Completely hitting the wall at A-race

Dear Trainerroad Forum and Team,

The past weekend was my A-Race, the Ötztaler Radmarathon, a granfondo style event with 220km and 5.500 meters of elevation. My goal was to finish in less than 07.45h which I just managed to achieve, finishing at 7.44h.

Despite being very pleased, I feel I could have gone a lot faster, as I was over 25 mins up on my time schedule when entering the last climb, Timmelsjoch (1.700 meters elevation). As you can see in my ride file (https://www.trainerroad.com/career/elvis/rides/61650699--tztaler-radmarathon-7-44h-saisonziel-erreicht-hsgazellen-on-fire), I paced the first and third climb at about 280 watts with an FTP of approx. 320. The second climb (which is more like a false flat) I managed to stay in the pack and recover. I had followed my nutrition and hydration plan to the dot and took in approx. 100 grams of carbs per hour through gels and my home made energy drink (with the prescribed mix of glucose and fructose). My stomach was no issue, as I had already practiced the fueling strategy in previous events.

When entering the final climb I was feeling really strong and confident. Initially, I was able to hold my target power of 270 watts which I had planned to gradually drop over the climb to 250 and finally 230 in anticipation of fatigue and elevation. However, at one point, things started going south – fast! I could no longer hold any power and was not even able to push more than 170 watts at the end of the climb. I have never encountered that feeling before. I know what it feels like to bonk, but usually I can feel that coming. This time it was only initially a slow decrease, then it felt more like being hit on the back of the head with a bat. What could be the reason for this and how can I avoid it in the future? I tend to believe I overpaced on the other two climbs but feeling so strong at the bottom of the last climb just makes me want to believe it may have been something else.

Also, how could I adjust my training in order to not encounter this problem again? In the century and climbing road race specialty plans (yes, did both – the first for my peak in beginning of July and the second for 3 weeks previous to my A-race) I often added 1-2 hours of base work after the sweet spot and threshold intervals on the weekend. Would it make sense to possibly do the intervals after the time spent at base? This is more similar to the event’s requirements but could lead to a decrease in form and possibly inhibit workout quality.

Thanks so much in advance for your responses!

Cheers,

elvis

2 Likes

Assuming your FTP is set correctly you did the following up to the base of the final major climb

5:12 duration
0.76 IF
3875 kJ

For the final climb you did the following

1:56 duration
0.72 IF

Really - not a huge drop from earlier.

My guess is that the duration of the efforts on the earlier climbs, when you did an IF of more like 0.86 for about an hour twice cooked you.

This race had two hour long climbs and one two hour long climb. It looks like you just went out too hard on those first efforts to maintain the same effort level on the final climb

1 Like

Hi Trpnhntr,

first of all thanks for your response. The comparison over IF is quite interesting. I had not taken that into consideration and had mostly looked at absolute watts but the result should be identical. I feel it woul be more representative to compare the IF of the climbs 1, 3 and 4 only rather than the IF of the first two thirds vs last third.

  1. Climb: IF of 0.89
  2. Climb: IF of 0.72 (was more like relaxing the legs)
  3. Climb: IF of 0.86
  4. Climb: IF of 0.72

Hence in my view I clearly decreased in power. What is usually seen as a good time to be able to hold an IF of approx 0.85-0.90?

Cheers,

Elias

My question would be: what do YOU think was your limiter? How did it feel when you lost power? Was it just feeling empty, or was it pain in the legs?

Because you have quite a high FTP, you burn through a LOT of calories. 5600 for the event. And that means a lot of carbs burned, too. You were taking in 100g per hour, but how many did you take in the day before, and for breakfast? If I was doing 220km and 5500+m climbing, I’d be eating the mother of all breakfasts 3 hours before the event. I mean HUGE.

If you feel it was more muscular, then maybe you need to look at some longer tempo / sweetspot interval workouts. Perhaps some low cadence work in the off-season.

The Ötztaler Radmarathon is a brutal (but beautiful) race. Did it some years ago.

Not only does Timmelsjoch come late in the race, it’s also the longest and the climb with the highest altitude. Peaking at 2500 m you are experiencing lower levels of oxygen. I think I read once that above 1800 you need to take into account the reduced oxygen. This will probably vary as well, from rider to rider. Also, if I remember correctly (those last few hours are a bit of a blur…), the steepest sections are at the end of the climb.

3 Likes

Damn. @ohjelm has nailed it. Altitude.

(Though nutrition and muscular endurance are worth revisiting anyway)

1 Like

@elvis…simple answer.

It took you 5.25 hours to make it to the base of that last climb. During that time you burned approximately 3875 kcal. You consumed 5.25*400=2100 kcal. 3875-2100=1775.

1775kcal is probably a little more than the glycogen you have in your liver & muscles.

You had a great nutrition plan but just couldn’t quite stretch it to the end!

2 Likes

Thanks for your reponse. With regards to how I felt, my legs felt fine. As I wrote above, it was rather a feeling of complete emptiness - my body did not respond anymore to my will…

Most likely, altituted played a role in the decrease of power as well but that cannot be the only reason.

I carb loaded the two days before the event and had quite a healthy breakfast, approx 100grams of oats with one banana, some berries and two slices of bread with jam.

Also, I usually do at least one fasted ride per week in the early morning of 1.15h-1.30h in hope to improve my fat burning engine.

Concluding, I really do not know what my limiter was - possibly overpacing? Should have maybe gone 20 watts slower up the Jaufen?!

@Brennus: does the amount of carbs I can store in my body depend on weight and height? Reason is that I weigh only approx 64kg at 180cm. Can one extend the amount of carbs the body can store.

Cheers and thanks for the interesting suggestions!

@elvis you put me in the wayback machine. Took me a while to find this…I remembered the numbers but not the author! It was in the Burgomaster sprint training article.

“After [Sprint Interval Training], [Citrate Synthase] maximal activity increased by 38% (5.5 +/- 1.0 vs. 4.0 +/- 0.7 mmol.kg protein(-1).h(-1)) and resting muscle glycogen content increased by 26% (614 +/- 39 vs. 489 +/- 57 mmol/kg dry wt) (both P < 0.05).”

But the subjects were relatively untrained cyclists…definitely not at the level of training you might consider yourself. Still, that’s just 6 SIT sessions over the course of two weeks. Less than 10 minutes of work a week…not a big time committment if you just wanted to give it a whirl. On the other hand, we’re talking about 6 30 second wingate tests 3x/week.

If you are not familiar with the Burgomaster protocol, it’s super simple. 30 second wingate test, 4 minutes glass cranking, repeat 6x. 3 times per week.

1 Like

From this entire thread, thanks for the Burgomaster sprint training article link, interesting reading. being a sprinter and time trailer myself it was a good read and knowledge to have.

Regarding OP - Oxygen depravation from altitude and how deep you went on the hour and two hour long climbs is my conclusion as stated by others

have you done any training rides this long, or anything close to that?

the early 0.86IF could definitely have zapped you if you aren’t used to doing that AND then continuing with a workout.

if you didn’t have some 5 or 6 hour rides before this, then that lack of duration would also explain some of what happened by the last climb.

Brendan

1 Like

@Brennus: interesting study, I will have a look at it. Sprinting and work above threshold is definitely not my strong point, hence could be a field of interest

@brendanhousler: I very much doubt is was the missing base would be the explanation. Only possibly a combination of the insity and duration. However, who runs a marathon to train for a marathon? Generally, if you look at my ride files I regularly ride above 4 hours and actually spent 14 days cycle touring Japan with almost 5-6 hours every day (i know it does not have the same intensity but more than enough base). Also, my cardiacic drift on a 4 hour ride is closer to 3% than the 5% which is mentioned by Friel as a good aerobic base…

Still thinking about the strong decrease in performance and eager to give it another shot in the upcoming season :fist_left:

You likely can’t increase your glycogen storage if you’re already carb loading regularly in your training and racing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6019055/ At best you are looking at ~500g of accessible glycogen but more in the 400g range so 1600-2000 calories max.

What you can do is increase your % utilization of fat at a given intensity. As others pointed out you were right on the edge of bonking. Pacing on FTP as the only metric if you’re not a long distance rider probably led to this issue.

1 Like

don’t think i mentioned base.

for cycling, you do run a marathon for a marathon, and then some. For running, you don’t.

it was the intensity and duration with then having to continue riding.

just my thought.

You are absolutely right. The long base was my interpretation, not what you had written, sorry. However, i had done 4-5 hour rides with some sweet spot and threshold efforts. Also my B events were quite similar but not as long, e.g. 220km with 4000 meters climbing. Also with a long past at the end. My takeaway for the next year is to train harder and pace a bit more conservatively…

definitely sprinkle in some mid range vo2max (5m or so) efforts…you climbed a couple of those with an IF over 0.85, and I’m sure there’s some vo2max efforts in there. if you dont train them though, they can be debilitating. Good luck Elvis!