Off Season: That FTP

So now I have a power meter that tells me what kind of watts I’m producing. But, what does that even mean? Like, how can I interpret those numbers into something I can actually use to train? After several hours of exhaustive research, (not really, I just googled "training with power meter") it looks like I need to do a Functional Threshold Power or FTP test to give me a number. That magic number is what most of my training from here on out will be based on. What is FTP, though? After reading several articles I will define FTP for cyclists as follows: FTP is the average power output you would produce if you got on your bike and rode for 45-60 minutes at the level that would force you to vomit and/or pass out. Sounds fun, right? You could imagine my anxiety when I thought about doing this test.

There are a few ways to test FTP and they give you different numbers that are close, but different enough to guide your training toward your desired results. Lab testing that measures blood levels to determine the amount of… I’m not a professional cyclist and did not research this method much. 20-minute or 2x8-minute FTP tests are other reliable options. Being new to this training, I opted for the 20-minute test. Ride for twenty minutes, get an average number for watts over those twenty minutes and multiply by 95% to get a number for FTP.

How did this play out? I did a few rides with the power meter before my self-scheduled FTP test to get an idea of what number I thought I could maintain for 20 minutes. I made a 20 minute playlist (track listing available on request) of songs I think help pump me up during training. I got nervous as if I was racing for the first time again. I got home from work and prepped for my indoor suffering including two fans and turning off the heat in my house. I started one of the exciting cyclocross duels between Wout and Mathieu from this season, but thinking back I can’t remember which one. I barely remember the TV being on.

My planned test:

-15min warmup

-5min at estimated max sustained effort (I was estimating between 210w and 250w)

-10min recovery

-20min at estimated max sustained effort

-vomit and/or pass out OR best case scenario Warm down

In my first post I mentioned that heart racing, sight narrowing of a hard interval, and I was there after 8 minutes out of twenty. I was staring at the wall, trying to keep my cadence up. It wasn’t until 12 minutes in that I remembered to drink any water, but I was feeling good. My perceived effort was very high, but I think I was too conservative with my estimate because with a minute and a half to go, I felt like I could push a little harder to try to make my average watts higher. After the twenty minutes was over, surprisingly, I didn’t vomit or pass out. I definitely stopped pedaling for a minute or so, but then I rode until I could see and breathe again. My computer even congratulated me: Great job! New Avg. 20-min Power: 230w. 

2017 stats to date:

FTP: 218w

Kilograms: 100

Kilometers ridden in 2017: 784


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