Not Sure What Went Wrong--40 Watt Drop

Hi all,

54 year old cyclist here going on my fourth year of training. For reference, I’m 5’8", 168 lbs (173 cm/76kg) with about 20 years of experience mountain biking. Overall, TrainerRoad has been great for me. I’ve gone from a really low (off the couch) FTP of 148 to my recent PB of 264. Last year this time I was on MV, but dropped down to LV again after doing a little too much (in addition to cycling training, I was in the middle of a REALLY stressful cross-country move during the pandemic). Last fall (2020), I committed to consistency, following my LV plan and hitting all my marks. Things really worked out, as I climbed to 235, 246, then 250, and up to 264. I feel great, my bloodwork is outstanding, and I feel like I can go and go on the mountain bike. In fact, I can’t wait for races to get going again so I can try my fitness.

But here’s the rub… I just did another ramp test after suddenly failing several workouts in a row. Keep in mind that I’m on LV. Earlier this year I was on Short Power Build (which felt great!) and then went back to SSB II and now I’m on Sustained Power Build. (Aside, but I decided to try SPB to boost my VO2, which has always been a limiter.) I had a recovery week about 4 weeks ago. Coming out of the recovery week is when I started failing workouts. At first, I wasn’t too worried. I’d get about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through workouts like Williamson, but then failed Mills, Darwin, and Palisade in succession. Finally turned down my FTP by 3% and still was failing workouts. Then went down to 250 and still failed. During my ramp test today, I’d dropped to 225.

Now, I’m old enough to know that it’s just a number. But 39 watts? In the middle of a LV training block? What the heck?

Other factors: several life stressors, busy work times, and kids still struggling with the adjustments. We also got a puppy who has special needs and has cut into my sleep and caused quite a bit of stress. I know that cognitive load can be a real issue, but I’ve been concentrating on meditation, extra sleep, and eating really clean (and I’ve lost a few pounds to boot!) to help make up for the extra stress.

I’m just a little confounded. Although I know I’m getting a little longer in the tooth, I’ve honestly never felt or ridden better. I did an outdoor MTB ride this weekend and absolutely crushed several PRs and felt like I could have ridden all day.

So, should I just get over it and accept my 225 FTP and rebuild? Are there other factors I’m not considering (is my daily dog walk/stroll of 1.6 miles or so really causing so much extra stress)? I’ve incorporated recovery shakes and I’m eating a ton of protein. What am I missing?

Any help is appreciated.

Dave

Just remember… the FTP is a very volatile number.
If you struggled a few wo and decided to do a ramp test, more than likely it was going to result on a lower number.
If you do the test on a week you are feeling great, it will more than likely comeback with a higher number.

I would not use the new number in your case… maybe a few days of easy relaxing riding and then come back…

Not really? Now MAP is a volatile number, and FTP derived from MAP can be quite volatile

By definition Functional Threshold Power is not a static number. It can’t be.
Try to hold FTP a day after a hard of 10x3 minutes at 120% ftp. This day, the FTP will more than likely not be the same as the day before.

Point is, the FTP will only reflect the FTP of the day that you did the test.
A rested day more than likely, if you are following a plan.

TLDR: Comparing a test after failed workouts with lots of fatigue with one after a regular recovery week and lack of prior failures is not ideal.


Sounds like plenty of workout and life stress. Testing after a bunch of failures seems destined to return less than ideal results.

Assuming you tested your prior FTP after a recovery week, according to typical TR progression, I would recommend doing that again. Take a recovery week, err on the side of more rest than less, and then retest after that week of letting yourself recover. But only do that if you feel you are really on the good side of recovery.

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Are you saying on the second day semi-steady lactate threshold value with still be the same at a lower power? Because I don’t think that is true

If we can avoid another “FTP is this, not that” diversion… I think we can target the OP needs better.

I think we can all agree that performance from day to day will vary based on numerous factors. That may well be related to the OP’s testing and prior workout performance here.

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lactate threshold is not the same to FTP.

from a quick google search.

So, to recap: what is the difference between lactate threshold and functional threshold power? LT is the point at which lactate increases in the blood stream exponentially whereas FTP is the maximum effort an athlete can maintain for 1 hour without fatiguing.

since they are not the same, on the second day you will have a harder time sustaining the 1hr power at the level you could probably do the day before.

In any case…
OP, the lower FTP might be related to general fatigue based on your stress and other factors.
like @mcneese.chad said, maybe a recovery week and test again.

Just throwing this out there as a left-field cause - covid-19 drops blood oxygen and lowers FTP.

There’s a good chance statistically that some TrainerRoad users will at some point have or have had covid-19 while testing and noticed reduced FTP numbers as a result. Some minor, but some major.

Most likely just fatigue in your case of course, but worth putting out there!

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FTP is an estimate of your power at lactate threshold, it has never been defined as your day to day 1 hour power. The second day when you are fatigued you will likely not be able to reach the semi steady state lactate accumulation, doesn’t mean physiologically your ability to sustain power at that lactate threshold has changed. Otherwise if your definition of FTP was true you wouldn’t assign progressive workouts based on percentage of your previous “FTP” taking into account fatigue.

I dont think this is correct.
FTP is power you can sustain for 1hr.

You rarely do 1 hr non stop at ftp during training because fatigue. You do progression and let the body adapt and grow.

But like @mcneese.chad this is not the thread for this.

From Coggan himself

The physiological factors determining LT are complex, but in this context, blood lactate levels essentially serve as an indirect marker for biochemical events within exercising muscle. More specifically, a person’s LT reflects the ability of their muscles to match energy supply to energy demand, which in turn determines the fuel “mix” (carbohydrate vs. fat) used and the development of muscle fatigue. Consequently, LT, especially when expressed as a power output, which also takes into account cycling efficiency, is the single most important physiological determinant of performance in events ranging from as short as a 3 km pursuit to as long as a 3 week stage race. Just as importantly, because the metabolic strain experienced when exercising at a given intensity is dependent upon the power output relative to power at LT, this parameter provides a physiologically sound basis around which to design any power meter-based training program.

LT =/= FTP.

They are related, but not the same.

From the same page…

So, how do you go about determining your threshold power? Obviously, one way is via laboratory testing with invasive blood sampling, but few people have access to such testing on a regular basis. In addition, power at LT as determined in this manner is often significantly below what athletes and coaches tend to think of as a “threshold”.

A break?

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Yes because it is an estimate, and others have defined differently than coggan, just as Coggan never defined FTP as 1 hour power.

So circling back to the original point, physiologically your threshold has not changed much day to day. The ability to estimate your FTP with a test on a given day can cause you to have a different result giving you a poor estimate of your FTP, from factors such as motivation, fatigue, pacing, fueling etc. These are the things the OP should look into, but it is not because their FTP is actually fluctuating significantly day to day.

Fair. Ftp might be the same, ftp testing results (what I called the daily ftp) may vary. I think we were on an agreement from.the get go, just using different terminology…

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Did you change your trainer or power measuring device at all during your plan? Did you move it? Have you recalibrated it recently?

+1 to chad and that other dude who said to take a break, sometimes it happens.

I just had this happen too. had just come off of a few taxing but productive training blocks, took a recovery week (including a long weekend doing very easy cross country skiing with my wife) and everything seemed to go well, i got back to test and train again and something was clearly wrong. RHR was up, HRV was down, and mroe importantly, felt terrible, weak, leg pains. Weird right? I would have sworn i was sick, except i’d been isolating so . . . how could i be sick? Weirder still, why do the wheels fall off AFTER the rest week?? Makes no sense.

i took a couple of extra days off, then a few days doing yoga and easy rides by feel, then gingerly dipped the toe back into the training waters and the result is i feel awesome and am slamming PRs.

Sometimes fatigue takes a little while to catch up to you, and what you plan as the amount of rest and recovery you need, is not actually the amount of rest and recovery you need.

So it’s the balance. Be consistent, etc. but you also gotta listen to your body.

Final thought, i heard on a podcast recently Ned Overend saying that he does the same 8 week training blocks as he used to do back in his prime, just now they take him 12 weeks. He thinks of it as same training, just spread out over longer time. Definitely do whatever you need to do to be consistent.

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Thanks everyone for the thoughts. Answering a few questions:

I have not changed my trainer, moved it, or reconfigured. I’m currently using a dumb trainer with virtual power. Since this is the setup I’ve been working with for the past four years, it should be relatively consistent.

In advance of testing this week I did take much of last week off completely. I had a recovery week scheduled (per my training plan), but I did only the Tuesday workout. I did do a moderate 1.5 hour mountain bike ride on Sunday. I left a LOT in the tank. Felt great before, during, and after. Could have ridden another two or three hours easy.

Although I haven’t tested for Covid, I don’t think it’s likely that I contracted it. I did get a my first and second Pfizer shots over the past four weeks. In thinking this through, the shots DO coincide with the rapid decline. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, but the timeline does fit.

The really freaky part is that I rode really, REALLY well on Sunday. Not just PRs on downhills, but on uphills and traverses as well. The funny thing is that I wasn’t trying hard at all. So, perhaps I’m fitter than I think? Or perhaps I just had a good day? Hard to say, but it’s another interesting piece of anecdotal information.

I do have to say that after my ramp test today, I did Baird -3 at 225. It pushed me pretty hard, but felt about right. So maybe I really have experienced a drop and I just need to accept that this is part of the natural up/down of training?