Recently I wrote about taking the Carmichael Training Systems Field Test. This brought up a question from Tony about the necessity of taking the test. I encouraged him to give it a try and let me know what happened with it.
Jonathan, I failed. I started out my first effort too hard. I set a target of 300w and died at the 4 min mark. 90 rpm is just too tough for my legs. On the second effort I used 100 rpm but also at 4 min mark I couldn’t breathe. So I totally failed. I guess I will stick with 280 watt baseline.
It is fine that Tony wants to just continue his training with the 280w baseline. It seems to be working for him up to this point. However, I think his response gives us an opportunity to consider something else about the field test — whether the CTS one or some other variation.
You can’t fail a field test.
Now, you might not complete one as proscribed, but that doesn’t mean it was a failure. The test is all about learning where you are. Sometimes it might be about learning where you are NOT.
Tony’s test was a success because he learned some things…
- His FTP is not 300 watts. It may be 280 or perhaps 290… I don’t know. I do know it is not 300.
- His FTP is somewhere above 220 watts. Looking at his file from TrainingPeaks I see he was above to hold 220 watts for more than 20 minutes. His closest average to 8 minutes was around 245 watts.
- He learned how better to approach the test… perhaps this is the most important one.
It is easy to get into our heads that we want to obtain a certain FTP. We go into the test with that target wattage and give it a go. That is the wrong approach.
What you should do is go by feel tempered by what you know you are able to do. So, for instance, on my first field test of the year I knew that I wouldn’t be able match my highest of last season. No need to go for over 300 watts. My thought was to land somewhere around 270 watts.
As you recall, I goofed and was looking at average wattage as I spun up the bike. In someways this was good. I had to focus more on how I felt and my cadence. So, I settled in and did what Carmichael instructs you to do… find a pace that you THINK you can hold for 8 minutes.
That is what I did. I found a cadence that I thought I could hold for 8 minutes… and most likely not any longer. I was blind to the wattage I was producing. Frankly, by the end of the effort I was hurting!
When I did learn what the wattage was, I found it to be 260 watts. Yep, that was under the 270 watts that I wanted, but it was 10 watts over my first test of last year. What that tells me is that it was a very reasonable result.
The point I’m trying to make to the reader… and to Tony… is to not be discouraged by a “bad” test. You didn’t fail it. I guess the only way it could be a failure is if you don’t learn from it.
Learn what you can from it to improve and then put it behind you. Go have fun training and riding your bike. However, I do encourage anyone who is serious about training to periodically take the test. For Tony it might not be until after he finishes the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan. When you take the test, give it a try the way I just described my last attempt. I think you might be surprised by the results.