Over the past few years it has become very clear to me that from a physiological/adaptation perspective, if I am not dipping into the red zone (i.e – goin’ hard and raising the left) as the base of my training, I’mot being very efficient with my training
- Not setting the stage for rapid improvement at longer durations
As such, I simply don’t do many fill the right types of rides unless the event demands it, or the situation demands it. There are a couple times in recent history when I’ve set aside a significant block of time to really focus on fill issues:
- Core Fill for a Half Ironman
- Weight loss
It should be noted, that during both of these blocks of times I did not see any impact on the left side of the power-duration curve. In other words:
- Filling the Right doesn’t seem to enable Raising the Left
Taking a step back and from a more global perspective, I consider any intensity that doesn’t put me into the red zone (i.e, goin’ hard, or > 20MP power) as “fill”. For example, that would mean going kinda hard, say at an intensity around my 60MP, gets classified as a fill ride for me. Rides that focus on the approximate 60MP range of intensity and below for longer chunks of time, can be useful for events like long course triathlon where this work distribution pattern is more applicable. Most of the time, however, fill rides like these are not a primary focus for me as I have experienced the reality that this intensity and work distribution pattern aren’t the primary driver of performance in the masters road racing scene (which includes crits, road races that last around two and a half hours, and short TT’s) here in SoCal.
In the progression of my training, I will have previously done the red-zone work to raise the left side of the power duration curve, and as a result, I’ve theoretically raised the inherently flat right hand side of the curve. When it comes to “filler time”, it’s simply a matter of doing the mundane grunt work (i.e, actually sitting on the bike and pedaling a wee bit easier than “kinda hard”) to fill in the right side of the power duration curve with actual data.
Another way to think of this whole deal, or “fill” naming convention, is to think back to the days of your childhood and your first paint by numbers experience. The outline/framework has been previously created (in the context of training, the paint by numbers outlines/framework are akin to “raising the left” – it’s the base upon which everything else is built) and all that remains is the mundane task of “filling” in the regions with the appropriate color. The labeling of these, non red-zone style of bike rides, as “filling the right” is no more complicated than that.
Fill for weight loss
A couple years ago, I set out to drop some kilos in order to improve my health, and make the testing of the waters of the local southern California 35+ masters bike racing scene a wee-bit less traumatic. I took the caveman approach to this goal and increased the amount of work I was performing on the bike while also limiting the KJ’s I was eating. I successfully ran an 800-1000 kcal deficit daily for about 10 weeks or so and wound up losing 6 or 7 kilos (going from 75 kg to around 69kg). The additional exercise in my program came in the style of longer, fill-oriented rides on the weekends.
Here’s a sample of one of those rides (click image to enlarge)-> you’ll notice that the goal was simply to burn KJ’s. I didn’t really focus on anything other than that, and if I felt like going hard for a bit, I did. This style of ride is great for recharging the mental batteries as well! Bike riding like this is fun – though, being hungry for 3 months, isn’t! ;-)
Core Fill Rides
One doesn’t really need to have a power meter to understand the general concept of what I consider to be the quintessential “fill” ride. The sensation one should strive for during this type of ride is one of constant pressure on the pedals for the entire duration. On the scale of things, and using traditional language, I would characterize this ride as a hard tempo ride for a duration of 2-3 hours.
You know you’ve nailed this ride when you come unglued in the last 20 minutes and simply can’t turn the pedals with gusto any longer. Usually, I fully recover from a ride of this sort in a couple days – but damn, the legs are barking really badly immediately after the ride and for the several hours after the ride. If I don’t get that sensation, I feel as if the ride was not as effective as it could have been. Basically, I find that in order for these styles of rides to be beneficial, my body has to feel like it’s breaking new ground.
Here’s a screenshot in both the time domain and also a histogram view in order to visualize the characterization of this style of ride from a power perspective. To place these things into some sort of relative context my 20MP is around 300-310 watts.
It’s rides like these that I used in preparation for the second ever half ironman I did in 2006. I found that I was rapidly able to fill out the right side of the curve, taking maybe 2-3 rides to solidify any gains for a given duration/KJ demand. I placed emphasis on these fill rides in the couple months before the event. First, I raised the left as high as I could, then maintained those left gains, while settling in to do the mundane task of filling in the right to meet the 4000 KJ demand I estimated would be necessary to complete the Half Ironman.
The raise and fill approach of 2006 was more successful than the approach I used in 2005, where I basically just rode my bike kinda hard for a bit longer on the weekends and didn’t do much left raising work. In 2006, both the bike and run splits I laid down were around 10 minutes faster than 2005 – too bad I didn’t see any improvements in my swim technique! ;-)
For the master’s road races that I do here in socal, I am yet to see a 2200KJ race – which would probably only occur if I was in a break all day. As a result of this potential possibility of being in a break all day, I typically target fill rides that are in this KJ ballpark as illustrated above but only do so on rare occasions. In fact, I can think of maybe two or three of these style rides that I have completed in the last six months – that’s all I seem to need.
In closing, I haven’t felt the need to rack up unnecessary fatigue with lots of fill rides lately, but when used appropriately, fill rides can come in handy for
- Weight loss
- Meeting KJ (and the distribution of those KJ’s) demands for an event like long course triathlon
(The fine print from Kraig: This is not training advice - it's simply my perspective. It's 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!)