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).

Monday, February 16, 2015

Trainer Road Review . . . an update!


Last November, I joined Trainer Road in an effort to bring a little more intensity and purpose to my riding.  It is now about two months later and in that time, I've logged somewhere around 500 miles on the trainer.  All of these rides have been done using Trainer Road.  In short, TR has been a great tool for training so far this year.  Here are the benefits that I've noticed:

An affordable way to train with "Power":  Since I don't own a Power meter, I usually gauge my effort according to Heart Rate and/ or perceived exertion.  TR allows you to establish a virtual power based on the trainer that you use (they have a list of many different brands/ models, so you're likely to find yours).  Whether or not virtual power is completely accurate is difficult to say, but used consistently, it allows you to establish a basis for comparison with yourself, which is really what matters.  However, for a middle of the pack guy like me, it fits the bill at a nice price point.  In the nearly 30 rides that I've done, I've definitely developed a sense of what my effort feels like at different power levels. Since HR and cadence are also detailed on the TR software, it has helped me to get a sense of how hard I'm working at various stages in any given workout.
 I've also done two FTP tests using TR.   Each was an hour long ride building up to the last 20 minutes done as hard as is sustainable.  From that last 20 minnutes, an FTP is established.  Subsequent workouts are done in relation to this FTP so if a workout interval requires you to ride at 90% of your FTP, it will automatically adjust to that percentage.  The first test I did right after I joined TR.  I established an initial FTP of 182 on that ride.  In mid-January I completed a second FTP test with a score of 196 watts.  The graph from each test is listed below (Note: The initial test was set with FTP at 200 which was just a "guess" as I hadn't tested before.  The second test shows an FTP of 182, the result from the first test.  After the second test, a new FTP was established at 196).  I'll plan on doing another FTP test in about a month to see how I've progressed.
First FTP test in Late November with a result of 182 Watts.
Second FTP in January.  Result was an FTP of 196 Watts.
Increased frequency of rides:  The allure of data (along with the powerful incentive of working towards an Ironman) has been a strong incentive to get on the trainer and ride.  By the end of the month, I will have over 500 miles for the year (including 300+ this month).  This is way above my seasonal average.  I'll admit I'm a bit of a data nerd in this regard.  The opportunity to analyze the outputs from a ride are extremely satisfying and a great way to finish up after a workout.

More purposeful riding:  In the past, I would usually get on the trainer and spin at a steady cadence for somewhere between 30-50 minutes.  Very rarely would my ride extend beyond this level.  And while my average trainer ride is currently only at about 1.2 hours, they involve a lot less mindless spinning and much more purposeful training.  In the last few months, I've become familiar with everything from Isolated Leg Drills to Over and Unders to 30 second bursts at 130% of FTP.  The rides on TR do an excellent job of maximizing your workout time.  Now keep in mind that they aren't at the same level as the insane and appropriately named "Sufferfest" videos (that shit really is crazy!), but they also don't let you sit back and relax.

TR captures "Career" stats, documenting the data from all of your rides.
They also have a variety of extended training plans.  My introduction to TR was the "Sweet Spot" Low Volume training program that averaged about 3.5 hours of riding a week for 6 weeks. This was found in the "base training section" as all training plans are divided into either base, build, or specialty phases.  It was a great introduction and perfect for someone like me who was starting to ramp up their training.   After the Sweet Spot, I've moved on to a Triathlon program.  It's a Half-Distance Mid Volume plan that averages to 5.3 hours/ week (although many of them clock in at 6+ hours).  In a regular week, I will usually ride an hour on Monday, 75-90 minutes on Wednesday, and finish the week with a couple of 2 to 2.5 hour rides on Saturday and Sunday.  The creators of TR have promised an Iron-Distance program, but so far it has not materialized.  I'm hoping that it will soon, although I imagine I will begin to get outdoors a bit more as the weather warms.

A "snippet" of the Sweet Spot Plan.
Convenience= more time to train:  While not limited to TR, there is definitely truth in terms of the ease of going downstairs and getting on the trainer to ride.  Normally, getting ready for an outdoor ride takes a fair amount of time (even more if I'm driving somewhere to start).  With the trainer downstairs, this time is greatly reduced.  Given the fact that most of my weekday rides occur in the morning, there's simply no way that I could be riding outside, so there is definitely an advantage there.
But does it work?:  Last weekend the weather was just too nice to stay inside.  I decided to go for a 40 mile ride outdoors.  I looked at the planned two hour ride on TR that basically consisted of 4x25 minute intervals at a higher pace (still below FTP however).  Using my Garmin, I set up an interval workout to use during my ride, and although I didn't have the benefit of Power, I made an effort to ride at a higher cadence/ effort during each interval.  I rode the 40 mile route in just over two hours with an average speed of 19.7 mph.  I also noticed that my average cadence was 84 rpm.  This is an improvement from other rides where I usually average anywhere from 74-77 rpm.  Right now, my riding seems similar to where I would be in early to mid- Spring.  For the Ironman, I'm hoping that my average speed is not below 17 mph, so I feel like the time on the trainer is helping me to get closer to that goal.
Results of an outdoor ride after 2 months on TR.  
What lies ahead: I'll continue using TR as a regular training tool for the next 5 weeks or so.  That will put me into spring break where I hope to start integrating a few more outside rides (particularly on the weekends if the weather cooperates).  TR also has software that allows you to create custom workouts.  You can build a workout that includes different levels of workouts and adjusts to your FTP.  For example you can build warm-ups, interval sets, etc.  I'm working to set up a custom ride of about two hours that will help me to dial in the intensity that I'll need for IM Boulder.  No doubt it will take some tweaking, but it should be a good way to measure the intensity that I'll need against my current level of fitness.
TR is good if:

  • You want to train indoors, but find the trainer a bit boring.
  • You would benefit from having training plans and workouts available that meet your riding needs (whether that's triathlon, criteriums, or cyclecross).
  • You are time-crunched and need to use the trainer to get workouts completed.
  • You love data

You can skip TR if:

  • You plan to do more than 70% of your riding outdoors.
  • You just want to spin and aren't focused on a long term goal or plan.
  • You have no interest in data.
  • You don't ride a bicycle at all.
I'll continue to use TR during the next several weeks and I imagine that it will still play a big part in my training until early summer when my schedule "lightens up" a bit.  

8 comments:

  1. Great review, thanks for sharing! I especially love the outdoor results backing up your hard indoor work :)

    -Trevor from TrainerRoad

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  2. Great review, thanks for sharing! I especially love the outdoor results backing up your hard indoor work :)

    -Trevor from TrainerRoad

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  3. I currently am coached as a member of Carmichael Training Systems. This program is identical in methods and philosophy. The main advantage, for me, of having a coach concerns my motivation when it comes to indoor training. If I didn't have to report to someone my motivation would be significantly reduced, unfortunately.

    I currenlty pay $165/month. TrainerRoad probably would yield similar improvements and for FAR less money. I may either suspend my current coaching to try this for 2 months or wait until my subscription to CTS ends in March of 2016 and give it a try. It looks extremely well conceived and worth every penny.

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  4. great to see the results.. on thing that i would like to ask.. how do you integrate the cycling training plans with you triathlon training plans? how do you ensure the amount and intensity is just right, since we are training for 3 sports in one go..
    appreciate your view.. thanks!

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    Replies
    1. I used TR primarily in the cooler months before I could get out onto the road. As the spring progressed, I did fewer rides on the trainer and more outdoors. My focus with TR was really to get stronger on the bike, so that I could ride the 112 IM distance without destroying myself on the run. It worked well. A few months back, they did add several triathlon options all the way up through IM distance and they do a nice job of explaining how to integrate it.

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    2. Thanks for the reply mate! when you say they explain how to integrate it, means the training plan that they give will only be specific for cycling? Then you'll fit it into your 3 sports triathlon training plan accordingly, making it a bike focus training for triathlon. Am i getting it right?
      *am planning to dive into full iron distance towards early 2017, hence trying to find best possible way to improve my bike, and to ensure i have enough strength to go the distance.
      really appreciate your input! thanks!
      -kimie-

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    3. Yes. They give you the cycling workouts and let you fill in the blanks with the Run/ Swim workouts that you'll be doing. Their customer support is also very good so if you have any questions, they are very good about getting back to you. FWIW, my bike fitness and confidence improved just by jumping on and doing more of the workouts, especially during the off-season. I learned to ride at a lot of differing intensities, and that translated in the long run when I started more steady state training. I think that's the real value of TR. It gets you to ride differently than you might otherwise train.

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    4. cool.. that's great to hear how it allows you to fit in the triathlon program within the bike training.. looks like i'm definitely going to give this a try!
      train with virtual power indoor.. learn and the RPE.. and replicate that when riding outdoors..
      cool!..

      thanks a lot for the insight!
      *maybe one day we might cross path at races around the world!

      take care
      -kimie-

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