The Dreaded FTP Test, and What’s Coming this Week

Damn that was hard. Have I mentioned I hate FTP tests?

This morning I was up well before dawn to hop on the bike and crank out my FTP test. After last week’s rather successful morning workout – the first one in ages – I thought I’d start a morning routine. More on that later, but suffice it to say that it began today. Choosing TrainerRoad’s 20 Minute FTP test was the easy part. Doing it is hard.

No dogs were left outside this morning during my workout, and my legs warmed up surprisingly quickly (encouraging) so the issues noted last week were gone. All good.

As for the test itself, I received a no-change result. That’s disappointing. I was pretty sure I would need a bit of an FTP bump, but I guess I’m just not there yet. I did bump up by three watts last week, so perhaps I’m just not farther than that – my estimate was accurate. As good as it is to know that I’m training at the right intensity, it is a tough pill to swallow to actually do such a demanding test and receive that result. 2.33 W/kg with today’s weigh-in. If I can hit my target race-weight, I have about a 20% improvement as my FTP W/kg goal. I actually think that’s more than do-able this year, considering I’m starting from a hobbling, injured mess.

Interestingly, my LTHR increased. This I’m taking as a good thing. It was a pretty marginal increase, really, but I also saw some of the highest BPM on the bike that I’ve ever seen – about equal to my LTHR on the run. My max HR was ~164 through the ride, and at last test (in summer 2016) of my LTHR while running I tested at 165 BPM. I’m taking this as a good sign. Not sure exactly what it means yet, but a bump higher in LTHR on bike seems like a pretty ok thing to me. To be clear that’s sitting at 151 as of that test. 164 is just the max I achieved during the test.

So, TrainerRoad veterans probably recognize that it’s Tuesday. And Tuesday is test day for the start of a new training plan. That’s the big change for me this week. I’m starting a new plan – Sweet Spot Base High Volume 1. Should be fun. Painful, but fun.

I gave pretty careful consideration to which plan to choose. Last year I did about half of the Full Distance Triathlon Base plan before I got injured and stopped. Tempted to start here again, but without a Full Distance race on my schedule this year, I did look at the Half Distance plan as well (I’m racing two of these). It does seem like a plan that’s fairly well suited for the half-Ironman distance, but I think  I want more volume than that. At least I think I do. Being a “normal guy,” my best weapon is time. I don’t have children and my wife is a grad student, so I have lots of time to dedicate to training. The Triathlon plans seem like they’re very good, but I wish that TrainerRoad would actually worry less about the other two disciplines and focus exclusively on the needs of the bike portion of the race. It is not that I don’t trust them, it is that I have plans for the other two sections already. I just don’t need (and I don’t particularly want, if I’m being honest) their guidance on what workouts to do on the other disciplines. The other thing that worries me – I find their other discipline suggested workouts to be too easy. Has me concerned that the bike plan is also too easy – not enough volume.

So I’m going to give the Sweet Spot Base High Volume 1 a try for a few weeks. Lots of work to do. It calls for 6 rides a week and 532 TSS over 8.5 hours in week 1. I’ve already completed 82 TSS and 1.0 hours today. So only… 450 TSS points to go. Gonna have some early mornings this week.. Oh man this is going to hurt… wish me luck!

Bumping FTP

A few posts ago I mentioned needing an FTP test on my bike. Well, turns out I need one in all three sports, really. Having not done one in each of the three sports since October 2016, they’re badly needed.

But I’m pretty sure I know how they’re going to go. Bike will go up, slightly. No more than a few watts. Run will go down, a lot. Injuries tend to do that. And swim will stay roughly the same, maybe a very slight improvement.

But they’re just so exhausting to do. And the fitness benefit of the test itself is not great. Obviously the argument can be made that accurate FTP = better training post-test. That’s true. I will never dispute this. But I’m pretty sure I can get to that point without testing again.

Yesterday I bumped my cycling FTP up by three watts and then did the same 90 min workout on the turbo that I did on Sunday (TrainerRoad’s Phoenix). My 60 and 90 min watts were not as high yesterday as on Sunday, but I held on for the whole time without much additional difficulty. I should note also that I squatted so many times on Monday that my butt still hurts today, Wednesday. Which is to say that I think I’d have cycled stronger Tuesday than Sunday if not for Monday squatday.

I’ve tried this in the past with success. Just bumping the FTP up a few watts at a time and give it 4-5 workouts to settle through the body. Each time I’ve done this I’ve never had to turn it down. Is it as accurate as a full on FTP test? Obviously no. But it is a lot more efficient in my mind.

But this is harder to do in the pool and while running, I find. Unless I’m in a steady-state environment where I know with 100% certainty the effort I put in is exactly relative to a certain point (which is the entire point of a cycling power meter), a full test is more or less essential. Swimming has too many variables to control. Running has slightly fewer variables, I’d argue, but my fitness is so out of whack on the run right now due to the off season that I don’t really have much choice but to test.

I just don’t want to.

…Maybe this weekend.