Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ironman racing with power

If you have a power meter, there are a handful of useful metrics to keep track of. First of course is getting an accurate functional threshold (FTP).  You can do this in a lab using a step test and blood analysis, or on the street with a time trial. The time trial can be as short as 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. If you do a 20 minute test, multiply that by 95%.  30 minutes by 96-97%, 45 minutes by 97-98%, and so on. 1 hour is the 100% value.

Next - if your meter has a cadence sensor, keep an eye on this. You should be over 80 and ideally approaching 90 on an average ride. A lower cadence recruits more fast twitch muscle fiber (strong-bulk-power type muscle) which burns more glycogen and produces more blood lactate. For a long distance race this is not what you want to happen.  It is a bit counter intuitive but using a high cadence / slow twitch muscle is like doing a lot of little quick hops, while riding in a low cadence is like doing a slower series of deep squat jumps. Which one burns more quickly and causes longer lasting fatigue?

You should set up your display so that you can see the percentage of FTP on a 5 or 10 second rolling average (1 second jumps around a bit too much for me), your power, and then whatever else floats your boat. I used elapsed time but you might like watching your MPH.

A critical piece of information can be found by looking at the variability index, or VI, which you can see in Trainingpeaks and probably some other tracking software.  This measures how different your normalized power (NP is a wonky way of explaining exactly how hard you really rode. It is usually higher than average power, but could be lower if you coasted down a mountain.  See Rick Ashburn's article below for the full explanation.) is from your functional threshold. NP / Avg P = VI.

VI is a key one to watch. For any triathlon type race - disregarding certain competitive strategies like shaking off other riders, or powering past other competitors - you want your bike power output to be fairly to mostly to exactly even. Your effort should be steady. The longer the race, the more important this becomes. The reason is the physiological cost of harder efforts, which demand more from the energy systems and produce more waste. Re: You use up more glycogen and produce more lactate as you approach and exceed the lactate threshold.  For long races you want to spare the anaerobic system and energy paths and use fat stores / aerobic metabolism as much as possible.

In a ten+ hour race every bit counts.  Joe Friel wrote a few years ago that keeping VI under 1.05 for an Ironman is critical. Various power files on display from professionals and top amateurs usually bear this out, whether or not the course is hilly.

If you do a 5 hour training ride, with the first hour easy, the next 3.5 hours at IM pace, and the last half hour easy, you should be able to select the 3.5 hour section and take a look at that VI. If it's over 1.05, you have work to do on staying smooth.  (Looking at the whole thing would include the lower efforts of the warm up and cool down so would be less accurate).

Simply put, when you hit resistance in the form of a hill or wind, rather than push harder to maintain the 80+ cadence, gear up to keep the cadence and power the same. When you have less resistance in the form of a tailwind or a downhill, gear down rather than coast. It's really plain vanilla simple. If you're the type of rider that hammers the hills and coasts the downhill, this will be a tough change for you, especially if you're not particularly aware you're doing it.

Back to NP: This is the main power number you want to go by. If you do a 45 minute time trial (riding as even as possible), let's say your average power was 220 and your NP was 227.  Your VI in this case is 1.03.  To calculate your FTP you would multiply NP 227*98% which ironically brings it back to 222.46.  Use the NP from your time trials to determine FTP.

Onto a couple other notes. Rick Ashburn developed a useful chart explaining the relationship between Ironman bike time, intensity factor (IF - how hard a workout or section of workout is, aka workout NP/current FTP), and TSS (training stress score). I couldn't locate the original graphic online, but Joe Friel explains it well in the article below (with graph). In a nutshell, you want to keep your TSS under 280 in an Ironman, unless you're a super bike pro and/or willing to take chances with the run.

Your IF should be .72 or under unless you're a sub 5:30 rider.

Regarding percentage of FTP target for an Ironman - starting point is 70-72% for 5:30 riders, incrementally higher for faster athletes (75-76% for 5:00) and lower for slower athletes (~65% for 6:30). The longer you're on the bike the lower your effort needs to be because of the amount of time you're putting in. Put this to the test in your training.

Each ride you do get a TSS score. Each long ride you do gets a score. Start to pay attention to all of these.  VI and long ride TSS for your long rides, the other numbers just get you to these points.

That's it.

Joe Friel's article is a good read

Rick Ashburn on power explained

How to analyze a power file from Gloria Lui

Monday, June 19, 2017

Bridge to Pier Tri - 3 Little Pigs Tri 2017

We made a week-before decision to head down to Oak Island for the Bridge to Pier Triathlon on June 10. This my longest triathlon for 2017.  600m swim - 16 mile bike - 3.8mile run. We'd never been to Oak Island before, just down south from Wilmington, and I liked the idea of getting in a beach triathlon. The Goddess Bri and I used to do many beach sprint triathlons in Florida and swimming through some surf is always a fun way to start.

Anyway, we spent the night in downtown Wilmington in a cute condo a former athlete has on VRBO. Excellent location, we walked to dinner and then did some exploring. Caught a ride with a bike trolley thing, Junior definitely got a kick out of that.

Boat-restaurant-place on the Cape Fear

A new brewpub in downtown

Up and at em the next morning and got there with a few minutes to spare. I didn't spare enough time to warm up on the swim, so did a bunch of arm swings and splashed around a puddle to get ready.

literally: splashing in a puddle

Off we go!  I had a good swim and took the lead about midway.  Caught a wave on the way in, always fun.

Me like ocean swims

Held the bike lead until around mile 14, then trailed the leader back to the finish. I have the gas to go hard for 6-8 miles these days, but then really need to back off the effort if I want to risk mitigate totally blowing on the run.

 Coming into T2



The run went well but was warm/hot and fairly humid. We ran down a beach road, out to the Oak Island pier, past a few early morning fishermen, and back. I held it together with around 7 minute miles and finished second overall.

It is a great place to have a triathlon. Unfortunately this was also the last year as the race just doesn't get the sort of turnout that the race organizers need to make it feasible.

We went on to have a nice morning hanging around the beach.

I'd like to rant about supporting your local events a bit.  Mega-corporate race organizers don't care about the local racing community, whatseoever. They just want you to eat the marketing and throw down your dollars. They will push into new markets, then pull out the moment an existing race doesn't meet their ROI or IRR metrics. Read this, or this, or this, or this, for example.  If you're a triathlete, you should make a point of doing at least a handful of your local events.  Don't just do 70.3 this and Ironman that. If you ignore your local races, they will eventually be forced to go away. What will you do when you grow tired of the megacorp race showmanship?  Rant over.

A week later, Bri and I would both race in the 3 Little Pigs triathlon. I think it was my fifth run at the event. It is nearby, puts on a good post-race fiesta, and has cool awards.

Bri went on to win the overall event with a dominating performance. I also did pretty well, biking at a higher effort than the previous week, but ran a little slower. I felt tired coming off the bike and the high humidity made it difficult to breathe.  It's funny to say but a sprint triathlon bike is tough, especially if you're not riding a whole bunch. Last year I could ride 50-70 miles the day before and feel fine.  This year, taking it easier, is a different story.  But cruising through this season will allow me to get angry and train like a monster again in 2018. :)

Anyway I held onto roughly 7 minute mile pace again and finished in 11th overall, 1st in my AG.

I would tell you I was 12 seconds ahead of Bri, but that would be petty.

Here are screenshots of my three recent triathlon bike leg power files. I start out on the hard side, then reality creeps in and slow down since I don't want to die. You might notice the VI (variability index) on all these is 1.02-1.03, meaning I attempt to ride at an even power output. This is a helpful skill for long distance racing. Theoretically.

Beaverdam May 13: NP 247

Bridge to June 10: NP 237

3 Pigs June 17: NP 252

My FTP last season got up to 270-275, but this year it's about 250.  So 3 Pigs was on the harder side of effort. My equipment is good but not the best, so speed is relative to aerodynamics and weight.  I could be faster if I was in a more aero position, carried less 'adipose tissue,' or had integrated brake pads. Bah humbug.

We also have been having some fun in regular life as well, as you might imagine.

 Father's day jello feeding at SFF Cary!

 Bike splashing

 Ice cream crushing

 Father's day lake time

Me and El Chico

I am typed out. Next up is Boone summer camp, this week! Followed by beach week in Avon by the Sea, NJ! Holla!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Aw, shucks.

So I missed another few weeks of blogging. What can you do?

A lot has happened since April 12, my last post.  I'd tell you in detail, but that would take a long time and require me to make much typing on the keyboard. Let's bullet point everything instead.

  • We held two open water swim clinics.
  • I skipped White Lake Sprint due to being a wuss about weather
  • We went to three different Durham Bulls games
  • Junior Awesome ran in a bunch of kids races
  • Junior Awesome did his first round of T Ball
  • We had our 13 year anniversary and Bri had a birthday
  • We held the Jordan Lake Open Water Challenge on a beautiful morning!
  • I took second in the Beaverdam sprint triathlon wearing our new OSB kits
  • Bri took second AG and 7th OA at the 70.3 Chattanooga and we had a nice vacation (zoo, museum, fishing, swimming).
  • We had a Memorial Day weekend cookout at OSB HQ

Now, here are some pictures of some of the above, more or less in order.



Next up is the Oak Island sprint triathlon on June 10. We just worked out the logistics.  After that it is 3 Little Pigs on the 17th.

I will also be swimming in the Swim Across America charity swim in Cary NC on June 11.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Half-marathon race report: Not So Normal Run, Carrboro 2017

After scrapping the WB half marathon for family reasons, I discovered there was a convenient half-marathon in town the following weekend.  This one's called the Not So Normal Run in Carrboro. Carrboro is a hippish little town just west of Chapel Hill. Lots of fun things to do.

I didn't rest up and stayed up too late the night before. I had psyched myself up for a flat half marathon at the beach, not a rolling type course, and my chi and chakras had sort of gone floopy and floppy with the preceding travel and a busy week in general.

But, like the super duper trooper I am, I decided that if and when I awoke, I would put on my happy face and DO WORK. If I felt good. And had enough coffee. And something to eat.

I arrived early.  Almost too early! I had enough time to run to the site, get my stuff, run back to the car, drive the car closer, and drink more coffee on the drive.

Here is a file recording part of the warmup and the drive to the new parking space. It's exciting!

The weather was perfect. Perfect I say! 40 degrees and not moist. Dry, is a word. Yes. It was a cool, dry morning. Perfect!

I lined up. There were around 400 people total between the 4 different races. I was in the second line of runners. Not the very front. Perfect!

Once we started, I discovered that my watch was in bike mode. Since it told me I was riding nine miles an hour and my power was zero. Damn. How will I run without a watch to bleep and blurp at me. This is unacceptable!

As I attempted to change the settings on the watch without slowing down and without my reading glasses, a local racing buddy pulled up next to me. Joy! I asked what pace he intended to run. "Around 1:30," he said. Perfect! I shall latch onto him if possible.

I fixed the watch. My legs felt good. Kit and I chatted throughout the run and kept a very consistent pace. It wound up being a good day and we finished just under 1:32. I am pretty sure he could have gone faster but his wife just had a new baby and he was new-daddy tired.

The course wasn't flat but it wasn't terribly hilly either. I was pleased to have a good run and look forward to attempting another shot at breaking 1:30 in the fall at some local race or another.

I didn't take any other pictures, except with my mind, which is like a Polaroid. Shake it around and something might turn up.

Bird up!