This winter base training report is going to start with the first week of January and run through March 19th. December was a pretty terrible month as far as being sick, where I went 2 and a half weeks without doing anything. I missed the Solstice Chase Fat Bike Race and then started doing some lighter work the week before Christmas. The last week of December, I did some skiing and went on a couple fat bike rides. I hit the first week of January with a few structured workouts and so that is where this will begin.
I will not discuss every workout, but only discuss the ones that I think might be the most intersting. If you are using one of my training plans, you should recognize some of the workouts covered in this report and may get some ideas on how to adjust them if needed. I will include a calendar screenshot of each period so you can still see all of my workouts, even though I won’t discuss each one.
The Details of My Winter Base Training
Graph Color Legend
Pace or Speed
Weeks 1 – 2 (Jan 2 – Jan 15)
The calendar view doesn’t scream structured training, but there was purpose behind the week 1 schedule and workouts. Week 2 was an opportunity to further dial in my typical race week even though the Freezer Burn was a bit last minute and not a target race.
Bike – Tempo Intervals
If I was riding outside, I would probably just go out and put in a solid tempo paced ride and not pay much attention to the details. Since I was on the trainer and just getting back on the horse, I mixed it up with 20 minute tempo efforts. Doing this also allowed me to get a longer workout in to work on my endurance.
At the time of this workout, I believe I had my training zones set up based on a FTP of 235 watts. I set power at 200 watts for my tempo efforts. This would be just under the mid point of my tempo zone according to Dr. Andy Coggan’s training zones in the book Training And Racing With A Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andy Coggan, PhD. I felt 200 watts for this workout was a good starting point for getting back on the horse without having much of a structured base under my legs.
This screenshot has the graph lines smoothed out a bit too much, but my max heart rate for any of the 20 minute periods was 159 bpm and was leveled out the last 5 to 8 minutes of each interval. I should note that my average heart rate for the final interval was actually noticably higher across the board than the first 3 intervals and a good time to pull the plug and not attempt a 5th interval.
Bike – Endurance Hill Intervals
This is another workout that I would generally do outside and would be mostly endurance riding, but finding the occasional longer hill that I could grind up at threshold in the big ring or smaller rear cog at low cadence. This workout is actually based on the F1 workout from the book The Mountain Biker’s Training Bible by Joe Friel (link at bottom of page). It builds a combination of general endurance and strength specific endurance.
Race – Freezer Burn Fat Bike Race
I won’t go into detail on the race since I wrote up a race report on it already. However, I think it is worth pointing out the amount of time spent in my heart rate threshold zone though. I averaged 166 bpm for the entire race and spent all but 10 minutes of the race within my heart rate threshold zone. I had my training zones set up based on a heart rate threshold of 168 bpm at this time, which falls in line with the data from the race. I didn’t have a problem getting up to that effort level, but I was completely flat trying to push above that for any period of time, even just a few seconds.
Weeks 3 – 4 (Jan 16 – 29)
This is a good spot to comment on the red, yellow and green workouts in my schedule. Red means I did not hit my workout plan. Yellow means I was close to my workout plan, but not quite there. Green means I nailed it. All that being said, I try not to get caught up in it too much. I only put scheduled workouts on the calendar as a guideline and then workout to how I feel, available time or just what I feel like doing on that particular day. Sometimes, I change them before hand if I know I am not doing the workout exactly. Other times, I just let it ride.
When I first started using Training Peaks and following training schedules, I made the mistake of trying to following the exact plan and that is when you can drive yourself to overtrain or not train enough. I have a lot to learn yet and continue to make a lot of mistakes, but I am getting better at calling the audible and adjusting as needed, based on how my body is feeling vs just following an exact plan. By all means, curiosity still gets the best of me as I like to try out new stuff and test myself.
Bike – Threshold Test
I never did a threshold test after my training builds last summer, so I don’t know where I had peaked out at last summer in regards to power output. The last test I did, was immediately coming off the couch after healing from my rib injury last July. Anyways, I followed the FTP testing protocol from the book Training And Racing With A Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andy Coggan, PhD (link at bottom of page). There are a couple points to make about this test…
First, I might have been slightly light on my 5 min threshold effort during the warm up, because I was basing that effort on thinking my FTP might be somewhere in the 240 watts range. I averaged 251 watts and peaked out at 329 watts during that 5 minutes. Even though the average was a little light, I think it was close enough to where my FTP ended up coming out during the test, so I think the impacts to the 20 minute effort were negligable, but still worth mentioning.
Part of the reason I think it is worth mentioning is that you will find a lot of suggestions out on the web for threshold testing, that don’t give any prescribed warm-up effort. They will typically just say to get in a solid warm-up and I think that means something different to all of us. I really like the fact that Coggan has a specific warm-up plan to keep the entire test very specific and repeatable. I would have to imagine that doing a really light warm up or skipping the 5 minute effort, could impact the test in some way.
Note: The Sufferfest Video – Rubber Glove is another threshold test that has a structure warm-up and test protocol that you can follow. I’d recomend using either one, but use something that is structured and repeatable.
Too Light At Start of 20min Threshold Effort
Secondly, since I was thinking my FTP might come out at around 240 watts; I didn’t go out of the gate hard enough. This definitely had an impact on my average heart rate for the test. Your average heart rate for the 20 minutes should be your FTHr. Mine came out to about 164 bpm, which I know is a little low. This could also just mean that I didn’t actually hit my FTP, but I think it has more to do with not going out hard enough at the beginning of the 20 min effort, which led to a lagging heart rate. I don’t think my FTP is any higher than what it actually came out to and I think some of the workouts that I discuss later in this report back that up.
So at anyrate… My average power for the 20 minute threshold effort was 282 watts. Your estimated FTP is supposed to be 95% of that, which would put my heart rate threshold at 268 watts. Training Peaks sent me a notification that I set a new FTP of 265 watts and I ended up using the 265 watts to calculate my training zones.
Running – Tabata Sprints
I had been going through a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) course and thought I would test out a Tabata style workout with sprints. It is very short, but very intense. It is basically 20 seconds all out with only 10 seconds of recovery X 8 reps. So in 4 minutes, you end up getting in 8 reps, but never actually fully recover.
I hit a few really fast sprints, but you can see that I faded quickly as the intervals stacked up. I only did this workout once and I think it is good if your goal is to just ramp up your cardio system and be done quick, but I don’t think it was the best structure for building speed. The 20 seconds wasn’t quite long enough and the 10 seconds was not a long enough recovery to put in a good effort on the subsequent interval. I’ll share another sprint interval workout later that I think was much more valuable for my what I am trying to accomplish.
Note: Without a doubt, there is merit to the Tabata structure… just not for what I was trying to accomplish.
Bike – Tempo Intervals
This is the same tempo interval workout I did on January 7th, but I increased the power to 220 watts for this session vs the 200 watts from the January 7th session. My heart rate did go slightly higher this time around, but not by much. I got up around 158 bpm this time vs around 153 bpm a few weeks earlier. Even though my heart rate topped off 5 bpm higher, I think that was a good trade off for being able to add 20 watts of power. My heart rate was leveling out as well, so this was a good confirmation of my previous FTP numbers.
The fact that my heart rate did not climb into the 160s, was also a good indication that I still had some wattage to add before getting into my threshold window. I currently have the top of my tempo zone and/or bottom of my threshold zone set at 240 watts. This is always a learning process, but there is no way that you can test threshold hold over and over again, so being able to read into your data graphs quickly after a workout can help you gut check where you have your training zones set, verify your test results and help you make adjustments to workouts throughout your build to continue making progress without having to continuously run threshold tests.
By the way… This is a really tough workout on a trainer vs the road, since the trainer has continuous resistance versus some of the on and off glide that you get on the road. I think you’ll get more out of the workout on the trainer as far as building muscular endurance, than you would doing the same thing on the road.
Runing – Race Pace Intervals
We had a beautiful day of weather and I decided to get outside for a run. My intention was to run intervals, very similiar to what I would do with threshold intervals on my bike. It’s a way of me attempting to build up some distance, while still working to improve my pace. Chances are, I will not run more than 3 times per week and mostly likely only get in 2 runs per week. 1 of those runs will most likely be a very short run with short sprint efforts and the other will be some distance, while trying to push my pace at the same time.
My thought is that if I can build myself up to an hour and half or so of these intervals at a 6:40ish min pace, then I might be able to knock out a half marathon at a continuous 7:00 min pace and for sure under a 7:30 min pace. We’ll see what happens. Ben Greenfield mentions these interval runs in his book Beyond Fitness, regarding Iron Man training. Like I said, very similiar thought process to threshold intervals on the bike and I thought it was a good place to start with my runs, especially since I am trying to build up my running while still improving my game on the bike.
Bike – Fat Bike Road Tempo
This was a road ride on my Fat Bike. It would have been the day that I did tempo intervals, but I just tried to ride at tempo most of the time with some efforts that took me near threshold. My average heart rate was 154 bpm with my max heart rate hitting 171 bpm. The graph would make it appear that I was fairly heavy into threshold, but the time I spent in that window was mostly at the bottom of threshold or otherwise known to many as the sweet spot. I averaged 16.2 mph for 41 miles on my fat bike and was really happy with this ride. Just a few years ago when I was getting started riding again, I would have to be on a road bike to cover 41 mph at 16.2 mph. Anyways, not a ton more to say about this ride, other than I thought it was a descent benchmark of where my bike fitness is at, compared to a few years ago.
Bike Endurance Hills
This is where things were falling apart as far as dipping into over doing it and I didn’t pull back until it was too late. I was trying to see how much I could cram into a week and I found my limit. I had some really great fat bike rides throughout the week and was a bit high on the previous days ride. It was sick season around our house and even though I was fairly spent by Sunday, I still went after it. I started with one of those race pace interval runs on my treadmill. Basically a repeat of the one I did outside, the previous weekend and then went into this workout immediately after.
I only did 2 intervals, because I was completely spent. These intervals are really low cadence, with power right around threshold. I had power set at 260 watts for this one. They aren’t as high power as the force interval workouts, but are for a longer interval periods and more about strength endurance vs max strength or building force output. These are really intended to be done outside with a long endurance ride with some long hills thrown in the mix.
I should have skipped the hill simulation part of it and just did a nice and easy low zone 2 or recovery ride to spin the legs out, but not put out any real effort. Or, I should have just stopped and not done it at all. I was sick by the next afternoon. Whether or not over doing it was the direct cause or not, I don’t know. Most of my house was sick and I certainly didn’t help myself by pushing over the top.
Week 5 – 8 (Jan 30 – Feb 26)
There really isn’t much to say here, other than it was a miserable couple of weeks. I thought I was starting to feel better on Sunday and decided to try some power intervals. I kept them real short and didn’t go all out. They hurt and I pulled the plug early as I was not ready. I could have just did an easy endurance ride and that was the intention, but the short power interval efforts gave me a better idication of my status.
I tried spinning a couple days later and the short and easy zone 2 spin hurt. I finally decided to go to the doctor to get checked out and ended up coming home with some antibiotics for a sinus infection with some potential bronchitis.
It only took a couple of days and I could feel the sinus infection getting better with the antibiotics and I did another short spin. It didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t good. The Polar Roll was only a week away. I hit another easy spin the next night and could tell that things were getting better and there was some hope.
A couple days later, I did a short ride on my trainer and threw in a few hard efforts at the end. I could feel my lungs were finally starting to loosen up and decided that I could make the race and the rest of my trip to Michigan.
Race – 906 Polar Roll Fat Bike
Again, I already wrote a race report on this, so I won’t dwell on it and only point out a couple of things. My average heart rate was 167 bpm for a period of more than 2 hours. That’s probably a good sign that my real threshold might be slightly higher than 168, where I currently have it set. I had increased my threshold to 170 bpm last year, but I dropped it down to 168 bpm this winter and readjusted my training zones accordingly after having so much down time. I had done this as some minor protection from overdoing some of my base training efforts. I’m betting I can bump it back to 170, but I will still probably wait and see how my next threshold test goes before making the adjustment.
The other thing was my max heart rate hit 186 bpm. I don’t think I ever hit that last year. It looks like it happened in that final effort to the finish line when I got dropped hard. I guess the exciting thing is that I actually had the legs to push my heart rate that high this time around. Back at the Freezer Burn race, my legs were flat dead at anything approaching threshold or above.
Anyways, a couple interesting points from my perspective.
Bike – Force Intervals
This workout is all about strength and increasing my force output. These were 2 minute intervals with power at 320 watts (120% FTP) and spinning between 60 and 65 rpms. They could be done with less power, but the goal is to develop max strength that can later be developed into useable explosive power. By the way, if you don’t have a lot of miles under your legs or have spent some time climbing, then I would not dive into one of these workouts with such a low cadence. The high power setting and really low cadence, puts a lot of extra strain on the knee.
I have always had chicken legs and could not squat worth a darn. I actually never really enjoyed any type of leg work when it came to the gym. I’ve also noticed that during my FTP tests, I tend to get my most efficient threshold power and heart rate with my cadence creeping up into the high 90s. It seems to me that my current power, which is not that great, is leaning on my ability to sustain higher cadences vs using a lower cadence with more force output.
My point is, that I believe this workout potentially shows that force output or strength deficiency in my legs. If my leg strength was there and I relied less on an efficient pedal cadence during threshold outputs, then I should get more of these intervals in. I was trashed at the end of the 4th one.
That being said, I had just raced and also spent 25 hours in the car and came into this workout carrying some fatigue and legs that just didn’t feel like doing much. So, I didn’t really think too deep into it at the time. In hindsight, being that I know I was carrying some fatique coming into this work… I probably should have increased my recovery period between work intervals. You can see that my heart rate never got a chance to settle out between work intervals.
I did a really slow paced jog the next day that did not feel very easy and decided to take the rest of the week off and start with fresh legs going into the next week. I think I had some other stuff going on as well and it was just a busy week trying to catch up on other things.
Week 9 -11 (Feb 27 – March 19)
I was back on the horse here with a plan for 2 solid weeks of base training, followed by a recovery week. I got in a couple of structured runs each week, along with bike workouts. It was a fairly solid couple weeks of training, but I am still trying to figure out how to do both the bike and the run.
Running- 30s Speed Intervals
Even though I am getting more serious about running… my focus is still leaning toward improving my bike performance. When it comes to running, my goal is to get in 2 runs a week and maybe a 3rd. One of those runs will likely be very short and fast paced intervals for speed work and the other is the longer 6 to 9 minute race pace intervals to improve my threshold pace and build up distance at the same time.
At anyrate, this workout consited of 30s efforts at a 5:00 min/mile pace. They were done on my treadmill, which takes about 12 to 15 seconds to ramp up to that speed, but then takes another 12 to 15 seconds to ramp down from that speed. So bascially, it wasn’t a full 30s at the 5:00 min pace, but the total effort from start of speed increase and back down to recovery start was a total of about 40 to 45 seconds. The recovery pace was a walk at 3 mph (20:00 min pace). Why a 5:00 min pace…? That is as fast as my treadmill will go. Some of the newer treadmills will go a little faster and could be useful for this workout. 5:00 min pace was nearing what I could handle right now though, but I would like to squeak out a little more speed with these if I could.
I’ll mention this now instead of in the following Force Intervals, but I wish I would have only done 6 of these. I think the last couple efforts pushed the recovery out a little bit and effected my Force Intervals the next day on the bike.
Bike – Force Intervals
I already duscussed this workout earlier where I barely got the forth interval in. Also, as I eluded to in the previous days running sprint interval; I felt like I was carrying a little leg fatique into this workout again, but for different reasons this time. That being said, I was able to get most of the way through the 5th interval before reaching failure.
You can see that I am missing cadence and heart rate data from this workout… My Garmin had a malfunction and I had to use my Wahoo file, that was missing cadence and heart rate. Regardless, cadence was around 60 to 65 rpms during the work intervals and 85 to 90 rpms during the recovery intervals. I can’t recall exactly what my heart rate did, but think it was similiar to the earlier workout.
I had power set at 320 watts for the work intervals, which is about 120% FTP for me. I was going to do 6 intervals, but since I didn’t make it through the 5th, I didn’t see the point in attempting the 6th. Because I know I was carrying a little fatigue into this workout, I am still not sure if it is a strength issue or the fatigue issue. I should have increased my rest interval to see if that made a difference, especially since I mentioned in my first workout that my heart rate wasn’t settling out into recovery between intervals the first time.
Bike – Woolly Fat Bike
This would be my first trip over to the Woolly Bike Club Trails this entire winter and there wasn’t really even any snow. They had opened the trails up for a couple of days, while the temperatures dropped below freezing. This really should have been an easy riding day also, but stars aligned and I was able to get over to the trails. For road or trail rides, I have normally shared the bar graph that shows time spent at the specific training zones, but I wanted to comment on this one differently as I think there are a few important points that show up well in the line graph.
I went for 2 laps and my first lap was all about hill work (you can recognize the laps in the elevation profile). It wasn’t low cadence hill work, but just general climbing efforts. I rode mostly at a high endurance or tempo effort, but hammered every hill or increasing grade. I could definitely feel the workout still from the day before, so I can’t say this was the smartest thing to do. I was once again stacking fatigue on top of fatigue, but I just wanted to see where I was at relative to previous rides. I didn’t set any PRs on these hills, but came dang close on a couple. I was still a bit off on the longer climb toward the end of the lap, but I was also on my fat bike and that climb is nearly 4 minutes.
My second lap was to see how I was doing in regards to a full lap TT. You can see from my heart rate profile in red, that my heart rate spikes on hills during the first lap and then was elevated the entire second lap. It’s not as long of a lap as I would generally like for an actual offroad TT effort, but it was good to see where I stood relative to previous efforts.
I did set a PR that was a couple minutes faster than my previous fastest effort. The great part was that the previous effort was on my 29er vs the fat bike that I was riding on this day. The downside is that previous effort was from 2 years ago, so I can’t really say which of the previous efforts or if any of them were solid comparisons or not. I also don’t know if any of those previous efforts around this specific loop were me actually giving a full TT effort or not. I know I’ve given full blow efforts around the full Woolly loop, including the West Ridge, but not sure about the Fat Bike specific loop.
Bike – Tempo Road Ride
This was a great early season baseline ride. The weather was great, except for the wind, but I was able to get out and check my endurance. I rode mostly at a tempo pace, aside from warming up, cooling down and then nailing some Strava segments. There were 4 segments that I hit for my hard efforts and set PRs on all 4 of them. The first 2 were back to back 1 mile segments that I had never specifically targeted before, so I knew I would set PRs and ended up averaging over 29 mph. 1 of them was a KOM and the other was a tie for the KOM. I did have one heck of a tailwind though.
The next one was the climb that I usually check myself on and I also set a PR on that one, but I’m still 15 seconds off the KOM there. The last one that I hit hard was a 2 mile false flat where I set another PR and took the KOM. Again, I don’t know that I had ever specifically targeted this segment either, but it’s in a good location to include in these on road intervals and will probably use it again.
There are a ton of Strava segments throughout the area that I road ride on and I will usually use a few of them for intervals within a ride like this to keep the ride more entertaining and test myself over time. It also keeps some fun and competative comaraderie with a few other local riders.
Bike – Force Intervals
This is a shorter interval period of that same force interval workout that I’ve discussed a couple times earlier in this report. I set the power to 320 watts again and cadence around 60 to 65 rpms for the work interval, but decreased the work time of the interval to 1 min, instead of 2 min. I had no problem getting through the 1 min work and could have continued doing more intervals. You can see that my heart rate never fully reached threshold.
It was a good gut check against my 2 min work version of this workout. If I chose to do this same workout again instead of the 2 min version, I would probably up the power another 10 to 20 watts in order to start closing in on failure at the 8th interval. The other option would also be to keep the same power, but increase interval work period by 20 to 30 seconds and work my way up to the 2 min mark that way.
The interesting thing to take out of this is that if I’m in a race, I shouldn’t be afraid to crank up the power on climbs that are less than a minute, as this workout proves that I can recover from them repeatedly. However, the previous 2 min work version tells me that I’m only good for a handful of climbs near the 2 minute mark at high power before I run out of matches.
All that being said… I don’t have a power meter on my bike, but it’s still helpful in knowing how to pace myself in a race with multiple climbs, especially if I know how long those climbs might be going into them. Having the power meter on the trainer has given me a good feel for resistance throughout my training zones without having to try and chase my heart rate.
Bike – Tempo / Low Cadence Tempo / 2 X Threshold
This was an interesting workout that I was experimenting with. It’s a combination of a few workouts from the book Training And Racing With A Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andy Coggan, PhD. I went through a typical warm up and then put in a steady 40 min tempo effort at 220 watts (84% FTP) with cadence around 90 rpms. You can see that my cadence drifted down over time. Then, I went immediately into a 20 minute effort at the same 220 watts with cadence around 70 to 75 rpms. I recovered for 10 minutes and then put in a 10 min threshold effort at 270 watts, followed by another 10 min recovery and another 10 min threshold effort at 270 watts.
I really liked this workout. It lasted just over 2 hours and I was able to get a solid 1 hour of tempo riding in to work on endurance that included some minor strength endurance work, by dropping the cadence the last 20 minutes. Plus, I was able to finish off with some threshold efforts to work on increasing my threshold power. It’s also gives some representation of knowing if I can still put out some solid threshold efforts after already riding an hour at a solid tempo pace.
Not to mention, the 2 hours went by fairly fast as opposed to just repeating the exact same intervals over and over the entire time.
Run – 5K Test
I took a recovery week and decided to do a 5k baseline test for a couple reasons. First, my KICKR was out of commission and getting sent in for warranty work. That’s an entirely different conversation and I might write something up about it, once I get it back and find out if they have solved the problem or not. It has to do with a wobbly belt wheel and the entire axle assembly with the freehub loosening up. I originally thought the axle nut was backing off, but that wasn’t the case. Anyways, I sent it in to Wahoo for warranty and assume I will hear something back soon.
So, I could have done a threshold test on my CycleOps fluid trainer or the road, but I thought it was a good opportunity to go ahead and see where I stood with my 5k running effort. My pace was fairly steady, except for the start and finish. You can see that my heart rate creeped up the first 7 minutes and then leveled out for the most part. It leveled out fairly high though and above my heart rate threshold, which I could feel about 15 minutes in. I ran it just under 21 minutes with a 6:44 pace, which is nothing spectatular for a 5k, but I was happy with it and think it is a good starting point. I think the short speed intervals are helping with my speed and the 6 to 9 minute race pace efforts are helping push my threshold pace up. I haven’t run a 5k at that pace since running cross country in high school.
Strength Training Summary
I mentioned this in a previous monthly e-mail recap that goes out to subscribers, but I have not been doing my strength work all in one workout session. I’ve been doing it intermitantly throughout the day. That might be as a full circuit set or it might be just a few exercises and then I will hit a few different ones an hour or 2 later. It basically keeps me moving throughout the day and somewhat saves time from doing 1 specific session. This might change a little as I am spending some time at the gym with clients and have time to fit a workout in between appointments.
At anyrate, here are the exercises that I have been doing.
- push-ups with my feet on a stability ball
- romanian deadlifts
- bent over rows
I throw a few others in on occasion, but these are kind of the core group that I default to.
Winter Base Training Summary
This chart summarizes how my time was split between training zones during my winter base training. I spent almost 4 hours racing, so a good chunk of the zone 4 (threshold) time is from those races. The rest of that zone 4 time was from specific training efforts. You can see that I barely dipped in to zone 5. Basically a lot of my time was spent in zone 2 (endurance) and zone 3 (tempo), which makes sense for base training.
I tried to put this together in a format that you can pick and choose what you want to read. Hopefully, I provided enough lesson or details so that you can use some of this to put together, adjusting own workouts or just get some ideas for mixing up your training. I’m not completely done with base type training, but I wanted to get this out before it got too long. I do plan to do another FTP test as well when I am finished up with base training. Hopefully my KICKR is back from warranty at that point, so I have some power measurement to compare against my January FTP test. Regardless, I wanted to get this out before I ended up with a report that was way too long and unmanageble.
As I stand now… I think I am sitting in an ok place to make some gains this year. It sucks that I lost so much time this winter with illnes, but that’s just life. I am planning very few 100 milers this year and looking to do some shorter XC races and a few mid distance races, so I can spend more time racing and training vs recovering. If all goes well and I can make the gains that I want, then you’ll see me getting back after more 100 milers the following year.
I also want to get a half marathon in this year and then eventually a full marathon in the following years to build myself up to an Iron Man. It’s just something that is always nagging me in the back of my head and I’m trying to figure out how to train and ramp up for multiple types of events within the realms of the rest of life. Anyways, as always, let me kow if you have any questions…