Couch to Cat C, Week 6: The Final Countdown

Couch to Cat C, Week 6: The Final Countdown

Our goal: to transform a 265-pound rookie rider with a tested 1.92w/kg FTP into a cat C Zwift racer (2.5w/kg+) in 6 weeks.

The first week was mostly about orientation and baseline testing, the second week about building endurance and improving form on the bike. In the third and fourth weeks we started pushing the endurance Boone was building, working to keep the watts higher over the duration of the ride. And in the fifth week things got tougher, with V02 workouts making their way into the mix.

Now the final week. It would have a bit more VO2 work, plus some racing and testing to measure progress. Would we achieve our goal? Only one way to find out!

The Plan

As a reminder, here’s the basic plan we settled on for the 6 weeks. (Many thanks to Alan Dempsey of HPP Coaching for giving us solid advice that sets Boone up for success).

  • Week 1: Benchmark testing + Endurance
    FTP test, attempt first Zwift race, and get some time on the bike
  • Weeks 2-4: Endurance + Cadence Work
    Lots of work from low zone 2 to mid zone 3, with some high-cadence drills to train the legs for efficient pedaling
  • Weeks 5-6: Endurance + Intensity, Finishing with Benchmark Testing
    Start with similar rides as weeks 2-4, with some VO2 and threshold efforts included in short durations. Toward the end of week 6 we’ll do another FTP test and Zwift race, so we can compare progress from week 1.

Ride #21: VO2 Workout, Aborted

We had high hopes of completing one more tough VO2 workout at the start of this final week, but it didn’t really work out, probably due to several factors…

First, Boone’s FTP had been bumped up from 250W to 257W – so the intervals were at a higher wattage. Then we added 15 seconds to his 3-minute VO2 intervals. He had done an FTP Ramp Test the day before, so his legs might have been feeling that effort still. And on top of that, ERG mode was misbehaving at the start of the workout (a reboot fixed things).

His first 3:15 interval was a struggle. And the second interval took all he had. After that we just binned it, and Boone rode around Yorkshire, enjoying the sights and getting in some saddle time. Today wasn’t the day for a tough effort, but he could still get some riding time in while working on his cadence and endurance.

See this ride on Strava >

Ride #22: New Hour PB

We wanted to see how long Boone could hang with C. Cadence, so on Wednesday he headed to Fuego Flats to spin and warm up his legs. Our plan was to hopefully come across Cara’s group after a bit of a warmup, then just hop in and go.

This actually worked out nicely, and Boone was pushing some decent wattage when Cara finally came through. Boone held onto her group for the rest of his hour-long effort, setting new power PB’s in the 23 minutes + range, including averaging 223W for the full hour. He also rode further in this ride than any previous, covering 23.2 miles.

While he rode I logged into Boone’s account in Zwift Companion and handed out Ride Ons to the C. Cadence group, resulting in lots of unlocks (and XP bonuses).

See this ride on Strava >

Ride #23: Crit City 8-Lapper

With just a few rides left in his final week, Boone and I were both itching to see him test his newfound fitness. So on Friday, Boone joined an event which he hadn’t tried before: a Crit City 8-lapper (he had only done 6 before), in the Bell Lap direction (he had only done Downtown Dolphin before).

First he warmed up with an easyWatopian spin, and I adjusted his weight down once again. (He’d been watching his calories closely, and enjoyed dropping his in-game weight regularly!)

Dropping Boone’s weight once more – he’s so close to that 235lb target!

Before the event I did a bit of poking around ZwiftPower to survey Boone’s competition. I came across one noteworthy rider: Lukas Reischl. Lukas stuck out on the signup list because he had the best ranking, but when I clicked his profile he really stuck out. Nearly every event in his recent list was a Crit City D race that he had won! (14 races in 2021, 10 of them are 1st place finishes in Crit City).

Now, we could discuss how it’s probably time for Lukas to upgrade to the C’s so he can push himself to new levels of fitness – but that’s a topic for another post. What was important for us was that Lukas seemed to be very similar to Boone. He’s a big dude, with a strong sprint. And he knew how to win. I told Boone, “This is the guy to mark for the race.”

41 D riders started the race, but within the first 2 minutes the front selection was made – and Boone was in it! 7 riders worked to build a gap on the chasers, and the seconds added up.

Boone, sitting in the front group

Boone rode smart, staying in the draft. I handled his powerups, deploying them when it was most helpful. After a few minutes the green cones started showing up, slowing the sandbaggers and thinning the front group further. After just 2 laps, only 4 riders remained in the front group: Reischl (above), Nathan (a ZP-registered rider), “Colvin” (who we knew nothing about), and Boone.

Not much happened in laps 2-7… the gap to the chasers grew, the 4 front riders kept plugging away, and Boone stayed out of the wind mostly.

Giving Boone some sprint tips on the penultimate lap

On the 7th lap, it suddenly hit me that Boone had never sprinted for a win in a Zwift race. Uh oh. And he was going up against Reischl, who clearly knew what he was doing, and had the power to back it up. As we neared the end of lap 7 I tried to talk Boone through the finishing sprint, explaining that it’s usually a mistake to go early. That he’ll want to shift up a gear or two. And telling him where to start the sprint.

Then it was the final lap. All we got was a steamroller powerup, which wouldn’t help us in the sprint – so I used it on the bricks. Nathan tried to go long, and Boone grabbed Reischl’s wheel then Colvin’s as the three chased Nathan. Then Nathan got coned! (Time to move up the C’s, Nathan!)

Nathan (off the front) gets coned

It was just the 3 riders now, and nobody wanted to go first. Boone got to the front and started his sprint. The other two were on his wheel. Colvin couldn’t come around, but cagey Reischl was sitting in with a draft powerup, and in the final straightaway rocketed around Boone to take the win.

Reischl about to come around Boone in the final meters

Boone’s a pretty competitive guy, and he was not happy about losing that final sprint. He wanted a rematch!

But looking on the bright side, we were both happy – he had finally hung in the front pack for the whole race. That’s a huge accomplishment. Just being in the mix for the final sprint is a big deal! Winning that sprint is another matter entirely, of course. It comes down to which powerup you’ve got, how much is left in the legs, a good sense of timing, and more.

This race gave Boone a huge confidence boost, as you can imagine. It also gave him an FTP boost, and an upgraded power curve from 16 minutes onward.

Watch the Race Video:

See this ride on Strava >

Ride #24: Crit City Breakthrough

After Friday’s race, Boone definitely had the hunger. He was looking for a win. So on Sunday afternoon he came over to take on his third Sunday Crit City race. Just like the previous two Sunday races, it would be 6 laps of the Downtown Dolphin route.

We discussed strategy ideas beforehand, and he said he thought he could break away sooner – perhaps using the brick descent as a launch pad in the final lap. I also gave him a few squirts of my secret weapon – PR lotion. What can I say? We both wanted a win! I warned him that PR lotion, which contains bicarb, would help his legs not burn so bad. But the muscles are still doing all the same work, so he shouldn’t go too hard too early and blow up!

I did a bit of ZwiftPower scouting beforehand, but no riders stuck out like Reischl did in the earlier race. As Boone spun his legs around Watopia to warm up, I dropped his weight further – he had skipped out on birthday cakes and Valentine’s candy, and it had paid off. Sub-235 pounds for the first time in 9 years!

Right out of the gate a gap opened up, and Boone was in the chasing group. This is where you have to make a split-second decision. Do you put in the work to close that gap, or do you ease up, hoping others in your group will do the work for you?

We didn’t leave it to chance. The race had just started, and Boone certainly had a few seconds of high watts in his fresh legs. Close the gap!

And there we were. The selection was made – 8 riders out of the initial 27.

At the top of the bricks on lap 2, 4:40 into the race, RadDadChad got coned. (He’d stuck in out the rider list because of his great name, but also because he had messaged beforehand that he would be winning the race.) Pride goeth before a fall, Chad. 😋 You’ll hear us razzing you in the video below, but it’s all in good fun.

As Boone began the brick climb on lap three, he put in an extra dig as I activated his feather powerup. He and rider “Almanza” quickly gained a 3-second gap on the other 4 riders. Boone went to the front, pushing extra watts on the descent and building the gap.

Was he really going to attempt this? I didn’t say it at the time, but I was thinking, “This is way too early – he’s going to blow up.” Boone dropped Almanza, and built the gap to 10s by the time he crested the brick climb on the 4th lap!

His heart rate was pretty high, but he looked good, and nobody behind was willing (or able?) to put in a real chase. The gap kept growing… at the top of the bricks on the 5th lap he had 12s on them. Could he hold on?

Boone off the front on the penultimate lap

As he began his final lap his heart rate was at 190 – the highest we’ve seen is 192.

But he had that look in his eye. I’ve seen it before, many times. He wasn’t going to stop.

The group behind was trying to chase, closing it to 8-9s. But it was too little, too late. Boone hammered up the bricks as a strong rider from the chase group got coned. Then Boone hit the bottom of the descent, hammered for a few seconds, then stopped pedaling and “coasted” over the finish line, 8s ahead of the closest pursuer!

And even though he stopped pedaling at 19 minutes, he still got an FTP upgrade based on his 20-minute average power. A breakthrough ride for sure!

We checked ZwiftPower for confirmation of his win… but his name wasn’t showing up. Clicking “Unfiltered” we discovered Boone had been disqualified – his w/kg were too high for a D race (2.78 w/kg for 19:01)!

So not an official win (and Boone wanted to be sure to extend congratulations to “Joseph Davis”, who took 1st in ZwiftPower.) But Boone was happy to be DQ’d. Because it meant we had achieved our goal: to achieve a 2.5 w/kg FTP in 6 weeks. To be bumped up into Cat C status. The new FTP (276W) divided by Boone’s weight for today’s race (106.4kg) gave us 2.59w/kg.

Watch the Race Video:

(You’ll hear my wife Monica in there, as well as our very expressive buddy Zane who’s been coming over to watch Boone’s races)

See this ride on Strava >

And the PR Lotion? Let’s just say Boone is convinced. “My legs didn’t hurt at all.” He’ll use it in his final FTP test as well.

Ride #25: Final FTP Test

Zwift had detected an FTP of 276W in Boone’s race, but we wanted to finish the 6 weeks with an FTP test, the same way we’d begun. So the day after his race win, Boone did a ramp test. Could he meet or beat the 276W mark with semi-tired legs?

Yes he could! The ramp test gave him a new FTP of 278W. That gives him a final FTP of 2.62w/kg, up from a starting FTP of 1.92w/kg. A 36% increase. Amazing! His pure wattage went from 230W to 276W, which is a 20% increase.

Confirmation that his “race FTP” was quite accurate

Final Takeaways

I’m super-impressed with that Boone was able to accomplish in 6 weeks. But I’m not surprised.

You see, as close cousins, we’ve known each other since before we could walk. And he’s always been a guy who, once he sets his mind on doing something, gets it done.

He lost over 30 pounds in these 6 weeks, by carefully watching what he ate and getting some exercise every day. And he jumped into every workout I threw at him, never complaining or trying to weasel his way out. He knew we both wanted the same thing – and trust makes a good team. We had a good plan, we stuck to it, and the results followed. That’s how training works.

Post-ride hangout in the office/pain cave

The fitness gains are great to see, but in the end, we both agreed that our favorite thing about this 6-week experiment was how much we got to hang out with each other. We’re best friends, but the daily pull of work, family, etc, means we don’t spend a lot of time together. I think that’s going to change moving forward.

What’s Next?

Boone wants to keep riding, as he wants to keep losing weight until he gets to a healthy 190-200 pounds. He doesn’t have much interest in outdoor riding, but likes the efficiency and safety of indoor workouts. And, of course, he enjoys the competitive aspect of racing!

We haven’t figured out exactly what his Zwift setup might look like yet, but for the next couple weeks he’ll be riding on my setup as we figure out what comes next. Maybe, just maybe, a new Zwift Insider series will emerge! Stay tuned.

Thanks for Your Support

Thanks so much to everyone who cheered Boone on during this 6-week journey. He really appreciated it!

Your Thoughts

Comments on our 6-week experiment, or this week’s events? Share below!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
34 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Christian Wiesinger
Christian Wiesinger
19 days ago

Wow, amazing! Especially the picture comparison of how much weight he lossed, just look at his face!

Christian Wiesinger
Christian Wiesinger
19 days ago

lost* – woops. 🙂

Boone
Boone
19 days ago

I know !! What a fatty 🤮

Jeff Summers
Jeff Summers
19 days ago

Great job, very inspiring! Gives us heavy D racers hope

Dave Hicks
Dave Hicks (@drhmm1)
19 days ago

Awesome effort to achieve your goal! Keep at it!😋

Aaron
Aaron (@aaron-paquette)
19 days ago

30 lbs weight loss in 6 weeks is impressive!

Silke
Silke
19 days ago

Congratulations Boone! What an impressive progress in only 6 weeks! And a perfect example of good sportsmanship at the last race!

A. Stowe
A. Stowe
19 days ago

Congratulations Boone, Smashed it!

Eric you should consider renaming the series “Couch to Cat B in 12 weeks” 😆if anyone can do it’s Boone

dan
dan
11 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

zwift caters for big guys on most races; esp the crit city.

Darren M
Darren M
19 days ago

30 lbs in 6 weeks? Holy [email protected]^@*! That is incredible.

MHolden
MHolden (@holdenadventures)
19 days ago

wow! that’s some impressive work and great coaching! Well done!!
Only took me 150 rides/races to get a 1st place.

Greg Hilton
Greg Hilton (@ghilton)
19 days ago

Great work, coach Eric and rider Boone!

Tim Martin
Tim Martin
19 days ago

Well done, Boone! I watched the video when it popped up on YouTube this morning and was blown away. You deserved that DQ! Cheers!

Boone
Boone
19 days ago
Reply to  Tim Martin

Thank you I’ve never been so happy to be disqualified from anything in my life!!!

Sebastian Sperl
Sebastian Sperl
19 days ago

I restarted my zwift career around the same day Boone did… though my progress in loosing weight and gaining watts was not that impressive like boones, i really enjoyed every week of his way to cat C.! Well done and impressive! Hope you guys continue in future!

Boone
Boone
19 days ago

Congratulations on making a positive change in your life. If you haven’t had the same success I have it’s probably because you haven’t had Eric yelling insults at you the same as I have. Maybe if you ask him he’ll send you a video of him yelling insults at you. he he he😂😂😂

Bianca Fernandez
Bianca Fernandez (@bianca-fdez)
19 days ago

Congratulations!! This is really inspiring !

Stinky Pete
Stinky Pete
18 days ago

Wow that is crazy impressive. I started at a similar weight and lower FTP and after over a year did not improve FTP or weight by that much. Congrats to Boone!

I would love, love to hear more about the dietary changes Boone used to drive the weight loss.

David Heard
David Heard
18 days ago

Did it in style – solo breakaway! Incredible job Boone, loved following the story Eric.

Cody
Cody
18 days ago

Such a cool story. As a long-time cyclist (15-ish years) with a lower FTP than Boone, I clearly need to get my priorities straight…

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk)
18 days ago

Nice one Boone, congrats. Are you addicted to Zwift racing now? 😀
Crit City is a highly competitive race course involving a savage 20min effort with a big sprint finish and favours heavier riders as there are no climbs. With a >1000w sprint finish you could be competing for podiums in Cat C before too long if you can bring your 20min w/kg up to 3.0ish..! Ride on.

Tom Higham
Tom Higham
18 days ago

Bravo Boone! As a new to Zwifter, have really enjoyed this series – super pleased for you Boone.

Martin Start
Martin Start
17 days ago
Reply to  Tom Higham

This has been both a great read and super Kudos to Boone. Terrific effort and the results are easy to see. As a heavy rider I need to do a Boone.

Richard Cook
Richard Cook
16 days ago

Great read! It also gave me the warm fuzzies reading about your friendship! Ride On!

lin
lin
13 days ago

Well done Boone! Good stuff Eric!

David Petersen
David Petersen
12 days ago

cool! Just plain old Cool.

sven
sven
11 days ago

Awesome!

GARY JACKSON
GARY JACKSON
8 days ago

I’ve read all 5 weeks, and I was really invested in you guys getting the win and getting your goals. Fair play to you!

I’m pretty similar to Boone in a lot of ways, I’ve just started my Zwift journey this week, doing the zwift 101 plan to get my bearings. I’m 6ft 6, 264lbs, 37 years of age and an ex rugby, and ice hockey player so have plenty of power in my legs too. I’m thinking I’m going use your journey as a guide over the next 6 or so weeks and see where it takes me.

Lukas
Lukas
8 days ago

That was an good race. I was tasting lung at multiple points. I’ll race with Boone anytime.

34
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x