Beating Mary Austin -1 (or any other over unders)

Hi all,

Been doing TR for over a year now and finish all workouts except over-unders, like Mary Austin -1.
I think I’m good at suffering but my legs just can’t turn the pedals any more.

Bit of background:
My FTP from ramp-test is 319W (@82kg, 43 yo), I recently did 311W for a full hour, did 4DP once which also had my FTP at 318W (and says I’m a time trialist). I ride TR 3x per week (current ssb2 lv) and do one longer weekend ride at around 60%ftp.

I tried Mary Austin -1 3x until now. Twice I made it to the 5th interval without backpedalling, but now I had to backpedal already on the 3rd interval.
I got all new heartrate medals from including riding at my max. heartrate for 4 minutes during today’s Mary Austin -1. Just to prove I was definitely putting in the effort :rofl:

My 2020 goal is to finish Mary Austin -1 without backpedalling.

PS: during Taylor -2 I even go to 110% intensity and finish the workout.

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I have opposite issue. Vo2 is hard and you blitz that workout. You have fast twitch muscles so probably have more to gain from sweetspot intervals. Best advice I was told is that do all time and all intervals and take a 2 mins rest in recovery set if needed. U get stronger and can then do full programme without stopping eventually. Alternatively reduce intensity by 5 or 10% on sweetspot programmes and then gradually get to 100%. I do same thing for vo2 max programmes

Mary and Taylor are independent and polar opposites. Completing one does not ensure victory in the other.

What your workout history is telling you is that you lack a) muscular endurance and/or b) lactate capabilities. Believe me, lots of people are/have been in the exact same situation (including yours truly). Why do you think MA is one of the most complained about TR workouts!

FTP means nothing when doing MA (or any other workout, really). Work a lot on your lactate abilities (production and clearance) by doing more Threshold and O/U work, plus more longer Endurance rides. It will take a while but it will happen and you will complete MA.


What happened the night before you did you o/u workout? Did you sleep enough? Eat enough? Did you recover enough since your last workout?

O/Us are pretty intense and take a lot of muscular endurance to complete. Also, it’s kind of arbitrary that we pick the duration of the workouts. You completed 4/6 of the intervals. On the fourth you should have stopped trying for the remainder of that interval and then have ridden zone 1 before tackling the 5th interval. I bet you could have done it.

Personally I’ve failed a mid way interval, rested up a bit and then was able to complete the workout.

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Also notice that ALL of your back-pedals are during the descending portion of the interval. This is a definite marker that your lactate clearing capabilities are not as developed as they could be. Lots of fun work in 2020 for you. :tired_face::wink:


Didn’t know MA was widely disliked. Kinda makes me feel better :rofl:

Read on, Macduff:

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I read through them. Going to try again after the active recovery week from ssb2 lv.
January 20th is attempt no. 4. There will be a pasta fest the night before :spaghetti:

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Sure, proper fuelling will help you push the power, but from your posted example, that’s not your deleterious downfall — it’s clearly your body’s ability to shuttle lactate (which no amount of carbo loading is going to fix).

The back-pedals come on that first drop down when the lactate totally floods your quads…and they turn to jelly. You might try other O/U workouts with shorter intervals or shorter steps. Maybe create your own 2-week O/U Booster Plan which works up to the full MA.
(caveat: it takes longer than 2 weeks to develop strong lactate skillz but dedicated focus is a good place to start.)

Good luck! :+1:

(in addition…it might not be a great idea to go straight into MA after a 4-day stretch of low/no activity like you have scheduled.)


Cool idea !
Creating my own MA variations by gradually increasing time at 97/102% and decreasing rest time but without having total TSS going through the roof.
Or using existing workouts like avalanche, carpathian peak, dragon, emerson, fang mountain, leconte, etc…

All that lactate clearing abilitues will likely also contribute to my other 2020 goal which is 40k in 1 hour outside on a perfect-weather-condition day for which I will do the specialty phase as well…

Backpedal the recovery valleys.

Order of priorities:

  1. Complete the workout
  2. Don’t reduce intensity
  3. Don’t backpedal during work intervals
  4. Many other things
  5. Achieve a perfect profile by hitting target watts in the recovery valleys

I hate backpedaling. Would be great if TR introduced an “Extend interval” button like you have with “Extend cooldown”. You could use it for longer rest during Mary Austin or to make your work-intervals longer on an i-feel-fantastic-strong-day …


As well as the physical aspect to MA, there’s going to be the mental challenge too.

I like to visualise the steps as paceline efforts. On the way up, you’re moving up, at the top you’re in the wind, on the way down, you’re moving towards the back but power is still required to ensure you don’t shoot out the back.

Everyone needs to find their incentive but once you’re mind is in the game, your legs will follow. Good luck :+1:

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Widely disliked is an understatement of the year 2019.

I just froze my toes off with a 92km ride in the Netherlands. -2°C and foggy all the way. But still better than your heat and fires. Best of luck with that…

I just did Mt Hale. Although I made it through my cadence fell off dramatically. This is only my second ERG mode session. I used to have to use gym bikes so I would slow and miss the power target. This time I hit the power all the way through, back peddling once in a rest section. Is this a sign of a lack of muscular endurance?

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Both yes and no.
Yes because your fast twitch muscles finally burnt out and you had to lower your cadence. Totally normal after almost 20 minutes of 104% FTP.
No because you hit the power on all the intervals (well done!), regardless if you BP during the rest periods. You’ll definitely know when real muscular endurance fails.

FWIW, Hale is a totally different workout than MA.

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For me it’s a sign of being human, since mathematically you should be able to ride at 105% for max. 20 minutes. You just did 4 x 9 minutes. Great job !!!


There is nothing wrong with backpedaling in a rest section. Nothing all that wrong with an occasional in-interval backpedal to get back on track with form and cadence either.

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I did mary Austin -3 just to try it after reading this, found it as enjoyable as antelope +5 I did yesterday