Today wasn’t the best. We all have off moments on the bike, or times when everything seems to be against us. For me, today was one of those days.
So often the focus of a training diary are the days when you hit a PR, smash a Strava segment, or go well in a race. People very rarely write about the bad times. I get why, but it happens to us all so there’s no point shying away from it. I hope by sharing some experiences of when things didn’t go to plan it will help others stay calm and not panic about their training, progression, or form. Especially as we head into Race Season.
The body is fickle. We aren’t machines, and sooner or later you’re going to have a bad day.
I’m not sure if I’m shouting at myself or the turbo… Probably a bit of both.
Today was a bad day
After a brilliant ride the day before with good friend Phill, I was psyched to do a double day on the turbo. I woke up early, walked the dogs, ate a good breakfast of banana porridge with blueberries and got to work setting up the turbo trainer. The legs were feeling a little jaded from riding hard the day before but overall I was feeling good.
The plan was 5×5 minutes vO2 Max at about 320w – 350w. This is something I’ve always been good at, so I had this down as a fairly standard session. I had no reason to believe I wouldn’t smash it.
I hopped on the turbo and began to warm up. Twenty minutes later I started the first interval. And I barely made it to the end. That’s okay I thought, sometimes it takes one or two to get in to the flow. The second one, I didn’t make it to the end at all. And the trend continued until eventually I switched off the power data and just rode on feel. I made sure I finished the session, but it wasn’t done well at all. I failed 4 out of 5 efforts. And these were at an intensity I knew I could sustain without much drama. I was pissed! But at least I battled through.
The second session of the day was supposed to be 2×20 minutes sweet spot (260w – 280w) again on the turbo. With the nightmare I’d just had, the last thing I wanted to do was get back on the turbo. So I decided to do this ride on the road. On my Time Trial bike. It was raining, it was cold, the wind was howling, but at least I was going to ride my bike outside.
I soft pedalled out to the start of a local long Strava segment where I could do an extended sweet spot effort. I wound up and got into the flow. Things were feeling good. Then of course, it all went a bit tits up…
I hit a pothole which caused my saddle to slip uncomfortably forwards. Forcing me to abandon my effort and ride.
Of course I forgot my multi-tool! This made for an awkward ride home.
So the second session of my doube-day was also a failure. Although this time it wasn’t because I had crap legs (just equipment, as we’ll rant about shortly)!
But I always try to finish what I start…
When I got home I jumped on the turbo and completed the second 20 minute sweet spot session anyway. I felt great for doing it! And it was the highlight of my day. At least I’d eventually managed to complete the day and salvage some of my training.
Things don’t always go to plan, but you can usually find a way to make it right if you really want to.
What do I do when it all goes wrong?
- Try not to beat myself up. It’s seriously frustrating when I can’t get out, or am unable able to finish an interval. But in reality it’s really not going to affect things. As long as this doesn’t become a habit. If it does, chances are I’m either over training or need to revise my training zones.
- Do my best anyway. In the video above, I vent my frustration at failing to complete the interval as planned, and then realise if I had just dug a little deeper and focussed more maybe I could’ve done it. I was straight back on it within seconds and finished the effort anyway.
- Turn off power / hr data. When things are going wrong, a little box on your handlebars telling you just how much I suck is the last thing I need. When I’m not hitting the numbers I’ll do my best to finish a session to the best of my abilities on the day. This sometimes means removing power data from my Garmin and just going as hard as I feel I need in order to complete the session. Yesterday was vO2 Max 320w – 360w but I struggled. When I turned off the power data for the last interval, I was actually extremely close to my 320w target. I felt better, and I managed to finish as planned.
Don’t let bad equipment get in the way of good training
Here’s a little rant about my turbo trainer. It’s crap. I replaced my trusty Tacx Sirius – a bottom of the range model with simple magnetic resistance – with the fancy Elite one in the video above. It’s got progressive magnetic and fluid resistance and on paper blows my old one out of the water. There are a few advantages in that it’s super easy to set up. But to actually use the thing for training is near impossible.
This chart shows a 20 minute sweet spot effort done on the turbo. The pink line is power, the yellow cadence. I did the entire effort in the same gear, but as you can see at the start I was doing over 100rpm at about 265/270 watts. By the end 90rpm and the watts hovering at 300! That’s a significant difference when you’re attempting to do a steady effort.
I think it’s probably as the turbo warms up. It sends the power / resistance curve nuts and riding on the thing becomes laborious, and extremely unpleasant. It’s like trying to pedal some kind of sticky gripy squid.
The higher the power the worse this gets. So for the vO2 Max efforts earlier in the day it was a real struggle to even turn the pedals smoothly in a gear that would produce 330w.
I’ll be digging out my old Tacx to use in the future. I’m sorry, ol’ faithful.
Unless you’re going all out and buying a Wattbike, my advice would be to get one of the lower-end turbo trainers that only use magnetic resistance.
End of rant!