High Heart Rate & Low Fatigue – 21st October 2014

On last Sunday’s club run my HR rose to 180 and for over 2 minutes it averaged 178 and 1 minute 179. During this period of elevated HR I had no trouble breathing and there was an absence of muscle fatigue in my legs. I had been in a chain gang all the way from the Whimple turn-off on the Rockbeare straight and we were climbing the last leg just before the new science park. I knew the effort was demanding but I felt in control and not about to keel over. I was riding alongside two other riders, one of whom was Alistair Lobban who I know is a strong rider (cat 3), and I felt I just had an edge over him which is a bit of a turn up for the books as Alistair usually outmuscles me.

At the time I couldn’t quite believe that my HR had risen so much and yet I hadn’t blown up. Clearly, my body was coping at a level that previously it would not have coped with. This got my head spinning with the potential training opportunities and performance gains. If previously I had blown up in the high 160’s HR then what could I now achieve if I could keep cycling within myself in the high 170’s? Exciting times indeed and what was behind the apparent performance improvement?

As for the physiological performance improvement how could this be explained?

  1. I had rested for nearly three weeks – this included 2 or 3 recovery rides per week and very little gym work.
  2. My rest & recovery followed a block of training which had been uninterrupted since mid-July.
  3. My recent training block had focused on improving VO2 Max, strength and muscle endurance where I increased my VO2 Max power (CP5 342w, CP20 274w) and my climbing had notably improved.
  4. Working on VO2 Max had clearly improved my Anaerobic Capacity. Although AC hadn’t been the main focus, it is inevitable that it would have been worked when training at VO2 Max because there is overlap between the body’s different energy systems, especially at the upper end between VO2 Max and AC.
  5. My weight had reduced down to 70kg just a few days prior to this ride so I was carrying a lot less weight than I was just 2 months ago (approx 74kg).
  6. I had eaten quite well just 2 days before this ride so my glycogen stores would have been well stocked. I was also well hydrated.

After my last training block I felt very fatigued both mentally and physically. I was acutely aware of the need to rest properly and not to rush back into training. I was also conscious of the need to keep my legs spinning and so I made sure I went out and did some recovery rides at power below 150w and typically 90 mins duration. I also closely monitored my HRV which steadily decreased during my R&R. I think my HRV would have declined more quickly without the recovery rides. I can’t say that the HRV readings provided an accurate measure on when to return to training but they were useful in monitoring how my body was responding to the R&R. With regards to returning to training I became more sensitive to how my body was responding. With each successive recovery ride I pushed a little harder to see how I felt but one thing I certainly didn’t do was rush back to start my next period of training. I’m glad that I took this approach as the evidence from my last club ride was that my body appears to have fully recovered from my previous training block and more importantly my body has changed physiologically such that I can now train at a higher HR. This, as I said above, is extremely exciting as it opens the door to new training possibilities, namely:

  • Anaerobic Capacity training such as hill repeats
  • Time-trial training – long intervals at near maximum effort
  • Sprint training
  • Strength training

I am beginning to set my sights higher with regards to what I can achieve from my training. It is becoming clear that getting the balance right between training & rest and setting the right intensity for training sessions is returning very positive results. So, what is realistic in terms of what I can now achieve?

  • Goal 1 – complete a 10 mile TT in less than 24 minutes – average speed 25mph
  • Goal 2 – climb Stoke Hill course in less than 5m 30secs
  • Goal 3 – complete a 24 mile TT in less than 60 minutes – average speed 24mph
  • Goal 4 – complete 100 mile TT in less than 300 minutes – average speed 20mph

In order to achieve these goals I will need to improve my power output profile as follows:

  • CP1 = 600w (468w) = 28%
  • CP5 = 400w (342w) = 17%
  • CP20 = 325w (274w) = 19%
  • CP60 = 305w (256w) = 19%

My speed/power based on recent training sessions is as follows:

  • 265w 20.3mph = 13.05w per mph
  • 241w 19.2mph = 12.55w per mph
  • 224w 17.6mph = 12.73w per mph

Therefore, to achieve an average speed of 25mph I would need to turn out approx. 320w. Therefore, breaking down goal 1 of riding a 10m TT at an average speed of 25mph:

  • Step 1 by 9/11/14 – 25m @ 275w & 10m @ 280w
  • Step 2 by 30/11/14 –  20m @ 280w & 10m @ 290w
  • Step 3 by 21/12/14 -20m @ 290w & 10m @ 300w
  • Step 4 by 11/1/15 – 15m @ 300w & 10m @ 310w
  • Step 5 by 1/2/15 – 15m @ 305w & 10m @ 315w
  • Step 6 by 22/2/15 – 15m @ 310w & 10m @ 320w
  • Step 7 by 15/3/15 – 15m @ 315w & 10m @ 325w
  • Step 8 by 5/4/15 – 15m @ 320w & 10m @ 330w
  • Step 9 by 26/4/15 – 15m @ 325w & 10m @ 335w

If we assume each of these steps is achieved within a 2-week training block followed by a 1-week R&R then I will achieve my target of 320w and average speed of 25mph by April 26th 2015. As the TT season starts in May this will give me just enough training time to achieve my target assuming no layoffs or injuries. I think I should make CP20 @ 320w and average speed of 25mph as my main training focus. This will feed very nicely into all my other training goals.

 

The gains needed are extremely high

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Mental Fatigue 13th October 2014

T a demanding 3-week training block in September I began to feel mentally as well as physically fatigued. originally, I had planned to take a one week recovery and then return to a new three-week training period, however, I have made a number of changes, notably:

  1. I have extended my recovery from one to two weeks
  2. I have decided to schedule two-week training periods followed by one week of recovery
  3. I will be joining a gym where they have a wider selection of weight resistance machines and run classes

During my recovery I have begun to realise that my mind as well as my body will eventually succumb to fatigue. Presumably there must be some kind of chemical imbalance that leads to mental fatigue – it is a defence mechanism to prevent one from overtraining and causing actual physical harm by way of an injury or illness. My HRV has come down from the low 70’s to about the high 50’s and has only recently started to climb again and I am reading this as a signal that my body is approaching recovery from a long accumulated period of training, from March right through until the end of September, that is, six months.

My position is to return to full training shortly and that means averaging around 100 TSS points per week for the two-week full-on training period and somewhere around 60-75 TSS points for the recovery week.

One positive over the past two-weeks has been my continued adherence to the performance-management diet. My weight is now 70.8kg and I feel confident that I can lower it to my target weight of 69.5kg within a few weeks.

VO2 Max, What is it Good For?

I’ve been doing some VO2 Max Hill Repeats over the past couple of weeks and I have noticed an improvement in my cycling, especially my climbing. Last week I went to watch the Tour of Britain up on Haytor. On the way back there was a big group of competent cyclists heading back to Exeter along the Teign Valley and Longdown. When we got to the start of the Longdown climb I was up the front with a Uni Exeter rider (Jack Holman) who is quite high up on quite a few of Strava’s KOM’s. Anyway, I paced myself up the climb keeping to about 320w. As we approached the 3/4 mark there were just two riders ahead of me, Jack Holman and a chinese looking bloke from the ‘Bad Lodgers’ club. I could see that they were slowing down and I was gaining on them. Just before the last corner near the top I went passed them both. I then got out of the saddle and sprinted a little bit before sitting down and completing the climb first!! Wey hey, monumental, well that is how I felt. My average power for the climb was 337w and this resulted in my best ever CP50 moving me into Cat 3 territory. Well chuffed.

Anyway, it struck me that the VO2 Max hill repeats I’d done a couple of days back had already returned an improvement in performance. The hill repeats I’d done were 3 x 5min @ 320w although I didn’t manage to complete the last of the three intervals and the average power for my final interval had only been 295w. I’d actually felt disappointed after that session because I believed that I could have given more if my glycogen stores were at 100% which I believed they weren’t because I’d been on a calorie reduction diet for about a week and had therefore depleted my glycogen stores. So, this got me thinking more about VO2 Max and I did a little research and this is what I have revealed so far:

  • VO2 Max is trainable but is also partly genetic
  • VO2 MAX is all about our capacity to deliver oxygen to the muscles
  • At VO2 Max we breathe heavily because of the heavy demand for oxygen being made by the body’s muscles
  • Muscles can process at least double the amount of oxygen they receive at VO2 Max. Therefore, it follows that if more oxygen can be delivered then the muscles can work harder and performance will subsequently improve
  • Improved breathing can increase the amount of oxygen being taken into the body. I already have a breathing tool which I can start to use to improve my capacity to take in more oxygen

The main physiological adaptations connected to VO2 Max are:

  1. Increased stroke volume/maximal cardiac output
  2. Increased muscle mitochondrial enzymes
  3. Increased lactate threshold
  4. Increased plasma volume
  5. Increased muscle glycogen storage
  6. Interconversion of fast-twitch muscle fibres (type IIx to type IIa)
  7. Hypertrophy of slow-twitch muscle fibres
  8. Increased muscle capillarisation
  9. Increased anaerobic capacity (lactate tolerance)

There appear to be a lot of benefits accruing from training VO2 Max and my own personal evidence is that it has a had a positive impact, primarily

  1. Delaying the onset of muscle fatigue and allowing me to push out more power for longer periods
  2. I am generating more power at a lower HR which means my speed at recovery, endurance and tempo is increasing but my HR is going down

So, how can I build on what I have learnt to optimise my training?

Need to do more research on the 9 physiological adaptations noted above. Which of these has a greater influence on performance and how can they be developed to increase performance gains?

I would make the following observations from my own training sessions:

  • It is taking longer for my muscles to fatigue – this could be due to increased numbers of mitochondria which are responsible for clearing lactate. The increase in mitochondria is probably related to the long period of endurance riding from January through to August, especially the once-a-week 70 or 80 mile rides. Mitochondria are developed in the slow-twich (ST) muscle fibres so it is plausible that the long base period was responsible for the increase in mitochondria and an increase in mitochondria improves the muscles ability to clear lactate.
  • My muscles are receiving more oxygen than previously so given my lower HR this is probably because my heart is pumping out a higher volume of blood per beat, ie., increased stroke volume
  • Anything blood related needs to take account of hydration – the more hydrated I am the more optimised the blood will be to carry oxygen to the muscles. If the blood becomes more viscous then the heart has to work harder to pump it around the body. My body water % has risen from about 64% a few months ago to around its current level of 67%. Water % may also have risen because muscle mass has increased but it is difficult to extrapolate any definitive conclusions regarding muscle mass as the data taken from the Body Mass Machine is up and down. Also, does body hydration increase with a decrease in body fat? This requires further investigation.
  • The higher water % may also suggest that glycogen storage has improved. The normal storage is 500g glycogen which carries with it 1.5kg of water. Therefore, as glycogen storage increases water % also increases. Each gramme of glycogen needs 3 grammes of water.
  • I am now not suffering from hunger pangs during the night which may suggest my body is less dependent on a constant supply of carbohydrate. How this specifically relates to VO2 Max I am not entirely sure but it may have some bearing following additional research so it is worth noting.

Dartmoor Classic 2014 Grande

Very pleased with completing 107 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing yesterday in about 7 hours or 7 hours 23 minutes when the two stops were included. The Gold qualification time was 6 hours 56 minutes so I was awarded a silver medal which is pretty good for my first Classic. Can I do a gold time next year? Course I can and I will do.

A ride of 3 parts, all conveniently separated by the checkpoint/feedstation at Princetown. Started off strong, probably a bit too strong. Flying up the climbs and maintaining a good pace generally, however, the price for this was a higher HR, probably operating in tempo to anaerobic zones and a subsequent buildup of lactic in the legs. Feeling a bit jaded on the moor approach to Princetown and the first stop at 34 miles. Was considering switching to the Medio but decided to plough on and complete the Grande. The next section I decided to ride in my endurance zone and managed to recuperate pretty well. After calling in at the feed station for a second time at 74 miles, I felt strong and completed the final part of the ride in my endurance and tempo zones. I was encouraged by my strength in the final third. Spent a total of 23 minutes in the feed stations, a bit longer than I’d originally planned. Did the ride by myself and didn’t get much in the way of drafting from other riders. I was definitely stronger than most riders on the climbs but gave up time on the flatter sections.

What lessons did I learn:

  1. Pacing is absolutely crucial – it is better to go off more slowly and gradually build up speed rather than bolting off too soon. I’d actually prepared myself to do this but I guess I got carried away and pushed myself too hard early on.
  2. My climbing was pretty strong especially the climb up Manaton in the early stages. I also realised that I was moving ahead of most riders when it came to the climbs.
  3. My speed on the flat or rolling sections was not as quick as many riders and there is scope to improve this.
  4. I had difficulty eating solid foods. I didn’t eat much of the bread/honey I had made relying mainly on my energy mix (4 parts maltodextrin, 2 parts sugar, 1 part sucrose, 0.5 part electrolyte, 0.2 part creatine, 0.01 part caffeine). As it was a hot day this energy solution worked well alongside 4 bananas.
  5. I drank a total of 9 litres. I used three 1L bottles and I refilled them twice.
  6. I got hardly any drafting. If I want a faster time I will have to team up with other riders who are of a similar ability.
  7. I was strong at the end which would suggest I got my nutritional strategy right
  8. My legs were tired but I didn’t suffer any cramps. The tape I used on my left and right achilles and left elbow seemed to do the trick.

Actions

  1. Continue to lose weight. I weighed 71.7kg coming into this event – I believe I can lose another 2 or 3kg before I am at my optimal performance weight
  2. Measure my lactate threshold – the last time I did it (last year) it came in at 163.
  3. Increase my lactate threshold
  4. Increase my power on flat and rolling sections (maybe, I need to buy a power meter and switch to training by power and not HR)
  5. Build my strength, especially leg muscle mass
  6. Regular long training rides across Dartmoor. I can park the car up and take the bike with me or I can ride out from Exeter. Either way I need to start including longer rides with lots more climbing.

Did I Reach My Goal By The Time I Was 50?

This was what I wrote in this blog exactly one year to the day and it is spooky because it is 1.30am in the morning and I can’t sleep!

In my mind I always had a vision of me looking the best I have ever been in my life when I reached 50 – I don’t why I just did. Now I want to turn that vision into reality. I have been exercising on my bike for the past 3 months and the distances I can ride have been steadily increasing. Last month I followed a bike exercise programme developed by polarpersonaltrainer.com and it has definitely inspired me to seek out a more structured approach to achieving my goal. So, I’ve decided to set up this blog and get started.

So, one year on did I achieve my vision? Two days ago I rode in my first ever sportive, the Ride London Surrey Classic. I completed 100 miles in 5 1/2 hours at an average speed of just under 18.5mph. Now, being a member of a cycling club I have learnt in order to do this you need to be reasonably fit. Therefore, I know I am reasonably fit. What about how I look? Well, the weight did finally start to come off earlier this year when I became more disciplined in my diet and yes, I do look a lot better. I have much less body fat so I am definitely leaner although there are still signs of body fat around my waist and face so although my weight has come down to 74kg I still think there is another 2-2.5kg of fat to lose. Have I looked physically better? Yes, I have looked better than this. Can I improve more? Yes, I can. Can I look better than I have ever looked? Yes, I can. How long will it take? I reckon it will take a year. How will I do this? By maintaining and building on my cycling success and by weight training. I did weight training and was enjoying it but I overdid it which led to tendonitis in my left elbow. Therefore, when I restart the weights I will be much more careful.

So, what is the answer to the question? Did I achieve my goal or not. Well, yes and no. Yes, I have achieved a great deal. At 50 years of age I feel fitter than I have been for a long time and more importantly I think I can go on improving. No, because I don’t look the best I have ever been but I have learnt that it was unrealistic to achieve that goal in just one year. It is more realistic to achieve that goal in two years so I am definitely headed in the right direction so I am part way to achieving that bit of my vision.

So, how do I feel one year on? I feel great, I feel like I’ve accomplished so much and most importantly it has given me self-confidence, belief, vitality and a hunger to achieve more. I am going to enjoy and wallow in the success of my achievements. I have learnt that I can make a difference when I use my intelligence and I will carry on using it, in all areas of my life.

February-March Target Achieved – Review

My target for February and March was to cycle for 68 hours, equivalent to 1,000 miles. I am delighted that I achieved this goal with one week left remaining of the month on 24th. It is now time to review the last couple of months to highlight the main achievements and also to examine opportunities to develop further. Let’s kick off with reviewing the main target and then the sub-targets:

Main target achieved (68 hours riding and 1,000 miles) with 1 week left of March.

A. Refine each ride to focus on targeted training. The aim is to increase my Functional Threshold so I can sustain more powerful riding for longer and improve my climbing

I started off doing this but realised that my body wasn’t recovering quickly enough from the higher intensity sessions. On the 19th February I did a really strong steady state ride on the Triangle – this followed a strong club ride on Bampton Lanes. On the 20th I developed a cold. It made me stop and think. I bought Joe Friel’s book, The Cyclists Training Bible. The book was really useful and it taught me that I had to ensure I built my base endurance before moving up to more intensive training work. As a result of what I learnt I decided to focus on endurance riding and also gym work. It also laid out the importance of proper rest and recovery. As a result I decided to include R&R after every 2 weeks of training. This way I would give my body sufficient time to adjust and strengthen for the next 2 weeks of training. I broke down the number of hours I needed to ride each week. This was higher than my original target but I thought I’d give it a go. This new training approach based on Joe Friel’s book has led to improvements and there has been no illness since.

B. Strength work in gym twice a week focussing on core and upper body – I have managed to get to the gym about once a week although this is now increasing. Whilst at the gym I learnt that my hamstrings and lower back muscle groups were weaker relative to the rest of my body. I don’t think this would have come out so clearly if I hadn’t been doing gym work. I continue to get stronger at they gym. I now need to focus on increasing the weights I am lifting to increase muscle mass and definition in my arms, upper body, lower back and hamstrings.

C. Complete 1,000 miles – did this with 1 week of the month remaining so well chuffed. Joe Friel’s book definitely helped in increasing the weekly miles and all focused on sdeveloping endurance

D. Reduce my body fat and reduce my weight to 74kg – I have definitely lost fat especially around my stomach and my weight is finally starting to go down. I bought body composition scales to more accurately measure progress with respect to losing fat and increasing muscle mass. I’ll take a weight reading at the end of the month but I know for sure it is headed in the right direction.

E. Complete Functional Threshold Test at end of February and March – I have already done the Feb test which improved my FT to 163. I’ll post the results of my March test shortly.

Milestone – First 100km Ride

Great news, I completed my first ever 100km ride (70 miles) which is equivalent to a shorter sportive!!

Nice dry cold sunny day with very little wind. Rode up the Exe Valley to Bampton (rapidly becoming one of my favourite routes) and then over to Wiveliscombe, Milverton, Wellington and then headed back through Culmstock, Uffculme and back lanes to Broadclyst. Rode at endurance pace, average HR 132, RPE 15-16, 15.3mph. Felt OK when I got back. No major aches or pains, just a little tension in the neck and quads a little tired which is all to be expected.

The route beyond Tiverton is really good – very quiet B roads with fantastic scenery. I’d like to explore this area a lot more. I could use the Exeter-Tiverton Exe Valley road as my route in and out of the area. This could also include Exmoor which is just a few miles north of Bampton.

I now need to schedule in a 100 mile ride in the next month or two.