Ask a FasCat #19 Bonus Episode
In this episode, we bring in FasCat Coaches Allie, Jake, Lacey, and Christian to help answer 30 more athlete submitted questions! Topics covered include stage race nutrition, optimal cadence, mid-season setbacks, mental strategies for pushing through intervals, how to improve your XC race starts, and much more!
- Refillable Gu Energy Flask
- The Relationship Podcast
- During Ride Nutrition
- Science behind Training the Gut
- How to Measure FTP Improvement with Normalized Power
- Six weeks till Cyclocross:
Copyright © 2021 FasCat Coaching - all rights reserved.
Lacey: Welcome to the fascat podcast! My name is Lacey and I will be your host today! Here with me today I have coaches Allie, Jake and christian with us to help us answer 30 additional user submitted questions that we were not able to answer on the last Ask a Fascat episode.
- Ahmed Zuhairy
What are your thoughts on athletes using HR for Z2? I know I know power is king, but when riding alone I find zone 2 slightly tedious and boring.
Answer: I completely understand! Staring at the computer the entire time during a Z2 ride is tedious and boring. Z2 rides done right should be your favorite days, days to tap out hours on the bike while enjoying the company of training partners or the views on your favorite roads.
I personally never watch current power on Z2 rides. Instead, I display the average for the ride and NP for the ride. I keep the average in zone and try to keep the difference between AP and NP minimal (how far apart they are mostly depends on the terrain).
Try that! Focus on constant pressure on the pedals, avoiding hard efforts on hills, and check the average power/normalized power every few minutes (you can even flip your computer to another display when you’re in a good rhythm).
- Patrick Morrissery
What suggestions do you have for an empty nester who is about to have a lot of free time? I will be racing leadboat next weekend and after that I would love to capitalize on the fitness gains I have achieved from FtFPing all season while still having fun with my training.
Note: Patrick has been using our plans to prepare for leadboat this year which for any of you who don’t know what that is, it is racing the leadville 100 MTB race followed by SBT gravel the next day!
Answer: Take a week off the bike to recover from that huge effort and then switch to cyclocross!
- First do our Six Weeks till Cyclocross plan - you can do the first few weeks of this leading into your first cx race the do Cyclocross Intervals and finally our CX Race n’ Recover plan
- Paul Knowles (coached by Coach Jake)
Are all watts created equal? By that I mean do I get the same benefit from performing SS intervals indoors using ERG mode at a natural cadence as I do performing them outdoors on steep roads that force me to hold a cadence in the 60s or 70s? Moreover my goal is a multi day event with lots of climbing so should I be doing all of my training at the lower cadence I’ll likely experience on those long climbs, even if it means I can’t complete the intervals as prescribed?
No, all watts are not necessarily created equal! Many riders struggle with producing the same wattage in all situations; as a common example it’s tough to hit the same numbers on the TT bike as on the road bike. Another common example is indoor training: almost all athletes we see hit slightly higher numbers outdoors than they do indoors.
The fact that you’re backwards tells me you’re leaving some wattage on the table. In this case, it sounds like an equipment issue: for an event like Haute Route, you need a gear set-up that lets you stay in your ideal cadence range as much as possible. Don’t be scared of a big cassette or a compact crankset as it will only make you a better rider.
As for your last question: specificity matters. 275 watts at 75 RPM for 20 minutes will be more productive IF you’re forced to ride at 75 rpm in your goal event. But if you were an athlete I was coaching I would first make sure you had the gearing you needed to use your ideal cadence as much as possible, and then after that I may add in some low cadence work if your event had climbs so steep that you’d still be forced, at times, to use a low cadence.
- Josh Hicks
My question is, how do I throw in an anaerobic block of training to really drive up my top end while keeping my CTL on the rise so that I can tackle the short punchy climbs during a marathon MTB race?
Answer: A little bit of anaerobic training goes a long way when you’re training for an event like Marathon MTB where the aerobic system is of primary importance. I’d advise adding in one day a week of high-intensity training, on a day that you expect to be fresh (like the day after a rest day). This shouldn’t disrupt your CTL ramp rate or ability to accomplish your endurance work.
- Rusty Bridges
What are some good on bike nutrition ideas for someone with gastric issues? I typically have a hard time with some of these artificial flavored gels so I always end up hitting a wall on longer rides because I’m not eating.
Answer: You can stick to real food! Like bananas, dates, figs… you could try maple syrup packets too! Nuts (not a lot in quantity, but some) are a good option to mix in with the fruit so the satiated feeling is there, too.
Like allie mentioned, real food is awesome, especially for long endurance rides. But for harder efforts, such as marathon races, the real food is going to be tough to eat without stopping and will be hard to digest since your body is diverting blood flow away from your gut and to your working muscles. And you know, gut rot may be the only thing worse than a bonk!
So for hard efforts, test out using one of Gu’s refillable energy flasks and filling it with maple syrup. Gu also makes a gel called tastefully nude that doesn’t have any natural or artificial flavors in it that may work. If you are a fan of drink mixes, try making your own!
Finally one thing I want to point out is that you have to practice your nutrition on these big rides! You will not tolerate a high carb consumption on the bike right out the gate. Start small, say 30g per hour and build yourself up to 60-75g per hour. In addition to that be sure to drink 3-4 big swigs of water with your gel or chews. The reason for that is if you fail to drink enough water your stomach will not empty (this process is called gastric emptying) which means the carbs are not able to leave your stomach and be absorbed into your bloodstream to be utilized by your working muscles. Sodium is also important for the absorption of fluids and carbohydrates, so be sure to include it in your nutrition plan too! Sodium needs vary tremendously, but 800mg per liter of sweat lost is a good place to start. You can learn about how to figure out your sweat rate in my during ride nutrition video.
Read more on the science behind training the gut here.
- Jesse Siemen
What mental strategies do you or other athletes use during interval training to keep on pushing the pace besides just listening to music?
Answer: I love this question because I think it varies from athlete to athlete. For me, I like to do calculations. Like if I maintain this pace, what TSS would I achieve in an hour?
Also I find using strava segments a huge motivator. I love comparing my efforts over time on a few local strava segments as it visually lets me see my improvement on a graph.
Finally, when I start to get really cooky, I will start thinking about alliterations or puns that I can use to title my workout to distract myself from how bad it hurts. “Sketchy on the Switchbacks, Squirrely on the Singletrack” was one i came up with during a trail threshold workout the other day because I was having an off day and my technical skills were crap!
- Josh Gray
It doesn’t seem like any of the bike computer companies have advanced TSS fields other than the ride total. I would love a per lap TSS counter to help meet prescribed workouts, or even perhaps an estimated live TSS per hour indicator. Do you know of any units that show this? Is there a mathematical reason why not?
Answer: I do not know if there are any that show an estimated TSS or a lap TSS. Most just do live real time TSS accumulated. Personally on my freestyle sweet spot rides or endurance rides where I am looking to accumulate a certain amount of TSS I will calculate it in my head. After 30 minutes see what I have done knowing if I keep the same pace I will be twice as much in hour. After a hour saying if I keep that pace that wil be my hourly pace. Not as scientific as it being estimated for me but it does give me something to do while riding which is fun.
- Luke Holton
How do you reconcile Sweet Spot Training with the 80/20 Polarized concept? Are they complementary, or different all together?
Answer: I think it’s important to take a step back and review where the polarized concept came from: studies into the training habits of elite athletes. Researchers opened up the training diaries of elite athletes across a variety of endurance sports, and found that in some cases, athletes tended to follow a polarized intensity distribution (lots of low intensity (Zone 2), very little sweet spot/mid intensity, lots of work over FTP). And yes, sometimes an 80/20 pattern emerged: 80% of sessions as low intensity training, 20% of sessions as high-intensity interval training.
However, just as often these studies showed pyramidal intensity distributions: Lots of time at a low intensity, plenty of time stacked on top of that in mid-intensities (Sweet Spot), and some time at high intensities over threshold. Depending on how the study gathers data they often show very large amounts of time in mid intensities.
Studies into the training habits of elite cyclists nearly always show this pyramidal distribution and not a polarized distribution. They also don’t match an 80/20 intensity distribution. After all, many pro cyclists race 60-80 days a year, so that’s already 20% of their yearly sessions right there! In order to hit an 80/20 distribution they’d have to basically never do an interval session, which we know doesn’t happen.
So we believe our approach is in line with what the literature suggests, and while we enjoy Dr. Seiler’s work and all the work put into studying training intensity distribution, we’re not sure why ‘polarized’ has become the buzzword when the literature seems to suggest an approach that’s more in line with our own.
- Phil Heyer
What are some ways to bounce back from a setback like a crash?
Answer: Take it easy at first and make sure your body is functioning properly. Ride w people you trust. Then progress into harder rides like tempo/sweet spot, then into hard rides like threshold and vo2. Depending on the set-back, you need to either listen to your doctor or use your best judgment in terms of what your body can handle. Take care of yourself or you’ll delay progress even more!
- Brian Manassero (Coaching subscription athlete)
I’m in the middle of SS part 4 which I’m using for some mid-season maintenance since my “A” race will be Sea Otter in early October. However I had a recent crash that will keep me off the bike for a week or two. As I heal and am able to get back on the bike, where do I pick up with my training in SS part 4?…Where I left off, with the next training plan or something else?
Answer: Hey Brian, given that you are using SS part 4 to fill in the gap in your season I would recommend jumping right back in where you are planned for the current day. I mentioned it when I talked to you last, but your fitness has been great, you have been racing a lot and your training has been consistent so honestly taking a little breather right now before you jump into your xc intervals for sea otter isnt a bad idea. Rest up and get ready to put in the work so you can perform when it matters most and don’t overdo it or you won’t be able to perform at your nest for sea otter!
- Matthew Schechter (Coach Jake Athlete)
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the value of a proper warmup. What about cooling down afterwards? As stage races are approaching for me, how should I be “cooling down” after each stage? I see the pros hop on the trainer after every TdF stage – what exactly are they accomplishing and would it be helpful for me to do the same?
Answer: honestly think riding around in the parking lot afterwards is fine. Think the pros just do it to clear lactate out of their legs because they get stopped by the media directly after the finish line.
- Christian Verry
I’ve heard that you can expect power output in the TT position to decrease by upwards of 10%. This makes me concerned about how to pace my upcoming TT as I don’t want to blow up 1/2 way through. That said, would you recommend I start the TT at my current FTP and try to maintain that throughout the race or start at 10% below my current FTP and push up about 1/2 way through?
Thanks for the advice. Love your training plans, have hit all time PRs in power in my mid 40’s following them. Lacey’s nutrition plan is awesome too, I highly recommend it to all.
Answer: First of all, glad to hear your training is going so well! You definitely want to start conservatively, given that your FTP likely will not be the same on your TT bike.
However, 10% may or may not be a good number as it’s very individual! Hopefully after plenty of time training on the TT bike, the gap is smaller than that.
I’d suggest using your long threshold intervals on the TT bike to estimate the difference between your road and TT bike FTPs. Then start your event a few % below your estimated TT bike FTP (it never hurts to start conservatively).
- Harry Singh
I usually have a pretty slow start at cross-country races but I do catch amateurs later in the race, how do I have a bomb start so that I could stay with the lead group? What specific workouts should I do?
Answer: FasCat has a couple specific workouts for this exact question!
After a good warm up go straight into your 10 min effort as follows - 15s full gas zone 7, 45s full gas zone 6, 2 mins zone 5, 4 mins zone 4 and 3 mins zone 3.
After a good warm up go straight into your 10 min effort as follows - 1 min full gas into 10 mins at zone 4-5. Repeat this again after a 5 min recovery.
- William Speth
How do you improve fatigue resistance for 24 hour events and ultra endurance races?
- Follow an off season plan to build your base, such as our 32 week off season plan
- Do more long rides, and do them back to back on the weekend (for example start one at 4pm on saturday, then do the next one early sunday morning)
- Then start to throw in harder efforts at the end of them
- Russ Bainbridge
I have noticed my pedaling style is different on a fixed trainer versus on the road, gravel, or the mtb. To counteract these effects I have a rocker plate for my trainer, do lots of core work, and yoga regularly. I also concentrate on form while on the trainer. Is there anything else I could be doing to help with the differences in pedaling style and form?
Answer: Instead of worrying about what you do inside, where it’s impossible to fully mimic outdoor riding, I’d advise focusing on making your outdoor rides mimic your goal events as much as possible. If you’re preparing for a MTB race, ride the MTB. If you’re preparing for a crit, do fast group rides and training crits. That way, you’re taking full advantage of your riding time outdoors and training as specifically as possible.
- Jon Livengood
I’d like to hear your thoughts on doing intervals at higher or lower cadences than my self selected cadence. I ask because I've noticed during my un-scientific study of 1 that when I add in a rolling singlespeed ride 1x a week, I become stronger on long climbs with varying grades where cadence, sitting and standing vary in length. Is there a good way to simulate a single speed workout like this during my road intervals so I am more efficient on longer climbs?
P.S. I know coaches usually don’t like Singlespeed workouts, and I’m totally on board with structured training of energy systems, but I really think there could be some benefit.
Answer: Of course there are some benefits to doing some higher or lower cadence workouts. In the winter we will have athletes do muscle tension intervals, sprints and standing start workouts that focus on building muscle with lower cadence on the bike. But for the most part we will always just default to selected cadence. Even with the wider ranges, if you are properly geared, you should be able to find yourself between 80 - 95 rpm which seems to be most ideal.
If you know you will be doing an event with steep climbs and finding yourself under 80 rpm then you may look into either finding easier gears for your bike or do lower cadence work when you do your intervals. You do want to get that simulation in and train your body specifically for the demands of your event. However when you are in the base building phase or working on something such as Vo2 max the goal of these workouts and sessions are not to improve a specific situation but a physiological adaptation.
- Josh Gray
I find that by following the sweet spot plans that I can easily meet the prescribed TSS on my weekday workouts but on the longer unstructured ones of 3 or more hours I can’t hit the target in the time allocated. What advice do you have for going about this? Re-test to verify FTP is right? Follow some structured intervals? Add strength training back in?
Answer: You can throw in intervals to help you hit your TSS goal for the day. You can go for KOM’s at that rate too. Adding 60-90 mins of sweet spot will really help you boost your tss score throughout the ride! No need to add strength until the correct time of the year!
- Todd Huber
How do you coaches look so good and ride so fast?
Seriously though… Some mornings it is hard to know what the sensations are telling me. Am I groggy because it’s 5 a.m. and will crush the workout or am I actually exhausted and will be non-productive? Do you find any objective metrics like HRV useful to determine when an athlete should just HTFU and FTFP or instead adjust the plan to make it easier that day?
Answer:When it comes to deciding whether to do a workout, I’I advise combining methods: I’ve always liked the old-school method of just warming up and trying your best to FtFP. If you just can’t push the numbers required, then bag it and ride easy or rest to get back on track for the next workout. However, with metrics like HRV we can be a bit more proactive, and if you both feel terrible and your HRV is telling you you’re fried, go ahead and skip the workout. Just be sure to only do this when you’re really cooked, as I often see athletes with less than ideal HRV numbers still capable of putting in a solid workout, which is why I still recommend the old school method I just mentioned unless the HRV numbers are really in the red.
Most of my training is early in the morning before the family gets up. I’d like to know what the best approach to eating and getting out the door is when you do not have time to eat a carb heavy meal?
Answer: Eat a small snack such as a banana and peanut butter. Then start eating 20-30 minutes into your ride. If it is only an hour a gel 20-30 minutes in should suffice since you will be able to rely on stored glycogen for fuel. Then, once you finish have your full breakfast to ensure that you replace the glycogen you burned off. That will + eating enough throughout the day will help you recover for your training the following day.
- Ryan Hulstyn
My question relates to balancing family with cycling. My son just turned 1 and, as you can imagine, is a handful. I am currently spending 10-12 hours on my bike per week and while my wife has been really accommodating, the strain the longer rides add to our relationship is often evident. Do you have any tips on how I might achieve better harmony with my wife when talking about my goals and our goals as a family?
Answer: Potentially bring up the idea of shorter training hours during the week if possible. Our sweet spot training = more bang for your buck! Or ask if getting your rides done early in the morning will work better vs other times of the day so you are available to help. Or, you may have to skip rides because of family obligations and that is okay!
Check out our Relationship Podcast! https://fascatcoaching.com/blogs/training-tips/the-relationship-podcast
- Brian Young
When training in high humidity and temperatures is it best to accomplish the work when it is cooler in the morning or to workout at the time of day when a goal event may occur?
Answer: Both! Adapting to heat is hugely important for competing in warm temperatures. Yet on the other hand, training in the heat can compromise your recovery and reduce the quality of your training. So during the summer I always advise balancing early-morning workouts that give you quality training and put you under less stress from the heat with mid-day workouts that get you prepared to compete in hot weather. The exact mix will depend on you, your training plan, goal event, and the temperatures you’ll both train and race in.
- Matthew Glowacki
After watching the olympics I couldn’t help but notice a couple interesting “bulges” under a couple rider’s skin suits, under their arms, on the HR strap. After some digging it turned out to be a CORE body temperature monitor. A little non-invasive core body temperature monitor that goes between your HR strap and skin to measure and transmit your body temperature to your head unit. What are your thoughts on the usefulness of this in both training and racing?
Answer: Me too! So I have a few athletes that struggle in the heat, far more than the average person. The one athlete I coach I am really close to and he actually just received one of those devices. So I am excited to see what we can gather from such technology and will absolutely share with the FasCat audience. I think there can be some great benefits to it. Ideally you do keep your core temperature as cool as possible whether through pouring water on yourself or limiting your efforts. Also see how your body responds to heat adaptation and see if you are in fact improving.
- Peter Rudge
I am fairly new to training. I get excited about riding, lifting, and training in general. I look forward to it. I keep hearing that recovery is just as important to improve performance. What tips do you have to get excited about the recovery part of training plans? How do you make it more than ‘not training’? There needs to be a Strava for recovery KOM’s!
Answer: Hey Peter- if you FtFP you should be wanting your recovery days! Know they’re beneficial. You get faster and stronger with rest days. It takes time to get used to the whole training process so just trust it and see that after you complete your recovery/active recovery days that you’ll come back stronger over time!
- Kyle Turcotte
What do you recommend for Cross Training to 1) help build overall strength instead of overworking the same muscles and 2) to help keep things “fresh” as you still want to pursue one sport yet need to mix it up.
Answer: We’re big fans of strength training in the gym during the off-season, as well as Yoga, Foundations Training, or something similar in-season. That combo will keep you strong and mobile while reducing injury risk.
However, it also sounds like you might be under-recovering. I’d suggest prioritizing recovery, especially sleep, good nutrition, and rest weeks.
In-season, adding more stress in the form of cross-training probably isn’t the answer. So in-season I’d focus on recovery, while planning time this off season for other things (strength work, some fun activities during a small break from the bike, and cross-training during early preparation periods).
- Nate Edel
Nutrition for during a ride was addressed by FasCat’s Registered Dietitian Lacey Rivette recently. I know that the importance of having a post ride recovery drink soon after completing a ride, especially a longer ride, has also been discussed. I’m looking for some guidance on the most effective fueling strategies for stage races or multi day riding, specifically for days that will include 6-10 hours on the bike. Should the evening meal in between stages be more carb focused, protein focused, or a more balanced 45/25/30 breakdown of carbs, fat, and protein?
Answer: Bring as much food with you as you can for after the race- have a protein drink/ingredients ready for you to make and drink right after the race. Then have a solid carbohydrate meal to replenish glycogen, you’ll want protein too for muscle recovery but carbs will be your best friend here. That said, stay on top of your nutrition during the race AND your breakfast before - you'll be in good shape!
Laceys note: Like allie said, lots of carbs!! We are talking along the lines of 65% carbs, 15% protein (your calorie intake will be so high that this will far exceed your needs) and ~20% of fat. The fat should be eaten later at night to ensure you stay satiated while you sleep.
Rice, pasta, smoothies, pancakes, bananas, mangos, dried fruit, etc are ideal for these kinds of events! If you are camping, protein can be a little tricky. However you can still bring some good sources of protein with you. Some of my go to’s are: canned tuna and chicken, shelf stable chocolate milk, camping meals with freeze dried meats and/or beans, beef jerky (you’ll be needing the sodium), bean based pastas, protein powders, etc.
- Daniel Vins
Two years in a row now I have finished the 18-weeks of SS feeling as though i was in good form and then went on to do the Strava Hill Climbing plan. Both years I have increased my FTP after the SS plan only to struggle to hit any of the threshold efforts in the Strava and end up having to take an extra rest week in the middle of the plan each year due to what feels like overreaching.
Given the FTP increase after sweet spotting, as a coach, are you expecting the athlete to hit the higher Supra/FRC, Threshold, and VO2 targets, or are they more of dangling power targets out there as a way for the athlete to reach for something higher, which, through the process, would lead to the FTP continuing to get driven up?
Answer: This is a pretty specific question. But we would expect most athletes to hit the their targets of our interval plans after 18 weeks of sweet spot training. Sweet spot training is meant to increase your base and make you strong. The interval training is to make you fast.
First make sure you are adding a rest week between the end of the sweet spot plan and the start of the interval plan. If not you will have a 5 week build period that is very tough and will lead to failure. It would be far too much work with no rest.
You should be able to hit the power targets of threshold and vo2 max. So the interval training is far more intense. So the first thing I would do is make sure that you are recovering enough between workouts. Personally you may need less intensity during the week so you can hit the key workouts better, typically the Tuesday / Saturday workouts. The other rides may need to be dialed back. Make sure you are not pushing the upper end of zone 2 before or after the workouts and expending unnecessary energy. With interval training you really want it to be all in or all easy.
Without looking at your stuff personally that is what I would recommend.
- Thomas Kline
What are the real benefits and/or downsides of compression boots, massage guns, and electric stimulation? Do you really need any of these and if so which is best? Are there benefits to using them at different times such as before or after rides, or before bed?
Answer: First there is no downside to having these or other ways to aid in recovery. Anything you can do to help you recover can be a big benefit. No you don’t need any of them. Just like you don’t need disc brakes, carbon bikes or gears. But some things give you a bigger advantage than others you just have to figure if the advantage is worth the cost to you. I never had them and raced as a pro for 10 years without. Now I have them and my fitness or recovery is not even remotely as good as it was. Of course I am older and train less.
I really can’t speak to which is better as I have only used the Nomratecs. So I will speak about those. I like to use those after every ride or in the evening. I find they really help flush my legs and do help me feel better the next day. The great thing about them as opposed to a personal masseur is that they are always readily available and I can pack them in back and travel with them. So I can consistently use them as I need. Whether it be right after a hard ride or in the evening just before bed.
- Dom Sharman
Recently I won a slot to race a Gran Fondo here in Japan - apparently Japan’s hardest Gran Fondo, which is 160km long and 4,000m of climbing (30km of which is “unpaved”/gravel).
With the pandemic and the fluid restart of (new normal) life, I’m sure a lot of people are experiencing a situation in which races are suddenly on now and you’re left with a decision whether you’re ready to race or not.
My question is, with this race being only 52 days away and experiencing a pretty sudden change of plans, what would be the best way to get ready for this race (including whether to change training plans, mentally preparing, etc.)?
A bonus question, if you were racing a 160km course with 30km of potentially somewhat sketchy gravel (the remainder paved), what tire width would you go with (thinking 28s will suffice)?
You didn’t mention what training plan you’re on now, but if you’re already in decent shape, trying the FasCat Gran Fondo Plan might be the perfect prep for your event.
Mentally, it’s a good time to commit to buckling down and FtFP! 52 days is plenty of time to move the fitness needle, but you want to work hard and get the improvement train rolling.
Tires: difficult to say without knowing exactly how sketchy the gravel is, but I’d probably run 28s due to so much pavement. However, I’d choose a puncture-resistant tire (and preferably tubeless with sealant) since fixing flats is a great way to lose a lot of time.