Here we are at blog number 3 of my investigation into the world of power training using the CycleOps PowerTap. I’ve been busy trying to use the data to work on my weaknesses (as well as doing a bit to keep my strengths strong).

We’ve already established that, either through nature or nurture, I’m currently a Tester through and through – meaning my one hour best, 20 minute and 10 minute efforts are ok, but I tail off at anything shorter than that. That’s ok, because I’m quite a fan of hopping on a Time Trial bike and racing the clock for an hour – but I’ve got ambitions to be ok at road-racing, too.

So I’ve been sprinting – lots.  And on Tuesday I set myself a brand new max wattage of 662 watts, which is 138 more than my previous max. The numbers are still small, but they are going up – and an increase of 138 implies to me the problem is not so much purely ‘I’m physically not made for sprinting’ and more ‘I’ve not really practiced this at all’. The improvement implies to me I am capable of getting better. I don’t think I ever have done sessions that consist only of 20 and 30 second sprints before. I’ve done a lot of 2 x 20s, 3 x 20s, descending intervals from 15 minutes, to 10, to 7, to 5 and so on – but eyeballs out, teeth gritted, a fleeting few seconds to prove yourself to the PowerTap? That’s pretty new to me.

To make sure I had a fair comparison, on Tuesday I repeated exactly a session I did about two weeks ago – so I could size up the numbers. The CycleOps power software gave me my 5 second and 30 second ‘peak power’ for both sessions. Sure enough – over identical sessions, I put out an extra 78 watts over 5 seconds, and 20 watts over 30 seconds.  These might be little numbers, and maybe I had a good day this week, or a bad day last week – but every little helps, and progress is reassuring.

To make it all clearer, the CycleOps software even gave me this chart. That’s right – the yellow ‘this workout’ line goes above my ‘personal best’ line:

Wednesday was back in my home territory.  Remember the ‘training zones’ we set up using my FTP in the last blog? Wednesday was all about putting them into practice. I won’t lie – I didn’t do a very good job. The session? 3 x 8minute reps at Threshold, finishing with a little dip into the higher powered stuff – 3 x 3minutes and 3 x 1 minute at ‘V02’. The problem was that, annoyingly, the average wattage for my 8 minute reps was out of the ‘Threshold’ zone and digging into V02 territory at 214 watts.  And my wattage over the 3 minute reps I finished off with? Right at the bottom of the V02 world, at 216 watts. My numbers for 8 and 3 minute were basically identical.

Using the power meter to its full potential, I should have taken it a bit easier for the earlier reps, so I had something left to give later on. In fact –this session was meant to be a bit easier, as I had V02 reps for proper on Thursday – Wednesday should have been a bit more comfortable. Instead, I just went as hard as I could for the 8 minute reps, and suffered the consequences when I couldn’t turn the pedals later on.

It seems like, on the sprinting side, I’m reassured to see some progression, and I’m really pleased with that. What needs to come next, I believe, is some trust in the technology. I might think I can keep on smashing out ‘vo2’ 8 minute reps – but it probably isn’t going to get me anywhere. Hopefully, I’ll learn my lesson soon and stick to the zones.

Through using the PowerTap wheels and software, I’ve learnt loads about myself, and even more about what I need to do to ride my bike a bit better. The more I use them, the more accustomed I get with how it all works, and I can apply a purpose to every session and know whether or not I’ve achieved it. Training with power might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I’ll admit it is expensive, but that’s because huge amounts of research have gone into making sure the data is useful and development continual. Once over that hurdle, the next one is that it can all seem a bit complicated and intimidating. My answer to that, is that I’m a Marketing person with not-an-amazing grasp of science, and not only do I feel like I understand the data and the software, I’m starting to quite enjoy learning more. So – I say, if you can – give it a go.

For the other blogs in the series – check out:

1/3) A beginners journey:

U2/3) sing the data:

(Michelle works in Marketing and also blogs here… occasionally)