He had me do a couple of tests to determine my "FTP", which stands for Functional Threshold Power. That's basically the power you could sustain for one hour. I did one on the trainer and one outside... he told me the numbers would be lower on the trainer and of course I didn't believe him, and of course he was right. I guess that's why Sean runs the coaching business and not me. I then sent him the power numbers, and he sent me back my power zones, along with a quick primer on what each zone is.
Basically, there are several zones, each corresponding to a percentage of your FTP.
- Zone 1 is active recovery (aka easy spinning)
- Zone 2 is endurance training
- Zone 3 is tempo
- Zone 4 is lactate threshold
- Zone 5 is VO2 max
- Zone 6 is anaerobic capacity
There is a zone 7, but doesn't really correspond with power as it's for super-short bursts.
I'm still figuring this all out, but at this point my understanding of all these zones is pretty basic: racing is done at the higher end of Zone 2 (Ironman), Zone 3 (Half Ironman), and Zone 4 (shorter races). Really short TT's may even be done in Zones 5-6.
After Sean set up all my numbers, I did a 3:15 hour ride with a friend. I didn't have the screen showing any power numbers on my Garmin, because I wanted to see where I was when I was riding in what I would have called the lower end of the endurance training zone. We chatted as we rode, we weren't trying to hold a particular pace, and while we weren't just spinning, we weren't working hard. When I got home I looked at the numbers, and they put me in the lower end of lactate threshold. Whoops - guess I screwed up my FTP test and didn't go hard enough. I definitely wasn't anywhere near lactate threshold chatting with Nicole the whole time!
Tonight I headed out after work to repeat my FTP test. This time I kept the screen showing my power numbers the entire 20 minutes and tried to hit the highest numbers I could. My legs were burning and I felt like I wanted to puke after the first 10 minutes, so hopefully I was going hard enough. This 20 minute test wasn't fun at all... a crazy hard effort like that really isn't my style! Anyway, the average was 45 watts higher than the first test, so hopefully I did it right this time. Saturday I want to try a "blind" ride again where I don't look at the numbers until after, and my perceived pace will be endurance... maybe this time the numbers will match!