As I have written many times before, I delegate my coaching to my CTS coach Jason Tullous. This means that all I have to do is wake up in the morning, check my training schedule and go ride my bike.

This is what I woke up to yesterday morning:

My training instructions for August 6th, 2011

It meant that I had to drive for about an hour to Bromont and go climb Mount Shefford twice. It also meant I was in for some serious pain. Although I have done better than 270 watts for 20 minutes before I knew that the two minutes at 350 watts at the beginning of each climb and the “ramp up your power” part would ensure that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. And doing it twice would require serious committment. (By the way, I did put in three hours of work as planned but I only have data for the first 1:45 hrs as the battery in the power meter went dead).

This is how the first climb went:

The First Climb

I actually felt better than expected and I decided to keep up a good pace, aiming for at least 290 watts. On the first climb, I maintained an average of 291 watts (296 watts normalized) and it took me 21:18 mins to get to the top.

This is how the second climb went:

The Second Climb

Although I struggled to maintain 350 watts at the start, I decided to do at least as well power wise as on the first climb. I got to the top in 20:52 minutes and maintained an average of 292 watts or 293 watts normalized.

Once I got home and reviewed my power file I felt pretty good about my ride. Then I thought: “I wonder how this power file compares to my power file from the Burke Hill Climb Race last September.” That race was 32 minutes long.

This is what my best 30 minutes power from yesterday looks like:

Best 30 Minutes Power - August 6th, 2011

This is my power file for the September 2010 Burke Hill Climb Race:

Burke Race power file, September 2010

Let’s focus on the normalized power: my best 30 minutes normalized power yesterday was 276 watts – including 8:45 mins of riding to the bottom of the climb compared to 275 watts normalized power during the Burke Hill Climb Race – full out, can’t climb any faster – last September.

What is the difference between average power and normalized power? Average Power is computed by taking the power readings over the entire ride and dividing it by the number of readings, let’s say every second. So, for example, if your ride is 60 minutes (3,600 sec) long, your computer is taking 3,600 readings. As you might expect hose 3,600 power readings during a hilly ride may be 400w one minute and 200w the next. Actually, they may be 400w one second and 200w the next. And, if you’re not pedaling the power readings will be zero watts (at least they better be or your Power Meter is out of calibration). So, your computer displays average power, after an hour of riding, by summing up all those  readings and dividing by 3,600.

Normalized Power is computed with a complicated algorithm which takes into account the variability of your ride such as: wind, coasting, drafting, accelerations, uphills, downhills, long steady grinding, etc. Normalized Power is a better indicator of the true metabolic demands of your ride than average power. Basically, it’s the wattage you would have averaged if you had pedaled smoothly for the entire effort/ride- the power that your body “thought” it was doing. Normalized Power provides a better measure of the true physiological demands of a given ride than does Average Power.

Normalized power combines two factors. First, the fact that physiological responses to rapid changes in intensity follow a time course that is predictable. Secondly, the fact that many physiological responses (e.g. lactate production, glycogen utilization, etc) are not linear when related to exercise intensity. For example, a ride that has massive accelerations and then lulls (perhaps a criterium) will be more demanding on your energy systems than a ride that is much more steady – even though they may average out to being the same wattage in the end. Normalized Power is basically an estimate of the power that you could have maintainted for the same physiological “cost” if your power output had been constant. Because of the factors that are taken into consideration, Normalized Power gives you a better indication of the true demands of a ride than Average Power does. This can all be found in the book “Training And Racing With A Power Meter” (I almost copied this description right out of the book). It’s well worth the read if you have a power meter and want to learn how to use it properly.

By now most of you will have read Part I of The Law Of Progression. I was pretty excited about the initial 2011 progression. Well, it would appear to me that part of the law of progression says that your racing power will eventually become your training power. I remember how I felt during the Burke Hill Climb Race: awful. It was one of the toughest efforts of 2010 in a race. How did I feel yesterday? Good enough to repeat the effort. So at the same normalized power – or at same physiological cost –  the ride last year was extremely hard and yesterday’s ride was – how should I put it – a good training ride.

Go figure.