The Memory of Ice

The TLS has a nice article on the memory of ice and a journey to Greenland to see glaciers up close.

Ice is a recording medium and a storage medium. It collects and keeps data for millennia. Unlike our hard disks and terrabyte blocks, which are quickly updated or become outdated, ice has been consistent in its technology over millions of years. Once you know how to read its archive, it is legible almost as far back – as far down – as the ice goes. Trapped air bubbles preserve details of atmospheric composition. The isotopic content of water molecules in the snow records temperature. Impurities in the snow – sulphuric acid, hydrogen peroxide – indicate past volcanic eruptions, pollution levels, biomass burning, or the extent of sea ice and its proximity. Hydrogen peroxide levels show how much sunlight fell upon the snow. To imagine ice as a “medium” in this sense might also be to imagine it as a “medium” in the supernatural sense: a presence permitting communication with the dead and the buried, across gulfs of deep time, through which one might hear distant messages from the Pleistocene.

Third de France - Stage 17

Pros: Bagnères-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet, 65km, Mountains

Me: 15/15/15m SST, 5m RI

A super short stage for the pros with three solid mountains. Doing my ‘mountains as intervals’ thing saw me well over the usual one third of race distance, with a total of 45km under my belt by the time i finished. The intervals themselves were fine, apart from the last one which was tough.

I’m away for the weekend, flying South to Victoria tomorrow until Monday evening, so that’s the end of my ‘Third de France’. I’ll write up a little summary later, but for now, happy to be done and dusted and wondering how sore my legs will be when we go MTBing or snowboarding at the weekend.

Tour de France - Stage 16

Pros: Carcassonne to Bagnères de Luchon, 218km, Mountains

Me: 73km Z2, 10/15/15m Z2, 5m RI

Not great. Got the first two intervals done, but, during the second, the wind was blowing somke from some sort of industrial fire. Decided I’d rather not deeply inhale that crap so opted to skip the remaining 40km. Turns out it was a fire in a steel yard, so made the right call.

Legs felt OK after the rest day. Intervals weren’t too hard.

Third de France - Stage 15

Pros: Millau to Carcassonne, 181.5km, Hilly

Me: 60km Z2, 5/10/15m SST, 5m RI

Well that’s the second week over with and not a day too soon. Despite a bit over 9 hours sleep last night, I still woke up tired. The first 100m from my house are slightly uphill, maybe 2% gradient, which is enough to feel the pain in the legs as they get going for the ride. I wonder what the cause of that is? Am I re-tearing damaged muscle fibres or something? It can’t be lactic as there hasn’t been a chance for any to build up.

Anyway, legs were OK once they’d warmed up. The SST intervals were fine, though the final 15m effort was a little bit tiring. Once that was out of the way I’d 30km still to ride and that was a bit of a struggle. My legs were OK, it was just overall fatigue wearing me down.

Totals at the end of Week 2: 24h27m, 642km, 1364 TSS

Not massive totals really. If I was fit that would be a decent, but not extraordinary, two weeks’ training. However, trying to do the same work from a low fitness base it takes its toll!

Rest day tomorrow!

Reality Check

So, a bit of perspective. Above is a screenshot posted by Pierre Rolland, riding the real Tour de France for EF-Drapac. It’s his totals for the second week of the Tour, so will be an interesting comparison to my last week doing the Third de France.

Pierre Me

What’s interesting is the relationship between TSS (Training Stress Score) and Work. Pierre did 1907 TSS for the week, or 2.5 times my TSS. However, he did 32,247kJ of work, or 3.9 times the work I did. Work is a measurement, in kilojoules, of exactly how much physical work you have put into the pedals, whereas TSS is an approximation of the amount of stress that work has placed on your body. So despite Pierre doing almost 4 times the work that I did, it only stressed his body 2.4 times as much as my work stressed me.

The reason for this is that TSS is based on your FTP (your threshold, measured in watts), so that Pierre riding 1 hour at his threshold will generate the same TSS as me riding one hour at my threshold. However, Pierre’s threshold is probably 50% higher than mine, so he will do 50% more work at his threshold. He’s also at least 20kg lighter than me, so along with being able to do 50% more work than me at threshold, that work is moving a system (body + bike etc.) >20kg lighter, so he’s even faster again.

The other notable figure above is his Fitness score of 153. Fitness is measured in TSS per day and is the average amount of work he’s done over the previous three months and therefore also the amount of work he can now do per day without getting tired. At 153 TSS/day he’s three times fitter than me, though as we’ve seen above, TSS is based on threshold etc. etc. so he’s actually way better than that.