The Occasional Athlete

A cyclist trying to be fast(-ish) again

How will I prepare for the for Fred Whitton Challenge?

Posted at — Nov 5, 2018

So in my inaugural post I set out my goal for the next six months or so - the brutal Fred Whitton Challenge. How brutal is it, I hear you ask! Well, take a look at that profile!

How am I going to prepare for it? I’ve been following plans from TrainerRoad on and off for a while now so I’ll be using these as a starting point. Before diving into my plan, however, there are a couple of concepts worth explaining.

Training stress

Being able to quantify the stress placed on your body by workouts is important in the construction of any training plan. Traditionally, prior to devices such as heart rate monitors and power meters athletes used hours trained as a proxy. However, with modern technology (in particular, power meters) we can get a far more precise estimate of this stress. The most commonly used measure is the training stress score (TSS) developed by Dr Andrew Coggan (described in detail in his book Training and Racing with a Power Meter) and made popular by Joel Friel, founder of TrainingPeaks and author of the X’s Training Bible books. You can find a detailed description here, but in short, TSS combines the intensity and duration of a workout into a single number. It works on the reasonable assumption that a very long, low-intensity ride will be equivalently stressful on the body as a short, high-intensity ride.


Any good training plan needs a sense of progression. Generally, you want your training to transition from building general fitness to building race-specific fitness over the course of the plan. In endurance sports, this typically means four phases: a base phase, in which general aerobic fitness is developed; a build phase where sessions become more specific and typically ramp up in intensity; a specialisation phase, where fitness is fine tuned to your target event; and a short taper/race phase, where you recover ready for the big event.

My plan

As mentioned above, I’ll be using TrainerRoad’s plans as the basis of mine, following their low volume sweet spot base, sustained power build, and century specialisation plans. These schedule three structured workouts per week, which comprise intervals of varying intensities ranging from high aerobic (around 88-94% of my FTP) to VO2max (110-120%) and sprinting. Once I get a bit fitter I’ll probably replace the weekend workout with my club’s Sunday bash and throw in the occasional time trial. I’ll also add a weekly long ride of three to five hours, increasing in duration over the course of the plan. Time allowing, I’ll also add a one to two hour easy ride, two or three weights/core sessions, and one or two easy runs every week - I don’t need to run, but running is great! Finally, I’m going to try and get in the habit of stretching daily, which something I’m terrible at but really should do - spending all day at a desk or on a bike has given me the posture of a spoon!

As mentioned in my previous post, although I’m targeting the Fred Whitton Challenge there’s a good chance I won’t get a place. As backup I’ve entered another century ride a few weeks later, the Peak Epic Sportive. The parcours is pretty, though with slightly more vertical ascent over about ten fewer km. Depending how I recover from Fred Whitton I may do it anyway as it’s not too far away.

So, what does my “final” plan look like - this won’t be what my completed TSS will look like in a few months as stuff never quite goes to plan!

This is a good, progressive plan, with the training stress ramping up steadily and full recovery scheduled every four to six weeks. Week one starts today! So far so good; I did an easy 30 minute run at lunchtime. Tomorrow is when things get serious though - a ramp test to assess my fitness and give me an accurate FTP on which to base the next six weeks of training. Bring on the pain!