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Joy's Adventures with a Power Meter 4: What is it like to train seriously?

Joy's Adventures with a Power Meter 4: What is it like to train seriously?

I have at least one thing in common with elite cyclists and this is my need to sleep for 12 hours a day. It didn’t start out like this though.

First I have to deal with some of the issues I’m having with training.

Pandas aid recovery sleep 

Dealing with bossy Garmin

I talk to some of the guys in the shop about how to tame bossy Garmin.  I mention to Marcus, a coffee regular and member of Tifosi Spirit race team, about the constant beeping. “Oh, just ignore it,” he says, “I aim to ride within 10% of the power and it usually works out.”

I tell Will how hard it is to ride at the warm up pace of under 100 W. “Oh, just ignore it. It’s impossible to ride at that pace, just take it as riding easy.”

I ask Dave about the training routes he uses as we discuss the difficulties I’m having with finding the right terrain for the workout I have on the Garmin. “Oh, just ignore it,” he says. “It’s easier to keep the workout in your head. Then you can keep it flexible.”

Serious training begins

Workouts from Training Peaks

But I can’t remember the details of each workout so I use trusty Garmin. Just as I think I’m getting the hang of a session Will throws me more complicated offerings. The “Strength to Tempo” image on Training Peaks doesn’t look too bad. But it takes me a while to decrypt the following: 3x10min (4 min

Z3/Z4 @60 RPM then 5 min Z4 @95-100 RPM) 10 min recovery. It means not only switching zones but also adding cadence as another dimension. It’s as if I have to juggle at the same time as balancing on the tightrope of riding to power. I rise to the challenge. Bring it on!

Fast Start VO2 intervals lives up to its name. The jagged ramp replacing the usual warm up shows eight steps of increasing watts in 9 W steps. Who can be that precise? Then the workout proper starts. It all feels like I’ve been entered for an exam I haven’t had chance to revise for.

The advantage is that I’m concentrating so hard on all the numbers I don’t notice the riding effort. The cycling is the easy bit. Or so it seems.

Finding a training route

I still need to sort out my routes. This time I talk to a couple of guys in the Flamme Rouge race team. Jack, the really really tall one, says, “I just head out and follow the workout instructions, I don’t think about the route I’m taking.” The response I like the most is the one from Billy, the Saturday boy, “I head off to Cardington every time and go round the 11.3 TT route. I know it really well now”.

Following the TT route is a great suggestion. It has only left hand turns and gives me a chance to recce for new potholes in advance of TT season.

Trees in the mist

 I head south into Cardington, and out via Moxhill, Moggerhanger, and Great Barford. It’s a cool day, the landscape overlaid with a thin veil of mist, making familiar scenery look mysterious and beautiful. This is what I like about cycling, being outside, breathing in the cool fresh air, and seeing how the familiar views change with the seasons and the weather. It’s always different.

As I’m getting used to the way the workouts operate I’m getting less beeping. It’s getting easier to follow the script and I really enjoy the ride. I see Jack heading in the opposite direction and he grins at me and waves as he rides past.

I feel great when I get back, not tired at all. Am I enjoying it too much? Is this really a workout?

Windy weather

I’m out again and the daffodils are waving madly at me. This looks great but it means it’s really windy. I’m heading up Hillfoot from Cardington. It’s a sneaky hill that starts off gently at 1% before hitting the final kicker at 10%. I don’t usually notice the gentle bit. But I’m noticing it today. I’m facing a 20 mph headwind and struggling to keep the watts down. I almost grind to a halt. Car drivers must think there is something wrong with me as they edge cautiously past, wondering if I will topple into them. And it has started to rain. Hard. My right foot soon feels as if it’s swimming in icy cold water. My fingers are freezing and refusing to move. My left knee starts to whinge. Why am I doing this?

But then I remember. I’m pedalling madly downhill to get to 200 watts, no junctions, freedom to push hard and enjoy the speed. The wind whips away the cold and the wet and I feel like a child enjoying their first roller coaster ride. A big grin splits my face.

It’s getting harder

I always feel great after I’ve been out on the bike, that endorphin rush you get after exercise. I wonder during my first week of serious workouts whether it’s having any effect. Pre-power meter, I used to go out on my own and thrash out 20 miles, pushing myself all the time, and getting home all hot and sweaty and breathless. The workouts I’m doing now have a long cool down period of easy riding so by the time I get home I’m feeling quite refreshed. How can this be making me stronger?

But I start to find I need an afternoon nap. And 12 hours of sleep. I realise the workouts sneakily get you to ride harder than you ever normally do, but in repeated short bursts so you don’t realise what’s happening. And though they only last about an hour, I’m out on the bike more times during the week. Will points out I’m riding a lot harder into the higher zones than I did a few weeks ago. And the sessions I’m doing are more intense.

I feel really tired. How am I going to manage next week and the upcoming TT?

I think I’ll go back to bed.

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