Monday, January 30, 2017

Sharon's Ride, and this week's schedule

Mahalo to Michael Lau for these pics from Sharon's Ride.

Sunday was the annual Sharon's Ride for Epilepsy, which I did in place of my schedule tempo ride. I chose to ride it hard, which had the unfortunate side effect of my not stopping for the usual pictures. Lucky for me Michael Lau took a bunch.

I found out Saturday at packet pickup that the course had been cut to 50K but as it turned out the intense, unpredictable wind made up for it. Here are some of my stats:

Duration: 1:57
Distance: 26.1 mi
Avg Speed 13.4 Max: 41.2
Elevation gain: 1312
Normalized Power: 136 watts
Avg Power: 136 Max: 402
TSS: 125.7
IF 0.81
Avg Cadence: 76 Max: 123
VI: 1.0
EF: 1.01

The thing that jumps out at me is the Normalized Power vs. Average Power, and the corresponding Variability Index of 1.0. Naturally power goes up and down like a yo-yo, but these numbers suggest that I rode at a relatively steady effort. If I had pushed had a bit, then cruised a bit, my average power could be the same as here but my NP would be lower, something like 130 watts. Along with that my VI would have been non-zero. I am still not totally clear how to interpret Efficiency Factor, but 1.0 seems to be ideal and this was pretty close.

The original plan for the day, before it was an organized ride, was a 2:30 ride with 2 x 20 min intervals in zone 3. This was not a day to do precisely timed intervals, but I tried to ride in zone three a lot, limited by road conditions and fatigue. Here are my time in zone results:

1Z - 13%
2Z - 31%
3Z - 22%
4aZ - 10%
4Z - 10%
5Z - 12%
6Z - 1%

Heart Rate
1Z - 4%
2Z - 10%
3Z - 21%
4Z - 58%
5AZ - 6%
5BZ - 1%
5CZ - 1%

The striking thing to me is that, just like last Monday's tempo ride, my heart rate zone seems high compared to my power zone and my RPE. The situation where they all agree is climbing, such as Tantalus. If we round off the duration to two hours and take percentages, I spent 26 minutes in zone 3, which was my goal. Going by heart rate, I spent 25 minutes in zone 3 and about 70 minutes in zone 4. This feels like something to be concerned about, but I am not sure that, given my age and riding history, this is to be expected. Again, I did not feel like I was anywhere near threshold, which is how zone 4 should feel. Time will tell.

Last week
Focus was bike

ATP: 590 TSS
Actual: 534.6

Week of 1/30 - Base 1 Week 4 (week 3 is skipped due to old guy periodization plan)
Focus: R&R


AM Off
PM Strength with Dorian

AM Run, recovery, 1.5 mi.
PM Swim OW

AM Swim, pool
PM Bike, spin class

AM Strength with Dorian
PM Yoga with Elaine

AM Swim, pool
PM Off

AM Run, base, 9 mi.

AM Bike, 1:30 tempo for 30 min, 135 watts (chk WKO4 for zone update, course TBD.)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Schedule week of Jan 23

During my Honu training I started sharing my weekly schedule with Pattie by mail, then added Sonya and Dorian and anyone else affected by my training. I just started doing this again for the 2017 when I realized that it would be better as a blog post. So here it is, the third one in the new season.

The week began great but ended in disruption due to wind, rain, and a broken water main. The good news is that what was billed as a Friday morning team building walk for the office gang turned into an all out trail run/walk that pushed me hard. During most of it I kept reminding myself I was scheduled to do my first tempo run interval set of the season on Saturday. Funny how it is that when you are in a group you want to keep up even when they are on average 30 younger. Later that day I realized I should count the morning hill run as my hard run effort, even though I did not get to establish a tempo baseline. That freed up Saturday morning for the annual Chinatown new year's visit, which I had planned to miss, so that was good.

Saturday afternoon was a total loss. Stuck in traffic due to a broken water main. Left gamelan rehearsal at 4:00PM and got as far as Kahala Mall (2 miles?) by 7:00PM. Had dinner there with Mike, then finally made it home. Howling winds and driving rain. I actually was sitting in Kahala at 5:00PM with the car heater on! Frigid 67F outside!

Sunday was supposed to start with a tempo bike ride up along the northeast coast, Waihee Road past Hygienic Store up past Kualoa Beach Park, an hour and a half with the middle 30 min at tempo. I am alternating my effort week by week and this was a run week, so the Saturday interval run had priority. This was "do the best you can." Between the 50 m.p.h. wind gusts and the driving rain, the best I could do was stay home and clean the kitchen. That was good. For those of you tracking the bathroom renovation, I did not get to that because to start I would have to go shopping, and with the traffic from the still messed up road I would have spent the rest of the day getting back home.

The other glaring oddity for the week was zero data for spin class. That is because Dorian noticed that my position on my road bike was not as good as my tri bike. So we spent Wednesday's spin class swapping out stems and adjusting things. Friday afternoon was supposed to be an easy test ride but the rain nixed that, and I already mentioned what happened to today's planned ride. So I actually spent zero time on the bike. Weird.

I am just getting started with WKO4, the advanced workout analysis and modeling software from the same guys that do TrainingPeaks. In my last report -- pre blog -- I reported the upper right block displaying 

5 sec 486 watts
1 min 264 watts
5 min 193 watts
20 min 181 watts
60 min 132 watts

That has not changed, probably because I did not do anything "better." What did change was 60 min Normalized Power (average power adjusted for variations), was 144 watts, now 140. As a rule, less is not good. Not sure what else to track here.

This year I am tracking workouts by TSS instead of duration. I covered this is a previous blog.

ATP means Annual Training Plan, as created using TrainingPeaks. Every week has a recommended TSS target. It is up to me to distribute that between various activities and the details of the training.

Last week
Focus was run

ATP: 530 TSS
Planned: 371.1
Actual: 308 run: 209.1 bike: 0

Week of 1/23 - Base 1 Week 2
Focus on bike

ATP: 590
Planned: 578.7

Note here, to go from 308 to 578 is a rather steep ramp rate. I may need an adjustment latter in the week, might drop Friday's hill work.

AM Bike, make up Sunday's Tempo ride. Ford Island
PM Strength with Dorian

AM Run, base building, 3 mi.
PM Swim OW

AM Swim, pool
PM Bike, spin class

AM Strength with Dorian
PM Yoga with Elaine

AM Swim, pool
PM Bike, moderate hills

AM Run, tempo intervals 4x0.5 mi. 8 mi total
PM HBL annual dinner

AM Bike, Sharon's Ride. Do 30 min at Tempo, 135 watts

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New power zones for WKO4

It has been a little more than a year since I started using a power meter, the Garmin Vector pedals, and right from the start I was confused about setting power zones on Training Peaks. I just sort of made do with zone numbers, that is until two things hit simultaneously earlier this month. In my previous blog I introduced the new Training Peaks workout builder and noted that it uses zone names and not zone numbers, so zone names became a thing. In that blog I equated "Steady State" with "SweetSport" thinking they were the same thing. Thankfully a reader who knows a lot more about WKO4 than I do pointed out that these two were not at all the same, and that got me to do a deep dive into the whole power zone thing.I think I have it straight now.

To get started using power I followed the advice in Joe Friel's excellent book, "The Power Meter Handbook: A User's Guide for Cyclists and Triathletes." Friel recommends seven zones:

ZoneDescription% FTP
2Aerobic Endurance56-75
6Anerobic capacity121-150
7Sprint Power>150

I created a spreadsheet with formulas to convert a measured FTP into these seven zones. Then I went into Training Peaks to enter these zones, then edited the zone data on my Edge 800 and Fenix 2. Training Peaks has Friel zone settings for running, but not cycling. Odd. The power zone options are

Andy Coggan (6)
CTS (7)
Durata Training (8)

I went with CTS because it had seven zones, same as Friel, but honestly I never did figure out how to use the automatic setting feature. When I entered my tested threshold value I got nothing like Friel's values. I ended up doing it manually with my spreadsheet, and never bothered with the descriptions because they never appeared anywhere. Until now. Here is my last version of those numbers. Note that the percentage of FTP is the same as Friel's because that is what I used. Pay close attention to the descriptions.

Training Peaks
ZoneDescription% FTP
4Tempo 91-105
5Steady State106-120
6Climbing Repeats121-149
7Power Intervals>150

As I looked ahead to my 2017 season and its focus on cycling I decided it was time to take another look at WKO4. I installed the demo and began working through the excellent videos by Tim Cusick and Dr. Andrew Coggan. It was not very long before I was a convert and I shelled out the dough for a full license.

There is too much to WKO4 to say what matters most to me, but if I had to pick a few features, one that would rise to the top would be iLevels. The software looks at your history and derives a set of power zones based on your individual abilities, not just a straight percentage of FTP. Actually, I think the lower levels do follow a traditional % FTP rule, it is the higher zones that are more individually tailored. Here is what I know to be WKO4 iLevel power zones:

ZoneDescription% FTP

WKO4 includes a chart that fills in zones 5-7 with watts and recommended duration for intervals.

I want to point out two things. Friel and WKO4 agree on where Tempo zone 3 begins, and are virtually in agreement on where it ends. Training Peaks is significantly different. So, as I was designing some Tempo interval drills with the Training Peaks workout builder I ended up with some really high efforts. It just felt wrong, and now I now why. The workout builder displays zone names, not zone numbers, so I was adjusting %FTP to get "Tempo" when in fact this was way up at threshold. To be clear, I have yet to ride these intervals, I only got as far as creating the workouts. Now I have to go back and fix them, fortunately before I try them out!

The other thing I want to point out, and apologize for, is where Sweetspot comes. WKO4 puts Sweetspot just below threshold (a.k.a. FTP). Training Peaks has Steady State well above threshold. Like I said before, I cannot see how anything above threshold could be considered steady state, as by definition you cannot maintain anything above threshold for very long.

This Sunday will be my first Tempo interval ride. Look for a report next week. Except that the weather report calls for extremely high winds and heavy rain, so this may have to wait a week.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Estimating TSS made easy

My last blog entry described the new way to plan a season with Training Peaks. The Annual Training Plan now offers a choice between traditional duration-based planning and TSS-based planning. When you consider that TSS is Duration x Intensity you can see how it is not so much different as more inclusive.

One major obstacle to using TSS is that it is a number we are unfamiliar with. Supposed you had never ridden in a car or train. The fastest you have every traveled is on a bicycle, one without a speedometer. If I told you my car can go 60 miles per hour you probably would not have any sense of what that was like, even though you know how long a mile and an hour are. You will just have to trust me that after planning and reviewing workouts in terms of TSS for awhile you will develop a feel for it, same as you "know" what 60 m.p.h. feels like.

TSS is Duration x Intensity, with a little scaling to make the results easier to digest. We know what duration is, elapsed time expressed in hours, minutes, seconds, and tenths. To simplify the calculation TSS uses minutes. Where do we find intensity, and how do we express it? Good question. There is no easy answer.

If we are using a power meter we can use something called threshold power, more commonly called Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Lacking power data, if we are using a heart rate monitor we can use threshold heart rate. But what is the threshold? Sports physiologists can debate that question the way football fans can argue over which team has the best offense (an offensive argument if ever there was one!). The simple but very useful answer is the effort that can be sustained continuously for a prolonged period of time. How long? More than fifteen minutes, as long as an hour, maybe even longer under race conditions. This level of activity is set by the body's ability to clear lactic acid; any harder and the lactic acid level in the blood will rise and output will drop. When using heart rate to represent this value we use Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR). So FTP equals LTHR. More or less.

The beauty of this approach is that it simplifies mapping personal data to functional performance levels. My LTHR is 141. Yours might be 155, but we both feel the same thing at our respective LTHR.My FTP is 169 watts, and yours might be 225 watts. When we map out heart rate and power into zones we ought to feel the same degree of difficulty in the same zone, regardless how many watts our legs are producing or how fast our heart is beating.

Training Peaks offer several ways to divide power output into zones. I happen to use the method labeled "CTS," which I think stands for Carmichael Training Systems. I might switch to a different system, but for now that is the one I have the most experience with. The CTS system uses seven power zones and assigns each a descriptive term. Here are mine:

My FTP:169

Range Start
ZoneDescription(watts)% FTP
5Steady State*179106
6Climbing Repeats204121
7Power Intervals254150

*- Sweet Spot

Intensity Factor is a handy way to express how hard we were working compared to a threshold effort. If we were to ride our bike at FTP for one hour, that workout would get an IF score of 1.00 and a TSS of 100. If we could manage the same effort for two hours -- highly unlikely -- we would still be at IF 1.0 but would get a TSS of 200. Normally we expect to see IF values in the range of .50  to .90. As a rule, the longer the workout the lower the IF.

What is missing from the Training Peaks personal data is percent of FTP. I have a spreadsheet to compute that. You can see the results in the last column. It is simple, just the Range Start value divided by FTP expressed as a percent. This is helpful for what comes next, using the Workout Builder, but it has other uses as well.

Care to learn more about IF and TSS from the guy who created it? Here you go.

Let Workout Builder do the math

Let's assume you want to plan a bike workout with these criteria:

Duration: about 2 hours
TSS: about 120
Main set: Tempo intervals, 5 x 12 minutes with 3 minute recoveries.

In Training Peaks all you have to do is add a new bike workout to your calendar, click on the Workout Builder link (see below, click to enlarge). To build the workout you drag interval icons representing warm-up, work, recovery, and cool-down from the top of the window to the timeline and edit a few details such as duration and intensity. Remember what I said about knowing the %FTP for your power zones? You need that because the Workout Builder uses %FTP to specify intensity. It does display the descriptive text, but not the zone.

In this case I made the work interval intensity 95% of FTP, which puts it mid-way through my Tempo rage of 154 to 178 watts. Remember, that is my Tempo range; yours will be different. Notice that the text does not mention power zone 4. It does say 161 watts, and "Tempo." My Garmin will not display "Tempo" but it will display power (and heart rate) zones down to a tenth of a zone, so I should expect to see something around 4.5.

A thirty minute warm up and a fifteen minute cool down bring the total duration to two hours. Training Peaks estimates the overall intensity factor for this workout at 0.81, another way of saying 81% FTP, and estimates a TSS of 130.9.

There are just two ways to increase the TSS for a given workout. Increase the duration, or increase the intensity. If you are short of your weekly TSS goal you can increase the TSS of a workout, or add another workout. Obviously you must do so cautiously, as you only have so much time and your body can only absorb so much work.

If you had to come up with IF and TSS for every planned workout by hand you would probably give up after one month of planning. The workout builder takes the pain out of the math and makes planning by TSS as easy as planning by duration.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A new year and a new approach to training

It was not until I started run training to prepare for my first marathon that I began to follow a training plan. At first the plan was simple. Go out and walk/run for thirty minutes every day, fifteen minutes out, then back. Start with one minute run intervals, then gradually make the run interval longer and the walk interval shorter. It seemed to take forever, but eventually I got to where I could run without walking.

My first "real"training plan came from an excellent book on nutrition for runners by Matt Fitzgerald. His half and full marathon training plans specify short, weekday runs by time, but he prefers to specify the long run by distance.

As time went on and I gained experience with training I learned that all training plans are designed by one or the other -- time or distance. But what about intensity? Intensity is not an important factor for beginners, but as strength and endurance develop intensity needs to be taken into account. The better training plans I have used relied on simple descriptive words like "easy" or "hard" along with heart rate zones to specify intensity. Helpful, but not very useful in evaluating the cumulative effect of training.

Training Peaks gives us a better tool for evaluating the effect of a workout. If we combine duration and intensity we get a number called Training Stress Score. When a power meter is used the intensity value is very precise. Currently power meters are just becoming affordable for bikes. Running power meters are starting to appear, but are still a bit experimental. For runners, and cyclists without a power meter, a heart rate monitor provides slightly less accurate but still valuable data. For swimming the technology is less well developed, but time and distance values can be used to compute a reasonable estimate of swim TSS. Triathletes rarely have the time to swim enough that managing swim TSS becomes an issue.

Training Peaks provides a wealth of charts for analyzing data. The chart of all charts is the Performance Management Chart, which plots three lines computed from the TSS values of individual workouts. I am not going to explain the PMC here; if you want to learn more about it you can find a number of blog posts and YouTube videos that explain how it works. (Here's another good introduction.)

Here is my PMC covering all activities from November 2016 through the end of March 2017 (click to enlarge). You can see the peak produced by the marathon (spike in purple line), and the sag in training just before that caused by my ankle injury and tooth infection, and the very nice rest period I have been enjoying since the marathon.

Last October Training Peaks introduced a radical new way to create an Annual Training Plan using TSS in place of duration. The old method, explained in great detail in Joe Friel's book "The Triathlete's Training Bible," assigned a target number of hours week by week. Being an old guy my plan includes one R&R week in every three. Younger athletes usually do one in four. The number of hours available is set by the athlete and is based on available time and recovery time requirements derived from past experience. The new method starts with a TSS value for the year, which should be derived from prior years data. From that the system will compute TSS targets week by week, or an experienced coach or athlete can go manual and assign whatever numbers they choose.

Here is the start of my 2016 ATP compared to this year's (click to enlarge). Of course this year's ATP has no "Actual" data yet. You can also see how the year starts of with dashed lines that represent results going up and down, then falling off. This is because I have not completed daily plans after March.

I still am not sure how to read the shaded lines vs. the dashed lines. My confusion should clear up by the end of January, when I have uploaded a few weeks worth of data. In any case I think this will prove to be a significantly more accurate planning tool.