Chapter 12One Week From Today

A good friend of mine has a saying: “Always have a ticket.” He’s referring to the excitement of having a ticket in your hand; something to look forward to. You’re excited to take a trip or see a concert — you’ve got your ticket. What ticket are you holding onto now in your life? Two months ago, I got a time trial ticket.

It's been quite a while since my last post, so let's play a little catch-up…

When we last followed my training exploits, I had determined that in order to get serious about muscular endurance I would turn my sights to the Ohio State Time Trial Championships near Akron, Ohio. And that is exactly what I have done. No more whining about not hanging with the boys, no more belly-aching about suffering through 4 laps of a 5 lap race alone. Work on the endurance with a vengeance. Then, focus on the last road race in the season in the area in August by building on those new TT skills by dedicating time to Vo2 max intervals. 

That’s been the plan. ​

That race is a week from today as I sit here dictating to my iPhone: Sunday, July 17, 2016.

There have been some technology end equipment changes as well.

Although I still upload my Garmin data to trainingpeaks.com, I actually do the interpretation and planning with a software package called WKO4. Additionally, I have traded my old mag trainer for a Wahoo Kickr electronic trainer.

Essentially what this means is I am able to set a goal power in watts, or follow a preplanned work out with specific goals, and my trainer clamps down as it were, forcing me to maintain those target watts.

No more cheating on the trainer during workouts.

Suffice it to say my beloved Sufferfest workouts have now become genuine suffer fests.

Additionally, I am now utilizing trainerroad.com. I don't always follow the workout plans to the letter, as I try to pair training to goal events. But the training philosophy behind trainerroad is very similar to my own, so I am able to modify intense days and rest days to fit my own needs.

My first 40K and the state championships

The state championship time trial race will be 17.1 miles in length over a rolling course.

The 2016 Ohio State Time Trial Championship course will run into the wind, with the wind, and over rolling terrain. Stay smooth!

Over the last seven weeks I have been utilizing primarily the trainerroad 40K training plan for high-volume riders. Additionally, every Tuesday, I have participated in a local 10.2 mile time trial.

The result is that my FTP has jumped from 237 at the beginning of the season to its current 255. A few of the local time trials have seen me average 261, however, that level of output has not been consistent with me.

My weight fluctuates between 65 and 66 1/2 kg. If we do the simple math of 255 W divided by 66 kg, that puts me at 3.86 W per kilogram. Not shabby, but I very much want to hit that 4.0 ceiling. At my current weight that requires a 264 FTP.

On my birthday, June 19, I did my first solo 40K. It was a very hot day, and the distance was actually longer then 40K; 42.6 km to be exact. It was conducted on a course hosted by the same club that hosts the Tuesday night time trials.

Here's the twist: the actual event was supposed to take place on June 18th, but when I arrived, I realized that I had left my cycling shoes at home. Undaunted, I vowed to return the next day and go it alone.

I did the entire course, and after comparing my time with the posted times from the previous day, I learned that I would have finished in sixth place. Needless to say, this was really encouraging.

During the Tuesday night time trials I am almost always within the top 10. I'm starting to feel more confident about my abilities, however, judging from the leader's times, I have a very long way to go. The leaders are regularly setting marks in the 22 minute range. I always hover between the high 24 and low 25 minute marks.

After the state championship time trial I will have a few weeks to continue to get a bit more aggressive, as my final "A" race of the year, a late season road race (Yay! Not a crit! The Smiths Dairy Milk Race) will be a proving ground for my muscular endurance. Obviously, between the Akron time trial and that road race, I will be focusing on VO2 Max intervals and not muscular endurance. Being able to hang with surges — or initiate a break — is key.

What I have done over the last eight weeks

My training over the last eight weeks has consisted primarily of three types of workouts:

  • Actual time trials every Tuesday night
  • Multiple Vo2 max intervals on the trainer in time trial position
  • Extended FTP intervals

The vast majority of these workouts have been 90 minutes in length. Of course one hopes for a sub-hour 40k.

Why train for a 40k when the event is only 17.1 miles (27.5k)?

Because I'm training muscular endurance. Remember my Tuesday night event is only 10.2 miles, which I push very hard for speed.

I won't lie to you: those anaerobic intervals are excruciating. Between 120 and 130% of FTP, bent over in even the most comfortable time trial position is just enough to make you really question why you want to put yourself through this.

Aero frame, hidden brakes, all cables internally routed. I'll transfer my DuraAce components from the old bike, and of course run the disk rear and deep section front wheels.

However, realizing that I am able to hold longer and longer intervals and at higher powers combined with the fact that the next day will be a relatively comfortable tempo ride on a nearby trail for recovery makes it all worth while.

I have become such a fan of time trialing that I am rewarding myself with a new (OK, it's used, but it will be new to me) time trial specific frame, a Fuji Norcom Straight. Up until now I have been riding TTs on a converted 2005 Fuji Carbon Pro Team Limited Edition frame.

Although I've become very comfortable in this position, it is not a dedicated time trial frame. It is not very aerodynamic, and the geometry is very different from a frame purpose-built to beat the clock.

I will be very excited to see what I can do during my Tuesday night local time trials with it. Unfortunately, it will not arrive in time for me to transfer my components from my existing frame to the new frame in time for the championships.

Lessons learned over the past eight weeks

Time trialing is about a combination of two things: a high FTP combined with an ability to relax into high effort (read, "Pain.")

The mental aspect of time trialing is absolutely huge. Your brain has a safety switch. It is designed to keep you from going to a point where you will cook yourself. However, that switch is calibrated to a rather conservative setting. You can go beyond that setting but the alarm bells will be deafening. With me, I have proven that I can time trial over 10.2 miles while sustaining watts for a quarter of the distance at nearly 300. However, when I am on the ergonomic trainer, holding 235 W consistently for 20 minutes seems like an absolute impossibility; everything inside my head and my legs and often my heart and lungs, are screaming at me to stop. And I tend to do just that; for 15 to 30 seconds at a time I will stop and backpedal, only to ramp it back up again. During a 90 minute workout I have stopped and done these short "resets" up to seven or eight times. As I continue to train to be consistent, I just let myself back off a touch when it's searing; don't stop, keep going, just a bit lighter. Often I'll use one lighter read cog.

Tension kills speed

As pain increases so does tension; you over grip, you hunch shoulders, and in so doing you send valuable blood and oxygen to muscles that aren't helping you go faster. You must learn to do the impossible: relax under painful effort.

For me it's about clearing the mind. I'm not focusing on watts or time or cadence; I'm focusing on maintaining a feeling of lightness on the pedals. My abs and hips and even obliques are all working in chorus to spin in the high 90s, reducing the watts per stroke. I'm concentrating on maintaining calm and quiet in my chest and mind. No panicking.

Here’s another little trick: I wear foam earplugs. I always wear them while motorcycling, because the wind buffeting inside my helmet at highway speeds is super unpleasant. A fellow rider told me about having read about earplugs while time trialing but that he hadn't yet tried it. I did the next TT I did. It's very helpful for mental focus.​

Quadrant Pacing

I divide the distance into four equal parts. I tell my Garmin to alert me at each quarter segment. I also display my percentage of FTP. My goals are simple: start hard for 30 seconds or so then settle in at 90% of FTP. Quadrants then increase: 95%, 100%, then for the final stretch, it's all out.

Hills and Descents

There's always debate about this in TT forums. For me, I try to stay even, but systematically shift into sequentially higher cadences on hills. Ultimately this means going over my quadrant goals on hills. Then I let aerodynamics work for me downhill. I strive to stay in tuck from start to finish.

Final Week Before Champs: What to do?

This will be a week of alternating intensity and recovery, riding every day:

  • Monday, 30 minutes high-cadence spin at 50% FTP
  • Tuesday, ride weekly TT course in reverse as warm-up, then compete full-throttle. My PR on that course is 24:48. My immediate goal is 24:30
  • Wednesday, 60 minutes at 60 – 70% FTP
  • Thursday, warm-up, only 30 minutes of 60–70% but with 30-second all-out bursts, seated in time trial tuck
  • Friday, easy spin
  • Saturday, drive to Akron, check into hotel
  • Sunday morning, do the TT race

Tapering is reducing volume but keeping your intensity. Yes, you do lose some fitness, but you’re fresh for your event.

So what’s my goal? My goal is to be within the top quarter of the field. As to time, if I take my best time from my 10.2-mile event (24:48) and average that speed (24.6 MPH)  over 17.1 miles, I come up with a total time of just under 42 minutes. So that's my goal! (Incidentally, using WKO4’s data, I see I turned in a 44:20 during my first solo 40k at the 17.1 mark. Hopefully conditions will allow me to get better than 42 minutes!) 

Wish me luck, and I’ll let you know how it all turns out!

Sam Lowe

I've been a road cyclist with a penchant for speed ever since my first-ever paycheck holiday. I blew the whole wad on a turquoise Schwinn Tempo with then-new Shimano 105 indexed shifting way back in 1985. I've been a voracious consumer of racing-oriented information ever since. Training, nutrition, bike fit, racing techniques, and all manner of "kit." Between nearly 30 years of riding, racing, and reading about racing, I'm ready to help you get ready to race.