Monthly Archives: September 2011

Sinfest comics

Another really cool site to include in your daily routine ;) You’d better go and check out the archives (though it is impossible to go through all of it, as it is just too much…), because you need to know the characters to understand everything. Thanks to Clio for the recommendation! I like the stories with the cat and the dog the most…

Conconi test

Performance tests are important parts of training. Knowing the Anaerobic Threshold (AT) or – as others tend to call it – the Lactate Threshold (LT) is very important, as training below, at, or above this intensity has very different effects and requirements. (Plus it is used to set heart rate training zones, so it is also used in my workout analyzer script, and I can estimate power from heart rate based on the threshold value.) Also, AT can change a lot with training, so it is a good measure of fitness. The principle behind the Conconi test is that there is a linear relation between heart rate and intensity below threshold, where the slope of this linear changes (and beyond this point, the relation might not even be linear anymore). So when heart rate and intensity is plotted against each other, there should be a deviation point, which marks the threshold level. The test is a relatively easy test to perform and retesting is easy, and the good thing is that you don’t need an expensive power meter, only a midrange indoor trainer, which is capable of directly measuring and setting (via changing the resistance) the intensity. How to do the test? Do a proper (but not too intensive) warm-up, then set a low power level, and maintain a steady pace for three minutes. Then every three minutes, increase the wattage level with 30 Watts until you can not hold it for three minutes anymore. (Then you will be completely KO, but try to spin a couple of minutes to cool down, and try to avoid falling off the trainer – because that is what you will want to do if you really did a maximum effort.) Then calculate the average heart rates for the last minute of every three minute interval, and plot them against the corresponding intensity values. You will get something like this (ok, maybe not as fancy as this, but you get the point…):

This is my test data from this month. The larger circles correspond to the last one minute, and just for comparison, I also plotted the averages from the first two minutes with small markers (which should be a bit lower normally). First of all, it is clear, that at very low intensities, a small change in riding position or breathing rhythm can influence the heart rate significantly, so there the linear relation will not be perfect. But from 170 W on, it is a textbook example (look at the large circles, and the solid lines), the deflection happens at 300 W and a heart rate of 184 BPM (so this is my AT), while I finished the test after three minutes at 360 W and with an average heart rate of 196 BMP in the last minute. From the raw data, my absolute maximum heart rate was 197 BPM (and I think I would say that my threshold is more likely to be 181-183 BPM). These are all quite good values for a 26 year old PhD student, who also bikes occasionally ;D

By the way, this month I have not been training that much, because first the weather was crappy after (and while) riding on the F1 track, then I had Mariann visiting me on the 2nd weekend (which was really nice, even though now I have been to Brugge more than my Belgian friends…), then the weather was crap again, then I got sick (just a cold), and as it is the end of the season I had no real motivation anymore. (Luckily my work related motivation is rising lately!) I hope this sickness will be gone by the weekend, because the weather will be nice, and I really need a good ride now…

8 Hours Cycling @ Spa-Francorchamps

On last Sunday I had the opportunity to ride my racing bike on a real Formula 1 track, as the AstroTeam was one of the 104 teams at the 1st ever 8 hour cycling race at Spa-Francorchamps – the track of the Belgian Grand Prix. We were among the 37 Quattro teams (Pierre, Stan – replacing Kristof who unfortunately got injured from overtraining -, Tijl, and Your’s truly – preparing for the first hour in the rain below) racing on the circuit.

The event was very professionally organised, with electronic timing system (using a wireless transponder placed in a standard cycling bottle) and live tracking of the results in the box. We rode in shifts of approximately one hour (Tijl, Pierre, me, Tijl, Stan, Pierre, me, Stan), changing – passing the bottle with the transponder to the next rider in the pit lane, while both riders had to be strictly off their bikes – after 3-5 laps. As Pierre had a broken spoke, he had to come in earlier, so I got the transponder while I was still preparing at the car, thus we lost some time here (that’s why my first lap seems to be unrealistically long in the table below – the pitstop time is also included), and I had to jump into the middle of the action still a bit unprepared :D

It was a lot of fun! Although the weather was not the best. It was the worst probably during my first hour, with basically continuous heavy rain, slippery asphalt (I took the downhill corners a bit more careful after my rear wheel slipped for the first time, right after I have seen the same thing happening with another rider ahead of me), and low visibility (even my fancy pro cycling glasses got a ‘bit’ foggy) – with tons of water splashing into my face from the wheel of the cyclist in front of me…

I could say it was very Belgian :D There was so much water, that the elevation data in my GPS got completely messed up, as the openings of the barometric sensor got fully blocked…

Luckily I managed to stay dry during my second hour. Oh, I mean, I managed to not get even more wet, as I had to ride in the same clothes as before (luckily I could change into dry clothes for the time in between the two shifts), and you can imagine that nothing got dry in three hours… But it was part of the experience, and as the air temperature was not cold (19°C), I did not really mind the rain. It made the whole event much more interesting (and harder in the corners of course) for sure.

You probably think that a Formula One track is probably completely flat. In case of Spa-Francorchmaps, this is really not the case. See the plan above, and data from my ride below (click for larger size, a lap starts at a bit before the 21 km mark and lasts till a bit before the 28 km mark), plus you can check out the course from a recent – very realistic – video game here :) So the two climbs had an impact on our speed for sure, especially that we had to be very careful with the downhill curves given the slippery conditions.

At the end we came in 24th overall (out of 104 teams) and 12th in the Quattro category (out of 37 teams), having ridden 37 laps (the picture at the end of the post does not display the final results), which is 4 laps less than the winning team. We had an official average speed of 31.192 km/h (I say ‘the official one’ because the official length of one lap is 7004 meters, but the optimal line – especially with a bike – is shorter, ~6.9 km here), compared to the 35.351 km/h of the winner quartet. I think this is a very nice result, especially when you compare our training load and equipment to the ones’ who had finished ahead of us. Especially that my goal was to finish in the top 50% (overall and within our category, while the result was top 25% and top 33%). My best lap was 12:21.694 (34.0 km/h, while I had a final average speed of 32.0 and 32.7 during my first and second hour, respectively), and only Stan was faster than me from our team. His ride was truly amazing, with a best lap of 11:19.675 (37.1 km/h)! Clearly, we can thank several positions to him :) The times for the rest of the AstroTeam were also very good, Tijl had a best lap of 13:08.535 (32.0 km/h), while Pierre’s fastest was 14:50.046 (28.3 km/h). We will ride next year again. Maybe the same race, maybe a 24 hour one ;)