I've been able to log a few decent outdoor rides since arriving home from Tucson a few weeks ago. I did my first Lake Warmaug ride last week on a beautiful 65 degree sunny day. Riding around Lake Warmaug is extremely popular to any cyclist in Western Connecticut. I have done this route so many times and yet it never loses it's allure. It's not just the eight mile beautiful loop around the lake though - to me, this part of the ride is just an easy section to recover and get in some nutrition along with beautiful scenery. The round trip ride from my house is roughly 85 miles give or take (I have a few different route options that can lengthen or shorten the trip by a couple of miles) and the whole ride is picturesque, riding along New Englend country roads. The ride out through Southbury and into Roxbury, then Washington is relentless with hills. Nothing to big, but there is one right after the other and some very steep. The return trip is not much different. This course takes it's toll on you. But I love it and just like putting the top down on a convertible or opening up all the house windows on that first spring like Saturday of the year, it signifies a change of seasons for me, putting a period on the end of winter. Sure, we may get a few crappy, cold wintery days still, but my mind is now focused on Spring time and, again, I love it! I love the thought of early Saturday bike rides, and running in daylight at 7:30pm. As much as I try to make each year a bit different, there are traditions and events I've become accustomed to that just feel good. The Warmaug ride is one of them.
I took my Cannondale Slice out for the first time of the year on this loop. I rode my road bike in Tucson and do most of my early season training on my road bike, but I felt like taking out the rocket. The combination of my position being dialed in on this bike, the fact that the bike is just plain fast, and also that it looks extremely fast (yes, there is a huge placebo effect here) meant that I was riding probably harder than I should have, but that's ok. Sometimes you need to bend the margins a bit. When you do it regularly, that's when we get ourselves into trouble.
I was thinking a lot about training with power while riding out to Warmaug and keeping an eye on my own wattage. Training with power has become extremely popular and yet I feel most really don't know how to use their expensive power meter correctly. There are some great books on training with power yet, they can be overly complicated and take some of the enjoyment out of training in general. plus, I feel that many of the tests that are set up for testing threshold are inaccurate. Take functional threshold for example; this is measured by the average power you can exert by going as hard as you can for an hour. many athletes and coaches do and give this test and then extrapolate training plans based off of this number. Yet, most don't really get a super accurate depiction of one's functional threshold because it's extremely hard to push as hard as you can for one hour. Many will do the test and come up with a number. Then, they race an Olympic distance triathlon or bike race and see that they maintained a much higher average power output during an hour portion of the race. So how do you figure out what power zones are correct for you? You ride a bunch, and review your power information and/or have your coach review it. I have athletes that are training for an IM, and they give me their average watts for a 5 hour training ride, yet this number may be front or rear loaded. I want to know where there power was early in the ride, late in the ride, and what their heart rate was doing in correlation to their power, and also how they refueled during the ride. I'll also have them ride a set course at a certain heart rate every six to eight weeks and we will analyze their power output for this course. If their weight hasn't increased and the conditions are similar, then it's a pretty accurate depiction on whether you are making decent training gains, not recovering well, training ineffectively, ... The point is, don't get to fixated on a certain number because it may in fact limit you. It's quite similar to all these triathletes and cyclists that spend a good amount of hard earned cash on a bike fit where they are analyzed on a trainer indoors, and even though the fit may take over an hour, they are pedaling easily on the bike for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Well, then you see them 90 minutes into a hard outdoor ride and they are sitting on their bike in a totally different manner than their "professional" fit suggested mainly because they are uncomfortable, not generating decent power, ... What I'm saying is that real world analyzing and testing trumps a lot of the lab junk.
Enough on this though, the main idea behind this post is that Spring is here, so get out there and enjoy it!