FTP Weirdness

For cyclists that are training for high-level performance, there’s a number called FTP — or functional threshold power, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. Your power output is measured in watts (like a lightbulb) and your FTP is the amount of power output you can manage before you start building up lactic acid faster than your body can clear it out. Simply put, it’s the point at which you become inefficient and start getting to a point where your muscles can no longer function at peak. When you know your FTP you can plan your ride strategy around it accordingly.

First Test

I did an FTP test back on June 22nd, just as I was starting to train seriously for the Tour of Tucson, which is coming up in November. My result was an abysmal 140 watts, which was a little disheartening because it’s a low number, but it was also completely unsurprising as I’d not been doing any sort of focused training for a decade. If you look at the graph below, you’ll notice that keeping my power (the yellow line) aligned with the ramps (blue edge) could be best described as “all over the fucking place,” which I’d agree with. I eventually figured out that if you’re in Erg mode and using a power meter (in this case, the Garmin Rallye pedals), you’re going to have some issues with TrainerRoad.

As Ted Lasso once said, “Onward. Forward.”

Second Test

Tuesday, August 1st was the start of the Base 2 phase of my training. I opted to use the AI method in TrainerRoad, and it spit out 152 watts, an 8.6% jump, since the start of training. Still not a great number overall, but a healthy bump. I was pretty pleased by this and buried myself in Base 2.

Third Test

Friday, September 1st I did my third test, again using the AI method. (I had a couple of really hard rides coming up and wanted to be fresh for them.) This time, it was a 6.6% bump, to 162 watts. Still not an amazing number, but nice to be getting somewhere.

“Fourth Test”

My fourth test was scheduled for Tuesday the 12th, which would be the start of the Build phase. That test did not happen, nor did any of the training scheduled for that week. The preceding Sunday, I had a pretty bad mountain bike crash that sent me to the ER for x-rays and wound debridement. I was too banged up to ride on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. And Thursday I departed for Europe for two and a half weeks.

I returned home to a recovery-ish (two endurance rides and one sweet spot ride) week, along with a good case of bronchitis — my first symptoms showing up while I was in Rome. I managed to get a ride in on Monday, which wasn’t on the calendar, but wanted to hit the Cannon Valley Trail before the weather turned to shit. I didn’t do great — finished the 40 miles but was plagued by exhaustion (probably the bronchitis) and some back issues. After that, I was seriously wiped out and skipped my scheduled rides for the rest of the week.

The Real Fourth Test

Once that “recovery” week was over, I had another FTP test scheduled for the week. Bear it mind, it’s now been six weeks since my last test, with four of those weeks basically off the bike.

I ran the test on Tuesday the 10th, even though I’m still feeling the effects of bronchitis. And I crushed it. A 6.8% jump to 173 watts, which doesn’t seem right, given my health and the ongoing downtime. Best case I could hope for was zero change, and I fully expected to see a drop from test three.

As you can imagine, I’m kind of confused here. I suspect that I was on-track for a huge jump in FTP, and that jump tapered off significantly due to the crash/vacation/illness layoff.

What’s Next?

Today I’ve got a 30-minute ride that has some below-FTP work, and tomorrow I’m doing the Filthy 50, which is probably a stupid idea, but I’m not in the mindset to DNS1 it.

Next week is a true recovery week, of just some 1-hour recovery rides, and after that, the Specialty phase begins, with another FTP test, with three and a half weeks of training before I depart for Tucson.

Long Term Training/Racing Plan

Once I’m back from Tucson, I have a recovery week, and then my calendar is wide open. I don’t have anything on the calendar for 2024 yet (except in a mental “I want to do that” list), and with a lot of events not even getting scheduled until January, I have some downtime. So I’m going to focus on getting some weights work in 2x per week, and probably run a 6-week training program to build FTP (explained above) and VO2 max (oxygen uptake).

Next year’s calendar already has a few things I’m thinking about:

  • revisiting the Filthy 50 and the Tour de Tucson
  • the Minnesota Ironman (century ride, not a triathlon)
  • the Ken Woods Memorial Road Race
  • State Road Race Championship
  • Lutsen (49-mile route)
  • doing a few brevets in the 100km and 200km range, maybe a 300km
  • doing the Buck Hill MTB series with Sam

That’s a lot, especially considering upcoming offseason travel, impending wedding and honeymoon, and just life in-general.

Long Term Gear Plan

Next year, my primary financial focus is getting Di a new carbon full-squish ride. She’s been coming along quite well on the MTB front, and her Fuse has been getting a lot of hard work. It’ll pass on to Eddy as he’s almost as tall as she is and he’s outgrowing his Specialized Hot Rock 24.

For me? I guess it depends on how big my bonus is in 2024. It should be pretty decent and I’ve got it on good authority that I’ve got a good-sized raise coming. The Salsa is kind of coming up on the end of its lifespan here and I should retire it. It’s been a fantastic bike, even if it was pretty much a criterium monster. I’m thinking I want to replace it with a carbon/SRAM Red AXS/Zipp 404 road machine, and then maybe build up a cheaper alloy criterium bike with Rival AXS and share the wheels between it and the road bike.

I guess we’ll see. A lot can change in just a few months, so I don’t want to make any concrete plans for spending money (other than Di’s bike, which is a given).

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