Tag Archives: Power

Virtual Power Passport

Earlier this fall, I started thinking of how I could pull off an event for the I Do It For Foundation. I have conducted a Ride For Mike ride each year since 2007. Normally, I get hit with some epic type ride early in the year and carry it out around this time of year. This year, I wanted to incorporate Zwift.

Of course, each ride has a fund raising component. As I have been trying to move the foundation forward, I have been raising money for the operational expenses of the organization. Since we give the service to our Doers to raise funds for someone they love, we have no way of covering our expenses. This has held us back to a degree.

My thought was to stage a race. We would have people sign an entry fee and get a number. They would then append that number to their names on the Zwift leader board. We’d have a race and then a portion of the money raised would go as a payout to the various places.

I approached Zwift with my idea and as usual they were very quick in responding and gave me some great honest feedback. That feedback was basically that until there was a way to physically proctor a race you would be inviting cheating — 100% for certain. I did also get some insight into where Zwift would like to go in this regard.

It got me to thinking. “Okay, so maybe I can’t have a race with a payout. However, if I were to do such a thing, how would I go about doing it?” So, I created this form as a basis for discussion and possible implementation. After posting it in the Zwift Riders group on Facebook (closed group), I definitely got some feedback!

Over the next couple of days, I’d like to lay out what I was thinking. I want to point out right now that I’m not trying to set up some “virtual power passport clearinghouse” for all of Zwift. I was only wanting to conduct this experiment for this particular race series.

Also, let me point out that the feedback is good. While I will go forward to explain my original intent in each component, I’ve already determined that a couple of things will change. Some things will be taken away and some others added.

I still hope to have an I Do It For Foundation event on Zwift. Unfortunately, it won’t involve a payout.

You can put your heart rate into it

Today we are answering another question from a reader. I’ll answer it by showing how it would work based on my trainer session last night. We’ll see how training with power matches up with training with heart rate. Of course, I’ll end by giving my reasons why I choose power.

The question was specifically, “Can I use heart rate to train using the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan?” The answer is a definite, “Yes.” An approach using a heart rate plan runs parallel through the book. Here is how it works.

My power meter of choice

My power meter of choice

After you do your field test, you should arrive at two numbers. If you are using a power meter you will note your highest average wattage during the two 8 minute efforts. In my case, it was 260 watts during my most recent test. However, I also wear a heart rate monitor. The highest average beats per minute happened in my second effort (incidentally, it was also my lowest power average). The number was 183 bpm.

Once you have these numbers you map out your training zones. Let’s look at power first using my FTP of 260:

  • Endurance: 45% – 73% of FTP = 117w – 190w
  • Tempo: 80% – 85% of FTP = 208w – 221w
  • SteadyState: 86% – 90% of FTP = 224w – 234w
  • ClimbingRepeat: 95% – 100% of FTP = 247w – 260w
  • PowerInterval: 100% – MAX of FTP = 260w – 1500w

Now we’ll take may heart rate functional threshold and create a similar list of zones (using 183):

  • Endurance: 50% – 91% of FTP = 92bpm – 167bpm
  • Tempo: 88% – 90% of FTP = 161bpm – 165bpm
  • SteadyState: 92% – 94% of FTP = 168bpm – 172bpm
  • ClimbingRepeat: 95% – 97% of FTP = 174bpm – 178bpm
  • PowerInterval: 100% – MAX of FTP = 183bpm – 189bpm

Based on last night’s work out of averaging 117w – 190w (Endurance) for an hour with two 8 minute efforts between 224w – 234w (SteadyState) this is what we arrive at. The first column shows my average heart rate and the second my average power. I’m also including the lap break down of the 1 hour session.

  • Lap 1: 139bpm / 163w (warm up)
  • Lap 2: 169bpm / 243w (8 minute effort)
  • Lap 3: 151bpm / 129w (recover)
  • Lap 4: 173bpm / 249w (8 minute effort)
  • Lap 5: 163bpm / 177w (cool down)
  • ALL:   158bpm / 188w (1 hour)

Remember, I was doing this workout based on wattage. You can see that I averaged 188w for the entire hour. That puts me just 2 watts under the upper limit of the Endurance zone. My average heart rate was 158bpm. Let’s see how it matched up with my zone chart… The target is 92bpm – 167bpm and I landed in there with an average of 158bpm.

Let’s zoom in on the SteadyState efforts. That is where the range narrows a bit. The plan calls for wattage between 224w and 234w. Looking at the heart rate approach it would be beats per minute between 168bpm and 172bpm.

As you can see, at 243w and 249w I exceeded the wattage and fell between the SteadyState and ClimbingRepeat zones. Is that what we will see when we look at the heart rate data? At 169bpm and 173bpm we see that I fell right in line with what the plan called for.

Actually, the heart rate was more in line with the plan. I wonder had I taken the wattage down lower in the SteadyState interval if the heart rate would have held there or dropped. Either way, you can see that the approaches are very similar.

So, why do I use a power meter and not a heart rate monitor? Basically, it is because my power meter is inanimate. My heart isn’t. Power is power no matter how you feel. That is not always the case with your heart rate. Many things such as the stress of your day, your rest and temperature can have an effect on your heart rate.

Training with power is a more consistent way to train. Now, having said that, does that mean that Joe Athlete needs to go out and lay down the cash for a power meter? Emphatically, “No!” You can train very well with the heart rate approach.

That is the second reason that I train with a power meter. I have the opportunity to have one and it is fun to track all the data. It isn’t because I think that the little strain gauges attached to my crank are going to have me winning a national championship. Frankly, it is just another toy that makes riding my bicycle a bit more fun for me.

The important thing is that a heart rate monitor or a power meter can be used a tool of accountability. It helps you find a motivation to stay healthy by setting up a regular training approach. It then encourages you by giving you feedback to let you know that what you are doing actually works.

So, go out there an put your heart (rate) into it!

watts = (kg*9.8*e/t)+(kg*9.8*e/t)*r

watts = (kg*9.8*e/t)+(kg*9.8*e/t)*r

This is the formula to help me find my goal for Paris Mountain success. It isn’t perfect, but it gives me a pretty good idea of how many watts I need to average while climbing the 2 miles and change to the top of Altamont Road. I’ve been playing around with it and have started landing some consistent results between what my power meter records and what the physics tell me should happen.

Math Equations

Math and cycling does mix!

Saturday, I weighed in at around 195. No, I don’t weigh that much. That is Me + Clothing + Water bottles + Saddle bag + Bicycle. All 195 pounds of me headed down the road toward Paris Mountain. The plan for the day called for a couple of repeats up Altamont Road. Granted, I was going to be exceeding the time of 12 minutes the plan called for, but I wanted to go all the way to the top.

watts = (89*9.8*e/t)+(89*9.8*e/t)*r

The first part of my equation was in place. 195 pounds is equivalent to about 89 kilograms (88.63636 to be exact). Of course, gravity doesn’t change. So, the second part of the equation was in place a long time before I was ever born… 9.8. Each time you climb the mountain you feel its effects. It is always working against you to keep you from getting that time you want.

watts = (89*9.8*241/t)+(89*9.8*241/t)*r

Another constant was waiting for me as I turned right onto the well traveled road. I knew that I would be climbing 790 feet — or 241 meters — over the next 2 miles. Oddly, the distance doesn’t really factor into the equation. The distance can also vary from as short as 1.9 to 2.2 depending on how you take the turns to the top. Typically, the distance I cover is around 2.1 miles. Regardless, I was going to be climbing 790 feet.

It was now time to introduce the largest variable into the mix… time. Time working within the equation would make all the difference in the result. It was up to me to make it happen.

Because I didn’t push on my way to the mountain, I was feeling pretty good. I started the climb in a little harder gear than normal. My goal was to climb at a pace that would keep the pedals turning over and try to maintain my momentum to keep from getting bogged down.

As I reached the top of the water tower section I noticed I was sitting at around 3:30. That was good… or maybe it was bad. It was good because I normally come across that section about 15 seconds slower. It could be bad because that might mean I was pushing a little too hard too early.

Still, I kept feeling strong as I reached the false flat just before the halfway point. Nice! I reached the halfway point at about 5:45. I knew now that even if I finished the second half in my normal time, I would beat my more recent attempts.

I kept trying to keep my momentum, but I did have to shift to easier gears at points. I also lost track of time. At the section where I normally start faltering — about two-thirds up — I felt pretty good about my time. Still, I didn’t know how to judge if I was slipping back or keeping the good time. The base of the wall would be my answer.

I reached it in under 12 minutes. Now it was time to give it all I had up the wall. It is amazing how much time you can lose laboring up the steep grade. You have to save a little something for this section or it will crush you.

watts = (89*9.8*241/763)+(89*9.8*241/763)*r

12 minutes and 43 seconds was the time showing on my Garmin. That translates to 763 seconds — the measurement I needed to complete the equation. By the way, it was my best time of the year so far.

So, why don’t I have the watts listed? Well, take a look at that little “r”. It stands for resistance. It isn’t just gravity working against you. There are various forms of resistance keeping you from fighting just against the pull of the earth. Wind is one factor. Road surface is another. I also throw in there the variations of my power meter. It could be as much as 5 percent off of the actual physics involved.

I have arrived at “r” by doing repeated climbs and comparing the power meter wattage with the formula. Typically, you should add 10% to the formula. However, I found that all other variables being known, 10% was a little too low. At least on Paris Mountain I found 15% to 18% to consistently return an equation wattage comparable to what my power meter gives me.

323 watts = (89*9.8*241/763)+(89*9.8*241/763)*.17

Here is where the math can drive you crazy! You can start playing around with the variables to get an idea as to what type of wattage you need to put out in order to get a certain time. I’ve always dreamed of making the climb in 11:15. Just insert the time 675 seconds into the equation and you get a return of 366 watts. Can I hold 366 watts for that long?

You can also start playing around with other variables. For instance, what happens if I drop 5 pounds? Ah, 356 watts gets me to the top within my goal. Interestingly enough, I was about 5 pounds lighter when I made my personal best of 11:24. At that time, I averaged 352 watts to the top.

Of course, all the math goes out the window when you start the climb. The road is not a simple steady incline. You can’t just get on a track and hold a certain consistent average. Sometimes you are laboring to get the pedals to turn over while producing 450 watts. At other times you are spinning away looking for more gearing and down around 250 watts.

The math doesn’t help unless you have proper technique and fitness. However, this what makes it fun! You can always work to improve both of those and then you get to see the results of your labor in that one little result: watts = (kg*9.8*e/t)+(kg*9.8*e/t)*r.

The function of form

I’ve gotten to where I don’t really analyze my ride data until I get the file with mark ups from my coach, Jim Cunningham, of the Greenville Cycling Center. He ends up doing a much better job of finding the various efforts. Plus, I like the anticipation of finding out what he is going to say about my execution and progress.

After Saturday’s ride he commented in the report: “Wow, MEGA epic TSS points at 345.5!” This is something he comments on regularly. It took me forever just to figure out what it meant! Time Sweating in Saddle? Actually, it means Training Stress Score. It is a fancy way of saying, “This is how hard you trained today.”

Let’s say you rode for 1 hour at your functional threshold – as fast as you could for that period – you would get 100 points. Or as Joe Friel puts it: TSS = (sec x NP x IF)/(FTP x 3600) x 100. In other words, to get your TSS for a given ride you multiply the amount of time you rode in seconds by your normalized power and the percentage of your FTP. You then divide that by the number arrived at during your FTP test times the number of seconds in an hour. Finally multiply it all by 100.

Got it?

That is why I use TrainingPeaks.com and WKO+ – not to mention a coach to explain it all! It is enough for me to know whether I have reached the desired TSS for that day. There have been several times where I haven’t, so to hear that I’ve exceeded the desired amount is good news.

Ultimately, TSS leads us to CTL and ATL. Your Chronic Training Load is the accumulated effects of the TSS over a given period. For me that period is 42 days. Your Acute Training Load is the shorter term effects of the TSS. For me I consider the last 7 days.

The balance of your fitness and rest during those times is your TSB – Training Stress Balance. That is what a racer is talking about when he says he is in “good form.” Hunter Allen gives this simple equation: Form = Fitness + Freshness. The goal of every racer is to reach their A race with the best combination of Fitness and Freshness.

According to Jim, my CTL is doing great. However, just because my body may be strong and able to put out power doesn’t mean I’m ready to go race. I’ve been exerting a lot to get that fitness and that has led to some tiredness. You could say the tools are there, but I’m too tired to use them. So, I am not on best form because Form does not equal Fitness + Tiredness.

I could take some time off and that would bring the Freshness back into the equation, but if I don’t keep training at a certain level I will lose my Fitness. Form does not equal Unfit + Fresh. It truly is a balancing act and the goal is to combine the stress of exertion with the healing effects of rest. If you time these things correctly, you can arrive at your A race with proper form — Form = Fitness + Freshness.

Thankfully, it is all science. With my Quarq CinQo powermeter, WKO+, and a knowledgable coach, I have all the tools to make this work. It is cool to watch the little blue line move across the Power Management Chart in WKO+. I watch it graph upward as Jim puts the hurt on me and then it drops – like this week when I am not on the bike as much. However, I know that next week it will start climbing up again. I also know that it will climb higher than last week. So the CTL continues to climb until my A race.

I’m still waiting to sight that mythical animal called the Taper. The Taper is the final combination of Exertion and Rest before the A race. Jim speaks of this time with great reverence (okay, I’m exagerating) because the plan says that after the Taper I will truly begin to experience the results of the work I have done since November. I feel like Jim is the scientist and I am the beaker. He keeps putting in a combination of efforts, rest, time, and instruction. The beaker is starting to put off smoke, but we won’t know for sure if the experiment is a success until we pour it out for the A race.

To be honest, I don’t know what to expect. For now I’m just having fun watching that little blue line continue to make its steady way up the chart. The function of form is to give the best opportunity for success possible. Then it is just up to me and the bike.

Halfway to winning the Tour de France

One thing that has changed for me over the last couple of months is my weight. Up until November I was fluctuating in weight between 175 and 180 pounds. At 6′ 2″ I was anything but fat, but I knew I could lose some pounds and still be healthy – actually more healthy.

I figured at some point my coach would start pointing out that I could go faster with less weight and he would start putting me on some structured diet to help me safely lose a few. However, he never got a chance! The training itself along with me dropping a couple of habits — ice cream late at night and plenty of sodas — has me down to 165 pounds without any structured diet at all. Basically, my diet is eat anything I want in moderation and don’t eat late at night.

But what does this mean? Why is it helpful for me to weigh a few pounds lighter? Is there a trade-off? Can’t you lose too much weight?

First, a little history. Entering college I weighed 155 pounds at 6′ 1″. After my freshman year I worked as a cook at a camp. My mates and I did workouts every evening and I ran up and down the mountain paths each day. Oh, and I ate like a horse! That brought me up to 165 pounds and I thought I was one buff dude!

I maintained this weight all the way through college and into marriage. It really wasn’t until early 2000 that I began to pick up some “non-muscle” pounds. Finally, by 2006 I was up around 185 and worst of all I felt awful. That is what got me back on the bike.

So, I know that my frame can handle less weight and still be healthy. I haven’t spoken to my doctor, but I think my ideal weight is between 160 and 165 pounds  lean muscle. It’s pretty obvious from where I’ve lost my weight this time. Exactly where I wanted too — around my waist!

I’m feeling great health wise and I get the added advantage of a greater power-to-weight ratio. Before training, my ratio was 3.41 and now I’m sitting on 3.86. That bodes well for my goal of nailing at 11:15 climb up Paris Mountain later this year.

How do you arrive at your PW ratio? Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2. This gives your your weight in kilograms. Then you take the power you can sustain from a 20 minute time trial effort and divide it by the first number. In my case, it is 290 watts / 75 kg = 3.9.

Okay, so practically, what does this mean? It means that I have managed to increase my wattage and lower my weight and that means I have more speed. Imagine a 1966 Shelby Cobra (light weight big power) going up against a souped-up 1968 Impala with the same horsepower (big weight big power). The cars have equal power, but one is heavier than the other. The Cobra is going to smoke the Impala!

If I can maintain the current weight and increase my power output, then I can shave seconds — 30 seconds or more — off of my time up Altamont Road. While it won’t have as dramatic of an impact in the races I’ll do this year, it will help me in two races I am targeting — River Falls and French Broad. Both of these have sustained climbs.

What I want to be careful of is reaching a weight where I begin to lose my lean muscle and my power drops. I’m more interested at this point in increasing my power than in losing more weight. I have a life outside of cycling and I don’t want to end up looking like a winner from Survivor Island!

I’d like to have a power-to-weight ratio over 4.0. That would put me squarely in category 3 levels. As it is, I am at the low end of that category. Oh, you want to know about professionals capable of winning the Tour de France? They are just under 7.0!

Hey! I’m halfway there!

Taking a look at Trainingpeaks WKO+ 3.0

When it comes to training with power and getting the most out of the data I glean from my Quarq CinQo and Garmin Edge 500, I have found that Trainingpeaks WKO+ is the best application for analysis.  Now that I have a coach, I find it even more helpful to archive the data on my local machine and view his reports in WKO+. So, when the notice came to upgrade to WKO+ 3.0, I took the plunge and downloaded it to my machine.

At first glance, there didn’t seem to be that much of a difference between the old version…

Trainingpeaks WKO+ 2.02

Trainingpeaks WKO+ 2.02

And the new one…

Trainingpeaks WKO+ 3.0

Trainingpeaks WKO+ 3.0

Before I could even look to see if there were many changes, I had to get my old data into the new system.  WKO+ 3.0 can read the files from the earlier version, but you cannot read files created in 3.0 in the earlier 2.2 software. It was very easy open a 2.2 file in the new software, but I couldn’t seem to get it to stay in the new version.

Thankfully, a batch converter was installed when WKO+ was installed on my machine. Once you install the new version, go to the Start Menu on Windows and follow the All Programs path to the WKO+ 3.0 folder. There you will find a batch file called Migrate Data from 2.2. Running this script gets you all converted over to the new system.

The only thing I needed to worry about now was the fact that my coach is still on the 2.2 version. When he would send me a file I could open it in 3.0, but I couldn’t get it to stay there.  I saved the file over and over again and tried to use the Device Agent to get it into the 3.0 version.  Nothing seemed to work!

Finally, it hit me. If I was opening it as a 2.2 file and saving it, it was probably saving it back as a 2.2 file. So, I opened one of the files and then chose Save As instead of Save. Voila! When I used the Save As option, it saved it as a 3.0 file.  Now I had the data I wanted in with the rest of my converted data.

Had I known this in the beginning, I would say that the transition from the earlier version to WKO+ 3.0 would have been very straightforward and simple. I imagine that many people won’t find themselves in my situation and you should find the upgrade to be very easy.

So, now that I have the data in there, what are the differences in the two applications? Well, stay tuned. It is going to be Trainingpeaks week at LowCadence.com.  I’ll be taking a look at the new WKO+ 3.0 version during this week’s postings.  Here is a sneak peek to get your interest up.

WKO+ 3.0 Quadrant Analysis

WKO+ 3.0 Quadrant Analysis

Nope, it isn’t a shotgun video game add-on.  It is the Quadrant Analysis graph – one of two new graphs for visualizing your power data. This is just one of the changes we will be looking at this week.

May your stocking be stuffed with fun cycling surprises!

Seconds Per Pound

I am somewhat of a data weenie.  Now, probably not as bad as Boyd Johnson, but I do like pouring over my power files and ride data.  This interest got me thinking of my ride up Paris Mountain the other day.

There are two ways to go faster up the mountain.  1) increase power and 2) decrease weight.  Of course, the more weight you have to pull up the mountain, the more power you will need to do it.  The less amount of weight, the less power you need to reach a goal.

Taking the power out of the picture and just looking at time and weight, I came up with my Seconds Per Pound ratio for my personal best time.  Basically, at 170 pounds, it took me 4.09 seconds per pound to make it to the top in 11 minutes and 35 seconds.

So, right off the bat, that tells me that by losing 5 pounds, I should be able to turn out the same average power (346 watts in this case) and reach the top in 11 minutes and 15 seconds.  Of course, the SPP goes out the window unless I maintain that same power.

What I need to do is build a formula that incorporates 1) weight, 2) power, and 3) time.  I can then change the variables to see what would happen if say I lost five pounds and increased my average wattage by 10 watts.  Then it is just a matter of finding out how to put that data into practice.

I’m just a tad under 6’2″.  I weigh in on average around 170.  Sometimes I dip down to 168 and when I’m really fat, I might reach 175.  Mostly, I’m between 168 and 172.

It wasn’t always that way.  In junior high I was 5’11” and weighed 145.  I was a stick!  Even in college I was 6’1″ and 155.

I remember one summer working at a camp located on a ridge above Lake Jocassee.  I was a cook.  One of my fellow cooks was quite the exercise nut.  We would do over 150 push ups each night and a number of pull ups.  I would then run each day to a water fall near by.  Then on the weekends, I would run down to Lake Jocassee and back.

It took me nearly the whole summer to be able to run all the way down and all the way back up.  However, I did it.  Did I mention I was a cook?  Well, by the end of that summer I was a pretty hard 165 pounds.  I thought I was a big dude!

What that tells me is that I probably have some weight to give.  Before I started riding again in 2006, I had reached 180 pounds.  Much of the 170 I now carry is the muscle I have built up in my legs (= where my power comes from).  There is one spot I think I definitely have some to give.  It’s that hardest spot to lose – my, as Steve Sperry would say, “budda belly.”

So, could a 2010 goal be a five pound weight loss along with some increase in power for the end result of a sub-eleven minute personal best up Paris Mountain?  I’ll find out what my new coach has to say about it.  Sure is a tempting target!

8 days left to help me raise $5000.
$1115 raised so far to fight cancer.
Give to my fight today!