Introduction

Back in October I was looking around the internet for a training plan that would meet my needs, not only in the lead up to the end of the year but also for something I could use for next year to achieve my cycling goals. I’d often heard the TCTP referred to on various cycling forums so I purchased the kindle version from Amazon and gave it a good read through, I quickly realised this would fit my schedule as a time crunched cyclist.

Working, being a parent and family man takes priority but I have ambitions of maximising what ability I have on the bike, after all I’m approaching 40 now so I’d estimate I only have around 5-6 years (hopefully more) before improvements begin to plateau so the time to buckle down is now. A plan that focuses on intensity rather than endurance fits the time I have available so on the 30th October I completed the initial test to setup my training zones for the TCTP.

Initial test results

On the initial test after an intense warm up I had to do 2 x 8 minute intervals, the highest power output would be used to set my training levels. As you can see from the first picture, my power outputs were 270W and 268W for the second. At the time I thought these were a little low as 268W was the power output I had achieved doing a 20 minute FTP test a month or so earlier. But it’s quite possible I could have declined in the meantime so I took the test at face value. In the last week I have been speaking with a coach who is going to design a training plan for me, the plan also needs an initial test so yesterday morning I followed the instructions and did the test for that.

Results

I began the test with a certain amount of intrepidation, I really hoped that the last 8 or so weeks of doing the TCTP had paid off, I felt pretty good and having spent most of the last weeks on the turbo trainer I had become used it, just as well as this plan called for a 15 minute interval instead of 8. As I approached minute 8, I was averaging 291W, that was 21W higher than I had achieved on the 8 minute test and I hadn’t gone all out as the current test still had 7 more minutes to go.

It would be my conservative estimate that I would have been somewhere around 305-310W if I had gone all out for 8 minutes, an increase of over 30W. To gain 30W within 8 weeks is fantastic and it was this feeling that pushed me on to complete the 15 minute test, I achieved a figure of 295W overall. Normally an FTP test would be 20 minutes, I can confidently say that I would have held at least 290W if I’d gone for the full 20, meaning my new FTP is now set at 275W, up 20W from 255W at the start of the plan.

Conclusions

Whilst it would have been nice to do the initial test again for a direct comparison, the gains from yesterday’s test say it all, this plan works. I tailored the sessions on the TCTP further to cut out some of the softer pedalling, the book indicated that if time was short then to make sure the key part of the session, namely the intervals were completed so that’s what I did.

I did make a mess on a couple of the sessions, my own fault for not reading the instructions correctly, but I’d say I completed 75-80% of the plan:

The plan was beneficial in a number of ways, it increased my power, it made me actually enjoy using the turbo trainer, it has improved my mental strength and the ability to eek out that extra 1-2% to hit the intervals. Whilst I have now begun working with a coach I’d have absolutely no qualms about using the TCTP next year, I’d move up to the experienced competitor level and make use of the gains I’ve made and the experience of the workouts themselves.

Most cyclists are time crunched, we’d all love to be out riding every day, but sadly that’s just not possible, so what do you do? Mess around doing the odd turbo session “to keep the legs turning over” in the hope this will magically propel you up those climbs, my advice would be to have a go at the TCTP. You can do 2 sessions in the week compressed down to around an hour and then more at the weekends when your time is not so crunched. If you hit those intervals hard, then I’m sure you’ll see the gains, I have.

Thanks for reading this blog, the comments and feedback have been really helpful, all the best.

Weekly recap

Having ended last week on somewhat of a high I was looking forward to this week, with the plan to do back to back sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, these would be my final 2 sessions on the TCTP. Sadly it’s not quite happened, last night I had a few twinges in my back, probably caused by poor sleep due to my 1 year old thinking 1am is now wake up time, but with today being Christmas eve and a lunchtime finish I’ve decided to go out on the bike for a couple of hours instead. I’m not sure if the training benefit will be the same as some more of those peak and fade power intervals but sometimes you just fancy heading out and doing a few hills!

Santa Ride

On Sunday it was a break from training as I took part in the annual club Santa ride, although very windy and with significant aero drag caused by wearing a Santa suit I just sat on the front of our 10 man group for most of the 30 miles. I really enjoyed this ride, it was good to catch up with my club mates as I haven’t had chance to do many club rides this year, hoping that will change for 2015. The only real effort I put in was on Carr Lane which was the venue for our club hill climb back in October, with a few miles in my legs and overheating due to the santa suit I huffed and puffed my way up the climb behind my club mate Joel Candy. Obviously riding pretty strong he gave it a final push at the end, I didn’t have much left and reached the summit a few seconds behind. The experience was somewhat different to back in October when I was a minute quicker.

Planning a retest

After completing today’s ride, I’ll take two days off (Christmas Day and Boxing Day) and let that be the end of the Time Crunched Training Plan in terms of training. What I want to do however is repeat the initial test I did to see how many watts I’ve managed to add in the last 8 weeks. The figure to beat for those 8 minute efforts will be 271W, I’ll update the blog with how that goes and provide an overall summary of the last 8 weeks. Having the two day’s rest should leave my legs in good shape and chomping at the bit to turn myself inside out during the test, I think if I can gain around 5% which would be about 14W I’d be pretty happy with that, I’ll certainly be aiming for nearer 10% though!

Merry Christmas

Push, push push…..

So after the debacle earlier in the week I refocused my brain and set about completing the Peak and Fade Power Interval (PFPI) session. This time there would be no quitting, no giving up, just an all out effort to get the job done.

As mentioned before, all out efforts on the turbo are not my forte, hill reps outside I’m game but on the turbo I sometimes just don’t have it in my locker to get them done but with the 8 week plan nearing the end and not wanting to lose face I was totally in the zone on Friday to complete the hardest workout of the TCTP so far.

The workout

Begin with a warm up, now previously I’ve just stayed at wattage of around 120 to loosen my legs up, but having spotted the warm of a club mate called Micheal Dodson I noticed that while not doing this plan he put in a few sharp efforts to ready his legs for harder work to come. So this is what I did, spun my legs easy for a few minutes then added in a few efforts to bring my heart rate up, it seemed to work. The rest of the session would be as follows, 2 min interval x 3 x 3 sets with 2 minutes rest between intervals and 6 minutes rest between sets.

Set 1

Hit the lap button and then bang, unload everything I have into the pedals and hang on until 2 minutes was over, end result 371W, not bad, about what I expected. Two minutes is not much time to recover after an all out effort but recover I did before launching into the 2nd interval, obviously much harder but I managed 334W, recover again before hitting an average of 314W in the final interval of the set before beginning the 6 minutes recovery.

Set 2

The second set had lots of negative thoughts entering my mind about wanting to quit (my legs were on fire), but I just told myself two things, one it was only 2 minutes effort at a time and two, my club mates would not be quitting if they were doing it! This worked and after completing the second set I did, 327W, 307W and 313W, all still above the 300W minimum.

Set 3

The final set whilst harder on the legs was easier to motivate myself for, after all, in only 15 minutes it would be over. I needed all of the 6 minutes to spin the lactic acid out my legs and then I cracked on with the final set. Wattage figures were a bit lower but 318W, 314W and 305W were still above that crucial 300W mark, good enough.

Summary

Having come off the turbo on Wednesday a bit dejected, I was really pleased with this workout, there are more of these to come with even short recoveries, so I’ll really have to dig deep then.

It did not go well…

Although initially planning to do back to back sessions this week I took a rest on Tuesday as my legs were still feeling the effects of the over / under session I did on Monday, I figured that a workout requiring all out efforts might benefit from the day off. My concern was I knew I would have to start my workout quite a bit later than normal and in the past this has not always been the most productive. But at 8.15pm I climbed aboard my bike and began my 10 minute warm up, focussed on what I needed to do.

The workout – “Peak and Fade Power Intervals” (PFPI)

Unlike the SEPI workouts where you bring the power up, the PFPI’s demand an all-out effort from the get go, naturally the power will drop off (fade) after around 45 seconds but this is fine, essentially you just try to achieve the highest power output you can over the 2 minute interval. The plan called for 3 sets, 3 intervals per set, 2 minutes recovery between intervals and 6 minutes recovery per set, this would be the hardest workout of the TCTP so far.

In the past before starting the Time Crunched Training Plan I have always had problems with maximum efforts on the turbo but I don’t recall having these thoughts in my mind as I Iaunched into the first PFPI, however those thoughts soon came flooding back after about 30 seconds. Having hit the lap button to signal the start of the interval I quickly moved through the gears as I gave it my absolute maximum, my legs spinning like crazy up to 128RPM, I glanced at my Garmin and the numbers did not look encouraging as my legs began to fade under the volume of lactic acid being produced. At the end of 2 minutes I hit the lap button which showed an average power of 376W, which is a lot lower than I have done on the road but as I have mentioned before, my turbo trainer power is always some way below.

I was pretty demoralised and thought that there was no way I could manage another effort trying to hit 400W so I pretty much aborted the workout.

ALWAYS READ THE LABEL!!

Having read back through the plan again today it appears I made a rather large mistake in my thinking and it was no wonder I felt like giving up. I was aiming for something like 400W (I have no idea why!!!) for EVERY ONE of the 2 minute intervals when in reality I only needed to ensure it was 10% over my field test power of 271W (the same target as the SEPI workouts), therefore 300W would be fine. So although fatigued after that first 376W interval (Not surprising as it was 40% above field test power), I’m pretty sure I could have hit over 300W for the last 2 of the set before the longer recovery. I also think that for this workout I’d benefit from doing a couple of efforts in my warm up, I may add those in.

Although feeling a bit of an idiot today, my confidence has returned and I feel motivated for the next two PFPI sessions. A wasted evening, but a learning curve all the same and to be honest that is what this plan is about, to make mistakes now and not next year when I have specific targets in mind.

Renovations (almost) complete

Having had a few renovations done to my turbo room it was time to leave the comfort of the kitchen and get back out there for the latest session of the TCTP. Last night having again shuffled things around I planned in the over / under session I had skipped at the weekend, more on the that later. First thing to add was the massive improvement that having the false ceiling removed from my turbo room made, no crouching down, fan now blowing in my face it was so much better.

Previously at the end of a turbo session I would be pouring with sweat and the floor would be strewn with paper towels, last night I used none. The cooling of the fan which was now perfectly placed, aligned to the fact there was more room for air to circulate meant that my performance on the bike wasn’t compromised. Admittedly, despite all that, the thought of leaving the warmth of the house to actually begin the session still wasn’t pleasant but having the plan in place really pushes you to get out the door and get going, I’m always glad I did.

The session

With 3 sets of over under’s to complete I did my usual warm up before beginning the first 2 minute under interval. With specified power ranges to hit I pushed on through the first set alternating between under and over wattages before taking the permitted 8 minute recovery.

After the 8 minute recovery I initially found it hard getting in to a rhythm but I soon found my legs and ploughed on through the second set. 261, 259 and 262 were the wattages on the over part which were pretty much in the middle of the 255W-268W range.

As I commenced the third set I again found it troublesome getting into the right range and this can be seen by the difference in the graph, but my legs were still good and without the usual sweat and heat hampering me I got through the first 2 over intervals before dropping back slightly to under pace. The changes in pace are tough but you can really relate this to being out on the road, indeed I was visualising times where I could have used this in the past with success. For the final over part I thought I’d really push to the end, 268W was the higher end of my range but I actually recorded 275W, I could have gone harder so clearly my legs are getting stronger.

Garmin Connect Summary

Lap Summary

Garmin Connect Graphs

Summary

Really enjoyed that workout and I can really feel an improvement in my fitness, my legs ache a little today, I am hoping this subsides as the day goes on as I would like to do the Peak and Fade intervals tonight, I may defer those until Wednesday if not feeling too fresh.

Wednesday

Having juggled things around a little Wednesday called for some more of those tasty SEPI intervals. This time instead of a longer rest between the first and second set it was a 5 consecutive intervals. 3 minute interval followed by 3 minutes rest, so again I aimed for a 300W minimum. The 300W being 10% higher than lower end of my power interval range.

The Results

As I began the first interval I felt strong, a good sign considering I’d got four more to do after this, I brought up the power steadily aiming for around 275W for the first 45s before pushing on hard to achieve the minimum of 300W. As the sweat began to pour off me (still in the kitchen as the turbo room not ready) I achieved 312W which backed up how good I was feeling. I backed off for 3 minutes to recover and then began interval 2, 308W was the power figure I achieved here, I followed that with 307W, 305W and then the final one I hit 303W which I had to dig pretty deep as my legs and lungs began to fade.

I think the zone summary above tells its own tale, a really good session.

Friday – Road Miles

As I was on annual leave I decided to have a quick spin before it got dark, after doing a couple of miles (and realising I had forgot my lights) I thought I’d really dig in and go pretty hard for 20 minutes on the relatively flat road to Belper.

Garmin Connect Data

The 20 minute average power figure above was only fractionally below my current FTP of 255W, however I do feel that a retest once this plan is finished will show an increase from where it currently stands.

I’m not sure I have ever seen quite an equal split between the power outputs before, this resulted from pushing hard on the flat and then having a good effort up a long climb back towards home where I set a PB despite having slightly fatigued legs from the efforts before. With better weather and a lot less layers on I’ll surely smash that time again.

Saturday

I had planned to do the Peak and Fade intervals here but decided that because the turbo room wasn’t setup and my partner was throwing a baby shower I’d nip off for another hour or so on the road. The roads were pretty icy so I just decided to take it nice and steady.

The week ahead

Tonight (Sunday) I’m going to get the turbo room setup and get back on plan. I have tomorrow morning free so will attempt the over under session I missed this week and then on Tuesday I’ll do my first Peak and Fade session.

TCTP – The Week Begins

Posted: December 9, 2014 in cycling
Tags: , , ,

A solid start

So after the weekends inactivity it was good to get back on the turbo and start the week in positive fashion. With the turbo room under renovation I decamped to the kitchen to tackle the latest instalment of the TCTP. On the menu last night was an Over / Under session which is a good test and a workout I’m beginning to really enjoy. Of course enjoy is never the right vernacular when pushing hard on the turbo.

The session

After 10 minutes warm up which flew by in the comfort of the kitchen, I hit the lap button and started 3 minutes at Steady State (SS) pace (231W-242W) before upping the effort for 2 minutes at climbing interval (CI) pace (255W-268W). This certainly got my heart pumping and my head sweating before I dropped the effort back down to SS pace for 3 more minutes and then with a press of the lap button I buckled down for 2 more minutes at (CI) pace to complete the first set of Under/Overs.

I felt pretty strong and with the fan on full blast to combat the increased temperature I began the 2nd set. The number will show I hit 262W for both of the Over intervals which is bang in the middle of the CI range, happy with that.

Video

As you can see from the clip below I’m working pretty hard!

For set 3 I had it in my mind to really push on for the over parts and I managed to hit 263W and then finished off really strong with 266W as can be seen in the laps below.

Garmin Connect Summary

Summary
So all in all a good session again, back on track and looking forward to the weeks training. Hopefully the turbo room will be done this evening and I can get everything setup again to make life easier. Oh and did I mention the TT bike has arrived, more on that soon.

Weekend review – No Training!

With the run up to Christmas I think there was always going to be a weekend like this, with training scheduled in for Saturday and Sunday I unfortunately had no time for either session. The endurance miles probably not too great of a loss but I had intended to follow up the 2 good intervals sessions I’d done earlier in the week with the Over / Under session on either the Saturday or the Sunday. Sadly it just didn’t happen, with an overnight stay on Saturday for our family Christmas party there was zero time for anything and on Sunday I had a quite a lot to do, clearing the shed and getting the Christmas tree out etc. This didn’t take up all my time but combined with the fact my turbo room is being renovated everything was in disarray. When 6.30pm arrived I really didn’t fancy going out outside to get my turbo trainer and set things in the kitchen, I just had to give it a miss. Riding outdoors not really an option due to high winds and rain, not that I even considered this, it was always going to be a case of turbo or nothing.

Week 6 of 8 – The week ahead

Probably easier to put this down in table form so here it is. There is an element of catch up rather than simply moving on, I feel that is the best way as I am still able to hit the sessions without having to exceed any more than 2 consecutive days. Things will be a little disruptive as my turbo room will potentially be inaccessible so will be relocating to the kitchen, hopefully the noise from the Tacx Flow won’t be too bad.

Coming up in week 7

Whilst not wishing to look too far ahead I should hit the ground running for week 7 as I have the Monday off, this will allow me to either get some road miles in or give flexibility for when I do my workouts that week. At the very least I’ll be able to organise the rest of my life so my training won’t suffer in the run up to Christmas.

Setting the scene

Last night called for a repeat of the previous night’s intervals but with a slightly longer recovery time between the first set, 8 minutes instead of 6. I actually started the session pretty late, perhaps in the past if the time has gotten to nearly 8pm I’d have just left it for another day, but I felt good, no doubt in part because I had eaten a lot better yesterday and having the added motivation of unlike last night hitting the session brief 100%. I also decided that tonight I would have the Rocky 4 soundtrack on again.

Set 1

Having done the obligatory warm up I launched into the 1st interval, again I built up the power before giving it everything until the 3 minutes were up. I felt really strong, much better than last night and that showed in the power output, 313W which is the highest I’ve recorded so far on these type of intervals. It did cross my mind I may have gone too hard and would suffer later on, I would find out later this wasn’t the case. After recovering it was time for interval number 2 and with images of Rocky Balboa scrambling around in the snow I smashed out another interval above my absolute minimum target of 300W, this time 309W. Interval 3 showed no let-up in power and again my trusty Garmin Edge 500 showed 309W as I began the well-earned 8 minute recovery in readiness for the 2nd set.

Set 2

Buoyed by the numbers from the first set I pushed my way through interval 1, the recovery helped but I wasn’t feeling quite so strong this time but still managed an average of 307W for the 3 minutes. During the 2nd interval I was heading for a similar number but after around 2 minutes I just went a little too hard and momentarily lost momentum but I pulled myself together and achieved a 304W average. Recovery done and time to give it absolutely everything for the final 3 minutes, I have to say that the Rocky soundtrack really helped here as I gurned and grimaced my way to the end and an average of 307W.

I thought it would be useful to compare these efforts to the previous week, as you can see, even though I purposely aimed for a modest target of 280W for the first 3 intervals last week despite the much higher wattage produced in the first set the final 2 efforts were still quite a bit higher. This is a real positive and shows I’m making improvements already, better pacing, better technique and probably most notably greater mental strength. Another point to add is that my recoveries between intervals last night were lower, I’m sure this also helped me to achieve the intervals at a higher power which is the objective.

Garmin Connect Summary

The Weekend Sessions

Saturday calls for some more over / under intervals, Sunday a bit more sedate “Group ride or Endurance Miles”. Saturday could be a bit tricky to get time on the bike so I may switch that to Sunday and miss out the endurance miles, hopefully I’ll manage both.

Back to the intervals

Back on the agenda for last night were the Steady Effort Power Intervals (SEPI) but this time with a slightly shorter recovery after the first set, 6 minutes instead of 8. This session was actually scheduled in for Tuesday night but my legs felt a little achy from Sunday’s ride so I decided to give myself an extra day of recovery. The last couple of day’s (thanks to my little boy thinking 4am is an acceptable wake up time!!) I’ve felt a little jaded and after a less than pleasant commute home last night I was lacking a little motivation.

Getting on the turbo and doing 90 minutes at endurance pace doesn’t take much motivating, you know while you’ll still be sweating you won’t have to go too deep physically and mentally, getting on the turbo knowing you’re going to have to work at your maximum is another kettle of fish altogether. But having arrived home I was determined to get myself in the right frame of mind so I prepared tea then spent time with my family as I began to focus on the session ahead.

The workout

As winter starts to bite it was pretty cold outside in the turbo room so I applied a bit of tiger balm on the back of my knees to loosen things up a bit, I also had my woolly hat and fleece top on but they came off pretty quickly as I began my 10 minute warm up. I’d normally jump straight on and start doing 140W plus to get myself going but I focussed on bringing up the pace a little more slowly, throwing in a couple of high cadence efforts to alert my legs to the pain that was to come.

Garmin Connect Summary

Set 1

As I approached the last few seconds of the warm up, I changed up a few gears and began the first 3 minute SEPI. I spent the first 45 seconds bringing the power up to around 280W average as I focussed on my goal of achieving 300W+ for all 6 intervals. Last time I had kept to around 280W for the first 3 before pushing to over 300W for the final 3. The first one passed pretty quickly as I hit a 307W average, this was 14% above my field test power so pretty good. As I began my recovery I made sure that I really did keep the power low and recovered properly, I hoped this would pay off and be beneficial later on. The second interval felt noticeably harder towards the end but happy to report my average wattage improved to 309W. After another recovery I started the final interval of the first set, this felt really tough as my legs were no doubt still carrying lactic acid from the first 2, there were a few dark moments where I wanted to quit but with 6 minutes recovery coming up I dug very deep and got it done. At the end of the interval I was completely smashed, I’d perhaps gone off a little slower at the start and then worked harder for longer at the end but that’s kind of the aim here.

Set 2

Even after 6 minutes of recovery at 99W, the thought of 3 more intervals was none too pleasing, this was going to be a struggle. I told myself to just focus on the next interval and after bringing up the power slowly I eventually hit 301W for the 3 minutes which I was pretty pleased with, recovery done onto interval 2. As I began I was struggling to get the power up to my target of 280W for the first 45-60 seconds and I knew that 300W would perhaps be beyond me this time. After hitting the lap button on my Garmin the display showed 286W which was only 6% above my field test power, so at this point with the same session to come tomorrow I made the decision to skip the final interval and cool down.

Interval Data

Power Distribution

Heart Rate Data

Summary

Did I feel like I’d quit? Not really, some days I’ll be better than others, doing another interval felt pretty much impossible, maybe I could have done a minute but I was pretty much spent so focussing on the positives I’d done a solid 45 minutes on the turbo trainer and given myself added motivation to complete tonight’s repeats session, this time in full. Legs feel pretty good today, so things are looking good.