I'm beginning to doubt if I really understand what's up with the left knee. Maybe it's time to see an orthopedist or something. I thought it might be tendonitis, but the pain seems to have migrated to the outside of the knee, kind of like IT band friction syndrome. Saturday's 3 hour ride was pain free.. until I got home showered dressed etc. The pain erupted after completing the ride. On Sunday the pain was there from the very first pedal stroke. Frustrating. Then my coach made some observations in reply to my belly aching, after seeing Sunday's chart. I quote:
"Well, let’s see.. your FT is 241 watts from your last test, then you go and do 218 NP for this ride today… uh yeah it’s gonna hurt – that is like 90% of FT! Even if you are underestimating your FT by a little since it is on the trainer, you are riding considerably more aggressive today – and it was supposed to be an endurance ride. Yesterday was a little to the high side of endurance but pretty much right on the money. Now I know you hit some hills a bit today so the variability was there (hence the bigger difference in NP from AVE watts), but it seems that when you ride with others you guys are getting into competing with each other out there. Your NP was almost 20 watts higher today than yesterday – that’s quite a bit. There are some high intensity efforts too – like the 1:20 effort at 410 watts at 1 hour 40 minutes. Your also running a rather low rpm which is going ot make sore legs and not good for that tendon. Late in the ride – 76 rpm??? Before that 84 rpm for almost an hour? Your not on the fixed gear so why so low? Yesterday your cadence was up there for the first half and then drops off too – what is going on? Are you dropping really low on the hills? It looks like that may well be part of the problem – climbing at 65-75 rpm – way too low. Take a look at these files and let me know what you see there relating to where you rode."
Here's what I think: To answer Todd's concerns about the cadence of Saturday's ride dropping in the 2nd half, that's mainly because the first half of the ride was flat- no hills to climb or descend. The second half of the ride was comprised of riding north of route 102 from where it crosses route 1 in North Kingstown all the way to route 117 in West Warwick. Non stop rollers, some of them are kind of hard. Considering that yes, I do tend to grind over a climb instead of spin, my cadence is lower. But then I also coast a bit down the other side, and since my PT is recording zeroes, the average drops even more on the hilly terrain. Moving on to Sunday's ride with my team mates Joe and Brendan.. I had the same average watts riding with them as I did on Saturday, but as Todd points out, my normalized power was 20 watts higher on Sunday- primarily because of two things:
-we hit a LOT of rolling hills for the entire ride
-I climbed a LOT of them out of the saddle
For those who don't know.. Normalized Power is the "if all things were somehow equal, your watts would have been: x.." kind of thing..
Now.. conspiracy theory coming up.. This past week I did two attempts at a Field test (Sat and Tues), I did intervals Wed and Thurs. No pain noted whatsoever in any of these zone 4 and zone 5 efforts. I thought my knee had cleared up completely, I really did.. But then when I go for a three hour endurance ride with about 30% tempo and some rolling hills (I took it easy on the hills btw).. the knee falls apart. This is a clear indication of two things:
1. My knee is well conditioned for hard efforts
2. My knee protests when the duration is abusive (3+ hours), not the intensity.
To wit, I did a lot of out of the saddle climbing on Sunday with my team mates. This is because the knee pain would almost dissipate completely during hard efforts out of the saddle. Seated and spinning hurt a LOT more. This all stands to reason because it's the first time in a long time that I'm doing three hour rides, back to back, week after week. I've also found myself to be more powerful when rpm is 100-105, and I've been favoring higher rpms for that reason.. But I've paid a price.. Think about it: A three hour ride at 80 rpm means 14,400 pedal revolutions. Do the same ride at 90 rpm and it means 16,200 revolutions, a difference of 1800, which can mean the difference between a knee feeling fine and acting up. On rides of over 3 hours, I might need to stick to doing the cadence which is less stressful on my knees. All of the evidence points to high cadence or high duration rides being the cause of my pain. If what coach says is true, lowering my cadence is what's causing the damage. I don't think cadence makes as much difference as the overall number of pedal revolutions of a long ride.