One of the things that coaches like to do occasionally is to test their athletes.
Now, this isn't a written test like a SAT, checking out my knowledge of my bicycle or the race course.
Instead it is a test of my current fitness level.
A common test given to cyclists is the FTP test. FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power. It measures the best average power output you can sustain for one hour. Power is measured in Watts. It can also be shown as watts/kg, with kg being your weight in kilograms.
Now a FTP test isn't an all encompassing test. Many factors are often taken into account, like heart rate, as well as where the test is being done, either indoors on a trainer (which is most common), or outdoors, where the terrain can affect the numbers.
But it's a good starting point.
I don't have a very high FTP score. I am more focused on endurance than
power. I'm not as concerned about going fast, but I want to be able to go far. Slow and steady wins the race for me.
Professional cyclists have insane numbers.
This past week at Stage 10 of the Giro d'Italia (the Tour of Italy), several pros shared their "numbers". The winner of the stage, 3-time World Champion Peter Sagan, shared his, for just the last 300 meters of the stage, which was a sprint to the finish line. He averaged 71 kph (which is 44 mph!) , and hit a maximum speed of almost 46 mph! And check out the maximum power-- 1410 watts! He averaged 1200 watts for those last 300 meters, which means he was flying!
If this was a sprint up a steep hill, those numbers would still be remarkable. It takes a lot more power to climb a steep grade, but this was on a flat road to the finish. And even though he did have a "lead out" (several teammates that can keep the speed very high until the last second--then the sprinter can sprint to the end), he still had to produce the speed and power to win.
In comparison, in Stage 2 of the one week stage race Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy, current World Champion, Julian Alaphilippe climbed to the finish to win the stage. It was all uphill, a 7.5km climb to the finish. And it continued to get steeper and steeper as you got closer to the finish, with the final 2km averaging a 5% grade. It may not seem like much, but after almost 5 hours of racing...I'm sure it hurt.
These are his numbers from just the last kilometer!
I am not even close to that. The highest wattage I ever hit was 500, and that was for a split second! Alaphilippe average more than that for over a minute and a half!
My coach wanted to check my fitness, and see how things are going. When we started training, I just used my existing FTP score as the baseline for the training, and Zwift calculated that just from my riding over the past several years. More about that in a sec.
The cool thing about indoor trainers nowadays, and most of the apps used to train, is that power can be measured without super expensive power meters. My indoor trainer, the Wahoo Kickr Snap, is called a "Smart Trainer." It actually has a little resistance motor in it that can simulate terrain. So, if you want to feel what it would be like to go up a mountain with a 15% grade, it can simulate just how hard it is to pedal up that.
It can pair with my phone or computer, and I can use various apps for training. My favorite is Zwift, which is like a video game. I have my avatar, and cycle around various worlds (some that are recreations of the real thing, like London, or New York's Central Park). There are mountains, deserts, a volcano, a jungle...it's a hoot, and make riding indoors a lot more enjoyable.
Zwift also has a many training plans that you can access, which is nice. My coach has been accessing these workouts as part of my training.
It also has a FTP test. And that was on the schedule for this week.
I had been feeling pretty good cycling. The workouts were manageable, which led me to think that my FTP should be going up. Also, when I rode outside, I was definitely going faster. So I was excited about this test.
After some warmups, and some hard efforts to get the blood pumping and legs warmed up, I rode for 20 minutes as hard as I could manage. The goal is to go at a rate that I could sustain for the 20 minutes. Not an easy spin, but hard!
It did not go as expected.
My FTP went down.
After talking it over with my coach, she told me not to worry. There are a lot of factors that could attribute to this. As she looked at my numbers, she could see that I definitely had gone as hard as I could, because my heart rate was high. But she also thought that maybe I was a little fatigued, since I had been training quite a bit, and I did have some adjustments to my bike fit which I may not have been fully acclimated to. All these things could play a role.
We agreed to reset the FTP in Zwift back to where it was, and not sweat it. We would revisit in a few weeks.
In the meantime, I will continue to train. In 4 weeks is my Half Ironman race. I received an initial athlete email about some the the precautions that will take place.
And 6 hours later, the CDC changed all their guidelines.
So no matter what happens, I'm racing! I will take the opportunity to keep working hard, and just do my best.
I have also signed up for a couple of running races too, so that should be fun.
The IM is still up in the air, with a lot of the chatter in Quebec not looking good, but I don't care. I'm training, and I'm racing, and I'm just gonna go with the flow.
Even if my FTP went down.
I'm thinking, maybe I just don't test well. 😎
But I'll just keep training anyway.