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As part of my motivation for getting through longer and harder bike trainer sessions, I often use riding videos played on my laptop positioned right in front of me with the sound cranked up and the lights turned down (kinda like being there!).

I also like to watch some old video tapes on the TV of other riding and especially the Tour De France.  My favourite for a personal Litmus test of my fitness level is from 2004 when the TDF had an ITT race up the famed Alpe d'Huez with almost a million fans there cheering the racers on.  Lance Armstrong raced up the zigzagging mountain route over a minute faster than his closest rival (Jan Ullrich) and past his closest competitor (Ivan Basso) who started 2 minutes ahead of him.  The OLN TV coverage was commercial free and captured all the excitement and drama (Lance was and is not so popular with some Europeans ... and others too ... but to see him charge up that mountain to plenty of cheers is a marvel!).

So I started 2009 off with a Litmus test of my current riding fitness and to compare notes with Brian D. (we both use MapMyRide and have been challenging each other to keep up our riding with an occasional Virtual ITT of 2 laps of BHP [11.1 kms each], with the trainer resistance set to approximate a normal level ride effort). 

I did a 1 Hr trainer warm up spin and then set up the Alpe d'Huez video.  I started a few minutes before Lance started (because it only took him 39:40 to finish and I would need more to cover 22 kms) and then picked up the pace once he started. It was good motivation to try to spin and crank it up with him, even when I wanted to back off the effort.

Time Taken: 00:42:59
Total Distance: 22.2 km.
HR: 151 (avg) 169 (max)
Pace: 01:55 (avg time per km)
Speed: 30.99 (km/hr) (avg)
Real results: lots of sweat, tired legs and some smiles

I will post my next trainer litmus test ... motivation to keep spinning.                                                
This Litmus test thing is good stuff for motivation and tracking cardio fitness progess ...  but ... it helps when the numbers are correct from the start!

I found during a recent trainer ride, that having just put a small light over my polar heartrate monitor/odometer that there were intermittent times that the speed was not being received while time and heartrate continued.  The fix was tightening the watch strap so there was better contact with the speed receiver.  Result: my average speeds jumped up a fair amount compared to previous similar rides at the same effort/heart rate.  So I realized that my previous recordings were likely in question and I decided to do another ITT to set my correct baseline for the year.

Results today:
Date: 10/01/2009
Time Taken: 00:38:05

Total Distance: 22.20 km.
Tension: +1 (same as last time)
HR: 150 (avg) 172 (max)
Pace: 01:42 (avg time per km)
Speed: 34.98 (km/hr) (avg)

Much the same effort as last time, just a bit harder sprinting at the end.

Now I work on longer spins for base and faster intervals for speed ...
Well that's a nice little suprise Tom!...nothing like finding out your performance is even better than you thought.  Your method of measuring your performance, against yourself and in a friendly competition with Brian, looks great (and so do your stats).
It's all about motivation and accountability can help it along the way make it fun too (using MapMyRide is just another tool).  As far as our friendly competition ... Brian is a very consistent trainer and so great motivation ... but it is hard to really compare results because having the same tension on the wheel is subjective and I am a fair amount heavier than him (big advantage for me on a trainer).
Well it had been 5 weeks since I last did my "Alp d'Huez" ITT of 2 BHP laps, so today I gave it another try.

I felt strong today, but decided not to blast off as fast at the start as last time and go for a moderate cadence, higher gears and steady moderate heartrate building to the finish.  Watching the TDF video was inspiring again and my performance was much improved.  Based on my lower heartrate, there was more there to give, but I was concerned about burning my muscles up too soon.  So next time, higher cadence and heartrate (Lance style!).

Date: 16/02/2009
Time Taken: 00:36:05
Total Distance: 22.20 km.
Burned: 358 (kcal)
HR: 143 (avg) 160 (max)
Pace: 01:37 (avg time per km)
Speed: 36.91 (km/hr) (avg) 44.8 (km/hr) (max)
Good sprint for the last 3 minutes

Good job Tom.  It's always nice to see some improvement, and your recent fairly epic winter rides can't be hurting your fitness level.

Hey Tom,
Nice work on your last ITT. I'm almost sorry I started this challenge, You're cleaning up with those fast times. Maybe when we get together for a ride I'll bring some rope.
Had a look at some of your videos, great stuff.

To the rest of TTC members, would someone distract Tom while I let some air out of his tires.

Hi there Brian.  Thanks for your support and making this challenge fun!

But, lets put this ITT speed thing in perspective bud ... we are both just estimating our trainer resistance setting for an average level road and we are both spinning along as if we weighed the same (according to our MapMyRide #s, I weigh 24 lbs more than you!) ... so big advantage to me on our basic trainers!  I better be faster!!  Your speed has been getter a lot better as well there dude.

On our next century ride, I'll make sure to bring a tow rope in case I need you to pull me along !

Btw, what's happening wrt Habitat For Humanity's Cycle of Hope bike ride for this year?

4th attempt at the ITT today.  Decided to "spin with Lance" at a higher cadence and heartrate along with some standing pedalmashing intervals.  I rode myself right to the edge of exhaustion throughout and improved my time quite a bit.  Not sure how much faster I can go, but it will be fun to better it next time.

Date: 28/02/2009
Time Taken: 00:34:08
Total Distance: 22.20 km.
Burned: 369 (kcal)
HR: 154 (avg) 170 (max)
Pace: 01:31 (avg time per km)
Speed: 39.02 (km/hr) (avg) 46.3 (km/hr) (max)

Scott, can you lend me that rope for Moab?  

This is pretty cool actually, to see your numbers improve in a very controlled setting.  If you had the desire to do the same thing on a real life circuit you would have to wonder; "is it because the temperature is more cool today?" or; "was the wind at my back today?".  But here you know exactly what is happenning.


Great results Tom.  I'm curious, how much of your gains do you think are a result of improved conditioning vs. learning how to push yourself harder and being able to anticipate the workout?

Your on to something there Scott.  It is always easier to force yourself to push harder when you know what is ahead and have a goal/time to beat.

I would say that my improvement was due to 80% motivation and anticipation, 10% conditioning and 10% genetic manipulation (reduced Tim Horton's Sour Cream Glazed Donut intake) !!!

For the record I'm not for a second diminishing your gains by wondering if some of it is to do to being able to better anticipate the workout, I was just curious, and any way you slice it you've been able to cover the same 'distance' faster, so well done!

Hey Graham, sorry I missed your comments.

Yes, there is something to be said for having all the variables controlled for a fitness test.  I think it's interesting, that for all the money the pro cycling teams have to go train at exotic warm locations all year, you still see them on bike trainers for controlled interval training and testing.  There's something to it!
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