Monday, February 11, 2008

rTSS part 2

My friend, Lee Robb (who tends to see things more clearly than I do at times), had the following comment regarding my unhappiness with running TSS in WKO+ (see previous blog post for my take on it):

"Maybe I'm misunderstanding. Daniels defines T-pace as a 50-60 minute effort, that which elicites a steady state of lactate accululation. 10k intervals for a 30' runner is a vo2max workout (I-pace), wherease 10k intervals for a 60' runner is a threshold workout (T-pace). Threshold pace for a 30' runner is closer to their 20k race pace. "

Initially, I was irritated...not because of what Lee said, but because immediately after reading it, I knew I was wrong in my "logic" somewhere. His point made sense, and worse yet, was right. So I re-evaluated my position and tried to figure out where I went wrong and why despite the above being true, I still didn't like how rTSS was calculated in WKO+.

Physiologically, I have no problem with the threshold pace being set as an hour. LT is usually defined as lactate accumulation over a period of about an hour, regardless of sport. Many swimmers judge their training paces based on their 3K swim time (about an hour), which sould be their approximate LT pace. Okay, so I'm at peace with the idea that WKO+ uses a 1-hour pace as threshold. But there is still something that doesn't sit right with me, and that's what I had to put a lot of thought into.

I finally figured it out. I don't like it from an aesthetic standpoint. I'm planning my season based around TSS for each sport, not time or distance (here). What I would like is to have TSS broadly comparable among the 3 sports so that a TSS of 80 on the bike feels like a run TSS of 80 feels like a swim TSS of 80. But with threshold run pace as a function of a 1-hour time, they aren't that comparable. In my opinion, WKO+ still underestimates the "true" TSS for running. For example, a TSS of 150 on the bike feels nothing like TSS of 150 on the run. The latter would have me taking several days rest, whereas the former would require 1 day rest max. So, I finally figured out why I don't like it...turns out I have to eat crow about it not accurately reflecting a good LT pace, but I still think I'm right on how it underestimates rTSS.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Planning a training season around TSS

I know I just posted yesterday, but I've been kicking these ideas around for a few weeks and wanted to get them down while fresh in my mind. I'm completely revamping the way I train this year for two reasons: 1) out of necessity. I don't have as much time this year due to career stuff, so I have to find a way to get faster with less time. I ran across these articles (by Mark van Akkeren and the other by Terry Kerrigan and Phil Skiba). They really made me think about how to train to get faster. And 2) I think I can train more effectively on less time using a training plan based on TSS (see TrainingPeaks WKO+) rather than distance or time. Overall, the goal is to get faster without putting in 20 hr training weeks!

I've picked up some ideas on message boards and kicked around a few of my own on how to train most efficiently with the above two limitations. Here's what I've developed so far:

General progression
  • Workouts with TSS greater than CTL provide stress stimulus.
  • Workouts with TSS = CTL are maintenance.
  • Workouts with TSS less than CTL are recovery.
  • Increase CTL 5-7 points per week (bike), 3-5 points per week (run), and 3-5 points per week (swim)
  • Increase CTL using stress stimulus workouts until I reach a threshold CTL, at which time I'll incorporate more of the 2nd and 3rd types of workouts to avoid overtraining.

Bike workouts

  • If 3x per week: 1 at FTP, 1 with VO2max intervals, 1 in L2 (endurance; my long ride).
  • If 4x per week: the above, plus 1 FTP/tempo.
  • Replace intervals with maintenance/recovery if bordering on overtraining.

Run workouts

  • If 3x per week: 1 at threshold/10K pace, 1 speedwork (VO2max intervals at track), 1 in L2 (long, endurance run).
  • If 4x per week: the above, plus 1 threshold/tempo.
  • If 5-6x per week: the above plus recovery run(s).

Swim workouts...well, I haven't quite figured those out yet.

Really the goal of all the above workouts is to achieve the right stress to show consistent improvement without progressing too fast (injury) or too far (overtraining). I'll do that by continually monitoring CTL (fitness) and managing the amount of stress using TSS. After I start to get that figured out, then I'll next be figuring out how to maximize TSB (training stress balance) on race day!!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Running TSS

For those of you who use TrainingPeaks WKO+ software, it's a great tool to analyze data and train efficiently (and if you don't use it, you should!). I'm not a long time user or fan of TSS (training stress scores), but have recently adopted using them after I got a power meter in November. I'm finding that for the bike, it has been quite useful and I'm growing in support of the idea. As I started to really embrace it for the bike, I found that I longingly wished for it on the swim and run. While I waited for the latest version of WKO+ to include a running TSS (rTSS), I made my own spreadsheet that calculated it in the interim. It worked well. But now, WKO+ does have rTSS (still no swim yet), which is supposed to make my life easier since I don't have to calculate it on my own, right? Well, I can't get over a hump that I see as a fundamental flaw in how it is currently designed to calculate in WKO+.

I don't really have any particular issues with the bike TSS. In short, it uses the quotient of your normalized power (NP) output from your functional threshold power (FTP) to calculate an intensity factor (IF), where IF = FTP/NP. FTP is defined around a 40K TT, so they use a general time of an hour. TSS is then calculated for each workout using the formula (workout duration * IF^2 * 100). The "100" standardizes the score to 1 hour. For the bike, I'm okay with this. Really fast guys may do a 40K TT in 55 min, and slower guys at 1:05, but that's still pretty close to an hour. Probably not enough to drastically change TSS one way or another, or worse yet, change training zones (based on FTP) to less efficient ones.

But I do have a problem with the run TSS. Instead of using FTP to calculate IF, it uses Normalized Graded Pace and Threshold Pace to calculate IF. I'm okay with this's the same concept, just a different metric. But the formula is identical to the bike TSS from what I can tell: duration * IF^2 * 100. In my opinion, it shouldn't be standardized to an hour! Here's why: in the bike scenario, fast/slow people don't differ much from an hour for 40K TT. In a running scnerio, using a 10K as the surrogate for the 40K TT, there is a huge difference between fast/slow people, with faster runners being in the low 30-minute times and slower being near an hour. So if you are a faster runner and use your 10K time as Threshold Pace, the current formula of rTSS in WKO+ severely underestimates your stress for the workout. If you wanted to solve for this, all you have to do is change your Threshold Pace to be your 1-hr run pace. However, there are problems with that, too. Since running/riding near threshold is *supposed* in target LT the most, running at a slower pace for intervals doesn't seem to be as effective at improving LT than it would be to run near 10K pace for the intervals. Entering a Threshold Pace based on a 1-hour run completely changes the training zones to ineffective ranges. Entering your 10K pace underestimates your rTSS, inhibiting your potential to maximize training/racing.

It seems that rTSS is a good idea in principle, but it was designed by people that think like cyclists, not like a runner. In my opinion, the way to solve this is to change the "100" in the formula to calculate rTSS. Instead of a fixed 100 value (= 1 hour), it needs to adjust to a specific 10K time. This would be very easy to do. Just replace the "100" in the above formula for rTSS with "(60 / (threshold pace * 6.2)) * 100" if you use min./mile or "(60 / (threshold pace * 10)) * 100" if you use min./km. The resulting formula for min/mile would be "rTSS = duration * IF^2 * ((60 / (threshold pace * 6.2)) * 100)." Sure, I could do this in a spreadsheet and then override the existing values in WKO+, but then what's the point of having the software calculate rTSS in the first place?