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  1. Me, Marji and coaching…

    I’ve been official coach of the Marji Gesick since 2018. I’m a full time endurance coach, with the best part of 3 decades experience of coaching and preparing athletes for races and challenges just like this. As an athlete (previously retired, more on this shortly) my background was primarily in mountain biking, initially in what we now know as XCO, before developing into a long distance specialist, 24 hour solo competitor, and long distance trail record breaker. I retired from racing officially in 2008 but always dabbled (addicted to races would be a good description) and many years later, after working with Todd and 906 Adventure I tried to get back to training regularly, and racing a bit more, as part of my commitment to our shared #TRAIN4LIFE philosophy. 

    This is where we are today…

    I am 50 years old, have yo-yoed with body weight, health and fitness the past 15 years, suffered spinal injuries which continue to cause me pain to this day. I run my own business, share another start-up with my wife and an additional business partner, and I am a very hands-on father to 3 children ages 4, 8 and 11. We run a TV and device-free household, prepare the majority of our food from scratch, and play where we can as a family. We live in a quiet part of the UK, living by the sea and close to some amazing moorland (Dartmoor National Park) Family activities include: mountain biking, surfing, paddle boards, hiking, sea and river swimming and more recently Jiu Jitsu.

    Looking forward to Marji 2024…

    As part of my goal to support your quest to train for and complete the Marji Gesick I will be lining up with you at the start of the 100 mile mountain bike race in 2024. Along the way I will offer my guidance as coach, and my thought processes, training and adjustments in overcoming life’s obstacles as an athlete to get to the race ready to rumble. I hope that sharing this journey will help you with your training, life adjustments and finding the balance to make training something that you embrace for a lifetime. 

    Step 1: Suggestion…

    Commitment to a race starts with a suggestion to ourselves; it goes somewhere along the lines of: “I think I will do the 100 this year” (or the 50, or the Run, etc) It can help a lot right now (or once you have your entry in) to make our initial thought public. Create a little pressure; it doesn’t need to be huge, but it does help to make it real. This post does it for me. Until today I’ve had the luxury of being the “expert” who tells others how it’s done. I get to do that because I have a long, long history of getting other hard things done. But if I commit to come do this race… well I sure as hell better make it happen, after all I’m the coach, I have at least one advantage don’t I? I’ve made this real now, I’ve made that initial commitment. This is the mental step that engages me to the problem and commits me to a solution - subtle self-inflicted pressure.

    All being well I will see you on that start line next year. How can you take this initial step? Where can you make yourself accountable to others on some level that will motivate you when the weather turns bad, the light is scarce commodity and the warmth of the duvet is calling? It’s a very small commitment at this point in time, and it’s easily, and quietly dodged later if life takes a wrong turn, BUT it’s the act of lighting that touch paper right now that eventually turns into the success those who make the suggestion crave come the day of the race. So this week I made that suggestion to myself, discussed it with Todd, serviced, rode and washed my bike, and then wrote this first post for you.

    To take this same step yourself all you gotta do is light your own touch paper, create your own pressure, make that first step. It’s small but it’s also massive, do it now…   


  2. FTP - Functional (I'll come back to this) Threshold Power.

    I love FTP. What a metric. It took us out of the labs and onto the trails and roads to do our testing. We could do it any time, at our own convenience, we could check it regularly without having to count the cost of another trip to the nearest good sports lab to find out our lactate thresholds, and no one was going to stab holes in us and take our blood while we were testing for it.

    That's my perspective, it's skewed by bias of having to do it "old school" in order to identify an anchor point(s) in which to construct my training and get the desired outcomes from all the work I was putting in. I realise that this si not the same for a couple of generations who have come along since. Power is established and here to stay, and all the introductory pathways (Strava, Trainer Road, etc) and assorted internet "gurus" bang on about FTP long and hard. 

    As such it's become a bit of a problem for a great many athlete. Here's my perspective, I see some of the problem. Maybe I can help? Here are some of the common pitfalls with FTP that I find make this a tricky or sticky point for many individuals.

    1) It's not a badge of honour. This is perhaps the most important point to make. Lots of people get distracted by the size of the number. They set weird goals (for instance getting over 300w - like 299w is going to produce any different an outcome in a race) that are mostly irrelavant and of very little use in the real world. I see this all the time: "I just need to get over XXw and XX will happen to my cycling ability" sorry never seen it happen! Forget the number, and forget any notion of the number being a guarantee of anything. 

    2) Setting it too high/using a dubious test protocol and then not applying very obvious common sense to the situation. I won't hit you with quotes, or what FTP "is" or "isn't" all I want to offer here is what actually works out in the real world, and what Ive seen time and time again lead to zero results or zero physical improvement:

    If the test protocol is too short then we all get an elevated number that doesn't equate to any race scenario.

    Short ramp test? = Don't bother...

    8 minutes? = Don't bother!

    Seriously, just make it up, and save yourself the time testing. 

    20 minute power minus 5% doesn't work for most individuals, but does at least start to get closer. I've only seen it equate anywhere near this for very well conditioned pros or time trial racers who also regulalry perform as hard as they can in 25 and 50 miles time trials. For everyone else it's somewhere between 20 minute power minus 10% to 30%. 

    If you choose 20 minutes start with minus 5% and then see how you can perform in training. Most often people struggle on anything threshold based, particularly a session like 2 x 20 in zone 4. If this is the case just apply common sense (subtract another 5-10% until the sessions are actually possible) or do a longer test.

    1 hour... mmm... This is actually very diffeicult to do unless you are in a race or super committed and fit. Fitness is a factor. For this reason I always roll with the 20 minute test with most athletes but then keep tabs on RPE, heart rate and just how motivated or fearful they become of tempo and threshold work. If you struggle then FTP is set too high. It should be hard, but not hanging on for dear life every minute of the effort...

    Which brings me to point 3...

    3) Going too hard in a test. This is actually a thing. We are testing for maximum aerobic power. We are not testing for max power we can suatain whilst constantly going anaerobic and barely recovering. If you fear the FTP test then I'd suggest you are just going too hard into it. It's not a quest for a PB. It's clarity on where to pitch the rest of your training by creating training zones based on the FTP number. Horrible pukey, death FTP tesing is only about 10w higher than challenging but totally doable again in a dy or two FTP testing. 

    If death testing creates 300w, and Attainable testing creates 290w then the difference in training zones is next to nothing:

    290w FTP

    Zone 1:  0-162w

    Zone 2:  163-220w

    Zone 3:  221-263w

    Zone 4:  264-307w

    Zone 5:  308-350w

    Zone 6:  >351w

    300w FTP

    Zone 1:  0-167w

    Zone 2:  168-227w

    Zone 3:  228-272w

    Zone 4:  273-317w

    Zone 5:  318-362w

    Zone 6:  >363w

    Given that the best bang for your buck in any training session is to aim for the middle of the training zone or lower, there's absolutely no reason on earth to flog yourself to death going too hard in a 20 minute test. It makes no difference other than to your enjoyment of testing and the reluctance you'll develop to do the next test(s) to stay on track. 

    4) Applying all of the above logic and advice yet still setting FTP too high, or seeing the number has gone down and "forgetting" to update your FTP in the software.

    Too common.

    Don't do it!

    It's a complete waste of time training, following a training plan, trusting any of the charts in software like TrainingPeaks, if you FTP is set too high. What about too low? Well, the charts might be out, but the chances of overtraining go down considerable. The chances you'll train like a pro go up considerably. If I ask an amateur with the aformentioned 290w FTP to ride train in zone 2 (163-220w) and they will nearly always shoot for 219w. Ask a pro with the same numbers to train in zone 2 and more times than not they are going to shoot for 174w. There's a reason they all end faster than any of us. This is abig part of it. FTP set too high makes this situation even more profound because now riding at the top of zone 2 and probably not getting all the desired adaptations turns into riding entirely in zone 3 and getting even less of the desired adaptation. Set FTP realistically and train in the middle of the zones. 

    5) Ignoring Function (I said I'd come back to it)

    FTP where F = Function.

    Function changes with illness. With stress. With Dehydration. With Fatigue. With (endless list... choose one!)

    When it comes to training well for endurance we always want to consider that we are biological and constantly in flux. Heart rate is still a valid measure of performance even when we own a power meter. RPE is still a valid counter-balance to the tech. If power is constant and heart rate starts to climb then function is changing. If it feels harder than the numbers suggest then it probably is. Some days it's better to come home with lower power numbers but the desired physiological stress than to come home with a nice even power. Training is not a test or a race, it's not about a performance metric. Speed is not the benchmark. Accuracy of training is the benchmark of well performed training and to do this well we have to balance more than just the wattage number on a screen. How do I feel today? How are my legs? Is it easier/tougher than usual? What imy heart rate doing for this power return? Stay human and understand function and it's role in your training. 

    FTP. It's a beautiful thing. It's a tool. Learn to use. Learn to use it well and it will always serve you well in return.