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Pinellas Trail

this page last updated: 01/05/2013 11:30:00 AM


Optimal performance can only be achieved through optimal form. -SlingShot

See also: Watts vs. Speed and Race Categories

This was a very exciting day on the Pinellas Trail. After yesterday's successful 310 watt Clearwater Bridge climb with a personal best 589 watts recorded on the return loop, I wanted to see if Mary could now handle 400 watts for any duration. She did that today, and then some.

So far this season Mary has surpassed all her previous performance marks, and she has done so by merely tweaking her position, form, and mechanics alone. The intensity of the work has remained rather low compared to other early season programs, and we haven't even begun true training, yet she has achieved major performance gains through learning what will be expected in the various areas such as sprints, intervals, pace, cadence, and tempo work. She has been especially successful in improving her form. Yesterday's 589 watts is an example of considered attention to detail resulting in a personal best.

In all our rides leading up to her new maximum, we have been using uphill bridges on all our courses for low intensity careful standing to improve balance and to enhance smooth equal effort in both legs, particularly in her feet. Mary has bunions, plus an odd weakness in her left ankle that manifests itself toward the end of many efforts. These are currently her main limiting factors.

To help her overcome the problems with her feet, I ride behind her on the bridges and remind her to maintain form. These exercises have helped alleviate both her bunion and ankle problems. In fact, her 589 watt effort looked like it was being performed by a totally different rider.

The success yesterday led to today's attempt of several un-timed submaximal hard efforts each of which would end the moment she popped over 400 watts. She felt so good on the first one, I asked her to slightly increase the time she stayed over the top before breaking pace in order to allow the wattage to settle in and feel comfortable.

 I told her to remember this: "Optimal performance can only be achieved through optimal form, and this kind of work forces a rider into a very correct form."

Mary still has a tendency to overreach on her hard efforts and break form. Submaximal efforts such as today's are near the point where correct form is an absolute necessity. Without correct form maximal results will never be achieved, and these submaximal efforts lead the way to correct form.

Once the correct form and intensity is "tasted" through quick controlled bursts, the muscles recall the correct form on returning to lower levels of effort. A rider can thus periodically come up to near maximal effort, catch the mechanics in their muscle memory, and then drop back to lower levels in order to consciously recall the position, form, and movement—in a more relaxed state that allows fine tuning performance. Then that new level of fluidity can be brought back up toward maximal effort. At that point the maximal effort will surpass previous efforts. [This is something every accomplished musician on the planet knows already.]

Today we saw that Mary does have a 400 watt spin in her, and she only cracked on the last one.

For that last one, I took her watt meter display and read off the numbers as she rode, so she could focus full attention on her performance. The most exciting thing happened. At about 380 watts she had a little afterburner effect that popped her up to 416, and I started yelling, "HOLD THAT PRESSURE... HOLD THAT PRESSURE."

She held 416 for several seconds and then 411 for a few more. The moment the readout dropped to 406, I called her off the effort. She slowed immediately afterward, and we started reviewing. When the conversation came around to the point I had called her off, Mary said, "Called me off? I never heard you."

Get it? For the last several weeks she has not had a clue when she was "done," but would push past anything even remotely resembling helpful. If she did that today, she would have finished by dropping past 406 to 390, held that for a moment dropped to 350, 320, 280, etc while still struggling in the belief that she was going to bring it up again.

Today she showed she knows exactly what her meter is telling her, without even seeing it. I was watching the meter and called her off, and she slowed soon enough afterward for it to appear to me that she heard me and slowed, but she hadn't heard a word.

She knew it directly through her legs. Time to toss the meter away? Probably not.

During the cool down she did her standard, "I'm going to stand as long as I can," routine.

I still had her watt meter display, so I watched as she began with 167-172 watts for about 30 seconds, then she shifted up a gear and raised it to 180-190 for awhile. Then without shifting she turned the heat up a little more to 200-210. Finally she cracked and sat.

When I asked her afterwards what she was trying to do, she repeated the numbers to me almost exactly without having seen them. I think she's starting to get it.

She also reported that when she was doing the hard intervals with her meter, she had been aware of the little 380 watt afterburner effect and that she had been monitoring the situation and wondering about it. I told her why it was happening, and we went home.

There's a north wind coming in tomorrow, so we'll do a long easy 160 watt loop on the Suncoast Trail. Maybe this time the wind direction will hold, and we can finally finish with a tail wind. Not that it matters. Watts is watts.

02/11/08: Today Mary did a web search for Computrainer images to place Turtle Boy in the screen display, and she found these watts vs. speed related pages:

Original Google Search

The Time Trial Page with the relevant Graph

Interval Layering Article

Cycle Coaching Magazine Ad

I archived the articles locally, and added the graph (Figure 3 on the Time Trial page) to the Watts vs. Speed page. We are getting closer to the more exact figures I want, and to the formula that will allow me to plug in any desired speed and get the watts more exactly than can be extracted from the charts and tables found to date.

Also comparison of the new chart to the older one shows why I knew there had to be better, and why the old one bothered me.

After all this web nonsense we went out for an easy 40 mile spin on the Pinellas Trail. Standard standing bridge work for balance, some cadence exercises. Began showing Mary how to incorporate high speed cadence bursts into form correction at high effort.

02/13/08: Sprints and cadence combined with great results. Mary posted a seated 510 watt personal best after combining what she learned (also today) in the buildup to a personal best 152 cadence. I showed her how to tack a spinout attempt on the final few moments of a sprint burst. She had been maxing at 475, the new cadence burst smacked 35 watts onto the end... great!!!

Watching her finally zone in on a high speed spin and settle into hummingbird flight was a thing of beauty.

We got caught in the rain on the way home (worse than yesterday), so Mary pushed hard for a long pull of 3 to 5 minutes. We hadn't swapped the meter readout back to her handlebars after the sprint work, so I got to see her fluctuations from 160 to 290 watts, but mostly she was 240+. After that major effort she hit an easy 545 watts standing on a bridge with a bad start, and too small a gear.

More work needed on concentration for smooth power in order to make it a reflex habit.

Incredible success with spin rate increases, seated max wattage output, and smooth standing on bridges. Cadence bursts now added to the standard warmup as a check for injuries, workout soreness, tightness, etc.

Mary reported recent positive feedback and congratulations for getting the watt meter from our friend (champion cyclist), Warren Lauren. Warren said she is certain Mary will be able to post a 23+ Hump. I said, "Of course she's sure you can do it. She knows the process we are following is flawless while a 23+ Hump is far below the limits of human potential. She could do it herself in her sleep."

02/15/08: [If you are reading this, and you are not Mary, be aware that the description of the following exercises are absolutely not for you. They are merely precision correction exercises developed ad hoc solely to help Mary get over some persistent misconceptions. The descriptions are meant for reminders for SlingShot only. They will unlikely contain enough detail for them to make sense to anybody who was not there, so you might hurt yourself if you try them. They are certainly not for beginner riders.]

Warmup now incorporating cadence spins as a check against tightness. Everything looked good today, but Mary still did not seem to understand that these spins are not about power but about speed and fluid form, so I had her click down to a low gear coming off bridge downhills, where she would naturally be spun out. It finally clicked.

She brought her spin speed record up to 158, with numerous over 150. Remember that last week 110 was a stretch. During today's record spins she also looked a lot more relaxed and settled into the spin. I gave her the task of  looking up spin rates in Smart Cycling, and a moment ago I found her pen used as a bookmark on page 62 which mentions that sprints may be well over 150 rpm, with track sprinters capable of 250. Just as I remembered it, but it has been at least 10 years since I looked at it, so I wanted her to check.

At the time I saw those spin rate specs (way back when), I got up to 166 myself, then bailed out of actual workouts, because I immediately started putting on weight without my usual 55 miles per day. In any case, her seeing that number will probably mean trouble, like how I caught her on the couch holding her breath trying to get her heart rate under 37, but I guess I asked for it.

As for the couch incident, I asked her how she expected me to explain to the investigators that she had died trying to get her HR down to zero, but how proud I was of her for succeeding, plus how she died doing what she loved... overdoing everything.

I did get excited about the post-em notes peppered throughout the Smart Cycling text, until I realized she had not put them there. They were just my own notes left over from 1997 when the book was new, and so was I.

After the spin test went smoothly we did 400 watt sprints with the goal of 30 seconds. She could only hold 15-18 seconds, so that's a good place to continue. I was letting her get up to wattage when she would shout "on" for me to start the timer. That caused some confusion, and exact timing was missed slightly. Therefore, we will return to me cuing "Ready, Set, Go" and hitting the watch from the start. I also still have to keep reminding her not to jump the gun, and not to waste all her energy "preparing" for the sprint. We'll keep the wattage around 400 until she can do repeats of 30 seconds.

We got turned around on the trail by the police before our usual turn around due to a bomb threat which was lightly mentioned on the local news, and never made the national news. Makes you wonder how many of these things happen every day and nobody ever knows. Sort of like shark attacks. Are we to believe that this kind of stuff always happens in threes, or just that three articles is the upper limit of people's ability to focus? It also makes you wonder why we've had nothing but Presidential Campaigning for the last two years... while nothing at all is actually getting done by those motherfuckers. Jackasses... and by that I mean people who waste their time voting.

On the return home, I asked Mary to try, "...180 watts to the bridge." She of course did 260 and wondered why it ended up being so hard. I mentioned that I was just trying a quick check of her next goal wattage for the Fort De Soto 16 mile test loop. She said, "I just got excited because it was so easy, then..." And I asked, "So your belief is that when I ask you to do something particular, that I am not riding behind you, closely checking your form, making decisions about what problems arise and when, and monitoring just exactly the moment your form breaks? All based on: this happens at exactly this wattage for this exact amount of time... you assume that is not what is going on?"

She understood and did an actual 3 minute 180 pace interval into the wind just before we turned into Walsingham Park at the end of the ride. Of course she did that for her own edification, and I cannot report, because I did not know it was happening, because Simon had not said, "Do 180 watts for 3 minutes."

She had also tried a couple standing maximum efforts on the bridges coming home, but success was minimal. High 400's, but no more. It appears to have been a hormone problem... and that sounds like a joke, but it's not. However, there was about 20 yards on the final bridge where Mary finally got in the right climbing position, finally had weight in her feet, and finally looked just like the strong climbers on Ridgebury... stupid though their standing is. Things are happening.

Next time for this sort of workout: standard warmup with no leg pressure speed spins late in the warmup; 6 x 400 watt sprints with a 30 second goal (.BF is the starter pistol), begin adding wattage goals to all standing bridge exercises, one 3 minute interval at the next goal wattage for the Fort De Soto 16 mile test loop.

For a separate workout we'll do repeats of 5 minute hard pace intervals at 260 watts. After all, she did say 260 was pretty easy. We'll see.

Oh, yeah. Yesterday's (and the day before's) rain put an end to Mary's speed sensor. I replaced the battery after we got home and things are fine. If her HR wasn't reporting, we would have come home and fixed it before the ride. However, her speed sensor is not important at this point. We know what fast is, and it ain't miles per hour.

[Let me remind you kids again. Don't try this yourself at home. It will kill you. We are what you call animals.]












this page last updated: 01/05/2013 11:30:00 AM

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