Rest is Best (for separating intervals)

Last week I completed another 12-week cycling training plan with The Sufferfest.
The grand-finale, yet again, is the excruciating Full Frontal 4DP test session.
As a brief reminder, since most who endure this go deep into denial, you undergo a series of 4 maximal power output tests to get a complete and comprehensive profile of your abilities.
And these are:

  • Neuromuscular Power (NM): 5-second max power
  • Anaerobic Capacity (AC): 1 minute
  • Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP): 5 minutes
  • Functional Threshold Power (FTP): 20 minutes

It looks like this:

4DP Full Frontal Power Output Graph (on a bad day)

More info:

Completing the test creates and applies a "4DP Profile" to your training plan and subsequent workouts.

Right. Moving on.

So last week I completed the third instance of the test.
The first was upon my arrival at Sufferlandria, part of the immigration process.
I then followed a 12-week plan (General Road Cycling, with all the toppings), which concluded with another 4DP test and made significant improvements across my targets. I learned a lot about my capabilities as a rider and how to work my mind and body better to accomplish suffering at a supreme level.

I immediately followed up with an additional 12-week plan on The Sufferfest. A significant reason is the ongoing Strength Training Program which lasts 24 weeks.
After some deliberation between my Passion and Reason, I rode the 2020 Tour Of Sufferlandria and concluded it with a Sufferlandrian Knighthood Ride.
You can read about it in the previous post.
About 10 days after, I had my 4DP test again, and this is the topic of today's post.

Why? Because it sucked.

It wasn't bad, mind you; it's just that I didn't hit the goals I set. They were not too high, or otherwise unattainable: a modest 5% increase across the range.
I'm very well trained so I can't expect more than marginal gains without a far more elaborate Strength Training Program (or doping!

What happened then?
I basically hit the same numbers as 12 weeks ago, with 0-3watts invariance. So pretty tight.

My 4DP results after another 12 weeks, in a highly fatigued state, remained the same

There were two significant differences, though:

  1. It was much harder this time
  2. My LTHR was down from 181 to 174 (4.5%)

In other words: Fatigued.

The impact of the ToS and 9-hour+ Knighthood ride was too much to recover from in just 10 days.
Two consecutive weeks of 700+ TSS I guess, are too much for this old Knight.
(Also, I did the test at about 6 AM without the time to properly eat 2 hours prior, as I usually do for my mid-morning rides. I rarely ride at this hour, typically much later at about 9am).

As the 4DP Full Frontal Test panned out, it wasn't until the 5 minute MAP effort that the alarm bells started ringing:
I was aiming for 344 watts and held that for about 2:30 when it became apparent that it won't happen today. I started to fade and was struggling to keep the power; even an FTP level effort was hard.

Nonetheless, I kept going.
Remember the Cabbage Famine.

The 20-minute FTP effort came up too quickly.
I knew this was going to hurt and be a test of character more than anything else.
The target I set was 288W (above the current 274). I find the right gear and trainer resistance combo to put me at the power target with 90rpm. I then just focus on the cadence alone, knowing that if I maintain the cadence at 90, then I'll hit the power target.
Legs were heavy, and maintaining cadence was a constant struggle.
Ultimately I managed to maintain my current FTP with 0W difference, albeit with a heart rate that refused to rise to the occasion.

For the 1 minute AC effort, I had planned a pacing approach different than the recommended "Peak & Fade." Instead, I was going for Surge & Sprint.
That actually worked, but only for 30-40 seconds when the legs went "pop." The same result as the last test, 0W difference surprisingly.

And that was that.

I knew:

  1. That completing the 4DP test all the way through was the only option
  2. I was tired
  3. I could easily do better after recovering fully
  4. My prep was perfect (setup, mental, etc.)

I was also pleased with the fact that this test showed that even in a highly fatigued state, I could maintain my power output across the full range. So it's a clear sign, at least until the next test, that there is an improvement.
Nonetheless, we will put speculation to rest with hard data soon.

With that intention and an upcoming short vacation, I'm taking a week off structured training. Going to ride by feel and tackle some climbs on Zwift (
Upon my return, I'm going to go through the week-long Full Frontal Prep Plan and test again.
To keep things interesting, I'm going to test using the new protocol of "Half Monty" - a combination of a ramp test and an HR constrained effort.
This updates MAP, FTP, and LTHR only, and that's fine by me.
I'll cover Half Monty in detail in the next post.

After that, I will undoubtedly start another 12-week block of structured training. I'm still considering which Sufferfest Plan to apply as I wrote before, I'd like more training volume, with some nice 3-4+ hour ride.
So I might just plunge into the 200-mile gravel grinder plan and see what happens. Maybe I won't be 100% compliant, but aiming high and slightly missing is always better than aiming low and hitting.

Lastly, since this also summarizes the 2nd consecutive Sufferfest Training Plan, let's take a quick look at the overall volume and zones, keeping in mind that a direct comparison isn't accurate because of the Tour Of Sufferlandria and the Knighthood ride. Nonetheless:

12 Week Sufferfest Training Plan Overall Time in Zones

(here's the previous one)
Noticeably there's a massive difference in the total time!
These 12 weeks clocked 98 hours. The previous 12-week plan 64!
There was a bit more time, percentage-wise, spent in Zone 3, but overall less in Z4-5.
In real terms, even though the percentages are lower, it does translate to nearly 3 hours more in Z4, 1 hour in Z5, and 1 hour in Z6. Z3 time is almost double.
Z1-2 were up by over 30 hours...
So lots more volume this time around, which goes further to explain the fatigue!

Stay tuned... Half Monty will be the topic of the next post.
Until then, ride safe and please wash your hands so we can collectively enjoy the Classics one way or another.