Training Notes: April 2020
My training is going great; it really seems like I've been on the right track for the last few months. Maybe I've finally got it all figured out!
I just completed the first In-Season mesocycle, which went very well. The timing seemed to be spot on — by the final weekend I was feeling a little overloaded but not terribly so: exactly what I aim for at the start of a cycle. My physiological markers were also in agreement with my subjective feelings of fatigue. Through the four weeks of the cycle, as stress accumulated, my resting heart rate increased by about 10 bpm, my heart rate variability decreased more than 15 ms, and even my resting blood pressure increased significantly (from low to normal). So everything seems to be in sync.
As ever, I've continued to tweak my training. The biggest modification was the addition of a fourth Build week, adding extra flexibility to the plan.
What spurred this adjustment was a feeling over the last couple of months that I was getting into better form in the latter part of a cycle versus earlier on, so maybe I'll be able to tolerate or preferably even thrive with a fourth Build week. We'll see; certainly I felt a little flat this time in Build 1, but great from the Build 2 weekend through to the end of the cycle, and got the numbers to match.
I've also added an optional Free Ride to the middle of the Recovery week. I think that maybe I'm coming out flat because my Recovery week is now a little too easy, although it could just be a hangover from the Profile Test (more on that later).
I finished strong this time: on the Wednesday of Build 3 (the final Build week this cycle) I focused on anaerobic work: a lot of 10-30 second intervals plus a set of 10/20s and another of 15/30s. I got a 95-minute normalized power of 287 Watts. That evening I did some heavy weight lifting with plyometrics, before going out the next morning for a 4-hour endurance ride. Following a recovery-oriented Leg Speed ride on Friday, I did another anaerobic-focused Free Ride on Saturday, this time getting 272 Watts for 2.5 hours, then more weight lifting & plyometrics in the evening. Another 4-hour moderate (215 W normalized power) Free Ride finished off the block on Sunday. On Monday morning I definitely felt like I could do with taking it easy for a couple of days, but even by this morning (Tuesday) my numbers were already looking much better again. So I'm recovering well and clearly tolerating the current level of training.
Sometime in the next few weeks, I going to try to break 300 Watts normalized power for 60 minutes. I think I'll do it, but that's not to say I could maintain anywhere close to 300 W for a 1 hour steady time trial. Like I've said before, anaerobic power is where I'm best, so by riding at a steady endurance pace interspersed with maximal 20 to 30-second efforts every few minutes I can generate a large divergence between normalized and mean power.
Aerobic intervals are a different story; another possible explanation for why I was flat early in this cycle was the extended hard aerobic work on the Profile Test (on the Saturday of the Recovery week) followed by some Long Intervals I did the following Tuesday, in Build 1.
My Profile Test now consists of a flat-out 5 minute effort, followed by recovery then a 30 minute effort. The Long Intervals are 6-8 2.5 minute reps at my best 4 minute power. This kind of work seems to drain me much more than higher-intensity anaerobic and neuromuscular work. That's why I just switched the Long Intervals from Build 1 to Build 4.
So I'm feeling ever more confident that I've figured out the whole training thing. No more overreaching! From the figure above, you can see that my basic approach is a 3-day microcycle, as follows:
Day 1 = hard (high intensity) ride Day 2 = long, low-intensity ride Day 3 = recovery
Obviously, this isn't a rigid structure, but it's the basic idea. Riding hard roughly every third day gives me plenty of stimulus for improvement without building up excessive fatigue. There are also variations, so the hard ride could consist of short intervals or a medium-long Group Ride or Free Ride. The duration of the long easy ride varies, and is normally longer at the weekend than during the week. The recovery day could consist of Active Recovery, or instead be a Rest day or Leg Speed ride. I also like to do harder rides back to back at the end of a mesocycle, as after this I go into a Recovery week so it's okay to overload.
For this cycle I did Builds 1, 2 and 3. The next cycle will consist of Builds 2, 3 and 4, increasing both the volume and the intensity, then if that goes well I'll try all four Build weeks on the following cycle, extending the training stress by an extra week. We'll see how I tolerate that.
Since I rebooted my training at the end of last year, I've gradually built up the volume and intensity to a level where I now think I'm approaching my long term tolerable threshold. If things continue to go well through the summer, I may gradually increase the volume even more, to see where my limits are. There won't be much else for me to do to challenge myself this year, I'm afraid.