Monthly Archives: June 2012

FTP

In the web world, and in my world as a photographer, FTP means “File Transfer Protocol.” Specifically, I use software that allows me to send pictures to a server without having to go through a graphic interface or a web page. It’s like a back door to deliver images to. I use FTP every day that I shoot photos.

As a cyclist, FTP means something completely different. It means “Functional Threshold Power.” Essentially it’s the power you can put out while still being able to clear the lactic acid from your muscles. If you go harder, the lactic acid builds up and you “feel the burn” and can’t keep going. If you go softer, you don’t feel anything and can go for hours on end. So, it’s the power you create at your lactic threshold, and it’s the basis for determining your training zones.

A few weeks ago, I hired Bill Gros of Pyramid Training Systems to be my cycling coach. Bill had been on Squadra Coppi in the past and a lot of my current teammates use his services. He came highly recommended. We did a long ride together and Bill monitored my pedal stroke and riding position, how I moved on the bike, etc. We chatted for a bit about what my expectations and needs were and what his expectations as a coach were. I really liked that. I like his approach and his style of coaching. If you put in the work, you will get results. He is showing me the work to do, and it’s my responsibility to get it done.

And I am getting it done. My first week was about 11 hours of riding, which included my FTP test. It was an hour and half long ride, with a 30 minute effort My functional threshold power is 202 watts, which isn’t great but it puts my watts per kilo in the mid Cat 5 range, which is what my USA Cycling license says anyway. I suspect this number will only increase over the course of the next few months.

My second week of structured training has been great. I know what numbers I need to hit to stay in my zones and I like the variety of workouts I’m doing. I’m getting stronger, and I’m getting faster and I love it. My hip has been great over the last two weeks. The last couple of days I have felt a little tightening of my hip flexor but it’s nothing compared to before. I will be stepping up my core workouts in the coming weeks and I know this will help. Hopefully I’ll drop a couple pounds, too. I’m still 12 pounds heavier than where I was before the surgery and I really want to lose it before ‘cross season starts.

Here’s a screen grab of my Critical Power curve, as viewed on Golden Cheetah’s software:

1100 watts for my 5 second average!

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Base Building

I’ve written about the “stuff,” my new Power2Max power meter and my new Cervelo S5. What I haven’t written about yet is what the heck I’ve been doing with these things. Well, I’ve been riding and building base miles.

Typically, base miles are ridden in the winter, after a break at the end of the season. Cyclists build base in the winter months and then ramp up training and intensity as the weather improves to get ready for the road season, which around here starts in late March/early April. I had high hopes after my surgery that I would be off the bike just a couple months and would be able to start building base miles right on time. That didn’t happen. Hip flexor tendonitis kept me from doing ANYTHING until the middle of March when I got the all clear from my doctor. I started riding more and spent the better part of April figuring out what my hip could handle. When I would first get on the bike, I could feel tightness in my hip flexor. After 20 minutes or so, the tightness would go away. The more I rode, the better it would feel. Sure, there were a few times where if I would go too hard, I could feel it tighten up and I’d have issues. One ride I headed out on the trail on my SSCX and came back on the road over a few hills, 44 miles in total and it was hard. It took me a few days to fully recover from that one, but I did. Figuring out that sweet spot of cycling performance and what my hip could handle has been crucial to my recovery.

I firmly believe that one of the keys to my success has been the core workouts and stretching that I have been doing after every ride. I spend about 40 minutes or so doing a routine of stretches and various core exercises that target the muscles around my hip flexor. These are strengthening the area and my improvement has risen dramatically. Last week, on my 40th birthday, I rode over 50 miles for the first time in two years. I went 40 kilometers out, and 40 kilometers back. Here’s a pic of the 40th kilometer:

The last 5 or so weeks have been amazing. I’m riding 5 days a week and have had little to no pain in my hip. I can go hard if I want to, I can climb up hills, I can hold a tempo, you name it. I’ve ridden with my team a few times, which I haven’t done in two years. That has been a great feeling.

Very soon I’ll be performing a threshold test to determine my Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Once I have that number, my new coach and I will be able build a proper training plan that will increase my performance and get me ready for cyclocross season in the fall.