Wednesday, October 9, 2013

About that powermeter...

When I joined Endurance Nation, I was hearing about power constantly.  It was like the cool club that I wasn't part of, but would guarantee I would be better if I was on the inside.  I bought into the idea, more so for training than racing initially.  I never knew if I was pushing too hard or not hard enough on the bike. Typically when riding outside, I'd base it off of speed. High numbers = good ride, low numbers = I'm a failure. While Chicago doesn't have hills to challenge this technique, it does have winds.  Riding into a 20+ mph headwind that I swear wasn't that strong as a tailwind makes for a not fun ride, and it is even worse when you feel like a slow slug the whole time despite your legs screaming. So yes, something was off with my speed based training approach.  When I rode inside, mainly with Sufferfest videos, I was never too good at that RPE scale (despite that I have patients use it...). A powermeter it seemed, could solve all these issues.

I started with Virtual Power with TrainerRoad- highly recommend! Then I went for the PowerTap, and trained and raced with it all summer.  I am definitely no power expert, my rides are still extremely variable and I am just scratching the surface on how to use the data. But as my first year with Endurance Nation draws to a close, I feel I can adequately reflect on how I feel about the whole power monster.

I like it. And I hate it. And I am positive I am not the only one saying this.

Power will, without a doubt, make you a stronger, faster, smarter cyclist/triathlete. It will also give you a gazillion ways to measure and prove that you are better than your old self. Power tests are also the devil's work, but more on that in a few weeks when I do my first test in months...  A powermeter has allowed me to get a really good focused workout in.  For Ironman training, my Wednesday morning bike rides were rarely over an hour, but kicked my butt every time.  Back in my old training days, any ride would have to be at least 1.5 hrs of just riding along to feel I had done anything. Better training in less time is a definite win.  It also pushes me. I have numbers to hit, and most of the time I am motivated to do so.  It lets me know when I go out too hard or not hard enough. It also tells me when something else is making the ride hard (wind, false flat, etc), as I can see my power going up and my speed going down. Basically, it gives every ride a purpose.  Not only is this great for short FTP intervals, but makes a 4.5 hr ride go much faster. It isn't just 2.25 hrs up and then turn around, it is split up by hitting set intervals along the way, and before you know it, time is ticking by (until your butt hurts. and your back hurts. and you have no idea why you ever though this would be a good idea. yeah, time does eventually stand still on those rides regardless of intervals).

I'm not even going to get into what it does for racing, because that is a whole long deal, but in summary, it lets you "flatten" any hills or wind and stick to a target so you can actually run the run. Because no one brags about swim, bike, walk.

When I say I hate it, it isn't because it makes a ride hard and painful and horrible. That is a good horrible. I hate it because sometimes it just takes the fun away.  I have been riding my bike for years- as a kid I was super independent by riding to friend's houses or just around the block over and over again. In Chicago I love riding the lakefront from top to bottom, or heading up north to the burbs.  Unfortunately, when you are focused on your watts and glued to the Garmin, you lose some of the fun. You don't notice the scenery, or just the awesomeness of riding around.  When you are having a leisurely ride in gorgeous fall weather, as I was doing today, you glance down at the numbers and then feel inferior. Your power sucks. Why are you riding if you aren't trying? Well, because this is all fun and games, and if it isn't fun, quit. And I don't want to quit.  So I must remind myself that the power meter is a tool to make me better, but I need to be mindful of when it drains the fun.

I think it is important to occasionally bike naked. Not the type of naked that leads to embarrassing chafing, but without the technology. Data is fun, and trust me, I'm a data whore, but just spinning along can be pretty sweet too.

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