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STRAVA, Creatine Monohydrate and FTP
I’ve had an interesting few weeks of sporting activity which started off with a minor running injury after only just completing my final GPS-accuracy test for a good running watch that will hit the eShelves in a couple of weeks. That’s by-the-bye, other than it has stopped me from running and, instead, enabled me to recover a little bit more and cycle a little bit more.
In a way, it’s nice for a triathlete to get a minor injury as one of the ‘other’ two sports, in this case, swimming or cycling tends to get notably better. Or, at least that’s what I find.
Soon after the GPS test, I then had a holiday in Cornwall and Bath (STRAVA image, above) and focussed on bodyboarding for fun and going up steep hills every other day on an old MTB. I was resting a lot and pedalling hard every now and then. The power numbers looked surprisingly good from the few rides I did. Even though I had calibrated my old Favero bePro pedals (still going strong), I suspected that they were simply ‘out’ and overstating my power by maybe 15w or 20w, it just didn’t feel like I was cranking out THAT much more power than normal, although it did feel good. I had no backup power meter and I’d not really got any history of my performances on these STRAVA segments in Bath to provide a sense check on the power number.
On returning home I simply erased the power tracks rather than corrupting my precious data.
Back to the usual bike training at home with a renewed sense of anticipation.
A family member who is into sports nutrition that supports his gym work suggested that I use my Creatine Monohydrate powder BEFORE I workout. Hmm, I’d never done that as typically I would only use it for post-workout supplementation with a protein shake. My regular Sunday ride came around so I added the Creatine to my supplements for the ride (I ride with proper cyclists who are better than a lowly triathlete like me, so I need to make every effort to keep up). Bottom line: I did REALLY well on the ride
Maybe it was the creatine or maybe it was the recent training and holiday, the latter of which was effectively a taper. Maybe. I often find that if I change more than one thing in my regime it’s then impossible to definitively explain any under- or over-performance.
OK, let’s try an FTP test.
Again a bit of Creatine seemed to help as I laboured away for 20 minutes and faffed about for an hour around that. I felt a bit tired during the test but upped my FTP by 3w. Not bad and, as always, there was more to give if I had a little more motivation.
Jeez. Too much training. I needed some more gadgets.
More precisely I’m junking my older bikes and wheels and replacing them piecemeal.
I tend to always use 40/50/80mm rimmed wheels. 2020 marked a return to a pair of decent climbing wheels and, to cut a long story short, I got an oldish Mavic Ksyrium R-SYS SLR wheelset running Vittoria Rubino Pro tyres. They’re probably not as good as my usual choice of Continental GP5000 or GP4000 but they’re pretty good. Annoyingly they are 25mm and so a bit wider than the wheel rims, I’m not sure if that matters for climbing wheels as much as it does for aero/speed – here’s a good and shortish science read on that subject if you are interested. Interestingly the MINIMUM RECOMMENDED tyre pressure is 100psi for the Vitts…jeez. And, yes, these bad boys are uncomfortable despite the carbon spokes on the wheels helping comfort a little. (BTW, they are boys)
Hopefully, you can see where I’m going with all of this.
I cycled off to my local park, which happens to be Richmond Park which has MANY of the world’s most popular STRAVA segments. The hills don’t amount to much and last between 30 and 90 seconds depending on how good you are. I cycle there quite a lot and so have a good history of repeated efforts over many of these segments. A typical ride around the 11km loop for me, even if I were to do intervals or hills would result in ZERO PRs when I come back home and review the stats.
Anyway, with wheels and creatine on board, I boosted one of my hill PRs from 44 seconds down to 40 seconds. Sure there was a slight 7mph tailwind but, IIRC, my previous PR was set with a stronger tailwind than that (you can use klimat to log these things in STRAVA). I’m sure you’d agree that a 10% improvement is a lot. Was it the creatine? (maybe it helped) Was it the wheels? (probably a factor) Did the wind help? (maybe, but not compared to the previous PR) Did the Wahoo record the segment start and endpoints correctly? (Who knows?). Am I just fitter? (I’m definitely NOT as fit as I was 8 or so years ago but I never did the Richmond Park hill reps on STRAVA then, although currently I’m probably the fittest on a bike that I’ve been in 2020).
So we come to today’s ride, which was a 2.5-hour pootle with the Box Hill ascent half-way through. Again, I do this segment quite a lot and have good data history with a PR a couple of months ago in lockdown where I did a similar pootle that included one hard effort up the hill. The full Box hill ascent that I measure is around 5 minutes so this eliminates any Wahoo-based error. Today also had zero wind and the Box Hill ascent is a pretty good gentle incline of the continental European type with an excellent road surface.
After 30 minutes into the ride, well before I got to Box Hill, I reached for my Creatine fix in my water bottle. *&$^%*£(£$% I forgot my bottle. Jeez. Anyway, on the positive side, that was one variable removed. Keep on spinning, there’s a hill coming.
On completing my Box Hill segment I knocked 20 seconds off my PR…which is a considerable and significant amount. I definitely had another 5-10 seconds that could have been knocked off had I paced it better and tried harder. The effort even boosted my automatically calculated FTP/CP in Golden Cheetah and boosted that by about 5w….again a not inconsiderable amount considering I already recently raised it recently by 3w in the FTP test in Workout 2.
That proves it was the wheels!
Or…I could just be fitter/fresher 😉 Grrrr.
Or it could be massively inflated tyres, I’m still not convinced that underinflated, wide tyres are faster than rock-solid thin ones on a smooth surface (Hint: it’s because they’re not….at least, not on a smooth surface. Ask a velodrome track rider)