Help! Why am I losing fitness right before my A races?

I’m in the last weeks of the XCM HV specialty plan with Tahoe Trail 100 in 2 weeks and Leadville in 6. Over the last three months I’ve plateaued and am now afraid I might be losing fitness. FTP on 3/12/19 was 289 (~4w/kg), and today (6/29/19) was 267. My Thursday night race results have gotten worse over the last 6 weeks also, where I went from contesting the podium in mid-May to way off the pace of the lead group in my class this week (late June). My average race power on the same course was about 30 watts lower, granted I lost some motivation to push after becoming unhitched so early.

Feel free to take a look at my profile. https://www.trainerroad.com/career/zurivelo/calendar

Some questions for anyone who might have the experience and want to lend some advice:

  1. Could it be indicative of fatigue from recent rides and not a true “loss of fitness”? I did set a power PR for 75-120 seconds on 6/27 right at the beginning of the race. Did I go out so hard to try to stay with the lead group that it broke me? It’s never felt that hard to stay with that group before. I also had a 2-hour power PR on 6/22.
  2. I had a huge weekend last weekend (almost 400 TSS in two days plus travel). Could this fatigue still be lingering by the following Thursday? Or six days later (today) when I did the ramp test?
  3. I traveled and slept poorly in the three nights leading up to the last race. Is that worth 30 watts over 50 minutes?
  4. When looking at my training consistency over the last 3 months, does it make sense that I’ve plateaued?
  5. What do I do now? I’m not sure if it’s just acute fatigue or symptomatic of overtraining, but need to get on track knowing that I race Tahoe in two weeks and Leadville in six. I guess my options are to either take time off with 14 days to go (how much?), just scale back (how much), or proceed as planned?

Thanks in advance for the analysis and advice.

If you’re in the last few weeks of your specialty plan, why are you ramp testing?

Don’t do it, trust the training, shed the fatigue before your A event and you’ll bounce back. I’m two weeks out from my A event and my power/paces are not where they were at the beginning, but with some easier time before the race, it comes back, and then some.

I hope you’re right. I did the ramp test because I was looking for something objective besides just race performance and felt like I had the legs for it. Was trying to judge how to move forward i.e plow into two consecutive days of 130+ tss or rest. I don’t think I have overtraining syndrome, but Joe Friel briefly discusses symptoms of what he calls Nonfunctional Overreaching in his Training Bible. It includes an obvious decline in performance, and cites that several days of rest are required to resume normal training. Again, I hope you’re right and that I can get back on track this week.

My two cents! and sounds like you know all this…

Training = Work + Rest

Over training early forms are hard to spot… only signs maybe slight decrease in performance?

Knee jerk reaction to this slight decrease is to train more… That’s when the spiral downwards starts…

Don’t go there, use the formula above, balance out the equation with some rest :slight_smile: How much, listen to your body and mind, looks to me like you’ve already worked this out and its just a case of experience of how to rest/recover, hopefully others may be able to offer their advice.

IMO the only thing you can do now that is likely to help your performance in two weeks is recovery. Attend to your recovery. Do less training than you think you should. Decide right now that on race day you are going to be fresh.

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Most of your training is for long duration muscle endurance whereas your recent races have been <60 minute intense short things.

Given your upcoming A races fit more closely with your training I wouldn’t change what plan you’re on - I’m just curious why you’d expect to do increasingly better at a 45-55 minute race when you have been training yourself for an all day event.

The build plan you were on leading into your early races in May looks like it had significantly more short sharp efforts than your recent training - thus better results on short sharp races

Didn’t really dig into your TSS history or anything - the over training concerns mentioned earlier could also apply. Take a step back from your weekly B and C races and weigh them against your A events - is it more important to you to do really well at the A priority events or to keep enjoying your B/C events? You may want to drop the weekly race series entirely if you’re fully in on your A event or you may want to adjust your training (dropping it down perhaps) to keep doing both

Op, this same thing has happened to me after I switched to XC Marathon racing this year. I’m doing some midweek XC races of 1 hour duration as intensity sessions and have really lost my top end in the shorter races.

Unfortunately various issues have occurred during my XCM which means I’ve not had a “clean” race and can’t see any improvement. I’m coached, so this is a concern that I’m wasting money. My last race this weekend included a taper and was supposed to be my A+ race. However, I had a sore thought and was coughing up green phlegm - no other symptoms - I had 2 punctures and it was the hilliest race and I’m not the worlds best climber - so my results were not a level playing field!

So, same as you - trust and rest is to go-to strategy.

So much good advice here and by others so thanks for the input. The weekly race season is over, so it’s complete focus now on the longer distances. And I think I will re-categorize TT100 as a B/C race as the real goal is LV100. TT is really meant to improve corral position, and having six weeks to peak rather than two is a mental relief.

This, and the comments by @trpnhntr are really interesting. Perhaps I’ve been underestimating the impact that “specializing” can have. What I saw was that I can still go hard (hence the 1-2 minute power PRs last week), but that recovering from that after cracking took way longer.

All this brings up a new set of questions. First, will a focus on long steady state efforts like we see in the XCM and Century plans make you worse at a ramp test like they will at race efforts that require longer times above threshold? If you have to hold 400 watts for a minute to get a 300 FTP, is that going to be harder to do if you spend very little time training above your threshold?

With this in mind, and believing that I pushed to my limit on the ramp test last week, should I keep the new FTP (267) or train with the old one (somewhere in the high 280’s)?

I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but my FTP is almost the same and I had EXACTLY the same issue - 281 down to 267 but I was tired when I performed the test. I continued to train at 281, mainly because at 267 everything felt a little too easy.

Again, same for me - I can hit all my numbers at even exceeded my peak sprint to 1298 this year.

it sure could, all depends how long you’ve been cycling and what your body is used to

there’s no calculation but yes, poor sleep = less watts, you’re tired

it sounds like, and i could be incorrect, that you’ve done a ton of sweet spot and just raced; is that accurate? You might be doing the same thing over and over which will 100% lead you to plateau.

Check out this blog I wrote: https://www.evoq.bike/blog/2019/2/19/how-to-overcome-a-cycling-plateau

Take 2-3 days off, then come back and hit it.

Do you have training peaks? It would be easier if we linked accounts and I can provide you with some more insight. Shoot me an email at heyobrendan@gmail.com if you connect here

Quick update and a question: Definitely feeling better after some rest. I did Pisgah yesterday (6 x 2mins at 125% FTP), and while tough at the end of the last few intervals, I got through it. This workout has an IF of 0.85 over an hour.

The question is this: Is this a sufficiently hard workout that, if you can complete it, confirms you’ve not understated your FTP? Or would you have to have an IF of 1.0 for an hour to make that conclusion? How does that math work?

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That’s your indicator and answers your question. An IF of 1 or above is you at your very, very maximum for the training period. These workouts are designed to push you hard in the appropriate zone but not leaving you curled up in a ball vomiting in the man cave.