Breaking Barriers

If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you probably know my life on the bike is all about the watts.  I got a power meter after riding for about two years so at this point I have more data with power than without.  

I improved quickly when I started cycling, and I got my threshold (power you can hold for one hour)  up to 280 watts within 2 years. Once that happened, I wanted to break 300 watts for an hour and figured it would happen within the next year.


No big deal.  I knew I hadn't been cycling all that long and that was a big number so I kept chasing it....and kept coming up short.  Soon this number began to feel more like a mental barrier than a physical one.  I was convinced I could do it physically, but every time I tried I came up short. 290.....295.....but never 300+.  Time trial after time trail.  Test after test. Race after race. Always a little short.

I should explain that the goal is to hold 300 or more watts for one hour.  Not estimate that I can do it with a 20 minute threshold test, where you go as hard as you can for 20 minutes and multiply that number by 95% and that is supposedly your one-hour power.  That test, for me and I think a lot of others, overstates your threshold.  If you want to know your one-hour power, ride as hard as you can for one hour.  It's simple.   It's a killer workout, and you take the guess work out of it and you get your real threshold power to base your zones off of, you get in a great workout, and you'll learn a lot about pacing and what you're capable of and how hard you can push yourself.  Pushing yourself for 20 minutes is easy.  Doing it for 60 minutes isn't.   

I've done the 20 minute tests and they've indicated I should be able to hold 300+ watts for an hour......but I never could.  And until you actually do it, you haven't done it.

Saturday, the 28th, I finally did it.  FINALLY!  I had a one-hour threshold test planned on the trainer in the basement.  300 or bust.  The plan was to start around 280 watts for a couple of minutes and build slowly to 300 and try to finish the last 10-15 minutes at about 310-315.  

Yellow is power, Red is heart rate.

303 watts for 60 minutes.  I executed my plan perfectly, and it worked like a champ.

It was tough, no doubt about it, but I finally hit my number and broke through the barrier.  And the best part is that I finished feeling like there was more in the tank.  Not sure how much more, but I had a few more watts in me. That makes me want to round up and plug my new threshold in as 305 watts.  But like I said, until you do it, you haven't done it.  So right now my threshold in WKO+ says 303 watts.  

"I never round up."  - from Shit Triathletes Say.  I'm guilty of A LOT of the things in that video.  It's very funny.  Check it out, if you haven't seen it.

I give the credit to my new favorite threshold workout: 90 at 90, I call it.  I like simple workouts, and that's exactly what this is.  Warm up, do 90 minutes at 90% of threshold, cool down.

It's simple, but not easy.  Not by a long shot.  But it makes so much sense to me.  It's sub-threshold so it's not as mentally and physically taxing right away.  It gets there, but it takes a while.  By then, you've put in some time so I think that helps mentally as well.  I'm more likely to pull the plug on a workout if I'm suffering only 5 minutes in.  But if I'm 50 minutes in before the pain really kicks in, I'm much more likely to keep pushing.  I tell myself things like, "I didn't work hard for 50 minutes to quit early."  

Plus, it teaches you to ride hard for a long time which is great half ironman training....and half ironman training is great ironman training.  

Next goal = 310.  I hope I don't have to wait 4 years for that one.