Time trial performance

I’ve had it! No more aero bars for me. And this time I’ll stick with this decision.

Why the outburst? Last year in Manchester I rode my 750m TT on sprint bars. And I just sucked. My time was .5 seconds slower than a year before.  After a quick analysis of the data (the 2013 and 2014 lines in below graph) I managed to convince myself I’d do better
with aero bars. Everyone else rely on them relies on them so why not I.

TT performanceThis year I did ok. Not as well as I wanted to, but ok. In addition it felt like I had a decent start so I was anxious to see my splits. Unfortunatly it seems to take forever for the official results books to appear online. A friend of mine had taken a video of my ride so good, I was able to hand time my sections. The data I got out of it speaks volumes.

The above graph illustrates the average speeds for different 125m sections of the 750m TT.  The green colour line represents this year’s race. As you see my top speed has improved quite a bit, which quite frankly is not a huge surprise considering where the focus of my training has been: 60% of my training volume has been in short sprints. Back in 2013 I spent a lot of time doing 45-60 second efforts to develop my anaerobic capacity. That is the story behind the red tail not declining quite as much as the other two. Comparing the red line to the blue led me to believe I’d be better off with aero bars. Seemed like I was able to hold the speed better when on skies. That was a good theory. Unfortunately 2015 data does not seem to agree with it. Now my current theory is I was better holding the speed towards the end because back then my anaerobic capacity was relatively better than my anaerobic power, not because of the equipment.

TT powerBefore I had the 2015 splits I put together a graph of power duration curves comparing the 2014 ride against this year’s data. There’s one thing to understand when reading this chart: This year I missed a good 4 seconds from the start, due to the recording delay of the SRM. Because of that I’m lacking few data points that would most probably lift the tail of the green line just a bit. If you compare the info from this to the info from the split chart you can clearly see the what an impact of my focus on short sprints have had on the entire speed graph.

Comparing my performance with the competition it is clear that aero bars are not the solution to my biggest problem in the 750m time trial. A 21 second opening lap is not going to cut it, especially when my competition is at 19 seconds. Why the hell I am so slow then? Poor start technique is surely one reason. Another is the gear. Time trial setupEach year I have added one teeth to the chain ring. The third, and final, takes me back to handlebars. My arms are really long. Therefore it is really hard to create a setup in which the base bar is low enough to ensure my torso, which is not that small either, does not act as a sail when trying to collect speed.

So back to sprint bars it is. This time for good! If nothing else, at least I feel at home with them. Something I cannot say about the aero bars.



Quick wrap up of the season

My racing for the season 2015 is now officially over. Good that it is, as the past week came at me with the gloves off. I’m sore all over, strained, bruised and patched and do not remember needing an off period as bad as I do now.

The last race, Master’s World Championships in Manchester was packed with action. The action part started already during my first F200m effort. I was cruising through the first bend and suddenly the rear wheel slipped under me. I walked away with stiff leg and extremely frustrated.

This moment is yoursThe second incident and a defining moment took place during my second heat. The riding style of my opponent was really aggressive from the beginning. We started the 3rd lap running at about 45kmh when he suddenly decided to rail me in the 1st corner. I hit the wall and slide down the track. Getting off my bike I felt absolutely furious. The last time I’ve been that bent out of shape was 20 some years ago!

That evening at the hotel I was sure the crash ended the comps for me. Getting to bed was agonizing. My right side was a mess: I had a strained back and deltoid, bruised piriformis and gluteus medius, something really weird going on with my knee, mild whiplash strain in my neck and severe road rash. I was not sure if I’d have the strength to get up.

The morning came and so did the will. This is what we Finns call Sisu, pure determination. Not giving up. Freddy Mercury’s “I face it with a grin, I’m never giving in, on with the show…” in my mind I decided to grit my teeth, keep my cool and not give away any glues about my condition.  Armed with a bunch of 800mg dozes of ibuprofen I head to battle.

IMG_2074 (1)I was able to ride through semifinals with two straight wins. The gold medal battle was tough. In the 3 rides for the gold I was able to put up a decent fight. Eventually my win was not the race itself, but rather over pain. The Silver medal in M45-49 Sprint now symbolises this mind over matter victory.

Despite all the incidents the Master’s Worlds was a great event! It is well organized, gives an opportunity to meet loads of great people and make new friends. Racing alone is a lot of fun, but racing with friends is such a ball! I do not know any better way to end the season!

In my next post I’ll dig in to my results and see what the numbers tell me. Stay tuned!

How much volume?

It has not been very clear to me how much training volume I can tolerate before it starts to carry a toll on my speed. This summer changed all that.

I’ve been measuring my weekly training volume with two different meters: The length of actual sprint work (in seconds), and training stress score (TrainingPeaks). During the past few months I have begun to understand that first, there is a limit in how much hammering my body can take, and second, it is far less than I thought it to be.

Below I have attached graphs that illustrate the training stress score given by two applications, the TrainingPeaks.com and the new training analytics app WKO4. I will talk more about the new WKO4 in a later post. In short I think it is a clear upgrade to the old WKO+ and has new features I find particularly useful for track cyclist.

TSS and best performances

The first chart is a combination of few things. The green bars illustrate the development of my training stress score in WKO4 from mid April to date. Unfortunately this is not fully accurate presentation of TSS as there was several occasions I did not get any data from my efforts, either due to human error or problems with the head unit. At some point I realised my Garmin Edge 800 was somewhat sensitive to other power meters and amongst other things recalibrate the zero offset regardless the disabled functionality. Anyways, for additional reference I have attached a second graph which takes into account also manual entries of TSS score.

TrainingPeaks TSS

Back to the first chart. The yellow section is something I added manually to capture the underlying SPP program: Three times 3 weeks progressive loading and unloading week. That pattern comes more apparent in the small chart on the right. The last bit of information is in the small dots you see in the upper half of the chart. Those represent the five best performances (power) in different time frames during the four month period.

The interpretation then. The first interesting phenomenon happened the first week of June during the off-loading week. This was after my second intensification cycle. These power figures came from an indoor session on a trainer. I was hitting personal bests in all monitored time frames! I had one more cycle to go before I’d move my focus solely on speed! Seemed like everything was going just like planned.

Unfortunately that was not the case. The planned last cycle did not bring any further improvements, quite the contrary. The speed intensification section at the end of the cycle made things look even worse. I just dug myself deeper in a hole. My tapering for Nationals seemed to go well and I thought I was in shape. Yet the planned peak did not arrive until a week after nationals, when I broke my previous outdoors records. By the looks of those dots it seems things are getting better by the week. What happened in between and why did I fail to notice the trend before?

The summer here has been the crappiest ever. I did not get to ride outside ’till the week of June 8th, the start of my last three week period. I was so sick of riding on a trainer I tried to take advantage of every opportunity to ride outside. This meant training and racing in a fairly low 14-18C temperatures. Usually the low temperature was accompanied with wind. This was the case even for the Nationals Sprint Comp. I have tried avoiding cold weather riding the best I can, as it carries a toll on power output. It is just impossible to stay warm enough. Then speed drops because of the loss of power and due to higher air density. Needless to say what declining speed is to sprinter.

So basically what happened was I thought the lower performance I saw in between early June and early August was a result of bad weather. Furthermore, I knew the intensification of speed work could cause a temporary setback in performance and hence did not think there was a need to change the plan. How deep of a hole I had put myself did not become clear to me until the week after Nats.

I suppose it is false to say the work did not produce the expected result as clearly it did. The timing was the bigger problem. Furthermore, when being in the middle of it I never considered the volume to be that high. After all last summer I was running 15-30% more volume all summer, but I was also out from the gym because of the hernia! Still I would make a claim that my tolerance for high intensity work is lower, not because of the gym, but because of the increased intensity. I’m constantly training with bigger gears than last year. I’m also producing more power with them than last year with smaller ones.

It has become a custom of mine to list few points as key take aways. I will continue my preparations towards Master’s Worlds with these in mind:

  • It seems three 3+1 week cycles within the SPP is too much. My lifts are at such a level I can reach my max within two cycles, if the base building is done properly. This 7 week scheme is what Charlie Francis proposes and from now on I will stick to that.
  • The speed intensification after the last 3 week period should not last longer than a week and deserves an unloading week before start. I’m in the middle of trying this out. I will report the results later.
  • My tapering scheme worked fine. It produced a peak, although a week later than planned.
  • Less is more!!

I have 4 more weeks to Masters Worlds. I hope my interpretation of data and above assumptions are accurate. Time(s) will tell!