Getting my VO2 Max Test with Revvo

As I use TrainerRoad for cycling training and listen to its podcast, I have become more curious about VO2 Max. What are my genetics, what is my ultimate potential?

In general, I like looking at data from TrainerRoad, Strava, Wattsboard, and Stravistix, even though I neither race nor plan to race, unless it’s to be part of a team as a domestique. At best, I want to hit the magical mark of 4 watts per kilogram (I’m currently between 3.5 and 4) and be a potentially good Category 3 racer.

Unfortunately, VO2 Max tests, which measure how much of incoming oxygen your body can process (think of it as oxygen efficiency), are quite expensive at $100+. Thus, when I had a chance to try Revvo‘s simulation of VO2 Max for free in San Francisco, I just thought, why not?

Revvo claims 97% accuracy (P value please!) of the real thing, and since most power meters are +-2%, that seems reasonably good.

My results:

VO2 Max Michael Nguyen 2018-02-08.jpgI was pleasantly pleased with the results as my performance was better than expected. Then, suspicion crept in and I kept reading to think about whether I should believe in them.

The two things I’ll point out are my measured VO2 Max at 61 and FTP (threshold) at 259 watts. 61 is 1 percentile for my age group. Wow! How badass am I? Even if we give Revvo a 5% error (versus claimed 3%) buffer, I’d still be at, worst case, around 58, which is really good. Unless I go pay for an official test, I don’t have much more to dispute, but imagining I can be in the top 1% of anything physically seems unreal.

The FTP test result, is a bit different. Revvo claims that my FTP/kg ratio is already 4. However, since I actively train and use a power meter, I think my actual FTP is perhaps 235. I say perhaps because my indoor FTP with TrainerRoad is 225, and even that is tricky. I always fail my FTP tests and just use that setting for my workouts. 225 works well (kicks my butt) for me except for oddly enough, VO2 Max workouts, which I’ve been reducing by 3-5% of FTP to complete them properly.

There are a few things that suggest my real FTP could be higher than my TrainerRoad one.

1) Indoor trainer power for many people is lower than outdoors. That may sound like I’m making an excuse to feel better (which I would love to do), but I can easily do 250 watts outdoors for a few minutes compared to indoors. For example, take this workout from 9 months ago in which I climbed at 271 watts (4.3 w/kg) for 4.5 minutes. I assume (when I first started using TrainerRoad, I didn’t have a power meter, so I don’t have an apples to apples comparison from one year ago) I am stronger right now, but I don’t think can do that indoors. I’ve read different explanations for this. Some of this could be due to heat (air flow is not as good indoors even with fans), some of this could be due to the type of power you have to use on an indoor trainer versus outdoor roads.

2) My mental endurance is kind of weak. Going through longer TrainerRoad workouts, I really do get lazy and have to fight to avoid stops mid-way through 8, 10, 12, 20 minute bursts. Therefore, as Revvo suggests, perhaps I’m capable of doing much more.

3) I use a Powertap G3 power meter, which measures power at the wheel. Most power meters are pedal or crank based, which means they measure power at the source (your legs and feet). When power is measured at the wheel, this is the real-world power that’s driving the biycle. The difference is power that is lost through that transition from the frame to the drivechain. From different opinions I’ve read, this difference could be 5-10% or around 10 watts.

4) The positioning on my bike right now is quite aero. I’m probably slightly small for the frame (which is an aero-oriented bike already), and this likely means I’m stretched out even more horizontally than normal. How this impacts FTP is that it’s harder to breathe, which affects power. The Revvo bike, however, is more upright and with geometry more comparable to a normal or endurance focused road bike. Therefore, I could be losing significant power due to my position. I’ve been setting aside money to get a new properly fitted (perhaps 49CM) super duper (Specialized Tarmac? Roubaix? Canyon Ultimate SLX?) disc brake road bike, and have set 4W/kg as a performance requirement before looking at a new purchase seriously.

I mentioned some of this to Siva, Revvo’s CEO. He agreed that the power would more likely come out during an extended climbing session such as on Mt. Diabo (which I’ve never done). Revvo’s equipment is built on the Wahoo Kickr.

One thing I confirmed that I had long suspected is that my maximum heart rate is lower than the predicted rate for my age. My predicted max heart rate is 183 bpm. I always felt there could be something wrong with me because I would want to die cycling a little above 170. My friend David’s heart rate (he’s the same age) is mid-180’s. Revvo measured my max at 173. Cycling outdoors, I felt like I could sustain 165 reasonably well, but thinking that my true max was 180+ made me feel that I was just lazy.

I wanted to look more at VO2 Max as a meaure of performance and found this breakdown:


This chart suggests that I have a lower bound Cat 2 VO2 Max. If I adjust the FTP results for watts/kg, it suggests a 4w/kg power to weight ratio and about 250 watts.

So if we consider my indoor training FTP, wheel-based vs pedal based power measurement differences, and sitting position, is it possible I’m much closer to 250 and 4w/kg than I think? It’s possible. We’ll know more once I start to do more outdoor runs on my own (Strava KOM time!), but I prefer to keep training for the next couple of months to make sure that I’m at that level.

Here’s hope!

NBA Business Lessons from Jared Dudley

I listened to this newest episode of Adrian Wojnarowski’s The Woj Pod this morning on my commute – it is excellent, perhaps the most educational NBA business related podcast episode I’ve ever listened to. Jared Dudley goes into details about what makes a veteran valuable to a team, and how he got paid for that. I’ve never heard a current player be so frank about his situation before – you’ll usually only hear about that stuff once it’s long over (Jalen Rose). Jared Dudley keeps it real!

My favorite quote, from something Jared Dudley learned, “Be a star in your role.” I love the direction of doing what you’re asked to do at your very best, not what you think you should be doing or what you want to do, but fulfilling your assigned role to the maximum and forgetting ego.

I’ve been listening to Woj for the last year. At first, his interview style was a bit annoying because he tends to ask positive-tilting leading questions, but once I understood that people aren’t coming on to be grilled by a homicide detective, I’ve really enjoyed the quality of guests he brings on and the stories they tell on the podcast.

Through this, I understand the relationships Woj has built around the NBA, why’s he’s such a scoop machine, and his value to ESPN.

When Bicycle Riders Become Cyclists

(Otherwise known as the Obligatory Bicycle Photo by Cyclists and Kestrel Talon Ad  – photo taken near the top of Montebello Road)

I’ve been cycling for the last year and a half. After some occasional riding last summer, I started training with TrainerRoad in the Fall, and I’ve enjoyed riding outdoors since the Spring. I’ve totally been sucked into it – I love to talk about it, read about it, watch it, and gazingly look at my bike for no reason (it’s stored indoors), much to my wife’s chagrin.

I also worry about it – why I can’t be faster, how to take curves more dangerously yet not so dangerously, etc.

Along the way I’ve learned:

  • It is god-damn expensive. I aggregated all my bike-related expenses and it’s now nearing $4,000(!), despite always looking for deals and used items when possible. This also doesn’t include the cost of events (often $100+ not including travel and housing). Yet, the bike itself (as pictured), has me cost about $1,850 after getting two amazing deals – the all-carbon Kestrel Talon (originally $2,500) was $600 and used for 500 miles. I bought my Jones Precision Wheels Carbon Wheelset (originally $1700+) for $400 WITH a Powertap G3 Power Meter ($599).
  • $1850 for a bike is a lot, and yet, it’s really not (if you’re a cyclist, you understand).
  • You have to take a photo of your bike standing sexily by itself, ideally with a view behind it – thus, this blog post. There are even right and wrong ways of taking photos! For example, photograph the drive (right) side, push it in the highest gear possible, put any wheel decals at 12 O’Clock, put the pedals at 3 O’Clock.
  • N+1 is real – this is the thinking that no matter how many bikes you have (N), you have to have one more (N+1). For example right now, I’d like to get a cheap, used Cyclocross bike to improve my overall bike handling skills by riding on dirt. But what I really want is the 2017+ Specialized Roubaix, which will make me such an awesome rider (especially descents), I will make everyone cry. It’s a fact!
  • I interchange between getting sick about the money I spend, and thinking about where I can store the next bike. I don’t even have space for it – can I do an ICO (Blockchain) to fund this habit? I am a fiend.
  • 10g (.022 lbs) of weight is everything, and I obsess over whether I should pay $25 to get 10g less weight on a bottle cage. So what if I drink a bit of water, it’s easily more than 10g of added weight in my body? Don’t you dare use intelligence on me! I’m a cyclist, no brains required.
  • If you say “suffer” to a cyclist, they interpret it as “going to heaven”. I have not yet gone to heaven. Jesus, you master of suffering, show me the way!

As shown in photos:

The Pain of Cycling

A lot of people wonder if taking EPO is risky to health. I’d like to reply to that concern with the following list: Elbow Shoulder Collarbone (twice) Back Hip Fingers (multiple) Ribs Wrist Nose Those are the bones I’ve broken during my racing career. This is not an unusual list in our profession. It’s funny: in the States, everybody connects bike racing with health. But when you get to the top level, you see the truth: bike racing is not a healthy sport in any sense of the word. (As my former teammate Jonathan Vaughters likes to say, If you want to feel what it’s like to be a bike racer, strip down to your underwear, drive your car 40 mph, and leap out the window into a pile of jagged metal.) So when it comes to the risks of EPO, they tend to feel pretty small.

From: The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France
Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle

Cycling injuries aren’t just for racers. The more I read about cycling and actually ride, the more I understand a painful fall or crash is a question of when, not if. I may be in the best shape of my life (13% body fat), but there is a price to pay when you’re trying to become a better cyclist.

Case in point:

On the left: my left arm. On the right, my left hip, before the swelling.

Climbing the Palo Alto (Page Mill) hills yesterday morning around from 6-7AM, a slight rain started (California rain in September?!). I was about 1.5 miles away from the top (and getting really cold) when I decided to head back, concerned about the wet traction. On one of the very first corners heading down, my bike slipped out from me and I fell on my left side.

Road rash.

The oddity of my fall is that from my trepidation about high speed downhill cornering in general, I had approached this descent slowly, well aware of the wet ground. I also have carbon wheels, which exhibit poor braking compared to alloy wheels, and are even worse in wet conditions. I have no idea why I fell except for perhaps 1) “first rain”-like conditions created less traction 2) I may have gone over a darker patch of pavement (looks like a small add-on layer), one that wouldn’t give me cause of concern normally but perhaps doesn’t absorb or handle water as well.

Thankfully, I didn’t suffer anything more serious (but…emotional pain of scuffing up my new Ultegra shifters) and was able to finish the descent (slowly) to eventually get home. My hip will likely need close to a month of healing before the bruising goes away.

Being Sad for Ivan Rabb Means We Should Celebrate the “One and Done”

A year ago, I said:

As of today, according to DraftExpress (a reputable source on pre-NBA talent), Jaylen Brown would be the 4th pick (or is the 4th best prospect, however you want to read it) in this summer’s draft. Ivan Rabb is 14th. Both would be considered “lottery picks”, draft picks for teams that do not make the NBA playoffs, just as Chris Porter could have been so long ago. …

If their draft positions hold, Rabb and Brown would get closer to $3M and $7M, respectively. …

Taking money now is the smart thing, if it is guaranteed. For any player’s long term development, he has to be in a good team situation in which he can grow (compare San Antonio Spurs vs Brooklyn Nets) – this is something a player has much less control over and thus, has much more risk. The money is guaranteed while the opportunity to play, be liked by a coaching staff, is not. …

Other than having your draft position go down, costing you literally millions of dollars, if you get booted to the second round as Chris Porter, you will not have a guaranteed contract, or a contract at all. …

If a player stayed in school in order to complete his college degree and then dropped out of the first round, I would say he wasted the point of going to college. Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, get in the draft now and go to summer school in the future.

Last night, former Cal Bear Ivan Rabb was picked in the second round by the Memphis Grizzlies, 35th overall. That likely means no guaranteed money, no guaranteed roster spot, and extensive time in the D League.

Rabb went from the projected late lottery as a freshman with guaranteed money and a chance to play to now having nothing.

And for those who look down upon the one (year) and done athlete, how do you feel about someone who lost millions of dollars by doing the “right thing”?

This isn’t much different from the example of Chris Porter over 15 years ago. Last year, I recommended: “Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, get in the draft now and go to summer school in the future.”

I’m sorry Ivan.