STRAVA, Creatine Monohydrate and FTP PRs

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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.

Workout 1

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.

Amazon link: I use this stuff sometimes which contains some creatine

Workout 2

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.

Gadgets

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)

 

Workout 3

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).

Workout 4

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.

Let’s go.

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “STRAVA, Creatine Monohydrate and FTP PRs

  1. So Box Hill is a real hill? Not just a Zwift thing? I’ve been going through a bit of the same thing lately with my power numbers. I’m showing better numbers than I’ve seen in a while but without back up power meters, hard to tell if it’s really me or the heavenly magnets in perfect alignment

  2. LOL, surface roughness is a definite factor in wheel pressure/contact interference. On a perfectly smooth surface, a solid non-conforming tire would be “ideal” (something that minimizes all contact (within reason of not slipping out from under you). So a velodrome basically needs as firm and low-friction a tire as you can keep from sliding out under you with. The rougher the surface, the more a “conforming” tire helps (but NOT a wider tire, necessarily, that’s a different issue).
    As a tire encounters “bumps” (asphalt rocks in the surface, road cracks, etc) 2 things can happen based on pressure and style of bump. If the tire is too firm, and the bump larger than the “conforming” resistance of the tire, then the tire has to ride “up/over” the bump. This is causing an impact in reverse of the desired direction of travel, reducing your speed slightly. The worse the combination, the more the tire kicks “back” and ends up moving the front end “up” which obviously is not helping your forward propulsion.
    If the tire can conform to “x” sized bumps, then there is STILL some loss (the energy of the impact compressing the tire causes some additional pressure/heat on the tire) but much less loss of momentum. HOWEVER your overall rolling resistance is increasing slightly, as the tire now is “conforming” more on the ground, thus slightly more continual rolling resistance. If you are riding cobblestones, or what we in the US call “chip seal” (not sure if other countries use it, it’s terrible, LOL, basically lots of rubble “stuck” to a tar surface and pressed in with a roller, making a HORRID surface for tire resistance and noise)… anyhow, something like that, the “bounce” resistance improvements are probably worth the increased average rolling resistance.
    On nice smooth cement/concrete roads, not nearly as important, so firmer is potentially better. Regarding the “tire dimensions” though, that’s a consequence, not a feature, of wanting to run lower pressures for less kickback. The more a tire “conforms” the more likely the rock or crack in the road that it conforms over, will ding a rim, or pinch-flat (for tubed riders) or even break the bead (for tubeless) or cut the sidewalls. By increasing the tire diameter slightly, it increases that margin for error at the lower pressures (and spreads the load a bit further around the tire surface so a rock that might glance off the rim, instead never touches the rim as the rubber tire pushes it aside (or pushes the bike aside from it).
    Using the velodrome smooth surface example, a 23 and a 25mm tire, same construction/materials, aired to the same pressure, the 25mm will be slower in any conceivable case. Using a cobblestone/bad road example, the 25mm at 80psi may be the same speed as the 23 (due to better conforming, but worse rolling resistance) until the 23mm flats out, then the 25mm becomes faster (it can keep going, LOL). Just my thoughts from man years of study on the subject and reading many analyses, it’s still a subject of some debate though, hard to get really good studies on.

    1. yes, that sounds right to me. i think the extreme examples are the best ones as it makes people realise that there can be different optimal tyres somewhere along a highly complex spectrum.
      couple of years back i fell for the guy in the bike shop selling me some really expensive michellin pro 26mm tyres which were, for sure, slower on my wheels at the time on the roads that I rode. I could tell from the first ride.
      i’ve always meant to look for studies where the degree of bumpiness is somehow standardised…but then never quite got around to looking.
      in my experience, my best times on speedy segments/courses of road surfaces that are not TOO bad are all STILL with higher pressures in thinner tyres (i was fitter 😉 ). sure for longer slightly more bumpy rides i go wider and less inflated but then i’m thinking comfort and not absolute speed and, on the occasions I was thinking speed, i either got punctures or found an excuse for a slower time.
      i was super-surprised at my time, above, with the tyres at 105/110 (or whatever it was). the rigid wheels must have been a factor too perhaps even more so than the few grams of weight saved. i’d never really consider spoke rigidity before but circular carbon spokes (on the mavics, above) aren’t going to flex unlike more bladed, aero ones – again, more power transfer which must be a factor at 300/400w (I’m more the former!!)

      on my faster aero wheels, wider tyres are faster than the manufacturer’s specified thinner ones but i think that’s because of the poorer rolling resistance of the manufacturer tyre

      #itscomplicated

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