After the mini camp this past weekend, I wanted to take an opportunity to go into more depth about Z2 aerobic training and how it might help if I showed you my data. This might provide some color and clarity on how to do it – why we do it – why it is so important and how, if done right – it will make you fitter, stronger and faster than ever before.
This past weekend we did an approx. 100 mile ride in Napa. While it is quite flat by our standards in NorCal – it still had 3500ft of climbing and a bit of a nasty headwind on the last 15 miles. So an honest 99.5 miles. Temps reached mid 90s.
Below you see the attached ride I did. Plenty of details in here that I will go over but first some insight:
- It was a solid Z2 ride for me. Not in my zone, but on steady cadence and aero position. This is the type of ride I like to do weekly, or maybe every 10 days to remain efficient in my cycling form and work on my relaxed aero position.
- You might think based on zones and threshold this ride was too easy for me, but it matches almost identical to this ride I did 10 days out of IM Texas. Last 15 miles are the same watts, same cadence, same conditions of temps and wind too. I’ll take this on the back end of a 100, and relaxed focus aero riding. I am not looking for POWER or SPEED – I am looking to be relaxed – efficient and economical because I have a 7 mile run off the bike in a few minutes.
- We (I) came in with 17hrs of training already this week. I had done my quality on intervals in classes (on the trainer) and was looking for a steady, energy efficient and balanced ride. I think you can see mission accomplished. I averaged 5 watts more on the front 50 miles than the back
- I had a 7 mile run after. It was based on feel, no interest in taking Garmin with me. But I wanted to feel light and relaxed (listened to Germany vs. Ghana 2nd half, was not as relaxed as I wanted!). Mission was accomplished since now, 22hrs into the week, I ran a comfortable 7.20 pace (I know the distances there all by vineyards) – avg HR 133
Now that you know how it was for me – lets look at the data. Below are three charts. Then entire ride on watts only, the first half of ride with watts and HR, and finally, the 2nd half of ride with watts and HR although I sent this to show my HR monitor went screwy – not to hide what my HR did the 2nd half.
Chart 1: The entire ride, watts only
Chart 2: First half of ride, watts and HR
Chart 3: Second half of ride, watts and HR
- My T1 (aerobic threshold) is 300w, my threshold (LT – T2) is only 330w (goes to show how little time I spend in Z4!)
- This ride averaged 205 but normalized 220w. NOTE: that is 25-30% BELOW my T1
- My HR the first 50 miles never leaves 120. Almost a flat line. No decoupling from the watts – which means they stay very aligned throughout.
- There is one bigger climb in this ride – yet it is quite hard to see/find AND I never leave my Zone 2 (220-260w)
- Cadence is steady in the 80s throughout.
Why am a writing you all this? Here goes:
Aerobic platform training is about letting go, about using watts, HR and pace as a secondary means of seeing what you are doing. The main driver is your ability to train the volume efficiently and repetitively. My ability to do this training day, again, and again, and again…in the following days, is set up by doing this day correctly. Could I have gone harder? Absolutely. But for what? I have plenty of training ahead that I want to layer upon this day and many days ahead.
This ride was 25% below my T1 – and also below my Zone 2 watts. Those of you that have tested – think about your T1, and take 25-30% off that number – how often have you done 100 mile rides that relaxed and easy?
I did not care about my avg watts for this ride – nor do I care for avg speed. Its all USELESS if not relaxed, efficient and economical for the run after as well as training days after.
I receive emails and texts frequently after workouts – but also from those doing this ride: They feel great a few days later: YOU SHOULD! If you went the right effort, every day is like this! It should not tax you for more than a good nights sleep and some fluids and fueling can’t rebuild.
People in the community of triathlon also call me a ‘volume coach’. Yes I am – but it is a crazy effective volume IF DONE right. As you can imagine, a day like this – relative to your watts, HR and pace – will leave you ready to do it again, and again and again. IF you ride a tick too hard, and keep questioning, pushing the Z2 effort, you WILL be flat, tired, and quite often, injured. The volume only works in a delicate balance.
Many of you are in the heart of your training for the A races coming up. The key to all this is your ability to stay fit, healthy and absorbing the training throughout. Remember – what I base my ENTIRE coaching on:
Your ability to train effectively enough to stimulate the appropriate adaptation
This ride for me hit all that: Effective enough because I can compare it to previous rides and IM prep and see I am dead on where I want to be. Effective enough because I had a solid run after as well as a good training day Sunday and another 5 hr bike with some work yesterday. Effective because I am not shelled, injury free. It stimulated the appropriate adaptation since I am 16 weeks from Kona and want to gradually build my fitness past where I was for IM Texas.
Does this all apply to your training? Are you looking for numbers, wattages, avg speed and running paces? The more you force it, the longer it will take. The more you force it, the more frustrating it becomes. The more you force it, you play on a delicate edge of injury or fatigue.
Example: I could have ridden that at 220-260w and had my HR sit a bit higher. Still Z2 – but more forced into numbers and at a greater cost. I know my training days ahead. So what was the appropriate adaptation for me? After 17 hrs of training so far that week? It was this ride. I relaxed – spun steady – and still rode an efficient 100 miles in under 5 hrs. I let it come to me.
As you are training – and see your week ahead, days ahead, consider your approach. How are you setting up a successful week. YOUR training, not what someone else is doing. YOUR best week. YOUR best adaptation. Not past numbers, not wattages or running paces. YOUR adaptation.
Also – please keep in mind – this ride and training is effective because I nailed the intensity workouts correctly too. In this past week I hit all the workouts as designed in the following format of STRESS:
S – Strength – hills on bike and run as well as in classes on intervals.
T– Technique – plenty of that in this ride – in classes and running with relaxed form and focus.
R – Recovery – sleep – eat and an easy day or two with active recovery swimming only or OFF
E – endurance – did this here in Napa and the day prior with a 5 hr bike and 30 min run.
S – Speed – intervals in class and tempo intervals running
Specific – This day was about as specific as I can get for IM – 100 miles + 7 mile run – all steady aerobic at same HR.
There should be plenty of conversation with me about this – please send me any of your thoughts.
*I do this ride 1x a month until IM. It is a way for me to measure how – in a relaxed, but NOT RESTED, state I can ride a clean 100 and run 7-10 miles off the bike. It is important for me to have bad days on this ride – mentally challenging ones. That way I know to relax – just focus on pedal circles and let go of any data (KEY is to continue to fuel and hydrate well). If properly tired and mentally taxed, that section of bad sensations and focused only on feel will net me a wattage. That is my ‘bad day’ wattage. I also want that to go up over the next 16 weeks. Why? Because then I know at IM, that even on a bad day, I can hold THAT number. And THAT number becomes my floor. By then I’ll have done it plenty – so I’ll feel good about THAT number being a realistic floor.