Sunday, April 27, 2008

Typical Build 1 Workout

Here you see a typical Build 1 period bike workout for a triathlete who races at the Olympic distance or a road cyclist who does 30-40k time trials. Heart rate is in red and power is in black on this chart. The duration of the workout is about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Note that about 44 minutes is spent at 90% to 120% of functional threshold power, or FTP (also sometimes referred to as lactate or anaerobic threshold power). This is a challenging workout with all of the ingredients to improve the athlete’s muscular endurance, the key limiter for such events. Over the course of 8 weeks I would like to see this rider extend the time at 90% of FTP and higher to an hour or more. The hill intervals will develop greater force to allow the rider to eventually push a bigger gear. Ultimately, that is what bike training is all about: the capacity to turn a bigger gear at the same cadence. Improving muscular endurance will help to achieve this.

Preceding this workout, in the Base period, the rider developed aerobic endurance, force, and speed skills, and began the early stages of muscular endurance training. Most workouts at that time focused on only one ability at a time. But these abilities (and anaerobic endurance and power) are now brought together in the Build period with workouts that combine several abilities to simulate the challenges of the A-priority races on the athlete’s schedule.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Adamo Saddle

John Cobb has done it again. He’s always coming up with stuff that helps me ride faster, but now he’s making me more comfortable, too.

I’m getting back into time trialing this year. I used to do these quite often. One of the biggest obstacles to racing well, I found, was that my butt got so sore in the aero position that I had to wear two pair of cycling shorts for the extra padding. As the hips roll forward into an aero position body weight shifts toward the soft tissues. The more aggressive the position, the more discomfort I experienced. For a man to be even moderately comfortable (which means significantly uncomfortable) he must adjust his equipment to one side or the other of the nose of the saddle. There is simply no way to eliminate the discomfort of that damned saddle nose sticking out between the thighs. That is until I came a cross the Adamo saddle that John helped to design.

But getting back to my training… I found I wasn’t looking forward to my once or twice weekly aero-position rides on my Cervelo P3c because of the discomfort. So I decided to shop around for something that would feel better. I had recently seen John’s Adamo saddle at the Blackwell Research booth at the SICI conference in Denver. So I decided to give it a try.

The Adamo certainly looks different. It doesn’t have the long, sleek look of my Specialized Toupe. It’s a little goofy looking with a short length and a pair of stubby rails sticking out in front (see picture). It is about one to two inches shorter than a traditional saddle. The UCI rule is that saddles have to be 240mm long. The Adamo is 245mm. My Toupe saddle is 270mm. What this means to the rider is that there is nothing sticking out between the legs. You are sitting on the “nose” of the saddle, if you can call it that. As the hips rotate forward they roll onto the gel-padded rails and there is no pressure in the perineal area which is where the discomfort usually is experienced.

It took a while to get it adjusted. You don’t set it up the same as a traditional road saddle. The first ride I carried allen wrenches with me and kept stopping to make adjustments. After a half dozen or so I finally got it pretty close. I’ll be going into to see Chris Pulleyen, my bike fit specialist, soon to have him dial everything back in. (For instructions on how to set it up go to Once I got it adjusted, riding on the Adamo was very comfortable. No more gauging, numbness or shifting around looking for a spot that wasn’t already achy. What a difference! I should have done this a long time ago. I now stay centered on the saddle rather than moving from side to side as I did before. The name “Adamo” is appropriate; it is Latin for “pleasure.” Riding the TT bike has, indeed, become a pleasure. I now look forward to these TT workouts.

Triathletes also might also like the Adamo because of the built in “tri-hook” at the rear of the saddle for hanging the bike on a rack in transition. For the roadie, however, this is just additional weight to carry around.

Speaking of weight, the first thing I noticed about the Adamo saddle, besides its strange shape, is the heft factor. It is definitely heavier than what I’m used to. The Racing saddle (pictured) weighs 270g, and the Road saddle is 320g. On the other hand, my Specialized Toupe saddle weighs in at 150g. Using the Adamo Racing saddle means about a fourth of a pound more to carry up a hill. What does that translate to in terms of power? Assuming I climb at 2 watts per pound, the 120g difference requires using approximately one extra half watt to climb a hill at the same speed as with Toupe. The trade off to be comfortable for 40km is well worth this miniscule cost, in my opinion, especially considering that time trial courses are seldom hilly. The hillier the course, the more likely I would be to use a road bike anyway. So that’s how I justify giving up a bit of speed to have a crotch that isn’t in agony.

The company says that the saddle works as well for women as for men. As they explain, this is because the as the hips rotate forward into an aero position the support portions of the sit bones are more closely spaced with the difference between a man’s and a woman’s in this position not significantly different. I’d be interested in hearing from women on this matter.

For more details on the Adamo saddle go to For dealers go to I found prices on-line ranging from $120 to $180.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Typical Base 3 Workout

The accompanying WKO+ chart illustrates a typical Base 3 period training session. There are four parts making up this session - 1) a warm-up, 2) a workout including 5 x 6 minutes at FTP with 2-minute recoveries to boost muscular endurance, 3) a 60-minute steady state workout at just above aerobic threshold (about 75% of FTP), and 4) a cool down.
What sets this session apart from those in Base 1 and Base 2 is the broader focus on more than one ability. In the earlier Base periods training sessions typically include only one ability, either aerobic endurance, force, speed skills, or muscular endurance. The entire session is generally devoted to this ability in early Base. In late Base and especially in the Build period training sessions include two or more abilities. The reason for this change is "specificity." The closer you get to the first A-priority race the more like the race training should become. Exceptional race performances are usually made up of several abilities.
By Build 2, with three to seven weeks remaining until A-1, sessions are, essentially, mini-races with a great deal of variety simulating the demands of the race. This progression towards a broader training focus that simulates racing is the single most important aspect of periodization. If you get this specificity progression right you should be well prepared for your first big race of the year. But start this multi-focus training too soon, or worse yet, reverse the progression from multi-focus to single focus as the season progresses and your performance is likely to be unrewarding.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Is a Power Meter Necessary?

Yesterday a cyclist asked me if a having a power meter is necessary to race well. The flip answer is no, it isn't. Nor is a heart rate monitor, handlebar computer, fast wheels, light frame, or any other piece of advanced technology. The only things that are necessary are decent genetics and effective training.

I think the question he was really asking was, will a power make my training more effective? The answer here is, it depends. It depends first of all on how effective the athlete's current training is. If it's close to perfect then there won't be much, if any, improvement in performance due to a power meter. But if the athlete's training is less than optimal and the greatest room for improvement is intensity management, then a power meter has the potential to be quite effective.

But power meters are not magic. You won't race better merely because you have one on your bike. You've got to know how to use it. Reading Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Allen and Coggan is a good place to start. Having good analysis software, such as WKO+, will also make the data much more beneficial and open your eyes to how to train better.

Having coached and spoken with many athletes who started training with power meters I can tell you that the consensus is that they helped improve performance. A minority disagrees, however. Personal experience... I got my first one in 1995 and was amazed then at how it opened my eyes to what training on a bike was all about. I continue to learn about training more than 10 years later because of power meters. I believe most athletes will improve their performance by using one.

Monday, April 7, 2008

TrainingBible Lake Placid Camp

TrainingBible Coaching will host a triathlon camp at Lake Placid on June 26-29. Five of our top TrainingBible coaches of Ironman athletes; Tom Manzi, Chuck Graziano, Dorothy Hamburg, Keith Cook, and Brittany Rutter; will be there to assist with classroom clinics, discussions, open water swims, rides and runs in one of the most scenic training locales in the country. Learn about the challenging course and how best to race it using the methodology of The Triathlete's Training Bible and my other books. The host hotel, Northwoods Inn (contact directly at (518) 523-1818), is offering a great rate of $79 per night. You may register on line but don't wait long as the camp is already half full. This will be a great experience, especially if you are doing Ironman Lake Placid. For more information contact Tom Manzi, the camp Director, at Tom is one of the most seasoned Ironman coaches in the USA and has worked closely with me for more than 10 years. I hope you can make it.