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The Skinny on Power: Finding the Cone of Light

by Anthony Little |

Objectivity is an aspirational trait. For too long most of my social, work, and familial circles have been entirely too-well-versed in the language of cycling and my invented colloquialisms. Hence, in the interest of the reader knowing what the hell I'm talking about, a glossary, in no particular order or importance.

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A GUIDE TO SOUNDING LIKE A SPANDEX-CLAD BUFFOON

Zones: A certain riding intensity, typically referred to as "Z1, Z2, Z3, Z5A, Zblahblahablah" ad naseum. Governed by power (in watts) and heartrate (in bumps/beats/blips per minute). The actual objective and real intensity of said zone varies from individual to individual. For example, Peter Sagan's Z2 is probably your Z4. Ya dig? 

  • -Z1: Super-easy. Like, riding with your mom. Or the Pope. Or maybe a nine year-old. AKA, "coffee ride", "glass cranks", "recovery spin", etc. You get the idea.
  • -Z2: Known otherwise as "endurance". The long ride pace. Conversational, yet a workout, just barely uncomfortable. Also known as "base miles" or "volume". This is where I hang out 75% of the time on the bike.
  • -Z3: It's beginning to hurt. A little. Sometimes a lot. "Tempo". Usually where most people settle into while going up a hill without thought or focus.
  • -Z4: PAIN. This is commonly known as "threshold", "20-minute power", "TT-pace". It hurts. Rolling through in the break. Chasing down a breakaway. Time-trialing. Climbing (with gusto). This is it, that sustained 15-60 minutes of tolerable agony. Mentally difficult, aesthetically anguishing. It's hard to hide the painface north of here. Or, if you're me, the durpface. 538309_406161202729416_924454972_n
  • -Z5: MORE PAIN. "Anaerobic". Hurts. A lot. Can be done for 1-5 minutes. Has punishing older siblings named Z5B, Z5C, whatever. They go from "standard road racing attack" to "finish sprint" intensities. This is what SPEED is. Fitness is all well and good, but without SPEED, fitness is nothing (and vice-versa). This is something that's hard to get good at alone (not even your Strava can save you now). Difficult group rides, racing, and motorpacing are the lynchpins to "Zone 5". My rule of thumb for a Z5 workout? See the "Cone of Light" at the end. The COL is, as far as I can medically tell, when my body stops supplying enough blood to my eyeballs/optic nerve, causing me to begin to lose my vision at the edges. Also, taste blood. It's a good feeling.

Cracked/Blown: Failing to hold a certain intensity for a specific duration, as a result of mental or physical distress. The end product of insufficient relative mental/physical fortitude.

Kilometer: Logical unit of measure the rest of the world uses. Adds Euro-cred when distances are dropped in "K's". Eg: "How far did you ride on Sunday?" "170k's".

Full-Gas/Drilling it: Going really hard. Really, really hard. Not necessarily as hard as physically possible, but as hard as possible for a given situation.

Pegged: Holding a certain pace, typically harder-than-not. "I was pegged at 330 watts for two hours, and then vomited into my shoes after the ride."

Watts: Unit of power and/or male genitalia measure. If the Donald were a cyclist, Marco Rubio would accuse him of having small watts. The more watts your watt-makers make (a suspect combination of cardiovascular system and legs), the faster you go. Measured with a powermeter attached to the bicycle. If you're PRO, it's an SRM crank, or sometimes (maybe POSSIBLY) a Quarq.

Bikeracer Fat: A state in which a person is viewed as "fit", or "athletic" by the general populace, yet feels vastly inadequate when it comes to being skinny enough to race a bicycle and/or be seen in lycra. See also: Vanity.

Nosebreather: One who is particularly fit, breathing out of their nose while everyone around them is huffing and puffing, usually up a hill or during a particularly difficult effort. See also: Asshole.

One-Trick Pony: Rider who doesn't know how to appropriately meter their efforts for their fitness. Goes full-gas up the first climb of the day, then proceeds to dangle off the back of the group/pack until succumbing to their folly. We've all been there. Avoidance of categorization involves training, knowing one's own level, and keeping one's ego locked in a deep, dark cage until the appropriate moment rears its head.

Snapping the elastic: Breaking up the group with a hard effort that isn't an attack. Usually involves a harder pace up a hill, or when drilling it on a turn into a crosswind.

Snacks: The finest nutrition in the land.

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With that out of the way, an update. Things are going well. Craig has begun implementing speed into my routine. My resting heartrate has become obscenely low. I've even started showing my face at the local Divine Ride. This weekend will be the first "real" test of fitness, with a jaunt to the Grasshopper series finale, the King Ridge Supreme. I don't expect to win, but I'm excited to mix it up with the local honches. I'm also homeless until July 2nd, which has led to a bit of disruption in weight recording...but the riding has remained consistent. Priorities and all that.

I still struggle to fit in the training volume I want before heading into the office, and I'm not at all on top of my diet. I often feel like I'm doing 60% right, which means I'm only making 60% progress. But progress is progress regardless, and I've started to implement my meditation techniques into harder intervals. It's something that I sort of forgot somewhere along the way, something I was really good at when I was a wee Cat 5 with no fucks to give. Not even ignoring or craving the pain, but detaching it from my consciousness and being mindful of it. Recognizing that I hurt, that it's only pain, and that I must focus on the breath and the cadence. Of course, sometimes there's still a masochistic urge, especially when I'm coming over the top of a hill after just dropping the group, and I can feel my corneas beginning to burn out, then nothing but elation. But it's totally different from the boring solo interval.

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WEIGHT: 171.2lbs (a week ago), down from 176.3 the last time I checked in three weeks ago. Bodyfat 9.4%. By my mathematical calculations, I am carrying around an entire Focus Izalco Max Disc (16.11lbs) inside of me. In fat. I'm gunning for 160-165lbs by the time Cascade rolls around in one month's time.

TRAINING VOLUME: I seem to have leveled off at about 18ish hours. It's a nice, happy medium that keeps me from getting severely pro-bike-racer cracked, but still putting enough volume in to build endurance/recovery. Moving this past weekend gave me a chance to "rest", but it's not real rest when you're lugging furniture/boxes around.

CAN YOU SEE YOUR VEINS? Usually! Progress!

DO YOU STILL SUCK AT FOOD? Yes. I'm getting better. I've had beer like...four times in the past 2.5 weeks. That's good, right? Better? I've almost given up at tracking nutrition intake, but I'm beginning to revisit recovery methodology beyond "huge bowl of cereal" - it's time. I used to do really well with First Endurance Ultragen. The current routine is: Bowl of oatmeal in morning, big carb-heavy lunch after my ride, mellow dinner dominated by protein and vegetables.

GENERAL LEVEL OF OPTIMISMShockingly solid. Weight isn't coming off as quickly as I'd like, but I'm feeling little tickles and nudges of speed, and can make those around me suffer at will.

FUN RIDE:

Until next week! 30 days to Cascade.

Follow Nate's progress on Strava here. Training question? Feedback? Confusion? Email him: nate@abovecategorycycling.com

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