Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Where is the nearest bridge off which I can leap?

I know that a lot of people are going to disagree with this next sentence, but here it goes: I miss 2016.  This could be highly controversial, especially in the cycling world, but last year was warm.  The winter here in Vermont was dry and sunny and I rode my bike outdoors for almost every workout.  It was awesome.  This year, no so much.

In past blogs I have talked a lot about training indoors and the importance of having a good space, of having music or Netflix and of course a strong fan and towel.  But as the winter drolls on (and on and on) this year I get more and more comments from our riders about the perceived differences between indoor and outdoor training.  In the olden days of yore, we just suffered through it all, but with today's power meters and high tech data collection, every single pedal stroke can be tracked and analyzed.

When I was first starting to ride indoors, Reagan was President (!) and we were all just dumb jocks but now all of the bike racers are smart and stuff and finish high school and some of them even have amazingly advanced college degrees.  A bunch of over achievers, really.  With that knowledge often comes the stress of comparing numbers and watts and the unneeded pressure and judgement that accompanies it all.  Before we going any further, let's make something perfectly clear:

Bicycles are meant to be ridden outdoors.

I know, radical thought huh.  I am crazy like that.  The breadth of indoor trainers available nowadays is pretty amazing though but they are still limited to their performance quality and the maximum amount of watts that can be applied and absorbed by the trainer.  Add into that things like tire slippage on traditional flywheel type trainers and those numbers go down a little bit more.

A little out dated but you get the idea.
But seriously, some of our clients get really upset when their "numbers don't match up" and the reality is that to a certain degree they are correct.  You know who you are.  Below is a chart I ginned up on the amazingly adaptable WKO4 software that shows a power duration curve and compares the month of January between one of our mid-Atlantic region athletes who has mixed weather and switches from indoors to outdoors every few days.  

Indoors versus outdoors power curve
What you can really easily see from this graph is how for the very short duration there is in fact a noticeable difference between the indoor and outdoor power numbers, all the way to about 40 seconds.  Even then, this rider is still crushing 1000 watts for his pMax value and almost 800 for 20 seconds; not too shabby for indoors.  After that, the numbers get very close for the longer duration and eventually even meet at the end. 

If we chart out a few of this rider's critical numbers, we can also see some subtle differences:
The "Mean Maximal Power" for the shorter time periods does in fact have a slight difference, but the long duration is exactly the same.  Most importantly, the Modeled Functional Threshold Power is only 6% different, which is really not much at all.

Now this same athlete did a very long group ride during this time period where he coasted almost 30% of the time for a total of over an hour.  That is awesome and sounds like a lot of fun!  However, there is no coasting on an indoor trainer.  Combine that with the fact that you are probably overheated because your fan is not as strong as say, the outdoors and your heart rate and perceived level of exertion is higher than normal and well, riding indoors sucks.  Here is another mind blower:

I don't care about a 6% difference.

I don't set up different training ranges for indoors versus outdoors because aside from these charts being a major pain in the butt to process, doing your training and making the efforts as best as possible still has a very positive effect on your fitness and your skills; I can assure you that riding 5 minutes indoors at 315 watts stings just as much as 341 outdoors.  As soon as the weather clears or you are willing to brave the cold (yuck) then you will adapt to the terrain again and everything will come out in the wash, so to speak.  You will be fine.  It is shocking how many riders just chose to skips the indoor sessions completely and watch TV.  Like say, me.

I guess all of this rambling on is basically me saying that indoor training is just that: indoor training.  It will all be over soon, so do your best and it will all work out fine.
Ok, maybe some indoor workouts are brutal. Pic by USA Track
Thanks for reading, see you next week.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cyclocross World Championships!

Short blog today, I have to write a few articles and I don't want to sprain a finger or something.  Seriously, it could happen.

This coming weekend are the cyclocross world championships in Bieles, Luxumbourg.  I talked about it at length last week when we announced how Rebecca will be racing.  Which is PRETTY FREAKING AWESOME.  Anyhow, in addition to Rebecca, there will be something like 30 Americans and 13 Canadians racing as well.  Although don't quote me on those numbers.  But a lot.  

There will be racing in a few different categories:
          • Elite Men
          • Elite Women
          • Youth Women aged 17-22
          • Men Under 23
          • Junior Men aged 17-18 
The young women's category is actually new starting last year.  In the past there was no race for 17-18 year old women and the U23 girls basically got thrown to the wolves with the seasoned pros.  Although sometimes they won, so whatever.  The UCI is slow to adapt.

Anyhow, if you don't mind getting up early on Saturday and Sunday and trying to find a way to live stream the races on your computer, then it would be awesome to watch these races.  Here is the schedule from the UCI.  All times are CET, so it is -6 from HQ and -9 from Oregon.  #early

For the uninitiated, "official training" basically means course inspection for the riders; the time when you get to review the course and see what it is like.  The "UCI course inspection" is literally when the international officials inspect the course.  Everything is backwards over there.  That is actually a monstrous amount of preview time and the only way it could be better is if it was separated by fields.  

Our friend Lane Maher from Connecticut will be racing in the junior men's race and could probably score a top 10 if he has a good day.  The Americans have all of the favorites for the women's 17-22 race and along with the British returning champion there is a pretty solid chance we will understand the podium interviews.

Of course Rebecca will be in the women's race and she and a few others you may recognize from all season, including a few Canadians, will have great chances for a decent results.

And umm, the men's races.  Whatever.  Thank goodness for the chicks.

Look to our social media accounts on Friday and early Saturday for links to watch the coverage if possible.  All during the season, we needed one of those IP address changers to make the internet think we were from the Netherlands due to something called "Geo-Blocking".  Dumb.  See you this weekend!

Thanks for reading.

Safety first.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Less of a blog, more of a press release!

Hey everyone.  Today is technically blog day, but we have some pretty cool news and I thought that all four of the people that read this would like to share in the excitement!  We are very excited to say that one of our elite cyclocross riders has been selected to represent our country at the upcoming cyclocross World Championships in Bieles, Luxembourg.
Tubeless tires at the world champs.  Cool.

Rebecca Fahringer, riding for the Amy D Foundation Team will race the 50 minute event on Saturday January 28th.  We are pretty excited.  This is pretty cool since only five US women are chosen and the moderately complicated qualification process started at the first UCI C1 race in Rochester back in early September and ended this past weekend in lovely downtown Hartford.  Ah, the wonderful places that sport will bring you.

Speaking of armpits in the middle of nowhere, Luxembourg is one of those weird ancient countries in Europe that still has a King or something.  It is actually 20% smaller than Rhode Island.  Seems about perfect for the hard-core working class type of sport that was the origins of cyclocross.  
Those countries always have "u" in them.
The training build up to a world championships like cyclocross is actually not much different from any other race this year.  The weather and course will be very similar to what the riders have seen so far, actually I feel a slightly colder version of the Race Formerly Known As Providence back in October.  You may remember Rebecca took the podium there.  You may remember the boots.
I assume pic by Nick Cz.  Used without permission.  :)
So training and racing will go as normal albeit a few tweaks to prepare Rebecca for the specifics of the event; no details here as this is pretty much top secret stuff and there may be spies for other countries reading this blog.  It is possible.  That would mean five people.

When the road racing world championships were held in Qatar in October of this year, the preparation for that race was really different.  At over 150 miles in length and held in 120 temperatures of an almost completely flat course, there were stories of riders doing epic long rides and then climbing into saunas to help prepare themselves for the abusive heat and conditions.  Yuck.
Laying pipe jokes are my favorite.
Rebecca leaves tomorrow for Italy where she will race in the World Cup there and then back to Belgium for another World Cup in Hoogerheide the following Sunday.  From there, it is a short six days to the World Championships.  Just the biggest race of her career, no sense in being rested.  But seriously, the racing is part of the build up; cycling is not like running or triathlons were there are long taper periods.  It is more like Formula 1 car racing, engines run best when hot. 

Racing in cycling world championships are weird.  Everyone will wear a Team USA kit, but in reality, only one person gets to either win or even have a good race.  Add in the nature of cyclocross racing itself, and the team aspect goes right out the window.  So you have to race for yourself even though you are racing for your Country.  It is a delicate balance and the competitive process getting to this point is sharp and competitive.  Unless you are from Belgium, they seem to pull off racing as a team and winning.  They are usually short though, so it all evens out.
Sven Nys, 2013.  Like it's hard.
This blog is wandering a little bit today.  But please congratulate Rebecca whenever you get a chance and if you are feeling generous, donate to the Amy D Foundation to support woman's cycling development and a good cause.  It is a legit charity, so please give early and often.  We will post information on how to watch the race from your home.  Yikes.

Thanks for reading, see you next week.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

I always add an "r" to the name of this race.

One of our favorite client-athletes is a quiet guy from a fishing town in New Brunswick, Canada named Andre Landry.  The rider that is, not the town.  You may remember reading about him and his exploits at the Leadville 100 on this blog last year or even his training camp back in March.  Humphf, we seem to blog about Andre a lot.  Andre is one of our favorites because he is a helluva bike racer, a helluva nice guy and is kinda funny in a quiet way.  In addition to being a long time client of ours, he also has a sweet van.  
Not the actual van.  Nor the actual Andre.  Still sweet.

An Autumn Goal
This year however, Andre couldn't get away for that race in Colorado, so he concentrated his efforts on one of eastern Canada's hardest and more prestigious marathon mountain bikes called the Elgin 120 in early October of this year.  It is a very difficult and long mountain bike race that is a full 120 kilometers long.  For those of us South of the Border, that is a crushing 75 miles.  On a mountain bike.  NOT ON ROADS.  Yikes.  Well, Andre won this race, and we are here to chat about it today!
Successful Lessons Learned
Of course in 2015 Andre had won this race, so he was especially motivated to repeat his victory in 2016; anyone can win a race once, but a true champion wants to crush souls every time they toe the line.  Back then, Andre had a companion for almost 80km until he was finally able to ride away so we went into the event with a different mindset.  In the past the competition was strong enough that "riding" away from someone was too much of a risk for victory so we adjusted his training to both include the massive ability to resist fatigue as well as the high end intensity required to be race ready.  It was a little tricky.
 This chart from WKO4 shows the 90 day lead in to the race and Andre's Performance Management Chart highlighted on the day before the race.  You can see he has a very high 99 TSS CTL (fitness) value but with a well rested 64 ATL (fatigue).  It is critical that a rider doing such an event this long and difficult is recovered well but maintains the fitness needed to survive such an event.  You can also see some of the highlighted power values that Andre was knocking off as well.  Very strong but for this particular event, very fit and rested.

Yet Another Chart
Now, one of the other charts we use for Andre and his type of racing is one that tracks the 42 day long rolling average of Andre's Intensity Factor of his rides.  This is the ratio of the Normalized Power of a ride into the rider's Functional Threshold Power.  Basically how hard the ride is.  You see, we can get a huge CTL number with just very long easy rides, but the athlete still won't be race ready, just skinny. Big difference.  Called the Chronic Intensity Load it shows us how hard Andre is training at any given point, including a trending value (SLR) and how those number coincide with each other.
When you look at that blue line along the top of the chart, you can see how the difficulty of Andre's training peaked just as the date of his race was approaching; but also exactly as we were tapering his volume to make sure he was rested.  You see, coaching and racing is also a bit of an art as well as a science.  Winky face.
In His Words 
"On the first climb I went a bit harder and managed to drop the last two riders in the first short single-track and I then kept the pressure on for the first 40k loop to get a good gap.  From there I just kept the pressure on the climbs and rode my pace for the single-track sections not taking any unnecessary risk."
Gosh, I love this.  You see, Andre has a tremendous capacity for work in training and in racing so for this sort of event he is a coach's dream.  All we have to do is give him some tools to use on race day and he just goes out and destroys the competition: lots of hours, lots are hard workouts, lots of winning.  Lots.  But by giving Andre the high intensity ability to drop his competition but with that crazy high fitness level to keep in up, then he was impossible to beat.
Admittedly, Andre was going so hard that he might have forgotten to eat enough during the race and darn near bonked himself to the sidelines, but he was able to recover in time so we forgive him.  Kinda. 
He was a little bit hungry.
 We are very proud of Andre all year long and his willingness to train hard and of course his trust in Finish Fast Cycling to tailor his training especially for his goal events.  Thanks Andre!  If you want to be like Andre, then give us a call!  And learn French, and carpentry, and plumbing and how to drive a plow.  A lot of stuff really.
Thanks for reading and hopefully we will see you next week!
PS: "The Jtrain."  Wouldn't be the same if I didn't mention her at least once.  😍