Not just improvement – smashing success!

I got off work yesterday at around 3 PM. I had been setting up and managing a picnic for about 800 people since about 9 AM that morning. The BBQ was awesome and the kids loved the inflatable stuff. It was definitely a success.

It was also tiring. The whole week had been tiring. Now, after standing all day and carrying tables, chairs, and who knows what around all morning; it was time for me to take my Functional Threshold Test.

I almost called Jim to ask if it could be rescheduled. The wind of the day had kicked up my allergies and my body was just plain worn out. Could I do this?

After swinging by Sunshine Cycle Shop to check in on the Paris Mountain Time Trial results, I headed home. The Beautiful Redhead answered the phone when I called and started me a cup of coffee and laid out a Claratin for me. It was time to give this a shot.

By 4 PM I was in Marietta unloading the bike to start on my way. Already I was feeling better. I was still tired physically, but after months of planning and prepping for the events of last week I felt a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. Mentally, I was starting to feel lighter than air!

FTP test instructions

I always get confused with the order of things.

This was the first time I have tried the test on Hwy. 288. Jim told me to give the road a try and a lot of riders use the road for this purpose. I was just hoping I would keep the instructions in order. To help, I taped them to my top tube. It actually ended up being a help.

Hwys 288 and 178

The FTP test course (click image to enlarge)

I started in Marietta and used the time to the Hwy 8 intersection (Pumpkintown) for a warm up. Once through the intersection I started the 20 minutes at 245 – 275 watts section of the prep. Suddenly, my body started to feel refreshed and I wasn’t feeling tired anymore. The weather was absolutely stunning and all was right with the world!

It was neat that I made the turn and timed it perfectly to arrive back at Hwy. 8 just as I was to start the all out 20 minute effort. My mind began to dare to think I could finally cross the 300 watts threshold. Up to this point I have struggled with these tests. 286 watts is the highest I have managed. Could today be the day that changed?

To make a long story short, I just uncorked it and didn’t even look at the computer for the first five minutes. The brain was listening to the body and I did my best to go as hard as I could with 20 minutes of road ahead. After that first five minutes, I would glance down on occasion to get an idea of how I was doing. Often I would see numbers over 320 watts.

Fifteen minutes in I was really pumped! I knew I was on a good pace. The rolling terrain was working to my advantage. It allowed me to spin out to clear my legs and then helped me boost my power up on the climbs.

Then I ran out of road! I knew it was going to happen. The choice would be to take a right or left on 178. If I took a right, it would take me to the intersection of Hwy. 11. I knew if I did that, I would have to stop. However, on the other side would be some climbing. To the left… I had never turned left on 178. I didn’t know what was there.

So, with about four minutes left I took the left. I’m glad I did! Immediately, the road started a gradual climb. With about ten seconds to go I finally crested the rise, but by that time it was in the bag. All I had to do was turn around and head back to the car.

On the way I tried to guess what my time might be. The more optimistic part of me was hoping for an average of 310 watts. The “things are never that good” part of me was figuring 295 watts. Either one of those would be much better than any other FTP test I’ve attempted.

My Garmin wasn’t set up to show me the results immediately. It wasn’t until the family was seated at the table for dinner that I broke down and uploaded the file to We all ate our tacos and waited for the announcement…

319 watts!*

Oh yeah! That didn’t just beat my previous numbers… it SMASHED it. Now, I don’t think I have suddenly increased my physical ability to produce wattage that much. Certainly, I have gained a lot of strength since starting training. Some of yesterday’s success can be attributed to that. However, I think some of it is also due to the fact that I am learning better how to pace myself and understand what my body is telling me.

The success is just what I needed for a shot in the arm as I work forward. There isn’t much better motivation than validation that what you are doing is working. My goals for the year are definitely seeming to be more than just wishing stars.

* I’m still waiting on the official number from my coach.