01/23/14

Rotor Qrings Review

I have been cycling with power since the fall of 2011.  Power meters are a great tool for any cyclist (as long as you or your coach knows how to interpret the numbers and apply them to your training).  It keeps you honest by giving you data to know the difference between feeling like quitting because you feel like your struggling, but instead to keep pushing through it when the numbers are still within the goal  Power meters also let you know when to quit.  If RPE is sky high, but watts and HR is low, then you’re body is depleted and you’re better off bagging the remainder of the workout.

I had been riding with SRAM Quarq power meter from 2011-2013.  My training was revolutionized when I started training and racing with power.  I was able to pace myself better in races (especially 70.3 and 140.6 distances).  However, this year I made the switch to the Rotor Q-rings.  After one ride on with the Q-rings, I was a believer in all their claims they made on their website.  Here is what I’ve noticed in the first few rides on the rings:

1.  20-25 watts higher at the same RPE – During my hard intervals that I’ve done on the trainer, I noticed that my RPE that used to produce about 300-310 watts (slightly over HIM pace) is now about 320-330 watts.  I am confident that I should be able to hold 310 watts now on a HIM race, which is about 20-25 watts higher than last year.  This, according to some on-line calculators, translates into about 4 minutes faster for for a 56 mile ride.  For an IM race, assuming the watts are consistently 20-25 watts higher, that is a little more than 8 minutes faster for 112 miles.

2.  The cranks are more beneficial at higher power outputs – While riding in Z2 and Z3 yesterday, I could see some difference in the amount of power being produced from my level of exertion.  But this morning when I was riding at threshold, I could see a much bigger increase in the power in comparison to the SRAM Quarq I had used the last 2.5 seasons.  It is consistent with their findings on the website.

3.  Although my watts are higher, my recovery time is the same or less – One would think that if the watts are higher, more lactate is produced by the body.  However, Rotor broke that rule.  Studies show that Q-rings help riders produce more power and produce less lactate.

I’m sure that as time goes on, my body will become more adapted to the elliptical chain rings and produce even more power as the season progresses.  And the data on their website agrees with that assumption.

I’m super excited about what this season could hold for me with the improved power on the Argon E-118 bike, the Rotor Cranks, and the Enve wheels.  Couple that with my swim times being about 5 seconds faster per 100 meters than the end of last season (thank you Lakeside Seahawks), and I should finally break that 4 hour mark.

Thanks again to VO2 Multisport for building the bike fore me… couldn’t be happier with it.

Rotor Bikes – Q Rings a Road Cycling video by Rotor

10/3/13

Training and Racing with Power – A Case Study

As most of you know, I started a coaching business a little less than a year ago.  I named it Progressive Endurance, because of the concept the name portrays.  It gives the picture of moving closer to an athlete’s fitness goals.  When someone says, “we are making progress,” they are typically talking about reaching a goal that may take a long time or doesn’t have immediate results.  This is very true in the racing triathlons, or any other endurance sport.  Gains are made to the goals with hard work, and typically don’t come immediately.

In this article, I want to talk about the benefits of using a power meter for cycling.  I started using a power meter about 2 years ago now and it has revolutionized my training and racing.  I also have a few athletes that use power for training and racing.  I want to talk about how one of my athletes made some big gains this year by uploading data from her workouts I gave her and how we were able to make big gains in her cycling fitness over the course of about 9 months.  I won’t use her real name, so we will call this athlete Tiffany.

I started coaching Tiffany a little under a year ago.  Tiffany has been racing triathlons for several years and has used other coaches in the past to guide her training.  When she switched to me, she had just come off a 3 or 4 week recovery from the end of the season.  After building her base fitness a little to get her body used of training again, I started doing some tests to find out what her FTP (functional threshold power – essentially the amount of power someone can hold at max effort for one hour) was so we could define her training zones.  Her first test, she came out at 154 watts.

At this time of the year, the goal was to build aerobic fitness and also improve her FTP.  I gave her workouts that focused on raising the FTP a couple times a week.  We also worked on cycling specific strength to give her legs more power.  In some cases, I told her what zones I wanted her to shoot for, and in other workouts, I gave her percentages of her FTP to hit.  Most of the workouts aimed at improving FTP were 1:30, give or take a 15 minutes.  We maximized the time she had available, because of life situations and also because the weather prohibited outdoor riding most of the time.  And, let’s face it, riding a trainer can be mentally difficult if you’re doing it by yourself all the time.

About a month went by and we tested her FTP again.  This time it was 178 watts, which is a 13% improvement.  I think a large chunk of this improvement was simply due to the fact that she was exercising more consistently again, so we continued to work on the same things, but just readjusted her training zones to align with her new FTP.  We tested her FTP a few more times over the next few months with the last test in May.  At this point, racing season was in full swing, and if any adjustments needed to be made, I could pick up on them with her race data.  The last test she did was a club time trial that lasted just under an hour.  Since it didn’t last an entire hour, I made an educated guess on what her FTP would be if she had continued on for the remainder of the hour.  I calculated it at 195 watts!

Over the course of  7 months, her FTP had improved by 26.6%!

Using this information, I was able to use a few different equations and algorithms to figure out what wattages she should push in her OLYs and HIM races and still be able to run well off the bike.  Almost every race for Tiffany this year was a PR on that course, and most of the races involved less than favorable conditions with rain and/or windy conditions.  As good as that is for Tiffany, the real test came this year at her A race, Rev3 Cedar Point Full Iron distance.

Leading up to the race in the final 6 weeks or so, we did very specific Iron distance training.   I gave her specific wattages with a range of about 10 watts to try to shoot for.  Tiffany was able to hit all these watts and managed to run well off the bike in race simulated training brick workouts.  I was confident that she was going to have a phenomenal race at Rev3 CP as long as she stuck to the plan and had no mechanical problems on the bike.

For her race, I gave her wattage range to hold on the bike of about 10 watts.  At the beginning of the ride, she was on the high end or just slightly above that.  And the last few miles she managed to stay within the low end of the wattage.  She averaged 149 watts for the entire 112 miles and managed to pull off a 5 minute bike split PR for an iron distance race.  Her previous best bike split came in IM Florida where the conditions weren’t nearly as windy, the road surfaces weren’t chip and sealed, and less elevation changes.  At the end of the day, she pushed through the run and hung on to a podium spot in her AG.  If it weren’t for the much longer run from the water to T1, Tiffany would have PR’d for an Iron Distance in tougher conditions.

Another thing that Tiffany mentioned to me that she noticed this year was even though she was getting several course PR’s this year, she wasn’t nearly as sore and recovered faster.  I believe this is due to a number of things, such as racing/training with power and race day nutrition (which I also provided some guidelines for her to follow) in addition to general, day-to-day nutrition (which I gave some advice).

So, if you’re on the fence about whether to buy a power meter or a pair of race wheels to get faster.  Let me encourage you to buy a power meter.  Real progress will be made with a power meter.  It won’t be free speed like race wheels, but your fitness will get better, and run times will also more than likely improve (improving your cycling will naturally improve your running).  It will take hard work, and will take time, but in the end you’ll be a better athlete.

And, if you’re a local athlete and looking for ways to improve your cycling fitness, please consider doing my winter spin classes starting on Nov. 14th.  If you come consistently, I guarantee improvement in your cycling fitness.

12/30/12

Infinit Napalm Review

A few days ago, I had a phone consultation with Infinit Nutrition and worked out a formula that was tailored to my specific race distances and the need my body has while racing.   From the basic Go Far formula, we increased the amount of sodium and protein in it since I’m a heavy sweater and tend to race long.  I also discovered that Infinit makes their version of an energy gel called NAPALM toward the end of the 2012 season.  I sampled some at a race expo and like that it was actually a liquid, easy to swallow, and not overly sweet.  I asked them to throw in a package of the highly caffeinated version of NAPALM.

The phone consultation was on Thursday… the stuff showed up at my door on Saturday!  I was happy to see that they even threw in a couple bottles.  One for the custom blend they made for me and a flask for the NAPALM. (NAPALM is much more economical than buying gels.  Each 100 calorie serving is about $0.85, and with all the electrolytes, it will more than likely reduce and/or remove the need for electrolyte tablets.)

With my first race only a little over a month away (70.3 Panama – Latin American 70.3 Championship), I wanted to give this new product a solid trial run.  I mixed up 3 bottles of Infinit and 4 ounces of NAPALM highly caffeniated formula.  I had never mixed up NAPALM before and was little shocked when it said to fill the flask up to the rim and add equal water and shake it.  I was thinking, there is no way that water can dissolve that much solute… but gave it a try anyway.  I only put 4 ounce of NAPALM in the flask (it holds 6 ounces) which is equivalent to 200 calories (see end of post for more nutritional content).  I added water until it covered the NAPALM, put the lid on and gave it a good shake.  In about 5 seconds it was completely dissolved.  I took a small sip to see what it tasted like:  a subtle sweet fruity taste and some saltiness mixed in there as well.  It was completely liquid… not a paste or gel consistency, so it went down super easy.  I gathered my nutrition and headed to my basement for a nice 3 hour spin session.  This the workout that I did:

Warm up:
15 minutes easy riding at 56-75% FTP

Main Set:
2 x 20 minutes at 90-95% FTP with 10 minutes recovery
30 minutes of tempo 80-85% FTP with a 10 second burst of sprinting on  every 1:30
3 x 5 minutes at 110% of FTP  with 5 minutes of easy riding between each
3 x 5 minutes hill climbing at 60-70 rpm (Z3 effort) with 5 minutes rest between

Cool down:
15 minutes easy spinning

The Carnage after the 3 hour training session in my training shrine in my basement. Thanks to Chris Shannon for doing the entire workout with me!

This was one of the hardest 3 hour spin sessions I’ve done before, but in order to see how my custom mix and NAPALM would do for me on race day, I wanted to push the limits.  I went through 2 bottles of Infinit and all 4 ounces of NAPALM and a couple bottles of water.  I took the NAPALM at the one hour mark, the 1:45 mark and the 2:20 mark.  Not once during the ride did I feel hungry, feel that my electrolytes were depleting, or a lack of energy.  I could feel the caffeine in the NAPALM hit my system only after about 5 minutes of taking a sip.  I imagine the high electrolyte content in the NAPALM helped keep my electrolytes in check the whole time.

Another thing I noticed during this three hour training ride was the need to readjust my training zones.  At the end of October, I tested my FTP at 338 watts (4.59 watts/kilogram).  I used that number for the training zones during the ride and felt that they were actually too easy, so I rode at the high end or just over of those zones.  This is a huge confidence booster for me.  I am once again reminded that my coach, Justin Trolle,  knows exactly what he’s doing, the boot camp sessions at Pure Fit are helping, and the lessened workload at U of L Hospital has been worth it.  And of course, thanks to Infinit for helping me with nutrition, which will make or break a good finish in 70.3 or 140.6 races.  I am starting to set my goals for Panama 70.3 and feel that I have a good shot of walking away with a paycheck from that race.

If you feel that this review was helpful and decide you want to try my custom formula, please contact me via email (mike.s.hermanson@gmail.com) or my facebook page… and be sure to “like” it.  You can help me out in my endeavors simply by purchasing my custom formula or any other Infinit products.  Every time you purchase something with the link I can send you, I receive some Infinit Bucks.  Also, help me get over 200 likes on my facebook page by the end of the year!

 (EDIT on 12/31/12 – Here is the link for my custom formula:  http://www.infinitnutrition.us/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=73&formula=&name=  )

Nutrition of NAPALM highly caffeinated:

Supplement Facts
Servings Per Container (35)
Amount Per Serving

Calories: 100
Calories from Fat: 0


Total Fat: 0g – 0% of daily value
Saturated Fat: 0g – 0%
Sodium: 242mg – 14%
Potassium: 70mg – 5%
Total Carbohydrate: 24 – 22%
Dietary Fiber: 0g – 0%
Sugars: 4g
Protein: 0g – 0%


Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene): 0 – 0%
Vitamin C: 0 – 0%
Vitamin E: 0 – 0%
Selenium: 0 – 0%
Calcium: 30 – 3%
Magnesium: 23 – 5%

NAPALM has about 75 mg of caffeine per 100 calorie serving.

Simply take a swig as you run with no need to make that ‘ucky’ face.  Plus, there is no need to figure out where to store that half eaten gooey wrapper. NAPALM is green and more eco-friendly. INFINIT Creator and President Michael Folan adds “It’s better, it’s cheaper and its greener. What’s not to like?”

So stop gagging and order a bag of NAPALM – Highly caffeinated today.

10/31/12

Understanding and Applying FTP and Lactate Threshold

Before I get too far into this post, I think it will be important to define FTP (Functional Threshold Power) and Lactate Threshold.

Functional Threshold Power – The amount of watts someone can sustain for one hour of maximal intensity

Lactate Threshold – The rate that the body can’t remove lactate from the blood faster than it’s producing it.  The number that exercise scientists agree upon is 4 mmol/l.

 

 

The big question is, are these terms interchangeable?  The answer is yes… and no.  It depends on someones level of fitness and their ability to push themselves through the discomfort.  For the untrained individual, they won’t have the cardiovascular or muscular fitness to sustain a effort at lactate threshold (LT) for the full hour.  But for trained athletes, the numbers for wattage produced on the bike at LT and FTP should be very close.  So the sake of the article, I’m going to treat the answer to the question as yes.

The next big question is how to determine FTP/LT.  If you have a powermeter on your bike, you can look at some race data which you were going all out for an hour.  That way is the most accurate.  However, there are other ways of figuring it out:

1.  Step test – this test can be done on your own or with someone checking lactate levels.  It will be more accurate if you can have lactate levels checked, but a rough estimate can be done just by noting your breathing rate and intensity.  This test should be done on trainer that has the ability to increase wattage at specific increments.  (I suggest 25 watt steps.)  Start the watts on the trainer about 150-175 watts less than what you think your FTP/LT is going to be.  After getting warmed up, start the test and increase the watts and/or checking blood lactate levels every 2 minutes.  When you reach your FTP/LT you will notice your breathing changing from labored to “huffing and puffing.”  This is your body trying to blow off the excess hydrogen ions in your blood from the lactate acid making the pH of the blood too acidic.  When this happens, you know that your FTP/LT is somewhere between the current wattage and the previous one.  Without blood lactate levels being drawn, some guess work on your part will need to be done based the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) on the last step before the breathing changed.  If lactate levels are being drawn and recorded, the computer can estimate where LT/FTP is based on the curve of the line.

2.  20 minute Critical Power (CP) – This again should be done a trainer.  The trainer should have the ability to measure average power or a powermeter on the bike will be needed.  This test is simple and just requires the rider to go all out for 20 minutes (don’t accelerate at the end… and you should be completely spent).  Once that is done, multiply the power you have for the 20 minute average by 0.95 and you have FTP.

There are several other ways to determine FTP/LT but these two seem to be the easiest.  Of course, if you don’t have a powermeter on your bike or a computrainer, or another trainer with abilities to measure watts, be sure to wear your heart rate monitor.  It’s not as accurate (several things influence HR) but it is much more affordable than a powermeter.

So, great, you now have the ability to determine your FTP/LT… but what do those numbers mean and how do use them?

The first thing you must do is set your training zones.  I personally like Andrew Coggan’s method of setting up training zones:

 

Coggan’s Power Training Levels

Active Recovery: <55%  FTP or <68% or HR at LT

Endurance:  55-75% FTP or 69-83% of HR at LT

Tempo: 76-90% FTP or 84-94% of HR at LT

Lactate Threshold: 91-105% FTP or 95-105% of HR at LT

 

VO2max: 106-120% FTP  (3-8 minute interval pace) or > 106% of HR at LT

Anaerobic: 121%+ FTP (HR n/a)

Neuromuscular: >1000w? (HR n/a)

 

 

Now that we know our  training zones, how do we increase our FTP and/or power at LT?  As you  can see from the pictures above, the most benefit we get in raising our FTP or power at LT is to train in zones 3 and 4.  It’s important not to neglect the other zones though.  Recovery is needed to be able to the desired intensities the next day.  Endurance (zone 2) teaches the body to resist fatigue.  Zones 5 and 6, although not used much in longer races such as 70.3 and 140.6 still need to be visited occasionally to  increase stroke volume of the heart, and give us the snap we need to pass someone to avoid a drafting penalty or climbing a short hill to power over it and continue our speed.

Now… the last big question that I’m sure you’re asking:  What percentage of FTP should I race at in my triathlons.  Here are suggested ranges (these ranges are for age group athletes, pros tend to race at a slightly higher wattage.  These percentages also don’t take into account fatigue resistance/rate):

Sprint distance: 95–100%

Olympic distance: 85–95%

Half-Ironman (70.3):  75–85%

Ironman: 65–75%

I’ve told several people this and will say it again:  If your serious about getting faster, the best thing you can do is purchase a powermeter. (my personal choice would be a crank based one so you can race and train with it, such as the SRAM Quarq.)  Forget the areo/race wheels.  Save those for your next big purchase.

10/30/12

Lactate Threshold Testing at University of Louisville Fitness Center

Today was a very encouraging day for me.  I’m a huge numbers person, and seeing them move the way I’d like to is a huge encouragement.  But not only does it encourage me… it also motivates me to keep working harder to continue seeing the gains being made in each of the three disciplines.  It also helps me reason that the money I spent on a power meter and a coach are well worth it.

About a year ago, I did a step test on the bike without measuring blood lactate levels to get a rough estimate where my lactate threshold was to help me dial in my training.  It was roughly 300-305 watts.  Good, but nothing outstanding.  Recently, I’ve had some friends, such as Troy Shellhamer and Beau Hollis, do some testing at the University of Louisville Fitness Center to get their lactate threshold for running.  They spoke highly of it and after a little thought, I knew that it was something that I wanted to do.  But, instead of checking my threshold on the run, which I’m pretty confident that I know based on race and training data, I wanted to get tested on the bike.  Additionally, biking is my weakest link.  So, if I was going to spend the $75 to get tested, it made the most sense to do it for the bike.

I got to U of L around 11:30 and set up my computrainer in the lab so I could ride my own bike with my own power meter instead of using one of their bikes.  I also knew that the computrainer reads slightly lower than my powermeter since the computrainer reads power from a source further away from the original source (the cranks).  It was the first time that anyone had brought in their own bike, so the grad students weren’t exactly sure on how it would work.  I showed them how to increase the wattage manually and we got started.

While warming up, they said they wanted to start me at 100 watts and increase by 50 watts each time.  I looked at them a little shocked and started wheeling-and-dealing!  I suggested started at a higher wattage and increasing by 25 watts.  Increasing by 50 watts at the beginning seemed reasonable until hitting the 300 watt mark.  I felt like the numbers would be more accurate by starting at a higher wattage and doing increases in wattage in smaller increments.  With some reassurance from one of the faculty members that knew me, the grad students agreed to do the test the way I suggested.

Getting warmed up

We started the test at 200 watts… which is just above warm up effort.  We increased the wattage every two minutes and slowly entered the pain cave.  I tried not to keep track of the number of times we increased the wattage so I wouldn’t know what I was pushing so my head wouldn’t get in the way of my body’s performance.  However, I’ve been training long enough with a power meter that I can tell within about 10-20 watts of what I’m pushing just by feel.  When they drew blood and said my lactate levels were 4.4, I knew that the end of the test was close… one or two more steps at the most.

Drawing blood

Pick a finger, any finger

The students and faculty that was there (about 6-8) really started giving me some encouragement when they saw I was beginning to struggle.  I made it one more step after crossing lactate threshold (4 mmol/l).  The watts were increased to 375.  I made it through the test with a blood lactate level of 6.7 mmol/l.   I was tired enough from that effort that once they increased it to 400 watts, my cadence dropped below 85.  I just couldn’t turn the pedals anymore.

Nearing the end of the test

After cooling down, they showed me the numbers from my test.  Lactate threshold was 339 watts.  But what is more important that that is the amount of watts per kilogram, since weight is very important in cycling.  My watts/kilogram came in at 4.63.  From a year ago my power at  lactate threshold increased by about 35-40 watts and my watts/kilogram improved by 0.46!

These numbers are obviously moving in the direction that I want them to… however there is still a lot of work to be done.  They are better than last year, but still not good enough to win big races.  For example, Cameron Dye can push about 365-370 watts at his lactate threshold… not to mention he’s a faster swimming.  But all things are achievable in time with a little bit of effort.

And, I’m looking forward to putting in the time and effort!

I’m planning on doing this again before leaving for Panama for my first 70.3 of the 2013 season to see if improvement has been made and to redefine my power zones for training again.

Cya at the starting line…