Friday, December 23, 2011

Determining FTP - Test # 2

Leo's trail.

The trail where I walk Leo is pretty easy to spot in daylight. Surprisingly, the trail is also not all that hard to spot in the dead of night. What helps to differentiate the trail at night are the different shades of grey that mark the trail from the rest of the ground. A similar analogy can be drawn in determining Functional Threshold Power (FTP).

A problem with using test results to determine FTP are the many variables that can affect the outcome. How "fresh" one is on the day of the test, how motivated, the test environment itself, whether it was done outside or on the trainer, whether there was adequate cooling, all affect the results of the test. Comparing test results is even more difficult when different test protocols are used across tests. So, even though two FTP tests may provide two distinct FTP estimations, sometimes recognition of different shades of grey is required to hone in on a realistic FTP value.

Case in point, here are the results from 2 tests of FTP:

Date5 min20 minFTP*
Nov 7, 2011309W269W255W
Dec 14-16, 2011320W287W276W
* estimated

The test results shown above suggest an increase in FTP of 21 Watts in six weeks. While good for the ego, common sense suggests such an increase seems somewhat optimistic. A more likely explanation is that the first and second tests under-estimated and over-estimated FTP, respectively.

There is good reason to think that Test #1 underestimated FTP. The test followed a protocol prescribed in Training and Racing With a Power Meter, shown in the table below:

warm up
5 min all-out
10 min RI
2x1 min all-out (5 min RI)
3x20 sec all-out (3 min RI)
10 min RI
20 min FTP test
cool down

As you can see from the workout above, by the time the 20 min test is done,  the legs have been considerably "softened". In addition, that test was my first effort on the Trainer since last spring; typically indoor power tends to be lower than outdoor power at least initially (see Alex Simmon's blog on this). In this light, common sense suggests this estimate of FTP (95% of 20 min power) was probably low. I'm guessing about 5 Watts low.

Conversely, there is good reason to think that Test #2 over-estimated FTP. This test used a different protocol from Test #1 requiring a 5 min and 20 min test done on separate days and using a Monod Critical Power calculator to estimate FTP. The Monod Critical Power uses two interval readings to extrapolate one's power curve and, according to Alex Simmons, is <snip> "essentially equivalent to FTP (or at least a very good estimate of FTP)" <snip>. A pre-condition for using the Monod Critical Power estimate is that the tested intervals measure one's "best effort" at that interval. For this reason, it is important to test them on separate days so that the first effort doesn't interfere with the second effort.

According to the Monod Critical Power formula, my 5 min and 20 min test results of 320 Watts and 287 Watts, respectively, yield a critical power of 276 Watts. However, the Monod Critical Power formula falls down if either of the tests fails to measure one's true potential at that interval. For example, plugging a lower 5 minute value into the formula actually increases critical power while using a higher 5 minute value lowers it. In my case, I suspect that my 5 minute test was on the low side. Most of my training sessions have been 25 minute intervals; my 5 minute power has been comparatively untrained. Also, my legs felt still somewhat fatigued from my Egg Nog Jog effort. In this light, I'm not convinced that the Monod Critical Power calculation is a good estimate of FTP in my case at this time. A more reasonable estimation of 270 Watts makes more sense.

Date5 min20 minFTP*
Nov 7, 2011309W269W260W
Dec 14-16, 2011320W287W270W
* revised estimate

Taken together, the revised estimates of FTP suggest an increase of 10 Watts over the six weeks; a much more reasonable increase. Both tests above provide ballpark estimates of FTP. But accounting for shades of grey such as discussed above provide more common-sense estimates.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2012 Racing Schedule

The OCA has published the tentative 2012 schedule which has allowed me to map out my tentative 2012 schedule. A lot of races to choose from so it won't be an easy decision.

Good = quite likely
Maybe = interested but depends on what Kurzawinski crew are doing
Undecided = schedule conflict; i want to do one or the other.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Egg Nog Jog - Race Report

It's generally not a good idea to binge on 5 slices of pizza and 3 glasses of wine the day before a race. The Tums didn't do much, it was a rough night. Thankfully, this indiscretion didn't become a factor during the race. Nevertheless, it was cause for concern on race morning.

Upon arrival at Terra Cotta Conservation Area, I was directed to a parking spot right near the registration tent. Sweet! Especially on a cold and windy day like today. The registration tent at the Egg Nog Jog was one of the large canvas tents that you see at outdoor parties. Inside, it was heated! I registered, picked up my race kit, and attached race number to race belt (I have to say that having the timing chip in the race number bib makes registration a lot easier). I met up with fellow Falcons: Peter Halferty, Herb Lockhart, Colin Chung and a few others and chatted for a bit before heading out with Peter for a warmup.

My first steps felt a bit creaky. The quads were still feeling the effects of yesterday's vigorous mountain bike ride with the Kurzawinski crew so it took awhile to warm up. It wasn't so much of a cardio warmup as a loosening up of the legs. With my winter bike-focus, I was running considerably less this year and was under no illusions of being quick on this day. Peter and I got back to the start line just as the MC announced 2 minutes until race start. Good timing! We positioned ourselves in the second row near the front, with 500 or so runners behind us, and waited for the race start.

It always amazes me how fast the front runners get off the line at this race. The entire front row launched down the park entrance way  Runners sprinted by me to the first corner onto Winston Churchill. I actually got clipped by one over-exuberant runner who fully sprinted by like he was running the 100 yard dash. I was doing my best to keep up but my best wasn't very good on this day. Maybe I should have warmed up a little more aggressively because my lungs were struggling to keep up. John Grace (eventual winner of the 60-64 AG) and Brad Mailloux passed me, chatting with each other while I was gasping for breath. But after about half a mile I'd found a pretty good rhythm and began to reel in half a dozen or so runners who had earlier passed me. I passed the mile marker, near the bottom of the long downhill, at 5:48 which was not particularly speedy for this fast part of the race but not too shabby either.

Turning the corner onto King Road, I felt the headwind. I needed a draft. There was a runner not too far ahead so I bridged up and stayed in his draft for a short while. Too slow as this runner was fading fast. I went around and tried to bridge up to a group of 6 or 7 runners ahead but that gap wasn't closing.

Turning North onto Sideroad 27, I was met with the day's first climb. Ugh! My 55 year old engine struggled. The gap to the group ahead widened. I tried not to lose too much distance and by the time we turned West into the headwind again, I was within striking distance of stragglers. Passing the first of the stragglers, I heard footsteps behind me. A draft! I let him pass (yeah, right) and tucked in behind. We made good time along the rolling hills of this section and by the time we turned the corner onto 10th Line North, we had passed several more stragglers. Heading North along 10th Line, my pace bunny began to pull away. I was now out of the head wind so let him go; trying to match his pace would have been too costly.

I picked off a couple more runners before reaching "the hill". If you've done the Egg Nog Jog before then you know which hill I mean. It's the one that goes straight up and never ends. My creaky old engine sputtered and coughed as I struggled up "the hill" and one of the youths I'd passed earlier passed me back. I heard the bagpipe guy who seems to show up for every race and that spurred me on and, as we crested the top of "the hill", the youth was not all that far ahead and I was able to bridge back up to him. I passed the youth him on the subsequent downhill section with Brad Mailloux now on my heels.

"The Hill" - a category 5 climb, midway through the race.

Brad is the co-owner of Feet in Motion, the Georgetown running store that sponsors the race and awards gift certificates to the top 3 men and women in each age group; great guy! In 2006, Brad finished 27th overall and I finished 29th. In 2007, I was 23rd and Brad 24th. In 2008, I came 25th and Brad 26th. In 2009, I didn't "race" so that year doesn't count but last year, I came 13th and Brad 16th. So it wasn't really all that surprising when I glanced back to see Brad there on my heels at this midway point in the race.

Brad stayed with me the rest of the way up 10th Line as we picked off at least one other runner. We picked off another runner as we turned East onto the pavement along Sideroad 32. After that, I could see there were no more runners to pick off and the thing to focus on now was on not getting picked off myself. I kept up a pretty good pace along Sideroad 32 with a bit of a tail wind and one downhill section, pushing my engine about as hard as I could while keeping my diaphragm relaxed so as to avoid any side stitches.

Brad passed me as we made the turn South onto Winston Churchill. He had more than I on this day and I couldn't match his pace. With only 2 km to go, I maintained focus, concentrating on good form; what I lacked in aerobic fitness, I tried to make up for with mechanical advantage (have you ever thought about how the arch of the foot is shaped like an inverted leaf spring. I could actually feel the spring effect with each step as I ran along this section).

The youth who had passed me on "the hill" again passed me with about 1 km to go. By now we were close to the steep downhill section. The end of the race was very close now. I could hear footsteps behind me and did not want to get picked off by any more runners so gave it everything I had. Two hundred yards to the park entrance way. I glanced behind, turning into the park too see I had a gap. I sprinted the final 200 meters. Well, maybe "sprint" is a bit of a stretch but I let it all out and crossed the line in a time of 45:04, three seconds slower than last year and 2 places behind Brad, eighteenth overall and first in my age group. YAY!