As a quick follow up to the more lengthy and verbose account of my Transcontinental preparation experience in 2017, (see here), I wanted to supplement it with some data. James Hayden, the eventual winner of TCR 2017, has some great posts which quantify and visualise the effect of ultra endurance on your(his) body and I realised that my words and brief ride statistic summaries can only say so much. There are a few charts, from Strava, which give a different perspective on what all the time and kilometres add up to. For those of you with Strava premium or something similar then you can contrast and compare, I would love to hear views on where people stand.
First of all, my heatmap for 2017, you can follow the link, but I made some screen captures to show the general picture from a birdseye perspective:
but probably more informative is the area around Stuttgart where I was based throughout the year. Which more clearly shows my main training rides discussed in the other post .
Berlin to Essen, aborted
Mainz to Essen and Essen to Stuttgart, both along the Rhine
Ghent to Stuttgart
Not sure this tells me or anyone else a great deal, but it looks pretty and at least gives a sense of scale of what the TCR preparation task is all about.
What really interested me in the run-up to the race, and currently is of great use to me for knowing where I am at physically is the ‘Fitness and freshness’ chart from Strava. It is not so useable for looking at different historical time windows from your training, so I took a snapshot from a couple of months after the race:
For those of you unfamiliar with this type of chart, you can read it as follows. Time is along the x axis as normal, and plotted above (on a rather ambiguous numeric scale without units) are three parameters, Fitness, Fatigue and Form. Fitness is the main dark line with the grey underneath (higher is better), middle dark grey is Fatigue (higher is more tired) and the lightest grey is Form (again, higher is better). Fitness is calculated based on the training intensity of every activity (here I have both running and riding together) , Strava being a commercial enterprise does not publish exactly how it is calculates these figures but alludes to it being based on the methodology of Dr Andy Coggan and being derived from average heart rate and power over time. From the training intensity they also derive a value for your supposed Fatigue level, which correspondingly rises every time you train, but sadly much faster than your fitness! Form is simply a combination of the two, crudely put, Fitness minus fatigue is Form. What makes the system interesting is the recovery algorithms that they use to plot your decreasing fatigue and fitness after training. Since you recover faster than you lose fitness (even though it may not always feel like it).
In my case I slowly built up my fitness over the first half of 2017 after the conspicuous Christmas break. Red dots indicate race events, mixture of runs, triathlons and bike races in my case. What I found interesting is how hard it was to make modest gains, with a busy training schedule, I was doing something 6 out of 7 days on average and feeling pretty knackered, and absurdly hungry most of the time. I put this down to the often repeated mantra of over training. I was focussed on getting lots of time in the saddle or running, when I probably should have focussed on more structured sessions with specific goals. I had structured running sessions with my triathlon club but other than that I was generally making it up according to time availability and how I felt. What probably saved me from going to the start of TCR with a false sense of preparedness but actually very fatigued legs was my wedding and subsequent honeymoon at the beginning of July. My fatigue levels (at least according to this chart) dropped to the same level as my yuletide sloth and my ‘Form’ benefitted immensely
. After some mild maintenance training at the end of July, I went into the race with decent all round figures according to these metrics. Then my fatigue went through the roof, as you can expect! But more on that in the race reports themselves. After the race there followed a slow, steady and lazy decline through the rest of the year.