Sunday, February 24, 2008

Four days left...

Another week has gone and I've got three full days and a traveling day left of my Tucsonian vacation. After realizing that I was on the edge of overtraining, I decided to drop down on volume and even take a few days completely off. That was probably a wise decision. I didn't rest till the point where I got ants in my pants, as I had only a week left in this warm cyclists paradise. I've ridden on SRM for a week now and I find it very hard to resist the temptation of going moderate to hard, when you have that wattage display right in front of your eyes. I still have to figure out my goal wattage/HR for Roth Ironman on July 13th. The way I'm gonna find out is by field testing and Gradual Exercise Tests (GXT). I do the GXT regularly as part of warming up for indoor training sessions. I've just tried Peter Riis Andersens test protocol: Start out at 100 watts and increase the workload 20 watts every 3 minutes until you're unable to finish a three minute step.
(I don't know when Peter Riis is maxing out, but I think his one hour watts are 360 W and I know for sure that he did 415 watts for 18 minutes in the TT of Tour of Denmark in 2006!)
My brother Peter finishes the 360 watt step, but there's still a long way to 400+ watts.
Of course this type of testing doesn't take your body weight into account and will obviously benefit a bigger rider compared to a smaller rider. Testing and real life performance are not comparable, as some riders are test-world -champions and falters in competition, but works well as intra-individual benchmarking to monitor progress in training and to help set up new training zones.
I listen carefully to my breathing pattern. When my breathing starts to get deeper and heavier, I know I'm close to my first ventilatory threshold (VT1). I can still speak in sentences at this intensity, but I'll have to concentrate on the task as it's not easy at all. This will be somewhere around my IM target zone, as I'm able to work here for a prolonged time. Here's a good mix of fat/CHO utilization and a lot of my training should be contributed to developing the bike position and enzyme systems involved, over the next couple of months. 
If I move forward with the test, my heavy breathing suddenly increases and my ability to speak is reduced to very short sentences or just single words. There's a distinct point where you kind of loose control over your breathing pattern and this could be your second ventilatory threshold (VT2). Well trained athletes can spend close to an hour at this intensity and a lot of experienced athletes pays close attention to their breathing patterns during racing. The longer the race, the more important to stay within your limits. Of course race tactics can force you to go past your limits for a while, but be prepared to pay the price later on. 
When I was running marathons, I never had the speed to win, so I just went into TT-mode from the start, being left behind by a lot of runners. But as the race started to settle at mile 10, I was overtaking a lot of them for the rest of the race. The beauty is that you can even- or negative split the marathon distance this way. I think I split 1.16.05 and 1.16.25 for the Danish Championships, in Copenhagen, once. And even though the other runners were supposed to be experienced runners, a lot of them sounded like they were doing a 10 km race and faded badly towards the end. 
So a GXT gives you a fairly good idea of your lower and higher aerobic/anaerobic threshold and the nice thing is that you can do it as part of your warm up, if you don't go all out, and use the current numbers for the rest of your workout.  I then take my estimates out on the road and try and stay on the light side of the limits for a start, especially if I'm doing +30 minutes efforts. I'm not very disciplined and too often I get carried away by going too hard too soon and the training is either too hard or I'll have to reduce the specific set. OK for single rides, when you have diamonds in your legs, but bad for long term training, as you're recovery increases.
My SRM unit is a little unreliable for the moment, I think, so I'm relying more on heart rate and perceive effort, but I have a rough idea that I can ride 250 watts/145 bpm for an extended time (though I have yet to prove it...) and 280-300 watts for up to an hour.
The last few days I've had some 20 minutes efforts at 250-280 watts and some very time limited efforts in the 300 watts+ area. All on flat roads, which is a lot harder than going uphill. It all felt okay, but there's a huge difference (almost exponential) in metabolism when you increase your watts slightly, so don't judge yourself on the occasional 1-3 minute all out effort. (When Christian Poulsen was training here in Tucson, as preparation for the Athens Olympics(?), he wanted to go to the slopes of Mt. Lemmon to do his AT training as it was so much easier for him to reach his target HR).
So today I went to Mt. Lemmon to see how long I'd last on 300+ watts...
My legs were surprisingly responsive, considering a hard day of cycling and running yeasterday and the switch to a low(er) carb diet. I started to raise the watts on Catalina Highway andcriss crossed 300 watts, =/-20 watts for about 10 minutes. After a short pee break I said a brief hello to Reg Dowdall (they were going up for the second time this morning, I think!)
I had "Apollo 440"s version of "I feel You", which is A LOT better than than the original song performed by Depeche Mode, I think, and it was very motivating.
If it was the audio motivation by "I feel You" that was to blame for over cooking it in the first few miles I don't know, but 330-350 watts just felt so easy... In my infinite wisdom, I decided to ignore the watt numbers and go by feel. I don't think the SRM unit cared at all, as it just kept slowing down the numbers proportionally with the burning in my legs and my heavy panting. At mile 4 I struggled to keep it 300 watts+, and at mile 5 I had to surrender...
I think I was blessed with a slight tailwind and the numbers was:
Mile 1: 4.46 (HR 148)
Mile 2: 4.38 (HR 159)
Mile 3: 4.23 (HR 163)
Mile 4: 4.41 (HR 163)
Mile 5: 4.48 (HR 164)
The information to take home was that I'm able to go close to 25-30 minutes at 300 watts average on a moderate climb. My heart rate was lower than expected, which leads me to think that I hadn't recovered enough from the last few days of training. I was hurting good, that's
for sure! After an easy mile I tried to pick up the pace a little again, but had to settle in at 240-260 watts (5.30 avr. miles/150 avr. HR) for the remaining 9 miles up to Windy Point. In fact I was going so slow that I was being overtaken by this small girl that was hauling ass. Had I been a steak I would have at least well done at Windy Point, so I ate all my bananas and Clif bars and went burping back down. My SRM software decided to screw up again, loosing a lot of data, so all of the data recording was taken from my Polar watch. It pisses me off more than the flat tyre I had 5 miles from home... 
Anyways it was a good day of self inflicted pain in the 24 degrees sun.

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