Watt Matters is a blog about training and racing with power and other related musings.

Aside from writing items here on occasions, I also provide cycling performance improvement services via coaching, aerodynamics testing and host a cycling tour.

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Getting there....

Raising the Bar

A couple of weeks ago I reported on my difficulties (see this post) in transitioning to (Coggan) Level 5 workouts. Variously known as VO2 Max workouts or Aerobic Power Intervals, these are designed to improve your power at VO2 Max, something that's pretty important as my key goal events draw nearer.

Hopeful that my troubled transition was just an aberration, I went into week two hoping that I'd have a bit more success. Unfortunately week two didn't end up any better with circumstances meaning these were simply unable to be completed. I won't bore you with the details but I was getting a little anxious. Still I was not overly concerned, I had some track racing and team pursuit training as well, so I was already getting some intensity...

A New Level

Level 5 is described as working at an intensity between 106% - 120% of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) for interval durations of around 3 - 8 minutes, for a total time at that level of up to about 30 minutes in any one session. For me that means around 330-370 Watts.

In this case the target coach set was a range of 335-355 Watts, with six four minute efforts with four minutes rest in between each (a 1:1 work:recovery ratio).

Here's a pic of the wko showing what happened. I cut out the warm up/down sections. Click/right-click to view larger image.


OK, so in order to see if I could do these without the problems previously encountered, coach suggested I start a little conservatively, slightly under the range but to get it into the target power by 1 minute mark and then keep ramping it up through to end of the interval.

So that's what I did. These are done on my track bike in pursuit position, in this case at my local outdoor velodrome. It was really blustery and pacing was quite difficult. But I got through the first three efforts OK, using the pacing strategy as best I could in the conditions.

For ease of reference, I marked my conservative starting level and the upper end of the range with the horizontal lines in the wko chart.

I then needed a drink, so I got off quickly and had a drink and then back on the bike to get into effort #4. Well as you can see from the chart, that didn't go so well. I simply couldn't sustain the power level and cut it short. That was too hard. Hmmm, surely I had more than three efforts in me? OK - so perhaps in stopping I lost my rythym.

So I tried again (effort #5) and this time it was worse and there was no way I was going to keep it up so I pulled the pin again.
It was then I realised what was going on.
My speed had lifted quite a bit but the reported power had not.
My PT's torque zero needed re-setting.
Torque talk

I stopped, unstrapped from the pedals and reset the torque zero (which I had done at the start of my set). Then I went out and tried again (effort #6) - well wouldn't you know - I was able to complete the interval this time. While the RPE* meter in the brain was telling me one thing, the power meter another, I wasn't making a sound judgement as the blustery wind was simply confusing the whole picture.

So, whenever you restart on the fixed gear bike, it pays to ensure torque zero is reset each time.

I thought about trying one more but enough is enough, a successful night's effort and learning.

All in all, I am really happy to be getting these efforts happening and being able to do them on the pursuit bike is a real bonus. Generating power is one thing but doing it in an agressive TT/pursuit position can take some time to adapt.

* RPE - Rate of Perceived Exertion

Australia Day

Christening