2018.7: Bronchitis and New FTP

How I spent my 5-day winter vacation.

Wow. This wasn’t how I’d planned to prep for my extended business trip away from training. But as they say, it all worked out.

What we're covering this week

  • How I fared with my more intense, modified plan leading up to a business trip
  • How I fared after a chest bug nipped me right after the holidays
  • My surprisingly good results during my 2nd fitness assessment

In Our Previous Episode
You may recall the biggest thing on my my mind during the previous entry was rejiggering my training to accommodate, well… the plane ride I happen to be on as I write this. 

I was cruising in a training groove when the company I’m contracting with said — before Christmas no less — you’ll be traveling twice in January, and for several days at a time.

Might as well have thrown a frame pump into my moving spokes. 

Did I just date myself with that reference? 

I needed to rearrange the ending of Sweet Spot Base in order to ramp up the volume in a way that wouldn’t bury me, but would allow this first extended time away from training to act as a recovery. 

I did that, and although the training load was going to be high, the numbers looked good after building everything into the plan. 

Here’s where I stand, post-trip:

If you don't feel like reading the whole article, the captions tell the story. Click the images to see a full-sized view.

Good Plans Enable Flexibility
For some, the headline above will feel contradictory. Once you set a plan, you stick faithfully to it, right? That doesn't sound flexible.

But it is. You’re the one setting the plan. So, if a surprise hits — like a business trip or an illness, you can take the momentum leading into the plan, project where that momentum is supposed to lead, and redirect it. 

in my case, I had enough warning to know that, at this phase of training, I could drive hard for a week, complete an FTP test, allow Trip Number One to be a recovery, then re-engage when I got home with the beginning of the next phase of more challenging training. 

Thanks to the ability of WKO4 to give me visibility to how the back-to-back workouts, combined with all the off-time was likely to affect me, I dug in. 

And it was pretty awesome. 

My ramp rate took off (if you’re not familiar with the term “ramp rate”) it’s a metric that let’s you know how much accumulated overage you’re piling on; when you’re getting the same amount of stress week after week, that’s a level or near zero ramp rate; when you’re getting less and less, you get a negative ramp, and when you start adding more and more, it starts to go positive. 

There are competing theories about how much you should have, but ultimately, it’s up to you to know when to say when. It’s a feel thing, but when there are so many influencers on your life, having the number-crunching tools enables you to be more prescriptive than reactive. 

For me, it seems that a ramp rate a little over 3 is a good pace to grow while avoiding burn out. 

Or — illness. 

I Was Warned…
Christmas day, 2017. Against my better judgement, I went to visit my family despite being told that there was a good amount of illness in the house.

But, it’s Christmas. Kinda tough to say, “Sorry guys; Enjoy the presents and dinner, but, I’m in training and I don’t wanna catch your disease.”

I’m committed, but, I’m not that icy.

Two of my sons work retail jobs and are exposed to a steady stream of the public. Their mom regaled me with descriptions of bronchitis, congestion, malaise, and other fun things. 

Short version: the bug bit me, and and it bit HARD

The following day, I did a relatively easy workout, but found the breathing in the cool basement highly irritating. By Wednesday, I was coughing violently and dealing with lungs that were starting to rattle. 

The “above the neck, it’s ok to exercise rule meant — I needed to lay off. 

What’s the danger with soldiering on, should a cold or some other nasty thing start invading your chest? There’s a chance the offending little invaders could affect the walls of your heart

No loss of fitness is worth that risk, so — despite an FTP test scheduled before leaving on my business trip, and lots of work yet to do from home, I made myself comfortable on the couch with a space heater (you may recall the midwest and northeast US was slammed with incredible cold for days) as well as never-ending cups of Chinese white tea and a consistent diet of vegetable and fruit smoothies containing garlic (great for the lungs) and citrus to blitz the body with vitamin C.

Bai Mu Dan (my favorite form of Chinese white tea) and comfy sweats; a major comfort combo when not feeling fantastic.

A happy cat and a full Vitamix. Life ain't all bad at all.

The Perception of Time
And for the record, I was upset. Despite my knowledge that I could adjust my training once this all blew over, the thing that haunted me was the thing that haunts every endurance athlete: the clock is ticking. There’s only so much time ’til your event. 

And an FTP of only 228 at 66kgs of body weight meant I was a measly 3.45 watts per kilogram. I need to be much closer to 4 if I’m going to be at all competitive come May. 

4 wpKg is something that I’ve never achieved, but have gotten close — for a month or so. 3.85 has been my high mark. 

Fit and Healthy Beats Just Fit
Dairy aggravates upper respiratory illnesses.

Outside of organic yogurt and butter, I don’t consume dairy. 

Meat is challenging for the body to digest, and for me it is especially so when sick. 

I enjoy sporadic seafood, eggs, and the infrequent dish of pork or beef. My diet is primarily vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. 

The last time I had an upper-respiratory illness, I was a full-on omnivore, consuming quite a bit of dairy, and much more meat than I have for the last couple of years. 

Confession: TacoBell was a long-standing guilty pleasure.

That illness laid me out for nearly two weeks, and yes, during that time, I was in training. 

Can I say that upping your vegetable intake while simultaneously reducing your meat and dairy will help you bounce back from an illness faster? Your mileage will vary, but from what I read of the science and my own anecdotal evidence, I’d have to say “yes.” 

Especially since I went from normal to deep bronchitis to a new high FTP in 5 days… 

Nearing 4wKg. All Metrics Up.
Wednesday night before my Sunday Full Frontal test was the first night in 3 days where I slept soundly without waking due to deep coughs.

Thursday — my fifth day without a workout — was difficult; I really wanted to just spin. But I held off, kept warm, kept up on the smoothies. Had I succumbed to the “I’m feeling good enough to train again” devil on my shoulder, I think I’d have set myself back.  

Friday, I did one of TrainerRoad’s recovery workouts common to their Sweet Spot plans, Pettit. I knew something was changing; this isn’t a hard workout by any stretch, but it normally takes concentration to keep the effort steady. This time, despite the layoff and illness, it felt unusually easy.  

Not a lot to see here, folks. But, it’s re-acclimating to the bike, and getting the blood pumping again, albeit at only 60 – 70% of FTP.  

Getting to bed early and staying hydrated (I drink my weight in Bai Mu Dan looseleaf tea and sparkling water) I did “Butter” by The Sufferfest as an opener ride on Saturday, in anticipation of actually doing my second Full Frontal test on Sunday. 

To my surprise, I felt strong and in control throughout. “Butter” is a ride that alternates from aerobic endurance to high sweet spot / low threshold for 90 second bursts. If I had any concern at all, it was during the last 20 minutes or so; “Am I overreaching?” I worked up a mild sweat, but never felt as if I was cooking myself. And I was able to hold power and form surprisingly well. 

Monday, I would travel to San Francisco and not return until Thursday. 

Fairly late in the day Sunday, I completed Full Frontal. I often psych myself out a bit prior to these tests. Negative self-talk is limiting at best, damaging and self-defeating at worst. But for this test, I was actually excited.

Again, to my surprise, all four of the metrics measured by the test saw not only improvements, but significant improvements. 

No, my dear Minions, I am most definitely NOT a sprinter. I just happened to turn in a particularly good (for me) initial first sprint.

Next up: “Sustained Build”
As I write this, I’m on the plane heading back to Cincy. Haven’t seen my bike or done a workout — any kind of workout — since that FTP test. All of my “training stress” has been lugging baggage to an airport, dealing with time constraints, presenting to clients, and making sure I got plenty of sleep. 

But this was built into the model. 

This week, I will now start TrainerRoad’s “Sustained Build” block, mid-volume: longer and slightly harder workouts prior to another few days away; on business. (I’ll travel Sunday, work Monday, return Tuesday.) I instead of focusing on sweet spot, the work shifts to more work near or over FTP as I seek to get more race like during this next extended period. Muscular endurance is still the name of the game when looking towards 6+ hours in the saddle. 

Here’s how I’ll modify the plan: 

  • No FTP test on Tuesday, since I've already done that. I'll most likely substitute an FTP workout such as The Sufferfest's Hell Hath No Fury, which, at my new FTP will certainly stretch me
  • I’ll add in a recovery ride on Friday rather than take the day off.
  • Since I'm flying out late morning on Sunday, I’ll still get a ride in, but it won't be as long as TR suggests. That means I’ll do a 3 hour+ ride on Saturday. 

A little overcompensation, as we’ve learned, is a good thing.

Ideas for inspiring your own indoor training space!

Trainer set-up Media equipment
Software Creature comforts

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.

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