Pondering my ‘final’ bike training zones

With 8 weeks before Ironman, 5-6 weeks of training, and a 2-3 week taper, I’m starting to _really_ get serious

…alright…you’ve probably thought that I’m pretty serious up to now

…that was me being relaxed 🙂

With my last bike test this past Tuesday, because of the hot and humid conditions, I ended up a bit inconclusive on whether I should set my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) at 270 or 280 Watts for training purposes for the next 4 weeks before I plan to re-test…it’s not a huge difference, but enough to make me want to nail it down…go figure 🙂

My initial thought was to be conservative and use 270 Watts…based on my training rides over the past 2 days, that appears to be too low however

I rode just over 3 hours on Saturday…nice cool morning…57F, although humid at 95%…and since it was bugging me, I decided after the warmup that I’d bang out a hard 20 minutes, to see where I was at.

I’ve been using the Endurance Nation protocol for establishing FTP, which is normalized power for 42 minutes: 20 min HARD/2 min easy/20 min HARD

…I like this test because it’s still VERY HARD…and if it makes sense…_easier_ to get to max effort than the 60 minute maximum effort that it’s predicting (preferred by Allen & Coggan)…and the shorter 30 and 20 minute tests…which I don’t really think are long enough to take you right out to the max effort to predict a 60 minute effort….although _easier_ do to more often, and therefore more likely to get done…I may write a post on the various FTP methods at some point, although well documented via Google

…none of it is perfect…at least doing _some_ kind of testing though, I _do_ think is very important for the serious Age Group triathlete…particularly for Ironman, since it also serves to establish target race goals…but I digress 🙂

My all time maximum power for 20 minutes is 272Watts, set 2 years ago on June 14, 2009…my recent test rides have been right there at 270-271 Watts in hot/humid conditions, and since there’s 2 of them back to back, neither one an ‘all-out-til-you-drop’ effort…

…so, I thought this would be a good day to get rid of that old 20 minute maximum power record as well, since it’s been hanging around too long…although since I also had 3 hours of riding ahead, I didn’t want to step on the ride (meaning kill off my legs, so that I had cooked my legs and had no power left), so I set my sights on what I felt _should_ be just-below-max level, and still leave me legs for the rest of the ride…made it a 275W+ target and set off…the result:

new CP20 maximum power of 277 Watts, 152HR max…within that 20 minutes, a new CP12 of 279W (up from 276W)

…had more in the tank…nice…was just holding power @ 270W+…took a few minutes easy roll, then 10 minutes @ 239 Watts, and the rest of the ride was also strong…2×45 minute intervals at the end of the ride…Z2-3 effort:

  • 212W, 19.8MPH, 126HR max
  • 208W, 19.5MPH, 127HR max

Interestingly my heart rate remained lower than it ‘should’ be for the effort…my numbers up to now would seem to indicate at that power my Heart Rate should be closer to 135HR’ish+…of course a lot of that has been based on training and testing in the heat…and Heat Rate is only a secondary predictor of actual ‘work’…but…

So my back-to-back ride on Sunday was set to be 2 hours at primarily Z3 power…so a good time to again see what’s going on, since it would be on tired legs from Saturday….here was the workout specification: 

WU: 20-30′ @ 65-70%/z1-2/Easy
MS: Spend as much time @ 80-85%/z3 as possible. Take short recoveries as needed (eat, drink, etc), otherwise it’s time to work! Practice riding Steady: no power surges, stay in the aerobars, etc.
WD: 10′ Easy spin.

ABP RIDE (Always Be Pushing)

Another cool morning, 60F going out the door…rewarded again for getting up _early_

Another solid ride…main set, 2×45 minute Intervals…same route as Saturday…with a bit more power thrown in:

  • 218W, 19.9MPH, 132HR max
  • 219W, 19.9MPH, 127HR max

So these 2 rides, look more to me like 280 Watt FTP results…particularly when you factor in Heart Rate…here are my ‘official’ bike training zones, based on a 280 FTP compared to 270 FTP (LTHR is my estimated Lactate Threshold Heart Rate)

Bike Zones
Zone HR based on 145HR LTHR Power 280 FTP     Power 270 FTP
Z1 / < 70%:
< 123HR         
< 195W             < 188W    
Z2 / 70-75%:
195-210           188-203   
Z3 / 80-85%:
224-238           216-230
Z4 / 95-100%:
266-280           257-270
Z5 / > 110%:
> 145
> 308                 > 297

So, if feels to me to get the appropriate training benefit, my power targets should be based on the 280 FTP, or at the very least the high end of the 270 FTP range…like today’s Z3 efforts, should have been more solidly into the 225-230Watt range.

…does it make much of a difference…not really probably, but it depends on who you ask…more of a head thing for me…it was still a solid 2 hour ride no matter what…I just like to have things solidly in my head…less chance to wimp out on a particular training ride if I have tattooed into my brain exactly what I’m going to do before the demons chime in as the legs get tired

…I have a lot of riding scheduled in that Z3 range, and now comfortable that I should be running at 225-230 Watts…not in the 216-220 range where I’ve generally been.

…so that, I guess is a good insight into how I think and train…every day

…as recommended by my coaches, and adjusted by me for balance between the 3 sports, how I’m feeling and what I feel the need to focus on…just about all the time:

  • I count swimming strokes and swim at specific stroke rates
  • I run at my target paces
  • and, train on my bike at specific power zones

fun 🙂

…I know…I’m scaring you…I’ll stop now 🙂


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