Friday, October 24, 2008

A Tale of Two Seasons

In the summer of 2006, Mark Van Akkeren (MarkyV) excitedly carried his laptop into my house and fired it up on my kitchen counter. “The new performance manager is here, look at this!” he said. He demonstrated how he was projecting his training and taper by altering his stress scores (TSS) in advance on the new cycling peaks software. I was new to training with power and I was still learning the nuances of this new device. I said, “that’s cool.” I didn’t have the depth of understanding and enthusiasm Mark was hoping for. At that time, I just had time to train and the time I spent analyzing data was minimal, but I recorded my rides daily and they were stored away in my cycling peaks file for later analysis. Mark continued to send me his charts throughout the next year and I began to get a better feel for his methods as time went on, but I continued to train by "feel" and taper by "feel".

This past year, I went into my old files and analyzed the anatomy of my good season last year and compared it to my poor season this year. I loaded up the charts on the computer and looked at them. Granted, this is only cycling data, it still gave me a feel for my fitness during both seasons, because the other sports training paralleled my cycling. Below is an image of my 2008 season. Click to enlarge. Following that is an image from 2007 season.
The first thing that I found, which was obvious, was the lack of consistency and progression this year in comparison to last year. I missed a lot of days this year. I just couldn’t get myself out the door. The rides that I did do, lacked direction, focus, and intensity. My motivation was lacking and I just didn’t get out and hit it like I should have. There were a lot of gaps in training and my (chronic training load)CTL, the blue line, and (acute training load)ATL, the red line, numbers were low. My CTL didn’t get much over 25/d for this entire season. In 2007, I was hovering in the 60’s all year and before Hawaii, I was in the upper 80’s. This year, I went into races unprepared but I still had fun despite my lack of performance. I needed the break physically and mentally.

I read this post on Joe Friel's blog and now understand that I what I did by “feel” in 2007, was right on despite not having a graph to look at. The CTL dropped around 10% before each race, and the (training stress balance) TSB rose above the zero line to just below +20, before each race.

I took a little break after Buffalo Springs, then started my massive build for Hawaii around July 4th. In 2007, I had one day on the bike with a TSS of 450, a 160 mile ride, and a peak of 133TSS/d week during that same week in July. My TSB dropped to -60 that week. I cooked myself that day, but I remember the next day I was able to go out and still run 13 miles at a 7 min pace. You can see this huge peak (red spike)in ATL in late July. This might have been a bit too much, but I was preparing myself for the potentially horrible weather conditions that the Big Island can throw at you. It was the “Epic Camp” approach.

If you look at the graph, at around the beginning of September, I took a 100+-mile ride. It rained for the entire day and when I went out on the bike a few days later, and the SRM didn’t work. I had to send it back to Colorado for repair. The big drop in CTL/ATL and huge rise in TSB isn’t a massive taper. It was just a month or so riding without power while the folks at SRM in Colorado fixed the water damage to the unit. It picks up again September 23rd. However, I do like long tapers before Ironaman races.

I’ve started to monitor my running and swimming with the same methods and it gives me a good idea where I am graphically. The graphs usually match my subjective feelings. I suppose I could continue to use the “feel” approach. Some would think it is a little silly to do all this data gathering and analyzing, my wife for one, but it works for me. I’m a scientist and I enjoy doing training experiments on myself. I have kept detailed training logs for years and I often go back and see what worked and what didn’t. I have also found that, by coaching others, what works for me doesn’t work for everyone. These graphs just give me information that is more objective so that maybe I can reproduce positive results more frequently. If things go wrong, I can look at the data and then develop theories why. I think combining them with the, subjective, “feel” method is the way to do it.

Ironically, Marky V is now is coached by Paulo Sousa, who is the author of The Triathlon Book Blog ,who trashes the TSS method and coaches by “feel” without all the bells and whistles. It looks like Mark believes the same thing.

1 comment:

MarkyV said...

Ironically, Marky V is now is coached by Paulo Sousa, who is the author of The Triathlon Book Blog ,who trashes the TSS method and coaches by “feel” without all the bells and whistles. It looks like Mark believes the same thing


no... i still believe in performance modeling... it's just that with 99.99999% of folks out there I believe the first step in making them fit is not a fine tuning of their program but a fine tuning of their mind. To get them to develop an attitude of getting the work done. Do the work, get fitter. When you reach a certain level at that point you can start playing around with modeling software... but until then just doing is the best advice... K.I.S.S. :)