The 7 stages of data loss. How does one deal with it?

Picture this…..I’m rolling into my driveway after 218km on the bike, nearly a full day of work for a normal person.  This has been one of my longest rides, which was on epic course with a massive amount of climbing, and a really cool crew.  I was looking forward to checking out the Power and Heart Rate data produced throughout the day as sessions like this hardly come by, but lets face it, more importantly I was wanting to upload it to Strava and gain some serious bragging rights (admit it, I’m not the only one who thinks this way).

Before I had even taken my cycle shoes off I was busily syncing my bike computer to my laptop through the usual process.  But for some reason during my caffeine fueled, slightly hypoglycaemic and slightly woozy stooper I noticed my cycle computer had shifted to reset mode (I don’t really know what happened, so let’s assume User Error).  I had that sinking feeling that I imagine someone mistakenly transferring millions of dollars to the wrong bank account would have.  Oh yes, this had just happened.  All data was deleted from my device, including the ‘Grand Tour stage’ I had just ridden.

reset

How did I deal with it?  Firstly I told Social Media, searching for sympathy, then I thought about it a bit and wrote this blog.  The common theme from the online community….”If it’s not on Strava the session didn’t exist.”  And to be honest, I have said this plenty of times before, never expecting that one day it would be me pleading for sympathy and some miraculous solution.  So perhaps next time I won’t be so hasty with my taunts of others who suffer this same fate.

There are some distinct stages that one passes through when this sort of thing happens, so I thought I would highlight them, and give a few of tips on how to deal with it.  Actually it’s worth reading on as there is quite useful stuff you can take away from this.

Stage 1:  Shock & Denial

You will most likely react to loss of your data with numbed disbelief. You are likely to firstly deny the reality of the loss in order to avoid the pain. This may last for a few hours, and for some of you maybe days.  But seriously, you have to move through this stage rapidly to ease the trauma to your family members and training partners.  It’s highly likely that they won’t really care about it, and most certainly are going to make fun of you for it, so ready yourself for the reality of this.

Stage 2: Pain & Guilt

As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain.  This is a deep visceral pain, it is a culmination of the stress and strain from the previous hours and hours of exercise concentrated into a very small nugget which passes through every aching, fatigued muscle fibre.  Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with coffee, pies and Cronuts.  Just hope this pain passes quickly.  You will have guilty feelings or remorse over Strava segments you would have knocked off, Peak Power Top 10’s you would have reached and average speeds you would have maintained.  There is no way of proving this, it’s just your word, and how convincing you can be of it to those who care enough to listen.  This is a chaotic and scary phase.

Stage 3: Anger & Bargaining

Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the loss on someone else.  Perhaps you feel a loved one or training partner played an evil trick on you and tampered with your device, deleting the file on purpose. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. Don’t throw things at a wall or tap erratically at your cycle computer’s buttons.  This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion, but keep it to a level where you know that damaging expensive cycle componentry or equipment isn’t going to occur.

You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with Online Support Forums, Help Desks and Facebook groups but you are highly likely to come across the dreaded words “Sorry, User Error, your data is gone.”

 

Stage 4: Depression, Reflection and Loneliness

A long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you as you enter this stage. No doubt you will think you are the only person having gone through a traumatic incident such as this.  During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may resort to telling Social Media about your issues (I did), looking for support from your online friends.  You may start reflecting on things you experienced during the session such as quad destroying climbs and vicious cross-winds.  You will probably call some of the crew you were training with in that session, seeking support and affirmation of your great achievement.  You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair, and may start embellishing a bit on what you did through your session, add a few more km to the distance you think you rode, a few more hundred meters of elevation gained, the Strava segments you were certain you would have crowned, and the fact that you didn’t even need a can of Coca-Cola to get you home.

Stage 5: The Upward Turn

As you start to adjust to life without your data, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.  This is the stage you ring your Coach and come clean with what has just happened.

Stage 6: Reconstruction & Working Through

As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to the problem. You will figure out ways to avoid this happening again, maybe even consider buying a second device for future sessions, and have it running simultaneously to avoid a similar incident occurring…drastic, but I know people who do it

The most important thing is to work with your Coach here.  Just because your data is lost you still have to update your training log to keep an accurate track of your acute and chronic training load.  For those of you using training software such as Training Peaks you can perform a manual entry, by which you need to estimate the stress the session inflicted.  Software like Training Peaks uses a Training Stress Score value, so calculate what you think the workout did to you.

Hopefully you were aware of the approximate distance, duration, average Heart Rate and average power.  From here you can get a fairly accurate assessment of the session TSS.

Have a look at this graph I have taken from Joe Friel’s blog to estimate the TSS score for the session from which you lost the data.

TSS calculator

I will use the ride I did as an example.  I remember briefly seeing the average speed and average power for the ride just as I rolled down my driveway, and I estimated it to be mid Zone2, which according to the table above is 4/10 effort, which seemed about right.  TSS for this would be 50-60/hour, so over nearly 8 hours it would be 480TSS.  There were a few steep climbs in this ride, so I added a few more points for good measure, and I didn’t want to underestimate the score and risk over-training in the subsequent sessions, so I called it 500TSS.  I entered this value into my Training Peaks Calendar to keep my weekly totals accurate.

Trust me, from a Coaches perspective, this is a really really important thing to do.  Missing out on a significant amount of TSS in a well maintained Performance Management Chart will have implications for the reliability of that graph in the near future.

Stage 7: Acceptance & Hope

During this, the last of the seven stages, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation.  You will always have that knowledge in your mind that you lost that data, but the wrenching pain will be gone.  For the Stravaphiles in the community, you will start to look forward and actually plan to avoid these things in the future.  You will always be double checking you have sufficient battery, your devices are calibrated, and auto-pause is enabled.

You may recall that a few years ago you wouldn’t have cared less if you didn’t get any data from that session.  In fact it has only been the last 15 years that I have really taken notice of things like Heart Rate and distance.  Until then it was all about the perceived effort and duration.  But time has changed, and with the availability of sports technology which is more powerful than the technology used to fly aircraft a generation ago, we tend to take it for granted.  In fact it isn’t a bad thing to just go for a swim, bike or run without any device, just your head, your heart and your lungs…..try it once or twice, you will enjoy it, just remember to manually enter the TSS for that session, that info is still important.

You will realise that in the end the ultimate way to deal with this loss is to just go out and do that session again, and that wrenching pain of the 200km you rode will soon come right back.  Go on, grab some mates and show them how you nailed those segments, drilled the headwinds and railed the descents…..it’s just training after all.

At Foot Traffic Coaching we are self-confessed Data Junkies and Stravaphiles.  We love helping athletes who are all about the numbers and want to get the most of their time training to achieve those dream goals.  Pay us a visit to see how we can help you.

 

 

 

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The Failed FTP test….or is it really a fail?

I’m a competitive person, and as competitive with myself as I am with anyone.  This means that come test time I am totally focused on going further, faster and stronger than my previous attempts.  Now this isn’t necessarily a good thing, not every result needs to be a PB, and there is no such thing as a failed test session.  Sometimes you just have to step back and say “It is what it is”.

I had a perfect example of this yesterday when I performed an FTP test, 7 weeks after my previous one…..which I might add I wasn’t that happy with anyway.  My previous test gave me an FTP value of 271 watts at 72KG, based on the results of yesterday’s test I only achieved 267 watts at 71KG.  Now I know there is a glaringly obvious fact staring us in the face….I’m 1KG lighter, but I will come to that in a bit.  The thing that jumped out at me is I’m 4 watts less than 7 weeks ago.

One major caveat here, I only started using a Power Meter on 1 April 2016, so there is a very small sample to work with when looking at historical data.  And this probably has some significant implications for the reliability of the Performance Management Chart which I will discuss in a later post.  I’m using the Polar Keo Power Pedals (left & right power) and transmitting to a Polar v650 head-unit.

Just so you know, I am training for the Zofingen Duathlon (ITU World Long Distance Duathlon Champs), the distances being 10km run + 150km bike + 30km run.  People have told me to expect it to feel like an Ironman.  The cycle course in particular is a brute, with 3 significant climbs on each of the 3 laps, totaling 1800m of elevation gain.  From what I understand there are a few short sharp pinches and plenty of long gradual climbing.

Powerman.png

Analysing the power file from the first test on 28/4/16 shows a nicely paced effort.  VI was 1.0 so there was next to no peaks and troughs in the power output (this is far easier to achieve on a trainer than on the road).  There was no decoupling, in fact I probably didn’t push hard enough as the value was -1.07%, and there was an increase in output over the final 2 minutes (this is why I thought I would knock the next one out of the park, by going a bit harder from the start and really emptying the tank).  Average Cadence was 89rpm and Average HR was 164bpm, with 342Kj burnt.

FTP1.png

Quadrant Analysis of that effort showed 55% in Q2, which denotes High Force but Low Velocity.  Much of the distribution in this quadrant was higher up the scale, and this was a bit of a concern to me.  This is largely a Fast-Twitch fibre recruiting zone, and living here for long periods isn’t really that easy.  So I was keen to improve on this, as I still need to have some legs to run off the bike well.

QA1

A week after the FTP test I performed a Fatigue Profile to pinpoint where my weaknesses lie, and what I need to focus on to build my FTP value while trying to achieve a higher cadence in all zones.  Using Peaks Coaching’s Fatigue Profile calculator  , which is an excellent tool BTW, I could see that I really had to work on my peak power in all the short duration bins, however my endurance through these was pretty good.  I hadn’t done a lot of Zofingen Duathlon race specific training in the long duration bins hence they are all Below Average.  So I did a bunch of sessions that were targeted on increasing force to the pedal, as well as bringing my cadence up a bit….there was a good amount of suffering going on.

Fatigue profile1.png

So how did it all go?  As you know, not quite what I was hoping for, but test results can’t be taken just on the number that is generated.  It isn’t until you delve deeper into data and understand how the result came about that you start to see that things aren’t all doom and gloom.

Analysis of the second FTP test shows some interesting things.  I cut it 1 second short!! Wow, I was clearly ready to end it there.  I’m as disappointed in that fact as any.  VI was 1.0 again, all good.  I had a wee HR fart where it shot up to 210 for 7 minutes of the test, this is just something that it does occasionally, but it’s not a huge concern for me, or the Cardiologist I saw a few years ago about it.  This did skew the HR graph though, so decoupling can’t be assessed accuratley, however the average HR for when it was behaving was 168bpm, so a bit higher than the previous one.  I was able to lift my watts for the final minute this time, so that’s still happening, again something to work on.  Average Cadence was 92rpm.  339Kj burnt through the effort, 3 less than the previous one so maybe there’s the difference with the 1 second I cut short.

FTP2

Quadrant Analysis of the second FTP test showed a shift of 7.4% more in Q1, and 5.2% less in Q4, so there was a large shift to a higher cadence and higher force, but this time it’s distributed a lot lower on the scale, and scattered in a much more concentrated area.  To me this suggests that cadence has improved and power distribution is more even, which has a positive impact on overall efficiency.

QA2

This table below should help to visualise those differences

Quad graph.png

So it was pleasing for me to see that there had been some positive changes from this 6 week period, albeit not exactly what I was hoping for.  I have always known cadence to be a bit of a limiter for me (as well as force), but being able to turn a gear at a high cadence must be mastered before increasing the force that is applied to the pedal.  So this progression is still in line.

My Fatigue Profile has started moving in the right direction, with higher Peak Powers for many of the bins, and I’m starting to move away from that High Endurance bias, and more to one that suits a course with plenty of short sharp climbs such as the ones I will encounter in Zofingen.  I am about to shift to a race specific Build Phase so the 90 and 240min power will improve too.

Fatigue profile2.png

I came across a really good post in the Trainer Road Blog discussing how FTP changes with cadence, and it is well worth a read.  It helped me to understand some of the physiological changes that are taking place.  There are a couple of good points to identify in it…

“As riders become more aerobically fit, i.e. develop a more sufficient oxygen-reliant endurance base, spinning quickly (e.g. 95rpm) keeps the force output low thereby keeping the muscle stress and fuel consumption low as well since these endurance fibers are fully up to the task of repeating their oxygen-reliant contractions almost indefinitely…….Riders lacking this aerobic fitness, and more importantly (at least at the outset) lacking efficiency, misguidedly and probably unintentionally shift their riding stress onto the anaerobic system, the power fibers, by turning a bigger gear slowly. This leads to a shift in fuel preference, a shift toward sugar, because these power fiberscan’t use oxygen, they can only use sugar. Add to this fuel shift the stress & actual damage brought on by these slower, more forceful, more taxing pedal revolutions and you have a recipe for fatigue”

So it suggests that sure it’s probably easier initially to sit and grind away at a big gear, and in the early stages you will go pretty fast.  But eventually your fuel sources (sugar) are going to run dry and you will be left struggling.  Developing a lighter, more efficient spin will prolong your endurance and make your riding more enjoyable.  Learning how to spin a gear in all zones is probably a good speed skill to develop.

The trade off for increasing your cadence is that the force generated and applied to the pedal is less because the workload has been taken away from your powerful muscles and is now being driven by your cardiovascular system, hence the slight increase in average Heart Rate you saw in my results.

The issue of power:weight ratio needs to be discussed too, as this is where a lot of people come unstuck.  I will leave you with one thing to consider…..body weight on 28/4/16 was 72kg, FTP was calculated as 271w, therefore power:weight ratio was 3.76w/kg.  Bodyweight on 16/6/16 was 71kg, FTP was calculated as 267w, therefore power:weight ratio is 3.76w/kg.

So was it really a fail?  Let’s recap…

Yes, my FTP is less.  But average cadence has increased, Quadrant Analysis is more suited to the event I’m training for, power:weight ratio hasn’t changed.  I’ll call it a relative success for now, but I am determined to make that next FTP value to be higher than what it currently is.

You may have noticed there are a couple of things I have omitted from the discussion, and those are the timing of the test and the state of fatigue going into it.  I will discuss these in the next post as I have some interesting thoughts around those.

If you are interested in employing a Triathlon Coach for your next key event feel free to get in touch with Foot Traffic Coaching.  We have various levels of Training Plans and have the experience to help guide you to your goals.  We also have a free public Facebook Group (Traffic Jam) where we discuss all things endurance sports.  Don’t forget to like our Foot Traffic Endurance Sport Coaching Facebook page so you can keep up to date with what’s happening with our athletes around the world.