Saturday, January 14, 2012

Power Meters Don't Lie

I'm feeling a little more like a data geek now. I swear I won't turn into a full on data seeking whore but after my ride today I can see 100% how riding with power can make a cyclist stronger/faster.

So I woke up this morning and it was not raining and it wasn't even very windy... so I packed enough fuel with me for a 5 hour ride just in case I felt like going that far... (I could choose at ~2 hours whether I wanted to go 4 or 5). Ok I should just be honest... after I got my garmin to talk to my power meter last night (power meter detected! yay!) I got it in my head that I was doing the longer loop today so I don't know who I'm kidding suggesting that I might have turned around early. I was not going to turn around early. Duh. I mentally prepped myself to ride for several hours longer than I've ridden since early October and got going as soon as it was light enough to see.

I set my garmin to show me 3 second power, avg power/lap, and HR. I didn't need distance or time b/c I know this route so well and honestly it didn't matter today. My plan was to ride as I normally do- same HR range, and just watch power to get a feel for how it works and what it does. Interesting that the 3" power numbers really do jump around all over the place even when your PE/HR stays totally constant. But the lap avg power was a great feature and one that I will continue to look at probably just about every ride. I hit the lap button every ~30' and my goal was just to try to keep it steady and try to repeat the same avg power for each segment of the ride... which didn't happen when I was climbing or descending of course.

How's this for a sexy looking graph of my ride profile today?

I actually felt fairly good for the first 4.5 hours of the ride. My power numbers were lower than I hoped anticipated they would be but I really had nothing to compare them to so maybe I was just unrealistic in my expectations? What?!? I can't hold 200W for 5 hours??  My ride time and avg HR were about the same as I was doing last February (data geek alert... I checked my log from last year to compare!) so fitness wise I'm not that far off... but power numbers for (most) women who are 130lbs are not big sexy numbers. Well, not yet anyway. :) Interestingly, in the last 30' of the ride today I felt like I was just dying a slow death and that was 100% confirmed by the little numbers on the garmin that were just going down down down. Lol. I'm not sure I needed concrete proof of my lack of muscular endurance, but I got it! In good news it will be super fun to watch those numbers come up over the next few months.

So my overall first impressions:

~Power data keeps you from slacking. I really did stay more focused (and normally I'd say I'm pretty good at focusing for long periods but today especially) b/c I kept checking that avg lap data and trying to get it to display the number I wanted. Lose focus for a little while or start coasting and that number goes down which is the opposite of what you want!

~Hills and headwind are now more appealing b/c they provide an opportunity to raise your avg power. Hills are my friends!

~HR doesn't show the whole picture of the ride. Notice the flatline here that doesn't show at all how I was completely falling apart at the end...

~It's going to be fun to start planning interval rides now that I'll have some concrete way of measuring the work. Ok maybe 'fun' isn't the right word- I anticipate there will be times this year that I will HATE that damn power meter, but in the end it's going to be really good.

~I think that this ability to play with a new toy on the bike is going to keep my bike training more fresh and interesting this year. You know, I think this is my 17th year of riding(?) and I pretty much do the same couple of routes all the time and that can get *old*... but adding this new element of something concrete to measure will keep it more exciting for me I think.

~As a coach, I would LOVE IT if all my athletes had power (no pressure!)... Because although I could subjectively say "I felt tired" or "I felt great" while riding (both of which are important assessments), being able to say that my power dropped ~10W in the last 30' of the ride is concrete and measurable. Objective evidence combined with subjective assessment makes for a really clear picture of what is happening fitness-wise.

~Overall I give it a thumbs up. :)


Matt said...

enjoy the power of power ;)

been using it for a few now and love it and it does help with the coaching aspect of it more so when not local athlete.

Beth said...

Oh goodie! Loved reading this. My power meter is on order. :)

Jennifer Harrison said...

LOVE LOVE the power. It took me (like you) awhile to embrace it (get one) - and back in the day, I had the ERGOMO and the PowerTap and they were not my fav....but I love the power and always "suggest" the athletes get them when they can!
Enjoy and have fun with yours!

mmmonyka said...

You sure will sometimes hate that damn powermeter. I do, most of the time:)

Patrick said...

You could try using the 30s avg along with lap. That is what I do and it doesn't jump around as much and still provides some measure of real time effort with just a slight lag.