Monday, 7 March 2011

Target 599 – Stage 1

My previous post outlined the goal for the year, as much as it would be nice, I’m fairly sure it won’t happen for me without plenty of hard work, a calculated approach and no doubt a little bit of luck throughout the process.

I have some ideas for things that will help me with my training to get there and I thought I’d talk about a few of them here.

My first 2 plans are closely related and were trialled a little in my Busso build up this year to get a bit of understanding.

1.     Training with Power on the bike
2.     Using Training Peaks WKO+ to track fitness and plan workouts / taper

Power – I bought an ibike last year ( which is basically a very clever computer that estimates your power output based on measuring or estimating all other variables. I found this pretty useful and gave me a better idea about pacing my longest rides. One major benefit of the ibike is that I can transfer it between bikes and use it when racing, however although I found the power numbers useful as a guide, I did get a fair bit of variability between the two bikes and bad weather would tend to make it have a heart attack!

SO after much deliberation and procrastination I took the plunge and bought a powertap. The main disadvantage of this system is that I cannot race with it, however, I can use it for all of my other riding, on either bike and can therefore use it to structure my training more.

Structured bike training seems to be one of the things that a lot of triathletes seem to lack, we are good at running interval sessions, fartlek sessions, hill session or keeping the pace easy on other runs however, more often than not bike rides for me seem to get dictated by the group you are with or how you are feeling rather than having a really specific aim. I also think people have a tendency to kid themselves about how well a bike ride went, it’s easy to feel like it was a good ride when you spend the last hour flying home with a roaring tail wind, although actually measuring how much effort you put in can only be done accurately by looking at power numbers.

WKO+ - This program which I purchased last year enables me to use the power data in order to objectively measure my fitness and fatigue. I used this throughout my Busso build and as a numbers geek at heart, found it a useful guide, particularly in relation to fatigue, but also good validation that your fitness is progressing.

I started using WKO+ from June last year and as of a few days ago, can explain my last 8 months training in one graph, however, in order for this to make any sense you need to understand 4 few key concepts:

TSS – ‘Training Stress Score’ – this is a score computed for every workout based upon how tough it was, this is calculated using the intensity of your workout (calculated with reference to your threshold running pace or threshold bike power) and the duration of the workout, so for example, a 30 min flat out running race may give you the same TSS as a 90 min easy run – WKO works out this TSS for you based upon the threshold numbers you put in and it then uses the data from your workout (using a Garmin and the ibike for me).

CTL – ‘Critical Training Load’ – This is essentially your average TSS over the last 6 weeks and gives you a measure of your overall fitness – this is the blue line on the graph

ATL – ‘Acute Training Load’ – This is your average TSS over the last 7 days, so a shorter term measure of the work you have been putting in – this is the pink line on the graph

TSB – Training Stress Balance – This is the difference between your CTL and ATL and therefore gives you a measure of current fatigue (the yellow line of the graph) – basically if you went out and accumulated a TSS of 100 every day for 7 days your ATL would be 100, this would effect people differently depending upon their underlying fitness (represented by CTL) so this is a really useful guide when trying to taper for an event, and can sometimes show you when you are trending towards overtraining (or being a slacker!!)

I’ve noted a few key things on the graph below (which is a combined bike and run graph – I actually track these separately but this graph will do for now!).

I started recording data in the system from June last year and my fitness slowly built up over the first 6 weeks since it was starting assuming that my fitness was nil (which was not the case!)

You can then see how my fitness (blue line) went down when I was on holiday in NZ. I then had a good long block of solid training as I built towards the marathon and had a huge peak in ATL (pink line) following the two day camp at Apollo bay – that left me very fatigued and I struggled for a week or so after that (look at how low the yellow line goes – I now know that if I want to be able to train usefully, that is more fatigue than I can reasonably cope with).

As I came into the marathon (10th October) I tapered down and you can see how the fatigue reduces (yellow line comes up) but the price you pay for that is a small reduction in fitness (blue line).

Post marathon recovery the last 8 week block into Ironman started and again I managed to start raising the blue line (note that as the blue line gets higher and higher, you have to perform workouts with greater TSS in order to keep raising it). The one downfall for me this year was that after the Melbourne marathon I did most of my riding on the TT bike, where the ibike would give me a lower power number compared to the same effort on the road bike. Therefore the TSS’s I was generating were not equivalent to pre-marathon. However, absolute numbers are not really important, this tool is more useful for showing the trend of your fitness.

However because of this the absolute numbers would suggest that I was about the same fitness for the Ironman as I was for the marathon – I know that this is not the case but having the powertap this year should help to reduce the inconsistency of data.

It’s all just numbers and pretty graphs and doesn’t help you come race day, however I find it an interesting way to plan my training and it has been useful as a guide to knowing when I am starting to get really fatigued, it gives you some objective evidence on those days where you are fairly sure that staying in bed will be the best option!

The final note is to point out that you can see how all that hard earned fitness pre-Ironman has happily left me now!! I’ve started doing some fairly structured training again so hopefully I can start having that blue line head in the right direction!!