I’m swearing at Will. Not out loud because I don't have any spare oxygen for that.
I can’t blame Will though, he did warn me. On the workout he had helpfully written, “This is a hard one… But it will make quick improvements to your FTP and ability to suffer.” Ha!
I'm only smiling because it's sunny
So I’m suffering today. The session is Under Overs, two lots of 20 minutes alternating going just above and just below your FTP. The first 20 minutes isn’t so bad. Ten minutes of recovery cruising and repeat. Now it feels harder. A lot harder. Finally it’s over.
Proof of fatigue
Only to go out again the next day. This time it’s to do 15 sprints in a two hour ride. It’s a chance for a long ride through pleasant scenery. But the sprints are hard, my legs feel like jelly made out of molten lead, heavy weights with no strength.
I collapse in a heap at home. I check on Training Peaks which helpfully lists your fatigue score: currently standing at over 100! No wonder I’m tired. It’s good to have numbers to quantify how I feel. But I only have one week to go before the first TT of the season: am I going to recover in time?
So this is great! All I have to do to prepare in the final week before the TT is some gentle spinning, or tapering, a chance to recover while keeping fitness just before a big event. I enjoy the bluebells that have sprung up now the sun is finally shining.
I have one final workout, one that takes you through a sequence of zones and prepares your legs for an event the following day. It’s been one of those days where work and children have conspired against me and I’m heading out in the dark at nine o’clock. I stick to well known roads, focussing on the mental map I have of all the potholes, brilliantly highlighted by my bike light. I had forgotten how much of an adventure it is to cycle at night. It’s really exhilarating racing through the cool air with no traffic around and only the sounds of gentle rustling from the leaves in the trees. And my beeping Garmin.
TT day arrives
It’s the first TT of the season. This will set my baseline for the work I need to do over the next few months to beat 30 mins for the 10 miles.
I check my fatigue score which has reassuringly reduced from a high of 107 to 61. I’m feeling strong as the adrenaline of the event shoots through me.
Push off and away I go!
I head to the start with a couple of minutes to go. There’s lots of things to remember: clip in, bring leading foot up, Garmin on, Strava on, listen to the countdown, hope the person holding your bike is having a good day. Plus all of Will’s instructions: don’t set off too hard, keep to a power of just above your FTP, take it easy up Hillfoot, and push hard at the end. Actually, I’m not sure I remembered any of that at the time!
“Three, two, one!” shouts the time keeper and I’m off, sprinting down to the end of the road past the clubhouse with shouts of “Go Joy!” ringing in my ears.
Round the corner and an empty road stretches ahead. A chance to settle into a rhythm before the gentle start to Hillfoot. This is where the power meter comes into its own for me.
I’ve climbed Hillfoot countless times. Usually I push hard as the 1% gradient starts, suffering as it reaches it’s 10% max. By the time I reach the top I’m shattered, resting easy and freewheeling gently down.
Now I keep an eye on power as a way of holding back. The aim is to get to the top with enough left to push it hard down the hill. This is where I can make gains on time, where I have gravity to help.
It kind of works. The 10% bit is still a killer but I have enough left to push hard down the hill. To the junction and turn right, a beautiful section lined with shadowed woodland on one side and open fields on the other. Being first means I’m listening hard for a rider behind me, surely someone will pass me soon.
The turning for Bunny Lane comes up. I concentrate on avoiding potholes and piles of gravel and looking at my numbers. All this distracts me from the nagging of my legs which keep pestering me to go slower. I don’t give in.
I hear the whirr of someone with a disc wheel and number 8 shoots past. Number 8! What’s happened to everyone else? I pedal harder, determined not to let anyone else overtake me.
And it works. I get to the end of Bunny Lane and it’s the final push back along Hillfoot. There’s a long stretch before the clubhouse where you can really go hard knowing the end is in sight. I push my legs and they scream at me to stop but I am deaf to their cries. My throat is parched, my breathing ragged as I call out “One!” to the end time keeper.
An increase in FTP
My final time for the 10 miles is 31 mins 59 secs. I need to knock two minutes off to hit my target of less than 30 mins.
The success of the evening is showing an increase in 20 min power. This changed from 194 W to 208 W, an increase of 7% in three weeks of serious training with a power meter, and a new FTP of 198 from 184. I don’t know how this compares to others but it looks pretty good to me!
Now I need to focus on reaching my target.
But what have I learned so far in using a power meter?
Find out next time!