Coming back down to earth

Saturday I am planning to undertake my third power test since starting the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan. The first one was to set a baseline. The second one was to confirm whether the baseline was accurate and to recalibrate my power zones for more effective training. This third one has only one purpose — to report here on Low Cadence if the TCCP made any measurable difference. Right now I’m just hoping that my power meter allows me to find that out.

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Back when I did the first 2012 Greenville Spinners Summer Time Trial Series attempt, I had the mechanic take a look at my bike. He looked at me in shock as he examined the chain rings. He pointed out to me the gap that was showing between the chain and the teeth. The chain was stretched and the teeth had been turned into shallow depressions. It was time to replace the rings.

I made the change and then went out to ride. At first it didn’t stand out to me, but then I went out to do some SteadyState and ClimbingRepeat work. Immediately I sensed something was wrong. I was producing 380 watts breathing through my nose. Still, when I got home I found that I was landing PRs right and left. Now my climbs up Paris Mountain were consistently 15 – 20 seconds less than they were before the chain ring change.

So, was I putting out more power and getting the faster times? Obviously I was, but the question was more was I producing that much MORE power? I was convinced after climbing Paris Mountain in 12:18 at 436 watts average that my meter was off. My best estimate is that it should have taken no more than a 350 watts average to get that time.

Well, today, I hope to have an answer. I’m taking the power meter to get calibrated. It would appear that several things could be in play here. First, the slack chain and shallow teeth could have affected the force I was able to apply. Second, the rings themselves may have began flexing. The new rings are now stiffer and the force is better applied with the new teeth and chain.

My guess is that the power meter was off from its original settings because of the wear on the rings. I’d be willing to bet that I was producing better watt averages than the meter was telling me. Now, the meter is thrown for a loop and with the ring changes is showing elevated averages. The truth I believe is probably somewhere in the middle — closer to the old ring averages.

All this means is that my FTP is going to have an asterisk beside it. A very important component of the measurement has altered. Still, I think it will be close enough to compare.

One thing I know for sure. It isn’t a question of whether the TCCP has helped. Just riding my bike convinces me of that! It is just a matter of measuring how much it has helped.

Another thing has come out of this. I believe the power meter lying to me actually has helped me ride faster. How could that be?

Whenever I see 350 watts or so on my meter while climbing warning bells go off in my head. I know I can only hold that for so long. However, I want the best time I can get, so I ride to the edge of that number. It gets me all worked up and I psyche myself out.

Well, when I look down at the computer and see 350 watts and I am feeling like I’m on top of the gears, I relax a bit more. Plus, at times when I would have been pushing myself and wearing myself down, I’m going slower (than I think I am) and have more left in the tank when it really matters. Before my power meter issues, I was consistently getting times in the 12:45 range up Paris Mountain. With my power meter issues, I am getting time consistently around 12:20. The meter might lie, but the clock doesn’t.

Thursday I took a different approach. I noticed on some of my recent better times that my cadence was around 85 rpm. Normally, my average cadence is in the mid-seventies. So, I decided not to pay attention at all to power and focus on holding 80+ rpm regardless of the slope. What do you know? I got a new 2012 Personal Record with a time of 12:18.

So, while it would be nice if my Strava.com 10 minute power was truly 433 watts. I have to tell you that is a lie. Knowing my power meter is off has certainly brought me back down to earth. However, I see a sub-twelve minute climb up Paris in my very near future… I’ll take that 370 watt average!