Since early May (nearly 4 months ago) when I bought a new work-stand to help with cleaning and maintaining my bikes, I’ve been extremely motivated about cross-country mountain biking again. This is the third major ‘wave’ of cross-country mountain biking and cycling in general in my life, after having my first prolonged period away from cycling when in year 12 of high school and going to uni, and the second period away from cycling as wedding stress came about.
My first competition was the Fox Creek 6hr Enduro, part of the 4 Enduro Series races run by the Adelaide Mountain Bike Club. I did well given the limited training that I’d done to date. I’ve since also done the Eagle Park 6hr Enduro – but only lasted a couple of hours due to not wearing enough layers. I decided that for the rest of this year I won’t worry about entering all the Winter Series Olympic format races to earn Championship Points for the year, although I will enter them when available to for training. I’m training as an ‘A’ priority for the 2012 Enduro Series, ‘B’ priority for the 2012 Winter XCO (Cross-Country Olympic format) Series, and ‘C’ priority for the Summer Series short course series.
To help with training, I’ve started using trainingpeaks.com. Using the Performance Management Chart (PMC), it helps me to keep a check that I’m not over-training or under-training. The PMC works on a few key principles. Using the best data that is available, either heart rate data, speed data calibrated to your previous ‘best’, or power meter data, an Intensity Factor is calculated for each exercise. Depending on the intensity factor and duration, an overall Training Stress Score (TSS) is calculated for each exercise, which is analogous to your level of exertion.
The blue line below is my 42 day moving average of TSS. The idea is that if you can sustain a TSS score for 42 days then due to being a fairly lengthy amount of time, it’s a pretty good indication that you’re fit enough to keep going at that level. However, over a 7 day period you may do more than you can sustain. The pink line is a 7 day moving average of TSS. If the pink line exceeds the blue for too long, then you are likely to wear yourself out as you have done relatively more exercise in the last 7 days compared to the average of the last 42 days. The yellow line is called the ‘Training Stress Balance’, which is pink subtracted from blue. (Note the scales are different on the plot so this subtraction of blue from pink is not graphically obvious.) When the yellow line dips down, then it is a sign that I have either over-trained or it is time to schedule a rest day or two. You can notice the cyclical nature of the pink line – I have a couple weeks where I’ve been training really hard, and then the next couple weeks I’ve eased off. This has not at all been intentional – I’ve been training equally hard every week, although it’s just that some weeks I’ve become tired so my training isn’t as fruitful. It is exciting though to see that each cycle is significantly higher than the previous, indicating that I’m slowly but surely improving in fitness throughout each cycle.
My fitness increase is verified by the fact that my distance has steadily ramped up.
Also, my body mass and percentage fat have steadily decreased since getting back into cycling. The leaner I am (less body fat) the easier and quicker I can climb hills. The body mass decline from up to 85 kg down to below 79 kg is offset by muscle mass increase to some extent too, so I’ve probably lost more than 6 kg of body fat.
It is most interesting to see the amount of time spent in various heart rate zones over the last 180 days too.
There are of course many factors that can bias the ‘improvement’ results, such as increased motivation leading to more cycling, which doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m getting fitter, just that I’m doing more. Providing that regular training occurs, this error will eliminate itself over time. Another factor indicating improvement is the fact that I now have powerful lights, which removes the weeknight restriction from riding outdoors. There is only so much indoor training that can be done before boredom kicks in. Also, coming out of Winter and heading into Spring, no doubt I will do more training because it will be more enjoyable and more convenient. There will also be less bike maintenance to do, resulting in more time available to train. Ultimately though, the more you ride the fitter you’ll be, so the Performance Management Chart is accurate enough to keep me on track.
To date, I’ve been sharing a lot of my ride data on Facebook using Training Peaks, because it’s been my central repository of ride data.
Just recently though I’ve also started using Strava.com so that I can share rides with friends. Training Peaks can share rides too, although it’s quite an ugly interface. In fact everything about Training Peaks is quite ugly, although it’s the best software for managing of training. Strava seems to be the best site for sharing rides (and other activities) as it automatically determines how long you’ve taken to do various sections, or climbs (pre-defined by users) and can display a leader-board for each climb. I am the King of the Mountain for some various off-road climbs where I’m either the only one to have logged GPS data when riding it, or there are only a few people that have logged GPS data. I seem to be coming mid-way or a third of the way down on some of the more popular climbs such as Norton Summit.
So now, I’m going to be uploading my ride and running data to both Training Peaks to allow me to monitor my training, and to strava.com to share and compete with friends. I’ve manually uploaded a lot of old rides, and if I ever get back into running I might go back and manually upload a lot of runs. There is no easy bulk-upload from my offline Garmin Training Center software or from the online Garmin Connect software, or from my Training Peaks account, but once Strava implement such methods for automatically transferring old data across I’ll be doing that in an instant.
I’ve also got myself a good set of V4 Ay-Up lights so that I can ride after dark. I’ve done a few road rides through the hills where there’s no street lights and have felt that the road is quite safely lit up, even when doing speeds of 40 to 50 km/h around dark windy roads. I’ve recently just started riding cross-country around Mt Osmond at night now too with Tim, and below is the latest night ride.
In this ride, Tim happened to have noticed a koala with a joey on her back, at head height, only a couple metres from us. She was climbing down the tree and didn’t seem to mind climbing down whilst we were there.
The view from Mt Osmond at night is magnificent. Tim and I turned our lights off for a minute to appreciate it.