My First Functional Threshold Power Test

The end of week 5 of my ironwoman training came to an end with a bang… in a good way that is. On Saturday I met Master Yoda at her personal training center and prepared to be tortured in what she calls a Functional Threshold Power test (FTP). I was mentally calling it insanity, but never quite let then on to Yoda. I’m pretty sure she knew I was a bit scared, but no need to let on just how terrified I was.

The FTP test measures, as its name implies, how much power you are generating on the bike. It measures your wattage. My husband kept joking that the test would tell me how many light bulbs I could light up and for how long. Ha ha, Honey! Doesn’t he have a witty sense of humor?

Early Saturday afternoon I walked Chester into the gym and met Yoda who immediately asked me where all my stuff was. Didn’t I have a back pack or recovery meal? I’m sure my blank stare let her know that I was sans pretty much anything. I’d brought my bike, a water bottle and myself in workout clothes. What else did I need? Being a complete non-gear head I wasn’t sure what to say besides, “I’m planning to shower at home so I didn’t think I needed anything.” She retorted that I would need a barf bag. I honestly believed her for a second, but then she added that she was joking. I think my anxiety shot up 4 levels for a minute or so after that. (I’m sure I look like a deer in headlights every time I meet with Yoda. She’s so far ahead of me in the triathlon world so I am truly the learner while she is the master.)

After my anxiety level began to decrease we headed to the special bike trainer that’s hooked up to a computer. It’s called a computrainer and I’d never ridden on one before. Luckily, it’s just like riding an indoor trainer or your bike outdoors, but without having to steer or pay attention to traffic.  You just pedal and pedal while it measures your wattage and some other particulars.

Soon I was on Chester and pedaling easy for my warm up. Then I did some short intervals to get my legs a little pumped. Next was a hard 5 minutes to measure my power for a short time period. Then I got a lovely 5 minutes of “rest” which means easy pedaling. Next came the real test, 20 minutes of riding hard. The idea is to ride as hard as you can for the full 20 minutes while the machine measures your average wattage.

I picked up the pace considerably during that 20 minutes and could feel it in my legs, but at the end I knew I could have ridden harder. I was tired, but I wasn’t completely exhausted. I had been scared to ride too hard at the beginning because I don’t have a good feel yet for my effort on the bike. I don’t know what’s truly working hard for me, but not pushing it too hard. While running or swimming I have a very good feel for my effort level, but cycling is still a mystery to me.

For the last 5 minutes Yoda stood next to me pushing me on, telling me to push harder and not to quit. I think I only cursed at her once out loud. Inwardly there was plenty of cursing as I really pushed my legs to ride hard.

At the end Yoda let me know my wattage and that she could tell I hadn’t ridden all out. She said I had too much power in my legs at the end. It was ok though. She chalked that up to my lack of experience doing a test like this. Then she let me know that the idea was to get my base wattage and that we’d be working to increase my wattage by 10% every 8 to 10 weeks.  I guess that means that I will have to repeat the FTP test in the future. I think I’m happy about that. Yea, I’m happy about that. I want to kick that test’s butt next time.

My legs did feel a little like jelly after the FTP test, but I still managed to bike and swim the next day. I even felt like I hadn’t exercised all that much for a weekend. Given the fact that I cycled for an hour on Saturday, did some core strengthening with Yoda too and then worked out for 2 hours on Sunday, I think my definition of a lot of exercise is changing. Woo Hoo! My mind is starting to adapt which is 80% of the battle.

So Master Yoda, if you’re reading this, thanks for being my coach. I really need your help and guidance to improve as an athlete.  Yes, I’m working to use that athlete word when I refer to myself. Since it took 2 marathons to believe I was a runner I guess I’ll have to do a second half ironwoman next year as well for the athlete term to really stick. For now though I’ll focus on training for Sept. 7, 2014. Toughman here I come!

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4 Responses to My First Functional Threshold Power Test

  1. Michele says:

    KJTough – Wife. Mom. Friend. Athlete. And all-around Bad Ass!

    I’m so proud of you!! (And, as I mentioned to Yoda last night, I’m also so sorry I was too self-involved yesterday to remember to ask about your FTP test!)

    Among the many things for which I will be giving thanks this Thursday, I am thankful for that fateful lunch this past spring when we first got to talking about cycling, running, etc. How far we’ve both come in the short time since then, and imagine just how much more bad ass we’ll be by next spring!!

    Rock on!
    xo

  2. Yoda says:

    KJ Tough, You crushed it and your metamorphosis so far has been amazing. I’m here for you every step of the way. There will be tears of joy and tears of grit, but you will. Be safe, supported and cheered on for the athlete within you. You rock!!!! Happy Thanksgiving, and remember Chester will always love you so spend as much time with him as you can. A&D to answer your hubby’s question, which mine asked me too, you’re good for one or two standard light bulbs for an hour. Hugs!!!! Yoda

  3. Louisa says:

    Great job karen. You really have come a long way and I’m proud of you!!!!