Forced Rest Week

Nine weeks in to a dedicated training regime, and my consistency has finally broken. And unplanned. I’m not disappointed, but I am a little frustrated. After I’ve placed much effort into building my ftp, and ensuring I spend enough time recovering, I’ve come to the inevitable, and unenviable position of becoming sick.

But not all is lost – a lot of gains have been had in the past fortnight. After a rest week (apart from a smash fest at crit training), I got up for the win at DORC’s last mountain bike race of the year, and backed it up with a good performance during an FTP test with Matt. I’ve basically taken another rest week, and have been as sedentary as possible, and taken the chance to get extra sleep when I can.

I’ve already written about the mountain bike race and will publish that soon, so I guess I should give a bit of an overview of the most recent test of my functional threshold power.

On Tuesday morning, I arranged to meet Matt at Blue Cycles for another test. It was nine weeks since the last test, and I was keen to thrash my last score. But I was also concerned that I was getting ill, and was far more exhausted after the mtb race than I expected to be. Whilst I did bury myself at that race, and didn’t do my best to stay hydrated, my condition the next day was only fair to middling. We almost canned the test for another day, but I woke up feeling better and rolled down to the shop to give it my all.

I’m not well versed at sitting FTP tests – a 20 minute, all out effort aimed at going as hard as you possibly can in the time limit. But I’ve trained enough recently to have a good understanding of what I can put myself through. As with the last test, I had a good warm up before Matt snatched away my Garmin.

The first 5 minutes felt four times as long – it was as if I went out far too hard in the first 2 minutes, and my power data from minutes 10-15 show a decrease in my effort. Still, I had Matt yelling encouragement, and I pushed through to the half way point.

I think I typically hit a mental high when I get to the half way point of anything relating to time or distance on a bike, and can pick myself up to perform better when I know that it is all “downhill”. Whilst I didn’t pick up the pace at the 10 minute mark, I kept it consistent and felt like I could sustain the effort for another 10 minutes.

With Matt now breaking the test into “chunks”, I had smaller time slots to target, and when 15 minutes had elapsed, I felt as though I had enough left to now go considerably harder. Dropping down a gear, my cadence dropped only slightly for a large gain in power output. Matt was vocally happier with the effort I was now maintaining, and I was confident of holding it out until the end.

With time slots of 1-2 minutes being called out, I was happy giving it my all for one slot, but had to break through some glass to convince myself to maintain it for the next. With one minute to go, Matt started giving estimates of distance left in a race, with other riders baring down on me. I’d visualise Bagot Rd on the end of the regular Hour of Power ride I do, and how I can usually muster something together for a strong finish. With 45 seconds to go, I really had Matt shouting at me. I couldn’t see my Garmin, but he had close eyes on it, and was pushing me to do more and more.

“Come on, I want to see X watts!”

This was the last piece of encouragement I took in from Matt – anything else he said fell on deaf ears, as I was completely focused on finishing on X watts – a number I couldn’t see in any case.

The effort done, I wound it down for 10-20 seconds before Matt let me know the numbers and let me know the improvement.

So, where do I stand? Well, I’m still going to be a little bit cagey… just for a few more weeks. I’d like to re-sit the test in better health, but the improvement for 9 weeks of training was probably pretty huge. With Matt’s structured training, my FTP went up 12%. And I feel I can do better than this in a test, and better again in a race. I’m not quite where I want to be, but I’m not far off – a little more training, and a little less fatigue should see me closer. But I don’t expect I’ll be able to add 12% so easily next time – it’ll take more work than I’ve done in the last 9 weeks. However, the gains in my form have been fantastic. Even though I didn’t perform quite as high as I wanted to (and I was not far off at all), I was in much better shape throughout the test – looking less ragged on the bike, and far more fluid and consistent. I buried myself even more, feeling far worse immediately after the test, but recovered to a very good state very quickly – something I can’t say about last time.

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