Monday, April 2, 2012

Post Analysis - Block #3

This blog analyzes my progress through the last of three 6-week Winter training blocks using the same fitness metrics used in blocks 1 and 2. I also evaluate how well I fared on my Winter training objectives. To be honest, I didn't really very motivated even to write this final blog in my Winter training series but for completeness, here it is.


Chronic Training Load (CTL) represents a measure of training fitness or, in this case, Cycling fitness to be specific.

Figure #1: Increase in CTL (blue line) over the 6 week period comprising block #3.

Figure 1 shows that CTL during block #3 rose from 94.5 to 103.3, an increase of 8.8 Training Scress Score (TSS) points. As was the case in blocks 1 and 2, this is a rather modest increase compared to the 5 TSS per week increase that frequent posters of the Google Wattage group recommend for ramp rate. But, as discussed in my block #1 post mortem, I was already starting from a comparitively high CTL level so there really hasn't been a lot of head room for me to be able to sustain a high ramp rate. I did, however, have a higher increase in CTL block #3 over block #2 which was also higher than the increase in block #1. It should be noted that my CTL value as of the end of my Winter training period is still about 9 TSS points shy of my peak CTL value of 112 from last season.

Block initial FTP increase in CTL 
Block #1 260 3
Block #2 270 7.5
Block #3 275 8.8
Table 1: Increase in CTL (measured in terms of TSS points) in blocks 1 to 3.

Table 1 compares the increase in CTL over each of my three training blocks. It shows 3-point, 7.5 point, and 8.8 point increases in CTL for each of blocks #1, #2, and #3, respectively, indicating my increase in training load has been progressive. My Functional Threshold Power (FTP)  used to calculate those TSS points was also raised at the beginning of blocks #2 and #3 (see Table 1). Since FTP determines my training zones, an increase in FTP at the beginning of each block meant having to pedal harder in order to hit my zones. Indeed, I did find the start of blocks 2 and 3 to be hard. But by the end of each of these blocks, my body had adapted nicely to the increased workload.

Zone Block #1 Block #2 Block #3
Active Recovery 24.2 13.2 9.4
Endurance 49.7 39.3 40.8
Tempo 19.3 28.2 33.9
Threshold 4.2 14.9 14.0
VO2 Max 1.5 2.7 1.1
Anaerobic Capacity 1.1 1.7 0.8
Table 2: Percent time spent in each training zone for blocks 1, 2, and 3.

Table 2 shows my distribution of  effort across training zones for each training block. This shows a slight increase in percentage (5.7 %) spent at Tempo with a little less time spent in Active Recovery. Indeed, the focus of my hard training efforts during block #3 involved lengthening the duration of time spent in the Sweet Spot (high Tempo to low Threshold) and four weeks of this six-week block were very structured towards that end. However, this 3rd block was also interrupted with a two-week stint in Florida where my goal was to simply get a lot of time in the saddle - a training camp of sorts with also a chance to spend some time with my parents. I did manage to accumulate 1,059 km during those 2 weeks with the majority of those kilometers spent in the Endurance to Tempo range. So, in fact, the percent time spent at Threshold during the 4 weeks of structured training in Block #3 would be actually higher than is shown in Table 2.

Figure 2: Total TSS accumulated for each six-week training block.
Figure 2 shows the total TSS accumulated during each six-week training block. What you see is a progressive increase in the training load I was able to absorb from block #1 through to block #3. TSS for block #1 average around 650 TSS per week which or just under 100 TSS/day. In block #2, that increased to an average of 700 TSS per week or 100 TSS/day. Finally, in block #3 I averaged 750 TSS per week or just over 107 TSS/day.


At the start of my Winter training program, I laid out some goals. In particular, I aimed to increase my Functional Threshold Power (FTP) by 30 watts from an estimated 270 watts to 300 watts. I had also a secondary goal to reduce my weight by 5 kg from 75.5 kg to 70 kg. Some dietary objectives that I set for myself included:

  • no refined sugars except during training
  • no coffee except before a hard or long training session
  • reduced wheat intake except in the training window (3 hours before and 3 hours after a hard session)
  • 1 beer per week
  • no "instant" food - if I haven't prepared it then I can't eat it
  • more fruits and vegetables
So how did I fare against my goals? The answer to this question is that I didn't even come close. Though I didn't do a formal test of FTP at the end of block #3, I gave myself an estimate of 280 watts as my FTP based on the tests I had done at the end of block #2 and how I felt in general. Regarding my weight loss goal, I was sort of on track up until Christmas. I had dropped my weight to 74 kg which was a start. But I indulged in Christmas treats and lost focus of my weight goal. I told myself that I didn't really need to drop the weight during my Winter training period and that in fact I might be better served to keep the weight on as I worked on developing more power. But in retrospect, this was a self delusion. I ate more than I needed to (see excellent article by Chris Carmichael on this: Cyclists Eat Too Much ). As for my dietary objectives, they lasted a mere 2 weeks. some of them were clearly unrealistic.  For example, there was no valid reason for me to eliminate coffee and instant foods and to reduce wheat. This was more of a case of jumping on the gluten-sensitivity bandwagon; I'm fairly certain I don't have a gluten sensitivity. There could be a case for reducing refined sugars and pre-processed foods but eliminating them completely proved to be too time intensive to even attempt. I did make a half-hearted attempt at more fruits and vegetables but I could have done a better job of this. As for restricting myself to one beer a week well, given my love for beer, that objective was ludicrous.

What would I do different? I have to say, by the time I left for Florida, I was sick and tired of the trainer. The hours on the trainer required to keep my CTL rising were beginning to take their toll. So what I will likely do next year is to take it easier in the Fall and allow my CTL to drop to a more reasonable starting point and maybe not even begin to do any serious interval work until January. Eighteen weeks of trainer intervals was just too much.

I didn't achieve my Winter training goals, ok, but was my Winter training effective? I'm fairly certain it was. In fact, I feel I've never been stronger on the bike for this time of year and yet I feel I have lots of room to ge stronger as the year progresses. Time will tell whether that's true of not, My first race is this Friday.

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