You’ll be pleased to hear that so far my training is still on course. I’ve just finished week two of a three week block of training, so expect a summary of this block next time around.
I have two items of news this week, both related to cycling! The first is that I’ve tweaked my position a bit by buying a slightly more angled and also slightly longer stem. (£5 for an orbea stem in a bargain bucket in my local bike shop!) I’ve been trying to get lower on my time trial bike for a while ever since getting an aero test done in the summer of 2011, with the use of a velodrome, power meter, digital camera and a few of Alan Couzens’ excel fudge factor equations. I tried four positions of stem height lowering the stem 1cm each time. The fastest for me at the time was position #3 which had 1cm of spacers under the stem. At the time, the lowest position just wasn’t feasible in terms of flexibility. We also made a tentative guess at what I’d need to do to get to PRO levels of position. 1cm lower than position #4.
After lowering the stem to position #4 for the summer 2012 season, and seeing a stem which might to the job for a fiver, I thought now is the time to try this new position. As it turns out it feels very comfy. The extra length rather than being a hindrance has helped. It makes me want to sit more forward, on the nose of the saddle, in what some people call a ‘junk off the front’ position. During a few big gear intervals where I was grinding away in the aero position in the garage, I felt my saddle could be a little higher as I was now more forward on the bike. I moved the saddle up 5mm and it still felt great. Looking at my shadow on a long bike ride my back looks pretty flat but I’ll have to get some pictures confirming this.
Now I have a position I feel is as aggressive as I want to go for next year, and may be as aggressive as I need to be, that is something else ticked off the elite athlete tick list. However let it be said. this position is not the most powerful. From sitting right up with my hands on the elbow pads, to being in full aero, at the same heart rate I’m losing about 15 watts. For me the aero benefit more than makes up for the loss in watts, however I’ve seen people who race Ironman at around 180 watts, lose 30 (!) Watts between riding fully upright to fully aero, a trade which may not prove faster.
The better the cyclist, the more the emphasis shifts from maximal power to maximal aerodynamics. For my races next year, I’ll be doing another aero test to see what is fastest for me to race on. However as the long term goal for me is to be riding under 4.30 for an IM bike split, I’ll be spending a lot of time getting used to riding in this quad dominant position.
So in addition to me achieving roughly a pro level position on my bike, have achieved elite level strength. I measure this through weights and also directly on the bike. On the bike I use max torque as a measure of absolute specific strength, in one attempt I hit 1100lb inches, which is typical for elite Ironmen. I have also hit Alan’s goal of squatting 1.5x body weight (110kilo’s) for twelve reps.
That one weight’s test doesn’t say the whole story. In addition to normal back squats, I do a lot of front squatting with my heels raised. This is a very specific strength exercise for cycling, the front squat puts more emphasis on the quads and the raised heels even more so while also replicating the position I pedal in. Ass to grass front squats with just over my bodyweight on the bar are one of my go to exercises in the gym. What’s more I feel I’m limited more by my core and the ability to keep so much weight on my shoulders than I am my legs. For the rest of this block I will be addressing weak points in core, mainly my upper back. I’m excited to see how much I’ll be squatting when I do another 12 rep max test in my recovery week.
With those things ticked off rather early in my preparations for next season I’ll be able to concentrate on my main limiting factor, watts at Ironman heart rate. Last year I swam around an hour, and ran under three and a half hours but my bike was way down taking more than five and a half hours to finish. With this strength in place I should have no problems increasing my power, it’s now just a matter of getting fit and seeing how quick I can go.
So all in all, so far so good. Everything is coming into place. After this week I’ll start planning my next block, which will no doubt include a lot of steady state cycling, and I should start seeing my power at Ironman pace increase pretty quickly. I’ll keep you guys posted, happy training.