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TrainerRoad’s 2014 “8 Days in California”: Stage 4 recap

2014 8DC Stage 4: My workout graph

Yesterday I completed the fourth stage of TrainerRoad’s “8 Days in California” challenge. This stage was (subjectively) not quite as tough as Tuesday’s Queen stage, but it was definitely in the same ballpark.

I felt like I had a mild head cold coming on yesterday morning, and was (of course) also feeling the cumulative fatigue from the previous three stages. I knew I was in for a very tough ride, and so I gave myself several mental pep-talks before I began the stage. I strongly believe that athletics are as much about mental preparedness as physical training, and so psyching myself up before rides is an important tool in my kit. By the time I got on the bike I’d convinced myself that I was feeling 100%, and that my only concern was the cranks would sheer clean off my bike once subjected to the insane amount of power I was about to unleash. 🙂

Stage 4 description: Day four is a day for the sprinters. A relatively flat course will allow for a certain amount of recovery, but is sure to be kept interesting by constant tactical surges. But don’t worry – these surges will only push you over FTP for brief periods of time. Even though today’s course would seem easy, frequent but relatively minor changes in elevation could provide the perfect opportunity for some bold race tactics.

Yeah, “would” is the operative word in “…would seem easy”. Those bold race tactics mentioned in the description definitely came into play, and made this one hell of a tough stage.

My post-stage comments: This was another very challenging stage, particularly after the halfway point. The ~17 minute over/under* section (about 35 minutes into the stage), would have been painful enough on its own, but it began immediately after sprinting to stay with a breakaway group; after about 16 agonizing minutes of over/unders, I staged my own breakaway attempt. After dumping the final chasers, it was strong ~7 minute build to a stage victory! TrainerRoad has done a masterful job of creating an engaging storyline. I was emotionally invested in the race, and pushed harder to the finish line because of it. It felt great to get a stage win! New 30-minute and 60-minute power output personal records set.

*Over/Unders are intervals that alternate between slightly over, and then slightly under, the athlete’s FTP (Functional Threshold Power). There is no rest between these alternating intervals. Over/Under training is an effective tool for developing the ability to handle surges in pace during hard, sustained efforts. Over/Under work trains the body to process lactate while continuing to ride at high intensity. The spikes that start about halfway through my workout (see the workout chart, below) are the over/unders. They hurt–a lot.

I spent 19.2% of the stage (00:13:28) in the Threshold power zone, 13.2% (00:09:16) in the extremely painful VO2 MAX power zone and was in the darkest corner of the pain cave–Anaerobic Capacity/Neuromuscular–for 6.0% (00:04:13) of the time. I actually was in the Anaerobic Capacity/Neuromuscular zone for slightly more time during this stage than I was during Tuesday’s Queen stage.

Looking at my heart rate data, I spent 18.7% (00:13:05) of the 70-minute stage in the Threshold zone (155-171 BPM), and 40.2% (00:28:09) of the stage was spent riding in the VO2 MAX zone (171+ BPM).

My Normalized Power (NP) output for this stage was 269 watts, and my Training Stress Score (TSS) was 103. You can check out the entire stage with all my workout data here.

269 is my highest NP (Normalized Power) so far in the 8DC, just edging out Tuesday’s Stage 3 NP of 264. I also broke a couple of existing power personal records–both of which were not even 24 hours old–with average 30-minute and 60-minute power outputs of 287 watts and 266 watts, respectively.

At 70 minutes in duration, Stage 4 may have been a little shorter than Tuesday’s 95 minute Queen stage, but it packed roughly the same amount of suffering into a tighter ball of agony. To wit, my Intensity Factor (IF), for Stage 4 was 0.94, while my IF for Stage 3 was 0.92. So–at least on paper–Stage 4 was the tougher of the two. We’re spitting hairs now, though. One of the co-founders of TrainerRoad asked me on Facebook yesterday how I thought Stage 4 compared to Stage 3. My reply was, “…(that) is somewhat like comparing taking a bullet in the knee to one in the elbow.”

Here is my 2014 8DC Stage 4 workout graph (click to enlarge):

2014 8DC Stage 4: My workout graph

2014 8DC Stage 4: My workout graph


Stage 4 dropped several dozen more cyclists from the ever-shrinking peloton: of 1,745 cyclists who started the 8DC, 1,123 have been eliminated. With four stages to come, there are 623 riders remaining in the challenge.

At 56 minutes, today’s stage is the shortest of the 8DC. This stage has plenty of climbs near FTP (occasionally edging slightly above), and is peppered with several anaerobic sprints. While there are no easy days in the 8DC, today’s stage is the closest we’ll come to one.