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Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 10

Ok, it’s time to finally get to some sort of point given that the race I’ve been babbling about on and off for months now is in 2 days.  To sum up for anybody just tuning in, after a long winter block, just as I was transitioning into my outdoor skate training, I had another close brush with overtraining.  This is discussed in Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 7.

This necessitated a short unloading block (just over a week) and then a curtailment of training leading into my first bike race, the Ronde Von Manda.  Meant as mostly a tune-up, test, it went horribly and I spent most of the 2 hours riding by myself.  This necessitated a reanalysis of my training and I came to the conclusion that I had taken my aerobic approach to training to the opposite extreme.  I had lost my top end.  This is detailed in Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 8.

Then in a fairly long tangent, I talked a bit about equipment, mainly to whine about the rib I had cracked skating on a new skating setup 2 days after the bike race.  It only hurts when I move, stretch, breathe, laugh or sneeze; oddly it doesn’t bother me at all when I train.   That’s what I detailed in Methods of Endurance Training: 2011 Season Part 9 this past Tuesday.

And that brings us to today.  Arguably the main race all of this nonsense has been building to is the Texas Road Rash, a 6 lap 28 mile race (I’m signed up for the Pro Full Marathon division, putting it all on the line) which is in 2 days.  So today I’ll pick up where Part 8 left off and discuss how I dealt with my loss of top end in the 20 days I had between the bike race and today.

Achtung Baby

Yes, I made a U2 reference.  Yes, I’m old.  A paper I’ve mentioned a number of times in the past and should really do a full review of at some point has the unassuming title of The 4000-m team pursuit cycling world record: theoretical and practical aspects.

In addition to some rather turgid mathematics on the physics of track cycling and theoretical estimations for record times and such it outlines the German track team’s actual preparation for their 2000 world record in the team pursuit.  This is interesting because it’s fairly rare to find training programs of top teams laid out in any sort of real detail.

For background, the team pursuit is an event held on a track velodrome where teams of 4 cyclists chase one another around a track for 4000m (switching leads every so often to maintain a higher speed with less fatigue).  In premise one team can catch the other; in practice this won’t happen at the top levels and it’s all about finishing time.

The event lasts roughly 4 minutes (the current world record stands at 3:53) and has an extremely large aerobic requirement (along with sufficient top speed and anaerobic capacities along with track riding skills of course).  And, despite the brevity of the event (and the seeming contradiction of specificity) for preparation the German team performed primarily massive amounts of low-intensity aerobic work.  Just shitloads.

Quite in fact, outside of some short stage races (which introduce some intensity as a function of race dynamics), the paper lists roughly 94% of their total training volume as being low intensity (below the Individual Anaerobic Threshold or IAT, a concept discussed to some degree in Predictors of Endurance Training Performance) with the other few percentage points at IAT or above.

To this massive base (and I mean massive, we’re talking many thousands of kilometers per year), the track cyclists tack on roughly 8 interval sessions in the days before their main event to top off their anaerobic and acidosis buffering capacities; the chart showing their training shows some shorter blocks of interval work as well.   Quoting from the paper itself “…before the 2000 Olympic games, the team performed only eight discipline-specific track units on six distinctive days.” Read that a few times ye who are obsessed with year-round interval training.

Specifically they used a combination of what they called ‘evolution’ training, bouts of 5 minutes around the anaerobic threshold to increase buffering capacity, sets of 5000 meters completed in 5:30-6 minutes (generating lactate values of 2-4 mmol) along with what was called ‘peak’ training, 2000 m bouts completed in 2 minutes at race speed (generating very high lactate values of anywhere from 8-16 mmol).

Certainly the event they are doing is different than my inline race but the concept not only made sense (a combination of both very top end work for anaerobic power/capacity along with some lactate buffering work) but perfectly fit my schedule and the time I had remaning to the event.  I had wanted a full taper for the event which meant having my final full hard workout about 10 days out from the event.  I hadn’t tapered a bit in 2010 and was hoping that actually being rested might be enough to get me into the lead group.

That gave me 10 days to try to rebuild some sort of top end to the aerobic base I’d already put in place.  Of course, I still had to balance that out with doing sufficient skate training to make sure I could cover the distance so I couldn’t just copy what the was presented in the paper (they actually gave the specific 10 days of training leading up to their world record ride).  I also didn’t want to lose any aerobic endurance (since the inline race itself will take a good hour twenty minutes) by going too far to the other extreme.

My original plan was to do 3 4 day blocks consisting of 3 days on and 1 day off with 2 interval workouts in each 3 day block.  The plan was to skate and do bike interval work on days 1 and 3 (1′ repeats Day 1 and 5’+ repeats on Day 3) with a longer bike ride for aerobic maintenance on Day 2.  Day 4 would be completely off to try and recover for the next block.  As well, skating duration would be ramped up from 1 hour in the first block to 90 minutes in the final block before tapering.

Yes, this was actually 12 days only giving me 8 to taper but that was fine.  As well, due to a night of zero sleep, the original plan got scrapped and I ended up with exactly 10 days of quality work and 5 interval sessions before starting my taper (which would include a bit of quality work as well).  But before I could get to the taper, I had to survive the intensification block.


The Intensification Block

I’ve presented the entirety of my ~10 day intensification block below day by day, every workout along with any notes or observations I made.  SB is slideboard, I is outdoor inline skating, B is the bike.  You’ll see that I had done about half of my ‘skating’ workouts on the slideboard.  Having realized, as discussed in Part 9 that I could slideboard at far lower heart rates, I used this to keep myself from dying during this hard interval block.

Before hard bike rides, I do a 20 minute progressive warm-up before the interval set.  This consists of 5 minutes of easy spinning, 4′ of harder riding to 1′ of medium hard work, 4′ easy to 1′ pretty hard, 5′ easy spinning and then I’ll launch into the main set.    It’s just to open up my legs and get everything firing just like you’d do in the weight room.  Of course, a 20′ easy cool down afterward.


Day Date AM PM Notes
Monday March 28th Off That bike race yesterday sucked.
Tuesday March 29th SB: 6X10’/1′ HR: 135 B: 2X5X1’@360W/3’/5′ Set Rest My top end really does suck.
Wednesday March 30th B: 90’@143 HR Off
Thursday March 31st I: 17.1 miles/61 minutes B: 4X5’@290w/5′ rest HR:177 Oww….
Friday April 1st Off
Saturday April 2nd I: 21 miles/1:11 B: 2X5X1’@360w/4’/5′ Set Rest Still suck.
Sunday April 3rd B: 90’@137HR Off
Monday April 4th SB: 5X15’/1′ HR: 134 B: 2X10’@290/10′ HR: 175
+ 2X5’@300/5′     HR: 177
Oww mark 2 on that bike ride.
Tuesday April 5th Off Zero sleep tonite.
Wednesday April 6th Off
Thursday April 7th I: 26 miles/1:30 B: 5X1’@360W/4′ rest + 20′ rest
+ 1X15’@290w HR:175
See note 1


Note 1: This was my last monster workout.  I did a full 90 minutes on my skates (and my legs felt GOOD after 2 complete days off which has me thinking about things going forwards).  I also managed what amounted to a PR ride on the bike.  Since I had missed my final block of interval training, I just combined the two workouts at a reduced volume, doing my warm-up to 5 all out 1 minute intervals followed by a full 15 minutes at threshold after a 20 minute break.  This workout was a monster but it was the perfect way to end my intensification block.  I had hit PR’s in both workouts including a monster set at 290 watts (this used to be above my VO2 max power output).  I felt that my 10 day block had done it’s job and I was as ready as I was going to be.

You can also see how I progressed the wattages and times.  I simply bumped skating time from about an hour in the first block to the full 90 minutes in the final workout through a combination of slideboard and outdoor work.  The full 90 minutes is probably overkill (the 28 mile race should be over in an hour and twenty minutes or so) but  I wanted to be confident that I could cover the distance so I just went ahead and skated it.  With 12 days to the race, I’d be plenty recovered by the time I got there.

Given it’s general untrainability at least in the short-term, I clearly didn’t make much progress on the all-out 1 minute anaerobic sets although they ‘felt’ easier on the last workout.  But I made rapid progress on the longer sets which is in keeping with the literature on how quickly you can top up things like acid buffering.

The first workout of 4X5’/5′ pushed me pretty well and I increased that to 15′ in a matter of days in addition to the middle workout with 2X5′ sets at 300w (which was still pretty nearly steady state).  Had I not done the all out intervals (and the monster skate that morning), I could have made a full 20 minutes at 290 watts.  I might make 20 minutes at 300watts with enough stimulants.  Which brings me to a short tangent.


More Reflection

Looking at the numbers I was putting out on the bike sort of back up something I mentioned in a previous part of this series.  I said something to the effect of adopting an aerobic training approach, I had basically ‘switched’ out my top end wattages for lower end stuff which is what had bitten me in the ass at the bike race (I had given up too much top end).

Case in point, in Salt Lake City, my 20 minute sustainable wattages were in the realm of 220-240 watts but I could readily put out 350watts for one minute and do it again and again with only one minute break.  For an anaerobic workout like the ones I was doing (1′ all out with a full rest), I seem to recall being up over 400w.

Still not great and I was heavier (I’m a good 15 lbs lighter than in SLC) but right now I couldn’t do repeat minutes at 350w on a 1′ rest if my life depended on it and a 400w set would be an absolute all-out workout ending effort (I did 9-10 of them with a full rest in SLC).  Basically, I’ve lost a solid 50+ watts off my top end but more or less added it to my bottom aerobic end.  Yeah…specificity.

With fresh legs, I could do 20 minutes at 290w (which is my supposed 1 hour best wattage, although I don’t believe it for a second) although it would hurt; I might make 20 minutes at 300w although it’d be a grind.  I know I could do 280 for 20 minutes without much effort (which used to be an all out 8 minute set on the ice).  Again, the 50-60 watts I’ve lost off my top end I’ve added to the bottom end.  At least partially explaining why I got dropped like a bad habit at the bike race or when speeds go above a certain point.

But as noted, this clearly has left me without a top end to speak of and I need a more balanced approach going forwards, especially for the type of racing I want to do.  Ok, enough of that, back to the plan.  Having survived (barely) my 10 block of intensification, it was finally time to taper.


The Taper

So now I had to plan out my taper.  Now, back in my 20’s, I had always raced tired and never tapered because I was young and stupid.  Well, at least I’m not young anymore.  I hadn’t tapered for the Road Rash in 2010 (hell, I did my normal 90 minute aerobic workout the day before), only slightly for Napa and not at all for Houston (where I was training up to it in the first place).

And while we had tapered in Salt Lake City (always for the end of year finale) the ice is more of a sprint type event (the longest even I skated was the 5k taking about 8 minutes) and out taper was mostly short high-intensity efforts to keep our top speed and such sharp.  Basically I had zero experience tapering for this type of event one with both speed and endurance components.  Sure I knew the general concepts (reduce volume while maintaining a bit of intensity) but I had to dig through my resources to get some idea of current ‘best’ practices among endurance types.

And the general trend that I came across is that while tapering is important (mind you it never adds more than a few percent to performance; it can’t turn an also ran into a champion EVER), if you overtaper you can lose valuable endurance.  I had to find that balance even if I was mainly making it up as I went along and pretending I knew what I was doing.

I had obtained one data point during my interval block.   The night of zero sleep had caused me to take an extra day off and with two days of rest, my legs felt GOOD skating.    Looking at my 2010 training logs, my last skate before the Road Rash had been on Thursday before the Sunday race.  Given what skating takes out of my legs, clearly the extra day of rest was beneficial.  If nothing else, that was going into my final days of preparation.


Day Date AM PM Notes
Friday April 8th B: 90’@134 HR Off Begin taper, thank FSM
Saturday April 9th Off
Sunday April 10th B: 90’@140 HR
Monday April 11th I: 12.5 mi/41′ B: 2X5’@290w/10′ HR: 175 See note 2
Tuesday April 12th B: 60’@137 HR
Wednesday April 13th Walked ALFIE! Resting HR: 44
Thursday April 14th I: 6.7mi/22′ B: 4X30″ + 1X1′ Resting HR: 42
Friday April 15th Off
Saturday April 16th ???
Sunday April 17th RACE!


Note 2: I was still feeling slightly beaten up going into my next to last skate that Monday.  And yet with monstrous headwinds, I managed to skate a PR workout, averaging nearly 18 mph over my standard course.  Here’s why this is relevant.  In 2010, I was averaging about 17 mph in training skates before holding 20 mph during the Road Rash skating most of it by myself.  The top guys that year had gone over 21 mph over the full marathon.  Again recognizing the fallacy in using predictions, assuming I got the same 3 mph increase with race wheels, drafting, etc. an 18 mph average told me I had at least the potential to go out with the big boys and hold on.  My endurance was as good as it’s ever been and my speeds were there.  With 6 days to go, this was exactly the confidence building workout I needed.

The rest of the taper is pretty stock standard stuff.  I was cutting volume on the skates pretty majorly but maintaining overall endurance with my bike rides.  I was also keeping a touch of intensity on the bike so I didn’t lose anything there.  You can see the 2X5′ sets on Monday and a handful of short anaerobic efforts on Thursday for final sharpening.

For giggles I took morning heart rate for a couple of days (a full minute count, no estimations).  Mind you, I have no comparative data but the lowest my resting HR ever was back in my 20’s was maybe high 30 if that.  And if this number had been up in the 50’s, I’d have been really concerned.  But recovery seems to be complete as I finish up.

My speed on that final skate workout was the same 18.0 mph as the previous Monday but at a lower heart rate. Coupled with two short climbs and one descent practice, I was as ready on skates as I was going to be.  And while I had planned just to hit 5X30 second high-intensity intervals on the bike ride, I went ahead and set a (recent anyhow) 1′ power PR for the sheer hell of it.

I haven’t decided if I’ll do anything Saturday morning.  Endurance athletes talk about doing something before race day to ‘open up the legs/lungs’ but given my tendency to get sore/tight from  everything and the fact that I’ve skated monster workouts on two days of complete rest, I’ll probably take it off.  I’ll be going to watch some indoor racing as well as the Elimination race.


I Feel Ready

So with two days to the race I feel as ready as I can be.  I’m as light and as lean as I’ve been in years, nearly 10 pounds lighter than last year.  Some of it is muscle but I was clearly carrying a bit more fat coming out of SLC than I had realized.

Going into Sunday, I’m confident in my equipment and my preparation.  My endurance is as good as it’s even been, my speed is where it needs to be, I feel that my 10 day intensification block shored up some weak points in my preparation.  I feel rested, motivated, I’m sleeping like an absolute rock and my appetite is completely under control.

How did it all work out?  Race report on Monday if I can move.

Read Texas Road Rash 2011 Race Report: Part 1.

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