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Home Performance Supply Strippped Down: Raise the Left

Strippped Down: Raise the Left

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Missed part one?  Read it here, first.

In general, I’ve found that it doesn’t seem as if there are any truly unique adaptations between the following raise the left types of rides.  I try to keep it basic and believe that if one doesn’t go hard enough (i.e, going into the red zone) on a pretty regular basis they are likely missing out on some time efficient ways to achieve great physiological adaptations such as increased capillary density (additional pathways for blood to deliver oxygen) and increased mitochondria density (improved aerobic respiration for a given amount of delivered oxygen).

It’s these adaptations that drive performance – and focusing on goin’ hard simply provides an opportunity to overload these systems and force the body to adapt to these new stimuli.  In other words, goin’ hard forces your body to build better pathways to deliver fuel to working muscles.  As a result, one goes faster!

Inevitably, though, one simply can’t go any harder.  It’s only natural that individuals are bounded by the amount of oxygen that their heart and lungs and naturally generated red blood cells can deliver to working muscles.  In large part, this upper bound to performance is genetically determined, at which point one simply has to “run what you brung”!

I promised a few more details of some of my core left raising rides.  Well, here they are!

The 20MP:


For much of the summer of 2005, this was pretty much the only style of ride I did.  I’d go out one day midweek, then again on Saturday and/or Sunday and rip it up one of two climbs that are within a 5 minute “warmup” of where I live.  Each of these rides would total between 45 and 70 minutes.  The result of these rides was that I’d get around 20-25 minutes of >20MP work in each week if I gave it an honest go for each of those efforts.   On a caveman goin’ hard basis (remember this is approximately >95% of my 20MP, or ~105-110% of my 60MP) this wound up being about 30-40 minutes per week.

Here’s an SRM software screenshot of a typical 20MP ride (for those in North San Diego County, USA this effort is up Couser Canyon Rd going North to South -> it’s also the climb that was the basis of the “supercomputer” term!):

As you can see, this effort isn’t quite 20 minutes long, and I let the supercomputer dole out the watts at the appropriate times – in other words, I just let ‘er rip on this style of effort with the goal being “going hard” for around 20 minutes.  The whole ride is around 45 minutes to an hour.  For reference, my 60MP at the time was around 260W.

During that summer of 2005, which was a steady 3 month-ish diet of this style of effort, I was amazingly stable in my 20MP at 285+/-5W or so during full-gas, au-bloc efforts.  Hmmm….  I said to myself, and this was about the time that I began to put things together despite my stubbornness (I didn’t really want to believe that riding only 3 hours a week could maintain my fitness at a somewhat reasonable level).  You see, I’d convinced myself from back in the day that the only thing that I responded to was lots of volume (25 hours a week) prior to my racing.  As it turns out, maybe the thing I was really responding to was the goin’ hard bits of the racing I did!

So now what?  I reckoned at the time that I could maintain my 20MP with 30-40 mins at >95% of my 20MP (with the target watts of each effort being 20MP).  What if I wanted to improve on my 20MP?

When I want to bump up my 20MP from a pretty decent base (for me!  :-)  ), I generally choose to simply go a wee-bit harder and mix up the frequency/duration of the efforts a bit.  This generally higher intensity inevitably bumps up the time I accumulate per week of “goin’ hard”.  One way I choose to go even harder is by incorporating a semblance of the classic VO2 workout.

The Classic VO2

In November of 2005 (after nearly two years of owning a power meter…) I finally pony’d up and did what the supercomputer perceived to be a “classic VO2” workout.  I simply let the super roll and went hard for ~5minutes up a hill (then rolling back down to the bottom) during my lunch hour:


As the plot above shows, my first time out, I couldn’t sustain the power I doled out on the first interval for each of the subsequent three intervals I chose to do.  I’m not sure this power fade really matters in the big picture, though.  One thing for sure, is that if one targets an constant power over all intervals, the supercomputer doesn’t complain as much as when the first one gets overcooked a bit. What I probably should have done on that third one is chop it up into two shorter efforts with a small rest in between (the length of which would be determined on the fly – when the body felt ready to rip it again).

I reckon that the intensity thing will work itself out over time, and whether you choose to do 4x5minutes or 6x4mins or whatever by whatever minutes, you’ll figure out exactly how hard you can go in order to maximize the amount of time goin’ hard during this workout.  It took only one or two of these workouts to get things dialed in for me.  As an aside, my maximal 5 minute power during this time was probably 355 +/- 5W.

Back in the day, the VO2 workout of choice for me was a 6x4min style of effort with a 10 minute break in between the first four efforts and the last two.  The details of this on/rest timing are not super important – I think the goal is simply to make sure one spends 20-30 minutes of time going appreciably harder than 20MP.  Some power pundits will estimate this VO2 intensity to be 106%-120% of 60MP – but that might be too easy for some.  Others recommend 95% of measured VO2max as the most effective intensity to ultimately increase VO2 max – based on my lab measured VO2max, though, I don’t think I’d be able to do too many of this high of an intensity interval at this duration back to back – maybe two at most?  Basically, I think if you rack up 20-30 minutes of goin’ 5-10%+ harder than your 20MP in meaningfully long chunks (3-8 minutes) during this workout you’re in the ballpark…  Be warned, though – this amount of kilojoules at that intensity will definitely tax things a bit!

If one doesn’t go a wee-bit harder than what is “comfortable”, I think they miss out on a time efficient way to achieve all the good physiological adaptations mentioned previously.  I believe that even Ironman distance triathletes will benefit from going “VO2” hard – or even harder!

As another aside, I incorporated the classic VO2 in my preparation for a half ironman (HIM) distance effort in 2006.  I didn’t go this hard at all during my 2005 HIM preparation (guess which year I was more fit, and ultimately went faster??).  Granted, this is all n=1 stuff, but why wouldn’t an endurance athlete want to increase their VO2 max, capillary density, or mitochondrial density?  It’s something to consider, at least.

There’s one last arrow in my latest quiver of goin’ hard rides, and that’s “the chunk ride”.

The Chunk Ride

What the heck is a “Chunk Ride”?  Well, I reckon it’s just a caveman way of naming a ride that focuses on racking up significant 20MP+ (that is, targeting intensities that are generally higher than one’s 20MP ) in meaningful “chunks” of time.  For me, a meaningful chunk of time during this ride is generally around 2-3 minutes or so.  I’ve done this style of ride where I will drop the time target down to one minute to eek in a bit more fun!

The “chunk” nomenclature simply comes from a discussion with “the man” (okay, it was Kirk who coined the term…) and the resulting little piece of matlab code (oh, the yearly maintenance fees on that are killin’ BTR!!) that allows me to extract chunks/efforts of arbitrary intensity and duration from a power meter file.  It’s these significant chunks that are the “gold in the files”.  This nifty little matlab script is merciless in its application of whatever arbitrary rules one wants to define – though, as Kirk pointed out to me early on, the eyeball test works just as good, or even better than, my painful caveman programming skills!

Here is a sample SRM plot of a chunk ride:

and the chunk extractor:


The key to this ride for me is being flexible in how I dole out the effort.  I usually try to do longer chunks near the beginning, and then focus on hitting 20MP+ power for the remainder of the time (in chunks greater than 1-2 minutes if possible).  Considering the goal of the ride is simply to accumulate time going harder than 20MP, I generally let the supercomputer tell me when it’s time to start goin’ hard again after a given effort.  If it feels like it’s too soon, well then, I’ll rest a bit more before hittin’ it hard again.

Final Raise the Left words

From a more global perspective, when I am trying to really raise the left, I have found that I can tolerate 50+ minutes of time greater than 95% of my 20MP per week for three or four weeks, then my mind begins to wander.  It’s not like I get tired; but rather, I’m ready for something a wee-bit different from the stimulus arsenal.  You might be different, though – you’ll have to experiment a bit and see just how hard you can go and how hard you’ll need to rest in between those hard days.

I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised at how well I respond to this much goin’ hard – I mean, even a caveman should be able to recognize that the harder you go, the harder you can go (up until the point where you just can’t go any harder that is…)!  Here’s a wiggly line plot that kind of shows how goin’ hard effects my performance:

Another interesting tidbit related to this raising the left stuff: I set an ~20MP PR during the latter stages of a “raise the left” focus this past August – it was after/during a week where I did 3 classic VO2 rides and also a chunk ride for a weeks total of 90-ish minutes of goin’ hard stuff.  I didn’t start out the ride with any plans to break any records (as I’d just done a VO2 workout the day before), it just sort of happened by default with no complicated “tapering” involved!  From a global perspective, I think this anecdote really brings into focus the importance of riding hard and resting hard when it comes to achieving my peak performance.  No sense in making it any more complicated than necessary.

Fill The Right -> Next time…

(The fine print from Kraig: This is not training advice -it's simply my perspective. It's simply my opinion and is an accurate reflection of my current thinking.  It does not necessarily reflect anyone else's opinion on the topic of training for bike racin'.  Of course, I'm flexible enough in my personality to change my opinion based on new information.  The experiment continues!)



Last Updated on Friday, 26 June 2015 22:58