Category Archives: training load

>Sufferfest – The Hunted

>Today I rode a turbo session with a purpose designed video for the first time. It was the hour long The Hunted from Sufferfest. I can recommend it. It creates a story – you’re taking part in a race – and uses real life race footage to support it. It’s not as good as a well-run, coach-led session in a room full of other turboists (Thursdays too now), but it might be the next best thing.

The Sufferfest header. I’m not sure what the donkey reference is all about

The session is based around your perceived exertion on a scale from 1 (easy-peasy) to 10 (as hard as a hard thing). Most of The Hunted is pitched between 6 and 8 with some short burst of 9. There are a couple of recovery sections at 4. I’m supposed to be maxing out at about 5.5 at the moment, so I scaled back the efforts accordingly (the scientific term is ‘wimped out‘).

The story of The Hunted involves a series of sustained efforts including a 20 minute climb. You are regularly prompted to cover a move, take a break, change cadence, take a turn at the front etc. My interest was constantly engaged. I enjoy immersing myself in stories (it’s compulsory with the day job) and I found this approach fun – not a word I normally associate with the turble. I was so involved that I almost tipped over the rig on a couple of the hairpins on the descents. I found myself jumping for cover behind the camera motorbike at one point as well.

Will it bear repetition? If used sparingly I think it will. I’ve pencilled it in as my regular Monday gig for the next three weeks. I’ve seen other DVDs for sale, but the real race footage marked The Sufferfest line out for me. I prefer the text prompts and music to being talked at as well. There are other titles available which I’ll invest in as funds allow (or as being snowbound drives me up the wall).

The vids are available as a download. The quoted $10.99 worked out at £8.59 after VAT had been added. It took about an hour to download. I unzipped the compressed files and cut them to DVD. I also downloaded a free media player (VLC) because the installed Windows XP player on my ancient PC can’t cope with .mp4 files.



Even sub-tropical Harrow has been hit by snow this week. This coincides with week 5 of my ‘training programme’ when I’m supposed to be stepping up the time and effort. I did manage a couple of outdoor hours on Tuesday before the weather set in, but the white stuff mitigated against further outside efforts.

Thursday was the first of a programme of confusing low-intensity power intervals on the turbo which were over rather quickly and involved not quite enough intensity (I’ll know better next week when the duration increases).

I was scheduled to do 3 steady hours on Friday but the roads were too dangerous. I decided to go for a 2 hour session on the turbo instead. A DVD of Mark Cavendish winning the 2009 Milan-San Remo helped distract me some of the time but after an hour and forty five minutes my will and my undercarriage gave out and I quit. It was still my longest ever turbo session (so thanks for that, Cav).

I spent yesterday morning downloading a Sufferfest video, The Hunted. These vids are structured interval sessions with support from groovy music and videos of proper cyclists in races. Unfortunately the DVD wouldn’t run on my ancient lap top, so I ended up spinning away while Cav won Giro, Tour and Tour of Ireland stages for fun. I’ll be able to test The Hunted tomorrow thanks to the free VLC video player which runs on Windows XP. Hurrah (I think)

I have been gathering together a database of races that will run in 2011 from a variety of sources. We still don’t have a moving date, so it’s too early to be making strategic decision on how the season will look. It’ very frustrating. The house move will punch a pretty big hole in the structured training ‘plan’ as well.

>To the turbodrome

>The recent cold and snow has pushed me back onto the turbo. Not that it has been much warmer inside our lean-to – a couple of sessions were done at 3°C and it is looking cold out there again today.

Like a lot of cyclists I pretend to hate the turbo trainer, but really I’m just bored by it. This is especially true at this time of year when I’m building back to fitness. There are no really hard interval sessions to carry out (pain is preferable to discomfort in this context).

So I’ve been trying a few techniques to beak sessions up. I’ve found the following useful:

  • Spinning up the revs for 10-15 seconds every 5 minutes or…
  • Going up/down a sprocket every 5 minutes and adjusting cadence accordingly and…
  • Changing handlebar position every 1 or 2 minutes

These were amongst techniques suggested on the Time Trialling Forum – there’s also a thread “What’s the longest turbo session you’ve ever done?” which makes for scary reading – 5+ hours!? I’ve never managed more than 75 minutes.

In a way I’m glad to have had such a concentrated batch of turbo sessions – it’s got me back into the habit. It also gets you fit very quickly. I hope I’ll cope a bit better with riding with the veterans at Hillingdon this week!

Of course, I’m writing this post to delay today’s turbo session.

In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp

In other news,we had the Willesden CC AGM yesterday. I am no longer time trial secretary (my first and last annual report is here). Indeed, I am no longer a first claim member of the club. From next season I will be riding for In Gear Quickvit Trainsharp, a team based in Uckfield, close to where we hope to be living in Sussex. I’ll remain a second claim member of the Willesden and hope to see some of them at races.

The house move is now waiting on the chain to form. Someone down the line needs to find a place to live. After months of making decisions about our future, we are now subject to the vagaries of other people’s decisions. It doesn’t feel so good.

>Targets 2010 – review

>I set some targets back in January. They were designed to be challenging and this is reflected in the fact that I missed most of them. This season has turned out pretty much the same as last. This is, perhaps, not that surprising in that I fell back into old habits of training and racing. I did, however, reduce the total racing load (1009 miles this year, 1303 last) in an effort to produce more quality rides.

Target #1 was:

  • Beat 23:00 for a 10 mile TT by the end of the season.
    • Sub goal: personal best (currently 23:37) by the end of the season
I got nowhere near this with a season’s best of only 23:56 in May. I didn’t really ride any fast events after that until the end of the season when my form had gone.

Target #2:

  • Personal best for a 25 mile TT (currently 59:07) by the end of the season.
    • Sub goal: beat the hour by the end of the season.

I was pleased to hit the sub-goal with a 59:50 in August. It was almost 25 years since I had last gone ‘under’. The speed for this time is exactly the same as the speed for my ’10’ time above.

Target… forgot to put this one in:

I was pleased to ride a PB for 30 miles in June. 1:12:44 on the Bentley course is a good ride for me.

Target #3:

  • Average 22+mph for the BBAR distances by the end of the season.
    • Sub goal: personal best (last 3 seasons) for 50 miles (currently 2:06:03) by the end of the season.
    • Sub goal: close to personal best for 100 miles (currently 4:24:14) by the end of the season.
    • Sub goal: close to personal best for 12 hours (currently 238ish miles) by the end of the season.

A big fail on these targets with a DNF in my only ‘100’ and no 12 hour entered. My ride of the season, however, was a PB at 50 miles of 2:03:08 in June. I was pleased with that.

Target #4:

  • Finish, on average, in the top third of finishers in solo time trials during the season.

A big fail here as well. Last year I finished, on average, 55% of the way down the finish list. This I averaged… 55%. Doh! In fact I was about 0.6% worst, but I’ll call that statistically insignificant. A poor start and finish to the season let me down, but the pattern was not dissimilar to last year.

I set no targets for circuit and road racing and that’s just as well really. An even worst season than last year.

When I set next year’s targets I think I need to concentrate on the process as much as the ends. It’s more difficult to stick to a plan that to formulate it.

With the house move hopefully taking place in the New Year, it’ll be a little while before I have a sense of what next year’s season will be like. I may delay setting targets until later in the year. That said, training has started and there’s even an embryonic schedule in place.


>That’s the Summer season done. Actually it was done weeks ago, but Sunday was the last race I entered (the Brighton Mitre ’25’). I was looking forward to the event but the last few weeks of house viewings, working and using public transport finally caught up with me and I caught a cold. No riding for a few days I’m afraid.

I’ll start to review the season as time allows. The one stat that’s worried me most though is weight gain. See the chart below for my average weekly weight (click on it to see it bigger)…

That’s just wrong isn’t it. I’m ‘fittest’ at between 69 and 70kg. I got my Winter weight down to 71 and a bit in February but from then on my weight has climbed and climbed. I am now over 78kg (we’re talking just under 11st as the optimum weight and 12st 4lbs now in old money). I knew it was happening, but it still carried on.

Last year’s (08/09) chart looks a lot more consistent – though I do put on some weight when racing, and the hunger, starts…

Something to work on during the Winter.

>Watt Bike

>I had a go on a Watt Bike today (well it was raining). The Watt Bike is a static trainer which is easily adjustable, has some very sophisticated software and is accurately calibrated. You can also hook several Watt Bikes up to a computer and run real time competitions between machines. Normally this sort of kit would be way out of my price range, but British Cycling‘s Central Division have a trio of machines that are currently local.

My ride was short but it did give me a chance to look at the Polar View: an interface that allows you to observe your pedalling action both numerically and graphically. You see the force you are applying at each phase of the pedal stroke. The numerical feedback allows you to try and even up the force from each leg (I tend to favour the left over the right it seems). The graphical information indicates how smooth and even your pedal stroke is: do you lose momentum as the cranks go over top dead centre? Watt Bike suggest three categories: figure of eight (beginner, not so good), peanut (good) and sausage (excellent). At the moment I’m a peanut but I can see that, using the feedback, I could work on becoming a sausage. The supplied display give you dynamic information. Attaching the Bike to the PC software would allow you to do more sophisticated analysis.

The Bike has many other features. The only other one I looked at was the power output screen. I’m not going to tell you what my peak power was. I was ashamed.

The Bike is a sophisticated training and testing tool. Indeed, BC have helped develop it and use it extensively with their squads and in schools. The Watt Bike Web site suggests a series of training routines and tests.

What does a Watt Bike offer over, say, a turbo with power?

  • It’s accurately calibrated. My Tacx Flow turbo trainer’s power readings vary through a session and may not even be consistent between sessions. The Flow, of course, costs under £300 – the Watt Bike is listed at £1,850.
  • The Polar View of pedalling action is very useful as a diagnostic tool and for giving feedback during a session.
  • The post session analysis, particularly when using the PC software, records many more parameters.
  • You can build session plans into the Bike and compete against previous sessions.
  • It comes with an air braking and a magnetic braking system.
  • The ability to link several Bikes into a PC and have competitions between them.

With the weather turning bad, the nights drawing in and the race programme winding down, the need for static training is going to rear its ugly head again. I’ll be setting up the Flow any day now. It would be nice to have a Watt Bike but it costs twice as much as my road bike – it’s not going to happen. I wonder if it will be there next Friday?

EDIT: Watt Bike have been in touch via Twitter and point out that there is a hire option if you want to try before you buy.

>2009/10 Season part 1 review

>The season always seems to go up a gear in May, so I thought it would be useful to review November ’09 to the end of April ’10.

November is usually a resting month – there are no races unless you ride cyclo-cross – but last year I kept the training mileage up and maintained my version of Chronic Training Load (CTL) between 110 and 120auF. Having a proper Winter bike helped, as did a few more imaginative turbo sessions and the second of my trips to Calshot velodrome. I did have problems with my weight going up, but I didn’t really care.

December saw a big decrease in CTL (to the low 70s auF) as I damaged a shoulder and then caught a cold (the snow didn’t help either). I did ride the first event of the Winter Series but didn’t trouble the scorer. I was prescribed some long term meds that seemed fairly benign at the time – but more of that later. My weight went higher. The lack of auF and the surplus of Kg continues to be a theme.

January saw a return to health and decent training. CTL climbed gradually back to 100auF as the month progressed. The snow meant a lot of turbo work including some hard intervals. I began to notice an inability to hit the higher heart rates, but I put this down to lack of commitment. I also started attending the Willesden CC turbo sessions at Wembley which often left me knackered for days afterwards. I rode an Audax event for the first time since 1978 which, together with the ride there and back, gave me my first 100+ mile day for years and the first ever in January. At the end of the month I rode another Winter Series race and this time managed to hang on.

February is the month of reliability trials and ‘traditionally’ when CTL climbs. It climbed a little more slowly than in the past – reaching 115auF by the end of the month. A couple of Winter Series events went well. My form felt good.

I’d normally expect to race a lot in March, but it was difficult to find events. Those that I did ride produced disappointing performances and suggested that my lack of ability to hit zone 5 heart rates might not only be to do with lack of commitment – the meds might be implicated. I also developed a knee injury which is still giving me trouble. A trip to race in The Netherlands was good fun. My CTL did climb to a decent 120auF, but I found it difficult to maintain. At the end of the Month the doctor agreed to wean me off the meds over a fortnight.

April has been a better month. We’ve had great weather and the reduction and then abandonment of the meds seemed to have given me back some top end performance. However, CTL has dropped away slightly (to around 115auF). My weight has also started to increase again (damnit!). My 1:02:04 for a ’25’ on the 18th was real breakthrough performance and I need to build on that. Unfortunately the weather forecast for the weekend looks poor at the moment!

My determination to race less looks a little weak: I have four events in four days coming up over the Bank Holiday weekend. I have done 10 events less than this time last year though (15 as compared to 25).

None of my season’s targets have been threatened yet and the slow start to the year might mean that they’re safe. I haven’t quite given up yet though.

Plus points: I’m pleased that I kept training through the Winter and didn’t let illness in December get to me. I’ve dealt with the meds situation and that is now, I hope, behind me. I’ve made cycling more interesting by managing my turbo sessions better, incorporating track work into my schedule and riding a race in The Netherlands.

Less plus-ful points: After the madness of this weekend’s schedule, I need to schedule my race efforts more carefully. I’m concerned that the longer distance events needed for a BBAR effort may be beyond me (the dates don’t fall kindly either). I have failed to adhere to a structured training plan again – I am a pretty useless self-manager (not just in cycling).

Here’s to May and June – the season of PBs in the last couple of years. And here’s to July, August and September – let’s try and sustain the season this year.

>2010 Cycling targets

>Here we go then. Last season’s targets were suitably challenging – to the extent that I didn’t achieve any of them. This means that this season’s SMART efforts can be remarkably similar.

  • Beat 23:00 for a 10 mile TT by the end of the season.
    • Sub goal: personal best (currently 23:37) by the end of the season.

  • Personal best for a 25 mile TT (currently 59:07) by the end of the season.
    • Sub goal: beat the hour by the end of the season.

  • Average 22+mph for the BBAR distances by the end of the season.
    • Sub goal: personal best (last 3 seasons) for 50 miles (currently 2:06:03) by the end of the season.
    • Sub goal: close to personal best for 100 miles (currently 4:24:14) by the end of the season.
    • Sub goal: close to personal best for 12 hours (currently 238ish miles) by the end of the season.

  • Finish, on average, in the top third of finishers in solo time trials during the season.

I am not setting any targets for circuit and road racing – I may ride a few, but they’ll be training races.

All of these targets will stretch me and it’s quite possible that I could miss several/all of them. They are in my head though, so I may as well commit them to text and crystallise the challenge.
I’ve used some of the resources from the flamme rouge site in putting these targets together and trying to prioritise some process goals as well. This exercise was particularly testing! It’s well worth a look.

>Time off the road

>The last time I rode the bike out of doors was in the Winter Series circuit race on 5th December. Since then I’ve had a mild cold, time away for Christmas in the Yorkshire snow and several days of looking at rain. I have ridden on the turbo trainer a few times – I even took it on holiday (what was I thinking) – but the efforts are compromised by an unusually high heart rate at the moment. I had hoped to keep my fitness level at over 100 AUOF* during the Winter, but the virtual lay off has seen it reduce to nearer 60 AUOF. There’s going to be a lot of work to do during January to get fit again.

I don’t think I’ll be fit enough to ride any more of the Winter Series, so my next targets will be the Chiltern Classic reliability trials and perhaps some local Audax events.

* AUOF = Arbitrary units of fitness

>Season review – part 2 / New season starts already!


Today is day one of the 2009/2010 season plan. It crept up on me without me noticing. Luckily it’s down as a rest day, so no need to feel guilty until tomorrow.

Why did last season (as I have to call it now) fall apart?

Might it be over-racing? I did ride more than 60 races despite a long break. The focus on racing did result in some lost quality training sessions – there was hardly any interval work outs once the racing started in earnest. I could have targeted events better, using some races as expensive training and/or testing sessions and others as ‘A’ races. I enjoy racing, so I don’t think I’ll cut back too much next year. I will, however, try and reduce racing miles in the run up to target events.

Could it be a lack of training? I come from an era when ‘miles’ were important. It feels strange to be training less than 7,000 miles a year. But the emphasis has changed from quantity to quality nowadays. I will try and edge my mileage up by about 10% for next year, but the focus will be on a progressive, structured plan rather than hours in the saddle.

Would I benefit from a coach? A moot point. I’m pretty sure that an outside eye, a motivator and a skilled training plan builder would be valuable, but the money ain’t there at the moment. Joe Friel’s Training Bible and an Excel spreadsheet will have to suffice. This is a pity because I think my tendency to get in to a monotonous groove has worked against getting faster. I need to work on those harder, more intense sessions.

Should I eat better? Yes. I’m a junk vegetarian. I don’t think the second part of that description raises insurmountable problems, but the junk bit is an issue. I am permanently tired and struggle to recover. Diet is a big part of that. I will eat more bananas and fewer bite size Milky Ways… I’ve said that before, mind.