Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Trainer Road . . . initial impressions

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of riding the trainer.  It is a soul-sucking, life-draining, exercise in tedium and boredom.  Despite my best intentions, it's easy to pass over the trainer in favor of more enjoyable activities such as mowing the lawn or vacuuming the car.  Pulling weeds and shoveling snow are also strong contenders. I've tried all kinds of distractions and while a good television program can help a bit, I still would find myself constantly staring at the clock over the course of a ride.  A planned hour ride would become 45 minutes, then 40, and eventually 30 minutes.  I just couldn't stand being on the bike and going absolutely nowhere.
When it comes to triathlon however, the bike is not my strong point.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I have a weakness on the bike, but I'm typically that guy who has an "okay" ride, and then a much stronger run.  While this has served me well for the sprint and Olympic distance events, I could tell during the Harvest Moon Half last fall, that the bike was a bit of a limiter.  Instead of feeling fresh going into the run, my legs felt wobbly and I quickly became fatigued.  Since I plan on tackling Ironman Boulder next summer, I know that I will have to dramatically improve my bike fitness if I want to successfully complete, let alone survive, that kind of distance.   And while there are plenty of days during the winter months to do some outside riding, they aren't frequent enough to guarantee any consistent training.  Couple that with an overall lack of time and it's clear . . . the trainer and I have to reach some kind of agreement.
My trainer set up probably has something to do with my lack of joy at training.  The TravelTrac Fluid Trainer I own is a few years old and about as entry level as you can get.  The ride isn't terrible, but it lacks some of the stability and "flow" of a Cycle Ops or a Kinetic Trainer.  Still, it's been quiet and reliable and has easily paid for itself many times over.
Throughout the fall, I've been considering some ways that I might be able to make the trainer experience more interesting.  One really intriguing option is called Zwift (saw it on DC Rainmaker), Zwift combines a "video game" style ride with Strava like features.  You can ride with (or against) other riders in a virtual world.  It looks very cool, but unfortunately, it's still in Beta and not available to the masses at this point.  So instead, I decided to try out Trainer Road.  There were a couple of reasons for selecting this one:
1) Low monthly cost of $10.00
2) I had all of the necessary gear to make it work.
3) TR supports all kinds of trainers including my very low-end TravelTrac.
4) I don't own a power meter (and don't really plan on getting one anytime soon), but TR has developed a "virtual power" that while not the most precise, is at least somewhat consistent for training purposes.
Trainer Road also requires a rather simple set-up.  I'm not going to go into all of the details about how to sync it with the Ant+, etc (you can read about that here), but it was a relatively simple operation (I actually did it twice after finding an old laptop in the basement that I could dedicate solely for TR).  With the proper downloads, I had it up and running in less than 20 minutes.  I decided to start w/ a 20 minute FTP test.  This was done towards the end of an hour long session that included a bit of "practice" at higher intensities.  The screen itself reminded me of the "peaks and valleys" that you might see on a fitness cycle in a hotel or club, but throughout the ride, a set of instructions or "tips" would appear on the screen as well.  Before a change in intensity, etc., there was a three second beeping countdown that cued you to the next part of the workout.  I have to admit I was pretty spent after that first test.  My FTP, based on this initial test, was at 182.  I will plan on repeating the test again in a month, after having more time training with the set up.

The 20 minute FTP test comes towards the end of the workout.  The end result for me was an FTP of 182.
Since that initial ride, I've only managed about 4 rides (travel and a subsequent illness knocking me out for about a week and a half).  That said, I do continue to find them enjoyable (as much as riding the trainer can be enjoyable) and more importantly, they really pass the time.  The rides I have done have mostly been interval types of workouts, although I did do one workout that really focused on some form and some leg drills.  I'm using a "low volume Sweet Spot" training plan right now that I plan to carry through into the new year.  Here's a sampling of a couple of rides that I've done:

The workout above was called Mount Field and basically consisted of some longer intervals at a moderate level of power.  The most challenging part of this ride was trying to drop down in output in between each interval.

This workout was called "Goddard" and was decidedly more challenging.  The weirdest part were the isolated leg drills.  It feels really awkward to try and pedal on a trainer with just one leg.  I was definitely happy to finish up this workout!
So, I'm poised for some workouts in the coming weeks using Trainer Road and as the winter progresses, I'll be adding and adapting those training rides a bit (may even see about combining a few of these).  I'll keep you posted with regard to how it goes.

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