Tag Archives: FTP

Here is my virtual passport

Okay, I started this idea way back when I was wanting to hold a race with a payout. Ultimately, I was encouraged by Zwift not to attempt such a race because it would be very hard to assure that the race was fair. Since those days we’ve seen all kinds of discussions going on about the way races and events are conducted. It makes me glad I never went through with my plan!

Before you read this… I’m definitely not saying that everyone should do what I propose. I am not advocating it as a standard for all races and events on Zwift. This was an idea for a particular race series in which people would choose to participate. Feel free to critique the idea, but, please, don’t go off on how you’re not going to let someone force you to do this or that. No one is!

I did mention in a previous blog that I would lay out what I thought would be an answer to making an attempt at fair racing. It would involve some sort of way to verify the abilities of those participating. So, this was my plan…

    1. Weight verification. Don’t diss me too much on this idea. It actually wasn’t mine. It was given to me by the folks at Zwift. The idea here is that you would go to your local bicycle shop — or maybe a notary public 😉 — and do a weigh in. You would then put that number on a paper with the signature of the “official” who witnessed your weigh in.
      Weigh in at the local bike shop

      Weigh in at the local bike shop

      Here is a problem I discovered. You can see that when I did this weigh in it shows me at 174 pounds. Well, with a little diet discipline and some exercise, I’ve gotten down to around 171 pounds. So, the consistency of this aspect of the “virtual passport” is a problem. What would be cool is a way to upload your weight from a scale just before the race, but then you would have the issue of verification.

    2. Visual verification

      Visual verification

      Visual verification. Okay, I admit this was the more harebrained of my ideas. My thought was that adding another component to the weigh in would be a photograph showing the physical makeup of the rider. I thought this would give more credence to the weight submitted, would give visual cues to the age, fitness, etc. of the rider.

      It would be a little like the way you do when you show up for a race. Everyone lines up at the start. Immediately, you recognize the usual suspects, but then you start evaluating the folks you don’t know. You can tell a lot about a racer by the way he dresses, holds himself on the bike, how lean he is, and his muscle tone. That was my thought…

      Well, it was pointed out that with no frame of reference, you couldn’t adequately verify weight, height, etc. from a photograph. Not only that, this was the aspect of my idea that got the most negative feedback! Frankly, the more I thought about it, the more creepy it did seem.

      But so you can see I’m practicing what I preach, I’ve included a photograph taken on the day I had my weigh in at the bicycle shop. The criticisms are valid. You can’t tell from the photograph whether 174 pounds was accurate or even confirm that my height is 6 feet.

    3. FTP report. Back when I originally had the idea there was no workout mode on Zwift. Now, it would be pretty easy to have a report for FTP because participants could conduct an FTP test right there in Zwift. My thought back when I was thinking of a race series was for people to go out and do their best 20 minute effort, take a screenshot of the ride data, and then post it with the other virtual passport data.
      The concept was to show the Zwift report of a solid 20 minute effort.

      The concept was to show the Zwift report of a solid 20 minute effort.

      Here is mine from the same period when I did the weigh in, etc. In this case, it put me at 295 watts.  I guess it is also of interest to see the other increments, though I don’t think the 5 seconds, 1 minute, and 5 minute records are my “best” efforts as I was doing a more sustained effort.

      Again, I believe that the FTP test in the workout mode would be a better standard, but I have not yet attempted one. I’ve been sick for the last week and am just now getting back on the bicycle. Actually, I don’t think I’m going to attempt the test until after Thanksgiving when I’ll start thinking of training again.

    4. Equipment. This primarily is the trainer used by the rider. For the particular series I was wanting to conduct, it would limit participants to those with smart trainers. Of course, you could also have different categories for zPower riders and smart trainers.For me, I would be racing with a Wahoo Kickr.
    5. Outside references. For this, I was thinking of some sort of record of performance outside of Zwift. Primarily I was thinking about riding in the “real world commander cialis discount.” This could be a link to a rider’s Strava profile and/or race results from a licensing body. Of course, that supposes that the participants track their information on Strava and hold a racing license with an organization such as USACycling.

So, there you go. I’ve exposed myself! You now know that I am a 47-year old bald dude at 6 feet (shrunk down from 6′ 1″), at between 171 — 174 pounds (with a little too much of that around the middle), who hasn’t raced competitively in the real world for several years, and struggles to get his FTP up near 300 watts. Keep that in mind when you are leaving me as we climb the Watopia KOM!

I am not a flier and here is my passport

There is a brouhaha brewing over on Jarvis Island. Seems like in nearly every forum I go to catch up on the happenings with Zwift, I run into this discussion. It is something I’ve noticed, but just didn’t let it get in the way of my experience. The topic is the presence of “fliers”.

A flier is someone who flies around the virtual island at speeds at or above Tour de France winning levels. This can be frustrating for other users because 1) it is hard to ride along with someone that can go that fast, and 2) it takes a good deal of the fun going for the jersey competitions when someone is posting times well above what you can. So, people are looking for ways to minimize the impact of, or better yet eliminate, the fliers.

Check out this related post: EPO – Elevation Protected from Outdoors.

Fliers come in two varieties.

Ignorant. Now, I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. Point is they are just ignorant to the way the system works. Most of these folks are using non-power based trainer or rollers. They probably do not have the right pressure in their tires or have the resistance set improperly on their trainers. This causes an inaccurate reading by the Zwift engine that calculates their power. They are amped to see themselves beating everyone on the island ignorant to the fact that it is all a virtual lie.

Cheater. I’m not sure how many of these folks are out there. My guess is the vast majority of the fliers fall in the ignorant category. However, there could be those who enter incorrect data in order to gain an advantage. For instance, Zwift uses your weight to help determine your power to weight ratio. Basically, the heavier you are, the more power you must produce to go a particular speed. A lighter person is able to reach that same speed with less power.

Things get interesting because a heavier rider can typically produce more power (assuming the same fitness level between the heavier and lighter rider).  So, if the heavier rider lies and puts the weight of the lighter rider as his own, his power to weight ratio goes into pro levels. This becomes especially noticeable on climbs.

Well, it got me to thinking. What is my power to weight ratio? I also had to consider time. You see a rider can sometimes produce very high power to weight ratios, but there is a limit to amount of time he can hold it. So, producing 1000 watts of power is very doable for a number of seconds, but to hold it for several minutes is… well, I wish!

So, I am opening the files to go on record that if you see me on the island riding a bit faster than you, I’m not a cheater, and best I can tell I am not ignorant. Here is my “electronic passport”.

Power Curve

Power Curve

Above is my Power Curve for the last six months. This includes both riding on Zwift and in the real world. I do think that reading above 1600 is bogus and due to a misconfigured power meter. My best high end power numbers in a sprint tops off around 1500 watts. As I have ridden on Zwift — especially with the Kickr trainer — I have a hard time getting over 1200 watts.

As time goes by, the numbers get even more reliable. So, my five minute time is a reasonable 390 watts. You will see that start dropping dramatically to the 30 minute level and then the bottom drops out at a little over an hour when I’m spinning along at 200 watts.

Now, on a given day, my weight fluctuates between 172 and 174 lbs. Today I weighed in at 173 — or 78.5 kg. With these two numbers I am able to determine my power to weight ratio.  So, at five minutes my power to weight ratio would be 4.97. In a sprint — for about 10 seconds — you’ll see a number like 14.02 as my watts per kilogram. Here is how the above chart would convert:

Watts per Kilogram

Watts per Kilogram

This leads us to the factor of time. This is often shown as the number next to “Functional Threshold Power” (FTP). This is the power that you should be able to hold for an hour. However, because most people don’t just go out there and ride that hard for an hour, there are tests you can do that use shorter rides to give you your FTP. Really, this doesn’t necessarily measure your ability as a cyclist. It also doesn’t mean that your test numbers will translate into an hour effort. However, it is a good benchmark to use when setting up a training plan with power.

Strava's Estimated FTP

Strava’s Estimated FTP

Thing is, I haven’t taken one of these tests in over a year. Back when I was racing I got up to 315 watts for my FTP. Last year I barely tipped 300 watts. Since I don’t know what my test results would be now days (nor do I care that much), I just follow along with Strava’s estimated FTP. It tells me that I’m clocking in at 308 watts. Based on how I’m feeling, that seems about on target with past results. However, I doubt seriously I could hold that wattage for 60 minutes. I’m guessing it would be more around 265 to 275 watts.

What does all this mean? Well, I don’t know for sure. That gives me a watts per kilogram of 3.92.

When it comes to Zwift, it means that I can knock out an 8 second Green Jersey sprint consistently and sometimes squeak into the 7 second realm. I can climb the Col d’Zwift in 53 seconds almost every time and on a good day have broken the 50 second barrier. Recently I’ve been focusing on getting my lap times down and this week knocked out a PR of 7:10. Considering my real world abilities that seems to be pretty consistent with reality.

Here is the other thing to consider… after I get that 8 second sprint, you aren’t going to see me knock out the Col d’Zwift in 50 seconds. I can put out some good amounts of wattage for short periods of time, but then my match is burned. If I ever land the triple jersey (getting all three jersey’s on the island) it is because 1) I got each jersey on different laps, and 2) the stronger guys aren’t on the island.

Oh yeah, and because there were no fliers.

Why a field test?

Yesterday I received a comment on the blog that asked a good question. It is one that I have asked myself in the past. “Do you have to use a field test to get your FTP? Can’t you just get it from an effort?”

Tony writes…

I came across your page reading about CTS training as I’m heading into my third week of the experienced century plan. I didn’t do a field test because I was too lazy.  So I used an estimate of 280w for 8 min effort. Yesterday, in my group ride it showed how effective the CTS training is. I was chasing a much faster guy all the way and up the climb. That produced a norm 262w for 23 min. Now is my question, should I start a field test (the first real one, instead of estimate), or should I follow through the next 9 weeks with the estimate 280w power? Since my fitness has progressed significantly in these 3 weeks?

Here are my thoughts… which means it is just my untrained, humble opinion…

  • Simply, you could just keep going as you are. However, at some point you will want to settle into a repeatable test.
  • Training with wattage is not so much a matter of WHAT the number is as it is having a consistent number from which to work.
  • That is why it is good to have a repeatable test. You want to measure numbers from tests that are similar.
  • This adds consistency to your training and when you measure your future success by your initial (and subsequent tests) you will know that you are comparing apples with apples.
My normal means of torture - Cycleops Fluid 2

My normal means of torture – Cycleops Fluid 2

For those reasons, I typically do my FTP tests on a trainer. It is the most controlled environment. Granted, I can produce more wattage riding on the road and my numbers would look better on the blog! However, it isn’t a high number I’m looking for. It is a repeatable process that I can use as a consistent benchmark.

Some people do the test on the road and use the same stretch of road for the effort each time. I would probably prefer that, but the convenience of the trainer wins out. Of course, I will measure longer efforts on the road by the FTP test as well. For a 20 minute effort on the road I will check to see how 80% of that average wattage matches up with my trainer data.

So, Tony, to answer your question. Sure, you can go ahead and keep training with a 280 watts FTP. If you have been able to complete three weeks of the program with that baseline, then you are probably not missing it by much. However, when the time comes to measure your success, by what will you measure it?

One answer to that may be, “I’ll measure it by how well I am riding!” Frankly, that is a great answer. However, if you want definitive data, then you need to follow a more scientific approach. You are investing a good amount of time and effort into your training. Wouldn’t you like to know definitively how well it has paid off?

I’d be interested in knowing that you decide to do.

Baseline set for training

It was ugly, but it’s done. Now I’m ready to put it behind me and start spinning for better days. The CTS Field Test is done and tomorrow I start training for the next season.

I wasn’t feeling very good when I got out of bed on Saturday morning. However, as the day progressed, I wasn’t feeling any worse. I decided to go forward with the Field Test despite the lethargy.

The first 20 minute warmup spin was helpful and by the time I got around to the ramp up for the first 8 minute session I was feeling pretty good.  When I reached the “PowerInterval” section of the prep, I was surprised at the amount of wattage I was able to hold for the 1 minute and then 2 minute session. Suddenly, I was feeling good about my chances.

Then it came time to do the first 8 minute effort. That would be followed by a 10 minute easy spin. The test would finish up with a second 8 minute effort followed by at 20 minute cool down.

This is when things went wrong. I had changed my computer to show me what I thought was a lap time and power. My plan was to work my way up to the wattage I thought I could hold for 8 minutes and keep it there.

The problem is that when I set the computer, I had displayed lap time and AVERAGE lap power. So, I found my power reading to be misleading. In this case, it was much higher because I came out a little hotter than I should have.

Then I had to decide what I was going to do. I realized that I was seeing the average wattage. I knew I couldn’t hold that average for 8 minutes! However, I wasn’t sure how much I should ease up to get to a sustainable effort.

Finally, I decided to focus on the cadence. I put the gearing at where I thought I was producing the desired wattage at about 93 rpm. Things began to equalize, but I was really starting to hurt by the time I finished the effort.

I was happy to get to the 10 minute recovery. It was at that time I realized just how hot it was in the basement office. The computer showed 64 degrees. That doesn’t seem that hot until you start getting your heart rate up into the 180s with no cooling wind.

It only got worse when I started the second effort. I fixed the computer display before that time, but that didn’t help my legs. I watched the wattage drop lower and lower as I pushed through the minutes. It was disgusting to feel my body rocking back and forth to try to squeeze out more power and watching the number drop below 200.

In the end, I would give myself a D for execution. The highest average wattage for one of the 8 minutes was 260. The highest heart rate came from the other 8 minute segment was 183.

Interestingly, that is 10 watts higher than the first test of last year. Within a few weeks of that test, I had upped my FTP significantly. That makes me feel better going forward.

Well, that forward starts tomorrow.

Where exactly am I?

Today I checked in on my training program to see what I’ll need to do when I get home from work tonight. The good news is that I only have to put in an hour because I will be attending a concert with my daughter for most of the evening. Still, it is an hour with a punch!

It is called a “2 x 13 at threshold.” Once I’m warmed up I am supposed to do a 5 minute blowout at FTP. Then I ride easy for about 10 minutes.

Then the real work begins. I ride one interval of 13 minutes at 98 – 103% of FTP. Once I recover for 8 minutes with easy spinning, I do it all over again. Finally, I cool down for the remainder of the time.

Here is my problem. I don’t exactly know what my FTP is right now. Last year I was up over 300 watts. Just taking a look at my output during training rides, I would say that I am around 250 watts. That would mean I would need to hold 245 to 258 watts for those 13 minutes.

That seems pretty doable. However, I could be all wrong. Last year my lowest FTP test result was 275 watts. I’d be interested in seeing how I would hold 270 to 283 watts for 13 minutes. I guess I’ll just have to give it a try and find out.

You begin to see the importance of knowing what your Functional Threshold Power is during any point of your training. The problem is, I haven’t had a test yet this training season. Now it is almost too late. I’ve got to get ready for February 19th and my first race of the season.

The closer I get the more I regret my off season doldrums. I just know that 45 minutes into the race I’ll be wishing I had that fitness. I just have to remind myself that it is the Spring TRAINING Series. This early racing combined with a renewed commitment to training will get me back where I want to be — just a little later than I wish.

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 Trainingpeaks.com. 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.

Tests are often used to teach

I was second guessing whether I would share any information about my Functional Threshold Power test from Saturday. The result was a bit disappointing. However, I had a reader ask if I planned to give an account of it. He wanted to know of what the test consists. So, here you go!

Theoretically, the  purpose of the Functional Threshold Power test (FTP Test) is to see how much power you can maintain for one hour. Most times this test is not riding for an hour, but rather a simulated process that has you building up to a 20 minute effort.

Practically, it is a way to measure your progress throughout a training program. This was my third test since I started my training in November. Deep inside I hoped I would see as much of an improvement between tests 2 and 3 as I did test 1 and 2. However, there was a dynamic that made me wonder…

The purpose of this test was not simply to see improvement. We were planning to see how I would do if I lowered my cadence and pushed a bigger gear. This is the approach I took for my test.

Preparation

To prepare for the test I tried to get a good night sleep and ate a good breakfast. I put the test off as late in the morning as possible. Studies show that attempting something like this in the morning is not going to give you your best result. Hopefully, my body would be ramped up and ready to go. Finally, I just had to climb on the bike attached to my trainer and go.

Warm-up

If you plan to do this test, you will start by doing a warm-up. In my case I was to spin for 15 minutes with a perceived effort between 1 and 2 (on a 10 point scale). In the last three minutes I was to ramp it up to a perceived effort of 7. You can see that happening in the graph below.

screen-shot-2010-01-24-at-25334-pm

I knew during this initial spin that I might be headed for trouble. The day before it was time for my first ride of the week (it was a rest week and I had only done some short trainer spins up to that point). I’m afraid I got a little hoppy. The legs weren’t feeling very snappy as I began my spinning. My average during this section was 124 watts.

Five minute recovery

As you may notice in the graph above, my perceived effort brought me up to a wattage that matches my TT effort toward the end of the test. I could tell it as well! I could feel my quads tighten in the last minute.

screen-shot-2010-01-24-at-25429-pm

That is why you need some easy spinning to allow you to release what has built up in the muscles. Starting to spin you can see that my cadence did not vary drastically, but the wattage dropped. This was because I shifted to an easier gear. Things started to feel much better as I started to near the conclusion of the 5 minute spin.

Even though I felt as though I was spinning easily my average wattage was 127 watts – about the same as the warm-up. I’ve noticed that as your body begins to warm-up you find it easier to create wattage.

Build up

Now it was time to move to the 20 minute buildup. This takes you a step closer to the all-out Time Trial effort. My coach instructed me to do one 20 minute effort at 225 – 255 watts at a cadence of around 85 to 95 rpm. This would help make the 20 minute TT effort more realistic to being involved in an actual ride.

screen-shot-2010-01-24-at-25451-pm

As you can see, the cadence begins to drop as the heart rate goes up. The wattage stays pretty average. However, this is certainly not what I wanted to happen. The good news is that at 235 watts, I executed the section correctly. What this meant for the Time Trial effort… I would have to wait and see.

Easy spin recovery

Once again it was time to spin off the lactate acid that had built up in the muscles. Oddly, I was also feeling a bit of a cramp in my lower right calve. An easy spin before my final effort was just what I needed.

screen-shot-2010-01-24-at-25513-pm

What a relief to feel the ease of ten minutes at 115 watts! By the time I finished the 10 minutes section I was feeling pretty good. Maybe this would be possible to do the low cadence effort and still exceed the average wattage of the last test!

Time Trial Effort

And so I launched into the Time Trial Effort. This is where you go all out for 20 minutes. I got in trouble last time because I saved some for the end.  Rather than giving a steady effort I pushed, recovered, pushed, etc. Still, I ended up with a 280 watts average — 10 watts over my first test.

This time I was determined to give it all I had. For the first 10 minutes I thought I could do it. I didn’t want to push too hard and settled into an average cadence around 80 rpm. However, I slowly felt my legs begin to lose the ability to generate power. I shifted down and began to up the watts.

screen-shot-2010-01-24-at-25538-pm

So, as you can see below for the first 10 minutes I averaged nearly 300 watts. It felt good until I started to feel it slipping away. You can see the wattage begin to drop in the second 10 minutes. Even as the wattage drops the heart rate continues to remain constant or increases.

screen-shot-2010-01-24-at-25758-pm

Finally, at the end, I just had to give everything left in the tank. I pulled the watts up a bit for the last minute. When I finally let up for the cool down, I felt nauseous.  Not much more to say… I just could not hold that cadence for that long and ended up at 278 watts.

As I spun down for 10 minutes I tried to guess what my average might be. I knew I had done well in the beginning and then declined. Honest… my guess was 278 watts. Sure enough, that is what it was.

So, takeaways: 1) My optimal cadence really appears to be mid-high eighties to low nineties. We wanted to find if a low cadence would work, and I think we found it wouldn’t. 2) Even though I had hoped to see an average close to 290 watts, I did end up right near my previous test numbers.

The more I think about it, the better I feel. To hold on a day when I did not feel the best, I can’t complain too much. I’ll have some more tests to see improvement in the future and better than that… some real life opportunities to see when it really counts.

Am I really Low Cadence?

Not much to say this morning. Things are pretty busy for me right now. Have an even busier weekend that includes a Functional Threshold Power test. Physically I think I’m pretty rested, but mentally I hope I’m up for it.

It is going to be different this time because Jim has me testing out the theory that my best cadence for a time trial is between 85 and 90 rpms. Last two FTP tests I’ve had were at higher cadences. The first had me putting out 270 watts average and the second one was 280 watts. However, in a normal ride I’ve averaged over 290 watts for that same period. I am putting out over 300 watts for short periods (5 – 10 minutes) when I’m not thinking about it.

We’re going to see if going at the attempt with this lower cadence approach will allow me up my average for the test. Of course, I might just be one of those people that doesn’t do well on tests. I do have a way of over-analyzing what I am doing. It ends up psyching me out.

I just need to realize that it is just a test… it is only a test. If I get 15 minutes in and croak, it just means that we have learned that I can’t actually sustain that cadence at the needed gearing to average that high of a wattage. The test won’t be a failure because it will give us information to help us better understand my physiology.

At the same time, I don’t like to think that I can’t do something that I set my mind to do. I like to think that I have the ability to compartmentalize and stick that pain in a little box to force the body to do what it hasn’t done before. I like to think there is a little bit of Jens Voight in there somewhere. “Failing” to finish the TT in the proscribed manner will have an impact on me. Hey, I’m just being honest…

I’ll let you know how it goes. Things are starting to ramp up here… next Saturday is the Paris Mountain Time Trial as well as the weekend for the POA Cycling Team camp. We are less than a month away from the Greenville Spring Training Series. It is time to start being ready. Tomorrow could be the next step.

Waiting on the word from my coach

My second Functional Threshold Power test occupied my mind yesterday. It was a pretty busy day without it. I was a little nervous going into the event because I knew I was a little more pressured than usual and my schedule wasn’t going as I planned. Still, the time did come and now I’m waiting on my coach for the official results.

At 7:30 AM I was at a budget planning meeting with my two business partners. Actually, it was just one. The second had gotten a bad head cold the night before and joined us later on the telephone.

That meeting lasted until a little after 11 AM. Of course, by that time the Upstate Winter Bicycle League had already started. There would be no pink cat. 4 sprinter’s vest for me.

Then to make matters worse, a toilet in the office building had plugged. There was water gathering in the carpet in one of the programmer rooms on the other side of the wall from the restroom. Since care of the building is one of my responsibilities, it was up to me to get it cleaned up.

That led to a late lunch which then led to a late start on my pre-test ride. That ride was to be a 2:15 ride with a warm up of 15 minutes at under 180 watts, a sustained wattage between 180 – 220, and then a cool down for 15 minutes under 150 watts. It was a little cool out there, but not bad.  I was well layered and only my fingers started getting a little cold by the end.

After getting off the bike and getting myself sorted out with some food, it was time to get back on the bike.  This time I would be on a trainer in my basement. This ride would be different in that I was supposed to work up to giving a solid TT effort and that would determine my Functional Threshold Power.

20 min. FTP effort (Click to enlarge)

20 min. FTP effort (Click to enlarge)

It starts off with a 10 minute warm-up with a nice little push in the last two minutes. After 5 minutes of backing off from that last effort, you start a 20 minute effort maintaining wattage between 220 – 240 watts. Then it is time to spin easy for 10 minutes. Ready? Now it is time for an all out effort for 20 minutes before finally spinning down for a final 10 minutes.

Everything was going according to plan until the first 20 minutes segment. Even though I was in my unfinished basement and the temperature was in the mid-50s, I was really starting to get warm. I knew that would lead to fatigue. So, I got off the bike, opened the door to the outside, and set up a fan. Things started to cool down quickly and I got back at the task at hand.

The meat of the test started with the 20 minute all out effort. Knowing my habit of starting out too early, I tried to start out below what I knew my Functional Threshold Power level to be.  I did this for the first 5 minutes.  My Garmin Edge 500 was telling me that the Quarq CinQo power meter was recording 260 watts. I then shifted down and stood putting out over 300 watts for a couple of minutes.

That effort moved up close to my known 270 FTP. However, I knew I could not sustain that for the next 15+ minutes.  I backed off to recover a little bit until I reached the 10 minute mark.  At that point, I upped the wattage again.  This time the watts went up to 276.  Now it was time to recover slightly for the final push to the end.

I watched as the wattage dropped during those minutes to around 274 watts.  I knew that was better than my previous test, but I was certain it did not represent where I was today. It was time to stand and push to the end. So, with about 4 minutes left, I came out of the saddle, shifted down, and then pushed to the end.

It was worth it! Yes, I felt kind of sick by that last pedal stroke, but looking at my Garmin I saw an average of 279 watts for the 20 minutes.  That is nearly a 10 watt increase over my last FTP test. That final push had raised my average by about 5 watts.  Looking at the graph, I see that it was also the portion of the ride where I put out the most wattage.

I uploaded my data to Trainingpeaks.com and my coach, Jim Cunningham, who has been in California coaching at the Olympic Training Center, will soon let me know if I did everything correctly so the test will be valid. I can’t imagine it won’t be. I will be curious to know if he expected a better performance.

Me? I’m pretty happy with it. I have had a very rough start to my training due to all the physical problems I’ve been having. It has hampered my off the bike training most of all, but has not made training on the bike as profitable as I would like either. To see any increase it encouraging. Now that I am starting to beat this pain, I hope the next segment of my training will be even better.

Who knows what my numbers will be next time? Yes, I realize that an FTP of 279 watts just puts me in the Cat. 4 level, but – hey – that is what I am! I would love to see myself over 300 before all is said and done. You’ve got to start somewhere!

Where do we go from here?

First, let me inform you that I am pretty sore. The time in the gym introduced me to muscles I haven’t used like that in years. It is that good kind of sore though. It is the sign of good things to come. In the interest of that future, I am putting up some charts today at the beginning of my training. Let’s see how things change six months from now.

Power Profile - November 4, 2009

Click the image to enlarge

The first chart is my Power Profile. You’ve seen this before. Here is what it looked like back in April 2009. I’ve certainly made some progress from that earlier profile.  My question is, can I make that much of a gain in six months? Probably not, but it will be interesting to find out.

Click the image to enlarge

Click the image to enlarge

The second chart is my power and heart rate readings from my recent Functional Threshold Power test. As you can see the power line is all over the place.  This is partially due to the fact that I was doing the test on rolling terrain. Next time I think I’m going to do my test going up the water shed.

The numbers boil down to a FTP number of 287 watts. My functional threshold heart rate appears to be 180 bpm. Now, I don’t know exactly what that means yet. In my personal opinion, I think the watts are low.  I would like to be up in the 300s. As for the heart rate, can you work and adjust that or is that just a part of your physiology? These are things I’m going to want to find out.

We’ll worry about that later. For now, I’m just excited that my training plan has me having some fun on my mountain bike tonight. I haven’t been night riding since last November. It’s going to be fun.  I’ll be heading out there to Paris Mountain State Park around 6 PM. Anyone want to ride?