Saturday, April 11, 2009

bon anniversaire II

April 11. Two years to the day since my accident.

How time flies when you’re having fun.

Year 1 was about hospital, doctors, nurses, surgeries (seven of them I think plus multiple minor procedures), drugs (and associated hallucinations), pain, basic recovery, the physical and mental highs and lows, never really knowing how long it would take to get better and just coping with crap. It was also a year of unbelievable support from family, friends and work colleagues.

Year 2 was about getting some normality back to my life (you know, silly things like being able to walk, being able to walk without pain, getting back to doing some work). Naturally, a large part of normality for me was starting to ride the bike again, which I’ve been doing bit by bit since mid-June 2008 when I first turned a crank over on the indoor trainer. And regaining some semblance of fitness as well as losing some weight. Again the support of so many good people shone through and that is good to think of when you have a less than good day.

So what does Year 3 have in store?

Well I have a few ideas, but mostly it’s about evolution and continuing to rebuild this body.

Today I celebrated by doing a quality endurance ride out to Kurnell with a buddy and one of my coaching clients, Jayson Austin. I’ll be writing about Jayson more later – he is attempting to set a new world record for the Masters age group hour record. That happens a couple of weeks from now. Our ride was good. 80km, and for me a workout intensity (IF) of 0.84 (for the main section of ride) and 175 TSS. 12 months ago I could barely walk.

Coming up are a few exciting things:

At the end of April I travel to Murwillumbah in northern NSW to race the National Paracycling Championships. There is a Time Trial and a Road Race. It will be my first attempt at a paracycling event, so there is much to learn in terms of how it all operates. I suppose it’s just another bike race. Done plenty of those!

Then two weeks after that I hop on a plane and travel to Darwin at the top end of Australia for the Oceania Paracycling Championships, which are being held in conjunction with the Arafura Games. Again that involves a Time Trial and a Road Race. It will be interesting to see Darwin again. I lived there for two years in the mid-1990s.

At some stage over the next four weeks I expect to receive a new leg. Well two new legs actually. My current one no longer fits as well as it should and so it’s time for a new one. So it will be bye bye to Schooner II and in with the new. I was thinking, in Cervelo bike naming convention, perhaps I should call this new leg the PC III.

I went in to see George at the ALC to be fitted just over a week ago. So I will get a new general purpose leg. But the best bit is I will also be getting a dedicated cycling leg. That will be uber cool! No more screwing on/off a leg attachment. Yay! The funds raised at my benefit night last November are really helping to make this all possible.

I am also in the process of putting together a time trial bike and am at the bits gathering stage.

Beyond that, I have a few things marked in the calendar but I have my eyes set on getting to the 2010 National Paracycling Track Championships and being in excellent shape and form. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have a crack at the paracycling hour record.

In terms of general progress, well the last update was summarised in this post.

That chronology went up to 25 September 2008, when I performed a Maximal Aerobic Power test at which I attained a MAP of 355 watts. So summarising since then:

28 November 2008: My benefit night and photos.

16 December 2008: 16km TT test – 287 watts
19 December 2008: MAP Test – 385 watts
Both written up as part of my Swiss Watch post.

26 January 2009: Australian Day Race

14 February 2009: Coaching the Bicisport Team Pursuit squad

1 March 2009: First Road TT at Calga

13-15 March 2009: State Masters Track Championships

5 April 2009: Calga TT Part II

Here’s my Performance Manager Chart since I began turning a crank 10 months ago. Click this link for an explanation of what it means (basically the dark blue line going up means I am training more and gaining fitness, and when it goes down I'm training less - not necessarily losing fitness, as that depends for how long the line keeps dropping). Click on the picture to see a larger version.

It shows how my training has steadily ramped up but I have had a few unscheduled interruptions. Early on I had some trouble with my leg not coping so well and needing a week and a half break. After that coach & I were able to continue to ramp up my training for six months, with just one interruption when some unexpected family business required my attention.

Then another problem with my leg happened just as I was approaching a Chronic Training Load (CTL) of 70 TSS/day. It’s frustrating but having had a similar experience already, I knew that it just needed some time to recover. This time it didn’t take as long and I was back on the bike leading into the track championships, which went quite well. However I picked up a cold/flu bug while competing and that knocked me off the horse for a week afterwards. I have since been working my way back from that.

Every day I get on the bike, it’s something new. You learn to adapt. I doubt that need will change from here on.

Bring on Year 3.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

New Skool

OK, a follow up to this earlier post ("Old Skool") about a local time trial (TT) I raced last month on my normal road bike.

On that ride I completed the not quite 25km undulating Calga TT course in 42:55.

I also referred to the importance of the 3 P's of riding fast TTs (well as fast as one can go):

1. Power to the pedals
2. Piercing the wind
3. Pacing the course

With power meter data, the environmental conditions known and some special mathematical wizardry, I am able to quantify each of those three Ps from my ride last month:

1. Power:
My power average was 264 watts (normalised power 268 watts).

2. Piercing the wind:
I estimated a Coefficient of Drag x Frontal Area (CdA) of 0.334 m^2. The lower the CdA, the faster you go for the same power output.

3. Pacing
My Pacing Optimisation Score was 0.990, which ranks between "excellent" and "best in class" and means that in order to attain "best in class" level of pacing, there was another ~ 13 seconds of time savings to be found on course. Those savings can be found by dosing your effort carefully on the course depending on the terrain.

Of these 3 P's, the biggest gains (in a month) were going to come from improving #2: Piercing the Wind.

My pacing is already pretty good (but always room for improvement).

As for power, well that was a bit of an unknown for a couple of reasons, one of which I'll get to in a moment. The other reason was I recently had a bad head cold and needed a full week off training. That's never a good thing when you are training well to improve your power. If you have a good amount of training behind you, it often doesn't hurt your power much, provided you allow yourself to recover properly and don't start riding hard too soon and end up prolonging the illness.

So what about piercing the wind?

After my Old Skool post, a generous offer was made by a former coaching client of mine to loan me a TT specific bike (for a while until I can sort out my own rig). That was an offer too good to refuse, so last week the bike arrived and yesterday was my first and only chance to work on getting the set up right. It even has a Powertap power meter so that was a big bonus :D.

So it was off to Centennial Park for some time riding and making adjustments to the saddle position, the bars, arm rests and so on until I felt I could ride the bike OK. Main challenge was being able to pedal without the prosthetic hitting my arm on the upstroke. It's really annoying. I got it to a stage where it was hitting slightly but not enough to ruin a ride. I will have a solution for that, which I'll write about in another post (some news coming about my new legs).

Sometimes when you go from a road bike position to a TT bike position you can lose some power as you are not used to the different joint angles and so on. Typically you are looking to maximise your aerodynamic gains without much sacrifice in ability to produce power (in the end it's maximising speed that matters). That can take quite some time to optimise as you need time to adapt to the new bike position. I didn't have that luxury as the TT was today.

Here's the loaner bike:

Bike has an aero bar set up and 38mm deep carbon rims, so not a complete aero set up (which would have a rear disk wheel and a deep section front wheel). Also, I am not as yet using an aero helmet - I used the same standard road helmet as last time as well as a skin suit.

So what happened this time?

Conditions today were very similar to last time: calm to very little wind with the same air density at 1.179 kg/m^3 (different temperature, barometric air pressure and humidity between each day but all the variations cancelled each other out to end up with air that was the same density). In other words, the two TTs can be readily compared.

My race time was 41:14, which is 1 minute 41 seconds faster than last month.

So how did the 3 P's compare to last time? Here are the numbers (with previous month's TT numbers in brackets). They allow us to assess how much each component of the Three Ps contributed to my extra speed.

1. Power:
Average: 263 watts (264 watts) - basically the same power
Normalised: 269 watts (268 watts)

2. Piercing the wind:
CdA: 0.286 m^2 (0.334 m^2) - a 14% improvement

3. Pacing the course:
Pacing Score 0.991 (0.990)
Time lost compared to Best in Class pacing: 8 seconds (13 seconds) - so a 5 second improvement through better pacing

So it's pretty clear that the vast bulk of speed improvement was due to my improved aerodynamics, all achieved simply because I was using a bike that enabled me to ride in a much more aerodynamic position. Now if you ever wondered why some riders obsess over aerodynamics - well there's your answer!

Just to put the aerodynamic changes into perspective,
that's over 4 seconds per kilometre faster for the same power.

The nice thing about this is that there are more aerodynamic improvements to be made, and one would hope that my fitness will improve and that I'll have more power available once I adapt to the TT position. As for pacing, well I seem to have that pretty well sorted.

One final comment on the day. Last time I experienced some problems with my leg fitting becoming loose and painful in the latter stages of the TT. I didn't experience the same problem today. I packed extra foam into my leg this time and conditions were a little cooler which more than likely meant less sweat build up inside the leg liner. It still works loose gradually over time but it was much better today and no significant pain.

My next TT will be at the end of April, when I tackle the challenging Mooball TT course in northern NSW. That is part of the 2009 National Paracycling Road Race Championships. Should be a hoot (although I wish it were a flatter course).

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