The McCarthy Special

(Chris) #1

Just tried this workout. Gave up less than halfway through. I’ve done a fair few TrainerRoad sessions but this one is just too much.

Can anyone go that far over FTP for these intervals? 

I’ll give it a go another time, but I’m dropping the watts by at least 20 before…


(Oguzhan Yavuz) #2

I did it several times. Indeed it’s pretty hard but i think riding 6 minutes over ftp is doable. Here is my last time:


(Chris) #3

Will give it a go another time but 9 min at and 125% FTP is pretty tough. Didn’t help that the trainer power didn’t feel consistent too.


(Todd Taylor) #4

I like the McCarthy special.  Perhaps if you can’t complete the workout, your FTP setting is a bit too high?  I find that almost all of the workouts push me quite a bit to complete, but I’m typically able to complete them all.

I recently started the 12 week winter plan work-out and THAT plan is kicking my butt!  On day two, the routine includes a series of 1 leg intervals followed by 135+ RPM cadence intervals.   I wasn’t able to finish a few of the intervals as my legs were in shock from never having done 1 leg or 135+ RPM work-outs :open_mouth:


(Chris) #5

I guess I’m just used to the TrainerRoad workouts. My FTP is apparently around 240w and that feels about right. But the McCarthy special was expecting 3 minutes at 300w after 6 minutes at above FTP.

I’m sort of wondering if something was wrong here. Looking at “The Gorby” which I did comfortably last week it has a higher stress score. When I did that the intervals where only 260w…


(lukas ranicar) #6

Chris I agree it’s really hard.  I’ve tried and failed twice.  I have seen a pic of the workout on the titanium geek website which starts well below ftp first 3 mins then just over for 2nd 3 mins and above for last 3 mins. Stress score 65.  The McCarthy special served up to me started at ftp and rose to 125% for last 3 mins too. It’s definitely changed.  I’m pretty sure my FTP is right so just going to keep plugging away. Might take a while.


(Chris) #7

Lukas, sounds exactly like I got. And like you said I found images of the workout elsewhere showing it only finishing a little above FTP.

Someone out there must be trying to break us!


(Andrew Gleeson) #8

Re-check your FTP and re-adjust.

I thought it was a great workout. Yes the tail end of the 3rd hard rep was pushing me a bit, but that’s what it’s supposed to do. 

Bring on more sub-60 minute workouts.


(Duane) #9

I’m not trying to make excuses or anything, but that workout is well tuned for people who have exceptional five minute or less power.  If you lean strongly as a slowtwitch time trialist (like me) that workout is off the charts hard and I would dare say impossible.  On the other hand, I’m sure some sprinters are decrying how the SST stuff is killing them and that is my happy place.  

My take away message is that every workout isn’t for every person.  I’m all for training the weakness but the McCarthy Special is a peak workout for short range specialists.


(Chris) #10

Nah! I still think I got it served up wrong!

The version I had, the interval started at FTP and then went up. So I had 3 mins @ 240w, 3 mins @ 270w and 3 min @ 300w - that’s 125% FTP at the end. 

However if I look at images around the web they show it starting out below FTP and finishing at around 110% - which in my books is doable.

Think I’ll just go and double check what Zwift has as my FTP, but I don’t recall changing it…


(Andrew Gleeson) #11

I was FTP 255W, and I got served up 3 @ 255, 3 @ 285 & 3 @ 320. Do-able. Just treat it like your favourite 6 min climb for the last 6 mins of each set. The 9 mins @ 160 rest between was good - HR down to something low before starting again.


(John) #12

If you look at the actual workout definition, the FTP percentages are higher than the workout description. I made my own version that matches the description. I’ll do my own a few times to get the super-threshold work in, then go on to the ‘official’ version once I’m in a bit better shape.


(Emil) #13

Yes, it has definitely changed at some point recently.

I used to be able to complete it, while hard it was perfectly doable. Now: No way!




(Noel Nunkovich *USMES*) #14

Mike McCarthy himself addresses this in episode 4 of the ZwiftCast podcast. I can’t remember the specifics, but it boils down to “don’t be afraid to fail.” There’s a lot more to it, but when doing this workout as a competitive racer during his career he never expected to finish, especially not at first.

I highly recommend the podcast in general and, if you are trying to do this workout, episode 4 in particular.


(Andy Roche ZZRC 2.5 LEAD) #15

I actually think the McCarthy Special is SPECIAL. I’ve tried it 3 or 4 times and I’m nearly there. I’m now failing on the last 3 minute session. I will finish it and get all my stars, just got to keep working hard and chipping away.

I agree with Noel Nunkovich . . . . . listen to the podcast where Mike McCarthy is interviewed. He comments about “being prepared to fail, success isn’t a given right; but working hard will help you succeed; learn how to push yourself and you will see improvements, if you don’t you won’t”. It was very interesting.

I can remember an interview that Vincenzo Nibali did in one of the Grand Tours (can’t remember which one) after a particularly bad day. He basically said “Can’t change it, its done and it’s history, tomorrow is another day but I will lean from the mistakes”.

We can all think like this, we’ll only get better by hard work and effort . . . . . “Talent alone doesn’t guarantee success, if talent doesn’t work hard, hard work will beat talent.”

So everyone keep working at the McCarthy Special and when you crack it you will be a better fitter rider 

1 Like

(Breton Smith FBNMCC) #16

I feel your pain on this one Mr. Leather.  

I couldn’t finish the top intervals either. My FTP is pretty dialed but I could only get through 40s of that third three minute effort. I thrashed and died and had to dial it down to a power of about the middle of the first two efforts. 

Glad to hear it is “ok to fail”. Will try again after a nice loooong recovery period.


(David Milner) #17

Finished it this morning, after resetting my FTP last week.

After the first interval, I didn’t think I’d get through the last third of the second, never mind the third interval - trying for the KOM helped…

I agree with those who think the graphical representation of the workout is wrong - each interval definitely starts at FTP and then gets harder.

But I can attest to its being manageable: so long, I suppose, as your FTP is set accurately, you’re relatively well rested and you can find the motivation - those last three minutes are loooooong…


(Chris) #18

I think part of my problem was I went into it thinking there were rests between the three efforts - i.e. I assumed that no one in their right mind would make such a hardcore workout!

Anyhow, I will give it another go with revised expectations.
I’m not dropping my FTP though as I think it is pretty accurate - given I can actually put out almost that many watts for over an hour.


(Emil) #19

If it’s _almos_t that many watts then your FTP is set wrong :wink:


(Chris) #20

I think ‘can almost’ might have been the wrong words. If it was an hour TT I suspect I could knock out the few extra watts.

However, psychological factors over an hour will have their effect on effort otherwise.