Early Season Base and Spinervals Super 6

I confess with both my readers as my witness: I’m not a big fan of aerobic base building. Like a lot of things I know are good for me, I know I should be doing it before I move into the fun stuff — intervals and threshold — but I just find it mind numbing. Particularly the long aerobic ride. Particularly solo.

But one needs to work on one’s “limiters,” as the data-driven endurance coaches say, and one of mine is definitely cycling endurance. Other than Ironman Arizona 2010, all of my Ironman rides have been far below what I’m physiologically capable of doing. It doesn’t matter that you’re a decent runner if you lose 30-60 minutes in the bike. What I did differently in 2010 was do some well-timed volume on the bike in that high Zone 2 / low Zone 3 area, so that seems like something I should get back to.

To kick off the year in style, I’ve been following the Spinervals Super 6 program. I’ve been a Coach Troy fan for many years and got a chance to meet him in person at an Ironman breakfast in Kona this past October, though of course I felt like I already knew him thanks to many hours of suffering through his workouts in my garage. Basically, the program is six weeks of six rides per week with running and strength work thrown in for good measure (it doesn’t address swimming — for that you’re on your own). During the week, it’s got a mix of intensity (my fave) with steady aerobic work, but the Saturday ride gets long. Today’s was very long indeed — 100 miles in about 5.5 hours, for those hardcore types who can stay on the trainer that long. Short option was 3-4 hours. I enlisted the company of my good friend and teammate Mike, who like me has Ironman Arizona on the docket this year.

I barely made it to 3.

It started fine and controlled, but in the second set the intensity went up, and the gearing Coach Troy was using seemed too high on the fluid trainers we had — I hit over 300 watts in the last minute of the first repeat. This is higher than I can even maintain in a sprint distance triathlon, so well above lactate threshold. My heart rate never really recovered from that; where my aerobic efforts had been below 130, I was consistently staying above 140 for much of rest of the workout, which meant I had burnt a lot of matches during that set. Effectively, I bonked and made it to 3 hours only by force of will.

Looking at the workout in TrainingPeaks, the graphs tell the story. In the bottom graph, you can see the correlation between heart rate and power as the workout goes on; in the third hour, the power goes down but the heart rate stays high. In the scatter graph (one of the new beta features I have access to), if you plot power and heart rate data points, you see a wide fan-out of power and heart rate at the upper end of the X axis (heart rate); normally you would expect a smoother upward trend on both axes.

What this tells me is that I have a lot more long aerobic work to do, and it also illustrates what happens when you go into the red zone during a long aerobic effort — you burn enough matches to end your day prematurely.

Live and learn. 🙂

The anticipation is growing

It’s Friday in Christchurch, and tomorrow is the beginning of Epic Camp.  The beginning, at least, of meeting all the guys and gals I’ll be trying to keep up with over the next 8 days.

Yesterday was arrival day, and the long journey from San Francisco went smoothly, other than the fact that none of our luggage made the connecting flight in Auckland.  However, Air New Zealand baggage reps told us everything was coming on the next flight and that they would deliver it to us.  Since our friends’ car wasn’t big enough to carry my bike box anyway, this turned out to be a good thing.  The first three pieces arrived at our friends’ apartment a couple of hours later, and it was only the bike that was further delayed.  The same friendly driver showed up a few hours later as promised with the bike.

If you ever questioned whether you needed an expensive, heavy duty bike case vs a cardboard box, you should take a look at my bike case.  After a grand total of seven trips, the plastic is cracked in several places, the latches have been bent several times — in short, it’s taken a lot of abuse.  The bike, on the other hand, is unscathed, my poor mechanical skills notwithstanding.  Actually, that brings me to collateral investment number 2:  the torque wrench.  If you travel regularly to races or events with a carbon-fiber bike, you owe it to yourself and to your bike to have one of these.  I know folks who have cracked their frames, steerer tubes or seatposts by overtightening bolts, so if a $300 tool can protect a $5000+ investment (as well as future $5000+ investments since most of us have more than one bike), it seems a small price.  Off my soapbox on that.

This morning I felt some active recovery from the journey was in order, so I took a little run around Hagley Park, which is right by our friends’ flat and is also close to the motel where the Epic Campers will spend the first couple of nights.  Did 30 minutes easy, thinking it might be my last easy run for awhile — the rest will be done with accumulated fatigue from more training than I’ve ever done in one block before.

The weather here is generally predicted to be “fine,” not that I’m certain what that means.  It’s been mostly overcast with occasional sun and temps in the upper 60s F for the high.  Pretty good training weather, actually, though I like it a little warmer than that on the bike.

Wish me luck! 🙂