Thursday, November 6, 2008

U-turns on the bike, and power output

Recently, I raced the SOMA Half Triathlon, in Phoenix. This bike course was rather flat, but was 3 loops, consisting of 72 turns over the 56 miles. Many of these turns were U-turns, while others were 90 degree lefts and rights.

I am not complaining about the race, as each course presents its own challenges, and this is one of the great things about our sport.

One of the most interesting things I saw during the race had me shaking my head. When racing a multi-lap course, it's common to end up lapping some athletes who were in later waves, and maybe are not at the level of performance of some of the pro's, like myself. This is not an indictment against slower riders, but a statement of fact that traffic accumulates on a bike course such as this.

While coming to many u-turns on the course, I noticed a common behavior among the athletes I happened to be completing the u-turn with. I would begin to accelerate back to race speed and watts, only to see athletes clearly pull away from me. I would look down at my wattage meter and see numbers north of 400 watts, (values clearly higher than I could hold for the duration of the race), and yet many age-group athletes were still gaping me! This included males, females, young and old, lightweight and overweight. Because I was averaging over 300 watts for the race, I was with a different group of athletes for nearly every turn, and still, this behavior was common at every, single turn!

Apparently, many of these athletes are not aware of the importance of even pacing for a race like this, or were not disciplined enough to avoid the peer pressure of others around them pulling away at the turns, even if just briefly. The energy costs from this constant surging will no doubt prevent these athletes from performing at their best, unless they have specifically trained for the nearly 72 surges of 2+ times their FTP, before running a half marathon. (Doubtful).

This is just another example of the benefit of the use of a power meter, especially for the undisciplined athlete or inexperienced.

Next time you're doing a race and come to a turn, or u-turn, your goal should be to get thru a turn without losing speed, (or at least losing the least amount of speed), but also to do it as efficiently as possible. If you're struggling with this, practice these skills in your training. This includes going to a parking lot and practicing your u-turns, right turns, left turns, etc. (Chances are, you have a strong turning side and a weaker turning side. If you have a weaker side, there is something to work on as well!) This is an excellent recovery day, speed-skill workout.

Think about your racing and your movements, and try to assess what you're doing and why. Are you making these types of surges? Are you really benefiting from this type of surging?

Race smart, not just doing what those around you are doing.

Coach Vance

1 comment:

Ben Dugas said...

Over the last 5 months of the build up to Kona I learned this, especially riding at Fiesta Island. I would watch guys hammer the south side and as soon as we would make the turn to head back north into the wind they would be done. Racing is all about keeping the throttle down but at a pace that can be maintained. If you haven't been training at 20 mph (or whatever mph) for the distance of the race you are going to be doing. It's really dumb to think you are going to be able to hold it during a race. Huge wattage spikes only add minutes to your run. The race isn't to T2 although i think most people think it is!