My bike fit was done Jan 2023 and Aug 2021.
A lot of heartache, travel to bikefitters and money has been channelled in that direction already and I’m not really sure I want to do this ultra enough to start again.
Sound like you are in Au?
It is almost cheaper to just try a different saddle. After futzing around with fitters, I just got a Sella Anotomica to try and compare with my brooks. It was literally cheaper than air travel and cancelled session.
At some point the PITA can become a pain in the neck, and the hours drag on. (Or they used to when I did long efforts.) You may need a more upright position, and higher shorter stem for the hands. That rotates the hips, so that changes…
Easier on the neck, but worse for head winds.
I can’t imagine you really need to do 5 hours of z2.
I’ve competed successfully in 24 hour and 12 hour races and I only did the occasional 5-6 hour ride, (on my mtb) which was more like your bikepacking rides you mention, and I would ride these in mixed zones.
Otherwise I would have died of boredom ,and discomfort long before 5 hours
I would chuck your coach , and look for someone who is willing to work With and For YOU, not just satisfy their own opinions.
how did it go?
You haven’t painted a full picture of your training, however I’ll simply say that my coach focused on improving consistency and only cared about power on long rides if it impacted my ability to consistently ride 4-5 days a week. And I incrementally increased hours year over year, ending up just slightly under 8 hours/week average for 2022. And over 3 years my fitness increased beyond more structured approaches, and put me almost at same level as when I trained crazy hard and finished a double century / 321km event at .67 IF. FWIW this is the loose training outline I followed for the double century:
For me that basically translated to:
- go long. Build your base and do increasingly longer tempo rides, up to 3 hours
- go short & fast. Build by doing speed work (zone6) and long 40-70 minute time trials
- go long & fast. Ride fast metric and imperial centuries (100km 160km) for specificity
I’d want to understand my coaches game plan.
Hope that helps and good luck!
How do you define long tempo rides? An IF of .75 - .85? I could easily do that but I could not do 3 hours at an average power of 80% of FTP. (At least i don’t think I could or if I did, I’d have dead legs for a week.)
.76 to .9
Average power or IF?
Fries or baked potato?
ok, back then I was using Coggan’s 0.85-0.95 IF definition for tempo rides (includes interval workouts and longer road races). So here is a chart of when I was doing those workouts:
- White circles are less than 0.85 IF, those are “endurance”
- Blue squares are >=0.85 IF and between 1-2 hours
- Orange triangles are >=0.85 IF and 2-3 hours
- Purple triangles are pretty rare and 3+ hours at 0.85 or higher
- Red circles are >0.85 IF and less than 60 minutes (a lot around 20 minutes)
A lot of 2 a days back then, the ~20 minute morning commutes were mostly at high IF of 0.95-1.05 (in red).
Here’s a bread & butter blue square longer tempo workout from Dec 21st:
on the first chart green is 0-75% FTP, yellow is tempo at 76-90% FTP, orange is threshold at 90-105% FTP, etc. Classic Coggan power levels/zones without sweet spot.
I rode solo, but stopped late in the ride for 10 minutes to talk with the Wed night ride crew that leaves around sunset.
Well, my long Z2 ride was still mind-numbingly boring, and my hands still went numb, but the bum was significantly less painful thanks to using a lower cadence. One fact I forgot to mention in my OP was that I live in a really hilly, no, mountainous area, (the Jura, France) so perhaps some of my discomfort is due to trying to stay in Z2 on 6-10% gradients. Sunday’s ride was 88k with 1800m+. And it took maybe 50% longer than it would have done previously had I ridden at “my” pace - so the ego has taken a fair old knock as well.
For those suggesting a change in position (raise handlebars), I have tried this over the years but always had a kind of crampy muscular lower back pain - I feel much more comfortable with them lower. My fitters have confirmed this is better as it prevents the lower vertebrae “stacking” and allows the spine to be suspended more horizontally. I am 160cm, female, short arms and legs, and every bike I buy has to have the stem slammed and shortened to 60mm. Both fitters I went to fitted me for “ultra” riding so I’m confident my position isn’t to blame.
Re my coach, I’m interested to hear others’ training approaches other than strict Z2. Mine has me doing 2-3 interval sessions per week with a mix of VO2, tempo, sprints, and then a long ride at the weekend in Z2. So there is variety. I commute daily as well and have been told to keep them Z2 as well so there is a fair amount of easy volume.
Had similar problems, slow rides get discomfort in the neck as i’m just sitting more upright generally, get the odd saddle sore.
This year switched to a different set of plans which prescribe endurance miles to be both zone 2 and 3. Was hesitant at first but for sure made my weekend rides much more enjoyable, more comfortable. Bit of scope to tempo when needed and ease off and zone 2 other times. I mean, how am I supposed to do zone 2 up a hill ? Without having silly gearing. Makes no sense.
The gearing needed to get most mortals up a hill in Z2 is not silly, when you consider Pros with 6w/kg are using the same gearing, it makes perfect sense.
I don’t have a pro level zone 2 wattage or body weight unfortunately
So yes I need more than zone 2 to get up some hills with a reasonable form.
The op was asking about training approaches other than strict zone 2 so just pointing out something that works for me.
I’m not 100% confident in your bike fitters. Hands going numb usually means too much weight on the hands.
Or overgripping or not varying hand position… can be a few things.
This seems like we have Z2 based on FTP that’s poorly set and we’re being a little too dogmatic about riding in those zones set by FTP (hard and fast 60-70% of FTP).
I also question the description of the training where there are 2 to 3 interval sessions per week with VO2, tempo, and sprints. Seems kind of like we’re just throwing stuff at the wall rather than training to either establish a base or prepare for an event.
Zone 2 is boring? Well, not much anyone can do about that except to tell you to find ways to just enjoy being out on the bike. I find when I ride more by RPE and worry less about power I take in my surroundings and really enjoy my saddle time (until the 5th hour where I start getting a little tired, ha!). The question I’d have is if you don’t enjoy being out on the bike just riding long hours, why are we biting off a 500K ride as a goal event? Are you doing it because it’s something you want to do or because it’s something you think will impress other people, etc?
Well personally I think you should “just ride”, or maybe you could say “ride at endurance pace”. In my pretty unqualified opinion, the body self-selects the most efficient power for endurance (maybe coincide with fat max), as long as you are experienced enough in long rides (over 4 hours), and don’t force it to be at a certain power. All adaptations happen on a continuum, so where exactly you are in that zone isn’t that important. (It seems to get more complicated when you go above FTP, but we’re talking below it). In general more power and longer rides will create more stimulus to adapt, but the limiter is fatigue. You need to ride at a pace that doesn’t create too much fatigue. “Too much” can mean not being ready for the next session, or not coping with life outside training. The difficulty here is to be honest with yourself and not just push on. Fatigue can also creep up on you, so its important to spot “going too hard” early. (This is where some of the training metrics can help).
If you do go by zones, the zones are averages - the occasional spike above or below doesn’t matter. (Within reason I’d think, blasting every climb at vo2max and descending at 0 W might average to z2, but isn’t quite the same).
You live in a really beautiful area,so I don’t quite get why the endurance rides are boring. I would maybe rephrase them - instead of thinking "I need to ride 5h at xx W), I’d plan a route based on some sort of destination - I want to ride over that pass, want to visit that cafe, etc. And then just ride thereand back, without worrying about the exact power too much.
my coach used 66-79% ftp for my endurance riding, and not strict. The key points of endurance riding were:
- increase the average number of hours/week from year to year
- he worked with me to find a challenging intensity while balancing against consistently doing 5 workouts/week
- not so much intensity that it interfered with high-intensity workouts
For context, last year I averaged just under 8 hours/week for the entire year. A lot of my endurance rides were 2-3 hours and the shorter ones ended up .69 to .74 IF, and usually a negative split (start lower, gradually increase intensity as I warmed up).
Just a thought on the hands - have you tried swapping handlebars out? Get a couple of cheap pairs of bars that are different than what you normally ride? Try a classic, deeper drop bar. Or try and flared, more gravel type bar. Or try an aero bar. Maybe try something one size larger or one size smaller.
Also, it’s also good to try adjusting the hoods on your shifters. Put on a new bar, leave the bar tape off, and ride around a bit. Maybe rotate the shifter hoods in just a bit, or rotate them out a bit.
Also, I find padded bar tape and padded gloves help with long rides. As does getting out of the saddle and switching my hand position a lot. If you’re locked in to just holding the top of the bar for hours on end without switching your hand position, or standing up, or shifting your weight, that could be contributing to the hand pain.
Unfortunately, my solution won’t work for you but maybe others. I live in a flat area with some rolling hills, so I can get away with riding my fixed gear for endurance rides and not deviate from my preferred intensity too often.
Psychologically this allows me to take myself less seriously—I’m on a fixie. Yeah, it’s nice with deep rims and I’m in my road kit, but especially if I throw my flat bar on there; I’m just a bloke on a bike enjoying the ride at any speed.
On my road bike, I feel super pro averaging slow speeds while spinning away. It’s part of the challenge to keep my average speed down and wave/say hello to all the cyclists who are huffing and puffing past me in a seemingly awkward, grinding way.
Lastly, to reiterate what others have said, my endurance rides have gotten much nicer after riding more to feel than to power. I want to ride hard enough for adaptation but easy enough to feel fresh for the day and ready to have more watts for my hard days so the hard days don’t just feel hard, I’m actually producing 5-10% more watts and getting more adaptations because I’m not drained.