Crit speciality is kicking my ass. abandon ship?

2020 was supposed to be my first year of racing but now that will have to wait for next year. I will be doing a mix of crits and 3-4 hour rolling road races, so this year my aim was to raise my FTP as much as possible to carry over to next year and then follow the crit speciality plan to see how I respond to it (the crits will likely be my focus next year so i can upgrade). My build phase was a bit of experiment with polarised intervals which failed, so I reverted to what I know and ended up doing a lot of FTP intervals and under/overs.

Now that I have got to the crit speciality its absolutely destroying me, even at low volume. I am failing at least 1 workout a week, and i have just finished the 3rd week where I could only complete 1 workout and failed the other 2, despite only adding 1 hour of zone 2 work all week and having confidence in my FTP result from the ramp test. Its super frustrating as I have only failed 1 workout in the previous base and build phases combined. I assume its because my body is not used to the super high intensity work, as I haven’t done any all year.

Now that I have reached the recovery week and I am looking at the next workouts, which seem to get harder and harder I am not sure how to proceed. I have no target events signed up for so failing the workouts isn’t to bad for now, but it is getting super frustrating.

The more I think about it, the more I could justify doing almost anything from restarting base, to repeating a different build (either general or short power), to changing specialities. With it being August and 1 more month of working from home till I go back to work full-time, I am keen to make the most of the time and don’t really want to take my off-season break now. For now I will focus on my recovery week so I can come back rested and raring to go.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

**Edit - I am taking on 60-80g of carbs per hour for these workouts and feeling fine before hard. Literally just dont have the legs to get through them.

My advice would be not to stress too much over lowering the intensity of the workouts. If you think your estimated ftp is about right, just lower the workouts where you are working well above ftp. Start the first interval at 100% intensity and reassess at the mid point. Ask yourself if you can complete the whole workout at this effort or are your legs going to fail you before the last interval. Remember, if it feels too hard on the first interval it’s only going to get worse as each one comes along. It’s better to complete the workout at a reduced intensity rather than doing just the first few intervals and then blowing up.

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hmmmm did you have a big jump in FTP from your prior test?

Why do you feel confident in your FTP?

I only say that as we sometimes mentally try to validate a FTP by the work we do, but it can lead to the spiral you are having. You have to fight the trap of the FTP number. I would rather be a touch low on FTP and nail the workouts, than be a touch high and fail out of them.

If it was me, I would retest - I think the Ramp is a great test for some but the other more difficult 8 min or 20 min is better for others. My gut says your FTP is set a bit high for the work volume (including fatigue). I would rest, retest or readjust, and finish specialty.

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What build did you do? If you didn’t do short power that might also be contributing to the struggle. I’ve been doing Crit speciality and it’s been tough, but I actually think short power build was a bit tougher (but I also had 2 stage races in the middle of that which certainly didn’t help).

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In what country / region do you live? I’m just curious as where I am in the US the lower category crits are 30-50min and the road races are usually under 2 hours.

No advise from me, just questions to consider:

  • With your revised goals for 2020, do you think completing crit specialty gets you closer to those goals?
  • Do you think you were prepared going into the crit specialty for the demands of the workouts? If not, what do you think was lacking?
  • What kind of progression are you thinking to prepare you for next year?

With this mess of a year we all have plenty of time to lay out a plan for the rest of the year and early next year to progress towards our 2020 and 2021 goals. I haven’t looked at the calendar, but I bet you have time to do something like SSBI -> SSBII -> Sustained Power Build or General Build -> SSBI -> SSBII -> General Build or Short Power Build -> Crit Specialty. You could skip or shorten the second base phases or the builds. I think the higher intensity efforts in the General or Short Power builds would better prepare you for the crit specialty.

Given the different demands of those long road races and crits, if I were preparing my own plans I would likely do SusPB, GB, and maybe Rolling Road Race or skip specialty. I would also make sure I have something built into my plan to make sure I have some group riding experience and related skills. I think being able to sustain enough power (i.e. sufficient FTP) to hang with the bunch and having the skills and comfort to save energy and move around the pack are the most important things.

I have done short power build and can relate to what you are saying! The sprintervals are some of the toughest workouts out there! Most of the crit specialty workouts are very intense and this is supposed to replicate what you will be facing in criterium races (this is the whole point of a specialty phase). Crit races don’t last very long, but they are very intense. Even if you fuel well, only your RPE will be reduced, and not your heart rate. You need to get comfortable at repeating sprints, and going above threshold over and over again if you want to be successful in crit races.

@MikeMckinney my last few ramp tests have only resulted in 4-5W increases, so I have been in this FTP ball-park for a while and know how it feels.

@saskiahoppe my build essentially turned into sustained power build, as I was trying to raise my FTP. I was thinking that short power build looked very tough, so tempted to try switching to general build.

@Craig_G I like in England. Most senior mens crits I have seen here are an hour, whereas juniors and womens races are short. The road races in my region are 90-150km and normally raced at 22-26mph or faster depending on course and cateogry. our definitely right about having a lot of time to prepare for next year and they layout should certainly give very good results. Part of me is very tempted just to jump into next years plan.

Confession time… I never made it through any TR speciality plans. In fact I gave up trying. Build plans got results but I was always so deep fatigue I could never get beyond the second week of Speciality. The ego boosting FTP (false) tests didn’t help. If I knew then what I know now I am sure things would have been different.

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There’s your answer - short power build prepares you for the crit speciality, without it you’re starting on your back foot and Crit speciality will be incredibly hard. Not gonna lie, short power build is HARD. Having said that, I haven’t don’t any other builds, just SSB so maybe I have nothing to compare it to other than that. For me, SSBLV felt comfortably hard. Short power build feels uncomfortably hard, definitely can’t do those workouts first thing in the morning on an empty stomach! SSB, yeah, certain workouts I could knock out first thing before breakfast.

Ah, that is nice that you can do long races like that even in the lower categories. I raced a little bit years ago and wanted to get back into it this year after a 12 year break. I’ll be starting from scratch, so if more racing happens next year I would have to drive 1+ hours to do a 25 mile road race or a 30-40 minute crit, at least until I can upgrade and start to race masters 40+. At least some races have the an open 4/5 race and a 35+ 4/5 race so I could try to double up, but that could blow the entire day.

Thank-you everyone for the really helpful advice, there are definitely lots of things there I had not considered. After resting up for a bit and getting half way through my recovery week I am feeling a lot better about it all.

I also realised that I was ignoring the main point of the block and my own words, which was to find out how my body responds to the crit block. Well now I definitely have my answer and some invaluable information going forward to next year.

With that said, I feel I may well be using general build and rolling road race speciality next year depending on timing and events. So, I am going to do similar fact finding missions over the next 8 weeks with 4 weeks of general build followed by 4 weeks of rolling road race speciality and see how I respond to those. After that I will probably take my off-season break and start working on next years goals.

I am going to make sure I take the positives from this and have learnt a lot from not being able to complete the workouts, which is only going to make me faster in the future.

Thanks again everyone, happy riding!

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Just dial back the intensity.

Imagine if you were 4-5 weeks away from an A-race crit. You wouldn’t say, “welp, I can’t complete these workouts at my current FTP, better just forfeit my race entry.”

If you can’t complete the workouts at 100% intensity, that’s okay. They’ll still be kicking your ass at 90-95% intensity, so just do 'em there. Superficially, it might seem like you’re going backwards, but you’re not.

You don’t always have to quantify a gain to know that you’re getting one.

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Sustained build will give you great FTP gains (it’s literally training FTP…), but won’t do much at all for your VO2Max systems. And that’s what Crit Specialty is most heavily dependent on.

FWIW, I did SSB, Short power Build, and now Crit specialty all on HV, and I have yet to successfully complete my thursday workout. Those 4, 5 and 6 minute efforts in the VO2max range are just the pits! However, I’m completing everything else. So, that tells me that I have a ‘hole’ in my critical power curve.

Fortunately, I’ve got an extra 2 weeks after my first race (which is at the end of specialty) in which I can do some remedial VO2max work (search for ‘Chad’s VO2Max booster plan’), and then I can repeat specialty and expect to have much more luck with those sessions.

Another way of looking at it… these sessions are HARD!

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That makes me feel a lot better as its those exact sessions that are killing me to. Got through the 4 minute intervals alright as they were at the start of the block, but then failing the 5 and 6 minute ones badly after that.

The remedial VO2 work sounds like a good idea and a nice way to target a weakness. It’s very tempting to follow the same strategy and see if I can bump that area of performance up.