Numbers, Numbers, Numbers, Watts, Watts, Watts. by bkusler on flickr
Not sure if you’re training effectively? Have some ambitious goals for the season but feel like your racing has plateaued? Cyclocross Magazine’s Kenton Berg has been stuck in this situation and decided to seek professional help. This is his third entry. Read his previous entry here.
Numbers, numbers, numbers…I’ve got tons of graphs and numbers now. So what does this all add up to? As it turns out all the rides with the little yellow computer on my bike will add up to something. Right now I’m working on building my fitness towards cyclocross season and continually integrating rides with the “crew,” races, and those miserable suffer sessions from my training plan into the big picture. As this all gets put together, a nice little profile of my capabilities (in watts) is being established and this will help Coach Kristi fine tune my training plan and figure out if I’m making progress or not.
To that end, what we’ve found so far is that my base fitness (endurance and tempo riding) is very good, and the crit race data showed that my short-term power is good, but the longer threshold efforts and the real high-end “bursty” power is what I lack right now. So based on that, you can imagine what my plan is going to start looking like.
With that in mind Kristi and I had a talk about the coming weeks and what all this meant. Being new to the game of power I wasn’t fully aware of how the numbers would start to add up to show improvement or how she would be using them to keep the right workouts coming to balance my current fitness with the needs of ‘cross. But basically it works like this…once the base fitness is established the work begins on the higher-end efforts. This includes increasing the time and intensity for threshold efforts (the watts you can hold for periods of 30-60 min) as well as starting to take the efforts a step higher into the VO2 max area. It turns out that pushing these two areas higher in effort compliment each other. As you can imagine, once you start to see good power data in one zone, say threshold, you can then begin to push and challenge the VO2 max zone and build on that. The pushing of the higher zone will bring along the lower zone and the overall fitness will improve.
Along with that, Kristi will be monitoring the wattage numbers for each particular workout to see if I’m showing signs of fatigue (decrease in wattage or not being able to hit a certain area) or if other red flags show up. This is one aspect of power based training that isn’t usually talked about. We all like to hear about how the gains show up and how the numbers get bigger, but having a tool that can really show you when you are not going well is just as big a benefit. Heart rate just can’t be relied upon due to its variability from things like heat, illness, and dehydration on any given day. The real feedback is the power you put to the pedals (watts) and that comes from the muscular level and is a constant – you can either put the power to the pedals or you can’t.
Kenton Berg racing at Star Crossed 2008. by Susan Berg
So where does that leave me today? How about going on vacation. As fate would have it, after getting dialed in and making some headway in my training, along comes a long-planned vacation. I’m psyched and will be riding my bike, but it does throw a monkey wrench into the training plan. This is one aspect of working towards some goals that I hadn’t put much thought into until it was time to prep for a trip to Indiana to my in-laws. As I looked at my plan, it called for a lot more riding during that week than would be possible given I would only have access to an indoor bike at the local gym.
Well, I’ll update you on the next go around with how this deviation went and what I did to make the most of it. Such is the life of the wannabe competitive cyclist - distractions, distractions, distractions!