Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Benefits of Using a Powermeter During Early Season Races

This article was just posted on
Coach AP explains why you should use a powermeter during early season races.

On March 5th 2011, Lilly, (an athlete of mine) performed her personal best during the Frostbite Time Trial in Ft. Collins Colorado. This was very rewarding to her as an athlete and to me as she coach because we had planned on using this race as a test of early season fitness.  When Lilly and I began working together, we did an indoor test using the Powerbeam indoor trainers and determined her Functional Threshold Power (FTP) to be 222 watts.  On the Tuesday before the Time Trial, she did a 2x12 min Threshold workout where she was able to hold 226 and 227 watts respectively.  I used this data, to give her wattages to pace the Time Trial. I gave Lilly the goal to hold 220-235 watts until the turn around (halfway through the course). Then it was up to her to “go by feel” (i.e. monitor her energy level to either go harder, or to hold that same pace). 
After analyzing the data from her Power file, I concluded she paced the Time Trial well, rode a great race (she got 2nd place!) and exceeded her expectations.  The first half of her Time Trial she averaged 242 watts (higher than the zone range goal).  At the turn around, it was clear she had “enough in the tank”  to ride harder as the second half of her Time Trial averaged 255 watts and her peak 20 min power was at the end of her race.  Overall, Lilly averaged 247 watts, 22.7 mph, and had an average cadence of 86 rpm.

Lilly used her Powermeter as a guide to race smart.  Our pacing plan worked well as she raced to second place and got a new personal best 20 min power average (giving her a new FTP).  However, because Lilly’s power output during the second half of the race was so good, we know she could have maintained a higher wattage for the entire race.  We know this because of her higher average watts, best 20 min time period, and during the last 4 min she averaged 275 watts.  We learned she could have ridden the first half of the race harder, then maintained that pace during the second half of the race. I was able to tell Lilly, I think she could have done 250-255 watts over the entire length of the race. This strategy would have yielded a faster time and we’ll use this information for the next Time Trial race, April 16th.
This is great feedback for me, when designing her next training block as it updated her wattage based training zones. This is also great feedback for Lilly as it shows her that her hard work is paying off and she is training properly.  Most of all, Lilly has gained confidence. 
As you can see, the benefits of using a powermeter as a training tool for early season races are numerous.  The data and race files from these early season races provide fitness feedback to you and your coach that can be applied to future training and racing.  For example, when Lilly races this Time Trial next year, we’ll have this data to use as a bench mark and as a pacing tool.  We’ll be able to list goal watts for pacing and then can use her average race watts and compare it to her 2011 race data. This data is helpful when comparing fitness from year to year to see gains and/or losses that have been made.
  Everyone has goals they want achieve.  Using a powermeter takes the guess work out of your training and racing and provides real data that, when used and applied properly, can help you ride faster.

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