far, I have not subscribed to a service, but I have adjusted hill grade and wind speed to create resistance as needed. It also has a built-in power meter which is affording me power metrics for the first time ever.

I suppose it’s true that once you start using power, it’s hard to go without. Considering the desirability of having a metric that can be consistent despite wind and hills, I’ve decided to go with a Stages model mounted to a SRAM Rival OCT crankset. They are back-ordered on the model so I’ll have to wait a few more weeks and then take to the LBS for installation, but well ahead of my first race, I should have power data both inside and outside.

Net Improvement

This is a tough one to measure. I doubt my average speed is anywhere near where it was last year at this time, but I’m just as sure that my average power output is considerably higher. Since I wasn't measuring power last year, there’s no way to say for sure. But I know I never had a workout where I would have to mash my pedals at a low 65-75 rpm and drive my HR into upper Zone 3/lower Zone 4. I also was riding at much lower cadences on my normal rides whereas now I’m something like 10 to 15 rpm higher.

Of course the real test will be race day, about two months from now. I am hopeful that all of this training will propel me two or three miles per hour faster than in past years at the SOST. Time will tell.

The run is probably one of the more interesting aspects of my training and clearly an area where I’m making great strides—literally!

As always, thanks for reading!

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