America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

America's #1 Balance Bike Destination
America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

Monday, February 18, 2008

Conspiracy Theories: Intensity, Duration or RPMs?

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.


solobreak said...

Listen to your coach this time. Tendonitis is an overuse injury. Your knee hurts because you upped your mileage quickly. Higher cadence/lower force is easier on the knee. Try 10 squats with 100 pounds. Then try 1 with 1000 pounds. Which one hurt your knee more?

I think what he is saying is at the end of the ride you are getting fatigued and dropping your cadence.

Rest the knee. A week off now could save you two months off in the summer. Ride the first half of any endurance ride super easy, like zone zero. Pick it up in the second half, and keep your cadence high. This is training. You want to be a few rpm higher than your "comfy" cadence to condition yourself to spin faster. Make sure you fuel enough and aren't semi-bonking and dropping cadence on the second half of the ride.

Honestly, I've seen this happen with several riders. They buy a PM and their cadence starts to drop. Your power reading might be higher when you're grinding along at 80 rpm, but on a training ride you want to be conditioning your body to pedal fluidly and efficiently. Souplesse is the mark of a well-schooled rider, but sadly in these days all we here about are watts, because efficiency over a range of conditions and situations is not as easy to measure. The idea is to be an effective racer for an entire season, not just 20 minutes on the trainer in the garage in February. But I digress...


solobreak said...


solobreak said...

Oh yeah, and get that massage too.

How many hours a week do you stretch? If it's less than 2, then I'll wager your low back is the next thing to start acting up.

Murat Altinbasak said...

On a long endurance ride, I have the PT set to display cadence (watching 3 hours tick by on the stopwatch is murder when it 20 degrees), but I pay more attention to the power than the cadence. I find a comfortable range in zone 2 and hold it there. I should pay more attention to cadence. I seem to spin a lot more on the trainer, but that's easy! There's no wind, no hills to climb, no descents, none of my own weight to propel, no momentum.. It's harder outside, especially when you only venture outside on the weekends. Taverage cadence of my two rides this weekend were 87 on Sat 83 on Sun. Thanks for weighing in. "Well schooled"? How many of us in this sport fit that description? I am just trying as hard as I possibly can to be better. Is there a word for that?

Murat Altinbasak said...

I could definitely do a better job of stretching, but I thought that stretching a weak tendon might aggravate it more.
I'm going to book a massage soon. My right hamstring still has a knot in it. Cramped up on me both Sat and Sun.
Coach is suggesting that there might be something wrong with my position and recommends that I see an "Active Release Technologist" ASAP. Never heard of such a thing, but I'm about to find out. Thanks.

gewilli said...

maybe ya need someone to come over and crank down the high limit screw on your front der. You gotta say out of that big ring man...

stay out of it...

oh and listen to NC and your paid coach.

They sound like they know what they are talking about.

I love grinding it out more than anyone but i got this tiny obscure little theory that the # of revolutions you pedal is far more important than mileage or time on the bike...

Are you running a 45 small ring or something? a straight block in the back? Why can't ya spin up a hill/over a rise?

Ya prolly got 10 gears in the back. USE EM


oh and ya will book a massage soon? That's like the guy with a swollen painful testicle saying they'll got to the doctor at some point and eventually finding that the cancer is all over their body.

solobreak said...

ART is all the rage these days. It's a different training than regular LMT, but a lot of people swear by it. I guess it only takes a few minutes.

With regard to stretching and massage, I think more is better, but anything is better than nothing. When I was in my (early) 30's I rode 4 hour Saturdays and Sundays in February too. Never got massage. I stretched, but not much. Ended up with hundreds of dollars worth of PT for my back troubles, and two knee arthroscopies. Now I know better. If I have to give up 30 minutes of riding to fit the stretch in, so be it. I use the stick and foam roller every day, and try to get a massage once a month at least, more during heavy training.

If your tendon is too sore to stretch, then it's too sore to ride too. The only real cure for overuse is rest, but massage and proper care will speed the healing.

Check your saddle and all that too. It could have slipped or something.

gewilli said...

There is a REALLY good D.O. in Warwick specializing in manipulations and pain diagnosis and management.

Best in New England. My SIL went to her with some seriously messed up hips and back and this doc has worked wonders.

Think massage therapy done by someone with 12 years of school and a doctors degree... (no not all DOs are good at Manipulation but it is the most scientific based and longest practiced manipulation and all that)

good stuff...

you need more info, email and i send you a name.

Murat Altinbasak said...

SB the tendon's not too sore to stretch, I was just fearful of stretching it, that's all. Fear of the unknown. Tonight I stretched pretty well before my workout. It included 30 minutes of 1 minute bursts and 1 minute recoveries, and while I could feel an "issue" in the left knee, I don't consider it to be a weakness or even painful. I have the most pain when I'm getting into or out of my car, getting up from a chair, or walking down a flight of stairs. I can walk and ride just fine. Checked my seatpost and nothing has moved..
I believe you are right though SB. I'm 37 and acting like I'm 27- like I can still train and race hard without taking care of myself such as stretching and proper warm up. I need to follow your good example. City Sports on Thayer has the massage sticks- I'm getting one post haste.
I am also going for one hour of massage tomorrow after lunch and hopefully I'll find an A.R.T. professional this week too. Maybe try Ge's referral. It would be a relief to know once and for all what's wrong- IT band or tendon or both.

solobreak said...

Your symptoms sound familiar... I'd expect the cartilage in that knee may not be in the best of shape. Then when all the muscles and tendons (especially the ITB) get tight from training and lack of stretching, it increases friction and you start to feel these issues. That's why it doesn't bother you that much when you're riding. At that time the muscles are warm and loose, and the range of motion in cycling is quite limited. Later on you get off the bike, everything tightens up and the muscles shorten, and you start feeling it. So stretching and massage are still good, even if they don't "fix" the underlying issue, they'll reduce the symptoms. If it is cartilage, continuing to ride probably won't make it worse. Try to get through the season with regular massage and more stretching, and if it's still troublesome in the fall you might consider getting it scoped. It's not that big of a deal and if the damage is minor you'll be good as new afterwards.