Alex Thompson Blog: Long Winter Sessions

  • By Alex Thompson
  • Published January 22, 2013

Everyone felt the cold last week. However it was not too cold to ride. Last week I managed to log just under fourteen hours of cycling, not including all the 6 mile round trips to the swimming pool. Why? As my main weakness is holding high watts for long durations I need to get out there.

This ability is an obviously huge factor is success over Ironman distance, so why haven’t I addressed it already, and if I know so much about training, why is it such a major weakness. This ability is acquired by having a lot of slow twitch fibres contracting at the same time. As I mentioned before I had to put on a lot of mass in order to compete with the big boys, but when muscle fibre is created it is generally done so by creating IIa fibres, these fibres use oxygen and glycogen (carbs/sugar) for fuel, type I (slow twitch) uses oxygen and fat. To convert these fibres to using more fat and less carbs we need to train them. This is done through steady state training. By exercising at a level which uses a little fast twitch fibre over a long period of time these fast twitch fibres are encouraged to change based on their demands, if however sprint work is conducted they would become much more fast twitch. So this is really a case of training stimulus dictates form. It takes a long time to convert these fibres totally, so I need to take every opportunity I have to do so. This means going out all kinds of weather.

While I could obtain a decent training stress score by sitting on the turbo I need the stress to be specific to my needs. If I did hard threshold intervals I’d be giving the IIa fibres what they already want. So what did these long sessions consist of?

Tuesday I rode for 4’45” sitting on Steven Lords wheel and keeping my heart rate roughly in the middle of my steady zone, moving out to the side when my heart rate dropped, and getting closer to his wheel when my hear rate was high. I averaged 195 watts and 143 BPM This gave a training stress of 252.

As snow was forecast for the end of the week we decided to go out the next day as well, this time with Jo as well. We ended up hammering round a longer loop taking turns on the front. This time the ride was 4’40” and I had a normalised power of 213 an average heart rate of 152bpm and a best 1 hour power of 240 watts. TSS was through the roof at 296!

The third big ride of the week was on Sunday. It was below zero so the prospect of ice was always near and as a result I took coasted gingerly down the hills. Giving a lower average heart rate than what I would have guessed (139bpm). What is more I had so many layers on I could hardly walk properly let alone ride strong. My normalised power was only 168! Whether I use the watts in overcoming the resistance of several layers of thick lycra (of which some were way too tight) or pushing down on the pedals they were there and I was happy with what I did. While this isn’t the best performance I had, I’m not going to get any better by not doing the work so it is all specific TSS in the bank.

So what about swimming and running? Swimming is going well and I’m now moving from general swim training, to much more focussed pace work. my steady pace is around 1”40s maybe a little under (60Strokes per minute). And my Critical swim speed is around 1”35s (62SPM). Over the next few months I’ll be looking to get my critical swim speed down to 1”25s (~64SPM) and then hold this speed for longer durations until I can hold this for my steady swim sets. It’s a lot of work but I’m moving in the right direction and doing what I need to do.

Running is fine I ran 1’50” and averaged 5”05s per km. Which relative to my biking is still strong so. Next block I’ll be doing the bare minimum with that while plugging away at my biking. Hope this serves as motivation to get out in the cold and do what needs to be done. Stay cool.

You can get more information about Alex on his Facebook page or on Twitter: XIronmanAlexX

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