ATC 325: Zwift Racing Tactics, Indoor vs Outdoor Power Differences, and Crosstraining and Fueling for Ultrarunning

March 12, 2021


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On this episode:

Ryan & Steph ask:

Combining short-duration critical power with Ironman long-haul training 

Let’s say you now have 17 months to prepare for your 2020 ironman distance race (Roth–due to covid we will now be racing it in 2022, along with doing a cycling tour in France after the full-distance tri).

As far as bike training goes, the majority of training and racing we’ve had for the past 10 months is on Zwift (some summer outdoor rides plus the only other race since covid being the Cedar City Belgian waffle ride of 125mi last Oct). The majority of training and racing for at least the next ~6 months will also be on Zwift. While Zwift has actually been really fun through all this, providing lasting friendships that likely would never have happened, and we have perfected a devastating attack OFF the back of the pack…. we would also like to be able to attack FROM the back of the pack just once or twice. How, as an endurance athlete, would you go about boosting your 15 second to 1 minute power, which would help achieve this goal in Zwift racing? This seems to be most important in Zwift racing that we’re finding. And because we like to be difficult athletes, how might we utilize this in our 17 month build to boosting our 6 hour power.

What the coaches say:

  • On the most basic level, you’re trying to change muscle fibers mid-ride; one of the most important aspects of making this change is to make sure you’re not doing it when you’re already cooked/exhausted (but you don’t always have that choice).
  • Make sure you know when to attack and if you can.
  • You can ruin your race if you attack and you’re already cooked.
  • If you’re going to attack, you need to choose that time wisely.
  • Generally, an attack of over 40 seconds is a mistake. An attack over 40 seconds will most likely make you blow up.
  • When Lucho was an elite Ironman athlete, his rule was to never cross zone 4.
  • If you want to attack, you need to be confident in your ability to elevate and to continue to keep that faster pace.
  • If you want to attack from the back of the pack, make sure that the pack is small (6-10 riders).
  • Ryan should probably attack on a hill.
  • A good strategy for an attack: Max effort for 15-20 seconds to create some distance from the other riders, then you’re going to relax and ease back off to steady-state. The chase group will have to catch up, and once they do, you’ll be all rested and ready to go again.
  • What should training look like for this?
    • 2 minutes at zone 2, then 1 minute at zone 5. Repeat for a total of 10-15 minutes.
    • 1 minute in zone 4, then 30 seconds in zone 6; this is more realistic as it will mimic race strategy.
    • 2 minutes in zone 3, then 30 seconds in zone 6.
  • When you can no longer reach the goal wattage – you’re done.
  • Check out Ryan and Steph’s Twitch and Youtube channel!

Annie asks:

How does power output differ on trainer/Zwift vs. outdoor riding?
Hi Tawnee and Lucho!
Thank you for your help in my question below (you referenced it in an episode a while back, and I’ve been doing some soleus and gastroc stretches + eccentric weighted heel lowering, and haven’t had many problems since).
BACKGROUND for my question:
When COVID started, Peloton released their app for free for two months.  I joined, and started doing cycling classes on their app while on my trainer, and loved it – but I only had my heart rate for data.  So this Christmas, my husband got me the Peloton.  I’ve drank the koolaid and am in love.  DATA DATA DATA!!!!  Some of their instructors are endurance athletes (Matt Wilpers is my fav, you should have him on EP), and I love taking their power zone classes and learning more about FTP and output.  While I have a ton of endurance experience, I have been utterly humbled.  I take some of their live classes with my friends, and am totally left in the dust when it comes to overall output.  I’m uber competitive, and I know I’ll eventually see some improvement here…but it leads me to an overall question.
How does output in a spin session (like Peloton, Zwift, etc) compare/correlate to outdoor riding?  Some of my friends that have a higher overall output at the end of a 60min session are the same friends that I can totally hang with (if not leave in my dust) on a long outdoor ride.  So, while I am competitive, should I just be paying attention to my own numbers and stop the comparison (well, yes, I should)?
Like I had mentioned in my previous question below, I have a background in crossfit.  As an endurance athlete, I was never one that could squat heavy, but I could squat 30 reps of 85% my max (and probably more if my coach would have let me keep going).  Comparing my output numbers to others kind of reminds me of this from the crossfit gym – different strengths for different body types.

What the coaches say:

  • You see your friend’s power output, but you don’t see effort!
  • When riding outdoors, there is an increased use of motor units being used to drive the bike. On the indoor trainer, you lower the percentage of muscle fibers being used which lowers your wattage; because of this, 200 watts outdoors might feel easier than 200 watts indoors.
  • Don’t worry about a perfect transfer between indoor and outdoor riding – so many variables go into it. You may want to set up zones independently for indoor vs. outdoor rides.

Mel asks:

Best cross training and “diet” for ultrarunning
Hi! I’ve decided to give ultrarunning a go more formally. I am a 40 y/o female and my background is primarily in marathons (PR 3:10) and a few random 70.3s and a couple 50ks but the latter were just for fun at the time and nothing serious. I want to build toward doing a 100k then a 100 mile (not sure on timeline yet but I’m already comfortable running 50 mpw and have a good base and strong MAF pace of ~8:20). I feel comfortable with a training plan for the longer running (I mean, isn’t it just about a lot of running?!) but I am wondering what kind of crosstraining you would suggest. I have a bike trainer/zwift, a decent at-home gym, can swim outside in warmer months, access to trails, etc., and I like being able to mix it up. But is that hindering my run progress? Is it just about focusing on the run or do you think Xtraining for ultra makes an actual difference and if so how much percentage of training (or time) would you invest in non-running activities?
Also- might be more of an HPN question but I would like to hear Lucho’s take on diet for ultra-athletes. I’m not interested in anything restrictive and I have no diet restrictions, but am curious about the claims some of these diet “gurus” seem to make. Keto/low carb is still so trendy these days (fat burning for long endurance makes sense but is keto too far?), and then things like carnivore and vegan too. I am not looking to follow “one diet” but rather mix in the “best of” what these approaches may allow for, including being able to keep my strong gut and handle taking in nutrition while running. The diet Q is just my quest to get the best out of myself. Any dietary approaches to avoid?
Thanks for your considering my question! It will be such a trip if I tune into EP and hear my question answered while I”m out running ha!

What the coaches say:

  • Tawnee is personally a fan of mixing it up when possible and being an overall fit, resilient athlete. At the same time, we don’t want to sacrifice the bigger goal of building a body that is ready for the type of mileage you want to run.
  • Cycling doesn’t help speed-based runners. But for ultrarunners (where running is slow), cycling can be useful to the overall development of an endurance athlete.
  • Athlete/runner aside, strength training will help you as you age.
  • Lucho would recommend avoiding fast-food (McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, etc.), junk food, etc. But it’s also okay every once in a while.
  • If there are obvious errors in your macros, work on that.
  • Make sure to eat enough!
  • Ask yourself, how do you feel?
  • Buy organic when possible, grass-fed meats, buy local or from farmers markets, soak grains before consuming, and avoid industrial seed oils.

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