Category Archives: Training

SS adaptations in QA

A few weeks back I posted a this QA scatter plot.  I'd been riding the SS about 2-3 weeks at this point.

Here's the latest.  Both rides were on the 2:1.  The "Blakes" data is from a ~ 2500' climb with sustained grades well over 10% while the other ride was just rippin around faster singletrack with a grin.

See any differences?  The legs are changing.  Here's what I see in QA:

- the left "edge" of the data points in the first file is at a cadence of about 50 while it's upper 30's in the second.
- there are no cadence/force "holes" in the data.
- power is up despite no structured training.  Free power?  Yea baby!
- somewhat hidden in the second file...but there are several points popping up above the max AEPF/CPV line established by the standing start testing - this means max force at low cadence is increasing.

Note to Ed:  see how the points on that left edge start to go straight up?  That's where it's getting really tough to maintain that minimal cadence and I'll go as hard as I have to to maintain it.  To hold a given power, force has to rise rapidly at low cadences, and that's the physics part I was tallking about in the comments.  It's power that gets us up a hill,  not force.  Dangit.

I promise at some point there will be non-technical backway meanderings again...there would be today if I'd have had a camera yesterday!!!  Big rain event and mountain snowfall, flash floods rising 30 feet over bridges in slot canyons...just picture that in the most scenic spot on earth and you'd have the picture :)

SS training plan

This SS thing is darn fun and it's tough to contain my excitement for it.  Not that I'm trying ;)  I promised I'd share my thoughts on actually training to be a better SS rider and that's the meat of this post...but some other interesting & related things are worthy of mention first.

It's taken about a month to adapt to the SS.  I have limited gearing options (too lazy to buy more?) which are 32x (18/17/16).  For a long time I futzed around on the 18.  First time on the 16 I thought "holy crap this is hard."  Last weekend I did (among other things) a 25 mile singetrack loop twice on the SS, first lap on the 18, then a lap with the 16 and gave it some gas (not that there was any choice!).  To my huge surprise, I loved it on the 16 - and biggest shock to me - that was the fastest I'd ever done that loop and I've hit it hard on gears before.

Must be a fluke.  As part of the new training plan I did 1.5 hour climb yesterday on the 32.16 - a climb I recently got spanked on in the 18.  Pure folly, right?  Well, I didn't think I was drilling it but another PR fell by the wayside.

Yet another observation:  I don't seem to get tired on a SS like I'd expect to.  It actually feels like I'm super energized like when in a power lifting program - weird!  Hormones are fired up or somesuch...

Yet another:  bike handling is getting better by necessity.

Yet another:  my favorite of all, it's so stressful to the lower leg that it has forced my crappy foot to step up it's healing.  I can run on it!

Yet another:  SS for a few rides has been much more efficient than a geared bike.  For the same routes - one a rolling singletrack loop, the other a long climb - the SS was faster and average power and hence energy requirements lower (normalized powers spot on identical).  Higher variability index (normalized power/average power), less energy used, and less time pedalling by far.  Hard when you're pedalling with lots of rest.  The gist of this?  Get your gearing right for a given course and maybe - just maybe - it's a better choice for endurance racing than a geared bike (OK I still don't know if I can climb all day on the SS).  Did I just put that in black and white???

SS a disadvantage?  Right...I'm beginning to get a clearer picture of Travis Brown's secret.

This whole experience rounds out my thinking on the demands of MTB racing.  You see, I've used quadrant analysis in the past to determine demands of MTB racing and adjust training accordingly.  The problem with this method, tho, is it tells you what you actually *did*, not what would have been best to *do*.  The bottom line is I think the metabolic demands must be balanced with the neuromuscular demands when devising a good plan.  The past few years I've been focusing a lot more on the metabolic demands.  This is great for the long haul - but sure made the first 2 weeks of SS riding painful ;) 

In a nutshell, the neuromuscular demands IMO don't get enough "attention" in most MTB training plans - at least the way I've tackled it.  So whether training for 2 hour XC or 15 day races, a certain amount of on the bike strength work is called for in the right proportion at the right time.  I don't think weights make the cut - not specific enough.  Trail running, low cadence/big gear work, standing starts - these all make the cut.  Of course you gotta be good at high cadence too so a little higher cadence work (at power otherwise it's wasted time) just before the racing begins is in the plan.

My first early season race goal is Vision Quest in Orange County.  Whether SS or geared I haven't yet decided, but SS will play a large role in my training for the event since it's all uphill anyway.  It falls on March 1...so without further ado here's the plan overview.  If I get a lot of questions I'll do a follow up post explaining what the nutty professor is thinking.  Click for the big pic.

SS analysis: strength or power?

Pure single speeders are a passionate bunch.  After doing a bit of  lurking on the mtbr SS forum and observing the SS related comments here it's obvious the top reasons SSers do what they do come from the heart.  As it should be.
Perhaps I will find that happy SS nirvana in time, but right now I'm a geared rider having fun on a SS.  It's my analytical nature that has me analyzing the demands of SS right now so that I can make a better plan to train for a SS event or two (or three or...  ;).  Nirvana is directly proportional to speed, 'tis a proven fact - so this quest is worthwhile.
There are two obvious paths to go when considering how to train for SS:  target specific aspects of SSing (on the road or MTB), or just go ride your SS.  On the geary, my long-standing paradox has been that to really improve, I have to do specific work - intervals and the like - usually on the road but not always.  So, I'm going to choose the former cause it's worked best for me in the past.  SSing 6 days/week might not be sustainable for me, it's hard stuff!
So then, what are the aspects of SSing that need special attention?  Power Tap to the rescue....the first step is to install the PT on the SS, go ride, then take a look at the ride data through the various tools available.  The most valuable of these has been Quadrant Analysis developed by Andrew Coggan.  Chances are that if you train with power you know the good Doc.
QA simplified:  every data point in a file represents a power output and cadence.  Knowing this in addition to the crank length the data is further broken down to the constituents of power - pedal speed (CPV) and average effective pedal force (AEPF).  In lay terms, how hard you are pushing on the pedals and how fast your feet are moving.  Crosshairs are then drawn with the intersection at the pedal force and cadence that represent what is  normally done at threshold power.  This divides the plot into 4 quadrants with these relative characteristics.

  • I:  high power, high cadence
  • II:  high power, low cadence
  • III: low power, low cadence
  • IV: low power, high cadence

Obviously, SS requires one to push darn hard at low cadences and really fast when spun out.  But where are the limits?  And are they trainable??  Key questions in my quest.  I'll be sharing my random thoughts along the way of this process.  They evolve daily ;)  But first, let's look at that QA plot again and see what it can tell us.  Note:  57 is not my preferred cadence so the QA crosshairs are misaligned in this plot...preferred cadence is about 96 so just about all points are in QII in reality.

There is a lot going on here.  Yea, it'd make a nice tattoo M but I'm not sure I have the bicep to pull it off so I'll stick to the geeky stuff ;)  The points here are from two different rides, one on a 32x18, the other on a 32x16.  The route is rolling, some steep short climbs, some fast descents.  Overgeared and undergeard, like every SS ride I've done.  The pace was moderate (not hard), but where it tilt's up I went hard enough so as not to walk.  IOW, L6 power levels. 
There is also some test data from 2 types of efforts:  maximal standing starts, one set is done seated, the other done standing.  It turns out the maximal AEPF-CPV relationship is linear, so getting some good points along this line allows one to extrapolate the maximal curve out to max force and max pedal speed.  That's what the 2 straight lines represent.  Those lines are the highest pedal forces I can achieve for any given pedal speed - I wanted to establish these lines to see how close SS low cadence stuff came to maximal. 
That's enough background.  Here are some things I see:

  • normal cadence range for SSing is 45-130.
  • typical pedal forces go up 550 N.  In geared riding they rarely go over 275 N (I'll post a comparison geared QA at some point) and for the most part are below 225!
  • pedal forces occasionally bump right up against that maximal force/cadence line 
  • pedal forces routinely go to (and above) 75% of max AEPF in a moderately paced SS ride.  This is in comparison to ~ 25-30% in a geared ride.
  • the ability to put out power at low and high cadences are equally important (but have very different demands!)

Finally, note the 3 iso-power curves - red, yellow, and orange.  In particular, note how they tilt rapidly upward on the left side.  Where they are  horizontal on the right, small changes in pedal force have big effects on power output.  But on the left, it takes huge changes in pedal force to alter power output, or from another angle, at very low cadences it takes huge AEPF to put out any sort of power.  In theory, at a cadence of 20ish I can do no better than threshold power no matter how hard I try.  So for anyone, no matter how "strong" you are, being overgeared beyond some point is going to reduce your power on the climbs.  Physics in action.
Did I miss anything?  Requirements of the soul perhaps??  They don't show up in QA ;)
This weekend I'll be doing some longer rides with the SS.  I'm curious to see what those data sets will say about sustainability of these higher pedal forces over the long haul.
Happy Thanksgiving!  Stuff yourself silly as is our custom...gives cyclists a reason to ride more.

Binge Over

My four day single speed binge is over and it was splendid fun. Ride times were 4:44, 4:24, 4:37 and err 1:35. I got distracted the last day with an invite to go goof around on Gooseberry Mesa. We spent half the day up there but ride time only tallied up to 1:35...

Not so much pedaling goes on up at the Goose but lots of playing about on bikes.

Nice one Lucas.

not so many folks make this wee steep one

Eddie the dog made the Goose loop smiling the whole way.

After the ride we went down into Hurricane to visit Quentin and DJ Morissette's new bike shop. Set to open next month and called Over The Edge Sports. Yep just like the Fruita one. Here is Quentin on the deck of the new shop. It is on the right just before heading out of Hurricane up the big hill to Gooseberry and Little Creek. 76E 100S, Hurricane. They are good folks and I wish them luck with their new business.

Now Thanksgiving is over we can start the yuletide fever. Is it really still only November?

SS analysis: strength or power?

Pure single speeders are a passionate bunch.  After doing a bit of  lurking on the mtbr SS forum and observing the SS related comments here it's obvious the top reasons SSers do what they do come from the heart.  As it should be.

Perhaps I will find that happy SS nirvana in time, but right now I'm a geared rider having fun on a SS.  It's my analytical nature that has me analyzing the demands of SS right now so that I can make a better plan to train for a SS event or two (or three or...  ;).  Nirvana is directly proportional to speed, 'tis a proven fact - so this quest is worthwhile.

There are two obvious paths to go when considering how to train for SS:  target specific aspects of SSing (on the road or MTB), or just go ride your SS.  On the geary, my long-standing paradox has been that to really improve, I have to do specific work - intervals and the like - usually on the road but not always.  So, I'm going to choose the former cause it's worked best for me in the past.  SSing 6 days/week might not be sustainable for me, it's hard stuff!

So then, what are the aspects of SSing that need special attention?  Power Tap to the rescue....the first step is to install the PT on the SS, go ride, then take a look at the ride data through the various tools available.  The most valuable of these has been Quadrant Analysis developed by Andrew Coggan.  Chances are that if you train with power you know the good Doc.

QA simplified:  every data point in a file represents a power output and cadence.  Knowing this in addition to the crank length the data is further broken down to the constituents of power - pedal speed (CPV) and average effective pedal force (AEPF).  In lay terms, how hard you are pushing on the pedals and how fast your feet are moving.  Crosshairs are then drawn with the intersection at the pedal force and cadence that represent what is  normally done at threshold power.  This divides the plot into 4 quadrants with these relative characteristics.

  • I:  high power, high cadence
  • II:  high power, low cadence
  • III: low power, low cadence
  • IV: low power, high cadence

Obviously, SS requires one to push darn hard at low cadences and really fast when spun out.  But where are the limits?  And are they trainable??  Key questions in my quest.  I'll be sharing my random thoughts along the way of this process.  They evolve daily ;)  But first, let's look at that QA plot again and see what it can tell us.  Note:  57 is not my preferred cadence so the QA crosshairs are misaligned in this plot...preferred cadence is about 96 so just about all points are in QII in reality.

There is a lot going on here.  Yea, it'd make a nice tattoo M but I'm not sure I have the bicep to pull it off so I'll stick to the geeky stuff ;)  The points here are from two different rides, one on a 32x18, the other on a 32x16.  The route is rolling, some steep short climbs, some fast descents.  Overgeared and undergeard, like every SS ride I've done.  The pace was moderate (not hard), but where it tilt's up I went hard enough so as not to walk.  IOW, L6 power levels. 

There is also some test data from 2 types of efforts:  maximal standing starts, one set is done seated, the other done standing.  It turns out the maximal AEPF-CPV relationship is linear, so getting some good points along this line allows one to extrapolate the maximal curve out to max force and max pedal speed.  That's what the 2 straight lines represent.  Those lines are the highest pedal forces I can achieve for any given pedal speed - I wanted to establish these lines to see how close SS low cadence stuff came to maximal. 

That's enough background.  Here are some things I see:

  • normal cadence range for SSing is 45-130.
  • typical pedal forces go up 550 N.  In geared riding they rarely go over 275 N (I'll post a comparison geared QA at some point) and for the most part are below 225!
  • pedal forces occasionally bump right up against that maximal force/cadence line 
  • pedal forces routinely go to (and above) 75% of max AEPF in a moderately paced SS ride.  This is in comparison to ~ 25-30% in a geared ride.
  • the ability to put out power at low and high cadences are equally important (but have very different demands!)

Finally, note the 3 iso-power curves - red, yellow, and orange.  In particular, note how they tilt rapidly upward on the left side.  Where they are  horizontal on the right, small changes in pedal force have big effects on power output.  But on the left, it takes huge changes in pedal force to alter power output, or from another angle, at very low cadences it takes huge AEPF to put out any sort of power.  In theory, at a cadence of 20ish I can do no better than threshold power no matter how hard I try.  So for anyone, no matter how "strong" you are, being overgeared beyond some point is going to reduce your power on the climbs.  Physics in action.

Did I miss anything?  Requirements of the soul perhaps??  They don't show up in QA ;)

This weekend I'll be doing some longer rides with the SS.  I'm curious to see what those data sets will say about sustainability of these higher pedal forces over the long haul.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Stuff yourself silly as is our custom...gives cyclists a reason to ride more.

My SS story

Well it seems now I have an SS training partner and he tends to like to take things to extremes when an idea takes hold of him. Look out. So far I have just whipped around on wee fast rides on my SS but yesterday manic enveloped me in his new found SS enthusiasm and we went big.

This climb totally spanked me on the SS and I was quivering a bit by the time I hit the top. Flamed out... My main goal was to ride everything and that I did - no hiking involved - very pleased about it. Sometimes it is hard to feel fast when my training partner is giddy and 1/2 mile ahead of me after 10 minutes but I was prepared with tunes yesterday and it was such a fab ride.

Here is the map visual. Prolly part of day 2 on Camp Lynda

So now thoughts of racing stage races, 12 hours and Kokopelli all on the SS are whirling around in the air. 2008 is gonna be some kinda fun.

Executing your first 24 solo, part 1 (nutrition)

A long time racing bud shot me an email the other day with a great set of questions on how to make his first 24 hour solo attempt a success.  It seemed like a great thing to share here...so here we go.  Don't worry Yuri, I'll send you a few top secret details off-line :)

First of all, Yuri has been racing a long time at a very high level.  He's already a hammer, and that's a great place from which to launch your first 24 hour attempt.  I've read that Eatough doesn't do any specific training for 24s except maybe one 6-7 hour ride before the race...maybe Yuri is the next E?  The following responses are geared towards a rider who is already fit, fast, and has a good bit of racing under their belt.

Yuri:  I am going to be doing Laguna Seca on my single speed....just for a little more pain, and have a number of questions. First of all, I've only done a 24 hour event as part of a four man team, so I've never suffered for 24 hours straight by myself and  I'm wondering if you have any nutritional secrets that will help me out?? What is your favorite/most effective replenishing food? How were you feeding...did you take it on the run, or did you stop?

Dave:  Do I have secrets...hell yea!  I'm a blabber mouth though, so here we go.

Support:  You didn't ask about this...but your support at a 24 solo is the single largest factor for consideration.  My teammate Lynda did her first 24 totally unsupported (SITS last year, the sicko finished 3rd), and for her second 24 did OP this year with a killer support crew.  She thinks support make a difference of about 3 laps in a race.  3 laps!  Start dialing it in now.

On a SS, you might get by without a mechanic, but it's still risky.  A lot can happen in 24 hours.  At the very least, you'll want one dedicated, very patient individual.  I'd suggest more because it is very hard on that one person to do it all.  At OP Lynda and I shared pit; we had a professional mechanic and 4 support staff, 2 kids, and one dog.  Dogs not needed...

Feeding:   my normal feeding routine is pretty simple, and perhaps gross...in one back pocket I carry bananas already peeled and cut into 3 or 4 chunks.  Easy to grab and I don't tire of them.  In another pocket is an eGel flask.  Fluids are almost always eFuel and water.  I've used other drinks in the past, but can't tolerate anything else for long periods.  eFuel/eGel is high in electrolytes so you won't need additional supplementation unless it is really hot, or you are a heavy/salty sweater.  As a general goal, I aim for 350-400 calories each hour.  Eating that much is a challenge if your pace is too high - use that as one of your pacing guages.  No matter how fast you go, you're still going in circles for 24 hours. 

As the race progresses, the need for solid foods with a bit of fat becomes apparent.  My favorite is tortilla, almond butter, and honey wraps again cut into chunks.  At OP, Tinker was in the next pit - we saw him going for bite size snickers & oreos.  You'll probably want some variety in there - my taste buds were all over the map at the first couple of 24's I did, and at one of them I was eating enormous amounts - most of it what Anna (my support guru) had brought for herself.  Some riders need a lot more salt that can be obtained from drinks and will eat soups in the night.  Ever look at the sodium content of a can of soup?  It's like eating 20 enduralytes. 

For your first 24, I'd strongly recommend sitting down to eat at least twice during the race, once about 6-8 pm, and once about 4-7am.  Not too much, and easy on the fats/proteins, something easily digested, but you'll thank yourself later if you do.  I never planned these breaks in my first attempts, but they became mandatory anyway.  Planning them in will give you something to look forward to, and keep energy levels up.  It should only take 10-15 minutes. One of my favorites is instant oatmeal (maple & brown sugar, oh yea), I can down one of those in 30 seconds at lap transitions...In Steamboat last year, I cracked so hard I darn near threw in the towel.  3 instant oatmeals, 4 advils, and a jug of coffee later I was a new man and soldiered on (at the coaxing of one very persistent crew member, Jen Murphy.  She about kicked my a$$).

Most of the time, all this eating happens on the bike.  I'll have a table set up with some easily grabbed items in the pit to fill pockets and mouth. 

There are some essential supplements in my 24 hour kit.  I make sure to take in a little protein each lap.  The research I've seen suggests that additional protein can mitigate muscle damage and also prevent/delay mental fatigue.  If it's cool I'll mix HealthFX whey with OJ; if its hot I'll mix it with V8 juice (the V8 provides a ton of electrolytes for the heat).  If this secret gets out there is going to be a lot more competition this year... Advil was the big revelation for me last year.  I honestly had never used it before.  You will probably reach a point where everything starts to hurt - back, neck, shoulders, and of course legs - every little thing seems painful.  That's your body telling you it's time to shut it down.  You can silence your body with Advil.  I go to a prevention mode with Advil at the 8 hour mark - 2 every 4 hours - then more if needed.  I've heard talk this interferes with proper hydration, so make sure that isn't an issue.  It hasn't been an issue for me.  I use something with some zip in the night to help stay alert and keep the bike handling sharp.  Things that have worked are coffee, yerba mate, and EnduroFX.  If you use enduro, though, don't get carried away - you can easily bonk on that stuff!  The idea is just to keep bike handling sharp, not necessarily to hammer.  More on that in pacing...

If it's a really tight race and you want to drill the finish, you might try defizzed pepsi or coke, either watered down or full strength if you have water as well.  That works well for me, and sometimes pepsi in the night will settle an unruly stomach.  Not sure how something that can eat pennies settles a stomach, one of the great mysteries in life...

I find a small, 50 oz water filled camelback to be the trick for 24s.  30 oz would probably be plenty big as well, maybe something like this .  Haven't laid my eyes on one yet, but hear they are awesome.  I'll also carry the eFuel water bottle.  Except for the first lap where I don't have a camelback, I use that combo for the duration.

Dang, this got long!  Let's call this the end of part 1 of ?  Stay tuned for the rest to include pacing, chammies, lights, and the big one:  training.

Don't ask me why, though ;)