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Breakthrough training ride during my vacation

Wednesday, December 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


One of the things I decided to do during my vacation was spend a lot of time riding my new time trial bike, the Scott Plasma. Time trial bikes handle and feel very different than road bikes; so, with race season just around the corner, I wanted to ensure that I was thoroughly confident and comfortable on the Plasma in all sorts of riding conditions. I rode my Plasma almost exclusively during my two week vacation, and have now put 1,000 miles on her.

While I’m not quite ready to do a full review, I’ve spent enough time on the Plasma that I will soon be posting some detailed thoughts on the bike. But that’s not the focus of today’s blog…

When I returned from my holiday, I made mention of a particular training ride that I would classify as a “breakthough” workout. I consider a “breakthrough” training session a workout during which I push myself harder than I’ve ever gone before. Ideally the end result of such an effort brings about a positive adaptation in fitness/power/speed.

The training ride in question happened on Saturday, December 19, 2015. I took my Plasma to the Van Fleet trail, which is ideal for time trial riding: it’s long, flat, straight, very remote, lightly trafficked, closed to motorized vehicles and has only a small handful of road crossings.

I decided to do the main trail out and back, just shy of 60 miles. I wanted to go out (29.2 miles) very hard, and come back at a more moderate (but not easy) pace with no stops.

It’s about a one hour drive to the trailhead, and my plan was to do a short 10 mile warm-up before starting my actual training ride. I was really in the mood to ride hard, though, and as I pedaled away from the trailhead I dropped the hammer and never let up. So much for a warm-up. :/

I was holding right at 300 watts, and my heart rate was in the mid-170s. It was a cool morning, and I was feeling very good as I rode along. As the miles flew by, I felt better and better (probably because I was now warmed up, hah!)

Right after finishing the training ride. It's amazing how much dust and dirt is picked up, even on a paved trail.

Right after finishing the training ride. It’s amazing how much dust and dirt is picked up, even on a paved trail.

When I completed the first 29.2 miles, I immediately turned around and started heading back. As I turned around I flipped over to my averages screen, and saw that I’d just ridden 29.2 miles with a time of 1h 08m 42s. My average speed was 25.5 MPH, but what really had me stoked was my wattage average: 296 watts, for almost 70 minutes.

My current estimated FTP is 309 (based on an 8-minute effort), so to go out and actually ride very close to that number for even longer (almost 70 minutes) felt amazing. This is especially true because I was not going all out, I did not warm-up, and I still felt very strong when I finished the first half of the ride.

The reason cyclists use 8-minute and 20-minute FTP tests to estimate our FTP (the maximum average wattage a cyclist can produce for one hour) is because actually going out and riding as hard as possible for a full hour–especially alone/in a non-race situation–is very difficult.

After I turned around and began heading back, I eased off a bit and held around 215 watts for the 29.2 mile return trip. After the outbound effort, 215 watts felt like a cool-down!

I completed the 58.6 mile ride with a time of 2h 30m 29s (average speed of 23.4 MPH), 261 watt normalized power average and an average heart rate of 162 BPM. If you like, you can check out the full ride with all data here.

On this ride I set six lifetime best power output personal records: 30 minute, 45 minute, 1 hour, 1.5 hours, 2 hours and 2.5 hours.

That training ride was the strongest I’ve felt on a bike, like, ever. Even after the hard outbound effort, I had plenty left in my tank. Based on that effort, I suspect my FTP is probably higher than the currently estimated 309 watts.

One of the cool things about a training ride like this one is the positive fitness adaptation that comes from it. 300 watts just doesn’t feel as hard as it used to, which is not surprising after averaging that for more than an hour.

I’m seriously considering doing this ride again, with the goal of holding 310+ watts for an hour. Rather than do the whole 60 miles in one shot, I’d rest after the one hour mark. Knowing that I could rest after the hour effort would give me a boost. Oh, and next time I’ll warm-up properly beforehand. 🙂

John Stone Fitness Comments

4 Responses to “Breakthrough training ride during my vacation”
    • Thanks, Jeff. I adopted your name for Van Fleet when you told me that a few years back–it’s extremely apt.

      I keep things fairly light before most (99%) of my rides: a big bowl of oatmeal (1 cup before cooking), a few cups of black coffee and sometimes a banana. I consume that about 2-3 hours before rolling, and if I’m feeling hungry just before the ride I’ll have a Clif bar. On this particular ride my only intra-ride nutrition was a single gel and water.

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    • I don’t think so. I never feel like I lack energy or stamina while eating at maintenance. If anything I’d say the cooler air had more of an impact on my performance than the increased calories. I’m a much stronger rider when it’s cool outside compared to the dog days of summer. I’ve also been training very hard.

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