Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Functional Threshold Power Test

Well I didn't thats a good thing...

Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test is brutal.  I think it's one of the hardest things in training.  You're going to that max, place of pain without the stimulation of competition, without any accolades at the end, nothing to keep you going other than your own mental drive and internal motivation.

It sucks.

It couldn't have come at a more perfect time.  Sunday I got scared off by some high watts, its the first time I raced by wattage, I never felt race effort, but what I saw on the watch had me thinking I would explode if I went any harder.  In a race where to win I would have to lay it all on the line, I thought too much like a triathlete, saved myself for the last run when I really didn't need to.

This test proved me right, that I had a lot more to lay down out there.  When usually its races where I find my upper limits and break through what I think I can accomplish it came through an FTP test this time.  I learned that I'm capable of much higher watts than I thought, I'm also capable of a much higher HR.  It was awesome to just go as hard as I could and see what I can pull off.


The name of the game was Andrew Coggan's 20 min threshold test.  It starts with a good warm up then a 5 minute all out test, starting at my previous threshold and building to get an idea of what I can hold for the main event, 20 minutes all out.  Its not supposed to be a 20 minute sprint and crash and burn it should be fairly steady, but the max wattage you can hold for 20 minutes.

The warm up:

Legs weren't feeling their usual spark, definitely took a bit of time to loosen up

5 minute Hard:

Started at my previous threshold...and it felt easy.  I tentatively built up from there and my legs started to wake up, then started to burn.

Main event - 20 minutes Max Wattage

Oh this hurts.  I went out a bit harder than was sustainable, but not nearly as bad as last time.  3 minutes in and my legs are just burning, cant think about the next 17 minutes, just stay in the moment.  Realised my legs were all over the place, so focussed on just pumping them like pistons stop wasting energy going side to side.

This is never going to end.

14 minutes in I started wondering if I would make it, the watts were slowly creeping down, legs on fire, and for the first time I was breathing heavier than I ever had on the bike.  I'll admit there was a bit of anxiety at this point.  I'm no quitter but this was really hurting, and I felt like I couldn't get as much air as I needed.

17 minutes in I started shaking a bit, my lower lip felt like it was doing its own thing.  I just had to tell myself I can survive 3 minutes of anything (well maybe not a shark attack but I don't usually see many of those on my turbo trainer).  Not my greatest look, dripping with sweat, lower lip shaking, there may have been a bit of drool, face a blotchy red.  Who says triathlon isn't sexy?

I survived...barely.  A cool down to get my HR out of the stratosphere, just feeling totally drained, I shakily got off the bike.  I held out looking at the watts until my Garmin uploaded, just feeling destroyed.

Well that didn't last long...I looked at the Watts and....HOLY CRAP!  I went from just cooked, to bouncing around the kitchen as I fuelled up.  I had an idea of where I was and I couldn't believe my eyes while I was doing it but seeing that average just had me soaring, I improved my FTP by 12% over about 8 weeks.  I also saw that I could get my HR way higher than I thought on the bike.  Before my muscles gave out before my HR got up there, but now its right in line with my running threshold HR.

My training watts had started to feel easier, Zone 2 power was only getting me to high end zone 1 HR, so I knew things were improving.  However this much was a shock, I don't know what is a good or bad or average increase in power over 8 weeks is, but I am damned happy to see that 12%.  It feels good when you see the hard work is paying off.

I also got my wish, I went to that razor sharp edge of blowing up, and dangled over the side but managed to survive.  This just gets me all pumped up, I want to go run around now which is ridiculous after a Swim, Strength Training and FTP test.  Its amazing how progress can motive.

Carpe Diem


  1. What good is your description when you don't post numbers? FTP, Watts/kg. My thoughts are if your legs gave out before your HR is you are not as fit as you could be, hence your 12% increase is that your fitness level is going up, but you are not near your max FTP where it doesn't change much over time, oh wait, we don't have real numbers to see that?!

  2. Its fantastic for re-living the suffering of an FTP test if you've been there ;)

    I am curious how knowing my watts or watts/kg would tell you if I'm at my max FTP, is there a magical number in the clouds that I'm looking for that will tell me I've reached the extent of my potential? You should tell the pro-cyclists then they can just compare watts and forget about the whole racing part :p

    1. I don't believe I mentioned anything about predicting your Max FTP from your FTP numbers or watts/kg, but they do indicate the potential a person can do and they are also numbers that people who follow this form of training (power-based)especially the watts/kg. The telling tale for me is that your FTP increased by 12%! Most people that are near their max FTP including professional cyclists, don't see big improvements in their FTP numbers over time, but their Watts/kg can change, hopefully, higher; the pure watts can increase but if their kg increases also there's not much benefit. My thing was/is you talk so much about how hard the test is, yeah I know, I do them 4 times a year! let's see your numbers, it don't mean squat to me personally what they are, not many women, if any, can match my numbers anyway but why talk if you aren't willing to put up the numbers?!

    2. Check out the rest of the blog :) I'm still in that sweet spot of being new at riding. I got a bike less than a year ago and just got off a marathon focus about 3 months ago, so I'm still in that sweet spot of big gains because I'm so new at it.

  3. 20 minute 'FTP' tests are a joke... MTFU and do it properly!

    1. let's look at your 60 minute FTP then, show me the link, Mr. MTFU!

  4. I think what they meant to say (& should be done in a nicer tone) is that you can't claim a 12% improvement in FTP because it sounds as if your previous test wasn't done at FTP power. "I also saw that I could get my HR way higher than I thought on the bike." If that first test was done at FTP, then you should've seen a 12% increase in power for the same heart rate. It doesn't sound as if this is the case. So while you did do the test with a 12% increase in power, you probably underestimated your actual FTP for the first test. Make sense?