Tag Archives: Time-Crunched Cyclist

Fast Pedal promise

When doing the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan, you get to know several abbreviations: PI is Power Intervals, OU is Over/Unders and SS is Steady State. There are several more and one popped up on my workout plan for today. The thing is, it has been so long since I’ve used it I had to stop and think, “What is it that FP stands for?”

Of course, it didn’t take too long for me to recall that it stands for Fast Pedal. Today I am supposed to ride for an hour and during that period complete 4 x 3 minute FP intervals with 3 minutes RBI (Rest Between Intervals). It isn’t that I need to switch up from a low cadence — say 85 and under — I typically pedal at a cadence between 90 rpm and 100 rpm. This session calls for me to move it up even more.

The goal is to within the three minute interval to work your way up to between 108 rpm to 120 rpm without bouncing around in the seat. I can typically pull this off at around 114 rpm and hold it for the required period. I’ve pedaled up over 200 rpm, but that is when I feel like I’m about to fly off the bicycle!

So, what is the advantage of this? Well, there are two kinds of muscles in the world, Slow Twitch and Fast Twitch. Those Slow Twitch muscles are the ones that help you grunt through things. Imagine a weight lifter pushing up a huge barbell. The Fast Twitch muscles are the ones that help you get out of the way. A runner speeding down the track in a sprint is utilizing these muscles.

A cyclist will use both of these at various times. As such, you need to train for both… though studies have shown that a faster cadence — 85 rpm and above — are more efficient. However, as I mentioned above, I rarely train below that cadence. Why this high speed stuff?

Part of it is just to loosen your legs — shake out the muscle memory you have developed over the last couple of weeks doing the same work outs over and over again. I find now days when I get on the trainer and just spin without thinking about what I am doing, I end up each time sliding into a zone of around 88 rpm to 93 rpm. Raising your cadence for a period of time confuses that memory and gets the muscles to kick in to a new level of burning carbohydrates and sugars.

Another part of it is just to train your form. Fast pedaling is a good way to build good form — as long as you are paying attention. If you just go flailing your knees all over the place it isn’t helpful. It is tempting to do that as you are spinning at around 120+ rpm.

Imagine watching something spinning around slowly. You can see the object on the end of a string clearly as it spins slowly around the center point. However, you can reach a speed where the spinning object seems to turn into a solid line.

When spinning at a high rate and not worrying about the power you are producing you are able to focus on how your legs move around the crank. Push down.  Scrape off the bottom of your shoe. Pull up. Keep your knees coming up straight. Now, don’t think of those movements as separate actions. Make them all one continuous movement. Before long you are in a trance and the motions become second nature.

Another benefit of spinning at a higher cadence like this is that it is a good fat burner. Maybe if I do enough of these I’ll be able to start working off those love handles. It would be worth it just for that!

Flat is where I am at

It was time to climb back on the trainer last night. It has been a week since I have put rubber on pavement. However, I have pretty much been following the plan though I don’t seem to be going anywhere.

I mean that literally and figuratively. It is funny when I look at my Strava profile. It shows that over the last 30 days I have averaged 3 rides a week for about 5 hours, but only 26 miles. I guess I could set up the Garmin to read distance from a sensor on the back wheel, but it doesn’t seem that important. I’ve never really focused on miles so much as time anyway.

What bothers me more is that I don’t seem to be going anywhere fitness wise. Maybe I have just hit a flat spot before my body move up to the next level. However, right now I don’t feel that I’ve progressed that far.

I started my current training plan back on January 7. That puts me about halfway through the 12 week program. Last year, I started a similar plan on February 6. I went back to compare some of the numbers between where I am now and where I was at six weeks then.

March 27, 2012 – 4 x 3 minute Power Intervals (3 minute RBI)

Interval 1: 326 watts
Interval 2: 322 watts
Interval 3: 333 watts
Interval 4: 349 watts

However, I then went beyond the plan and climbed Paris Mountain in 13:45 averaging 297 watts.

February 12, 2013 – 6 x 3 minute Power Intervals (2 minute RBI)

Interval 1: 310 watts
Interval 2: 310 watts
Interval 3: 309 watts
Interval 4: 305 watts
Interval 5: 304 watts
Interval 6: 307 watts

There is no doubt in my mind that I would not have been able to climb Paris Mountain in under 14 minutes after that.

Granted, there are several things to consider 1) the first session was on the road — up the State Park side of Altamont, 2) I knew in the second session that I had to pace myself for six intervals, 3) I had more chance to recover between intervals in the first session and 4) the time of year was different. I think that fourth point can’t be overlooked. Because of the time change, I had been able to do more outside riding by that point. Also, I’m certain I was in a better frame of mind with the longer days.

Here is what concerns me the most. I am climbing on the trainer out of duty. I can remember times when I’ve been able to put out 400+ watt Power Intervals. I can’t envision in my mind doing that again. Managing six 300 watt intervals leaves me exhausted. I’m suffering through these intervals just aiming to get through them. All of this and I just don’t know if it is going to make any difference.

Maybe what I should do is go out and do my next Power Interval session like I did that one just under a year ago. Maybe I should do like I did last year and perform another FTP test midway through so I can prove to myself that I have progressed. I just know I need a shot in the arm (figuratively!) to help me out of these doldrums.

As it is, I’m finding it very hard to consider shelling out $30 bucks to go race just to get shelled out the back. Sorry for being so negative, but when you read this blog… it is part of the package. If you’ve been reading long enough, you’ve probably caught on that it won’t last too long.

Power Interval blues

I woke up this morning a little irritable. A clue to my mood could be found in my weigh in — 170 pounds. Basically that means I was hungry. The Beautiful Redhead will tell you that when I get hungry, I get grumpy! It also was due to the Power Intervals I did around 9PM last night.

That means I rode two days at a more intense pace. Even as I was completing the Power Intervals I regretted overdoing it on the EnduranceMiles workout on Monday. Now today I feel it as I walk up steps. It isn’t that it hurts, it is just there is a weakness in my legs. It is as though I did squats in the weight room… that shaky feeling you get the morning after working out.

So, how do these Power Intervals work? Here is the deal when following the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan with the Experienced Competitor track. Last night’s workout called for a total ride of 90 minutes averaging 170 to 190 watts. Within this period you complete 2 x [3 x 3 minute Power Interval efforts (over 260 watts) with a 3 minute Rest Between Intervals and a 5 minute Rest Between Sets].

PowerInterval Chart

90 min. 2 x [3 x 3 min. @ PI (3 min. RBI)(5 min RBS)] with chain falling off

I started out spinning very easily until I felt comfortable at about a 95 rpm. After 5 minutes, I shifted to a harder gear and continued that each five minutes until I finished 30 minutes. You can see the stair step progression in the above chart. Of course, at 20 minutes I was at the max of the EnduranceMiles wattage and so I held it there until the Power Intervals were to start.

You can also see the chart five “plateaus” or increases in wattage to a sustained level for three minutes. These are the Power Intervals. So, where is the sixth one? It is that “spire” one following the five.

Just as I was beginning to start the final Power Interval my chain dropped. On instinct, I just kept pedaling and shifted my left lever to bring the chain back up onto the ring. Of course, that only works when the rear wheel is turning… which, of course, it wasn’t because I was on a trainer. I ended up having to get off the bicycle and pull the chain back on with my hand. I then “took off” out of frustration.

I was pretty toasted after that. However, after a few minutes of spinning, I was feeling good again and you can see I pushed above the EnduranceMiles limit for about four minutes. What you don’t see is that the cadence during that time was around 100 rpm. I then started “stepping down” in wattage until I was very easily spinning for the last five minutes.

What do the numbers look like?

  • Warmup – 125 watts
  • PowerInterval 1:1 – 277 watts
  • RBI – 147 watts
  • PowerInterval 1:2 – 281 watts
  • RBI – 156 watts
  • PowerInterval 1:3 – 276 watts
  • RBS – 167 watts
  • PowerInterval 2:1 – 274 watts
  • RBI – 178 watts
  • PowerInterval 2:2 – 276 watts
  • RBI – 122 watts
  • PowerInterval 2:3 – 280 watts
  • Cool Down – 159 watts
  • Average for workout – 171 watts

Did I do it correctly? I guess the one question I have is the efforts during the PowerIntervals. These intervals are supposed to be the most power you can produce for the required time. I didn’t really take that approach. I set a target of 260+ watts. My only concern was not dropping below that number. I wasn’t concentrating on seeing how hard I could go.

Still, I think it worked out. I exceeded 270 watts each effort and that is over my FTP. By the time I was getting near the final intervals my perceived exertion was telling me I was near the limit. Plus, that final effort had me deflating from 365 watts in the first minute, 326 minutes in the second minute and 285 watts in the third. In other words, the numbers seemed to indicate that 280 – 290 would have been the absolute I could have consistently held for the period of the intervals.

Why do I post this stuff?

  1. It keeps me accountable
  2. It serves as a training log
  3. I hope it encourages others to take up a plan of their own
  4. What else am I going to blog about?

Well, if you happened to read this far, “Thanks for reading!”

Two weeks down and ten to go

I’ve settled into the Experienced Competitor option for the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan. I just completed the second week of the system and am looking to complete it the last week of March. That means that top form will definitely not have arrived by the Hincapie Sportswear Spring Training Series.

So, what did that week look like? A lot of time on the trainer, that’s what! Unfortunately, it was wasn’t enough time. I only put in 5 hours and 15 minutes of training in. It was supposed to be a total of 6 to 7 hours. Sure, I got in the intervals required, but not all the EnduranceMiles pacing called for.

The problem is that an hour on the trainer feels like 90 minutes on the road. That is partially due to the fact that the road is more interesting. However, a big part of it is that the trainer never lets up. There is no coasting — or for that matter soft-pedaling — when you are turning that hydraulic-magnet-thingie attached to your rear wheel!

I’ve got my weight down to a consistent 174 pounds. I’d love to reach 170 by the time spring gets here. Basically, I’m trying to be moderate in the kinds of food I eat and watching my portions. Other than that, I’m not doing anything drastic with my diet. Still, I’m a good 5 to 6 pounds lighter than I was at Christmas.


Another addition to my training is my home-brew core and upper-body workouts. Basically, it is made up of 80 resistant band repetitions each day. I stand on the band and do inside and outside lifts — 40 of these twice a day. Then I am doing a total of 138 to 184 pushups every other day depending on what the plan calls for. On the off days of doing pushups, I am doing 184 situps. Now those sessions are broken up into 4 times a day. Still, I’m definitely getting a workout!

The best thing is that I am starting to feel the difference on the bicycle. My upper-body is much better supported. That has translated into better posture on the bike, less upper-body fatigue and ultimately less stress on my hips. It is hard to explain, but I can just feel it — my core is holding together better than it has in years.

Yesterday, I got out on the bicycle. My boss gave me a project that morning and wanted it by that afternoon. So, what did I do? I extended my lunch break and rode my bicycle.

The bicycle is some of my best thinking time. I headed down to Cleveland Park and pushed it pretty hard for the first 30 minutes — 257 watts. I then backed it off for the second 30 to just ride how I was feeling. That was a more comfortable 203 watts. The last 30 minutes I was focusing on keeping my form right and cadence up. Still, I ended up with a comparable 202 watts.

I was happy with a total average watts of 240 for the 90 minutes (though the plan called for under 190 watts — oops!) However, more than that, I was happy to return to the office with my brain full of ideas that I dumped into a two page report. Of course, I did have to snack through the rest of the day to keep my hunger at bay!

Really, that is the best part of all of this training. It isn’t so much the ultimate goal of being competitive as it is the good things that the discipline and health the training brings you. Yes, I hope to race some this year, but even if I don’t the training will be well worth it.

OverUnder done right

Last week I shared my confusion with the OverUnder Interval session. I had a fear that I was getting off to a bad start by doing the workout incorrectly. I wanted to make sure I had it figured out before the workout came up again.

Thanks to Low Cadence readers and the co-author of the Time-Crunched Cyclist (Jim Rutberg), I got my answer. I was able to complete my Saturday workout using the proper instructions. That doesn’t mean that I did a very good job, but it was more “correct” than the initial ones.

So, how do you correctly complete the OverUnder Interval workout? Let Jim Rutberg explain…

A 6min OU (2Under, 1Over) means the first 2 minutes are at your under intensity, then 1 minute at your over intensity, 2min under, and finish the interval with 1min at your Over intensity. You can think of OverUnders as a cycle of Under then Over. In this case, 2U + 1O gives you a 3minute cycle and you’re doing it twice. A 9min OU interval with 2U + 1O is three cycles of that 3minute unit. A 12minute OU with 1U + 1O is 6 cycles of a 2min unit.

Ahhhhh, That explains where I was going off. When I read the prescription for the workout, I saw that it called for 2 Under and 1 Over in a 6 minute period. I assumed that meant I was to do 2 Under intervals and 1 Over interval. If that was the case in 6 minutes it would mean that I would do 2 2-minute Under intervals and 1 2-minute Over interval. (2 minutes x 2) + (1 minute x 1) = 6 minutes.

What the 2 and 1 stood for was not how many intervals, but the time of the intervals. So, 2 minute Unders and 1 minute Overs. So, to get 6 minutes you would have to have the equation: (2 x 2 minute) + (2 x 1 minute) = 6 minutes. Of course, that would also allow me to alternate and end the session on an Over effort.

What did that look like?

SteadyState and Climbing Repeat zones with wattage (click to enlarge)

SteadyState and Climbing Repeat zones with wattage (click to enlarge)

The primary problem I had was that I was watching a movie while doing this workout. My mind wasn’t always on what I was doing. I think it shows in the precision of these intervals. For instance, you can see I actually did 3 Unders and 3 Overs for a total of 9 minutes. You can also see I exceeded the zones on most of the efforts in that first interval.

It wasn’t until the last one that I seemed to get things down right.  Here is the proper way to carry out the OverUnder Interval workout:

  1. 2 minute Under at 233 watts (zone: 224 – 234 watts)
  2. 1 minute Over at 270 watts (zone: 249 – 260 watts)
  3. 2 minute Under at 233 watts (zone: 224 – 234 watts)
  4. 1 minute Over at 272 watts (zone: 249 – 260 watts)

While the Over efforts were above the prescribed zone, I don’t feel too bad about that. The intention of the intervals was met and now I know how it works. I’ll be ready for this important interval workout going forward. I want to give a special thanks to Rodney Dender and Jim Rutberg for their help.

Confused with this OverUnder Interval

My day started at 6 AM yesterday and went at break-neck speed until 9:30 last night. That is when I finally got on the trainer to complete my workout for the day. This is when the rubber meets the road for training. It is when you make the choice to climb on the bike even when everything else about you says no.

To make matters worse for me, it was the dreaded OverUnder Interval. I don’t dread it because it is really really hard. I dread it because I never know if I am doing it correctly. Well, I plan to nip this in the bud. I’m asking you, the reader, to help me understand this workout that confuses me so much.

In the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan the OverUnder Interval workout is described this way…

OverUnder Intervals are a more advanced form of SS Intervals. The “Under” intensity of is your SS [224 – 234 watts] range, and the “Over” intensity is your CR [249 – 260 watts] range. By alternating between these two intensity levels during a sustained interval, you develop the “agility” to handle changes in pace during hard, sustained efforts. More specifically, the harder surges within the interval generate more lactate in your muscles, and then you force your body to process this lactate while you’re still riding at a relatively high intensity.

The book goes on to read…

To complete the interval, bring your intensity up to your SS range during the first 45 to 60 seconds. Maintain this heart rate intensity for the prescribed Under time and then increase your intensity to your Over intensity for the prescribed time. At the end of the Over time, return to your Under intensity range and continue riding a this level of effort until it’s once again time to return to your Over intensity. Continue alternating this way until the end of the interval.

I get further confused because the instructions then say…

OverUnder Intervals always end with a period at Over intensity. Recovery periods between intervals are typically about half the length of the work interval.

Okay, so last night my plan called for me to do 90 minutes averaging 117 – 190 watts including 4 x 6 minute OverUnder intervals with 5 minute rests between intervals. I will admit that due to my desire to get in bed before midnight, I cut the overall length to 60 minutes. However, I did the OverUnder intervals… at least I think I did.

4 x 6 min. Over/Under (2U,1O) with 5 min. RBI

4 x 6 min. Over/Under (2U,1O) with 5 min. RBI

Here is what my session looked like…

  1. 10 minute warmup (134 watts average)
  2. 6 minute interval
    1. 2 minute Under (237 watts)
    2. 2 minute Over (275 watts)
    3. 2 minute Under (240 watts)
  3. 5 minute RBI
  4. 6 minute interval
    1. 2 minute Under (238 watts)
    2. 2 minute Over (274 watts)
    3. 2 minute Under (239 watts)
  5. 5 minute RBI
  6. 6 minute interval
    1. 2 minute Under (237 watts)
    2. 2 minute Over (277 watts)
    3. 2 minute Under (240 watts)
  7. 5 minute RBI
  8. 6 minute interval
    1. 2 minute Under (241 watts)
    2. 2 minute Over (268 watts)
    3. 2 minute Under (240 watts)
  9. 10 minute cool down (174 watts)

“So,” you ask, “What is the problem?” Well, the problem is that I don’t know if I am doing this correctly. Basically, my thought is that each interval is 6 minutes long. It is supposed to have alternate between 2 Under and 1 Over. However, it is also supposed to end with an Over. So…. how do you alternate?

Then there is the time question. Are these intervals supposed to be 2 minutes for each or 6 minutes for each? In other words, am I supposed to do 6 minutes at SS / 6 minutes at CR / 6 minutes at SS with a 5 minute RBI? So, instead of the total time being 6 minutes before the rest it would be 18 minutes.

That would put my workout — with just intervals — at about 82 minutes. My reason tells me that there is no way to warm up and cool down and do this longer approach within 90 minutes. So, I assume that I am doing things correctly.

Then again, the workout (at least at this intensity) doesn’t seem to be pushing me that hard. It makes me wonder if I am actually “develop[ing] the ‘agility’ to handle changes in pace during hard, sustained efforts.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that excited about the longer session. I hope I am doing these correctly!

Oh, and then there is that question of how do you end up with an Over when you are supposed to alternate and you have only 1 Over to work with? I just didn’t let that confuse my brain and ended on an Under each time.

I have this workout again on Saturday — only it is supposed to include 120 minutes at EnduranceMile average. I would actually have time to complete the “longer” OverUnder during that session. Can someone help me make up my mind before then?

Ramping it up

Last year I enjoyed the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan by Chris Carmichael. Not sure what to expect, I completed the “New Competitor” plan. It certainly improved my power and stamina for the year, but it wasn’t quite enough to keep me competitive in the races here in the Upstate. So, this year, I’ve decided to do something similar but different.

The Time-Crunched Cyclist

The Time-Crunched Cyclist plan

I’m going to spice it up a bit… BAM! I’m going to move to the “Experienced Competitor” plan. This is the plan “for experienced racers whose accumulated years of training mean they can handle a high initial workload.” It is meant for riders who have been training at some level for the last five years or more. Well, I think I fit that description.

Actually, this could explain why last year I was kind of confused in the beginning. If you recall, I started off with a horrible initial field test. However, before long, I was feeling unchallenged by the workouts and my power adjusted upward rapidly. While my power was moving up, I found that my ability to hold that power for long enough periods of time to be truly competitive was not there.

This plan is going to be tough. It is similar to the first plan, but it adds longer intervals. For instance, today I will do 3 SteadyState intervals at 224 – 234 watts for 12 minutes instead of 3 at 10 minutes. You don’t think that 2 minutes makes a difference? Well, you try it.

I’m also going to throw in some longer rides this year. When it comes to road racing, there needs to be just some plain old time in the saddle. You need some training where you get the feel for what it is like to be in a group hanging on for dear life for what seems like an eternity.

Yes, I know that means that I will be breaking from the plan. I like to think I am incorporating some variations into the plan. You know, I’m just rebellious like that. 🙂

Another variation I plan to do is what I did last year. That is to test my FTP once more about halfway through the plan and then adjust my remaining training to that number. As I look back at last year, I believe that move is what really helped me improved. It pushed me farther than I otherwise would have gone.

Thankfully, last night my workout was a simple 90 minute trainer spin at 117 – 190 watts. I put a movie on and just started spinning. I hardly looked at the computer at all. I nailed it with 90 minutes at 185 watts with a 93 rpm cadence. Yes, I have been trained. My default output is an Endurance Miles pace.

We’ll see what happens to me tonight!

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!

Mailbag: Some climbing advice

One thing I enjoy about blogging is the opportunity to meet new people and to hear of their experiences. It is funny how just coming here and telling what I did on a particular ride on the bike connects with people. I’m glad it does! The blog is accomplishing something if it is encouraging others to get out and exercise or to not take things too seriously!

I also get communications for advice from time-to-time. This post is a way to kill two birds with one stone — 1) answer a question sent to me, and 2) have something to blog about! Hope you learn something.


I hope it is not an issue that I am emailing you with a question regarding your experience with TCCP.  If so, please let me know and accept my apologies.  If not, I look forward to your response.

Like you, I broke my neck while biking.  Getting back on the bike was a long and painful process, but I am proud to say that after 2 years of work I am biking again AND competing as a Cat 5 racer.  Last year was my first year racing, with horrible results.  This was partly due to recovering from my neck and having no idea of how to train for racing.  I thought training meant ride hard all the time…not so.

This year I purchased the book, and completed my training cycle about 4 weeks ago.  My results have all been top 20, with several “almost top 10’s”  (last year only 1 group finish).  I did just finish the Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race with a 7th in the TT (no aero other than clip on aero-bars), 8th in the Crit, 12th in the RR, and 11th in the GC.  I am about to begin another cycle of the plan, but was not quit sure how to fit it into my schedule.  I am a teacher, and in 4 weeks I will have more than 6-8 hrs a week to ride and train.  When training this winter and spring I tried to follow the outlined times to the second.

Do you have any thoughts on using the training plan, but doing rides that are 2.5-4 hours instead of 60-90 minutes?

Also, I do not have a power meter so I cannot quantify my results like you did, but I can say that I made HUGE gains.  The one area I would like to see more improvement is in climbing.  I love climbing, I love the pain of climbing, but most of all I love the feeling of accomplishment once you finish a long climb.  I am not a bad climber, but for some reason I tend to lose contact near the end of 1-2 mile climbs while racing.  Any thoughts on how to improve in this area?  I live in Wa. State, so I have many places I can go to climb.

Again, I would like to apologize if emailing you is not appropriate.  If you do respond, thank you and let me know if I can email you with more questions.  I really enjoy your blog, and enjoyed following your progress through TCCP.




Thanks for reading the blog. I’m always amazed when someone contacts me and lets me know they enjoy it. I know my mom reads it, but never sure exactly who else does!

The first thing that comes to my mind is that it took much longer than I thought to get over the injury. It wasn’t just the physical aspects of it. Even when I thought I was doing better physically, mentally I was not there. Here is the catch… you don’t realize it until you are actually over it. I hope you are reaching that point. It certainly sounds like you’re getting there.

I am not a coach. So, I greatly hesitate to give advice on these matters. Plans typically are set up to be the optimum bang for the buck. My coach of two years always told me to follow the plan — and that includes not riding beyond the scheduled distance/time. I’d have to defer to him and Chris Carmichael and say that if you are going to do the plan, stick with it.

I also love climbing. I’m not saying I’m good at it, but I do enjoy it. For a 44-year old, 170-pound guy I tend to hold my own with other amateurs my age. I don’t know if the following will help you, but here goes…

Climbing is a science and an art. You have to know what your body is capable of, but you also have to tailor it to the terrain you are riding. I have a perfect example from two recent rides.

My power meter was acting up, so I set the meter aside and focused on riding up the local mountain near my home with only cadence in mind. The goal was to “feel” my way up the mountain while turning as high a cadence as possible. This meant that naturally, I was going harder where the grade was steeper and easier where the grade decreased. This is a 2.2 mile climb at an average 7% average grade. My time was 12:18.

I went out again several days later just to get a read on my power meter. Again, I didn’t look at the power, but this time focused on trying to hold a particular speed consistently up the mountain. I did it and finished with a time of 12:19. Very close times, but the second one was MUCH harder. The reason was because I was not adjusting my effort to the terrain — which gets much harder at the very end.

Most times when I have ridden this climb before, I put a focus on the power. I know how much wattage I can produce over a certain time and I know — to a degree — how much wattage I have to put out for a certain result. However, what I have found is that you can’t just go by the numbers. These “power attempts” put me at the top consistently around 12:40 to 12:45. The “feel my way up” approach on the very first attempt moved me into 12:20 range and the most recent one (mentioned above) was a PR for 2012 at 12:18.

The point I’m making is that climbing quickly is not always about going fast. That is true even in a race. You have to know your pace and ride to it. An old racing approach is to get to the bottom of the climb at the front. You then settle into the pace that you have trained yourself to go in order to reach the top in a certain time. When you get near the top, you should have a little bit left to turn up your effort. Once over, you recover. You may not be at the front anymore, but you are still with the pack. Don’t start at the front and attempt to race the others to the top! Ride within yourself and then let it go toward the end.

Obviously, the more you know a particular climb, the more you will be able to match your efforts to the climb. However, you can learn a lot by “feel” — that is the art of climbing. Learn how your body feels during various efforts on a favorite climb. Learn to sense what your threshold is on various grades. That feeling is something you can carry over to other climbs. The numbers give you the science, but the feel gives you the practice.

I hope this was a help! Let me know how your season goes.


Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan: the numbers

The Time-Crunched Cyclist

The Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan

The way I have measured my progress with the Time-Crunched Cylist Plan is to use the Carmichael Training Systems Field Test (CTS Field Test). Over the twelve week period of the training plan, I took the field test three times. Really, you typically should only need to complete it once — before you start the plan. There really is no need to take a test at the end of the plan unless you are a blogger and need something to write about!

I won’t go into a long explanation about the field test. You can read a blow-by-blow account in a previous post. I will point out that this “test” is not one you pass or fail. It is simply to give you a benchmark from which to work as you go through the plan. The below sets of numbers contain the data from each of the CTS Field Tests I completed. I hope you can see from the data that the plan really paid off!

February 12, 2012

This was the first test I took once I finally decided to get back on the bike after nearly two months off. I had only ridden a few hours on the trainer in the days leading up to this. Pretty much, I was at the lowest point of my fitness and motivation. The data clearly shows that! If you can fail a field test, this is one I failed!

To give you some comparison, up to this point my highest FTP results (on a 20 minute FTP test) was 305 watts in 2010. During my “comeback year” I had a high of 275 watts. So, I started the TCCP in a pretty bad frame of mind and just did not feel that the plan was pushing me hard enough.

	        Time	Power	Cadence	Heart Rate
Warmup	        5:00	56	85	99
Fast Pedal	1:01	193	140	132
Easy Spin	1:07	59	92	144
Fast Pedal	2:01	212	139	162
Easy Spin	1:01	59	83	166
Power Interval	1:00	345	102	165
Easy Spin	2:14	82	72	154
Power Interval	1:01	361	97	160
Recovery	4:15	63	73	147
First Effort	8:01	239	95	173 (178)
Recovery	11:01	63	79	139
Second Effort	8:00	251	95	171 (177)
Cooldown	15:11	35	80	125
Temperature	64
Result		251		        178

March 6, 2012

The only way to clear my mind and give me confidence in the plan was for me to trust that the data truly represented my potential. That led me to taking the CTS Field Test a couple weeks after the initial one. As I look back, this was the best decision I made during the training period. I’m sure that the three weeks of training on the plan helped me improve, but I’m convinced that the initial test was just the perfect storm of mental and physical “blah.” With this new data, I really started to feel the workouts and I could feel my body responding.

	        Time	Power	Cadence	Heart Rate
Warmup	        10:00	115	85	113
Fast Pedal	1:00	263	132	144
Easy Spin	1:01	93	88	153
Fast Pedal	2:00	245	125	155
Easy Spin	1:00	88	83	158
Power Interval	1:01	380	87	154
Easy Spin	2:02	92	76	149
Power Interval	1:01	409	95	151
Recovery	4:08	100	74	143
First Effort	8:01	296	95	173 (181)
Recovery	10:01	90	80	135
Second Effort	8:00	290	91	171 (178)
Cooldown	10:41	67	71	121
Temperature	66
Result		296		        181

May 18, 2012

Of course, I couldn’t stand it! I just had to complete the CTS Field Test to see what the numbers would show. So, last Saturday, I set up my trainer (to keep it consistent with the earlier tests) outside on my driveway. With the shade and a fan blowing on me, the temperature wasn’t too much above the earlier attempts. However, I have to admit that being outside improved my psyche.

There were a couple of other things I did differently. 1) I took a little more time warming up. 2) I lowered my Fast Pedal cadence to a more reasonable 125 rpm average.  3) I brought down my Power Interval average wattage to be more in line with what I had been doing in the plan. 4) In the First Effort, I settled into a gear that allowed me to pedal at a higher cadence than I had before.

I didn’t look at the time. I just watched my wattage and average wattage while listening to soundtracks. I knew that two songs would put me close to 8 minutes. I just tried to settle into a zone that would hold my first few minutes wattage average all the way to the end. By the time I neared the end of the second song, I was holding 327 watts.

Switching back to the time, I noticed I only had a minute left. It was getting harder to hold my higher cadence, but when I saw the clock I gritted my teeth and tried to push through to the 8 minute mark. I was more than pleased with the result!

On the Second Effort, I intentionally lowered my cadence in a bigger gear. Wow, that one really hurt! I was able to bring the wattage up over 330 watts for a bit, but then it started to drop and I ultimately switched back to the gearing and cadence of the first effort with about two minutes left.

	        Time	Power	Cadence	Heart Rate
Warmup	        15:01	121	97	118
Fast Pedal	1:00	283	125	148
Easy Spin	1:00	126	90	147
Fast Pedal	2:01	270	123	153
Easy Spin	1:01	132	91	156
Power Interval	1:01	312	106	152
Easy Spin	2:01	135	91	143
Power Interval	1:01	315	97	144
Recovery	4:00	142	93	139
First Effort	8:01	327	98	170 (180)
Recovery	10:00	100	80	140
Second Effort	8:03	323	89	170 (178)
Cooldown	5:45	65	67	133
Temperature	73
Result		327		        180

So, there you have it. Depending on how bad off you think I was in the beginning of the twelve week plan, I increased my average wattage from 252 watts or 296 watts to 327 watts. That places my Power-to-Weight ratio to around 4.3. That puts me solidly in the Category 3 field (and hanging with the 1/2 racers for a bit) which is consistent with my past performance.

Ultimately, the sterile numbers don’t really matter. What really matters is that I am now back on my bike holding my own with the guys. Thanks, Chris Carmichael, for the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan.