Workouts you nearly fail are the most important

Coming to end of a long training and racing year which included a 6m TR plan, the Haute Route Pyrenees/Alps double and most recently qualifying for the 2020 UCI Gran Fondo World Champs amongst lots of other racing Im using the rolling road race specialty plan to try and keep fitness peaking for one last event- a three day, four stage race next week. Ive experienced great gains in FTP and performance through TR this year which Im very happy about.
Today however I had an unexpected breakthrough in my thinking about how I view a workout thats too hard to complete without some backpedalling. I lined up to do Diamond - 1 hour, IF .91. Two minutes in I was desperate to stop and about 5 mins in did actually stop but then I started again just trying to last another 5 minutes. Eventually with several 10 second backpedalling episodes I got through it. Ive always viewed these scrappy looking charts as a negative but now I understand these are perhaps the best and most important ones. If you can find a way through surely thats where improvement will occur.


Sadly, some people are unable to rebound stronger from digging so deep. H+ is a bitch too.

1 Like

I feel the same way. Dig deep and you rebound stronger. It might require some shifting workloads, but it almost always works out, for me. Sometimes it’s mental toughness, and sometimes it’s muscular endurance.

Then again, talk to me after Saturday, where I hit a 4x30 @ 94%. I’m really not looking forward to that. I can’t express how much I am loathing the thought of it. I may, and most likely, will fail.


@Dsofield I couldn’t agree more.

San Joaquin +3 had me on my knees earlier this year and I love that type of workout. I had to skip two intervals due to back peddling. They were the first back pedals I’d ever had to do in two years of TR.

I finished the session, just, but as I got off the trainer I smiled to myself as it occurred to me that I’d just learnt an important lesson. These experiences help focus your mind and your training.


Easy to say, but for me when it get’s hard or I don’t think I can finish I just remind myself this is the point in the session where the “magic” happens and try to smile.


I watched the Vegan Cyclist’s video on Motivation vs determination and that is really inspiring when it comes to this

This is exactly it. It’s the same mentality no matter the sport.

I’ve failed workouts before. But not because I was unmotivated. But because I literally couldn’t turn the pedals. Because I’m near blacking out.

That’s why it helps to have a program to go with. So that you know what you’re doing when and excuses be damned you will follow it.

Motivation sucks. Discipline and eyes on the goal.


I worry that this is where I fail …

Most recently (yesterday evening) I managed 2 intervals out of the expected 4 from ‘Palisade-1’ and felt wasted, I entered the 3rd interval and only lasted 3 minutes out of the full 9 before bailing.

Ok - I was pretty tired after a very long / stressful day at work but is this a common thing? I generally feel like I’ve nailed the correct FTP level after some trial and error, but finishing the harder intervals only seems to happen when I’m feeling ‘on it’ and fresh, if I’m tired then I struggle to persevere. - I’m a bit worried I may be in the lower percentile when it comes to ability to press on and ‘endure’.

Anyone have any good tips about how to develop that mental fortitude - other than just sticking at it?

You’ve come to the right place! There’s already a few TR threads about the ‘mental game’ etc, you just have to use the search thingy. :+1:

Good luck!

Thanks :blush:

I guess it’s a personal thing but what helps for me;

  • I just focus on the next interval / peak / 2 mins. Not the full 9mins in the case of Palisade (or the following number)
  • When it gets difficult, I smile and remind myself this is the reason I am doing this (nobody got very fit riding easy)
  • I have big race July 20, every minute of suffering now will pay off come July next yr :wink:

Using these I have finished workouts I thought I coulnd’t at the start.Just find what helps for you. I believe that every small mental battle you win makes you slightly stronger for the next time.


What is the Palisade “fail threshold”? Intensity reduction by 5%? 10%? 25%?

During my first TR season I did Palisade and was able to complete last interval well above target power. During most recent attempt at Palisade, after a number of FTP improvements based on Ramp Test, I had to dial down intensity. When I compared avg watts of the two Palisade attempts I noticed a 1 watt improvement. So did my FTP actually improve?

I am guessing yes because I am now earlier in the training cycle and haven’t gotten into the groove yet, but I am trying to avoid the temptation to reduce FTP to the point where I don’t need to dial down intensity because, as mentioned above, the workouts that force some corrective behavior during the last interval are probably most productive.

Agreed. Having a target event and even better a specific section of an event to aim for makes the mental aspect easier. For me this year it was the Haute Route Alps and in particular the hilltop finish on Alpe D’huez that I thought about when I was in my worst moments on the trainer. On the day that all came back to me and was a huge boost. So it works both ways - the goal helps the training and the training - mental and physical - gets you to your best on the day.


All the above, sorry to say. Over-Unders are a very specific workout, you need to hit the 105% (aka go above your FTP) for the magic to happen. Deviating from the intensity turns the workout into just another Threshold ride.

O/U are notoriously difficult for a reason, but they are also highly effective. Instead of reducing intensity, try reducing duration. Swap for something like Mount Wood or Mono -2; build up to a full Palisade workout with your higher FTP.

Good luck!

1 Like

I would argue too that if your ftp setting is any bit high, the unders arent low enough… if you cant recover then hitting the over gets harder too and you get stuck in a downward spiral.

To add to the op… failing one in a while can be good to find what that limit is, but in general you will get more work done staying under that limit and completing a workout at a lower power target. Duration of intensity is a big driver of further improvements unless we’re talking about pure anaerobic work capacity.


I think failing workouts is important because it exposes weaknesses to work on.

Gutting through a workout is important psychologically.

Physiological benefit in such a case is questionable. It’s certainly better than jumping off the bike, but if something in particular is holding you back, it’s going to take more than one workout to fix.

That’s a really helpful pointer - thanks

1 Like

Those combination workouts in the RR plan are absolutely brutal. I had more trouble with them then any other workouts in build or specialty, coming from someone who loves stuff like Spanish Needle or Tour de Nez/Nevada crit simulations.

Huge mental benefits in practicing the working through the pain you will feel in races.

Rolling or Climbing?

Oops, Rolling. So should be RRR I guess.

1 Like