Training Update at Altitude

It has been an interesting couple of months trying to get my body acclimated to training at altitude. I had been told (sold?) a variety of time frames for this process. Anything from 2 weeks to 6 months. My personal observations thus far has been that I have been erring on the side of longer, not shorted.

When I arrived here, it was laughable what my “long” workouts looked like. Not only was I out of shape from more or less pulling the plug on training after Ironman Canada in late July 2014, but the altitude…oh the altitude.

I have been tracking all my workouts for the last couple of years through Garmin, and today felt like I had my first challenging, but not hard, bike workout. Looking at the data, I hit all the power numbers I was supposed to hit. This is a good thing. So I plotted the data to see how things look. The starting point in the chart below is early May 2014, or about 1 month out from my first race of the year. At that point I was 5 months into my training for the season. By comparison, I started up again this year on Nov 15, so I am less than two months in.

Coach Ben has been patient with me, consistently reminding me to be patient. In looking at the chart below, I can see a very pronounced upward trend.Avgerage Power

Of course, one cannot but exclaim mild shock at that ridiculous downward slope in the line from early Aug to Nov. If you are wondering what the combined effects of not training and moving to altitude are, there you go. I was able to produce rides of about 130-150W on average. It’s painful for me to even look at the data.

Of course, there’s a few caveats to this data. First, most of my rides in the May-Jul period last year were outdoors. I know I do better, wattage-wise, outdoors than on the trainer. Further, because they were outdoors, they were also longer blocks of race level wattage, specifically 80-85% functional lactate threshold (FLT). So it’s not entirely apples to apples, but it’s a nice comparison. The second issue is that it would appear that I was crazy erratic in my months leading up to the Ironman. I need to dig in on this a bit more, but the variance of the left hand section of the chart is very high, but if we put a trend line on it, it would likely be flat and in the 175W range. The blue line is my outright watts, and the orange line is my W/Kg. I had to dig through quite a bit of Facebook posts to get best estimates for weight. I resolve to track this better going forward.

The real action in that chart, though, is on the right hand side. It’s almost as if you can see fitness coming back to life. The workouts I have had thus far are mostly happening indoors on the trainer. The W/Kg is trending close to where I was at the Ironman. That’s a promising sign, especially since I have read that coming to altitude costs you about 7%-17% FLT, but does recover, though not fully.

A second chart paints a different picture. Below is a plot of the max 20 minute power output during my rides. This one is highly impacted by the types of workouts I am doing now which tend to be loads of intervals, with shorter, more intense, bursts.MaxAvg20Power

Again, if you were to plot a trend line only on the left hand side, with all the variance, we’d be around 207W, 2.8W/Kg. The workout today was 214W, and 2.9W/Kg. The max on the left hand side was 252W and 3.4W/Kg, so I have work to do, but the workouts I am doing right now do not lend themselves to hitting those high numbers just yet.

More than anything, I’d like to make sure I am more consistent on my training and power output. I am going to dig in more on the numbers from May-Aug last year to see if the variance is just a function of the workouts or if it was really as bad as it looks.

Overall, I feel happier seeing the data in visual form. The upward trend is clear. My weight is actually coming down faster this year than last year. I’m already at the weight equivalent to where I was just two weeks out from my first race. I’m not really thinking about weight as a target, but more as a factor in my W/Kg. I’m also eating differently this season, but more on that later in another post. The sneak peek on that one is that I have tried some new “meat.”