After all of the training hours and race days have been logged it only makes sense to look at your season in review. A proper season review is the best way to identify your strengths and weaknesses and develop a comprehensive plan for the upcoming season. With the availability of powerful data, and dynamic tools to analyze that data, reviewing your season is easier than ever. However, it’s also critical to the review process to know what metrics to focus on to allow you to make informed decisions regarding your training. Having the right tools and know-how make for a successful season review and sets you up for success when it comes time to start training again.
Top Three Broad Overview Strategies
Begin your overview by analyzing charts that allow you to get a bird’s eye view of your season. When you utilize this strategy you can pick up on long term trends and changes that took place over multiple training periods. When you start big it also lets you identify key areas and races that you can then hone in on at the workout level.
1.) Performance Management Chart
The Performance Management Chart (PMC) is one of the best places to begin. If you haven’t already done so, start by segmenting the PMC into custom date ranges that correlate to key periods during your season. These could be key events, the build-up to races, recovery periods, critical training blocks, etc. Once you’ve created your custom date ranges you can begin to dig a little deeper. This is a good place to look at core metrics like CTL, ATL, and TSB. Were you able to hit your desired CTL, was your TSB (Form) appropriate for priority races, how quickly were you able to recover? Knowing the answers to these and other questions can help you develop a better plan for next year. It’s also a good idea to look at peak power numbers throughout these different time periods. Did you achieve peak performances during races or breakthrough workouts? Did those peak power durations align with the goals and specificity of your training and racing strategy? Taking it a step further to identify exactly when during a race or workout these peaks were reached, and on what type of terrain, can provide insights that are applicable to a solid race day strategy.
2.) Power Duration Curve
Many of the metrics that we rely on to analyze race performance and build progressive training periods are based on the PD Curve. Understanding, reviewing, and using the PD Model is vital to be able to effectively use the metrics that we have at our disposal. Much like the PMC it’s helpful to review different time periods when using the curve. In the build-up to a criterium or cyclocross race you may have been focused on sprint power, but how did that impact the rest of the curve? Conversely, if you’re preparing for a time trial your steady-state power may have increased, while your PMax and FRC (Functional Reserve Capacity) may have suffered. It’s acceptable for the curve to change as you prepare for different events, but understanding what happens when you focus on a specific area can help to develop a more comprehensive approach to your training
3.) Time to Exhaustion
TTE is the maximum duration for which power equal to mFTP (modeled functional threshold power) can be sustained. This metric provides a snapshot of an athlete’s resistance to fatigue for threshold level efforts. By analyzing mFTP and TTE over time, and comparing them against one another, you’re able to see how different types of training and races impact both metrics. TTE puts mFTP into perspective as it relates to other key metrics. If you’re an endurance athlete then your goal may be to not only increase your FTP, but how long you can sustain that power. Race day pacing can also benefit as you begin to develop strategies for priority races. Whether it’s a pivotal climb on a racecourse, or the ability to cover a breakaway, knowing your TTE allows you to be prepared for threshold and supra-threshold level efforts. Typically athletes have varied seasons filled with a variety of different events, terrain, and goals. mFTP and TTE are in constant flux as athletes prepare for and recover from these different events. Using this in conjunction with the PD Curve and PMC help to paint a well-rounded picture, and allow us to make decisions about how to approach next season.
Top Workout Level Strategies
Now that you’ve identified key date ranges, races, and workouts it’s time to analyze the data on a more granular level. Getting a broad overview is great for picking up on macro trends, but the workout analysis is where you can really dig in and discover transformative insights.
1.) Visual Matches
One of the best ways to dissect race day performance is to identify “matches”. Every athlete has a set number of “matches” in their matchbook, and no one has the same number of matches. A match can be defined as 20% over FTP for 1 minute. It may also be a longer duration at a lower percentage over threshold. The goal is to find out how many matches you have. Usually, the time when you burn the most matches is during a race. Whether it’s a climb, a surge, a breakaway, or any other hard effort, you’re going all out more often than during training. If you’re training with power you can visually inspect a race day power file and look for these spikes. Segment areas such as the start, major climbs, breakaways, or any other dynamic part of the race. By examining when and how you burnt your matches you can have a better idea of how many you have in your matchbook, and how your training should be structured to help you bolster your matchbook. They’re in short supply so using them wisely is key for race day performance and strategy.
2.) Interval Review
Look specifically at what systems were at work and the time spent above and below threshold during a race or a workout. This simple and straightforward approach helps to quickly and easily highlight power zones and trends during an effort. This is particularly helpful when developing a training strategy for the coming season or leading up to a specific race. What types of workouts and what areas need to be the focus? Should you focus on improving your FTP or are VO2 Max, FRC and PMax intervals more important in preparation? Single out a few races that called on different strengths and revealed weaknesses and see how they break down. Reviewing what percentage of the effort was in different zones allows you to drill down and see where you may have been strongest and weakest during that particular period in your training. You may even cross-reference the race with the same time period on the PD Curve to examine how things were looking on a larger scale. As an example, if an XC MTB race was reviewed we might see that the majority of the effort was near an athlete’s VO2 Max. Knowing what it takes to execute on race day makes it easier to formulate training strategies for races to come.
A season review, although critical, can be a lot to dissect. Knowing where to begin and what data to review can make the process much more productive. Whether you’re reviewing your season as a self-coached athlete or with your coach, there’s a lot of value in a critical review of your past performances. Utilize the dynamic and insightful tools available to you to make finding the data that’s of use even easier. Starting at a larger level to identify macro trends in your training and then narrowing down to the workout level make for a productive approach to analysis. Once you’ve identified where it is you’re strong and how you can improve, you can apply those insights to your training to make for an even more successful season next year.
Taylor Thomas is the founder and head coach of Thomas Endurance Coaching (TEC) and has more than a decade of experience in the endurance sports industry as an athlete, coach, team organizer, writer, and podcast host. TEC provides expert level coaching to athletes of all ability levels and specializes in both a scientific and metrics-based approach to endurance sports. They guide athletes in a wide variety of disciplines ranging from running and cycling to mountaineering. For more information on their personal coaching and training plan options visit http://www.thomasendurancecoaching.com/. Also, listen to their top-rated podcast Endurance Minded everywhere you get your podcasts.