2018.5: I Miss My Pre-Internet Bike

Marketing. They make it all look so effortless: Turn on, plug in, enter a password, and sweat your arse off…

Base Block 2 – Week 2: I’m not a “digital native.” That means I remember riding without any electronics. At all. Period.

Remember back before you had a turbo trainer? If you wanted to ride, well, you just went outside…and rode. Bundle up if it’s cold, strap on fenders (or not) if it’s rainy, but — riding meant only one thing: you, the pavement, and the elements. 

In fact, I remember the exact date when I felt the awe of the impending digital juggernaut that would eventually engulf us. It was a Christmas morning in 1978. I asked for, and received, one of these. It was mind-blowing. But I also remember distinctly feeling that this wasn't all going to end well. 

Then, along came bike computers

  And cadence sensors.
   Then heart rate monitors.
     Then power meters.
      Then apps. Tons of apps.
       Then smart trainers.
        The latest marriage between electrons and our bicycles is virtual reality, such as Zwift.  

Curiosity and the Modern Cyclist
With so many different types of devices and apps, made by different developers, and all of them in a constant state of “improvement,” it’s a logistics and programming wonder that we’re able to get any — much less all — of these devices to work together. 

I’m still a Zwift holdout, but all of the previously-mentioned items are part of my weekly training regimen. And sometimes (like Sunday of this past week) they conspire to get my blood pumping, but not in the way they were designed. 

You’ll see from my weekly TrainerRoad snapshot, that I did my own thing on Saturday (which we’ll talk about specifically in just a bit.) It’s labeled an “outdoor ride,” but that’s only because TR can’t import literally every kind of data. (Kinda relates to my current point, in a way.) No, instead of doing the scheduled TR ride (90 minutes, 6x8-minute efforts between 88-94% FTP directly preceded by a 12-second round of big gear, high-force stomps) I decided I’d mix it up a bit. 

Now why would I go and mess with an otherwise operational regimen? 

Curiosity: because one of my most-often used apps was now “improving.” 

Critical Power Profiles comes to the Smart Trainer
TheSufferfest has recently released their “better than FTP” testing and grading scenario, dubbed “4DP,” for Four Dimensional Power. 

As I’ve mentioned previously, if you’re familiar with Joe Friel, you’ll know that he expects you to test not four, but five different time slots to create what he calls a “critical power profile.” 

Additionally, software such as WKO4 will automatically provide breakdowns of several key time divisions from your existing data, which I’ll show later. 

So, it’s not “better than” FTP; it’s “more complete” than just FTP alone. Which, is true. The reason it’s true is that your body pulls from different yet overlapping energy systems when doing different things. Sprinting calls upon a different energy system and employs different brain-to-muscle groups and pathways than time trialing, for example.

Having a clear understanding of what your capabilities are for those different kinds of efforts can help you train more specifically, especially if you know which types of efforts — and how much of them — your goal event(s) will demand of you, most.

Going Full Frontal
Since I regularly use videos from The Sufferfest in my training, either as substitutes for TrainerRoad workouts or as supplements, I wanted to take advantage of their claimed on-the-fly customization of power zones and resistance on my KICKR smart trainer while doing the videos. (In other words, a “breakaway” effort will be automatically adjusted during the video to provide customized resistance to my test watts; an FTP effort or short sprint, ditto.) 

To “enjoy” this (sick concept, huh?) that meant doing their “Full Frontal” test, which has replaced their “Rubber Glove” FTP test. 

I did the test on Saturday, (which explains the “outside ride” listed in my TR week; TR has their Rubber Glove workout translated to their format, but not Full Frontal, for obvious reasons. Or, at least I think it’s obvious) and actually did enjoy the experience, especially since the results seemed to indicate that, although I’ve experienced a decline in my overall FTP over the last several months, since starting this Base Block, I’m steadily on the increase. Here’s what that looks like from WKO4, and it serves to illustrate how that software automatically pulls your Friel-esque “critical power” profile together for you based on your cumulative activity. 

See that spike at October 30th? That's when I started Sweet Spot 1. Things started improving at November 6: mid-way through my current Sweet Spot 2. The far right side indicates the 4DP test results.

Since Full Frontal was only one hour, and wasn’t going to provide near the TSS points I’d need to stay on track with my week in terms of training load (as set forth by Coach Chad in the TrainerRoad Sweet Spot Base Mid-Volume 2 block I’m currently in), I had planned on using my new 4DP profile to do one of their longest workouts on Sunday: “Seemed Like Thin Air.” It’s become one of my favorite Sufferfest workouts, and it would provide the steady-state work, endurance, and climbing technique that I’m looking to continue to build as I head towards Mt. Mitchell in May. It would also put me ever so slightly over my weekly TSS goal. AND I’d get to see how this customized power profile thingie affected the resistance on the smart trainer. Win-win

But then, the electronic house of cards came down. 

Oh, the Over-Complexity
Sometimes my Stages power meter craps out and stops sending data to my Garmin head unit. 

But we won’t talk about that. We’re talking about an app, right now. 

Well, waitaminnit… I did recently order a Lezyne Super GPS because my Garmin 810 battery is only lasting about 5-ish hours these days, and I know I’ll need a full 6 for the May event…and I wasn’t about to pay a zillion dollars for a replacement when the highly-regarded Lezyne was coming in for a fraction of that. But getting that Lezyne to update its firmware with my Mac was… well… let’s just say it took days of phone and email technical support. (Good humored though it was with the gang from Lezyne.)  

But, right. Back to Sufferfest…

I hadn’t seen the aforementioned Facebook post. My training partner asked if I’d seen it after hearing about connection woes, and that's when I went searching for it. And even if I had, I’d have thought, “Meh. Europe.” 

Apparently, the issue affected more than my Euro cycling friends. 

So, facing a 2.5 hour workout, and having 4 hours until I needed to pick up my best friend from the airport Saturday, I set about the pre-Pain Cave ritual: 

  • getting into the bibs
  • strapping on the heart rate monitor
  • mixing up a couple of water bottles
  • nabbing a gel for good measure
  • calibrating my power meter
  • doing a spin-down calibration on the KICKR (as should be done before every workout)
  • and oh, wait, let’s download the video rather than stream it — just in case…

Krikey. 

OK. Now, can we ride?

How Many TSS Points Does Angst Cost?
Repeatedly, The Sufferfest app, which had worked fine the day before with the test, kept saying it couldn’t “initialize” the ANT stick that I have connected to a long USB cable, resting under the KICKR to pick up its signal, my Stages, and my heart rate monitor. 

So that meant climbing off the bike, walking over to the laptop near the large TV monitor, pulling out the ANT stick, reinserting it, and trying to start over. 

Joy. Look, ma, I'm getting in some walking with my cycling.

When everything did finally sync up, I still bagged everything in sheer frustration. Why? 

Because, in the middle of the video, there was this bizarre graphic that kept intermittently flashing; a miniature version of the dashboard at the top of the screen showing cadence, power, and heart rate. It was distracting enough to cause, for me at least, physical effects. I realized it was contributing to nausea. 

Or maybe that was just good old fashioned anger. I dunno.


Under-TSS’d week. But not to worry.
I missed my training load goal for the week by at least 81 TSS points due to a combination of a misbehaving app and time pressure to live life (remember, I had to make an airport run; by the time I was aboard the bike in front of my seizure-inducing strobe of a video, I barely had an hour of ride time for what should have been 2 and a half.) 

So, why am I not concerned?

Because, it's only the 2nd block of base, I'm improving, and — take a look at next week

The 3rd week of the 2nd base block starts getting gnarly: some VO2 max repeats, near FTP intervals with sprint stomps, and over-unders. This is sweet-spot base, remember: instead of long, steady distance, we’re doing shorter, more intense work, but with enough space between efforts to allow for recovery and adaptation. 

I’m fine with missing a few dozen points. I’m going to need the rest. 

I just hope everything syncs

Sweat your prayers in the pain cave

Coming Soon:
A brief video tour of the StartConfident Pain Cave

Ideas for inspiring your own indoor training space!

Trainer set-up|Media equipment and 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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