Cannot seem to recover after specialty block

Hey all! I am hoping someone has some ideas here. My background for the last few years has been to compete in obstacle course races (ocr). Mostly running. I am in good cardio shape coming into my first season of cycle training. I also did a ton of structured training for running.

I decided I wanted to buy a mountain bike and race XC this year until I can fix an issue with my ankle that put a pause on my ocr racing. I started training on the bike in December. Immediately felt good. Planned out the season on TR based on a local XC series. Went into SS base 1 in January. Went with Mid Volume so I could add outside rides. I am used to 500-800 tss weekly when training for ocr.

At the beginning of SS base 2 I had my first (and turns out only) race and finished 6th in cat 3. Not great but I loved it. Continued with the training and when I had a race scheduled, I would hit a local 5 mile climb segment at race pace since at this point all of the races I had scheduled were postponed or canceled.

Every time I did a ramp test my ftp went up. I got through build and felt like a million bucks. Every ride I went on I was setting segment PRs and crushing people I would ride with. I PR’ed the 5 mile test segment and could not wait to go into specialty phase and prep for my “A race”. I had a goal on the 5 mile segment and was looking forward to it.

Then things went south. Specialty was painful. There were several workouts I had to bail on. My outdoor rides were suffering and I started to question if I was actually going to peak for the race. I persisted with the training but maybe, after looking back, I should not have.

On “race day”, after doing the work, I felt meh. I got up early and went to post a time on the segment. I was pushing hard but the effort level felt really really hard. I ended up pushing the most power I ever had through the segment but ended up finishing a minute off my previous pace. Not a big deal but I felt like the tank was on empty.

I rested for the following week with only endurance rides. However, since then, my rides have gotten worse and worse. I have a pain in my legs that basically starts out with what feels like a strange lactic acid buildup and turns into me not being able to push the pedals. My legs just lock up with pain. It’s at the point where I can’t push my heart rate up without my legs hurting badly. My last ramp test had me down on power about 27w. It only seems to happen with sustained power efforts. Short, punchy climbs seem fine.

Has anyone else experienced this? I have rested plenty and it does not seem to sort itself out. Not sure what to do at this point.

For reference, I am 46 and I went from 176 to 238 ftp on the trainer. Outdoor ftp is about 5% higher.

Have you taken any time completely off of training? If you’re still feeling like that after an easy endurance week following the conclusion of your specialty block, I would take a week or two totally off of the bike. Put riding to the back of your mind for a little and focus on really taking it easy and getting some good sleep. After that, ease back into it and see of you feel.


Sorry to hear this… it sounds a bit like over trained… No expert. Cycling muscle is not the same as running muscle. If you have recovery days, fueling well, sleeping well. Stretching … yes proper stretching after workouts to stop muscle shorting stuff.
So TSS in running different from cycling TSS.
You need to start Low volume and base plans to build into cycling… Have a few weeks complete rest… or very LV 50% to 60% 30 minute rides if you really need too.

Not disagreeing with possible overtraining… it’s possible. However, I have no other symptoms of overtraining. I am familiar with working in deep fatigue and feel none of that. This is muscle related, it’s hard to describe the feeling because I have never experienced it before. I thought it was due to dehydration because it began when the heat started kicking up. After some testing, It doesn’t seem to be the issue.

As far as tss, I don’t agree. It is a stress score. I use a power meter when I run as well and from my experience, it nets out the same as far as building fatigue. If I did a 700 tss week running or cycling, I feel it.

I am going to take some days off and see if that helps, I was hoping someone who has experienced something similar, specifically related to the muscle, could chime in.

Obviously, don’t know what is really happening, but a couple of things to think about:

  • TSS is normalized relative to your FTP. So 600TSS at 176 FTP is a different load on your body compared to 600 TSS at 248 FTP. When I have had decent bumps in FTP it took a little while for me to adapt to the new load required to maintain the same TSS. It basically requires doing the same rides at a higher power or adding more time. I’m sure your weekly kJ with the new FTP is at least a little higher than at the start, if you want to think of that as a rough, unnormalized load metric.
  • Not all TSS is created equal. 100TSS of sweet spot intervals is probably going to leave you feeling very differently from 100TSS of VO2 intervals. I can do the former and feel completely normal the next day, VO2 takes me another day. I, personally, found build to be much more intense and demanding than base and accordingly reduce my weekly TSS load during builds as compared to base phases.
  • An increase in FTP by about 35% in 5-6 months is amazing. Think about how 120% FTP VO2 intervals at your starting FTP are lower than your current FTP by a significant margin. In a couple of months. That is bonkers. I find it rough adapting to a 10w increase, I’m not sure how I would feel with your kind of increase.
  • This sounds like your first season of focused cycling. Even the cat 3 XC people you were racing against could have years of riding and cycling specific base to build off of. To me one of the interesting things about cycling is that it is not a sport of weeks or months of training, it is a sport of seasons and years.

The sensations you describe seem similar to how I felt last summer when I went past functional overreaching into non-functional overreaching. I would have had to continue on that path for a while longer to get close to overtraining. But I still smashed myself into a big hole with volume and intensity and some modest FTP increases relative to yours. I solved it by toodling around (z1 / recovery rides) for 6 weeks, and I felt progressively worse until week 4 when I started to rebound. I did not plan on it being 6 weeks, it just ended up being that way. Then I added in a couple weeks of z2 before signing up with TR. I do LV plans so I can do longer endurance rides on the weekends and add active recovery rides (Lazy Mountain variants or Pettit -1 in erg mode) on Mon/Fri to force myself to have some easy days. I also do recovery weeks in Erg mode so I don’t over do it.

I am not a doctor™ , but my take is that with the big increases in FTP, training load from the plans and FTP increase, you pushed into a non-functional overreaching state around the time you finished build. I would just do active recovery until you rebound, then add z2, then ease your way back into SSBI taking additional rest as needed.


This is a classic symptom of being overreached. Time off is the prescription here, as much as you don’t seem to want to hear it. Your OCR and run training doesn’t translate well over to XC riding and racing; you’ve asked your body to do a lot that it’s not used to and now it’s telling you to take a break. Not a bunch of Z2 rides. My advice would be to take some time off. Several days at least, maybe up to a week or more.


You can’t compare the accuracy of cycling and running power meters: cycling power meter accuracy is well understood, and validated. Running power meters are simply not accurate, nor is there even an agreed upon method for measuring running power.

So I wouldn’t compare cycling TSS to a running score.

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That’s a good point. In my training, specifically in the build phase, I had a 750 tss week (I added a long hard ride). That was probably the beginning of the overreaching. Unfortunately, it was also when I was feeling my best. At the end of it, I had an ftp bump from 233 to 238. The right move would probably be to not add additional rides on top of build.

I would say that it was probably because my aerobic base is pretty solid. Most of the training had to do with getting my leg muscles in cycling shape.

Agreed. OCR is the same way. I was competing against former triathletes and runners. I am not someone who thinks I can compete in the front overnight. I know it takes time and am willing to put in the work.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Great feedback. This week the plan is to take a few days off the bike altogether, then go into easy rides until I feel like my legs are coming back. I have no races planned since everything is on hold at the moment which is a good time to test all of this stuff vs being in the middle of a season.

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How did you get on after a few days off the bike? Do you feel any better? Back to normal?

Yes! I ended up taking 4 days completely off. I then did off the bike activities and mobility for another 3 days. At that point I felt pretty good and wanted to ride. I did an easy ride on my local route to test and felt like I could do some non structured easy rides.

All in all, it was about 3 weeks going easy. Last week I ended the week with a moderate effort to see how the legs felt. No issues at that point. Yesterday I started back on a training plan.

Again, thanks all for the replies and feedback. Very helpful.


This is one of the major benefits of taking time off after a long season of racing/training. A lot of pros will even just go sit on a beach somewhere for 3 weeks after the season to reset. It may cause you to lose a little fitness but you will come back able to push harder and hopefully then get bigger gains as a result.