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Abby's blog: The threshold test (take two)

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Published 26 March 2014
Report: Abby Holder
Sportive Bloggers' Homepage

On a recent Breeze ride a couple of riders mentioned they’d read my blog. This came as a bit of a surprise. It hadn’t occurred to me that people might actually be reading this. We chatted about how I’ve been getting on with the training plan and this led me to reflect on how things have been going.

Yes I know this is nerdy, but I’ve worked out that with eight weeks to go until I ride the Wooler Wheel Borderlands Sportive (who else is riding?!), I’ve now been following the British Cycling training plan for just over 10 weeks. In that time, including my commutes to work, I’ve ridden 1,165km – an average of over 100km a week. I’ve ridden a total of 16 hours 55 minutes on the turbo trainer. And as you can see, I’ve also learnt how to use the gadget to extract endless details with which to bore people. So enough of that, I must be super-fit by now, right?

Erm, no. Not according to my latest threshold test anyway. After nine weeks of training I was required to repeat the threshold test I did in week one, in case I had become so fit I needed to adjust my training zones. I made sure I did it under the same conditions as my first test: on the turbo trainer, same gear, front wheel propped up with the same brick.

I was quite looking forward to seeing if I could ride further this time, so it was somewhat dispiriting when part way through the test I had to shift to an easier gear. By the end of the 20 minutes my average speed was slower and I managed 1km less than in my first test (where my preparation had involved spending the previous two weeks stuffing my face with Christmassy treats and warming up in a Wiggo mask). Disaster.

What I need is a good excuse. Luckily I think I have one. I stupidly did the second test when I was ill. I wasn’t that ill. I didn’t have a leg hanging off. It was just a bit of a cough/sore throat but apparently this can affect performance. I thought I’d be fine, but about 3 minutes into the test I felt like there were a couple of over-ripe bananas where my legs should be. Being a stubborn so-and-so I carried on anyway, but it was 30 minutes I’d rather forget.

The crushing news that several weeks of dedicated training (including over 1000km and almost 17 hours on a turbo trainer – have I mentioned that already?) have resulted in being measurably less fit might dampen some people’s spirits. Not me (remember I was ill!). Instead, I took the only sensible course of action in the circumstances: I chose to completely disregard the evidence and promptly signed up for another sportive (the Virgin Money Cyclone in June). Then I took a day off work and went for a bike ride with a friend.

Riding your bike by the seaside on a sunny day should be a legal requirement. Admittedly this wasn’t one of our more challenging rides. It involved 25 miles of riding and no less than four cafes. Surely a record? We even squeezed in a short trip on a ferry, which is a first for me and my bike. Most of all, it involved a feeling of thorough smugness at being out on my bike in the sunshine, instead of sitting at a desk.

So, now Spring is here, if you’re lucky enough to have a job where you can take a day off to ride your bike, but you can’t remember the last time you did – what are you waiting for? I can’t promise it will make you better at threshold tests, but I’m fairly sure it will make you happy.


Have you experienced the same affects as Abby on a repeat threshold test?

We asked our Insight Zone experts to explain reasons behind this and they said:

"The result you get from your FTHR test, although essential and effective for calculating accurate training zones, is only a snap-shot of a single performance parameter. A vast array of factors (including but not only illness) can affect your score on the day and that’s why we retest it on a regular basis.

"It’s more than likely though, if you’ve been consistently following the training plans, that your power at a given heart rate or perceived intensity will have increased. This means, for the same effort and heart rate, you’ll be riding faster. We would recommend the rider to re-take the threshold test trying to replicate the original conditions as much as possible."

Any further questions around training send an email to insightzone@britishcycling.org.uk.

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