Monday, December 16, 2013

2013-2014 Volume block minus 3 days

The new team bike build is coming along nicely. I need some more parts before I show you guys what it will be equiped with. I plan on some major attention to details on the build and hope for a decent accumulation of marginal weight savings. Stay tuned.

Im a few days apart from what I will call a ''Volume block'' in my training schedule. The holidays will be a very good time to log in precious low intensity high volume aerobic training. I have a few days off work so I plan on training a good chunk of time.

I will mainly XC ski and ride the trainer which should allow for some good weekly volume if the holidays parties and stuff don't get in the way too much. The block won't be 100% specific training but should provide good whole body aerobic stimulus. The idea behind XC ski is logging volume while avoiding mental numbness from the trainer. Better then nothing...

The trainer will be used to keep some high intensity training sessions but they should be very short and limited in number.

Now I need to clear out that slight cold harrassing me since 2 days before jumping back into serious training!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Xprezo T-29 build part 3

 Received some parts yesterday, one part is missing so im not showing the new stuff now. Here is the current build list and pictures. Aiming at 10,4kg so far.

Frame Xprezo T-29 medium Columbus Zona (inc. GXP press fit bottom bracket, cable guide, lower headset cup, front derailleur mount and bolt: 2002g
Fork Rockshox SID RLT uncut, including crown: 1648g
Handle bar ENVE sweep 740mm: 172g
Stem KCNC arrow -17d 100mm: 133g
Headset FSA (inc. headset cover): 69g
Seatpost ENVE setback: 192g
seatpost clamp Xprezo: 26g
saddle full carbon: 102g

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Xprezo T-29 build follow up

The build is progressing slowly but surely. Here are a few weights:

Frame Xprezo T-29 medium Columbus Zona (inc. GXP press fit bottom bracket, cable guide, lower headset cup, front derailleur mount and bolt: 2002g
Fork Rockshox SID RLT uncut, including crown: 1648g
Handle bar ENVE sweep 740mm: 172g
Stem KCNC arrow -17d 100mm: 133g
Headset FSA (inc. headset cover): 69g

Saturday, December 7, 2013

XPREZO T-29 race bike

For 2014 I will be riding a nice handmade steel 29er by a local compagny named XPREZO. They are a small business here in Canada, welding their frame in house, painting, etc. They are a small bunch of passionate guys and im looking foward to working with them as a rider.

I've got my frameset yesterday, a nice T-29, 29er hardtail built with Columbus Zona tubes. The nude frame (before painting) weights 1600g in medium size. My frame weighted in at 2002g including the pressfit GXP bottom bracket and the lower headset fitting. It has a race geometry and a rear 142x12mm axle.

I thought a canadian handmade steel 29er would be somewhat exotic so I plan on updating my blog as the build progresses. I already got a good bunch of parts and they are not the lightest but they are reliable. My first concern is reliability because I am training and racing a lot on my bike. My target weight would be 10,5kg though im not sure I can reach that goal with the current parts I have and intend to use for this build.

Of course there are plenty of photos to come with weights and scale shots :)

Anyways, here are a few shots of the frameset.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New team, new bike, new off season WW build

Very proud to let you guys know I found a new racing team for 2014. The season is going to be awesome. I can't comment yet on the actual team as details need to be finalized but I can tell you the new bike is going to be sick and unique.

I plan a full weight-weenie project for the winter, which I will expose here in details with weighted parts and photos. The bike should be very nice and out of ordinary. Stay tuned for a follow up on the compagny and project news!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Quick tires review

I had the opportunity to test a few different tires during the season. I mainly rode 3 different models and will describe my thoughts on each one, starting with the one I used most. All models were 29er size, of course.

Kenda small block 8 - 2.1 - DTC SCT

These tires have very small and tightly placed knobs. The profile is round and the tires is made of 2 different compounds. The center knobs are harder, more of a plastic feeling and are made for faster rolling. The side knobs are stickier to provide more traction in corners. The tire volume is not a big volume. I have'nt measured them but they are quite a bit smaller then my maxxis Ikon. The weight came in at

I loved this tire. It performs well in the dry and sligthly soft conditions. It is not made to ride in wet and loose conditions though. When used in the proper weather, the rounded profile and the side threads inspire confidence in the corners. The traction is good overall but you'll need a bit of climbing skills to keep a decent traction when stuff gets loose or a little wet. The volume might have been an issue at time though. I mostly rode them at 20,5 psi and I did hit the rim a few times when going fast down hill.

Overall, I'd say they are a good tire for most of the season when conditions allow. They are not too expensive and the SCT tires seal up tubeless very, very easily. They also seem durable and the sidewall are pretty thick and resistant.

Maxxis Ikon - 2.2 - EXC EXO

Not much to say about these popular tires. They are pretty light for their size and the volume is big. The profile is a squared one and the center threads are small to provide a good rolling resistance. I find the squared profile feels a little bit less confident in the corners then a rounded profile tire. These were my race day tires so I did not put extensive training kilometers on them. The big volume make it a very comfortable tire especially at lower pressures. I generally used 20 to 21 psi with these tires.

I found they can handle both dry and slightly wet conditions. They can even handle mud if you've got the handling skills for it. They sealed up very easily as well using stans juice on my stans crest rims. The only downsides to these tires is the price. If you buy these at the local bike shop, you'll be looking at a 95$ tire. Also, while the sidewall protection seems resistant, I have had a few sets of Ikons in the past and have found the thread punctures quite a bit.

Maxxis beaver - 2.0

Holy sticky tire batman!!! Rode these tires only once, but it was in a super muddy, slippery race with sections people were running because it was too muddy. These tires are so sticky I could stay on my bike the whole time during the race. A spectator even told me I was the only one going up the main technical climb on my bike, everybody else was running up it.

They are a mud specific tire, with a small volume, very sticky compound and agressive threads. I don't think they should be used anywhere else because the volume is so small and the rubber seems thin on the sidewall.

If you're looking for some super traction in slippery conditions, go with the beaver, awesome.

Continental race king - 2.2 - racesport

Not much to say about these tires except the volume is big and could make it a comfortable tire. I rode them at different pressures but never found them as comfortable as my Ikons. They roll super, super fast and they do have good grip when it's DRY. I could test them on wet and loose conditions and they totally suck. Traction goes out the window as soon as it is loose or wet. The rounded profile is great but the side knobs are not going far enough for me on the edge of the tire, which makes it a poor cornering tire when you like to lean the bike over in corners.

After a handleful of rides, the sidewall were already showing signs of use. They are indeed very thin. The tire seals up relatively easily with stans juice but you might need a bit more work then with other tires to get them 100% air thight.

I have decided those tires are not for me at all. My next tires should be very interesting.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Winter is coming...

Or at least, thats what the Starks would say! Winter is definitly coming. Leaves are falling off trees and they are covering the trails. The riding at this time of the year is beautiful and there is some more good rides left. 

I've been sidelined with illness for 2 weeks now. I have had time to work on my winter training and document myself a little more. Just like last year, I will jump right into a high intensity approach using somewhat of a polarized patern even though I have a lot less available time during winter because of the outdoor conditions. I thought I'd use this blog post to lay out the hows and whys of my approach, given a few people are asking me questions and are seeking advises.


How do I plan the intensity throughout the winter season? I mostly start with very high intensity micro-intervals using wide intensity targets and low total work volume. So I might do some 20 seconds or 30 seconds efforts at intensity well above FTP, averaging ~175% of FTP. The work/rest ratio is often a 1/1 or 1/2 at best and the total work volume varies from 4 minutes to 8 minutes. Some would say I do L6 anaerobic intervals but they are not. The short rests play a major role in the energetic demand of such efforts. The early efforts draw more ATP derived from the anaerobic glycolitic system whilst the subsequent efforts are produced using more and more energy derived from the aerobic glycolitic system. That way, a complete block ends up being heavily aerobic despite the relatively high power output.

After a while I will progressively introduce longer L5 efforts until I reach 2 sessions per week. I then may plan a very intensive L5 block followed by a few days of compelte rest to force adaptations from the intese block.


This is where you might ask youself: "why is he using a high intensity approach?". Basically, intensity is scaled with time available. It is mostly based around the weather conditions in my neck of the wood. Tons of snow means I can barely ride outside. If im lucky, I can find some snowshoe trails and ride them but the conditions are so unstable I can't rely on that for a reliable training plan. So my regime is mostly intensity on the trainer. Intensity because I won't be riding the trainer for 3 hours day in day out. I might do a few longer trainer rides during the winter but they are quite rare (and boring).

Why am I not using the highly regarded sweet spot approach might you ask? There are many reasons for this, some personnal, some more objective. This is a very vast topic and I will keep that under the wrap for another blog post

It is an uncommon approach. Most folks will use the sweet spot approach for many reasons. Among other, because that particular approach is often discussed on training forums and seems to be supported by highly regarded coaches from popular coaching groups. I think it is wise to diversify one's training stimuli and therefore explore new apparoches. It is also a good idea to document yourselves and not only listen to coaches out there who earn their living prescribing cookie cutter plans or training plans based off one particular training phylosophy, not to mention the softwares and other training metrics, but that's a whole other topic!

To finish off this article, here are some informations regarding why I use such high intensity efforts during winter:

The micros:

-They are specific to my racing demand on many aspects: muscle recruitment and firing patern, metabolic demand and intensity/rest racing patern.

-They are a good aerobic stimulus to keep things sharp but they should not burn someone out given the low total work volume.

-They are a form of whole body conditioning, or central nervous sytem for that matter. You smash yourself with high intensity but low work volume. It is like telling your brain: "Feel that burn eh? Well, better get used to it, cause there is plenty more to come!". Makes a good preparation for further intense block during winter.

The L5:

-It has been shown they are a good stumulus to induce skeletal muscle adaptations. Probably just as much as longer, steadier efforts. That remains debatable.

-I personnaly seems to recover better from L5 training versus sweet spot training. It might be related to glycogen depletion. L5 intensity uses more glycogen then L3 or L4 intensity for the same duration. The relationship between L5 and L3-L4 total work volume is hard to establish but I think it is safe to say you may pile on less total L5 volume during a single session then you may do with L3 or L4 intensity.

-It may push the upper boundaries of one's aerobic system, leaving more room to fill the tank afterward.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The need for rest

It's fall here in Eastern Canada. Racing is over for good and after a few good days of complete rest, my body is jsut telling me it needs more. I caught the classic September/October cold so it means im on my butt for at least a whole week. Training or just riding when being sick is just silly. That's one thing I could not get my head around when I started training seriously but I now understand the impact of training when ill and the major consequences it can have on your body and on the season's training cycle. So im now more disciplined with regards to training and illness.

The forced break will have its benefits. First it will serve as a mental rest from physical activity in general and from being on my bike everyday. Mental rest is a key to a good start to winter training. I need to be as fresh as possible mentally to be able to cope with the serious intensity planned for the long winter months.

Second, it obviously serves as a physical break. Replenish those energy stores, rebalance the endocrine system which certainly has taken a solid wack during the racing season. It also means giving the body time to heal all those minor injuries, joint pain and other painful body parts. 

It is important to get enough rest before the winter training regime starts. In the past few years, I was'nt getting much rest between the end of the season and winter. I was basically just riding along on the road or in the trails and taking a few days off here and there but no structured rest period. That recovery week will leave me very fresh and not too detrained. Hopefully the illness heals fast too. 

There is some serious training coming up for winter. Keep following if you like a good dose of training articles and geeky training stuff!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Group-set dreaming

It is the perfect time of year to play on my bike and try different tire set-up and other stuff. Last week I just mounted some new cables and housing because the old ones were getting quite dirty already. I love how a new cable and housing set-up makes your bike shifting feel like new.

So new set-up is mounted, indexation is ajusted but the bike keeps shifting like crap. Investigating the cables reveals nothing wrong so I tighten it back and try it again: same result. I then start questioning the housing. Yesterday, I dismounted everything and mounted some new cables and housing again, only 1 week after I changed the set-up to a new one. Result: same crappy shifting.

While trying to adjust the cable tension via the Sram XX grip shift barrel adjuster I realized there was something wrong with the shifter. The part tapering toward the barrel adjuster is broken! Heck, I have'nt even crashed with this bike and the shifters were bought brand new and ridden for approximately 5 months. Needless to say I am not impressed with Sram, even though it could have happened to any parts from any brand. The worst part is the local bike shop is not even sure it will accepted under warranty!

I have been thinking a lot lately about switching my group-set but I first need to sell my bike (shameless plug). The more I think about it, the more I lean toward a full Shimano XTR group-set. The shifting appears to be super smooth, the set-up a bit less finicky and the brakes are definitly way more powerful.

My next bike will be full XTR equiped for sure. I just need to sell current bike and I am patiently waiting for the news from teams onto which I have applied for next season. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Racing's over, time to relax on and off the bike

Last week-end was the final event of my racing season, an 8h team relay event on a very nice course with some fast riders. The event was such an awesome time to catch up with some riders, chat, hit the course multiple time and just relax inbetween laps. I met Antoine Caron over there, a very down to earth guy, super symptathic! Enjoyed the chat with this guy who's apprently a bit of a weight-weenie and training geek too!

The team relay was a very good training session. Nine laps lasting anywhere between 12 and 13 minutes. Hitting the same lines nine times means you get to try some new angles, new approach and exit speeds and it is a very good bike handling practice a race-pace-ish speeds.

Now racing is over and it's time to get off that rigid training schedule, sleep patern and constant riding. Up until the end of the month I will be riding whenever I want to and I'll pick back up lifting too. I've mounted some agressive tanky tires on my bike and will go out for some serious trail shreding with jumps and stuff, should be good!

Im definitly looking foward to my winter training. It should be interesting and I should have a few good training topics to write about. Stay tuned for more updates. Meanwhile, im off to the couch!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Season is coming to an end

Hey! The blog is not dead yet!

My racing season is about to end. I should be done by september 15th so there will be more blog updates by then.

I plan on making a series of article related to my season, inspired by different topics: training, racing, recovery, traveling, equipement choice and tests and what I learned from all the racing I've been logging since the month of mai.

Feel free to leave any comments and also suggestions regarding what you would like to read on my blog. Having some inspiration from readers would be nice. Anything really, feel free to suggest.

Stay tuned for some updates!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Race power file analysis

Sunday’s regional race was a fast, hot and hard race. The course involved a mix of wide climbs, technical climbs and two key twisty descents. I was pleased to see the quality of the field on the start line with, among others, one of the best rider in the country who also races UCI world cups. We were starting with the juniors, which only brings more pain and speed to the experience. The race would not be easy; heat, humidity, fast guys, hard course and on top of that, a very hard race in the legs from Saturday. Nevertheless, it would be an awesome training and experience.

I dissected the whole race by laps (5) and analysed the datas for each key parts of the course where I could lay down the power. I will comment the first two laps as they were the critical parts of the race.

-Climb 1: approximately 2 minutes long and divided in two: a roughly 20 seconds, hard packed wide road leading to the second part of the climb which was a 90 seconds ascending singletrack with twisting sections and a few roots to clear.

-Flat: a wide, flat stretch of hard packed sand which leads in a slightly ascending singletrack. We had to make a 90 degree left turn at the end of the wide road to enter the singletrack.

-Climb 2: around 1 minute long, this climb was right after a technical rocky section. It was muddy, a little slippery and finished off with a wide gravel path where you could regain some speed before entering the wood toward the last climb.

-Climb 3: around 1 minute long as well. This climb was a semi-loose sand climb which lead to another short punchy climb before tackling the final descent.

Here is the analysis.

Final time: 1h17m32s
kJ: 1099
Normalized Power: 294W

Lap 1: 15m30s
NP: 312W

Climb 1 : 1m50s / 385W AP / 857W max

Flat :  2m10s / 327 AP / 717W max

Climb 2 : 1m / 399w AP / 644W max

Climb 3 : 50s / 461W AP / 633W max

First lap involved a start loop to avoid a tight singletrack. The loop lead at the base of Climb 1. Another poor start for me but no biggie here as I was drafting off other riders on the flat and put the hammer down on the climb to enter the wood with a good position. That surge did have its cost with a max wattage of 857W to past other riders and averaging 385W for almost 2 minutes on the climb. I was on the wheels of the leaders but we got droped on the descent and I then stuck with 2 other riders, a junior and an elite. Once on the flat I had to put the hammer down peaking at 717W to catch the junior and the elite who took a little gap on the descent. I could see them at the base of climb 2 and I passed the junior, again, burning some fuel with a peak wattage of 644W and averaging close to 400W for a minute. I could reach the elite rider and draft him on the rolling part of the course leading to climb 3. At the base of climb 3, I just put the hammer down again, averaging 461W for 50 seconds and got rid of both guys, but not for long…

Lap 2: 15m17s
NP: 302W

Climb 1: 1m45s 397W AP 924W max PEAK 10s 823W PEAK 20s 707W

Flat: 2m10s 324W AP

Climb 2: 1m05s 355W AP

Climb 3: 59s 415W AP

I started the final descent with a small gap  and both guys caught me back at the base of the descent leading to the lap zone. I slowed a little and rode the first singletrack section at tempo pace leading to climb 1, as I knew it would be hell at the bottom of the climb. Got out of the wood first and started the climb at a pretty high pace between 600-650W but the elite rider attacked as he wanted to enter the second part of the climb with a good position. I responded to the attack with a peak wattage of 924W, peak 10 seconds of 823W and peak 20 seconds of 707W. I could keep my position but I entered the second part of the climb in the wood redlining big time. Finished the climb at a good pace nevertheless with an average power of 397W for 1 minute 45 seconds and started the descent. The rest of the race was ridden with the junior getting close to me on descents and me taking gaps on every climbs. It was an awesome race, pretty hard with an interesting tactical game played in the first two laps.

Here are the other laps datas.

Lap 3: 15m43s
NP 283W

Climb 1: 1m49s 373W AP 675W max

Flat: 2m17s 290W AP

Climb 2: 1m07s 352W AP

Climb 3: 55s 404W AP

Lap 4:  15m47s
NP: 287W

Climb 1: 1m50s 371W AP

Flat: 2m15s 289W AP

Climb 2: 1m10s 345W AP

Climb 3: 51s 422W AP


Lap 5: 15m11s
NP: 280W

Climb 1: 1m54s 349W AP

Flat: 2m19s 289W AP

Climb 2: 1m13s 338W AP

Climb 3: 55s 394W AP

Overall I was pleased with the result (2nd). The training was very good, both for the skills and fitness! Looking forward to my first provincial test next week-end, most likely in muddy conditions, for a change…

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Racing and recovery

Racing is hard, very hard. Especially olympic cross-country mountain biking. It is often 90 minutes of intense pain starting right from the gun and barely easing up as the race unfolds. The start is brutal, the hills are pure hell, any small obstacle often requires a 3-5 seconds power burst and the descents are anything but recovery time. Add the huge concentration requirement and you end up quite toasted on the finish line.

Power demand

After reviewing my first two races power data, I can briefly summarize the physiological demand of XCO MTB racing. Keep in mind those two races were relatively short, being regional level races, lasting arround 75 minutes each.

First race normalized power was 285 W and totalized 14 minutes above 120% of FTP and 8 minutes between 105% and 120% while second race normalized power was 299 W and totalized 19 minutes and 8 minutes for each respective training levels. That makes it 22 minutes and 27 minutes of very high intensity work for each race. The cumulative time above 120% of FTP is made of several short acceleration lasting anywhere between 5 seconds to 1 minute. Some people would call those short efforts anaerobic but I would venture saying they are not, maybe except for the start. Why? Because almost all these short intense efforts are produced in an already fatigued state where aerobic energy production is already doing it's work. Therefore, I would think they are far from purely anaerobic and would involve a significant aerobic energy contribution. Such high intensity efforts require a good deal of glycogen and stores can be rapidly used.

Then you have the whole muscular contractions when descending, clearing obstacle and handling the bike that are not reported by the powermeter... what a sport!!

Recovery from racing

The significant systemic stress induced by MTB racing requires smart recovery strategies, both on the short, medium and long term within racing season. That's without speaking of the stress induced by traveling to races, sleeping in crapy hotels and eating average food.

On the short term, I must make sure I get proper post-race nutrition which means and good amount of carbohydrates combined with proteins. I often go for the classic chocolate milk or anything liquid containing 4g/1g carbs to proteins ratio. I keep fueling with carbohydrate dense food on the way home. Then I make sure I get a good meal once I am back. On the medium term, I need to get sufficiant sleep quality and quantity. For me, it generally means 8 hours of sleep following steady bed time hours and wake up. Sleep is esential to adequate recovery to allow adaptations from racing intensity, since racing is pretty much the only real training I am doing at the moment. Finaly, on the long term, the recovery strategy needs to be consitant throughout the season. Sufficient nutrition quality and quantity, sleep and training load must be scaled according to the racing demand.

Training plan orientations

Training, for me, is all about being is race shape when comes racing time. Lots of efforts from november to april, then racing. Once racing starts, structured training frequency drops quite a bit. I go from 2-3 hard workouts a week to 2, then only 1 and even no intense workout at all when racing frequently like I am right now. Racing frequently means once to three times a week. It's more then enough when you consider the physiological demand of XCO MTB racing as explained above. The more I am racing, the more I am convinced week days should mainly consist of low intensity, zone 2 riding working on skills and trail riding, which can also provide some shorter higher intensity time. Easy rides on the road coupled with zone 2 trail riding should provide adequate recovery without inducing additionnal training stress as long as duration and intensity are controled. When the racign eases a bit after june, we'll see if I schedule a very gentle build to sharpen things back. But first I need to go through june without burning out!

Let see how it unfolds from now on...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Season start wrap up

We're 5 races into the racing season and things have gone up and down a bit for me. Did 2 races with the elite boys and suffered their massive start speed a lot, a thing on which I will have to work soon, with a specific workout I have created.

Then it was the first round of the Quebec Cup which I was racing as an expert this year. The course in Tremblant was awesome with a lot of climbing and some super fun technical sections. Though, Tremblant does'nt like me much is seems. Last year, I broke my shoe in that race. This year, after a super good start leading the field into the singletrack with a good gap, I punctured my rear tire after 14 minutes of racing. My race was over, my tire was ruined and it ended up being an expensive week end for not much racing and no power datas. Hell! Out of 6 races in that part of the province, I had mecanical problems 4 times!!

Last week end was the second and third round of the Quebec Cup in Baie Saint-Paul. The weather was not so nice. Cold, rain, mud, yuk! Course was nice but slow and there was a lot of people slowing you down on the thecnical climbs because of the slippery roots, rocks and overall mud. Nevertheless, I was back home in one piece, with 2 wins and a very beat up bike. My SRM stoped working, dont know what's the issue, maybe a battery? Hope it comes back like new.

These were my last races as an expert. Up in the elite category for season now. I will be learning a lot with the fast guys. I dont mind getting my butt kicked hard, the experience will worth it. Stay tuned for more race report.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Race set up ready

Put on some agressive tires for round 2 and 3 of Quebec Cup this week end. It's going to be very slippery and muddy. Unfortunately I will have to run tubes so pressure wont be as low as I'd like to. Tires are heavy too but should provide decent traction.

Bike is ready for racing

Quite some weight disparency between both tires, 50g!

Now hopefully the race goes well and I dont puncture like last week end!! Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Been raining a bit here since the last few days. Second Qc Cup round on next week end in Baie Saint-Paul on a normally very dusty and rooty course. Forecasts arent looking great at all: tons of rain and very low temperature, arround 3-7 C...

Hopefully my agressive tires make it to the bike shop on time and I can fit them tubeless tonight without much pain. Hope the course will drain itself a bit too.

I dont like racing in mud, it requires a lot more concentration. It's going to be a good core workout!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

MTB specific workouts

Olympic cross-country mountain bike racing as a lot to do with high intensity efforts above FTP followed by recovery at endurance, tempo or close to FTP intensity and/or coasting on descents. Courses often feature short, 1 to 3 minutes climbs with multiple shorter, punchy, steep climbs. You're also forced to accelerate out of corners or put out more power to clear technical obstacle. And let's not even talk about the start of the race, please. Only thinking about it hurts! The overall effort patern sounds much like overloading your system with lactate, then trying to recover and clear that lactate production at a lower pace in order to be able to overload your system again once you reach the next course feature that will require a high power output.

First race of the season was brutal and an eye opener. After analysing my race file, I tweaked some of my workouts to target more specific MTB racing requirements. I have come up with 2-3 workout that I will experiment and/or have been experimenting in the past few weeks. These workouts are some type of micro-intervals workout with moderate to high intensity rest intervals. There are several goals behind each workouts which are adressing specific MTB physiological demands:

1- work at a general critical lactate ''management'' intensity, i-e. arround FTP. The average power for each efforts is generally arround 90% to 110% of FTP depending on effort duration. The ''recovery'' part is done arround 85% to 95% of FTP to force lactate clearance under significant stress.

2- include some short bursts at higher intensity to induce significant lactate production. Bursts are generally done at 120% to 150% of FTP. The bursts average power being more arround 120% to 130% of FTP and the effort spiking arround 150% of FTP.

3- it targets MTB racing neuro-muscular demand with high intensity bursts targeting specific motor unit recruitment and muscle fiber type.

The workouts description:

workout 1: 4 x 5min (20'' @ 90% FTP / 20'' @ 130% FTP) 5min easy

Some tweaked vo2max workout with the average power for the 5 minutes blocks falling arround 110% of FTP. They are 5 minutes blocks where you ride for 20 seconds at 90% of FTP alternated with 20 seconds at 130% of FTP. Mentally very different from an iso power effort. I'd do no more then 4 blocks during racing season and maybe 5 blocks during winter/pre season preparation.

workout 2: 2 x 20min (2' @ 90% FTP / 20'' @ 120%-130% FTP) 5min easy

Nothing new here, only some 2x20 variation. Average power falls arround 90% of FTP depending on how you manage it. A little harder then a regular iso power 20 minutes effort at 90% of FTP.

workout 3: 2 x 8 x (30'' @ 90% FTP / 30'' @ 120% FTP) 5min easy

This one I have not tested just yet and will do tonight. It should be interesting. The relatively low total volume is for the same reason as above, i-e. to match racing season load. Maybe I'd do 3 sets during pre racing preparation.

These workouts could also be well suited to criterium racers or cyclocross racers. Basically any intermittent discipline which results in a high average power output while including a lot of bursts above your FTP could benefit these workouts.

Try them, love them!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

D minus 4

Only 4 days before the first race of the season, very excited about getting back into racing. Last week was a good training week with intensity and a long ride on the week end. Now it's time to rest a little. Only one intensity workout is planned this week and the rest of the rides will be focused on trails riding and skills. Got to get those skills back into racing mode a little.

Stay tuned for the racing report!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Recovery rides

"Ah, im just doing a recovery ride!". How often do you hear fellow cyclist say that? Recovery rides are essential and now part of a well laid out training plan, but people seem to do it plain wrong. This is really a case of keeping the easy days easy, which as been lost in translation among the cycling community, especially for folks riding on HR or feel.

 These kind of rides are supposed to be short and easy. When I say easy, I mean boring easy, granny passing you on the bike path easy, 39/36 gearing style. Got it? Anyone who passed me yesterday on the bike path must have told themselves "geeeezz he's either very unfit or having a flat tire!!". Indeed, a 140 watts ride means you go overly slow, just turning the legs and refreshing your body, both physically and mentally.

Recovery rides are not uspposed to induce further stress and are meant to favour vasoconstriction in the working muscle to move blood arround without stressing your body further more. Blood is your nutrient and waste carrier. Increasing blood flow in the working muscle helps removing metabolic wastes and distribute nutrients more effectively. As a bonus, going out on the bike on a sunny day is easier on your mental health then sitting on the couch and having an off day.

I generally make sure I stay arround 50% FTP during my recovery rides and use a pretty flat course. If any hills are involved during the ride, I make sure I climb them very slowly, even though it might mean climbing in the 26/34 gear, I dont care. I also try to keep cadence relatively steady and fast, arround 90-100 RPM.

Most people think they are doing easy spins and recovery rides, yet they overshoot intensity, spike power on hills or headwind and climb too fast to make it a real recovery ride. They'd be better off sitting on the couch then screwing their only recovery days. I think you only realize how piss slow a recovery ride is when you start riding with power, among many other things a powermeter will make you realize.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Racing is getting closer and closer

First race in less then a month now, pretty stoked! I just can't wait to hammer the trails. Unfortunately we can't ride the trails here just yet as there is still some snow and ice over there. The weather is weird. Yesterday was super hot, 25+ C, riding with summer gear, even getting my first tan lines for the year. Today it's raining and 5 C...

Yesterday was another good training session. Numbers are up there where they should be and my form is awesome. I pay a lot of attention to rest, food and sleep. Things on which I should blog in a near futur. But today, I am going to adress my last equipement choice before the season starts.

I want a new oakley lens tint. I currently use the basic grey one and I am wondering if it will be good on the trails with the shadows and covered condition when riding in the woods. It seems to lack a bit of protection in direct sunlight. I also have fire iridium on my jawbones but they are too dark for the woods. So now I think I am going to keep the grey (radars) for trail riding and get a darker tint for sunlight.

Not sure which one I should get though. Positive red iridium, blue iridium, ice iridium, fire iridium, black iridium? Or should I just keep the grey ones for sunlight and get a more contrast oriented lens tint, like G30, VR28, high intensity persimmon, G26 iridum...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Endurance Athletes and Carbohydrates Part 3

In previous Part 1 and Part 2 of this serie, we mentionned the importance of carbohydrates (CHO) in the recovery process which starts during the training session and continues post-workout. We also realized the impact of proper CHO feeding during exercise to delay peripheal fatigue within the working muscles. There have been some very interresting theories about CHO ingestion during exercise and the onset of central fatigue. The  evidence on the subject is very thin. Some experts say CHO feeding and glucose level regulation could have an impact on central fatigue, some say it doesn't. Nevertheless, the whole mecanism surrounding this phenomenon is fascinating and worth's some attention, even though nobody knows for sure what's happening.

CHO and Central Fatigue
The central nervous system (CNS) is the master commander within the body. Any physiological and biomechanical action originates from the CNS. It relies on glucose as it's sole source of energy to work properly. It can't use any other macronutrients to fuel itself, therefore glucose needs to be available for your CNS, be it by liver glycogen degradation, neoglucogenesis or circulating blood glucose level.

Think about it for a second. What stops you when exercise becomes too difficult? Sure there is massive leg pain, heavy breathing and general discomfort but all those signs of ''pain'' are actual signals sent to your brain. It then analyses those signals and they result in a perceived effort. A general physical en psychological sensation that originates from your brain. Your perception of the effort you are actually putting in is a major factor influencing your capacity to keep going or not. I can tell you I had tons of incoming signals to my brain yesterday during my 3 minutes efforts! Your brain controls your sensations during exercise, your motivation and mood. Remember what it uses as fuel: CHO. Maintaining blood glucose at optimal level as been shown to lead to high CHO oxidation rate, higher blood glucose, reduced perceived exertion in subjects and lower cortisol and growth hormone concentration. Adequate CHO availability to the brain can enhance these physical and psychological parameter and help you achieve your training session or race with higher performance and/or less fatigue.

Now the most interesting part (and debatable one) is the relation between blood glucose level and circulating blood free fatty acids (FFA). If blood glucose level is not maintained, insulin decreases and concentration of hormones epinephrine, cortisol and growth hormone increases, which means blood FFA also increases. An increase in blood FFA as been shown to lead to an increase in blood free-Tryptophan (f-TRP), an amino acid that can be converted in the brain into serotonin. Tryptophan (TRP) generally circulates in blood attached to albumin, a protein found in blood which plays a transporter role. When blood FFA increases, f-TRP also increases because FFA fights with TRP's binding site on albumin. Free-Tryptophan can make it's way to the brain and be converted into serotonin, a major CNS neuro-transmitter associated with arousal, mood, sleepiness and lethargy. Higher concentration of serotonin are generally associated with higher concentration of it's major byproduct, a specific acidic metabolite.

Some studies have shown a relation between fatigue and high concentration of serotonin and it's metabolite. They also investigated dopamine level, another neuro-transmitter involved in muscular control, motivation and arousal, along with it's major metabolite which has stimulating effects on the CNS, as opposed to serotonin, which has suppressive effects. They found dopamine level and it's metabolite were lower when fatigue occured whilst serotinin and it's metabolite level were higher. An inverted relationship which potentially explain fatigue originating from the CNS. All of this very complexe phenomenon originates from blood FFA higher concentration caused by lower blood glucose levels.

Take this with a grain of salt, as some studies have found no relation between brain serotonin levels and the onset of fatigue. As with any study, one says something, the next one says something else. But I thought the whole complexe relationship between CHO and the subsequent chain reaction was a very interresting one to write about and it would certainly require more investigation.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Racing form is coming along nicely

Spring WAS here this week and could log some decent ride outside. Did some very good tempo efforts during the week, which at the time did not feel that hard but got me pretty fatigue on following days. Skipped a Vo2max workout to allow better recovery and did the workout today. The damn snow ruined everything and I was confined to the trainer yet again.

Road were clean this week and there was very little snow left on the ground

So I asked myself  why not make it an epic trainer ride? Set my trainer in the garage with door opened so I could see the snow fall, but it turned into rain. It was pretty cold in the garage and I started with multiple layers, removing some parts gradually until I was comfortable. I officialy had my first outdoor ride without leg warmers! I could make it past my Vo2 intervals. I chose 3 minutes efforts at 115% FTP. I dont know what's wrong with 3 minutes efforts but they are pure DEATH. Especially the first 2 intervals. Maybe the greater anaerobic contribution and O2 deficit caused by higher intensity make them feel harder. I usually like 4 minutes efforts at 110% FTP. They feel totally different then 3 minutes ones. At least I could make it through all intervals without droping intensity, which is quite good.

Today's office view

Overall it was a very good week of training with good numbers. Got to keep things nice and steady until racing starts. Recovery is even more important then before so I need to watch energy intake and sleep a lot. Hopefully this is the last snow and it clears rapidely, so we can keep tuning our racing shape!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Vo2max intervals: a love-hate relation

Some of you might know about these type of intervals. They are generally short effort performed at 105-130% of Functional Threshold Power (FTP) or 80-100% of Maximal Aerobic Power. There are plenty of duration possibilities but I usually go with 2 to 5 minutes intervals with equal rest time between efforts. Their general purpose is obvious: increase one's Vo2max, the maximal oxygen volume your body can process during exercise. I think they are essential in a training programme because they bring some adaptations required to raise the aerobic ceiling but they also provide some of the lower intensities adaptations as well. So, they are essential, but I hate em, and love em at the same time. Here's why.

Damn you, pain!

Yes, these are painful! They generally have a relatively high anaerobic contribution especially in the first effort when your anaerobic stores are fresh. Depending on intensity, duration and pacing strategy, you can manipulate the anaerobic contribution to these efforts and therefore make them more or less painful. Though they will remain very uncomfortable. The intensity means you will create a relatively important oxygen deficit in the first few minutes and depending on your particular physiology (Vo2 kinetics) you will reach the effort's oxygen requirements within a given time duration, usually between 60 and 180 seconds. Say you are very well trained and gifted, and reach the required O2 consumption within 60 seconds during a 4 minutes effort, this means you will theorically spend 3 minutes at your maximal O2 consumption, since the effort's intensity is supposed to ellicit Vo2max. Overall, it all means the same thing: pain in your legs, pain in your chest and soft arms.

They are hard to perform on a flat terrain at a certain intensity. Or at least I prefer doing them on climbs because the power is more consistant, more specific to my racing demand and aerodynamics play's less of a role. So they are perfect for hill repeats if you have some long enough hills nearby.

They generally dont create a large kilojoules expandure since the total work duration is usually between 15 and 25 minutes of effort. For those on a kJ's target, they might not be the best type of workout, even though this aspect is debateable.

Finally, I see them more as a complement, the icing on the aerobic cake (who once said that eh?) so you might not want to live on a steady diet of these intervals. Careful, it does not mean they should only be included in your programme when racing comes close, as is the general belief in the power training community. They do induce a significant fatigue so they should be planned carefully in your programme along with well thought out rest days. Indeed, these efforts rely heavily on your glycogen stores so they should generally be attempted in a well rested state unless you are doing some sort of block including multiple days of hard efforts

Yay, only one more to go!

Given the low total work duration, the workout is usually pretty short and all intervals can be done within a 60 minutes workout. Sure the first, second, third intervals are very hard but the mental pain eases off when you reach the second to last interval. I always see the last effort as a bonus. Easy done, only 4-5 minutes of pain and it's over! Ironically, my last effort is often my best one.

The logistic of such a workout is pretty easy to sort out: find a 4-5 minutes hill, climb it 4-5 times and use the descent as your rest time. The best type of hill is a steady one so you can settle in a certain rythm. Speaking of which...

I like these efforts because their duration allows you to settle into a steady, yet very high rythm and maintain it for a nice chunk of time. This is especially true when doing 4 or 5 minutes efforts. Oh, did I mentionned 5 minutes intervals are WAY harder then 4 minutes ones? That additionnal minute makes a significant difference. The feeling of these intervals is pretty close to race situations when you are digging deep on some medium duration efforts. In my opinion, they are very cross-country specific since XCO racing almost always involves a medium duration hill on the course which is repeated 4-6 times.

Finally, I feel they are very effective at inducing marked aerobic changes that will impact a lot of other durations like your FTP. People generally dont think of them when speaking of mitochondria adaptations but the High Intensity Training guru's seem think otherwise (see my post on Hill Climb Repeats). I think they are a wise training strategy when coupled with either long slow rides or more sustained tempo work.

What if...?

Purely speculating about these intervals, I thought (and did read somewhere) they could bring significant skeletal muscle adaptations, namely mitochondria and capilary ones. I recall some high intensity training experts discussion on twitter relating the muscle recruitment patern of such high intensity efforts and targeted muscle fibers adaptations. The ''theory'' mainly speculated that these efforts recruited more motor units, therefore more muscle fibers, which would mean more fibers are working to produce power. More working fibers means more tissu needs to recover and adapt to the stress they ecountered during training. More targeted tissu for adaptations means more mitochondria density and size in more fibers. It also means more capillary density and more capillary arround more fibers too. Now this might be all broscience and pure speculation but the theory makes sense in some way.

What about doing these on hills? Hills generally mean lower cadence and more force applied. More force means more motor unit recruitment... Food for thoughts

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Endurance Athletes and Carbohydrates Part 2

In Part 1 of my serie of blog posts on carbohydrates (CHO) and endurance athletes, we had an overview on the importance of post-workout carbohydrate feeding in the recovery process. It's main role is to refuel muscle glycogen stores in order to set you up for your next training session. This is one part of the recovery equation and CHO plays another major role in the recovery phase by starting its action during the training session.

Ingesting carbohydrates during training has been shown to possibly blunt the glucoregulatory hormonal response (insulin, glucagon, epinephrine, growth hormone and cortisol) during exercise. These hormones (except insulin) are responsible for the increase in blood glucose concentration. Their activity generally increases with exercise intensity or duration in order to level off blood glucose concentration since exercise intensity/duration depends on glucose as fuel. How does CHO feeding during exercise act on your body? What mecanism comes into play? Here is a brief summary of what happens.

Implications in recovery and peripheal fatigue

CHO feeding during exercise could lower blood concentration of the hormone cortisol. Altering cortisol secretions can have some positive effects on recovery. Cortisol is known to suppress the immune system by decreasing T-cells and therefore makes you more prone to catching infections and illness. To regulate blood glucose, cortisol uses the body's amino acids and transforms them into glucose and liver glycogen (neoglucogenesis). This means it can feed your body using it's own tissus such as muscle fibers and connective tissus. Decreasing neoglucogenesis by ingesting CHO during exercise could therefore accelerate the recovery process. During exercise, cortisol blocks glucose entry into the cells which could decrease exercise intensity by promoting free fatty acids (FFA) use as fuel. Less plasma glucose available for working muscles potentially leads to accelerated fatigue of those tissus and can compromise subsequent medium to long term recovery. Decreasing growth hormone effect has similar results since GH supports cortisol action.

Plasma concentration of hormone epinephrine is a strong marker of glycogenolysis. The more epinephrine concentration is found in blood, the more muscle glycogen will be used during exercise to maintain intensity level and liver glycogen to maintain blood glucose levels. Using liver glycogen to maintain blood glucose levels at a stable concentration means less glycogen is used for exercise specific oxidation. CHO feeding during exercise as been shown to reduce epinephrine production and could therefore spare muscle and liver glycogen use. Even though it might be a marginal change, sparing muscle glycogen knowing you only have about 400g available is always something good. The role of endogenous CHO feeding in that case comes down to regulate blood glucose concentrations in order to prevent using  liver glycogen stores to do that task. More glycogen is then available for specific muscle contraction during exercise and could delay exercise specific muscle fatigue.

Insulin levels during exercise generally follows a downward tendancy with exercise intensity/duration. Ingesting CHO during exercise could help maintain insulin secretions at resting levels and could even slightly increase it's production. The main action of insulin is to uptake blood glucose and store it as muscle and liver glycogen. Having normal or slightly elevated insulin levels could then accelerate the recovery process by increasing the rate of blood glucose uptake to cells. It could contribute to muscle and liver glycogen synthesis during exercise as well, delaying peripheal fatigue.

To summarize, endogenous CHO ingestion during exercise helps maintain blood glucose levels stable and blunts glucoregulatory hormones response. Lowering the effect of these hormones could have implications in exercise intensity, fatigue during exercise and post-workout recovery mainly by sparing muscle glycogen stores.

Some theories involving CHO feeding during exercise and glucoregulatory hormonal response are linked to the onset of central fatigue. Decreasing the glucoregulatory hormones effect by CHO feeding leads to more stable blood glucose levels and thus, less free fatty acids blood concentration and oxidation during exercise. FFA blood concentration is thought to promote fatigue during exercise, which brings us to Part 3 in a few days.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Maximal Aerobic Power Test: so short yet so painful!

First full week of work in months! It was a draining week at my new job and it requires some adaptation. Sleeping patern has changed and I am now usually in bed by 20h30-21h00! That is pretty crazy. I had some sluggish sensations during training this week and felt my legs lacked the high intensity feel. I finished working at 14h00 today (friday) and I was planning on doing my MAP test to see where I was at with my fitness. I fueled accordingly yesterday and today and was NOT looking foward to the pain! Those tests make me nervous just like the stress you feel on the start line when racing.

I have been using MAP tests for a while now and have a serie of datas I can refer back to in order to gauge my fitness and progression. I use the British protocol of 25 watts increments per 1 minute. Canadian riders are more familiar with the canadian protocol which consist in a 30 watts increment every 3 minutes. MAP tests are very protocol dependant. I like MAP tests better then the popular 20 minutes test because it is shorter and is not pacing dependant. The most important factor is picking a protocol and sticking to it in order to compare results from one test to an other. I use this protocol for 3 reasons: 1) it is used by highly reputable British and Australian coaches and sport facilities, 2) it's a protocol from which you can estimate your Functionnal Threshold Power (FTP) and 3) it's easily done on an indoor trainer.

Estimating your FTP from a MAP test result

The result from your MAP test is the last minute average power, usually the highest 1 minute power during the test. From that data you can extrapolate your FTP. It has been said that one's FTP usually falls within 70% to 80% of MAP. Most people use 75% but I prefer being conservative so I use 72% of my final result. Depending on the individual, FTP could be lower then 70% or a little higher then 80%. Another interesting data you can obtain from this test is your mean maximal 5 minutes power. The test's intensity usually does a good job forcing you to produce a high 5 minutes power in the last stages of the test. Typically, a rider's best 5 minutes power should be arround 90% of his MAP using the protocol described above.

The results

Since you might be a power data geek, here's the part you are probably looking foward to: today's results. I am not too much into personnal number showing and all that stuff because I think it sounds pretentious but for the sake of the blog post I will include my personnal numbers. Last 2 tests were done at the end of december and during the first week of febuary. Oddly enough, both tests resulted in the exact same MAP and 5 minutes power: 463 watts and 410 watts respectively. The only difference being the december test saw me lasting 8 seconds in the 475 watts step whilst I lasted 22 seconds in that step during the febuary test. At the time I was a little annoyed by the test's results because I had no improvement. Reflecting on the situation with the precious help of my mentor I realized the result was not bad at all since I was in the middle of a pretty intense training block involving a lot of Vo2max type of efforts. Following this block I headed south 2 weeks ago and could log some long rides and I think all of this is starting to pay off.

The multiple steps of a MAP test

Despite the fatigue and lack of confidence in my form I stepped into the pain and did my test today. The test went very well and I managed to complete the 475 watts stage and log a mere 1 second in the 500 watts step! Final results are looking good for the upcoming season: 483 watts MAP, 425 watts 5 minutes power and a 340-345 watts estimated FTP. All of which, at my body weight, are not numbers to be shy of. Estimated FTP would be exactly 347 watts but given the powermeter has an error margin I prefer staying conservative and call it 340-345 watts. The 5 minutes power is about 87%-88% of my MAP, which makes some sense since I am a bit of a diesel engine.

Its worth giving a try to such test, is easily perform on an indoor trainer and repeatable. I am quite pleased with today's results and it looks very good for the upcoming season. I hope I still have some room for improvement. But for now, I will concentrate on upcoming training sessions. Actually not looking foward to them with the new power target I will need to hit!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Endurance Athletes and Carbohydrates Part 1

A balance in macronutrients is essential in an endurance athlete's diet and we sometimes hear people trying out some funky nutrition shifts such as high fat diet, low carbs diet, etc. One thing is sure, endurance athletes need to have a high proportion of their daily macronutrients intake as carbohydrates (CHO) to perform optimaly. CHO has a lot of functions within the body and I am going to try and make this a series of two or three posts on CHO in relation to exercise, recovery and fatigue.

Carbohydrates and recovery

Heavy aerobic exercise rely mostly on muscle and liver glycogen for fuel. The precious glycogen is stored in limited quantity within the human body and any moderate to hard intensity aerobic effort will be fueled from these reserves. The importance of post-workout refueling is therefore crucial for short and long term improvements. But how does it happen? Why is it so important? Here are some answers on the topic.
Carbs play a major role in the recovery process. Depending on exercise intensity and duration, muscle glycogen stores could be partialy to fully depleted. The average 70kg male has about 400g of muscle glycogen to spare and 100g of liver glycogen. Despite being trainable, the total quantity of stored glycogen remains limited. These reserves generally allow for a sustained moderate-hard effort of 2 hours before being fully depleted.

Post-exercise CHO feeding will ensure the recovery process kicks in by refueling your muscles and liver glycogen stores. A proper post-exercise CHO intake will also help your body trigger all the biological processes to set up training induced adaptations. Fueling back your tanks allows to be ready for your next training sessions. Therefore, better recovery means higher quality/quantity training on a regular basis to achieve your performance goals.

Quite often we can read or hear about the post-workout 30 minutes recovery opportunity window and it's major impact on muscle glycogen synthesis. Though this aspect has been debated, it appears evidence tends to suggest the actual opportunity window is an important part of the post-workout recovery process. Insulin response is high following exercise when CHO is ingested. Tissues sensitivity to insulin and glucose transporters such as GLUT1 and GLUT4 is also higher in the few minutes following hard exercise which would increase their hability to absorb glucose. In that optic, a high glycemic index carbohydrate solution should be prefered when aiming for optimal recovery. Liquid CHO with sodium intake is also favorable to ensure gastric emptying is processed faster.

Traditionnaly, we've been told ingesting a combination of CHO and protein (3:1 to 4:1 ratio) would accelerate the rate of muscular glycogen synthesis. A few experts have studied this issue and it appears coingestion of CHO and protein would only be useful if the quantity of ingested CHO (or total energy) is too low. Drinking a 1,2g/kg/h of a CHO solution (van Loon et al. 2000) would seem like a good approach to post-exercise CHO feeding for optimal recovery.

So what should you learn fro that? The importance of ingesting a liquid CHO solution in the few minutes following hard exercise or competition will enhance the body's capacity to recover. Muscle glycogen synthesis is a slow process which takes some time. Under optimal recovery conditions, 5-7% per hour of total glycogen reserve will be restored. Complete glycogen replenishment can  easily take up to 24 hours to be completed and most of the time 24 hours is not enough. This is a major reason to emphasize post-workout nutritional strategy to achieve your performance goals.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SRM home calibration

SRMs have this little feature that make them such great units: the possibility to calibrate your powermeter at home. Dont get the terms wrong here, people often confuse calibration and setting zero offset. This post is about slope calibration and therefore it is all about your powermeter accuracy and consistancy.

To calibrate your PM, you need your cranks attached to your bike, your PowerController head unit, an indoor trainer, a known weight (very important) and a pen and piece of paper. You need to install your bike on your indoor trainer so it remains leveled and does'nt move, it makes the job easier. Though, you can also calibrate your SRM while holding your bike still like I did with my MTB because it wouldnt fit on my trainer.

You need a known mass of around 20kg. It needs to be accurately weighted otherwise the calibration could be useless. Gym weights and such often vary by a significant amount of weight even though they are marked as 10kg, 15kg, 20kg etc. Any post office or private shipping carrier will have an accurate scale to weight your mass. Mine is a 20kg iron kettlebell that weighted in at 20kg bang on at the local post office (thanks to my post man brother).

All you need to calibrate your unit.

The protocol is pretty simple and takes about 5 to 10 minutes. You start by whichever side you like. Let's say you pick the left side. Turn on the powermeter by pedaling foward to trip the reed switch on. Measure your zero offset by pressing mode+set while the crank arm is in horizontal position. When the zero offset is stable, note the value. Load the weight onto your pedal while your crank arm is in the same horizontal position and wait for the loaded zero offset to stabilize; note the value. Repeat the procedure 3 times on each side noting all values. Little tip: if your bike is on the trainer, put the weight onto the pedal and rotate the rear wheel backward to lift the weight and level off the crank. Make sure you hold the rear wheel tight or squeeze the brake to keep the crank perfectly still. If your bike is on the ground without trainer, place your weight on the pedal and roll your bike backward untill the crank is horizontal, then squeeze the brake hard to make sure nothing is moving.

Once you have your values, you can do the old school maths or simply plot the values in an excel document to have it calculate your new slope for you. (Contact me if you need the document).

You will need to plot:
- crank lenght in mm
- your known mass to the gramm
- the right side unloaded zero offset (average from 3 values)
- all right side loaded values
- the left side unloaded zero offset (average from 3 values)
- all left side loaded values
- your current/old slope

The excel doc does the maths!

The excel sheet will calculate your new slope and the % difference compared with your old slope. Last time I calibrated my road SRM, my slope was off by 1,3%. I changed the slope to the new one. Yesterday I had a 0,58% difference. I decided not to change the slope as the factory calibration could be responsible for such a difference and I assume SRM factory calibration is more accurate then the home procedure.

Having an accurate powermeter is essential and some brands allow you to calibrate it yourself. SRM just has this little edge that make them such awesome units.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Home sweet home!


Back home after some very good days in the USA! Currently pretty toasted from the long drive, crappy food and lack of sleep. I will recharge my batteries in the coming days and will update the blog with some more ride info from the training week.

New job starting tomorrow too, might get busy, but stay tuned and share the blog. Also feel free to comment at any time.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hill climb repeats

Such a cold day yesterday here in GA. Very windy, grey and cold air made it a perfect day to hide between Kennesaw Mountain trees and go for some hill repeats. That climb is awesome. The gradient is steady which makes it perfect for steady uphill intervals. It is 2,3km long, 165m total elevation and takes anywhere between 7min to 8min30sec depending on your intensity and if you're going for the odd strava KOM.

I headed there doing a nice little 35min warm up including a low/moderate intensity climb, went back to the base of the climb and started my planned workout. On schedule was 5 x 8min at 105% of FTP with rest time being the time it took to descend the mountain, which is about 3min30sec. Very nice and challenging workout. Managed all intervals almost at 110% of FTP which is pretty good and tells me im in pretty good shape at the moment, unless all the food and booze made me pack an extra 5kg since we arrived here. Hills repeat is pretty MTB specific on a muscle contraction and recruitment perspective. It generally makes you work in quadrant II and forces you to maintain good steady power. The descend was so cold I couldnt ride much longer and had to head back home after my repeats. My time up the climb was about 7min35sec which is decent since I was on a MTB with tires at 25psi. The strava KOM is set at 6min35sec if I recall correctly, which would make it do-able on a road bike at full gas effort taking the right lines up the climb. But im not too much into strava.

This workout is the perfect counter exemple of my last post on The Benefits Of Long Rides. It lacked a bit of intensity to be called a proper high intensity workout but lets consider it that way for the sake of the post. Remember the long rides physiological effect on mitochondria density and size? It was produced via complexe molecular reactions that could be summurized that way: 

Repeated low energy muscle contractions > Icreased intramuscular calcium concentrations > activation of CaMK > activation of the Master-Switch > mitochondria biogenesis = mitochondria adaptations.

Now high intensity workouts also have an important impact on mitochondria adaptations. Though they are stimulated by a different mecanism in the body that involves different molecular components compared with the ''long ride'' chain reaction, they result in the same Master-Switch stimulation.

High intensity training, what, or where is it?

Typically high intensity training is define as being above the second ventilatory threshold, usually above 4mmol blood lactate concentration or when the body can't manage the lactate accumulation. For FTP users out there, I would say from 110% above is a safe bet. Training at high intensities is generally done using work and rest intervals of different durations in order to accumulate a total amount of training stress at a target intensity. There are plenty of possible combinations ranging from micro-intervals to longer work intervals alternated with equivalent or shorter rest intervals. Generally, work and rest intervals durations will be dependent on the quality you want to train. That could actually make the subject of an entire post and even a phd thesis...

How it happens?

As opposed to long distance riding, high intensity efforts involve high energy muscle contractions. These contractions require a lot of adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) which is simply the high energy molecule derived from nutrients. ATP is the body's energy for all physiological process and high energy muscle contractions require a lot of ATP. This requirement partialy depletes ATP stores which leads to an increase in the concentration of adenosine mono-phosphate (ATP with 2 phosphates removed). Increased AMP activates an enzyme called activated protein kinase (AMPK). AMPK is the signalor for the Master-Switch PGC-1alpha that eventually stimulates mitochondria biogenesis.

So what now?

High intensity training has its place in a training program. Obviously such a type of training has to be monitored carefully with appropriate volume and recovery. It also has a lot of other benefits and one I would like to discuss in a furter blog post is the muscle fibers recruitment and its impact on subsequent adaptations when using such a high intensity training approach.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The benefits of long rides

Long slow distance, threshold and sweet spot work, high intensity intervals, micro-intervals; what's best for your cycling fitness? The answer is there is no one size fits all training method. A training program should rather be a strategy built around racing/fitness goals, alternating stresses, specificity and rest. The main goal of training is not getting to ''x'' watts at Functional Threshold Power (FTP) or whatever duration you like. The aim of a proper training plan should be to induce adaptations to improve performance for a given event. Since we're speaking of cycling here, adaptations will mostly be aerobic, either peripheral (skeletal muscle) or central (heart mecanism, blood circulation and respiration). This post will focus on a major peripheral adaptation found in the working skeletal muscle composition and molecular activity.

We hear a lot about mitochondria related adaptations, be it for their size and/or density. Mitochondria are the factories of skeletal muscle. They process nutritents and turn them into useable energy (ATP) to produce work that will result in an ouput, in our case, a power output that will make you travel a given distance on your bike and/or will make you travel that distance faster with a given perceived exertion. More mitochondria means more power, less exertion and/or more distance traveled. That is why this specific aerobic adaptation is important for cycling performance. How do one increases his mitochondria density and/or size?

Our little friend, the mitochondrion


There are plenty of ways to induce such adaptations but I want to focus on a particular way to acheive it: long distance riding. I thought this would be appropriate since I am in the middle of a high volume riding week. Its been argued a lot but evidence shows training a lot of hours in term of volume and frequency is a very efficient way to induce mitochondria biogenesis. The intensity should generally be below the first ventilatory threshold, which happens around 2mmol blood lactate concentration. Its a typical endurance pace, nothing hard but simply producing a moderate amount of work for extended durations.

How it happens?

Long distance riding involves repeated low energy muscle contraction over a significant period of time. These muscle contractions repeated thousands of time create a rise in the level of intramuscular calcium, which is a mineral playing a major role in muscle contraction mecanism. This unusual calcium concentration activates an enzyme called Calcium Modulin kinase (CaMK) which in turn stimulates an activator called PGC-1alpha. The latest is known to be a major cell signal that promotes mitochondria biogenesis and it is refered to as the ''master-switch''. 

What does it mean?

Riding at easy to moderate intensities for long periods of time will produce the physiological effects described above. This kind of high volume training has a  lot of additional benefits we did not spoke of in the article. Though this approach is not for everyone. An athlete needs to consider his available training time, experience and goals. I would not recommend such a training approach for someone working on a sub 12hrs weekly training regime. I would not recommend to base one's training solely on that approach either. I am not sure where we can set the benchmark for ''long rides'' but I think 3,5hrs would be a minimum to acheive optimal training adaptations using this kind of approach. Frequency should also be considered, as one 4hrs ride per week wont be as effective as multiple long rides.

As with everything else, this should be considered cautiously. There is no ''one size fits all'' training method and everyone is different. A whole lot of other variables also come into play and proper planning of rest and recovery should be taken very seriously with any type of training regime.