The season at a glance

At the start of the season, I set myself 5 goals for the year:

  1. Finish a half ironman in under 4h30
  2. Finish an Ironman in 9h15
  3. Bike under 5 hours in an Ironman
  4. Qualify for The Championship
  5. Finish in the top ten at Slovakman

And here is how I did:

Finish a half ironman in under 4h30

I didn’t just finish one in under 4h30, but three!

Finish an Ironman in 9h15

I finished SChloss-Moritzburg in 9h17, not quite making 9h15 but this was what I worked out was the best I could do and so I am still pleased with this result

Bike under 5 hours in an Ironman

I managed this twice this year. I biked 4h57 in Moritzburg and 4h50 in Podersdorf

Qualify for The Championship

Not only did I qualify but I won my AG!

Finish in the top ten at Slovakman

I also achieved this and finished 7th!

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Slovakman 2016

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After updating my page last year I said I wouldn’t write about this race anymore but after finally hitting my target here by getting into the top ten, I felt a short post was necessary!

This year the weather was not as hot as in previous years but on Friday evening there was a savage thunderstorm and rain throughout the night, meaning that transition was (a little) flooded in the morning. The rain stopped about 15 minutes before we started swimming but there was a very strong wind, meaning that on the 6-lap out-and-back course we had to struggle against the wind (I averaged around 45km/h one way and 28km/h on the way back!) This definitely gave us all something to think about!

Throughout the bike I managed my effort using my power meter and speed, which had to be done although I didn’t meet my time expectations on the course (again!). I was worried that if I tried to push too hard the marathon would be very difficult. I got off the bike in 9th position and started the run. This year the weather was much coooler still (around 24degrees) and I decided to pay no attention to my watch and run purely by feel. This made the run much more comfortable than previous years, where I had tried to meet specific cutoffs and never quite managed. It also meant that I was able to run the whole course except for a couple of short walk breaks in the last lap.

So all in all, a great day without getting too uncomfortable (apart from the pain in my heel I have had since racing earlier in the season). I came away with a 7th place finish and a new personal best of 9h34, just outside my target time of 9h30 but happy nonetheless!

Still my favourite long distance race!

 

2016 Season – Part 2

After a 6-week break from racing, I’m finally coming to the end of the wait for the rest of my season to start. To read about my first races, click here

It’s been a strange few weeks, by the end of the last race I was suffering with achilles pain which has persisted to a greater or lesser extent for the last few weeks (I intend to write a post shortly about how I try to stay fit/limit injury). This has limited my ability to run in training, especially long and fast training.

While working through my specialty phase I have also had a real mix of bike workouts, some felt really good and others felt really hard. I put some of this down to being tired (on our holiday in Croatia there was load music until 4 or 5 in the morning 😦 for half of the week) and my son hasn’t been sleeping very well.

After returning home in the middle of last week, I’ve cut back my running to a bare minimum and I did a last long bike ride on Thursday. Saturday saw a short, fairly intense bike workout and Monday my last long swim.

Tomorrow I’m going to Piestany for Slovakman, so I guess I will see how the break has affected me! Getting excited now…..

Other races to come are:

13/7 Olympic triathlon Zdar (possibly)

20/8 Challenge Samorin

3/9 Podersdorf Ironman

 

 

Tacx Vortex Smart – Gone!

As a follow up to my previous Tacx posts here and here, I thought you might like to hear that after 1 month of hiding the turbo trainer deciding what to do with it, I rode it again with the same problems as before.

Very disappointed, I wrote to the shop where I bought it again (Wiggle) and arranged to send it back. Their service was brilliant. They sent a courier to collect the trainer and took it for tests. After that they informed me they had sent it back to Tacx and a few days later I recieved a full refund.

So now I have decided to stick with my ‘dumb’ trainer, at least for the foreseeable future!

Super start to the season!

I thought it was time to take a look back at the season so far. After 4 races, I am really pleased with my results:

7th May: Austrian 1/2 Iron, 4h08 (7th in cat, 19/200) You can read my review here

4th June: Czechman, 4h24 (5th in cat, 20/600) You can read my review here

11th June: Schloss-Moritzburg Ironman, 9h17 (2nd) You can read my review here

18the June: Moraviaman Iron relay (I rode 45km in 1h09 and ran 21.1km in 1h26)

In each race I have consistently ridden better than ever before with half ironman bike splits of 2h20 and 2h24, and an ironman bike split of 4h57. My average power is 15-20 watts higher than last year and my runs have been very consistent too (cca. 4min/km in half iron). I put most of this improvement down to the training plans I have been following on Trainerroad.com. I know I have been writing a lot about it recently but I am very excited that I am finally making some bike gains and have the added benefit of running better off the bike too. If you want a free trial of Trainerroad, please get in touch!

 

Measuring FTP – different methods

I came across this interesting article about the differences in measuring FTP (Functional Threshold Power) indoors and outdoors and thought it would be good to add some other ideas to complement those in the article.

In the Power Meter Handbook, Joe Friel talks about how Andrew Coggan, PhD came up with the idea of FTP as a measurement of the power an athlete can sustain at their lactate threshold intensity for about an hour (Friel 2012: 53). And how do we do this? Do a test.

The test is a simple one; find out the power you can hold you 60 minutes. While simple, it obviously has drawbacks – it would really challenge you to do a test this long, both mentally and physically, to go out on the road and ride as hard as you can for 60 minutes (Friel 2012: 54). Not only this but there is traffic on the road which might get in the way during your test!

Being a Trainerroad user, I am already familiar with testing my FTP at home on my turbo trainer using one of their tests. I always feel like my tests are not accurate though, and I think this is for a number of reasons:

  1. Trainerroad suggest resting for 2 days before testing (Friel also suggests resting for a few days before testing (2012: 60). I rarely want to rest for 2 full days every 4-6 weeks before testing, especially as the triathlon season draws closer.
  2. Testing on a turbo trainer is difficult – there is nothing to distract you from the effort (except if you have a window nearby 🙂 ). I’m pleased that Joe Friel says that most riders find this test more difficult indoors! (Friel 2012: 55)
  3. When I do have a couple of easy days before a difficult Trainerroad workout (either after a holiday, illness or business trip), I always find the workout easier than I would without this break. That might be obvious to most of us but once my routine gets back to normal these workouts are more difficult. Does this mean my FTP is set too high (I have trouble completing it now) or too low (I did it easily last week!)??!!

I have never tested my FTP outside, but it makes sense to me that for the reasons above and considering how I can move in and out of my saddle on roads that are not flat and consistent like testing indoors that my FTP will vary somewhat when testing outdoors vs. indoors. I have, however, used race files to estimate my FTP and to estimate target power for a given event (by using the 5% Friel describes (2012: 45), stating that when the duration of a race/test doubles, your power reduces by 5%). Using this formula I can estimate my FTP for any given distance quite easily.

This blog post explains more on how to estimate your FTP if you don’t want to test every 4-6 weeks or are just starting out.

So now we come to the nitty gritty! How do we test our FTP outdoors?

As we see in the article, it is suggested that you ride an 8-minute or 20-minute test (as you would when testing on Trainerroad indoors) based on your experience and the type of races you will participate in, then deduct 10% or 5% depending on the length of the test.

Friel proposes a slightly longer test (30 minutes) but with NO percentage reduction – UNLESS you are with other people! (Then it becomes more like a race scenario and you should deduct 5%)

This is the most interesting difference between Trainerroad and Friel’s methodology and the main reason I consider I test low when testing indoors, and not necessarily due to fatigue as I suggest in points 1 and 3 above but more likely due to mental toughness. I am sure that I could work harder if I was racing or outside with other people than I could on my own, at home, sweating away on my trainer, and this is why I would consider he thinks it is best not to make the reductions suggested.

Based on the same 5% theory, with no reduction for a 30-minute test, perhaps the reductions suggested by Trainerroad are a little high and you could consider reducing a bit closer to 3% for a 20 minute test…. the question is, how much difference does it actually make to your wattage!

I’ll leave you to ponder 🙂

So however you decide to assess your FTP now, here is a post about useful tips to remember when doing FTP assessments.

 

 

Tacx Vortex Smart – After 1 week

Well, after my initial enthusiasm and excitement here, I wrote to Trainerroad to check I had set up the unit correctly, and they very kindly wrote to me and first told me I could download an updated app (the link to it is here) and told me how best to set up the Vortex Smart using PowerMatch, which measures the offset between my Stages power meter and the turbo trainer and keeps the power as accurate as possible.

This took only a few minutes, and I was ready to go. Unfortunately, my excitement was shortlived 😦

Ride 1 (26.4)

I was surprised to see how the power kept exactly to the zones dicatated by Trainerroad; I was not used to it and did not expect it as I expected continuous communication between power meter and turbo trainer to regulate the power but I assumed this was what it should be like. The warm-up was good, and I moved into the VO2 Max intervals for the day. The power ramped nicely up to the target power and felt good until it got there and then the tyre felt like it was slipping, and it was similar to riding on the first magnetic trainer I used to own. It was very disappointing, and I spent a lot of time getting on and off the trainer fiddling with the knob on the resistance unit to adjust the pressure on the tyre. This didn’t really help, and I felt I had spoilt my workout. The weirdest thing was that towards the end of each interval, the feeling seemed to pass whether I played with the knob adjustment or not.

Ride 2 (27.4)

After reading up on this issue on the internet, I saw I was not the only person with this problem but I decided to pump up my tyre to 110p.s.i and give it another try.

The first thing I noticed was that the power readings were completely different even though I think the settings were the same. You can see the power data at the end of this post.

The second thing I noticed was that the tyre didn’t seem to be slipping – great news! But the intervals were not quite as intense as yesterday, and I felt like it could still start happening if I had to work harder. But then I had a real shock, the power didn’t drop off at the end of the work intervals as it should,and I was left waiting for a break without getting one! So I paused the workout and waited for the power to return to zero and started again. I had limited success doing this but once again my workout was interrupted, and I felt I could no longer rely on what I was being told by the computer. I wrote to Tacx and to the shop where I bought the trainer. I had used a Kinetic Road Machine for 4 years and had never had any problems with losing training time or spoilt workouts. I was beginning to think that if my unit wasn’t faulty then I didn’t want it, and if it was faulty I would return it and ask for my money back. My ‘dumb’ trainer was a lot smarter than this ‘smart’ one!

Ride 3 (28.4)

I tried again today with the same result as yesterday. The power is not reading correctly and I decided to put it away and train on my Road Machine.

trainerroad screen print

 

Note: Raymond was ride 1, Beacon was ride 2. The yellow line is the power and you can see where I stopped in ride 1 to play with the dial and in ride 2 to try and allow the power to reset itself.

 

 

Conclusion

I have decided to try setting up the trainer and power meter differently for a short recovery ride over the weekend to see if I can get it working somehow. At the moment I am really disappointed and I realise that I would need to be more interested in technology to enjoy keep playing with all of these electronics when all I really want to do is get on my bike and train and then get off it to work or spend time with my family. I think that Saturday will be my last trial with the trainer.