Cherry Picking.

After a pretty "bad" 4DP Full Frontal test, where I aimed high but instead maintained my results (albeit in a very fatigued state), I decided to take a week to prep, and do the Half Monty Fitness Test.

(* At this time, The Half Monty test is only available to Knights Of Sufferlandria in The Sufferfest App, but is slated for release soon).

The Half Monty is a ramp to the max, followed by a heart-rate constrained effort. The aim is to determine Maximal Aerobic Capacity (MAP, 5min power) and Functional Threshold Power (FTP, 20min power), as well as Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR).

So no sprints or 1-minute all-out effort. Yay, I guess.

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect.

My #1 worst nightmare is a ramp test.
Why? Because it will ALWAYS be as hard as it possibly can be. Failure is the only escape.
("Ramped to Failure" - for my headstone, please.)

So I've been deliberately avoiding ramp tests, much like a sneezing and coughing stranger these days*.
(at the time of writing, the world is affected by a media-induced pandemic code-named COVID19.)

Ok, let's talk about the Half Monty...
It's designed by the Masterminds at Apex Coaching (Sir Neal Henderson and Sir Mac Cassin) and supplements the 4DP for testing mid-plans.

The structure:
1. Ramp to absolute MAX.
2. Steady sub max sustained effort at just below FTP HR.

Ramp Test: ERG Mode, 50% of MAP, increasing 10% every minute until failure.
This determines MAP.

HR Constrained:
Ride at Level Mode (user-controlled resistance) to stay at 95% of LTHR for 30min (about 5-10 beats below LTHR).
Start at ~90% FTP Power for 1st minute until HR catches up, and then you ease up or push to get the HR to the dictated range.
This aims to determine FTP, but also takes into account other factors from crunched data, such as age, weight and gender.

Once complete, comes the Cherry Picking:

  • If you got a higher value, apply it to your profile.
  • If not, use the values from 4DP.
Neal & Mac discuss this testing protocol on this podcast:
And here's a (slightly edited) transcript of the Half Monty related stuff:

"My role is really about looking into aggregate data from all the users we've had and then taking people into our lab that we have set up in Boulder, testing them, looking at if what we see in larger data sets is replicable in the lab and then producing new things from that."

"One of the main ones that we worked on is a new ramp fitness test, so that's going to be probably the first proper project to come out of the SUF science division."

Q: "How does that differ from the kind of existing tests?"

"That one's unique because of the ramp stages - so it's a ramp to failure, which is pretty standard. Those stages will be based on your maximal aerobic power not off of FTP so that eliminates some of the variations in terms of how far you can get in a ramp if you have a low FTP compared to high one-minute power. Then there's also a heart rate constrained component afterward, and so what we do there is we're able to essentially plot a low power low heart rate interval before the constrained. [That's the 2-minutes recovery prequel to the interval]

"Take the heart rate and power from the constrained interval and then take a portion of the ramp and the peak heart rate of the ramp and you can basically make a linear regression - a nice straight line between those three points and then get a really accurate estimation of FTP based off of where their threshold heart rate would fall on that line. It's very complicated; it is simpler when you're actually sitting on the bike. When you're sitting on the bike, it's very simple. It's just standard, especially if you're on a smart trainer that has ERG control; it'll just take you through the ramps until you can't go anymore. And then for the heart rate constrained some people might find that difficult because very few people these days ride explicitly to heart rate and so we just ask you to change your effort to your heart rate, stay stable, which can be challenging, but even if you don't nail all those parts correctly that the ramp portion will still give you an FTP and MAP and specifically because we have so much aggregate data looking at different age, gender weight, that we can take the ramp values and add in factors variables around your age, weight, gender for a more accurate FTP.
So instead of taking 75% of people's peak one-minute for everyone, we make the appropriate modifications. 
With this one, we're going only to be really calculating two of the values so that the max power value from the ramp and then the FTP calculated from the constrained portion. But from that data then we're going to be able to target for somebody a little bit better estimate for their anaerobic capacity and neuromuscular power based on those factors age, gender, weight, from that large data set that we have with all of our full-frontal data, for somebody to be able to train using 4DP without having done that maximal 4DP test effort."

The interview continues to discuss 4DP, which I've covered already.

As for my experience and results:

With a racing heart, I headed into the ramp test.
I climbed 10 ramp steps before the legs stopped responding to the commands from the brain. I reached the step starting at 390 watts and ceased. I started at about 160 watts, so the entire ramp was 10 minutes long.
I stopped to recover for about a minute while the protocol calculated my LTHR and MAP.

MAP: 339 watts (up from 325 by 14W / 4.3% | 0.2w/kg)
LTHR: 171 (lower than last 4DP @173, and much lower than 4DP prior @182!)
As I understood it, the LTHR is based on the max 1-minute HR during the ramp, 181 in my case.
Not entirely sure what the decrease in HR is indicative of.

Anyway, with the LTHR set at a low 171, the constrained HR part of the Half Monty was set for 156-161 bpm.
That's about 230 watts at 90rpm for me.
This is my 3 hour pace more or less (~3.4 w/kg).
Needless to say, this way easy.
As a consequence, the resulting FTP from the Half Monty was a low 259W, a 15W decrease from my previous 4DP FF Test (which sucked. I will test again at over 280W FTP!)
So, I'm selecting the 339W MAP and discarding the rest.
Cherries picked.

The Half Monty Fitness Test Power Profile - The Sufferfest
I've read The Half Monty is ~93% accurate, and with these FTP results, it certainly is a little far off than what I know I can deliver.
Perhaps the elements affecting the calculated outcomes (weight, age, gender) are the cause, since my physiological age and chronological age are a couple of decades apart, the last time I tested in a sports lab.

The Half Monty Fitness Test Hear Rate Profile - The Sufferfest
The bottom line is that Half Monty is terrific as a quick test mid-plan to gauge performance and boost numbers for the latter part of the plan. I've felt improvement before and wasn't able to quantify it.
With this relatively easy protocol, getting a new MAP (and maybe FTP?) to pick the fruits of labor is readily accessible.
There's little accumulated fatigue too - I went on riding for a good while longer after the test, and rode the next day 90min without any hint of fatigue.

The only negative side effect of Half Monty is the grim realization that there's no substitute for Full Frontal for a comprehensive 4DP profile and a true test of one's physical and mental state.

Another cool thing with The Half Monty is that it's interactive.
The "storyline" will dynamically change according to your results - something I haven't seen on any other Sufferfest Video. You receive prompts related directly to your effort.
For example, during the HR Constrained effort, I got the message, "your HR is looking great, keep power at about 228 watts", and during the Ramp, "keep going, your MAP is at least 300W".
This functionality is an excellent opportunity to add a little more dynamic content to other workouts, making them smarter and highly engaging at the same time.

What's next?

I'm now starting a new 12 weeks plan.
This time, the 100 mile Gravel Grinder. I will also supplement it with SUF Strength Training, Yoga and Mental Toughness, as before.

Why "Gravel Grinder"?
First, it has more volume. So the days designated as "weekend" have 3-4 hour rides which I miss.
I'll be riding those on Zwift, which is my "outdoor".
Also, not that I've ever ridden "Gravel" per se, but from looking at the mix of sessions, it seems like a comprehensive plan.
It ends sometime in June, so hopefully, by then the global situation will ease up a bit, and maybe, just maybe, I'll find myself in the Pyrenees regretting not having done the "Mountainous Grand Fondo Plan." Fingers crossed I get to lament that!

There's also a possibility of racing IRL, in which case I'll switch plans for the final 4 weeks to focus on whatever the Federation decides to hold as Nationals eventually. We Shall See.

All I know is that I've no idea where this is all going, but I strive for constant improvement.

The Sufferfest Half Monty: Ramp Test + LTHR Constrained Test from The Sufferfest on Vimeo.
A cycling ramp + constrained heart rate assessment to be used between Sufferfest Full Frontal 4DP tests. More details here: