The McCarthy Special

(Paul Ozier @ Peaks Coaching Group) #21

I would reduce your FTP setting in Zwift by 4-6% and give it a go. Some workouts simply will kick your tail. Do the workout at the reduced setting for 4 or 5 times. You will adapt to the craziness. Then give it a go at your normal FTP setting. When I coach a rider that is having trouble in a particular area this is what needs to be done for a few weeks. Riders all have varying abilities, strengths, limiters, etc. One rider may have no trouble with 5-6 minute efforts at 125% ,but then fail at 20 minutes at 105%. Work on your limiters (the painful stuff you hate to do), sharpen your strengths.


(Darron Turner) #22

Trying Zwift for the first times the past 3 days.  Did a couple short rides, then an FTP test.  The second day I did a 2x20 FTP Intervals workout which felt about right.  Riding those 20min FTP sessions was tough.  Obviously, the second one was almost too much.  So on the 3rd day, I thought I would try out the 60 min McCarthy Special.  I saw the same thing where the first 3 min was at FTP, 2nd 3 min was higher, and the 3rd 3mins was at 125%.  Made it through the first group of three okay(the 125% was a struggle).  Once I hit the second 125% segment, I knew there was no way I could do that again so I lifted up and forced the smart trainer(Wahoo Kickr) to disable ERG mode.  That way I could ride that 3 min seg at whatever I could stand.  I kept it as high as I could.  Mostly around FTP or maybe a couple watts lower, then the last 45 seconds I kicked back up to the 125% which re-engaged the ERG mode.  Did the same for the third group of 3min segments.  Rode FTP and 110% segment to full distance then had to back off for 2 min in the 125% segment.

This may or may not be a good idea.  I am new to structured training.  I figure I may try to do this McCarthy Special in this manor a few times over the next month or so and I should see that 3rd segment at 125% get a little easier.

Plenty more workouts for me to try out so there is plenty for me to learn.  I just decided to search the McCarthy workout because it kicked my a** in that 125% segment and was wondering if I was the only one.  :slight_smile:


(Paul Ozier @ Peaks Coaching Group) #23

Darron - Yes it is impossible for most to pull it off on their first attempt (2nd, 3rd, etc). It is a butt kicker. I have 3 different workouts I do and give to my athletes. They are McCarthy Special build up workouts. Most riders can incorporate them into their regular training and about 4 weeks later they can pull off the McCarthy Special. If you want the zwo files just let me know and I can email them to you. Keep in mind my riders race, train year round , so they have a strong base of experience. Any newer riders may need longer to adapt to the load.



(Darron Turner) #24

I would definitely check out the workout files if you want to send them over.  You can send them to

I have just ridden mountain bikes in the past.  No real structured training or any indoor training.  I decided to try out the indoor training this year after several years of thinking about it.  Obviously the goal is to keep from losing my Spring/Summer/Fall gains, by not sitting around all winter.  :)  I get competitive with myself so I can see trying to improve on Zwift workouts and such now that I finally have the trainer and platform.



(Kestas Gedminas) #25

Some calculations. For last 8 minutes of the interval you have (3x125%+3x110%+2*100%)/8 = 113% FTP on average.  As we know there is 8 min in FTP test which basically says that your FTP is 90% of whatever you can hold for 8 minutes. 113%*0.9 = 102%. So basically  completing this workout at set power means your actual FTP is 2% higher than whatever you set at start :slight_smile:


(Matt You) #26

Kestas - that’s what I was thinking too. Completing this workout requires you to go beyond your 8 min FTP test. And you’re asked to do 3 reps instead of 2! So by definition, if you can complete this workout, your FTP is set incorrectly.


(Matt You) #27

I noticed several other Zwift workouts are like this too (i.e. Hunter’s Challenge - Slay the Dragon: 4 x 10 min @ 115%). 


(Gerrie Delport TeamZF) #28

Guys, the 8 min FTP test is actually 16 min long.  You do 2 x 8 min efforts and take the average of those then that is 90% of your FTP.

FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power, which is commonly defined as the highest average power you can sustain for an hour.

 "Hunter’s Challenge - Slay the Dragon: 4 x 10 min @ 115%" But there are 5 min breaks between those 10min sections.


(Matt You) #29

Gerrie - There’s a 10-min break between the 8 min efforts (TrainerRoad 8 min test).


Just an example to elaborate further. Let’s assume an FTP of 240W.

115% would be 276W.

If I were to maintain an ALL-OUT power of 276W for 2 sets of the 8 min test, my FTP would be  [(276W + 276W)/2 *0.9] = 248W… higher than the original setting.

So it should physically be impossible to maintain 115% for a 8 min FTP test, let alone a 10 min x 4 workout. That would defy the definition of FTP. Am I missing something here?


(Gerrie Delport TeamZF) #30

Your math makes complete sense.  And i don’t know how to answer you. 

Lets just say I don’t like the 8min FTP test, but that is just me. I prefer a 20 min but I think most accurate is a 1 hour time trail.

I would say those workouts is probably meant to push you beyond your limits, if you can do them and get to the target watts then it is probably time to re test your ftp. 



(Joe) #31

Late to reply here, but… I read this thread some time ago after also trying (and failing to complete) this workout a few times.  At the time, I was riding on a fluid trainer ('03 Fluid2) w/ speed sensor and zPower.  With that setup, my Zwift FTP was only 142 W and this workout was *impossibly* hard by the time the third set began (at 140/160/180 W for each set).

I recently ditched the Fluid2 and bought an Elite Direto (w/ widely praised power accuracy).  My FTP jumped to 209 W overnight! Suffice to say: the power curve Zwift applies to calculate your zPower wattage when you select CycleOps Fluid 2 does *not* accurately reflect the resistance curve for *older Fluid2*  trainers.

Anyway, I did this workout last night on the Direto w/ my FTP @ 209 (so 3 min at 210W, 3 min at 235W, and 3 min at 260W) and finished the whole thing.  The final 3 min were not easy, but probably not hard enough either.  Need to re-test my FTP soon and see where I’m really at.  That said, if you aren’t using a power meter, you have an older fluid trainer, and you’re finding this workout impossible to complete? The reason might have more to do with your specific trainer and Zwift’s algorithm than your legs. 

1 Like