"By the Power of GreySkull... I Have the Power!"
By Laura Siddall, Professional Triathlete
This is a line from a popular cartoon when I was a kid, He-Man. I admit that when I received my first PowerTap power meter hub late last year, I may have let out a little screech of similar words. (For further explanation of the above here's the video clip that will explain.)
Whilst I've trained in indoor studios for the past few years, both in Sydney and San Francisco, that work off power, I've never had a cycling power meter on my bike – and so to some extent have been training and racing blind for the past few years.
Yet, I was finding it increasingly difficult to judge my training. Sessions that required “Ironman Effort" or “Half Ironman Effort" pacing, would become tricky as I'd second guess my effort. I also found it difficult to judge my efforts in different weather conditions on terrain. I'd come back really not knowing if I was on track or not, or even what “on track" really meant.
I was then fortunate enough to add a cycling power meter hub on my bike. This tool has opened up a whole new world in my training and racing. Below are some of the differences I have noticed and my tips for training with power.
1. Feeling v. Reality
Having power on my bike has allowed me to start understanding what I'm feeling v. the reality. I can go through a training session and then look back at the power and watts to see how it felt compared to the numbers. It's been great to start understanding what the different levels of effort equate to in watts.
Having power numbers to review during or after a training ride or race help show me how far I can push on the bike and still run has proved crucial to my development. This evidence from training sessions and races has helped me build confidence in my ability to differentiate between feel v. reality. I can ask myself “What did that effort feel like in a race, compared to what numbers I was pushing?"
This was a classic example in my recent two full iron distance races, Challenge Wanaka and Ironman New Zealand. From my race in Wanaka I gained confidence in the speed I could generate for the relative power. I was able to take this forward into the race in Taupo.
Having a power meter on your bike is also incredibly useful for recovery rides. This ensures you really do recover and go 'easy' on these rides by restricting the watts to no more than an upper prescribed limit. This is a common mistake for many, when they push too hard on their recovery days. Additionally having the data loaded into Training Peaks so that my coach, Matt Dixon of purplepatch, and Paul Buick, my bike guru, can see ensures there is no hiding from the work out prescribed to what was executed.
The same concept applies to an endurance ride. It's important for me to understand approximately what my average watts for the ride need to be to ensure I'm getting the most benefit from every training session.
4. Don't Get Fixated
While power and watts are powerful tools (pun intended!) for immediate feedback and post-race analysis, it's important to not get too fixated on the numbers. The power meter should be used as a guide.
Ultimately you need to be able to understand what riding at a certain effort feels like. You need to be able to adapt and ride to the terrain and the conditions. Many people let themselves become fixated by the number and this I think is also as detrimental to their performance and development.
Additionally, on some days the watts you may be trying to hit just aren't there for various reasons. And so you need accept this (yes it's a hard one), and then be able to adapt and adjust so you can still get a valuable work out from the session, based on your perceived effort and focusing on riding your bike well and with good form.
It's been fantastic to develop a better understanding around my riding and what numbers I can produce in different conditions. Power is definitely a great addition to your training and racing toolbox, but it's important that you use the power you have in a constructive and positive way so you too can be He-Man (or She-Ra, the Princess of Power)!
Laura Siddall comes to San Francisco via Sydney via Yorkshire, England. A mechanical engineering degree holder, Laura has been involved with sports for most of her life.
Laura tried triathlon back in 2009 and hasn't looked back since. She made the leap to Pro ranks, moved to San Francisco to train under the guidance of coach Matt Dixon and chase the Pro Triathlete life. You can follow Laura over at her website or at @lmsiddal on Twitter.