Tag Archives: Training

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!

Why a field test?

Yesterday I received a comment on the blog that asked a good question. It is one that I have asked myself in the past. “Do you have to use a field test to get your FTP? Can’t you just get it from an effort?”

Tony writes…

I came across your page reading about CTS training as I’m heading into my third week of the experienced century plan. I didn’t do a field test because I was too lazy.  So I used an estimate of 280w for 8 min effort. Yesterday, in my group ride it showed how effective the CTS training is. I was chasing a much faster guy all the way and up the climb. That produced a norm 262w for 23 min. Now is my question, should I start a field test (the first real one, instead of estimate), or should I follow through the next 9 weeks with the estimate 280w power? Since my fitness has progressed significantly in these 3 weeks?

Here are my thoughts… which means it is just my untrained, humble opinion…

  • Simply, you could just keep going as you are. However, at some point you will want to settle into a repeatable test.
  • Training with wattage is not so much a matter of WHAT the number is as it is having a consistent number from which to work.
  • That is why it is good to have a repeatable test. You want to measure numbers from tests that are similar.
  • This adds consistency to your training and when you measure your future success by your initial (and subsequent tests) you will know that you are comparing apples with apples.
My normal means of torture - Cycleops Fluid 2

My normal means of torture – Cycleops Fluid 2

For those reasons, I typically do my FTP tests on a trainer. It is the most controlled environment. Granted, I can produce more wattage riding on the road and my numbers would look better on the blog! However, it isn’t a high number I’m looking for. It is a repeatable process that I can use as a consistent benchmark.

Some people do the test on the road and use the same stretch of road for the effort each time. I would probably prefer that, but the convenience of the trainer wins out. Of course, I will measure longer efforts on the road by the FTP test as well. For a 20 minute effort on the road I will check to see how 80% of that average wattage matches up with my trainer data.

So, Tony, to answer your question. Sure, you can go ahead and keep training with a 280 watts FTP. If you have been able to complete three weeks of the program with that baseline, then you are probably not missing it by much. However, when the time comes to measure your success, by what will you measure it?

One answer to that may be, “I’ll measure it by how well I am riding!” Frankly, that is a great answer. However, if you want definitive data, then you need to follow a more scientific approach. You are investing a good amount of time and effort into your training. Wouldn’t you like to know definitively how well it has paid off?

I’d be interested in knowing that you decide to do.

Let the spinning begin!

The weekend and its CTS Field Test is done and now it is time to focus on getting in shape for the season ahead. My plan is to take an altered approach to the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan. We’ll see how it compares with last year.

I’ll let you follow along with me here. It is one way that I keep accountability. During the winter months of riding the trainer it is easy to let a session slip. It doesn’t help that things always seem to be busier during these times.

Well, the best way to handle it is to take it a day at a time. Today shouldn’t be too bad. My meetings for the day are all during the traditional work hours. I got in half of my strength workout this morning. I’ll finish that up after dinner tonight and then start my first spinning session.

Tonight it will be simple… 60 minutes on the trainer at 190 watts. This is what is termed “Endurance Miles” in the TCCP system. It is based on a percentage of my latest FTP of 260 watts.

One thing I do want to do differently this year is to take some longer rides. I know that goes outside the training parameters but I missed the longer rides last year. Not only that, I found that when I was riding longer rides — I wasn’t prepared for it.

I will also incorporate some longer higher intensity sessions. The TCCP might be good for those type of races where you accelerate again and again, it seems to be less effective in those road race type events where the field will peg it to weed out the weaker riders. I’m going to get in some 20 minute  plus high intensity efforts in there.

That will come later. Tonight, I am just thankful that I’ll be able to spin a bit easier while watching football. The hard sessions of the tomorrows will come soon enough.

Oh, one thing that surprised me was that my weight actually went up this morning. I weighed in at 178 pounds.

I am no superman

Recently I took part in a health assessment here at the University. Over 75% of the employees have signed up to take part in this wellness program provided by Interactive Health Solutions. Monday, I went to have my blood work done to kickoff my part in the program.

The first thing I learned is that my blood pressure was normal. I could tell that simply by watching the little monitor connected to the tube attached to the inflated sleave on my arm. I would have to wait a little while to find out the information revealed by the two vials of blood the technician pulled out of me.

That came the next day. Turns out I’m a pretty healthy guy… except for a moderately elevated cholesterol level. Of course, the last time I had blood work done, I was told the same thing. The number hasn’t changed over those five years — 206.

I’m not discounting that and as I grow older I am more inclined to do what I can to bring that number down. I’m pretty sure the wellness program is going to help me in that whether I want to do it or not! That is the next step in the program — being told what my target is to better my health. I figure since everthing else checked out, it will have to focus in on this one aspect.

However, that wasn’t the line I was most interested in. As a cyclist, I scanned down through the various blood values looking for the word Hematocrit. The is the blood value that has been studied at length when it comes to endurance sports. Simply put the number gives you an indication of how well your body gets oxygen to your muscles.

According to the information that came with my report, hematocrit is the measurement  of the amount of space (volume) red blood cells take up in the blood. The value is given as a percentage of red blood cells in a volume of blood. For example, a hematocrit of 38 means that 38% of the blood’s volume is made of red blood cells. The greater the volume of red blood cells the better flow of oxygen to your muscles.

The normal range for your typical male is 37.5 to 51. Though I believe the average is more like in the low 40s. That is exactly where I fall — 44. I figure that is my “resting” level. I have not done a lot of streneous training recently — which would bring the number down. Nor have I been training at altitude or sleeping in a hypoix chamber — which would bring the number up.

So, once again, I learn that I am just a normal joe. No high end number like 48 or so. At least folks will know that I’m not doping with EPO.

I don’t like to think about it too much. Getting fascinated with numbers like these and looking for ways to change them is a step in a scary direction. It is that quest that has lead even amateur racers to make some unwise decisions.

I can look at the bright side… at least I now have an excuse for being average. I will be looking forward to seeing how the levels change in my next checkup. You can rest assured, I will be working more to change my cholesterol level than I will my hematocrit score.

Hanging it up

I’m hanging up the Giant for a bit. Right now it is hanging there by my son’s Allez in the Low Cadence Lair. I’m not saying I’m completely done riding on the road, but I don’t have a plan for doing so. It is time to turn my attention elsewhere.

Hanging up the Giant

The Giant hangs in the Low Cadence Lair


One reason to take a break is to give my long standing and more recent injuries a chance to heal. My right shoulder and hip are continuing reminders of days gone by. The hard work of the Fondo brought back those memories.

However, I’ve learned pretty much to live with them. The one injury that I know I need to deal with is a wrist injury that I picked up by falling over at a traffic light. Gripping and putting pressure on my wrist (such as when you do a pushup) causes a shooting pain in my wrist just at the inside base of my thumb. It is improving, but resting it seems to be the best way to heal.


When there are lots of “things” you are having to deal with, the bicycle can be an escape or it can be a frustration. You’ve probably read me write about this before. Well, I’m at one of those times when I just need to focus on getting some tasks done that have been put off due to Ride for Mike, Gran Fondo Hincapie and other calendar fillers.

Getting this “gottado” list under control will make returning to the bicycle a more pleasant experience. Removing the pressure of thinking I have to get on the bike will help me focus. I’m really looking forward to clearing a couple of these long standing projects off my plate!


Now, does this mean I am off the bicycle entirely and just letting myself go? No. I’m actually entering this “off-season” with more of a plan than in the past. I’m just taking a different approach.

First of all I am counting back from spring. I want to be better as a cyclist in 2013. That means I have to start preparing for the coming year this winter. This means by mid-November, I am going to be starting up a training plan.

The plan will involve a good amount of work on the trainer. However, I also want to start now on work off the bicycle. I really believe that strengthening my core and increasing my leg strength is going to be a key to 2013 success.

So, starting immediately, I m going to spend at least 30 minutes a day doing Pilates. I’m not going gung ho with some extreme workout. I’m keeping in mind the pressures of time. However, doing something is definitely better than what I have been doing — which is nothing.

I’m also looking for some leg strengthening exercises I can do at home. I’m assuming this will be some sort of weight bearing exercise involving squats. I’m also considering step box exercises.

I also don’t have my mountain bike hanging up. While I’m not putting riding time in my calendar, if my son wants to go ride his bike I’m going to tag along. I’ll collect the data out of habit, but there will be no method to it.

So, there you have it, my plan for the next month. How do you spend your Novembers? Do you mountain bike, cyclo cross or do some totally non-bicycle related activity?

Follow along with me and I’ll let you know how this plan works out.

Taking a break

I’ve decided this will be a week to take a little break from the bike. My hope is that after the break, I’ll be ready to get back out and start working on some goals I have for the summer. Besides, this week looks like a good one to keep my feet on the ground.

My Giant TCR Advanced should be ready at some point early this week. The headset requires a specific bearing set from Giant. They sent one and it was the wrong one. Now, I’m waiting for the second order to come in. First reason for staying off the bike this week.

With the Giant in the shop, I have been riding the Felt TT rig and the SE Bikes fixed gear. The Felt is not so bad only I don’t enjoy riding a TT bike for much of a distance. Plus, climbing can be a bear. That means I have been riding the fixed gear for a good amount.

Saturday I took the fixie out and climbed Paris Mountain again. This was after a TT effort on Thursday and some hard efforts on the Chick Springs TT segment. My legs were a bit tired.

I really hoped to get under 2 minutes on the segment, but only notched two 2:02 efforts. The funny thing is that in both instances I had something distract me in the first part of the segment. For instance, the first time I started off and realized that I had my shades on. Again, the bar across the top impedes my vision and I’m more comfortable without them. Well, I was starting off on the effort while removing my glasses and putting them in my jersey pocket. I can’t help wondering what I could have got without that delay?

The second distraction was related to my computer. I had changed the screen to check the time. Now I wanted to see the speed and average speed. As I was rolling off, I was scrolling through the Garmin 800 screens to get to the right one. Once again, I wondered if I could have done better had I not been distracted. However, by this time I knew I didn’t have a sub 2 minute time in my legs and called it a day.

This brings me to Saturday morning and the fixie climb. I was in pretty much of a funk. I didn’t think I would really miss racing at the SC State Road Race championship. However, as the morning continued, I felt more and more irritable. I knew it was because I had the feeling I was avoiding something I should have tried. Sure, I didn’t have my Giant, but if I really wanted to race, I could have set up my Felt.

Without much motivation, I climbed on the fixie to just go out and spin. I’ll admit that getting out there made me start to feel better. However, there was still a pent up feeling wanting to be let loose.

That is when I decided to climb the mountain. I had done this once before on the fixed gear and didn’t make it all the way to the top without getting off the bike to push it for about 10 meters. This time I was determined to climb all the way to the top.

With the fixed gear, you just have to pedal. The idea of adjusting cadence and such just doesn’t work. You’ve got to just keep your momentum. If you don’t, you stop.

This time I stood most of the way up. Sometimes I was down in the drops with my head down just trying to keep a rhythm. When I reached the wall, I didn’t even look up. I just watched the ground going under my tires. All my concentration was on keeping the pedals going over the top.

I made it! Granted the time I stopped and walked part of the way, I got to the top in 14:24. This time I made it in 14:30, but was happier with this effort.

However, that leads us back to the matter at hand — taking a break. The one issue for me making this climb in a 48/16 gearing is that it aggravates the jumpers knee I brought on in the off season playing basketball. My IT band issue has flared up and my shoulder (an injury from a crash in 2009) also is sore. The shoulder is sore because pulling that 23 pound bike up the mountain requires me to pedal as much pulling on my handlebars as turning around the crank!

The best thing for these aches and pains? Rest. Giving my knees a rest for a week might cause me to lose a bit of fitness, but I think I will be much better off in the long run. The other pains will also be helped.

There is also the fact that my son has three baseball games this week. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings will be spent cheering him on. True, I do have a window of time I could use to get in a quick ride before each game, but rest is more than just physical. I think it is a good week to take a schedule break as well and better enjoy my family. Once again, I believe I will be a better rider for it.

Finally, there is the rain. It isn’t that I refuse to ride in the rain, but I really don’t enjoy it. Since this week is supposed to be a pretty wet one, I think it’s one more reason to take a break.

So, you might or might not see any blog posts this week. Maybe that is another way for me to take a break. Plus, a side benefit is it might give you a break from me!

Bye, bye, BMI

Old habits die hard. One of mine is the morning ritual of checking my heart rate and weighing in. I can go back for some time and tell you my weight, BMI and heart rate. Well, this morning, one of those data points disappeared from my spreadsheet.

I’ve always been a little skeptical of the Body Mass Index. There may be some value in measuring it in a clinical setting where the equipment can give you an accurate assessment. However, the formula driven BMI scores based on your height, weight and etc. seem to leave out some important things like bone density.

Still, when I picked up a scale to start my process of measuring, I chose one that claimed to give me my BMI just by standing on the scale. The score got recorded religiously along with the heart rate and weight. Over time, though, I paid less and less attention to it.

Tracking your resting heart rate is a good idea if you are training. I can tell when I begin to over train when my resting heart rate begins to elevate. It is definitely time to take some rest.

Right now my resting heart rate is around 50 bpm with an occasional dip into the upper 40s. I remember a time when my resting heart rate was in the 40s with 38 bpm popping up ever so often. However, that was nearly a decade ago.

What is important is the trend — not so much how low or high it is. I have pretty good confidence in the tool I’m using to measure. It helps me make good decisions about my health.

I have no questions about my weight either. Right now I’ve settled into a rest period weight of around 172 pounds. When I am in a training block, I’ll drop down to around 168 pounds. The things I watch for here are 1) seeking to get my resting weight down under 170, and 2) making sure that there are not large drops in weight over a short period.

I’m happy that I’ve gotten myself down to 172 after being up around 185 pounds back in February. Dropping the weight has me feeling good and it certainly doesn’t hurt my times up Paris Mountain! The goal is to reach the point where I have a balance between weighing the least I can and maintaining power and good functional health in my real world life.

That brings us back to BMI. I’m not sure how to practically apply the number to my training even if I knew the accurate number. More than that, I have absolutely no confidence that I know the accurate number.

Take the last two days for instance. I noticed it because my weight was exactly the same – 172.2 – for the two days. Then my BMI popped up this morning at 19.2. Yesterday the number was 17.1. How could that be? Did I lose that much muscle and put on that much fat in one day?

I don’t think so. I think it is the scale. I’ve noticed in the past that I can weigh in a few seconds after the first attempt and get a totally different BMI reading.

Seems to me it is a waste of my time and bandwidth to keep tracking it. That being said, I think it would be interesting to find out what my actual BMI is. According to the calculators you find on the Internet my BMI is 22. That puts me in the “normal” range. According to the chart, I’m underweight with the scale readings I receive.

Anyone else out there track BMI? If so, what do you use to measure it and what role does it play in your exercise? For me, for now, I’m leaving it off my chart.

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.