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Cali 70.3 Power file review // strategy thoughts

Posted By: KP
Date: Thursday, 3 April 2008, at 1:06 p.m.

I had the opportunity to review the power file of an elite from last Saturday's HIM.
Below are my comments and some power data points pulled out of the file, along with HRs from the athlete.

Whenever I look at a power file of an athlete that I am not intimately sharing data with (a client), there are data points of which I won’t know “the rest of the story” simply because I am not privy to race strategy. Additionally, the file posted here doesn’t show detail that I am accustomed to seeing in a power file so feel free to comment.

Same goes with a power file generated on a specific course. If I don’t know the course the file can be misleading. An example of this is the Ironman Hawaii course. There, in my mind, declining watts over the back half of the ride from Hawi to the pier are not a sign of trouble; rather a sign of a well executed game plan.

After nine years of riding on Camp Pendleton I am as familiar with that course as any course I have raced; so I can share a view that I consider the best way to approach the course (while riding mostly solo) and using past experience. That doesn’t mean I am correct about the way you should ride it; that you didn't use some unknown strategy that I am not aware of; or that my way is the only way.

Your VI is excellent. If your idea of FTP is good (about 335), then like you say, you probably rode a touch hard – say 5 watts too hard overall. But that number (5 watts high) doesn’t tell the whole story. Where did you produce the highest power? How an athlete gets to the final number is more important than the final number itself. You'll want to ask yourself, did the way you generated your power file negatively affect your run? If so, did you save more time on your ride than you lost on your run // or // did you hurt your competition's finish time more than your own with your actions?

Here’s what I saw after a quick look at the file – let me know if I am mistaken:

31 miles of flats: NP 312 // HR 158

15 miles of hilly: NP 309 // HR 156

10 miles of flats: NP 293 // HR 156

Not considering your swim efforts (which of course we _always_ need to consider) there are two points contained in your data that caught my eye: Camp P is a course (in my view) that is made for generating increasing power (if not HRs) over the second half. The first 31 miles are flat and fast. At mile 31 you hit the San Mateo climb, followed by climb #2, then rollers and climb #3, then rollers and flats and a headwind on Vandegrift to the finish.

(1) I would suggest that an elite ride this course over the first 31 miles of flats at about 86-88%% of FTP. (2) The 15 miles if climbing would see you use 100% of FTP on the extended climbs, maybe even a touch of VO2max power while cresting. The flats and rollers between the climbs might be done at near 88-90% FTP. Lets say that gives an NP of 93% over the 15 miles of hilly. (3) Then, the last 11 miles back home into wind at 90% FTP or about 302 NP if FTP were 335. This would be increasing efforts over the second half of the course (and might show increasing HRs as well).

If we take the efforts that I culled from your power file above and flipped them around as I suggest, we make your last efforts-first // first efforts-middle // middle efforts-lesser and last, you get this:

31 miles of flats: NP 293 (87%)

15 miles of hilly: NP 312 (93%)

10 miles flats-wind: NP 302 (90%)

Consider what your HRs and run might look like if you got stronger through your ride and used the apportioned power so that greatest efforts were used on the second half of the ride and hills rather than showing fading power and HRs. I don’t know the answer, but it’s possible the ride is the same or faster and that your run is a bit quicker.

Like I said, I am not privy to personal details of yours.

As far as your HRs staying lower than you expected: I am not concerned (during the race) with HRs staying low when the athlete has a power meter and power aligns with PE and pace is up to snuff. One of the reasons power can be so valuable is that it allows us to avoid overworking in cases like this -- when HRs stay low and when PE tells us to rise up. Imagine not having power Saturday and trying to force your HR up a full zone before surrendering to the truth in your legs and RPE.

During post race evaluation it might be helpful to consider that HRs staying low could be a signal of some lasting fatigue from a long stretch of quality training stimulus. We can race very well with fatigue in our legs. You'll want to side step problems with fatigue a month from now. Post race recovery // post camp recovery // post Big Day Training recovery // are all spots where we can short change absorption and experience unwanted challenges.

When considering PE, Power and HR -- some athletes (not you in this case) will choose whichever data point allows them to go hardest. If they feel great via PE then they give themselves permission to raise the power. If HRs are low, then raise the stress until HRs are recognizable. With experience, we choose to listen to the data point that is most important, not the one that is lowest. You did this well on Saturday.

I use PE and Power first, then HR as an additional variable that might give indication that we are physically in trouble. Physically in trouble meaning HRs elevated 10 beats above where it should be while Power and PE are in alignment. At Cali, consider that swimming in cold water and riding in chilly air can hold HRs down. We just don't know what HRs will do sometimes. As long as they are low and everything else looks good, I stop consulting them. When they are high I pay attention.

coach KP

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