Path to enlightenment: manic or nibbling away?

Ah, holiday time.  I always get a bit retrospective this time of year…

Using all sorts of resources I’ve been trying to piece together that optimal picture of the perfect training and racing year.  No matter how many studies, theories, or blogs I read, it always comes back to my own training data.  There just isn’t anything more convincing, powerful, enlightening that my own store of power file data over 3 years of ultra endurance training and racing.

Hopefully I can say CTL without causing too much forehead wrinkling amongst y’all (got that, Rick?).  CTL = chronic training load, an analytical measure based on the daily TSS (training stress scores) calculated from power meter data.  I’ve actually got 7 years of the stuff, but the last 3 have been the enduro focus.  Here’s how they’ve progressed.  Click for the big’n.

It’s hard to make sense of this picture for a few reasons, but there are some things that jump right out.  Such as:

  • a CTL of 120-130 seems to be the comfy zone for racing and training.
  • coupled with power meter data I know that the fastest power gains occurred with the slowest CTL ramp rate – early ’05
  • in the fall of ’06 I apparently developed the ability to dig enormous holes from a training stress standpoint
  • the only 2 major cycling injuries in this lifetime have both come on the heels of PB CTL peaks, both in terms of absolute volume and ramp rates.

The observations above that are most affecting my thoughts for ’08 are the 2nd and 4th…

There’s been some talk on wattage about what sort of programs lead to better power gains – and would you know it?  The Cog presented a lot of data showing similar stuff as above for his wife who is a national champ pursuitist.  I’ve come to realize I have the ability to do massive training and get away with it most of the time (except when I don’t) but that doesn’t lead to power gains per se…it does lead to enormous endurance.  It was perfect for Grand Loop.  For anything shorter and more technical though, not the optimal plan by any standard.  So this year the plan is to “nibble away” and avoid huge training stress spikes for the most part, and spend more time doing quality work.  That pic above is proof positive of a massive 3 year base that is pretty much unshakable – no need for more.

The corollary to the above point is what I refer to as “headroom.”  You only have so much capacity for training adaptation, and if your CTL is too high there just isn’t any room to do the quality work that increases power and improve from it.  To put the above values in perspective, it’s been estimated that Le Tour cyclists hit a CTL in the 150s by the end of the race.  My peak this year was 173.  That’s friggin manic!

That 4th point…yep, no question, long deep builds are expensive.  They are now so alluring because I can get stronger as they progress, seemingly adapting just fine.  At some point the bottom drops out – but not until I rest.  I never know during the build how much is too much cause the body (or ma head?) says “more please.” 

What does it all mean?  Slower ramp rates (or even flat ramp rates) for ’08.  More quality.  More SS.  More power.  More fun.  Save the big manic builds for the end of the season – which in StG means June and Nov.  It’s all coming together.