From 1st Cat to Elite #11. **Beware The Festive 500**

Bah Humbug you might think. Why aren’t you doing the festive 500 you big grump. Everyone else is doing it,  it’s just a laugh!

If you’re fit enough and if you’ve planned for it then the festive 500 could be a great addition to your training and act as a mini cold weather training camp. However BEWARE if you’ve been training hard and you just get egged on to do it by your mates. In this blog i’ll show you what would happen to my fatigue and fitness if I were to divert from my planned training and zip off to do the festive 500. By the end you might be wondering if it’s such a good idea rather than just calling me a scrooge!

Let’s start with the current situation. As I sit here I’m at the start of a rest week. The last 3 weeks have been a relatively modest winter phase with some well managed tough rides. Last week was my longest so far at 12.5 hours riding time with a total TSS of 593. Due to the lift in hours I dropped my intensity slightly and so the week came out at 0.68, my lowest week yet for the winter. Here is the current state of play in numbers:

Things are looking good you might think. I don’t need to back off too drastically during this rest week as my form is a modest -3.3. It would be easy sitting here, feeling good and wanting to burn off some toblerone, to go ahead and just do the Festive 500 anyway. But what would happen to my numbers?

I’ll start by looking forward a week to where I’d be if I stick to my planned sessions. The planned week looks like this:

A typical rest week with no really hard riding. By next Monday my form will be positive at 5.1 and my CTL will only drop 2.2 points. This can be seen on the dotted lines in my performance management chart (PMC).

This is a great position to be in when you look forward to transitioning from winter base phases to a build phase and training camp in January/February.

But what would happen if I got all festive. Let’s run the secnario in the same way. Say I complete the Festive 500 over the next 6 days. That’s 52 miles per day (Miles, not kilometres… sorry not sorry). Presuming slow conditions on a winter bike with a little group riding, a strong cyclist may get 17-18mph for riding in high Zone 2 power or 75% of your FTP. This is a very conservative pace compared to how most people ride. It would result in riding 3 hours per day and accumulating a Training Stress Score (TSS) of 168.8 per day. If you’re not as speedy as this then you would build up even more TSS. Riding in Zone 2 it would take you longer to complete the 52 miles and as it is calculated based on Duration x Intensity this would result in higher TSS.

The week would therefore look like this. Almost 19 hours of riding and a total TSS of 1065. A huge week by anybody’s standards!

I’m currently averaging a daily TSS of 69 (CTL), so adding a whole 100 TSS per day onto this results in a huge drop in form. Let’s have a look at this on the PMC.

The keener readers amongst you will remember that a few weeks ago I started to get a sniff of over training syndrome when my form dropped below -35. So if I did get all festive and ignore the plan I can fairly safely say that I would over train as my predicted form next monday is -47.1. This could take 2-3 weeks of complete rest to fully recover from which would not be ideal right before a training camp!

Those more stubborn riders might just do it anyway… and they might survive without over training, but then where are they? They have increased their CTL by 11 points… AWESOME you might think. But to be sure of a good performance and make the most of this increase in fitness they’d need to taper down and let the form recover to a positive number. Their form is so low and they’re so tired that by the time they’ve done this the CTL would likely have dropped all the way back down resulting in very little or zero gains in actual fitness.

Here we see that taking 4 days completely off the bike would result in positive form but the CTL has dropped back down to 73.1 so only a very modest gain of +4 for all that hard work.

Now let’s go back to the start of the blog where I showed my current situation having a 7 day ramp rate of +3.9. Ramp rate is the change in CTL over a certain period of time. So for my modest 12.5 hour training week and 593TSS I’ve achieved the same +4 gain in CTL as if I’d battered myself into the ground doing the Festive 500 (~19hours and ~1100TSS) then taken 4 days off.

Still feeling festive? 🙂

If you enjoy getting out on your bike and don’t care about performance then the festive 500 is great. But if your primary concern is riding faster then your goal should be to achieve training adaptation. It should be progressive, planned and relevant to where you’re at. Unnecessarily pushing your fatigue too high and your form too low can lead to burn out, over training and lots of swearing.

As always, if you’d like any assistance with your training then please get in touch. Give me a call or drop me a message with all your coaching questions.

Oh and Merry Christmas!!


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