Interview with Heather Wurtele
Heather Wurtele is coming off a big win at Rev3 Quassy this past weekend, which saw one of the most competitive fields outside of 70.3 World Championships. Heather is one of the strongest cyclists in the sport, and improved upon her 2nd place in 2012 by taking a very impressive win by improving her splits across all 3 disciplines. We had a chance to ask Heather a few questions after her race.
PowerTap: Congratulations of the win! Your season is off to a great start. How did you feel coming into the race with your fitness, and what were your goals?
Heather: I knew that my half iron distance fitness was the best it has ever been, but I had been doing a pretty big Ironman-specific block before this race in preparation for Ironman Coeur d'Alene, so I was trying to shake a fair bit of fatigue. I did the same thing last year, though, and the race went well for me so I was confident I'd have good legs on the day. The goal was definitely to improve on my performance from last year and come away with the win.
PowerTap: The last 2 years in Quassy you've come out a couple minutes back of a small group of super swimmers, then power towards the front with a very strong bike. Does the field of women you're racing against determine the way you race, or do you go in with a plan and try to stick to it?
Heather: I generally come into a race with a set plan which takes into account the women I am competing against, the course, the conditions... and I try to stick to it. I can't hang on the feet of the super swimmers so I generally have to chase, but I know what watts I can hold and I have a general plan of attack. When I pass I try to do it decisively, and if I get passed I'll try to stick with the person depending on the circumstances and if it's not outside a reasonable power range for me.
PowerTap: Looking at your power file, you had an amazing ride, and are like a metronome with both your power and cadence: very smooth throughout the entire ride. How did you feel the bike went?
Heather: I had significantly lower normalized power this year, but a faster time. I'm sure part of it is due to the new P5 I'm on, but lower watts and a faster time usually has something to do with environmental conditions. It was SUPER hot and humid this year. With the higher temperature air is less dense and riding is faster, but with the heat/humidity it has an effect on watts & performance, especially at low speed, such as when climbing.
PowerTap: Did you have to alter your plan or effort due to conditions (heat/humidity)?
Heather: I made some minor adjustments like not wearing the visor on my Giro Selector helmet to allow for more cooling on my face, getting more fluids at aid stations, and taking salt pills in addition to my First Endurance Liquid shot. Otherwise, the idea was to stick to the plan and go as fast as possible. Cooling on the run was more critical so I tried to get ice at each aid station and always take on two cups of water.
PowerTap: What metrics do you pay attention to while riding?
Heather: Power, mostly, occasionally speed. I don't look at cadence at all, I just go by feel. I have an average power range that I know I can hold for a half so I try to hit that. I control how high I let myself push the watts on climbs (e.g. try not to spend too much time over 270, limit the spikes over 320), and I try to stay aero whenever I am going faster than 19kph.
PowerTap: You also had a slow leak in your rear tire. Tell us about that.
Heather: I had a very small puncture that the goop I put in my tubular tires seems to have been able to seal. I stopped and jumped off at 41k, with the intention of filling it with a CO2, but I gave it a squeeze test and decided to just keep riding. It was probably ~70psi. I tried to just ignore it but it definitely felt mushy and that probably affected my power but it didn't seem worth the time it would have taken to fix it. I was a bit more cautious cornering, but I also knew the course better this year so I knew when I could carry more speed into blind turns etc. and that helped me.
PowerTap: Even with your slow leak and low tire pressure, you still managed to ride a very impressive NP of 238, and were within 40 seconds of the fastest bike, posted by Heather Jackson (2:30:40 vs. 2:30:00), and even more impressively, this still set you up for a very fast 1:22:00 run. Is there anything you do towards the end of the bike (lower power, change cadence, concentrate on nutrition, stretching, etc.) to get you ready for the run?
Heather: I don't really alter my power or cadence (more terrain dependent) and I actually think about keeping the pressure on b/c there is time to be made when others are easing up b/c they're close to T2. I am very conscious of getting in some calories in preparation for the run, and topping up my fluids as well.
PowerTap: Do you have a favorite bike workout you use when preparing for a 70.3, perhaps to simulate conditions or test fitness?
Heather: I like doing a 2 hr. "cruise" ride (cruise for me is 200-220 watts) with 2x20 minute TT efforts (pretty much max effort).
PowerTap: This year you left T2 in 2nd behind Annabel Luxford. Were you aware of where she was, or where Heather Jackson was behind you?
Heather: Yes, I got a split that I was 2:30 or so down to Annabel in T2, and as I was running out I could see HJ riding toward T2 so I had an idea of how close she was. I thought closing 2:30 might be asking a lot, but I got splits within the first 2 miles and I had already made up significant time so that really helped push me. I knew I'd have to run hard to catch Annabel and then run even harder to not get caught by Heather!
PowerTap: At what point during the race did you feel confident that you would win?
Heather: The finish chute. I dug to a new level trying to drop Heather on that last uphill mile but I didn't want to look back so I really didn't know how far back she was.
PowerTap: Where is home for you these days, and what's next on the schedule?
Heather: We drove back home to the Okanagan valley in BC Canada after the 70.3 in St. George. The weather is now much nicer here, and it's a 7hr drive south to Coeur d'Alene and the climate is actually warmer here than Idaho so it's a perfect training locale. Ironman Coeur d'Alene is my next race, on June 23rd.
PowerTap: Congratulations again, and we can't wait to follow you in Coeur d'Alene.
Heather: My pleasure. Cheers!
Both Heather and her husband Trevor are great athletes and great people, and PowerTap is proud to be able to sponsor both of them. You can find out more about Heather and Trevor at their website www.teamwurtele.com, or follow them on Twitter at @TeamWurtele.