Third de France - Stage 4

Pros: Reims to Nancy, 213.5km, Flat

Me: 71.1km PZ1

Another long day today, though no intervals this time. Legs felt OK, though guts didn’t feel great even before I started. Ended up a few km short as a result, opting to skip random riding to make up the shortfall. Still, at 2h45, that’s 50% of the pros 5h25, so I’ll count it.

Me: 68.1km, 2h 45m, 1395 calories, 112 TSS.

Pro: 200km, 5h 25m, 2959 calories, 151 TSS.

Weight: 91.8kg - CTL: 35.1 - TSB: 2.0

Third de France - Stage 3

Pros: Binche to Épernay, 215km, Hilly

Me: 72km PZ1, 3x5m SST

Nothing exciting. Long hilly day for the pros, long ride for me too. Pace was fine, though the intervals at the end felt harder than they should have. Heart rate was definitely higher, so whether I was doing them too hard, or it was due to a bit of dehydration or fatigue, I’m not sure. I think I’ll do them at the start of the ride in future so I can get a better idea.

One thought that crossed my mind while out on the road was that I’ve been aiming to do one third the distance of the pros, but I figured it would be interesting to compare how that actually translates into work done. I follow Mike Woods on Strava, who rides for EF Education First and finished with the main bunch last night. He publishes his power data unlike a lot of the pros and here’s his ride from yesterday

The stage took him 4h54, burning 3,400 calories and a training stress score of 206. My ride took me 2h55, burning 1500 calories with a training stress score of 139, so it appears that while I’m only doing one third of the distance I’m getting two thirds of the training stress. This is going to hurt!

Weight: 93.3kg - CTL: 32.8 - TSB: 12.4

Third de France - Stage 2

Pros: Bruxelles Palais Royal to Brussel Atomium, 27.6km, Team Time Trial

Me: 5 x (2:30 @ 90%, :30 @ 110%)

A Team Time Trial is basically the whole team riding in single file, with the guy on the front doing lots of work and the rest sheltering behind in his draft. The guy on the front rotates off after a set interval and rejoins the line at the back, and so it goes with each team member rotating through to the front position multiple times until the finish line.

Given there’s only me in this lark, to mimic the pros’ efforts I opted for 30 seconds at 110% of threshold to simulate the time on the front, then 90% of threshold to simulate the “rest” portion, repeated five times for a total of 15 minutes. Jumbo-Visma won the stage in 28:57 (avg. 57.2 kmh!) so 15 minutes is reasonable for me.

Woke up feeling a bit sluggish this morning, despite not staying up to watch the stage last night. HRV (Heart Rate Variability) was low too, which can be an indicator of tiredness or oncoming illness, so macro-dosed some Vitamin C just in case (yeah, placebo :-)

Session went OK - no issues, though looking at my heart rate compared to the pros, I probably should have set the efforts a bit harder.

Weight: 92.8kg CTL: 30.3

Third de France - Stage 1

Pros: Bruxelles to Brussel, 194.5km, Flat

Me: 65km Z1, 5m SST

A bit of a cockup yesterday watching the rain radar! I could see a bunch of rain on the way so kept postponing going out. Turns out the rain was moving much slower that I realised and by the time I figured that out there wasn’t enough time to go out before the rain and also not enough time to go out after the rain and before nightfall. So, onto the indoor trainer 😕

With no distance measured on the trainer I had to adjust the plan. The actual stage took 4:20 for the pros, so a third of that was 1:25 or so, and 65km on flat roads would take me about 2:00 so I opted to split the difference and ride 1:45 while watching a repeat of last night’s stage.

All went well, if still a bit boring. I don’t really ride that much on the trainer, so it still is a harder workout than the equivalent on the road - no traffic lights, no downhills, just constant pedalling - and I was pretty tired later in the evening. Early to bed!

Weight: 93.5kg CTL: 30.1

Third de France is underway, as is the longer term Fat Bastard Project 😆

Le Third de France

It’s that time of the year again - Le Tour de France starts tonight!

Rather than my usual winter of sitting on the couch watching the race and getting fat, this year I’ve done all the fat building in advance and will instead do what I first thought of last year - ride my own Third de France, so called because I’ll aim to ride a third of what the pros do.

Very simplified, if you are trying to win Le Tour, it’s essentially a very long ride punctuated with some hard efforts up the mountains and in time trials. Outside of those efforts the aim is to do as little work as possible, so that’s the aim of my stages as well.

The goal each day will be to ride around in Zone 1 (polarised model - mentioned earlier) and to do some harder, sub-threshold efforts when the riders hit the mountains.

The mountains are classified from the easiest 4, to the hardest, HC (Hors Categorie = Beyond Category) and, since a big HC climb could take up to an hour for the pros, I’ll do a 20min SST effort for a HC climb and knock off five minutes for each level below. I’ll ignore Cat 4 climbs as they’re just pimples. I’ll also do all the SST intervals back-to-back, taking five minutes active rest between each, rather than spacing them out as the mountains are. Once all the intervals are done, I’ll continue riding Z1 until I rack up the required distance for the day.

For the team time-trial stage I’ll do OverUnders, and for the individual time-trial stage I’ll do an FTP effort.

I’ll also ride my stage the day after the pros do, giving me the option to watch the stage if I choose to ride on the indoor trainer, so technically I start tomorrow.

Bearing that in mind, how does my Tour look like?

Here’s a quick summary of the plan:

  Pro KMs My KMs Mountains My Efforts
Stage 1 194.5 65 3,4 5m SST
Stage 2 27.6 9   OverUnders
Stage 3 215 72 4,3,3,3 5m/5m/5m SST
Stage 4 213.5 71 4,4  
Stage 5 175.5 59 3,2,2,3 5m/10m/10m/5m SST
Stage 6 160.5 54 1,3,2,1,3,2,1 15m/5m/10m/15m/5m/10m/15m SST
Stage 7 230 77 4,3,4 5m SST
Stage 8 200 67 2,2,2,3,2,2,3 10m/10m/10m/5m/10m/10m/5m SST
Stage 9 170.5 57 1,3,3 15m/5m/5m SST
Stage 10 218 73 4,3,3,3 5m/5m/5m SST
Rest Day        
Stage 11 167 56 3,4 5m SST
Stage 12 209.5 70 4,1,1 15m/15m SST
Stage 13 27.2 9   FTP
Stage 14 117.5 39 4,1,HC 15m/20m SST
Stage 15 185 62 2,1,1,1 10m/15m/15m/15m SST
Rest Day        
Stage 16 177 59 4  
Stage 17 200 67 4,3 5m SST
Stage 18 208 69 3,1,HC,HC 5m/15m/20m/20m SST
Stage 19 126.5 42 3,2,3,HC,1 5m/10m/5m/20m/15m SST
Stage 20 130 43 1,2,HC 15m/10m/20m SST
Stage 21 127 42 4,4  
Totals 3479.8 1160    

Stages 6 & 8 stand out in the first week, with 18, 19 and 20 going to be a hard finish. Stages 14 & 15 will be problematic for me as I’ll be away that weekend, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Based on my metabolic test learnings, Zone 1 means ‘keep heart rate below 140’. Approximate FTP is 265W at the moment (indoor) so that will suffice for this exercise and I’ll aim for 240W on SST intervals. I haven’t decided yet whether to do them on the trainer or outdoors.

After two weeks’ holidays I’m well rested and well overweight, so I’m under no illusions that this will hurt.

Current fitness: CTL = 29, TSB = 19

Current weight: 92.4kg

Time to shift some lard. Bonne chance!

Holiday's Over

I’ve just finished almost two week’s holidays with my brother and his family. Although Cormac had visited me briefly when I was in Sydney, his wife Belinda and son Jacob had never been to Oz before, so we made sure to cram as much as possible into the ten days they were here for.

First off was a whirlwind tour around Brisbane, making sure to get a photo at the iconic sign.

Photo at Brisbane Sign

Then it was off to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to see some Aussie wildlife. They’re a bit more relaxed with Koalas in Queensland, allowing you to hold one while getting a photo, so we took that opportunity to tick off a bucket list item for Belinda. It’s a sanctuary for over 130 koalas, so each animal only has to deal with people for a very short time before going back to munching on eucalyptus leaves and sleeping.


There are plenty of other animals on site and we got to feed some kangaroos and wallabies and also to see wombats, dingoes, Tassie Devils and more. I’d assumed we’d be there for an hour or so, but we ended up spending most of the day there. Well worth a visit.

Next stop was Port Douglas to go diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Cormac and Jacob had been getting their PADI licence specially, and I’d dug up my qualification I’d last used in 2002, so we were good to go. We booked with AquaQuest and I took advantage of their free “Intro” dive to do a quick refresh of the basics before doing a normal second dive with Cormac & Jacob. A great day out on the boat with a fun, professional crew looking after us and no sea-sickness despite the choppy conditions.

We managed to see some nice coral, found Nemo and spotted reef sharks, parrot fish and plenty more, though we missed out on turtles.


After the day on the ocean, it was time to investigate the land, so we opted for a walk through Mossman Gorge followed by a crocodile tour on the Daintree River aboard Solar Whisper which, as its name suggests, is a solar-powered boat. We got up close and personal with five different crocs in all, ranging from a 50cm juvenile to a 4m adult, while getting a running commentary on their personalities and behaviour.


We continued on up to Cape Tribulation, stopping at Daintree Ice Cream Co. to sample their wares. They grow a huge range of exotic fruits which they use to make their ice cream - check out black sapote if you come across it, a fruit with brown flesh which tastes like chocolate and has four times the vitamin C of an orange. Delicious!

We flew back to Brisbane for a day of relaxation before jumping in the car to visit my mother-in-law down near Byron. The weather wasn’t great on the first day, but the Paddies seemed happy enough down on the beach with the rain approaching!


The sun came out for the last day of the holiday, so we ventured in to Byron to check out the most easterly point in Australia, admire the views from the lighthouse and spend an afternoon swimming at The Pass. We even spotted some Humpback whales to round out our Aussie fauna tour!

Byron Lighthouse

One final drive back up the M1 to Brisbane, catching some rush-hour traffic, a hectic pack and then it was off to the airport early the following morning to send them on their way to my sister in NZ. From a balmy mid-20s winter in Queensland to single digits in Wanaka!!

As for me, well it’s time to knuckle down and start shifting this ballast I’ve acquired over the last year. With that in mind, I’ve entered the Noosa Classic in mid-August and I’ve got the Third de France starting at the weekend. More on that later.

Polarised Training

In my previous post I mentioned how I’d estimated VT1 and VT2 and how they would be useful in the context of polarised training, so what is polarised training?

When it comes to building endurance, there are many ways mix up training intensities to produce a desired result. You can do lots of volume first and then add speed work, you can do speed work first and then add the volume. You can do lots of work just under your 1hr threshold, and there’s many more options behind that.

Polarised Training is a prescription popularised by Dr. Stephen Seiler. Dr. Seiler has done lots of research on how the best elite athletes train. He’s based in Norway, so his research has been with the Norwegian cross-country skiers, some of the best endurance athletes in the world. What he found was that the skiers would spend the vast majority of their training time at relatively low intensities and a small portion at really high intensities, with almost no time in the middle. These are Olympic or World Champion athletes, and on many of their training days he could keep up with them. He checked a few more sports, again with elites, and found that the pattern held.

Now the immediate objection that springs to mind is “if I’m doing 20-30hrs of training a week, then sure, lots of it will be easy” and you might assume it doesn’t hold for those of us with more modest weekly training hours, but no, further research has shown that the polarised model also works for athletes training 7 hours per week.

Pretty much anyone who coaches amateur athletes would agree that one obvious flaw in the way amateurs train is that we typically do our easy sessions too hard, and our hard sessions too easy, so this model makes sense from that perspective too. Take it easy when you’re supposed to so that you are fresh and ready to smash it when hard sessions are prescribed.

Dr. Seiler’s Polarised Training says that 80% of your sessions should be at an intensity below VT1 and the remaining 20% of sessions should be above VT2, or the splits in hours per week should be 90% below VT1 to 10% above VT2. Training below VT1 trains your fat burning system, which improves your fuel use at all intensities and also builds lots of mitochondria, the engines of your cells.

Bear in mind too that this is my summary of his decades of research, but, if you want to hear from the man himself, he has appeared on Velonews’ Fast Talk Podcast a number of times to explain his research in more depth.

Dr. Seiler isn’t the only one talking about this. Dr. Phil Maffetone has been coaching for decades and has a similar prescription, providing a method for calculating your aerobic training heart rate which you should not exceed. The goal also being to build a solid aerobic system.

In terms of my training plans, I can train approx. 10hrs per week, so when adopting the polarised approach nine hours should be below VT1 and one hour should be above VT2. In reality, it will take me a while to build up the fitness required to handle that much high intensity, so any intervals I do will fall a little short of VT2 initially.

My brother and his family are arriving tomorrow morning for tens days holidays, so I won’t be doing much cycling between now and the beginning of July and putting the polarised model into practice will have to wait until then 🙂

Metabolic Test Learnings

The output from my metabolic test last week was a spreadsheet of raw data from the metabolic cart, which is food for further analysis. What do the numbers mean, how can I use them to inform my training etc. etc. Here’s a first pass at what I’ve managed to figure out so far.

Ventilatory Thresholds

There are two ventilatory thresholds, VT1 and VT2, which signify fundamental shifts in what’s happening your body as you exercise. VT1 is the point at which lactate levels in the blood begin to increase beyond resting levels and is usually marked by an increase in your breathing rate. Above VT1 lactate levels will increase as your effort increases, but will stabilise if you settle on a consistent effort. Your body can recycle lactate as fast as you produce it. VT2 is the point at which your body cannot recycle lactate fast enough and even if you are doing a consistent effort above VT2 lactate will keep increasing until you can’t exercise any more.

Ventilatory Threshold Graph

There doesn’t seem to be a simple formula you apply. Rather you graph breaths per minute and eyeball the points at which the slope of the graph appears to change, so it’s inherently subjective. In the above graph, VT1 appears to be around 138bpm for me, and VT2 is around 172bpm. VT1 seems about right based on experience, though VT2 feels a little too high.

What’s the relevance of VT1 and VT2 for training? Well in a Polarized Training model, which I’ll discuss in the future, the aim would be to do the vast majority of your training below VT1, with a small amount above VT2.

Fat Usage

My current weight is just under 92kg and I know from previous DEXA scans that my lean body mass, i.e: my weight if I were 0% body fat, is about 72kg. That’s a lot of lard to be carrying around, so what’s the ideal way to get rid of it? Well there’s only one way to get rid of it and that’s to get the fat released from your fat cells and burn it off.

Fuel Substrate Use Graph

Looking at my fuel substrate usage graph, taken from my earlier post, I can see that I burn approx. 0.75g of fat per minute consistently, from 100W all the way through to about 225W, or, in HR terms (going back to the spreadsheet), right up to about 155bpm.

You often hear that there’s no such thing as a fat burning zone and that you should just focus on working as hard as possible to burn more calories. However, as you can see from the graph above, that’s bollocks. There’s definite point at which I start burning less and less fat. It turns out too that my graph is indicative of pretty decent fat burning ability. Many people will never burn .75g/min at any level and may see significant drop off of their fat burning well before they get to 150bpm. Make a person like that train at high intensity and they’ll burn mainly carbs and the fat sitting around their gut won’t be burnt at all.

Even with a decent fat burning ability, at 170bpm I’m burning a total of about 1150kcal per hour, but I’d struggle to last a full hour at that rate, so I’d burn a max. of 46g of fat. However, at, say, 125bpm, while I’m only burning 690kcal/hr I burn a bit more fat at the lower intensity so I get rid of 53g of fat per hour. Significantly, at that effort I can ride for 5hrs or more if I felt like it, so in theory could burn off 250g+ of flab. Even if I only wanted to ride for one hour, I’d still burn 53g of fat at the easy pace versus 46g if I flogged myself.

Back to my weight. Weighing in at a hypothetical 82kg would leave me at a pretty athletic 12% body fat, so let’s do the maths. That’s 10kg of fat to shed, at a rate of 53g per hour, for a total of 188hrs of bike riding! At a max. of about 10hrs/week that’s four months of consistent riding. On the one hand it seems like a long time on the bike, but on the other, four months of work to reverse years of weight gain doesn’t seem too bad.

Decline of the American Empire

Foreign Affairs has a good article on The Self-Destruction of American Power, looking at where it all went wrong, from the World’s sole superpower after the fall of the USSR to the modern day retreat from any sort of international cooperation.

The Trump administration has hollowed out U.S. foreign policy even further. Trump’s instincts are Jacksonian, in that he is largely uninterested in the world except insofar as he believes that most countries are screwing the United States. He is a nationalist, a protectionist, and a populist, determined to put “America first.” But truthfully, more than anything else, he has abandoned the field. Under Trump, the United States has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and from engaging with Asia more generally. It is uncoupling itself from its 70-year partnership with Europe. It has dealt with Latin America through the prism of either keeping immigrants out or winning votes in Florida. It has even managed to alienate Canadians (no mean feat). And it has subcontracted Middle East policy to Israel and Saudi Arabia. With a few impulsive exceptions—such as the narcissistic desire to win a Nobel Prize by trying to make peace with North Korea—what is most notable about Trump’s foreign policy is its absence.

SoftBank & Lehmans

Following on from my previous post about the age of loose money comes this article from Capitalist Exploits with some of the same concerns, namely that we’re partying like it’s 1999 again.

There are only two ways VC can get liquid: a buyout or an IPO.

And given that so many of the famous “unicorns” are valued at multiples that make my eyes shoot blood, there are now an ever decreasing number of companies that make suitable suitors.

So we’re down to flogging this stinking pile to the folks who always get roasted, especially at the tail end of a boom: retail investors… which is why we’re seeing tech unicorns IPO-ing.

This is a good strategy for VC, so long as those retail investors buy what is being sold.

The trouble now is that there are early signs that the appetite for these “growth” stocks is collapsing like a teenager after a bottle of Absolut on spring break.