Failed Full Frontal

I attempted my first Full Frontal this evening to disastrous results. I burned out at the three-minute mark of the five-minute MAP test. So here are my thoughts and observations of this week and specifically today. I wanted to commit it to print so I can learn from it and hopefully get some insights from riders here far smarter than I.

I decided to do the full week prep for both tests having not done either. The Half Monty went very well. Maybe too well. My FTP was up 31 points and my MAP 37 points. I assume the point of doing this test a few days before Full Frontal is to give you some revised targets for the two tests.

I really noticed the difference in working out for the first time with those higher numbers when I did Primers yesterday. It was harder than I remembered, and I was a bit sore when I finished. I didn’t think that was the intent. This morning my legs still felt a bit fatigued but after a few stretching sessions I felt better.

However, when I began Full Frontal, the legs felt heavy again. They did feel ok at the end of the 10-minute warmup. I was feeling pretty good. The two sprints went well. The first was good and I made a small adjustment for the second which was better.

I had read the narrative about how to best do this ride and noted the suggestion that you bump your cadence up a bit. I typically ride in the mid to high 80s, so I targeted 95 rpm for the MAP test. I was also targeting to start near the MAP number from the earlier test. That turned out to be a fatal combination.

Two minutes in I was laboring to breath and at three minutes I could not continue. My lungs were on fire. Interestingly, my legs were doing ok. I would have been better served to gear up one and drop the cadence.

I will learn more as I begin to train at the higher FTP and MAP #s. No sure when I should/will try Full Frontal again. From what I have shared here, anything you can share that I can learn from?

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Everyone has stronger days and less strong days. I wouldn’t worry about it. You learned some things. Good. From HM you have sensible numbers to work with. Do a plan and and come back to FF at the end.

I do have a question that might be relevant for next time: what was your actual average power during the 3 minutes of your MAP effort before you failed and how did it compare to your HM number? I’m wondering if you might have selected the wrong cadence/gear combination for the effort.

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Don’t let one failed FF discourage you.

“Try to avoid doing something new in FF” is the lesson learnt here. The much higher than usual cadence probably did the trick.


Do you get asthma? Your description sounds a bit like it.

I’ve managed to trigger asthma attack on a couple of attempts, and ended up with really weird numbers. Like you, it was the map block that gets me.

I get much higher numbers in hm vs ff. Ff numbers generally feel too easy in workouts, fresh hm numbers are super difficult. So I’ve taken to using hm, but dialling it back a bit until I actually build to that level - and can sustain the relevant effort without injuring myself.


Don’t be disheartened by the experienced. It feels crap, I know, but try and put it down to experience.

What I consider my best ever MAP performance (best ever wattage at the time, most consistent, etc) came on a FF where I then totally blew up on the 20mins. FF is part of a longer term process. It’s also nigh on impossible to do it perfectly as you’ve really no idea just how much you have left (though immediately afterwards you generally have a pretty good idea - if you can still breath or see, you had some left).

The body will have also got a good short, sharp shock from the sprints and your 3minute MAP effort, so view it as a quicker topper-upper to your training stress.

FWIW I’ve also always ridden the MAP portion at a cadence a little higher than my typicaly rate. In my most recent MAP I tried not to since, like you, it’s usually the lungs rather than the legs that are my limiting factor. I experimented with switching to a much lower cadence and really pushing it out. Other than a disastrous transition between the 2 levels (the necessary gear change meant I mashed up a whole load of gears) it gave my lungs a bit of a breather and I felt it helped my overall performance.
TLDR: you may want to experiment more with your cadence choices and see what really suits you best.

I write this partly as a reminder to myself that busted tests happen every now and then. It’s frustrating but it’s ok. Maybe you’ll feel good after a couple of days (don’t try again the next day, you’ll likley be fatigued even if you don’t feel it), if so just have another crack. And if not, well then maybe other factors got in the way also.


@Critmark I second the other comments to shake off the bad FF - not the end of the world. Wanted to clarify though: you did the prep week and had BOTH HM and FF on the plan? Or did you just choose to try a HM during the same week?

I usually get or do the HM 1/2 way through a longer plan, with FF at the end. Would seem to me that running a 100%(+) max effort ramp test just prior to attempting FF wouldn’t be a great idea - I would imagine your legs were spent!

re: the failed MAP, if your “normal” cadence effort is 80-85, and you just decided to try going at 95 for your MAP test, that could absolutely account for the lungs on fire with the legs still fresh - your respiratory system isn’t trained for that high cadence. Typically higher cadences increase stress on the respiratory system, while lower cadences increase stress on the muscles. Both directions require training to develop those systems, so you were asking your respiratory system, during FF, and AFTER a 100% ramp test earlier in the week, to carry a load it may not have been able to carry.

In my limited experience (5 FF to date?), FF is almost a “free” effort - finding what works for you and applying across the four metrics as best you can. Good to read advice and get input from more experienced folks, but at the end of the day, it’s YOUR training and conditioning at work on the bike.

What I found helped me immensely with getting my head around FF was to run it as a normal workout once or twice, in ERG mode, and sticking to the power targets it feeds you (or even lower them to 80-90%). Takes all the mystery out of it and gives you an idea of how to go on test day.

It’s discouraging for sure, but dust yourself off and drive on, you can do it!


First, good for you for giving it a go. Good for you for being thoughtful about your efforts and about your preparation for it. You’ve already learned a lot and you’ve got some fantastic advice from others above.

From the SUF scientists themselves, I think this is the critical bit of advice about pacing for the 5 minute effort:

A well-paced 5-minute effort is one where 2.5 minutes in, you start thinking, “I might just be able to hold this, but it will be close.” If you get to the 2-minute mark and start questioning whether you’ll make it out alive, you went out a little too hot. If you get to the 3-minute mark and think, “I have some energy left in the tank, I need to up the pace,” then you didn’t start out hard enough. That said, starting a little bit easier will get you closer to a perfectly paced 5-minute effort than blowing up spectacularly 3 minutes in.

Since you stopped at the 3 minute mark and ended the test, you won’t need to wait too too long to give it another go. Maybe start up the FF prep week again (the one without the HM) to help get your head back in the game.


3minutes is definitely a tipping point.

On any FF I’ve done where I’ve been retrospectively pleased with the 5min effort I have felt, at 3 minutes, that I’m about 60 seconds away from death. @ 2.5 mins I’m blowing, but it’s manageable. @ 3mins it barely is. The only thing that gets me beyond 4mins is that the clock says 0:xx and I can’t bear to stop with it like that.

Getting to 3mins and being right on that point without tipping over is a skill. One that I know I haven’t mastered yet. WIll I ever? Probably not, but I’ll keep trying!


Another consideration is, as a new citizen, you may have a Sprinter or Pursuiter profile (FF will tell you your rider type after the test). These profiles tend to have a higher MAP on HM and a lower MAP on FF. On the next attempt try -5w in the MAP portion - if it feels like you can finish there, then you are spot on, if it feel like you can give more, then do it. If it feels like your failing, drop another 5w, no shame in doing that.


Thank you to all for the great feedback.

I think this was a major factor. My cadence was just too high.

Never had asthma, I just pushed my respiratory system too hard. As I begin to train with the new HM numbers, I will learn how real they are and what I can really sustain.

I did the prep week that included both since I had never done either. I assume the powers to be put the plan together with both intentionally, so I went with it. In hindsight I don’t see an issue with it conceptually. I made the mistake of using the HM numbers as my starting point instead of letting the effort come to me based on how I was feeling.

Also, for clarification, my normal cadence is in a narrow range of 85-88. I pushed it to 95 based on what I read about how to take the test. I guess another example of YMMV.

I think this is a very good idea. Getting a feel for the whole ride will be of value. Kinda like getting the feel for a new course before a race. If I don’t have the time to ride a route before an event, I will at least drive it. That way I know what to expect.

I don’t think I want to do that again right now. I want to ride a few weeks with the new higher numbers from HM and see how that goes. Then, I am doing the Rapha 500 at the end of the month. I will give FF another try, likely mid-January. And no problem getting or keeping my head in the game. As my wife will attest, I am too damn stubborn to give up.


Sorry if this seems silly, but I’m wondering why you didn’t back down a bit when you realized you were going too hard to sustain the effort for five minutes? Were you going for what you thought your 5 minute power should be instead of what it actually was on that particular day?

Well Chris254, the answer to why I didn’t back down a bit is in the last sentence of my last post…“I am too damn stubborn”. And yes, I was trying to sustain the MAP number from my HM a few days earlier.

The fault in the failure lies squarely on my execution.


Interesting. Was genuinely curious as I do the FF prep week all the time and didn’t know there was one out there that included HM in the week as well. Seems overkill to me - “dead legs” is usually a dead giveaway for overtraining/overfatigue/lack of recovery time.

I’ve gone a step further in previous efforts and run the majority of FF in ERG mode on test day as well (heresy!). I will hammer sprint and 1min in level mode for all I’m worth, but will dial in the 5min and 20min in ERG mode at, say, 115%, then up or down a little at halfway, which gives me a quantifiable gain for the test without any mystery or “ride to feel” effort.

I go back and forth on it, though. Last time I did it the old fashioned way (and 20min nearly killed me).

FWIW, I’ve been a sprinter since day 1.


Always. :wink:


There are two things that bother me with your attempt:

  1. Changing cadence. Never change a thing on race day applies here. Since your ‘normal’ cadence is 80-85 that’s what you have to use here. And yes, I’ve had VIOLENT reactions to changes even on a group ride where the pace was upped when I made a change I hadn’t tested before to see how I would react.

  2. You basically did two races, at a hard pace, in one week. Unless you are riding a Grand Tour, this isn’t suggested. HM basically blew out all the reserves in your muscles and waiting a day or two and then doing Full Frontal gave you a flogging you won’t forget soon. I’m with @CPT_A in that you should take your HM numbers, adjust if necessary, and do a full training plan. At least a few weeks between with some muscle and body recovery before trying FF again. It’s a proven plan.

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I greatly appreciate the feedback but let me level set. As I said in my original post, my normal cadence is mid to high 80s. Someone else said 80-85, so I clarified as 85-88. Given that and the advice referenced below, 95 seemed a reasonable pace.

I agree and never do anything new on race day. However, I decided to increase my cadence for this based on the advice in the Wahoo article How to get your most accurate Full Frontal Results ( Quoting directly from the section on the MAP test “As far as cadence goes, your best bet is to be a little higher than what you consider your “optimal cadence”. If you normally sit at 90 RPM for hard efforts, ramp it up to 100 RPM.”

Having never taken the test before, I opted to listen to the experts. It clearly didn’t work for me.

I will look to take the FF again in January after I have some time under my belt with the new higher HM numbers.

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Your last sentence says it all. Enjoy your holidays! And work on riding at your test cadence to see if that works for you. Sometimes a five RPM raise will do you in.


Agreed. 5-7 rpm increase seems very little, until you extend it over a period of SUFFering. A non-linear effort curve, I’m thinking.


Yes. I tried an one hour ride with a 95 RPM cadence and my normal is about 87. Ouch! Have to do Cadence Drills and Holds today. Glad I can still get outside though.

My old friend Standing Starts for me. Wish I could take it outside, but it’ll be dark about 3 hours before I can get home. :grimacing:

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