So I got my results from my first FTP (Function Threshold Power) test. They read as follows:
Max Heart Rate: 187 beats per minute
Structural Aerobic Conditioning (STE) HR: 131- 150bpm
20min Test Power: 244 Watts
20min Test HR : 177bpm
I have no idea if this is poor, average or impressive in comparison to others. All I know is that I gave my all in the test and this is where my starting point is. The STE range is an effort bracket in which I can ride without over-exerting my body. Since I don’t have a power meter, Mark Carroll, my guide in this scientific approach, is working with my heart rate. Power is far more accurate, but not as accessible to most due to the cost of a power meter (they cost between R9000 and R18 000).
So my ABSA Cape Epic goal, according to Mark, is for me train my body to maintain my 244 Watts, but extend the length of time I can push out this average power from 20 minutes to 60 minutes. And shortly after he gave me my test results, he gave me a training plan.
It was my fourth week of ABSA Cape Epic training, usually given as an easier week by coaches who use a traditional approach – three weeks building, one week easier, three weeks building, one week easier and so on…
And it was a fairly easy week. He said I should ride as often as I could, doing rides ranging from 2 hours to 5 hours in duration. But I was to keep my heart rate in the STE zone for the whole of each ride. What this did was force me to pedal pretty fast on slight descents, moderately fast on flats and ease off significantly on climbs. Essentially, the opposite of how most of us train (hard on the climbs, easy on the descents, right?).
“That ‘low’ intensity is way more difficult than it seems. You have to pedal relentlessly, which will feel very fast on the flats but in contrast, hills will feel like a rest because you will need to tap right off to keep HR under 150,” explained Mark.
I discovered that it’s hard to stay in this zone on trails, so I ended up doing most of my mileage in Week 4 on tar. For the last two days of Week 4 though, I was staying at Montusi Mountain Lodge in the Northern Drakensberg – a short family escape from the city. Hard to stay in the STE zone even on the tar in the Berg because of the steep gradients, but I tried…
What I discovered is that it’s quite efficient to pedal harder on the flats and descents and go easy on climbs. Although my overall times were a bit slower on certain regular routes, I seemed to feel stronger for longer and my leg muscles, sore from three weeks of training, recovered really well.
Week 5 was 4 x 4 hour rides with the first 3 hours in the STE zone and the last hour hard. The first of these two I did on the All Out Adventures-built trails in the Berg and the last two on Joburg trails – The Spruit and Thaba Trails. My MOVING time for each ride wasn’t quite 4 hours, but my TOTAL time out was. I need to focus on getting that changed as I get closer to the race (less photo stops!)…
The Spruit has a very gradual gradient along the banks of a river, while Thaba Trails offers a moderate Green Route and a tough-as-hell Blue Route that’s steep, rocky and well, more steep and more rocky – a great place to build your mental strength, skills and power.
I rode at Thaba Trails with my ABSA Cape Epic teammate, Issy Zimmerman. We decided that we HAVE to train there more often. We ended up riding 45km with 949m of ascent. That’s an average of 21 metres of ascent per kilometre – exactly the same as the total average for the 2015 ABSA Cape Epic…
Week 6 (12-18 January 2015), is a taper week that will include my first two sessions on the indoor bikes at Cadence Cycling. Taper week? Yep, Issy and I have chosen to race the Fairview Attakwas Extreme MTB Challenge on 17 January. It’s a 121km ultra-marathon with 3000 metres of ascent. From what we’ve been told, it’s as tough as any toughest stage in the Cape Epic.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice that my favourite eyewear is Oakley’s Radarlock model. I like that it is light, stays on my face firmly no matter how wet (sweat/rain), is comfortable even on the longest rides and has a range of lenses that I can easily swap to suit the conditions of the day. I have a few frame colours (black/silver, red and black/white), which I like to match with the gear I’m wearing.
When I’m not testing a helmet for TREAD magazine, I usually wear a Cratoni helmet. It’s a German specialist helmet brand that pays a lot of attention to fit. Some helmets start feeling a bit uncomfortable after a few hours, but I’ve found the Cratoni to be the one brand that seems to suit my head best. I have the C-Tracer model in two neutral colours (matt black and matt white), which weighs a fairly light 220g for a mid-range lid.
Next time: my views on the Attakwas, considered one of the toughest one-day races anywhere. For more regular updates on my ABSA Cape Epic preparation, you can follow me on twitter: @Mr_TREAD and/or Instagram: MR_TREAD.