Now a day, it is super easy to get the itch to sign up for a race distance, longer than what appears "easy". Perhaps you have done a 5K or 10K or a sprint triathlon and are ready to make the leap to register for a long-distance event. Whether you are seeking an Ironman distance triathlon or marathon, or perhaps even an olympic distance tri or half marathon, it is really easy to get caught up in the "mileage" and loose sight on all of the other areas (nutrition, sleep, sports nutrition, stress management, strength training, mental toughness, support from others, periodized training, etc.) that contribute to consistent training and a great race day performance. It is also important to address the topic of training versus exercise and to not overlook the importance of properly fueling before, during and after training in order to experience optimal performance gains. For once you transition into athlete training for an event (from individual exercising for weight management/loss), the equation of calories in/ calories out should be removed so that training gains are not compromised due to fear that you will "gain weight" from consuming proper training fuel before, during and after training.
While watching athletes reach the verge of overtraining/over-reaching and getting so close to losing all motivation in the last 2-4 weeks before a long-awaited long-distance or important race, I strongly encourage athletes to consider some of the many tools that are available to help reach your individual training and racing goals. For so many athletes neglect areas such as proper daily nutrition, individualized, distance-specific sports nutrition, adequate sleep, strength training and stress management, which affect how you perform both in training and racing. Although I love putting in the miles, just like you, I personally do not get obsessed with the idea that I am "not doing enough" or "need to do more". Because I believe in quality training, athletes who set out to just do x-miles or x-time, without a plan or a reason, often experience in-consistent performance gains, gradually notice that the weight that was once soooo easy to lose by training/exercising is no longer coming off (if anything, coming back on) and often experience more and more aches and pains. While you would think that the athlete would re-evaluate their training plan and possibly consult a coach to create an effective, quality training plan to allow for performance gains, the athlete ultimately feels pressure to do more and more mileage out of fear or doubt that they won't be able to perform x-distance on race day.
One of the best investments in my triathlon career has been a power meter. During the first week of using it (3 years ago) I was totally overwhelmed..just like I was when I started training with HR. However, after a few weeks of playing around with the power meter, I started to understand my efforts and I was able to stay in my zones. I find a power meter to be a valuable for ALL levels of fitness. If anything, newbies who train with a coach or aim for a more consistent training plan, should strongly consider training with power as an easy and effective tool to monitor progress and ensure quality training.
Power meter (Cyclops G3)
Vector Power meter pedal
Karel has studied, worked on and raced bikes all his life. Ever since he was a young boy in Czech Republic, he has followed cycling and everything related to bikes.
As a coach, I receive a lot of questions from my personal athletes and from other individuals who are athletic. One popular question that I receive a lot from triathletes is about race wheels..."will they make me faster?"
To respond, I typically say "Have you considered buying a power tap?"
As a coach, I want to make sure that my athletes arrive to race day physically fit. In order to achieve personal goals, I help them with their racing plan. In order to determine the race-day plan, I take into consideration training.
On race day, you are not there to "train". You are putting your "training" to the test. So regardless if you train in race wheels or just race in race wheels, you are relying on an efficient body, that is trained and well-fueled. Every training session builds on one another so that on race day you are ready to put your training to the test.
By training with power, you are able to directly monitor how much force you are exerting with each pedal stroke. Power is the most objective way to monitor your effort (in watts) while riding. Power says it as it is. Because heart rate can change on a daily basis (depending on fatigue, sleep, stress, etc.) your power will effectively measure you effort and will allow you to be consistent within each workout.
I find power meters most valuable for long-distance training..especially for Ironman triathletes. This year I did 1 x 100+ mile ride in my 14-week KONA training plan. It was a 110 mile ride and I had specific zones (power) to follow. Prior to that ride, I did a handful of 80 or 90 mile rides, around 4-5 hours, with specific zones (power) to follow. Every training session was based on my power and by reviewing previous workouts from my WKO+ power analysis program, I was able to monitor my profess and set tangible goals for each training session. Regardless if it was windy, breezy or hot, I was able to see myself improving on the bike WITHOUT focusing on my speed or mileage.
Although I recommend having a trained professional evaluate your training logs when training with power (Karel reviews my training as well as for my athletes who train with power), training with power is not difficult to do on your own.
I do not feel that a power meter should replace heart rate training or that you should never focus on speed. However, a power meter will give you a more accurate representation of your current fitness, what occurred during your last training/racing session and what areas you need to work on in order to improve. Once again, training is not just about the miles but rather what you put into those miles.
In March 2012, Garmin will release the NEW pedal-based power. Right now, Cyclops has a new power meter for the wheel hub (G3). I have an older model of the Cyclops hub power meter which is in my "race wheels" (which I use for training - tubular tires). Karel has a quark which is in the crank of the bike. This allows Karel to always train with power, no matter what wheels (training or racing) wheels he decides to use. We both have a software program to analyze and store our data.
Karel says that the pedal power meter is a great idea and he is excited for it to come out. However, he suggests that if you are the type to get the latest and greatest the day it is released, to wait until it is out for a little while. Just like with the Quark, the Speed Concept, etc., there are typically a few glitches when it comes to new products. Although Trek and other companies have exceptional warranties and customer service, the wait for the new pedal power meter is more for your sake so you don't have to deal with any potential problems that may be worked out in the first few months that it is released.