TT or Time Trial, what is it?

If you have been in the endurance world long enough at some point you have heard of a Time Trial (TT).

What are they used for and why should you do them?

Time Trials are used to set zones for training purposes and are also used for judging progress.

Different types of Zones:
  • Heart Rate
  • Pace
  • Power 
The most common Time Trail is a 30-min Time Trial for both the bike and run. In the pool, the most common is a 1000 yd/m TT.

Example 30-min Run Time Trial:

WU: 5-min walk, 10-min @ easy/mod pace, DWU, 4 x 20-sec strides and then build 5-min to 10K pace.
MS: Run for 30 min as hard as you can - don't go out too fast.
10-min into the run, hit your 'Lap' button so you record the average HR and distance over the last 20-min. Record the time and distance for the 20-min.
CD: 5-10 min run/walk.

Example 30-min Bike Time Trial:

WU: 20-30 mins building to moderate effort.
MS: Then ride a 30 minute time trial. Maximal effort. Use a flat course. 10 minutes into the time trial push the lap button on your device. Afterwards, record your average heart rate for the last 20 minutes. Also record distance covered or average speed.
CD: 30 mins easy spin @ 90rpm.

Okay now you have an example of a type of Time Trial you can do. What do you do with the numbers?
  • Ave HR for the last 20-min is a good estimate of Lactate Threshold Heart Rate. 
  • For Pace and Power the total average over the entire 30-min is a good estimate for Functional Threshold Pace/Power. 
Run HR Zones
Zone 1 Less than 85% of LTHR
Zone 2 85% to 89% of LTHR
Zone 3 90% to 94% of LTHR
Zone 4 95% to 99% of LTHR
Zone 5a 100% to 102% of LTHR
Zone 5b 103% to 106% of LTHR
Zone 5c More than 106% of LTHR

For an example: This is a link to my data file for a Run TT - CLICK HERE


From this data: 20-min Ave HR = 182 and 30-min Ave Pace = 8:04/mile
LTHR = 182 and FTP = 8:04

So for HR Zone 2 = 182 * .85 = 155, 182 *.89 = 162. My Zone 2 HR is the (155 - 162 HR). 

Pace Zones
Zone 1 Slower than 129% of FTPa
Zone 2 114% to 129% of FTPa
Zone 3 106% to 113% of FTPa
Zone 4 99% to 105% of FTPa
Zone 5a 97% to 100% of FTPa
Zone 5b 90% to 96% of FTPa
Zone 5c Faster than 90% of FTPa

So for Pace Zone 3 we first need to convert 8:04 into a tenths of seconds.
4/60 = .07 so 8:04 = 8.07

Pace Zone 3 = 8.07 * 1.06 = 8.55, 8.07 * 1.13 = 9.12
We have to convert tenths back to seconds - .55*60 = 33, .12*60 = 7
My Zone 3 Pace is (8:33 - 9:07/mile).

Finding HR zones on the bike are calculated the same as the run but the percentages of HR are slightly different. 

Bike HR Zones
Zone 1 Less than 81% of LTHR
Zone 2 81% to 89% of LTHR
Zone 3 90% to 93% of LTHR
Zone 4 94% to 99% of LTHR
Zone 5a 100% to 102% of LTHR
Zone 5b 103% to 106% of LTHR
Zone 5c More than 106% of LTHR

Bike Power Zones
Zone 1 Less than 55% of FTPw
Zone 2 55% to 74% of FTPw
Zone 3 75% to 89% of FTPw
Zone 4 90% to 104% of FTPw
Zone 5 105% to 120% of FTPw
Zone 6 More than 120% of FTPw

Things to consider before you do a TT, how and when to do a TT are very important.
  • Experienced and endurance athletes = every 6-12 weeks
  • Novice athletes = more frequently. This is because LTHR changes quite rapidly.
  • Should be done when recovered (during recovery week), testing when fatigued does not provide useful information. 
  • Track is best for run
  • Road for bike with no stop signs, street lights and flat or slightly uphill. 
Run and bike HR training zones and FTP are developed by Joe Friel.

Now that you have your numbers using them in a way to gain optimum performance is key.

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