Riding in the present, not the average

The last couple of sessions seem strangely to have fallen into place.

A week or so ago, days before the next TT in my calendar, the Bath Road Club Hilly 31, I decided to have an attack of typical-tester-self doubt. I’d done ok in the last few events, but my power wasn’t really where I wanted it to be.

The question started to brew in my mind – am I one of those “non-responders” – you know, the people who will never get faster, no matter how much they train?

By the time I’d packed up my little race bag, stopped at 3 petrol stations in an attempt to buy my usual pre-race ProPlus (I’d run out.. how did that happen?), I’d assumed I was going to be rubbish and everyone was going to wipe the floor with me.

The plan was to attempt to ride the TT at 200 watts, last year’s FTP (what you can hold for 60 minutes) – considering the event was 6 miles more than a standard 25, I sort of expected the numbers to go down in the final few miles, leaving me at about 190 watts.

I usually ride with just average power, and try not to let it drop – the Joule doesn’t give me a 3 second average. On coach’s instructions, I took my Garmin which does provide a 3 second average, as well – and used that to stop myself coasting too much between the hills.

The course transpired to cover a fairly hilly 31 miles (1,500 ft climbing by my Joule, 1,900 by everyone else’s Garmin). It also had some fairly questionable road surfaces, in fact, it looked like this:

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And I looked like this:

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It took 1hr31minutes, but strangely, by the end, my average was still 206 normalised.

You’d expect to be capable of fewer watts over 90 minutes, than 60. In fact, some riders were about 20 watts off FTP. (Of course, this will all vary depending upon their own endurance and strengths and the drop off will always be a percentage.)

This prompted me to wonder if perhaps I’ve got a little bit addicted to riding at that round number, 200. Not only that, but I also realised without a 3 second average, I could never see where I was dropping watts, and thus speed – clearly I’ve been missing out in not using this magical 3 second average.

Today, I set off to do my 2 x 8minute, 2 x 4 minute session. The 8s are meant to be at FTP, not hideously uncomfortable, but not at a pace where I could talk in sentences.

I’d usually hold around a set wattage for the 8s, then just struggle through the 4s. Today, I decided to bin the set number, and just keep the 3 second average as high as possible. Magically, I gained watts again – like, 20 watts – on the 8s and the 4s.

All these numbers might seem very boring, unless you’re a bit of a data geek – but the slightly more inspiring truth emerging is that perhaps I was limiting myself by staring at the average power. I was looking at the whole picture – wanting to finish with an acceptable average, and not realising that perhaps if I concentrated on the present, eg the feel of my legs, the feel of the road, and what exactly I was doing over that precise 3 seconds, perhaps I could go faster.

Of course, all this pondering remains to be proved with an actual FTP test, but hopefully I’m not getting ahead of myself, since it’s unlikely a person can’t produce a few extra watts when the duration is reduced by half an hour.

I did ok over the weekend, coming 5th in the women’s competition, which was competitive due to it being a SEWTTS event:

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I couldn’t help but notice a distinct difference in my own position, and that of the ladies that were ahead of me (I hope they don’t mind me using their pics, it’s flattery I promise!) – my head is much higher, and my arms much further apart:

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Of course, they will also be either/or lighter, and more powerful – but every little helps, and I reckon I could gain a little speed if I dropped my front end down…

Thankfully, my Roo-be is getting a makeover this week. She’s going to be dressed with a lovely new base bar, my birthday present from Mr Brennan. The new base bar should be 100 x more aero and more adjustable than my current set up. I won’t promise it will make me a lot faster, but it might give me a few seconds – and it’s ganna look ace..

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So – over the next few weeks I shall be trying to ride in the present, not the average. And attempting to become a bit more aero.

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