Failing pre-race workout: Rainbow

I have a race planned for Nov 15th and have been following a Plan Builder-crafted plan to prepare. All was going well until I hit Rainbow (3 x (anaerobic race starter + 19 minutes at 96% FTP)). I can’t pass it. I made about 5 attempts now. My FTP is set at 293W. In February I was able to pass the workout with FTP at 300W, but here are some differences between now and February:

  1. All my TR rides up to and including Feb were on a gym Stages bike (with a Stages 3rd gen power meter); all TR rides afterwards are on my dumb-trainer-installed MTB at home (also with Stages 3rd gen power meter on left crank)

  2. In the beginning of the year I switched from clipless to flat pedals for the whole season and have done the same for indoor training (to simulate the outdoors riding better) - I immediately lost about 3-5% power.

My question: based on the info provided, do you think the switch from gym bike to my own MTB bike for indoors training, or switch from clipless to flats, might explain the loss of muscular endurance that’s making me fail Rainbow? I can still pass extended VO2 max workouts like Red Lake. Alternatively, should I look for another underlying reason for being unable to pass, such as hydration, nutrition, sleep, getting old, etc?

PS On my most recent indoor attempt of Rainbow I switched back to clipless but found my “up muscles” have not been firing correctly after a full season “off”…I will need time to get them working again.

Have you retested FTP on the new Stages?

I have, but not using ramp test which typically overstates my FTP. I use under/over workouts for FTP testing because I’ve learned how an “under” is supposed to feel regarding a modest recovery from the “over”. Based on this I lowered my FTP from 300W to 293W, but have not re-tested in recent weeks. Perhaps I should…

I had a look at this workout as it sounds pretty brutal! On your rides you go up and down over threshold quite a few times, your average power looks closer to FTP than 96%. It might not be much above but on a workout that is that hard already I bet the small increase makes a big difference.

Yeah, steady cadence is not my strength and I tend to treat Target Power as a floor, so I am riding at slightly higher avg wattage. That said, I still passed Rainbow in February using the same approach. Also, I should be able to ride 1 hr @ FTP … I suspect those race starters really make an impact on what otherwise would be an FTP-testing workout such as Lamarck.

I would, at least, do a proper 20 minute test. I wouldn’t trust going by feel. If you do the same test protocol periodically on the same equipment you’ll have something to compare against.

Ok, I’ll take the advice and do a ramp test, or did you mean another test when you wrote “20 minute test”?

I said “20 minute test” because you said that you over test on the ramp. The 20 minute test is the standard Coggin test where you take 95% of your 20 minute power.

Or, if you know by how much you over test on the ramp, you could take a lower percentage and use that as your FTP.

Got it. The 20 min test looks like a rather unpleasant experience. I would have to hold 308W for 20 mins to back-up my current FTP setting. I think it would completely exhaust me, so I might do the ramp test and trim the result.

@LarrytheStanimal there’s no quit in you, that’s for sure. One thing we should all be unanimous about, though: STOP ATTEMPTING THIS WORKOUT!!

Holy smokes, my bro, you’ve got a race in a few days and you just did a massive 610 TSS week. The best thing you can do right now is make sure you’ve got fresh legs on the 15th. If you can recover and adapt from that 610 TSS week by then it’s not gonna matter if you ever finish Rainbow or not: you are gonna crush!

But make sure, make sure, make sure, you are recovered for your race. Forget about Rainbow. Let’s talk about it after the race.


@Brennus, I think I’ve dug a hole. The workout is becoming more important than the race. I know this isn’t right.

@LarrytheStanimal you’re fixated on the last half of the workout…meanwhile you’ve done a LOT of good work on the first half of that workout. If you can just recover and adapt you are going to CRUSH. Oh my gosh! It’s gonna be awesome. Eat, sleep, recover.

After you’re done with the podium shots, look up Buckhorn.

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No offense but I find this amusing given the RAINBOW OR NOTHING mindset :joy:


2 thoughts…

1- this workout is brutal to be doing the week of a race… I’d expect this maybe last weekend, or 7-10 days outs, but I’m surprised this would be scheduled 5 days before a race.

2- How do other long sweet spot or sub-threshold workouts go for you? Specifically ones that don’t include a hard start…

The hard start on these can zap your legs quickly. You could very well nail this workout if the anaerobic efforts weren’t part of it. Or, you could do the first two or three intervals without the hard start, and then include them on the last one or two intervals.

For now, my advice resembles @Brennus’ advice :

Return to this workout after your race if it’s your white whale, but you need to absorb a lot of work in 5 days so you’re ready to crush your race on 11/15!

Good point. Forums are a wonderful way of making clear obvious gaps in logic.


I completely agree with @Brennus. Stop doing this workout haha. I would have probably just moved on after the second time you failed it. After that it just becomes exponentially more mental than physical. At this point I would just recover, do some openers, then crush your race.

Also, I looked back at your past rides and you seem to do that alot. If you don’t 100% complete a workout then you come back and do it again. Sometimes after what I wouldn’t even call a failed workout (like a last interval back pedal). After this race I would sit down and try to recalibrate what constitutes a failed workout and when you should call it good and move on. You spent over 2 weeks trying Rainbow when maybe you should have been doing some higher intensity intervals.

Also, maybe if you attempted this workout outside or slightly more on feel then if could be considerably easier. Sometimes I find that if I’m militant about the power target then I start to lose my mental edge as I struggle to hit the target dead on even though I might be successful just a couple watts lower.

Wish the race was on the 18th… no matter your comment still made me think of Tin Cup:



I watched Dylan Johnson’s latest video on Block Periodization yesterday. gasp He ‘fails’ the last interval in a bunch of workouts and doesn’t go back and try to re-do them. He moves on. gasp


True. My approach is that a “slight” failure is different from attempting a workout the completion of which seems far out of my reach. In case of Rainbow this signals a muscular endurance weakness that I thought I would minimize prior to the race. The race is flowy XC over about 1.5 hours, so Rainbow is probably the right workout profile for that - although I take the point it is too much effort this close to the race. Plan Builder had it built into my calendar earlier, but I’ve just been trying to pass it and pushed subsequent workouts out of the calendar.

I’ll take the advice and focus on some easier pre-race workouts like Truuli.

But I still have questions to be answered after the race. I remember Rainbow being hard in February, but not impossible the way it feels now.

maybe too much fatigue has built up? Always hard to know and fresh is faster so better to dial it back IMHO assuming you believe FTP is set correctly.

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