Sunday, January 10, 2010

The big wet

Editor's note: written on Dec 30 before it fined up in Oz.

As holidays down under go, this is turning out to be rather a damp one. After a promising start, it tipped it down on Boxing Day and didn't really let up for a week. We even had drizzle, to make the English summer parallel complete.

Still, some swimming has been accomplished, along with a bit of walking along the beach and even some bicycle riding.

I'm enjoying my new training program, which - at the moment - involves significantly fewer miles than previous years. Given the crappy weather we've had, it's a relief to just have to go out for two to three hours instead of four or five.

It makes sense and it appears to be working. The other day I managed 74km in just over two hours, door to door, from our holiday accomodation in Fingal Bay. Yes it's mostly flat and it's 20 degrees (and raining) rather than 5 but I think it's an improvement on previous weeks and previous years.

It's difficult to tell without a power meter but just comparing speed at similar heart rates is useful. Two weeks ago, I did the out and back sections of the Bath - Bitton bit of the bike path in a total time of 26'07 (it's 15.2km). I compared this to two similar sections of road the other day: I did 15.2km, out and back, in 23'40, and I wasn't going as hard because it was part of a 90min tempo ride rather than 25min of intervals.

That's a massive difference in speed, and it would have been more if I'd really pegged it the other day. Part of it is the temperature difference (15 degs), part of it is that I'm not all rugged up (less air resistance) and part of it is that there is a bit of traffic on the roads here. I'm hoping most of it is improved fitness but I'll only be able to tell that once I get back to Bath.

I'm planning to take this sort of guesswork out of the equation once I get hold of a power meter to train with permanently. Then I should be able to fine tune things a bit more.

As a holiday project, I went back over four years of training and racing data and tried to estimate TSS (training stress score) for every single ride. I've got plenty of real TSS data so I had some benchmarks to base my estimates on.

TSS is based on how hard and how long the ride is, and from this you can estimate values for ATL (acute training load), CTL (chronic training load), TSB (training stress balance) and FTP (functional threshold power).

It might be a case of garbage in/garbage out but it gave me a reasonable idea of how my fitness changed depending on the training I was doing. A couple of things stood out: a week off the bike for whatever reason was fairly disastrous and a CTL of 90-100 corresponded to good form but it wasn't a magic number.

So the training load numbers, which are a little crude, didn't tell the whole story. The types of training and the rate of build were also important. Still, it was a worthwhile exercise and it should help me in the future.

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