This week has been week three following the British Cycling 8 week pre-season training plan.
In a Nutshell
This week had to be rearranged a bit. I can’t actually blame the children for this since it was due to a haircut. I switched my two mid week turbo sessions to Monday and Wednesday, rather than Tuesday and Thursday. The only problem was that Monday and Wednesday were also my busiest days on the cargo bike. Sunday also became my rest day again as I woke up feeling full of the cold. For that I most definitely blame the children!
A Day of No Rest
So Monday was not the planned rest day, it was a turbo day. It was also a busy day with lots of places to be so by the time I got home after collecting the children from school and nursery, I had already cycled 21 miles. Still, it was turbo tonight or not manage the full week and it would be a shame to scupper the week on a Monday.
To the turbo I headed. The session was one I did last week too, under / over with surges. It hadn’t got any easier. I found the surges bit really hard, psychologically as well as physically. The session involves 90 seconds at zone 3.5, then 20 seconds at zone 5, then 10 seconds maximal sprint. Actually, I think I was doing the 90 second a bit too hard. I did the same as last week and used the same target power as I did for the under / over session. However, that session specified 90% of functional threshold power (FTP) for the unders. After completing the session I realised that 90% FTP for me is 300W, but power zone 3.5 for me is 260W. Oops. I will need to think about this one the next time I am due to repeat the session. The trouble is that, having completed the session a bit harder than it should have been, it feels a bit like failure to back off and use the correct zones. Hmmm.
Anyway, the bit I found hard was the surges. For the surges there is not specified power to hit, just the aim to sprint. I don’t like vague aims. I like to have a number to target. I find that much easier to motivate myself to do as I know exactly what I am aiming for. ‘Maximal’ makes it easier to back off and decide that I am trying hard enough when actually I am not. The other problem with the session is that, after the maximal sprint there is not backing off, it is straight back to zone 3.5 which is still pretty tough. Judging what ‘maximal’ is without then being unable to sustain the zone 3.5 bit is tricky.
Still, I made it. Session completed.
Thank Goodness for E-Assist
No turbo session on Tuesday but still plenty of ferrying the children about on the cargo bike. After last night’s session all I can say is, thank goodness for e-assist on the cargo bike! Without it I really think I would have struggled. I usually keep the e-assist on 2 (it goes from 1 – tiny assist, to 8 – big assist) and bump it up for the hilly bits. Today, I kept it on 6 most of the day.
Another Busy Day of Transport
Wednesday is the day of swimming lessons. In addition to my usual cargo bike school and nursery runs, I also have two swimming lessons to get to – the little one in the morning and the older one after school. This added up to another 20 mile bike transport day. Not the ideal preparation for a turbo session but that is how it is.
The session was ramped VO2 intervals. Warm up then five sets of 5 minutes zone 5 with 5 minutes recovery. Having completed this, I can assure you that five minutes can sometimes feel like a very long time (riding in zone 5). It can also sometimes feel like a very short time (recovery). One of the aims of the session is to build up the power in the last minute of the intervals. This is tough to judge in the same way as the surges on Monday were. I am definitely finding it easier to judge what I can sustain and how long for though.
As usual I relied on power data from my turbo and heart rate was not all that useful. I have never yet got my heart rate above the top of zone 4. The power data assures me that this is not because I am not trying hard enough. The jelly legs at the end of each session reinforces this!
Looked Tough, Was Tough
As in the previous weeks, I did the ‘bonus session’ on the Saturday, but did it on the turbo. I have to say that I was glad of the excuse to ride indoors as it was pouring with rain and a howling gale outside.
Today’s session was anaerobic capacity efforts. It looked tough. It was tough.
This was the first session on the plan asking for intervals at zone 6. Eight sets of 2 minute intervals with 3 minutes easy pedalling recovery. Then after three minutes recovery, eight sets of 1 minute with 3 minutes easy pedalling recovery. The instructions for the session stated that quality was the key and that I should end the session if I hit the point when I was not able to hit zone 6. For me, this provides a loophole to wriggle out of completing the session because it is tough, which is not good. It sets me up on a mental battle to continue rather than copping out.
I am proud to say that I did complete it though. It was tough because zone six is a whole new level of horrible. In zone 6 the body is forced to work anaerobically. This means that your body’s demand for oxygen is greater than the available oxygen supply. It is only possible to sustain this for short periods and it really hurts. It hurts your lungs and it hurts your legs.
This kind of training requires a mental strategy to get through it.
I decided to approach it as one interval at a time. ‘Just one more’. If I can do just one more then I will maybe call it the last. This worked for me because, after a 3 minute easy spin, I could always face just one more. It is much harder to face ‘oh god, six more like that’. I managed to keep doing just one more until I hit the massive relief of the 2 minute intervals completed. Then I ‘only’ needed to do one minute at a time. Again, I persuaded myself to do just one more until there really was just one more to go.
Again, heart rate data, while accurate, was not all that much use in this session. While I hit power zone 6, my heart rate never even hit zone 5. Yet I could not put any more effort in. I have a strong suspicion that heart rate zone 6 for me might involve passing out! Without the power data I would be seriously struggling to complete these sessions.
Incidentally, I have had a number of people comment that my power levels are quite high. I would love to believe that this is because I am such a powerful athlete. However, I suspect not. I get power data from my old Tacx Flow turbo, which I love. I suspect that the power data it gives is not very accurate. To me, this is not all that important because it is consistent. It does not really matter whether the turbo is showing 100w, 300w, 1000w or 15 turkeys, as long as it is consistent in showing the same number for the same effort.
My glass beads for showing how many intervals I have completed proved invaluable again today. I have now also perfected the art of information display whilst turboing. I have a folder full of the British Cycling training plan sheets which I leave open on the pages which show the 20 minute warm up and my heart rate and power zones. I also have a clipboard with the day’s session. That way, I can see everything I need and have not need or excuse for getting off the bike or pausing the session.
Hurray For Week Four
Looking ahead to week four, I was pleased to discover it is a rest week. The midweek turbo sessions are no more than an hour. There is no bonus ride at the weekend, just a two hour enjoyable ride – I might even manage that! This is good timing as I have finally succumbed to the cold that the children and my husband have all had for the past week.
Bring on the easy week!