Sweat from the Heart: Coach Bree’s Blog on Training and Racing and Life.
Work Smarter With Power.
Said in the most superhero voice you can imagine, “I need more power!”
I recently got a Quarq power meter! I was so excited that I hardly slept the night I got it. I kept waking up with a smile on my face ready for my morning ride! I felt like a kid after Christmas! I didn’t care that it was raining outside and that I would be on an indoor trainer for 2 hours. It was going to be my first ride with power! On my ride that day, my eyes were opened to what I had, and hadn’t, been doing on the bike.
When I began sharing the news of my new power meter, a few people said, “finally!”, and having been a triathlete for 15 years I had to laugh in agreement. But most people asked, “why?” Great question. Let me explain.
In the simplest of terms, a power meter measures your energy output in watts. The higher your energy output, the greater your speed. That’s why increasing cycling power is important! How do you measure that? By using a power meter!
When I first got into the sport (as an athlete) many years ago, I didn’t believe I needed one. Plus, no one could tell me why I truly needed to train and race with a power meter. Telling someone they need a power meter isn’t very convincing. I needed to know why. When I looked at the price, and without a valid reason to buy it, I declined. Besides, I was doing the sport for fun, so spending money on one didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t seem like a wise purchase. At the time, I believed a wise purchase was buying a nice bike.
Later, when I became a coach, most of my athletes were training and racing triathlons for the joy of it, not for performance. Why then would I encourage them to buy a power meter? But then over the years, things changed. My athletes were getting stronger and faster. Many were ready to go to the next level with hopes to podium. More than half the team started signing up for Half and Full Ironmans and wanted to do well on the bike portion setting themselves up for a strong run leg. Triathlon then became about fun and performance.
So here is where I thought long and hard about power, from an athlete and coaching standpoint:
Personally, as an athlete, I love this sport, so much so that I keep doing it year after year. I even started up my own business training clients. Triathlon is my lifestyle. If it’s my life, then shouldn’t I fully invest in it?
Also, if I am going to take the time to train day after day, year after year, shouldn’t I know with accuracy if I am doing it right? If I am doing it wrong, but thinking I am doing it right, I am literally wasting my time, but sadly, I’m not going to know the difference unless I have a power meter giving me feedback on what I am truly doing.
If I want to know how I am improving month after month, year after year, how else can I tell than using something that gives me accurate data? It’s a bad idea to compare races because that is not a very accurate measure. Every race is different (weather, terrain, etc) and comparing one to the next does not give me a clear comparison.
And how can I work on my weaknesses if I don’t truly know what they are? I want to be the best Bree I can be, but if I don’t know what my weakness is on the bike, then how can I work on improving it, and turning it into a strength? More than likely, I won’t.
Is this resonating with any of you?
There comes a point where you hit a wall and the only way around it is to get smarter. You can’t work harder, you have to work smarter. I have been stuck in the same speed on my bike. I have been wanting to go faster and I can’t seem to do it. I tried riding more often during the week, but it didn’t yield the results I was hoping for. All that time spent riding and hardly a dent in my performance. I was working harder, not smarter.
It was then that I knew what had to be done. I needed to train smarter. I needed to get a power meter. This was the next step to improving my bike performance. This was also necessary if I wanted to help my athletes improve their bike performance.
So now, as I train with power, my eyes are opening up to what I have, and haven’t, been doing on the bike. For starters, I wasn’t pushing hard enough. I thought I was, but data was proving to me that I wasn’t. Now with data, I know how hard to push in workouts. And I have to hold specific numbers for specific time increments – ouch – but this is how I am going to get faster. No more training blind, I have clarity!
Click HERE to see a video of me doing my most recent bike intervals. 3×12 minute at a specific wattage (based on my bike assessment). This set hurt! But this is how you use data to get stronger and faster.
And then as a coach, I can see what my athletes are doing. How am I to really know what my athletes are doing on their bike ride? I can’t be with every athlete on every mile of every bike ride. It’s impossible, but if they have a power meter, it’s as if I am there. I have the data to see what they are doing. I have data to see whether or not they are improving. It’s a win-win. The athlete gets the most out of their training and I am able to offer more coaching.
So why doesn’t everyone train with power? This is a question I asked myself. I had to really think about it. And here’s the answer I came up with:
It appears that training and racing with power has a stigma attached to it. That it’s something for the “competitive triathletes” the ones that are fast and talented. Read up on the forums and scroll through your Facebook newsfeed and at some point you will see a fast athlete talking about power. That’s our association with it – that competitive athletes have power. (Let me tell you a little secret, you know how they got fast? They bought a power meter). Disclaimer: you can’t get fast just by installing the power meter to your bike, you have to train with it and challenge yourself!
It doesn’t matter what race distance you are doing or what your time goals are – everyone has the same goal: to do the best they can do for themselves. So if your goal is to podium, or to simply finish, your goal is the same, it’s to have the best race you can have for yourself. This levels the playing field. We’re all the same. We’re all triathletes.
And, we are all competitive triathletes. We are competitive with ourselves. Sure it helps to have someone in front of you to chase, but in the end, it’s you and the clock. Don’t you want the fastest time possible for you on that clock?
So how do you accomplish being the best you can be? By having all the tools necessary to get the most of the workout or race. If you race Ironmans, don’t you want to set your bike portion up to be the best it can be? How are you going to accomplish this if you don’t know what energy you’re putting out? 112 miles is a long way to go on guesstimation. And guessing wrong can mean the longest 26.2 miles of your life (as if that distance wasn’t already long enough). And Half Ironmans aren’t much different. 56 miles of pushing a pace that may be too fast, but then it might not, but you’re not really sure isn’t the mindset you want on race day. And that half marathon run can quickly feel like a full marathon if you pushed too hard on the bike. That sprint triathlon bike leg you can’t seem to get faster in and it’s driving you nuts, having a power meter would give you the feedback you need to begin the steps towards improvement.
If you’re going to do triathlons, regardless of the race distance, do it right. If you’re going to take time out of your weekly schedule to train, do it right. Doing it wrong is wasting your time. How do you know if you’re doing it right? By having a power meter. What if you could ride 16mph instead of 14mph? What if you found a more efficient way to pedal that actually increased your energy output? What if you could set up your IM bike portion within your parameters and stay there? That you knew when you were pushing too hard and knew to back off all because of data from your power meter.
This is all possible with a power meter. You are worth it. It’s your lifestyle. The expense of it all? Not that much.
If it’s your life, multiply the purchase over the days of your life. Sound stupid? Okay, well then try this approach: how long have you had your bike? I know people that have said 5 years. So take the power meter price tag and divide by 5 years. Mine was $1,700 and dividing that by 5 years (1,825 days) and it comes to $0.93 per day. There are also more affordable Quarqs at around $1,400. Buy this one and it comes to $0.76 per day. View the purchase as an investment into your lifestyle.
And yes, I sound like a complete salesperson. But this post is more like begging you to not do what I did and wait years before finally getting a power meter. Having a power meter has added more joy to my triathlon passion. In one week of training with power I have learned more about myself as a cyclist than I have in years. I am learning how to push harder, how to stay in specific zones, and it’s increasing my confidence as an athlete. I missed out all those years, but better late than never, right?!
So if you want to become a wiser athlete, to work smarter and not harder, then make an investment into your triathlon lifestyle. Buy the power meter you thought you didn’t really need, but really do need. You can thank me later 😉
Where can you buy a power meter? I had a great experience getting mine at Bicycle Heaven, so I would recommend heading there for yours. And they are experts in power, so their staff will answer any and all questions. They also do the installation and calibration there! Awesome!