Warning: Boring Ass Training Ride Stuff.
Had a nice training ride this morning, just short of 3 hours. I kept it in low Endurance Zone (not, not related to the Old Spice Endurance zone, which is odor, but not cheesy moustache free) for most of three hours. One half of the ride was directly into a sucky headwind. The other half was directly into a quartering wind. WTF? But it was fine anyhow. I was a little desperate at one point, since my favorite mid-ride stop, the High's Dairy Store in Galesville, has apparently been burnt down. Since the weather was cold and I was drinking a lot (not having eaten breakfast), I *really* needed a pee break. But anyhow. It was a good training ride, and I felt good about it because it takes skill to do training rides well. It's easy to just ride. Man alive, I know so many guys who just ride their asses off and do alright. But they are 25, skinny young dudes, with 25 year-old legs, no families and jobs that don't weigh them down a lot. It works for them, but not for me. I'm an endomorph to begin with, I have some serious job responsibilities, and a family. So I have to train a lot smarter than that, and training smarter is a skill, along with some other skills (like proper diet, and time management) that I have found easy to grasp intellectually but hard to put into practice. This morning's ride may have been the best ride, training-skill-wise, that I have put in within the last year.
Anybody can ride hard. But not just anybody can ride easy. Basebuilding is the critical foundation for fine tuning work later in the season - if you want to be able to do the VO2 or sprint work you need to do well, you need to have a good aerobic base or you won't be strong enough to do the other workouts. You won't notice a lack of aerobic base, since you'll hang okay on group rides and in races, but you'll notice it in training when you lose a little steam after the 3rd or 4th interval. There are ways to build aerobic base through very high intensity training, but that's difficult to do. Most basebuilding comes down to focused training - riding very hard when it's time to do so, and riding very hard diligently; but only after lots of time spent riding very easily.
It's hard to ride easily on a consistent basis. You need to ride the right kind of easy - too slow is mere fat burning, a tiny bit to hard is tempo, which is still aerobic but it recruits too many fast twitch muscles to be really efficient as a base builder. If you train with power, you know how hard it is to keep your effort level consistent in zone 2, L2. Most people don't - even training with Hr lets you use a lot of types of effort (subthreshold, fat burning) without your Hr leaving zone 2. The power meter, however, does not lie.
But enough of the blah blah blah, here's the workout figures.
Entire workout (210 watts):
Duration: 2:58:33 (3:11:14)
Work: 2226 kJ
TSS: 168.1 (intensity factor 0.755)
Norm Power: 249
Distance: 49.681 mi
Speed: 16.8 mph
The three things to understand there are in bold. The relationship between average power and the Normative Power both fall within zone 2 for me - 210 is the bottom, 250-something or thereabouts is the top. Norm Power is how hard your legs thought the ride was - it's an algorithm taking into account the high effort periods during a ride that take more of a toll on your legs. For instance, an easy zone 2 recovery spin on the trainer will give me an average power of 220, and I may finish a crit with an average power of 220, but the trainer spin has a norm power of 220 - my legs perceived it as an easy endurance spin; while my crit had a norm power of 330, so my legs thought it was a 45 minute-long time trial. When the Norm Power and Average Power fall within a single training zone, it means you rode very consistently. This is reflected in the VI, the variability index. The closer it is to 1.0, the more consistent your effort levels. This ride produced a 1.19, which is pretty consistent considering I was riding outdoors on rolling terrain, in significant wind.
The other key number is the Intensity Factor, or IF. This is another figure produced by an algorithm to gauge the intensity of your ride, as it compares to the same time period going all out, at a threshold or TT pace. An IF of .75 means the ride's intensity was a good, strong, L2 aerobic pace. Much lower than .68 and you're just burning fat and recovering; much (any?) higher than about .75 - .78 and you're recruiting too many of your fast twitch capabilities for the ride to really be a focused aerobic base builder. (There are ways to build aerobic base outside of the basebuilding L2 zone, but they mostly require *much* higher intensity levels).
So I'm happy. I think it's really hard to train properly on the bike but I managed a workmanlike ride today under moderately rough conditions.
Now here's a question on that topic for Mayhew and the hopeless training geeks that have read this far: I'm a big dude, and hills over about 7% or so kill me. They take huge effort and it's impossible to keep them in L20. I can go slow, and in going 9 MPH, I'm still cranking 400 watts until I crest. Or, on shorter hills, I can hit them with a little speed, try to stay on top of the pedals, 'slip climb,' and then do a brief big effort to get me over the top - usually not more than 15-20 seconds at 6-700 watts. On endurance rides where I'm trying to avoid high intensity efforts, am I better rolling the lower (but still L5+ wattage) and trying vainly to spin up, or just having a burst of intensity for maybe 1/3rd or 1/5th the time, and dropping back into L2? Does it matter?