Bicycle Life – Do You Race? – Lessons Learned about TSS

Do you race bicycles?  Yeah, me too. Whats funny is many times when I mention to other riders that I race, or if they ask if I race and I say yes, they often respond with “oh I just ride bikes for fun”. Oh so do I, I explain. To me racing bicycles is fun, pushing myself to new limits on a bicycle is fun, actually anytime I spend ona bicycle is fun. Actually it doesnt matter if  Im racing, training or just rec riding. If I am riding my Bicycle, Its all fun to me. But thats not what i want to talk about today.

IMG_2706I want to talk TSS. Yeah i did a little race on Saturday called the Wasatch Back 50. It is a 50 mile mountain bike race. It was run on a brand new trail system called Coyote Canyon in Heber City, Utah just outside Park City. Anyway the trail was tough as it was brand new so it was very raw with bumps and rocks and sticks everywhere. The course also included over 6000 ft of climbing and it was very loose. Anyway, the bottom line is, it was tough race and I scored a TSS score of 413. If you dont know what a TSS score is, the acronym stands for Training Stress Score. It basically attempts to put a number or score for the amount of stress you put on your body when you race, train or just ride. It is calculated using an algorithm that is based on wattage or power you produce plus heart rate data over time and distance and altitude. It is complicated and if you want to know the exact method used, Google it and read about it. That also is not what Im here to talk about.

So after my race I had a TSS score of 413. By the way a TSS score of 400 is what most people that are actively training score for a whole week of workouts. So, needless to say a score 413 on a single day at a single race is quite a bit of stress on your body. Anyway where I am going with all this is in the value of knowing the TSS score of your training so that you can use that information to get faster.

As you may or may not know, getting faster requires you to put a training stress on your body, then allowing your body to recover from the stress and build back a stronger cardiovascular system and more muscle than you had prior to the stress that you put on your body. So, it is pretty important to be able to quantify the stress load that you are placing on your body so that you can more accurately calculate the time to recovery and not wind up wasting the training effects you are working so much on. So according to the information out there on TrainingPeaks and else where, a TSS score of 413 is considered high and “some residual fatigue may be present even after 2 days”. So what this tells me is that I want to benefit from the training stress I just put on my body, I need to stay in recovery mode for more than two days. So, armed with this information I did an easy spin (zone 1 only) for 1 hour on Sunday, an easy spin for 1.5 hours on Monday and then the third day will be Tuesday where i plan to do another easy spin 1.5 hours Zone 1 only. So, after a Saturday race with a TSS  score of 413, by Wednesday I should feel pretty good. You can usually tell if you feel pretty good by going out an doing a ride that you normally do, preferably that has a climb. Do the climb, not hard, just do the climb and pay attention to how you you feel. Does the climb feel almost effortless? Your recovered and probably stronger than you were before the race. Or does the climb make your legs burn a little and feel kind of sluggish? Your not recovered, you need more time on recovery. That’s it for now. I hope that helps you figure out how much recovery you may need after a hard training session, so that you can work smarter and not harder. Get faster by riding slower, …sometimes. If you know someone that races, share this with them. They may be working too hard.

Do you watch your TSS scores? If you race, you should.

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