Finding your power niche - how long does it take?

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by DancenMacabre, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. DancenMacabre

    DancenMacabre New Member

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    A few months into this power training craziness and I am enjoying it a whole bunch. Steady improvement is always a boost for confidence :)

    I want to ask you guys a question though about the whole power profile idea. First though, dont laugh but I am kinda dabbling with the idea of trying some kind of bike race. Ok, you can laugh but maybe so I can't hear alright? :)

    Back to the subject, so the whole idea of the power profile as I read it, is to give you an idea of your specific strengths and weaknesses. I read about people having a sprinter profile or a pursuiter profile or time trialist, etc.

    I guess if I am going to try a bike race of some kind, I ought to do something where I am working with my genes and not against them (the whole, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade notion). Or maybe this is too simple...

    I have never trained for sprinting. In fact I have only probably sprinted 3-4x on a bike and that was while on a dip in the road - between two hills - where I just went all out at the bottom. By the way, I went to a velodrome for a day and I was not crazy about it - with apologies to my virtual track riding readers -something about going in circles around a short course just didn't appeal, and fixed gears kind of freak me out....

    Does having a profile that is very uneven mean it will probably always be uenven? Meaning you'll be better at this one type of time frame (5 seconds or 1 minute, etc) than others? W

    What I want to know is how long does it take before you see what sort of rider you are likely to be? Hmm, maybe this means, how long does it take before you can tell where your natural talents are at? Would I be wasting my time thinking of doing time trials or a road race with hills where 5 second power is prolly useless? If you were a super slow twitch person with great potential for time trialing or climbing, would your power profile reflect that after a few months of training?

    After 3 months of doing more or less 100% sweet spot and threshold power training (i dont bother with level 6 stuff or anything below level 3) this is where I am at:


    [​IMG]

    PS. I did not forget the 1 minute power number. Sadly I do not even register as untrained!!! :p
     
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  2. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it typically takes a while to figure out what kind of rider you are. At the beginning I'd take your power profile as a suggestion of what to work on (in your case long power) but dang that's one heck of a good jump for someone who's only played a bit with sprinting!

    I wouldn't get too hung up on the one minute number, especially if you haven't set aside time when you're fresh and motivated and really tried hard to set a one minute record. Of all the durations folks tend not to register on the one minute column unless they go all out focusing on that duration and the effort usually makes me feel like hurling and always forces me to all but stop riding till I get my legs and lungs back.

    The great news is you have a very strong sprint for someone who hasn't focused on sprinting. Especially since sprinting is a learned technique for most folks as it takes a certain snap, jump and steadiness of the upper body to really explode into the pedals. The bad news is that you've got to get yourself into a position in the closing kilometers of a race to use that sprint. IOW, if you don't have the staying power, high end to cover attacks and stay near the front, recovery from repeated hard efforts and riding skills to be near the front at the finish your sprint won't be worth much.

    Definitely try some racing. You'll start in the lower category fields and learn a ton and who knows you might do better than you think. Don't let the tables discourage you. Definitely do some group riding and dial in your bike handling in a group, learn to corner smoothly and stay off the brakes, learn to draft in varying wind conditions, learn to cover gaps and rest on the bike and then put it all together in some races.

    Think about finding a local club that has a woman's team and look for race clinics where you can learn some skills before your first event. Everybody's got to start somewhere and you've identified at least one strength that could pay off big time if you can put yourself in a position to use it.

    Good luck and keep us posted,
    -Dave
     
  3. DJA

    DJA New Member

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    Ignore the profile to much thinking just yet:confused:. Just find a local club and start racing in a low grade. Do all kinds of local road races and group rides to gain experience as offen as you can( be careful about keeping increases in your weekly training hours to 5% or less as to much to soon can have adverse affect on your body):eek:. You will be put up if the club thinks you need to be. As you progress you will find your strengths and your weakness. Then spend more time training on the weakness to even you up as a rider but still do a little of your strengths. Set achieveable goals along the way aim for them and train with a purpose. ie tuesday next week I'm doing hills, know what you are doing before your get on the bike.

    If you are competitive and like to get the most out of yourself this is a excellent sport to test yourself in. But dont forget to have fun along the way.
    If after a year if you still have a buzz from racing think about getting a coach or self studing from training books like "the cyclists training bible" by Joe Friel. (is as good idea even if you get a coach);)
     
  4. DancenMacabre

    DancenMacabre New Member

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    Thanks for the recommendations and comments guys :)

    I have been wanting to find a local club/group to ride with but it has been kinda hard. Mostly because I have been traveling to/from different locations temporarily.

    From what I read, I guess clubs and road stuff tends to wind down at this time of year. So if I am lucky I can find some fall/winter rides to latch onto.

    And Dave, I have no idea of proper sprint technique. I will be reading some threads here to learn more. I agree with what you said: a good sprint is only gonna help if you are with the pack/bunch at the end when it counts. Not much use having a great sprint when you are getting shelled and out the back right away and then sprinting for 34th place at the end :) (even though I'll probably finish 34th anyway!)
     
  5. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    How long does it take to find your niche? Years.

    As far as the power profile goes - you have what you have... I wouldn't go training specifically from what the graph says. It's useful info to have but I'd stick more to how you compare against other in your class out on the road after an hour or two of racing.

    You have a higher 5second w/kg than I do but I got a FT that's up in the 2nd Cat range... :p I'm below untrained as far as 5 second goes but I aint gonna be losing too much sleep over it.

    As for the racing - have at it. It's fun. Try everything and anything. If you've only been doing this riding malarky for a few months then it's way too early to say what you'll be best at. Just remember when you do start that other more experienced riders will probably go around corners faster than you ever had and riding in a bunch at speed may be a little unnerving. Good practise makes almost perfect. Alot of the girls in the club that I used to race in asked the fast lads to help them with this during training. If you are going to race, make sure that you're comfortable riding on the drops.

    Keep doing the 'sweet spot' training by the bucket load. Apart from pure track sprinting every cycling event has a huge aerobic component - even the Kilo.
     
  6. DancenMacabre

    DancenMacabre New Member

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    By my calculations, if I could generate more power and be with the pack near the end of a race (most likely on a scooter :) ), then be dropped off 200 meters from the finish line, then I would have no trouble beating you? :)

    The group riding suggestion is one of those I hear pretty often. Truth is, I am more than a little intimidated of it. When I can get on the road on weekends, I see these super serious looking cyclists. They do not exactly seem like the type to suffer fools or newbies - (hopefully I am more newbie than fool but who knows...).

    Then the fact they fly by me up the hills at speeds I can only reach on the flats is kind of demoralizing.

    I will have to keep training and working like you and DaveRyan both mention.

    One thing about these charts. SOrry, I mean these power profiles. From the power book that Dr. Andrew Coggan & Hunter Allen wrote, I believe these profiles show top level performances of the best and also untrained younger people, college age I think. THat's fine I understand the idea.

    But I also notice that there is an interesting ratio between the men's chart and the ladies chart. From my calculations, and I am no math whiz ok, that the ratio of mens to womens power for these different time periods (5s, 1m, 5m, 60m) vary. It looks like women have a lower ratio of 5 second & 1 minute power as compared to men, 81-83%. For 5 min and FT though, it looks like the ratios are from 81-89%.

    Not sure how to word it but my not so unscientific conclusion is that guys seem to have a bigger advantage in fast twitch performance. THat makes me even more surprised to have better 5 second numbers than any of the male cyclists here.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. graywulf

    graywulf New Member

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    While most of us can look intimidating (and some of the older riders are a bit elitist) I've noticed that the biking crowd around here tends to be really friendly.
     
  8. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    Remember, we're talking power to weight here. Unless you weigh as much as the Empire State Building (like I do) chances are that I put out more power than you but have a lower power to weight ratio... Unless that sprint is uphill, a power to CdA (drag coefficient) will be a more useful in determining who'll win the sprint.

    In plain Unglish:
    power to weight - useful for uphills.
    power to 'aero' - on the flats.

    It happens to all of us when we start so don't dwell too much on it. You can be confident of the fact that you will get dropped on rides and shelled out of the back during races when you start. Sure, it sucks... but that's just the way it is.

    Those super serious looking cyclists with their $6,000+ team issue bikes are often the ones that have their heads stuck up their own as$holes so far that they're ready to commit suicide when a lump o' lard like me comes roling on by up a big hill. More often than not the really good riders often love to spend time talking to people who ask for advice.

    Group riding within a well organized group is good for learning about paceline riding and bike handling skills. Some of the groups I've seen out in my neck of the woods have been somewhere between 'dire' and 'fcuking aweful' when it comes to the afore mentioned skills. If you really want to get better and more confident in a road race situation you have two choices - force yourself to ride up front in road races for as long as you can keep up there or find a good club that gets results and caters towards what you want to do.

    When you start becoming a well rounded rider who can both put out a fair amount of power and decent bike handling skills then things will seem a whole bunch easier.

    Sweet Spot Training is often best done alone. IMHO, during the winter months high end SST is best done on a trainer - mind numbingly boring but brutally effective. Once you start to noticably raise your FTP it effects all aspects of cycling performance from those shortish 5 minute efforts to long 100+ mile rides. I used that approach for my training this year in prep for some long distance mountain rides and I felt fresher at 180 miles and 7 previous passes climbing up the same mountain as I did the previous year after just ~30 miles and one prior climb. The number of rides over 3 hours done in training this year could be counted on one hand but that good ol' increase in FTP served me well. Sustainable aerobic power is your friend.
     
  9. Fightin Boba

    Fightin Boba New Member

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    One of the most misunderstood and misused data collection pieces that I am aware of.
    1) To truely understand your "profile", each duration should be tested independently and fresh. Looking at the numbers from a collection of rides that may not include specific duration testing is likely not going to be accurate in reflecting your true profile.
    2) Using the table to compare yourself to yourself over time is far more useful than using the table to figure out what Cat you should be.

    I would recommend not using the table to determine whether or not you should try racing or what racing to try. I would recommend choosing to do something because you want to explore and have fun.
     
  10. DancenMacabre

    DancenMacabre New Member

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    Steve, thanks for chiming in on my post.

    I want to say that I have gathered these numbers, not by picking and choosing from random durations on assorted rides, but by tests. The 5 second value I have tested. The FT value is what I regularly do on 2x20's. The 1 minute value didn't register and so like Dave suggested, I went out and did a true 1 minute test very recently and ended up with a 6 w/kg. Which seems decent - or so i hope. I have never done level 6 training. Oh yeah, the 1 minute test was super hard. Talk about oxygen debt and wanting to fall over...

    My intention in this post was to see if you can kind of gauge your genetic tendencies or strengths by basis of the table. Since for me, the pinnacle of athletic success for msot of my life was pretty much defined by not getting picked last at school during PE, I was hoping to try racing events where I might actually have a shot at doing good.

    I know you cannot look at the table, reference a category and say oh I do ispower trainer intervals at 3 w/kg (or whatever) or I can sprint at 14w/kg so I can jump in and do great in cat 3 crits. Even though I have not done races, I know stuff like bike handling, tactics, being able to handle different speeds and surges, etc etc, all play a big role in how you do in races.

    Like I said, I was trying to get an idea of whether your power profile after a few months can suggest where your genetic strengths are and maybe what events you might do best in.

    Maybe for people who have been good at sports or have good genetics, then you pick whatever is most fun in terms of events. Some people here sure seem like they are talented enough to do good at many athletic pursuits!

    For someone like me who has been, sorry but no other way to say it, pathetic at sports, it would be great to be good at something and I am pretty open to different cycling races! :) :)
     
  11. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    A little note about the 1 minute and longer "tests". Pacing is key. Sure you can give it everything you have for the first 40 seconds of a 1 minute effort but you'll go "bang" so hard that even the Mayor of Hiroshima would be surprised. Like everything else, you'll learn eventually that "it's an aerobic sport, damnit". If the last 1/4 of a test is significantly slower than the first then you can improve just by pacing...
     
  12. DancenMacabre

    DancenMacabre New Member

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    Hmmm. It sure felt like some kind of bomb went off in my legs. I would have given a bystander like $20 just to stop the test at about 40 seconds :)

    Trying to edu-ma-cate myself a bit so I found a link to a study on optimal pacing for a kilometer time trial. It turns out from the study that the best approach was to, believe it or not, go all out from the start as in all-out sprint, hang on, die for like 30 seconds, sprint, and finish :).

    That resulted in the best power for the people in the study. So that is what I did for mine, sprinted 100% for about 10 seconds and went all out. Yeap, power was dropping from the get go but I guess i front loaded the first 10 seconds of it with the sprinting energy system, Creatine Phosphate I think.

    Study is here if anyone cares:

    Determination of optimal pacing strategy in track ...[J Sci Med Sport. 1999] - PubMed Result
     
  13. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Yep, I'm with you. There is of course a 'pacing' element to one minute efforts but IME it's basically as you describe hit the start as hard as you can, sit down and drive it to the finish with whatever's left. I definitely don't hit my best one minute power numbers by holding back at the start. That's very different than long efforts where some self restraint at the start pays off big time at the back end.

    -Dave
     
  14. frost

    frost New Member

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    I think that study is primarily looking at the time of Kilo not average power, which might be a different thing. Due to very high top speed in cycling (comparing to eg. 100m swimming or 400m running) very large proportion of total energy is consumed to reach the top speed as fast as possible. That's why it would pay off to kill yourself at the beginning even if it results lower overall average power.

    If you want to "inflate" your 1 min power number on the other hand, search for a climb that lasts for at least 1 min and you can stay out of saddle for the whole duration. In best case it is getting gradually steeper so that your initial speed doesn't change even you accelerate all the time. Then pace the effort but stay standing. AWC is about muscle buffering capacity and more active muscle --> more buffering.
     
  15. graywulf

    graywulf New Member

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    What is AWC?
     
  16. frost

    frost New Member

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    Anaerobic Work Capacity
     
  17. DancenMacabre

    DancenMacabre New Member

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    Are you sure about this whole pacing strategy for 1 minute rather than going all-out?

    I have some doubts. Can most people actually sustain > 200% FTP? I know that I can't and have read that others seem to be similar. My 1-minute wattage number is over 250% of FTP. So by your suggestion, I'd have to be able to do a steady 250%+ FTP for 60 seconds? I cannot imagine it.

    Have you done a one minute test lately? Which method do you use. I have a decent sprint (13+ w/kg) so for me I think my average is higher if I sprint very hard at the start. By the time I am finished I am about to fall off the bicycle :(

    Dave Ryan has done 1 minute tests before and I think he uses the sprint all-out approach.
     
  18. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Just to be clear, I do jump hard, wayyy too hard at the start of a 1 minute max power effort. But that's still a couple of hundred watts below my best 5 second sprint so 'sprint all-out' needs to be taken in context.

    I haven't posted any decent one minute numbers by shooting for 200% of FTP and riding it steady but I don't try to match my best 100 meter sprint either or I'd never make it through the full minute. That's what I was implying with the 'pacing of a sort' in my previous post. I start 'em hard but I've still got to make it through the minute.

    -Dave
     
  19. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    +1. :)

    My best 1-min is ~250% FTP, and was achieved with a hard jump to ~340% FTP over the first 4 seconds, then a nearly linear fading to 194% FTP over the course of the effort. My best 5-sec output is ~435% of that FTP value. I don't think there's anyway that I could ramp it the other direction, nor hold an isopower output for that duration -- the fatigue at the end is just too much.

    Bottom line: if you nearly blackout when you finally let off.... you're close enough to call it a successful test. :D
     
  20. DancenMacabre

    DancenMacabre New Member

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    Mea culpa Dave :eek:

    Strike what I said from the record and let your statement be read correctly by others :)

    My best 5s is 500%+ of FTP. I know, I know, low FTP.... :eek:

    By end of the test, I was doing just 155% of FT.

    I am no scientist but does it appear like there is some power level beyond which it is not sustainable (45+ seconds) in an isopower fashion?
     
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