Training and Racing With Power
Power is rapidly becoming an essential piece of tri kit. With the initial out lay to enable you to train and race with power being relatively expensive, we thought we would ask some of our coaches for their thoughts.
For me, I was particularly interested having just completed a 'Training with Power' Day on my BTF Level 3 course. We spent some of the morning putting Glyn, one of the course members through a 20 minute FTP test on a Computrainer, and it was my job to observe his data every 60 secs and record less tangible measures, like facial expressions.
What I learnt on that course is that some people are 'power evangelists'. Training with power can have a huge effect on your training and if you are a numbers person you can look at and analyse the numbers for hours on end. You can put your whole race into the hands of your power meter. But power is not rated by everyone. Hence the importance of understanding of the HR and the facial expressions during the FTP test.
Power according to Paul Greenhalgh -
- Began in late 1980’s;
- If heart rate tells you how much you are revving the engine; power tells you how powerful the engine is; and
- Revolutionised cycling training and today most if not all Level 3 dedicated cycling coaches (and lots of Tri coaches) prescribe cycling training sessions according to Power Zones (see below).
- Lots of brands in the market, each using same principle of employing strain gauges to measure “torque”, which is then converted to power in watts;
- Different systems house the devise in different parts of the bike;
- SRM – the axle;
- Powertap – hub of the rear wheel;
- Stages – the cranks; and
- Garmin – the peddle.
- Obvious advantages and disadvantages of different systems in terms of portability;
- All claim high-levels of accuracy, but likely to give slightly different readings from each other; and
- Cost of Power Meters has come down, but still relatively expensive for non-specialists (starting c£500 when new).
Testing and Training Zones
- Start with baseline (20 min) test to establish current values;
- Can establish training goals and different training zones from this and the following explains it in more detail (including a useful table);
- This then drives each session you do;
- Important to re-test in the same conditions (e.g. same bike, powermeter, conditions etc); and
- That’s why we record the Watt Bike you’ve done the baseline test on.
Racing with Power
- Can use the above to also determine the aspirational average power for the bike leg of a Tri; and
- Can in turn prevent pushing too hard and burning your legs for the run.
- As a starter, do an internet search on these people;
- Andrew Coggan and Hunter Allen; and
- Andrew Kirkland.
Any more Q’s just post on the FB page and I’ll do my best to answer.
A slightly different view from Paul Savage -
I've had a good amount of success through training and racing with a power meter personally and via the athletes I coach. But before you rush out and buy a power meter it's worth bearing in mind the idiosyncrasies that I've come across with power meters and think what effect this might have on your training session or race...
- inconsistent power reading (frequent dropouts) due to a faulty power meter
- failure to read power due to a low battery
- dropouts due to interference from other electrical devices and signals within the home
- picking up a signal from someone else's power meter when group riding
- erroneous data due to firmware update required of power meter or Garmin
- Stages power meter not 'going to sleep' between sessions and requiring frequent battery changes due to water ingress
- Garmin Vector pedals reading low due to insufficient torque when tightening pedal
- Athlete being unaware of rear wheel rubbing on frame (resulting in slower bike split) because they were 'riding to a set power figure' and ignoring other external factors
- Athlete putting out too much power due to a rear-wheel Powertap Hub reading low because of a flat tyre - athlete ended up with severe quad cramping on the run!
- Athlete so reliant on power data that they couldn't complete a turbo session when the battery ran out!
I used a Stages power meter during the 2015 season and had no issues at all with it until I tried to calibrate it at 5.30am on The Pier in Kailua-Kona before the biggest race of my life... Luckily I had two spare batteries in my bag - because it still didn't calibrate after the first battery change!
If/when you buy a power meter and start to become reliant on it, you also need to become an expert in troubleshooting potential issues - if you're not technically-minded then a power meter might not be the best training/racing tool for you!
Training and Racing off 'feel' might be more subjective but it's probably more reliable... Which is why a lot of the top age-groupers and professionals (including Olympic and world champions) still prefer to race without a power meter