I’ve only got two races in the bag so far this year. The first was the Blizzard winter race and the second was a spring series road race. All in, I’d say I felt pretty happy with my performance in both, taking the bottom step of the podium in the Blizzard race, and managing to run with some of the big dogs for ‘most’ of the road race last weekend, before getting shot out the back of the lead group on the 4th lap. What was really interesting about this race to me though, was my power data and being able to see the sequential drops in power, lap by lap…
When I popped, my power literally dropped off a cliff on lap 4/5 – it was pretty astounding… I went from an average power of 229watts on lap 3, to an average of 196w on lap 4. Then it dropped off another cliff on lap 5, practically flat-lining like a patient suffering cardiac arrest at 172w… I was cooked! And it didn’t matter how hard I pushed, or how big of a suffer-face I made because I was done and done.
The thing I find most valuable about having access to this kind of data is that sure, I know I was going slower, as was evident by being dropped, but more than that, even though I felt like my effort was consistent (perceived effort of 8-10) right from lap 1 through lap 5, my actual output wasn’t, and whether you’re racing or even more so for training, having that power metric to tell you if you’re delivering or not, as opposed to just ‘feeling’ like you are, is pretty valuable I think. In racing, the data can be just as valuable, if you can actually watch it during the race. If you know your 1 hour FTP is 240w and you’ve been putting out 260-270w for the last 45 mins, then no matter how jacked you are with adrenaline in the moment, you can be pretty sure you’re gunna pop! The numbers ‘rarely’ lie.
Take this a bit further as I’ve been dabbling with TSS, or Training Stress Score. This is a great all-around metric that measures your heart rate, plus power as a percentage of your FTP and provides a nice, neatly packaged little score. If your 1 hour FTP is 240w, and you ride at 240w watts for 60 mins, then your score will be 100. Ride under 240w and your score will be less -ride over 240w and your score will be more, etc… It’s simple, which is what I like, but it also makes training about much more than just miles, the number of hill repeats or time in the saddle. This TSS value is the measure of your actual workload, which lets you know if you really put in the work or not, training session over training season, and week over week. (Note: TSS is essentially your Suffer Score on Strava, though more accurate)
All this said, in talking to more and more racers lately, many of you are going data-less – opting to not just forgo the power meters, but also your heart rate monitors as well, in an effort to get back to more riding and racing more by ‘feel’. The pendulum seems to always be swinging on this issue, but how to do you roll? Are you more of a data geek, or a champion of old school perceived effort?
Checkout more info on TSS.