Travel: Good for the Soul, Bad for the Training Plan

March was a tough month for my structured training, as I had two weeks of traveling with workouts in between.

The first was Zwift Week in Long Beach, and while I got in a decent amount of outdoor riding with other Zwifters, it was on a rental bike with no power or heart rate metrics.

The second week was the beginning of my family’s two week trip to Europe, where I would do very little riding. (If it was possible to build fitness by eating French pastries, I could have joined a World Tour team by the end of that trip.)

Because of this, my gains this month were minimal, and April would involve a lot of “rebuilding” to get me back up to previous training levels (more on that next post).

It can be discouraging seeing your metrics fall off due to travel, injury, etc. But the worst thing you can do is let that keep you off your bike once you’re in a position to start riding again! So I was eager to jump back into it quickly, and my coach laid out a solid plan to get me back up to speed without overdoing it.

So here’s my report for March, my second month of training with Shayne Gaffney of GC Coaching. Note: if you’re interested in reading more of my structured training story you may want to start at my introductory post, then proceed to my summary of February 2019.

The Workouts

A lot of my workouts in this block resembled what you see below, where I would start with a short, hard effort then follow it with a sustained effort at around 90% FTP.

This is solid training for Zwift races, where you have to hit it hard for short intervals then keep the watts coming. And this is a weakness of mine–I’m not good at responding to repeated attacks while maintaining race pace.

Here’s the last workout I did before heading to Europe–it was a solid one! Over/unders got me fatigued, then I had 7 1-minute VO2 intervals. Did it fasted, just to see if I could!

The Results

Here’s my Performance Management Chart (PMC) from day 1 of structured training to the end of March.

You can see my CTL (the blue line) continued to trend upwards until my week down south at Zwift HQ. Part of this dip is artificial–I did some decent rides, but didn’t have power or heart rate data. But the training also wasn’t on the same level as I’d been doing.

The bigger dip, though, begins on March 23rd when I flew to Europe for the start of our vacation, where I did very little riding. That dip would continue for another week in April, after which point the training would begin again in earnest.

Despite two weeks of poor training, we still saw a 5-watt bump in my modeled FTP, up to 295 for March.

And we saw FRC (the dotted red line) rise:

FRC (functional reserve capacity) is an interesting metric. This is defined as “the total amount of work you can do during continuous exercise above your FTP before fatigue occurs.”

FRC is my anaerobic capacity. The bigger it is, the less effect burning matches and attacking has on my overall gas tank, and the more likely I am to recharge it in between. Riders with high FRC are the ones who can pull off long finishing sprints, drive strong break efforts, be a good lead-out man, hit shorter climbs with high power, etc. With a high FRC, you are a more versatile racer with more options in your toolbelt.

My FRC was ~15 kJ in February, but it increased to ~18 kJ in March. That’s a ~17% improvement, which is good! But I’m just “average” now based on this chart from TrainingPeaks…

Credit: Dr. Andrew Coggan

If you aren’t familiar with kilojoules as a metric, here’s how they work: 1 kilojoule is 1000 joules. 1 watt is 1 joule per second, so if I ride at 300 watts I’ll be using 300 joules per second. If I do that for a minute, I would produce 300*60=18000 joules (or 18 kJ).

Does an FRC of 18 mean I can do 300 watts over my FTP for a minute? Not exactly… there are other factors at play. But it does give me an indicator that I’m improving in an area of definite weakness, which is the ability to do repeated efforts over threshold.

Read coach Shayne’s post Ramp Testing: Yea or Nay? for more insight into FRC and how it can contribute to inaccurate FTP ramp test results.

Here are a few more metrics, comparing February to March. You can see my VO2 Max and power at VO2 Max also improved, while I maintained FTP as a % VO2.

Coach Shayne says,

…all in all, a very good month with improvements noted across all aspects of performance.

And I’ll take that, given all the traveling I did.