My focussed efforts resulting in “scary face” (see Adventures with a Power Meter: It Gets Serious) mean I now have my baseline data with an FTP of 184 W.
Setting a goal
I sit down with Will on the nice comfy sofa in the shop, trying not to fall asleep after all my extensive exertions.
Dennis demonstrates how easy it is to fall asleep
I want to look at all the numbers and understand what they mean but first Will asks, “What’s your goal?” Trying to get faster and stronger is not a goal. What does that mean anyway? Faster for short sprints? Better on hills? Stronger over long distances? I need a goal so that we can agree a training programme to achieve my aim.
Time for a time trial
I did a couple of time trials last year with Beds Road Cycle Club, an individual race against the clock on a defined route. TTs are tough but fun at the same time, pushing yourself to the limit and re-living the experience with everyone back at the clubhouse. And the cake at the end tastes amazing!
My best time on the 10 mile course is 31 min and 34 sec. Can I do it in under 30 mins?
Working out workouts
Will pulls up my data on Training Peaks. It’s sort of like Strava but with more serious training stuff. A comparison of my numbers with the Training Peaks database shows my comparative weaknesses are my short term power (5 sec and 1 min), while my relative strengths are the longer 5 min and 20 min power. And I thought I was stronger on the sprints!
But it’s in the right direction for TTs which are all about maintaining a consistent power. He sets me up a Training Peaks account and puts a couple of workouts on my calendar.
Did I mention I like cake?
In the zone
Not this kind of zone
Training is about pushing your body hard with easy recovery in between. As Dave said, “The problem is most people don’t push hard enough when they should and don’t go easy enough for recovery.”
Zones are a way of defining hard and easy by using power data, with zone 1 being easy. The whole point of all that work to get an FTP is to define the range of watts for my personalised zones.
Power zones for an FTP of 184 W calculated using British Cycling https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/membership/article/20120925-Power-Calculator-0
They correlate closely with Strava and Training Peaks.
Power Zone Low end of zone High end of zone
1. Active recovery < 101
2. Endurance 10 to 139
3. Tempo 139 to 165
Sweet Spot 161 to 171
4. Threshold 165 to 193
5. VO2 max 193 to 220
6. Anaerobic capacity 220 to 276
Garmin to the rescue!
My first workout involves riding at different zones for different times. But how can I remember what watts I need to do for which zone when I’m out on the bike?
The best thing about all this training malarky is that I’m actually getting to use the Garmin for more than just recording my rides and navigating routes. And it’s pretty easy, something I can do myself without having to ask for help from the teenager in the house.
I download the workout from Training Peaks into the conveniently labelled “Workouts” folder on the Garmin. And there it is! Result!
It’s my first experience of riding to power. I pick one of my favourite 20 mile rides so I don’t have to think about where I’m going, heading into the north Bedfordshire villages of Wilden, Little Staughton and Thurleigh.
I’m on the 15 minute warm up and discovering it’s really hard to keep in the right zone. I’m supposed to be doing 75-91 W but this only happens on a flat stretch in low gear. As soon as I hit any little gradient or bump in the road, the watts shoot up. I then overcompensate and go too low. It’s like trying to walk along an unsteady tightrope on a windy day with my balance all over the place as I desperately try and stay on the line.
And Garmin keeps telling me off by beeping constantly.
“Beep! Power too low!” I change gear.
“Beep! Power too high!” I change my cadence.
“Beep! Power too low!” And repeat.
Occasionally I get “Beep!” and look down at the screen to see “In desired zone”. Yes!
Told off by Garmin again
Countdown beeps warn me the next step is coming up: increase power to zone 4, 157 - 192 W. Should be easier right? This is when I conclude I have chosen entirely the wrong course for this workout.
Will had emphasised that I need to pedal hard downhill to keep the power reading high with no free wheeling. This is how I find myself tearing down the hill into Wilden, pedalling faster and faster, knowing there’s a junction at the bottom. I leave it to the last minute before squeezing hard on the brakes, skidding to a stop.Then off again, sprinting away and seeing my watts flying into outer orbit.
I continue on. After that, the route isn’t too bad. It’s especially good across Thurleigh airfield, slightly uphill and against the wind. I get a second and third chance to follow the script as I repeat the steps. The beeping goes down. I think I’m finally getting the hang of it.
I decide I need to think harder about the route for my next workout.
But first I have a mountain biking holiday in Wales to enjoy!