FTP fun, and training plans gone awry

This is gonna be long - will try not to make it too long.

Used TR on and off since before anyone thought of smart trainers; 8 years of training in a reasonably structured manner for long stuff, mostly tri. 44yo with a tendancy to not sleep, 82kg. Have had a coach in previous years who had me out around 700-900TSS & ~15hrs/week over 3 sports. Handled that fine (physically at least), but largely lower intensity. ‘Mid volume’ should be pretty achievable you’d think…

Back of last year I did my first TR plan to focus on a 40km TT. The plan nearly killed me. Just about coped given I was only doing one sport at the time. Got a nice result, happy man.
Starting back of last year my run to Roth was planned as: Mid vol half distance base, mid vol full base, mid vol full build, mid vol full speciality.

It all came unglued towards the end of the mid vol full base. The the tuesday VO2’s killed me, and I didn’t seem to be able to recover. Started missing / failing more workouts - I’d be touch and go to actually get to the end of most the ones with intensity, then I got ill, took me out for a solid week.
Couple of things have ‘saved’ me - mid vol, full distance build seems to have removed the Vo2 work, and work travel has left me spending a lot more time away from the turbo and hence improvising the best I can. To a certain extent that means reverting to what I know works - a bit of intensity, and a lot of not intensity. Fine, but maybe there’s more to be had…

Over this period Ramp tests have shown a steady, slow reduction of a handful of watts per test; Thing is, I don’t feel weaker, I feel like I’m ‘failing’ the ramp test. At about 330watts or so the legs just can’t go anymore. Breathing isn’t exactly relaxed, but it’s far from maximal. I could hold a (halting) conversation. So, after testing 252, the toys went out the pram, I went outside and smashed myself over a 20km course for a 30m average of 287 - taking the last 20mins that puts my FTP about 273. Pretty significant difference.

My thoughts in no particular order:

  • I should have seen it coming. My power for the 40kTT was 276AP/278NP, not long after that I ramped at 256. Somehow failed to wonder about that.
  • In the past I’ve seen good correlation between 95% of 20min and real world 60min. I should probably do a 20min test on the turbo… but ‘The best predictor of performance is performance its self’ - what I can actually do outside on the bike should be the anchor really…
  • Even at the ramp figure I was NOT finding it easy to complete workouts/stay with the intense parts of the plan. Maybe I’m just getting old, but TR seems to dig me too big a hole to recover and continue. Bit afraid of taking my outside FTP over to TR!
  • I suck at climbing, and turbos. Basically I don’t like generating high force/with a lot of inertia. Big gears spinning fast are much nicer.
  • I like short Supra threshold efforts - up to about 90sec. I suck at longer ones. I also think I’m pretty good at dieseling along at solid %ages of threshold for a long time - i.e. big aerobic engine (let’s face it, that’s what I train). It’s also what all my events demand - if I was doing different events I might worry about the gap in my armoury, but my need for big 3-5min power is rather minimal.

Question is, what to do with all of that… other than write off the ramp test as targeting my 2 biggest weaknesses :wink:

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A couple of things, from one diesel to another:

  • my understanding is that ramp tests are designed to predict max aerobic power, and from what I’ve seen the TR ramp is pretty good at setting a ceiling on 5-min vo2max power
  • TR uses 120% work intervals for vo2max, based on the assumption FTP is 78-85% vo2max power and more precisely 120% level is for someone with FTP at 83% vo2max power ( 1 / .83 = 120%)

So if you fall into the 78-85% bell curve, then vo2 work at 120% is challenging but not crushing.

  • its really easy for me to ‘detrain my vo2max’ and when I do its not uncommon for FTP to be 90% of vo2max (based on 5-min best power from ramp test, and FTP from sweet spot or TT effort)
  • When FTP is 90% vo2max, I’m an outlier from TR vo2 work interval assumptions and doing the same math as TR, my vo2 power for intervals should be 111% ( 1 / .9 )
  • 111% is achieved by reducing intensity down to 93% for vo2max workout that use 120% work intervals ( 111% = 120 * .93)
  • before understanding all the above, I independently confirmed setting intensity to 92% or 93% to be my max repeatable vo2 power when in a detrained state (FTP = .9 * vo2max)

If your FTP is close to 5-min vo2max power, then the default 120% VO2 work intervals will crush you and its time to dial down the intensity.

I’ve also “failed” some of my ramp tests, however I like doing the ramp test to assess 5-min power, and another test (or manually estimate) for FTP. That way I can keep track of my vo2 weakness relative to FTP. I’ve been able to raise vo2max such that FTP is 83-85% and when I do the ramp test is a good predictor of FTP. But sometimes even at 88% the ramp test gives a good estimate of FTP. Haven’t really figured out why some of them fail, but unlike you when I fail its because I can’t catch my breath (and not legs).

Another interesting post is from @stevemz over on this thread: Ramp test under achiever - #28 by stevemz

Hope that makes sense, and helps.


I typed a bunch of stuff…then deleted it. bbarrera above has hit all the relevant points.

For me the ramp test is probably ~5% low. My 20 minute and 1 hour tests have always been within the margin of error of each other and even on 3 hour rides my internal best efforts are easily higher than the ramp test per TR.

They’ve said it in a few different podcasts it’s just an estimate they’ve found to be, on average, fairly accurate for estimating your ability to complete the workouts.

I have a theory that I’m fairly fat adapted, so these short sharp efforts are hyper dependent on available fuel, whereas a long steady state allows my engine to smooth out the rough edges.

What I would never do…use their ramp test number to pace a 1 hour effort. It’s not a valid ftp number for me, I’d be fresh as a daisy at the end. :wink: I’m not specifically targeting things, I’m just having a laugh and giving TR a try so I’m willing to go along and work the vo2max angle. We’ll see how it goes.