Stress-Based Training - Road Cycling
For the road cyclist the issue of race stress isn’t just total stress; it’s also the rate at which stress is experienced during key portions of the race. Whereas triathlon and endurance running are typically steady state events, road racing is quite variably paced. So the roadie will train for total stress and also for TSS rates which are appropriate for his or her event. These rates are often very high for short episodes. And it's during these brief episodes that the outcomes of races are often decided. These may occur on climbs or when there is a strong crosswind.
The way to train for high-TSS rate episodes is by doing intervals at the anticipated episode intensity and duration. The goal is to manage greater amounts of stress in such an interval session over time, especially by making the work intervals longer and the recovery intervals shorter over several weeks.
Here’s a personal example. I had a bike road race back in October which I had done before. In 2008 my finish time was 2:58 and my TSS, interestingly enough, was 258. (The similar numbers are just a coincidence.) So in training for this I did weekly long rides in the late Base period that totaled about 258 TSS. These were were about 4.5- to 5-hour rides at a moderate intensity (around 50-60 TSS/hour). In the Build period I did a weekly workout which included a group ride, hill repeats and tempo efforts. These rides took about 3.5 hours and also were in the neighborhood of 258 TSS (problem is, of course, that you don’t know real-time TSS so have to estimate it; this will be corrected by the new PowerTap Joule head unit). Also in the Build period I did long hill repeat intervals at the same rate as from prior-year-based hard TSS episodes of the race. For example, one prior-year segment was 20 minutes with a TSS of 37 so I started by doing 4x5-minute intervals at about TSS 10. I eventually built this to 2x10 minutes at TSS 20 on each. All of these were very hard workouts but quite specific to my race goal.
So what happened in the race? I was going well and riding in the lead group until I flatted at mile 48 – about two hours into the race. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray.