Wednesday, July 09, 2008

This Whole Power Thing

So, I just got my feedback from my test with Robbie Ventura at Vision Quest. I thought I'd share my thoughts on this whole thing, since I am a total newbie at power training.

First off, I don't think it's any secret that I HATE HEART RATE TRAINING. Hatehatehatehate it. Pretty much always have. I feel like with heart rate training, I am forced to go at a pace that is annoyingly and frustratingly slow, and that I got slower as a result. This could mean any number of things: I don't have my actual max heart rate, my allergy medicines affect my heart rate, the weather affects my heart rate, etc. etc. You get the drift. But it has NEVER worked for me, and probably because I was guessing at most of it. Clearly, my ability to hold an average heart rate of 181 in the Cleveland Marathon is a bit unorthodox. But I felt great, even the next day. No problems at all. So I sort of gave up on heart rate training and literally wrote it off in favor of RPE.

Heart rate is a reaction. Power is the source. For this reason, I am already a HUGE fan of training with power. It is what it is: it doesn't fluctuate. It is not affected by headwinds, humidity, stress, allergy meds, blah blah blah. In fact, it takes all that into account and allows you to still push yourself exactly how you should IN SPITE OF THESE THINGS. It's sort of why I like swimming, too: because the numbers don't lie. There's no umpire but the clock, and clocks are brutally honest, you know? Power training takes out the subjective and makes it very objective and easy to follow. I like that.

When I went to VQ to be tested by Robbie, I learned that I would have my finger pricked. O. M. G. I HATE HATE HATE needles. I know, I just gave birth not too long ago and was begging for a needle the size of Montana to be stuck in my back, but I didn't have to LOOK at that one, you know? Well, turns out I didn't have to look at this one either, and they were right--it just felt like a bug bite. That I can handle. :)

Essentially, what we did was we took a small teensy little blood sample every 30 watts. 30 watts was enough that I could tell the resistance was harder, but not too much. Kind of like you went up a gear, except I didn't, and I was told to maintain a steady cadence of about 85 rpms. Then this funky machine thing would measure the lactate in my blood and would tell us how many watts I could push before I bonked. It's really useful information, and it would help Coach Emily set my training zones. Essentially, I would know how many watts to hold when doing a sprint, oly, half or full triathlon. Not speed....watts. Unaffected by hills, heart rate, or wind.

Sign me up!

So sure enough, when I got to a certain point, my breathing sounded like a wheezing hyena and I felt like I just couldn't pedal any more. The machine did its wonder, and we were done.

Here's what I just got in the mail from VQ and Robbie--his words in italics, mine in bold:

Sara comes to VQ with one of her big events for the season closing in at the Steelhead Tri (gulp), where she is hoping to break the 6 hour mark. Other big goals are the Columbus Marathon and an Olympic Race in Cleveland. The test showed Sara has great fitness and also some areas where she can improve her skills to generate some better race results.

The performance test went quite well and Sara's lactate threshold was determined to be 189 watts, which is among the best in amateur women. (Really?! Is that a joke or something?) Her aerobic fitness was also strong as she endured 4 stages of the test with no appreciable increase in blood lactate values. Especially since she considered the bike to be the weakest of her three disciplines, this is good power. (Yay! I have good power! Or is it just the pregnancy blood-doping again?) With continued consistent training and aerobic foundation that will be built upon in subsequent seasons, she will probably see her threshold power continue to increase. (Allllllllllright! Now hit me with the bad news.)

One thing that could be holding Sara back on the bike is her cadence. (Yeah, I can be a real masher. Boo.) Overall, her pedaling mechanics were solid, although including some single-legged pedaling drills in her warmup or cooldown routines would probably help to refine the stroke further. The main goal regarding pedaling will be increasing her cadence slightly...Along with this training, Sara could also benefit from including more work targeting her functional strength and core stability. (Uh...yeah. WHAT functional strength or core stability? Sara = Total Softie) Some basic exercises are included here to help her address weakness common to endurance athletes. (Awesome--no more mushy me!)

So all in all, I learned a great deal about myself. It was really cool to read those words--kind of the equivalent of Coach Kara handing me the 1:45 pace band before my half marathon. Proof positive that it's in there, alright. Now I have no excuse not to hammer that out. I just need to put the time in, that's all.

I got a chart of my zones, their power ranges, and my heart rate ranges, too. So, power training doesn't totally disregard heart rate training, but it makes your heart rate training effective, accurate, and smart. I dig that. It also gave me RPE, too. Here's what it looks like:

Zone 1: Recovery
Power: less than 105 watts, aka Why am I even on this thing?
HR: less than 110
RPE: 1-4

Zone 2: Endurance
Power: 105-140 watts aka DUDE, I could do this all day
HR: 100-140
RPE: 4-6

Zone 3: Tempo
Power: 140-170 watts aka Okay, I'm movin' at a pretty good clip
HR: 140-160
RPE: 6-7

Zone 4: Threshold
Power: 170-200 watts aka Holy CRAP this is hard
HR 160-175
RPE: 7-8

Zone 5: VO2 Power
Power: 200-225 watts, aka OMG I AM DYINGGGGGGGGGGGGG
HR: 175-180
RPE: 8-9

Zone 6: Anaerobic Capacity
HR: over 180
RPE: 10

So that's the scoop. Consider me, the person who swore off heart rate training and all numbers a....convert. I'm sold. It covers all the bases, takes everything into account, and makes it pretty freakin' easy.

Now let's see what it does for my racing this weekend!


TRI Vortex said...

Zone 6 had me laughing outloud at work. Someday I'll be able to afford PowerTraining. Until then I can't punch anyone in the face. lol.

Flatman said...

Cool stuff...I need this done!

Jumper 2.0 said...

That is so awesome Sara!

I think HR works decent for me. I can't wait to afford power but I think its gonna be a couple of years.

triguyjt said...

please don't punch an old man in the face should i be on the bike with you at zone 6..
hilarious post as always sara..and very informative...

good stuff.....

Jamie said...

Wicked cool reactions to playing with power for the first time.

Now I just have to figure out how many couches I have to dig through to get enough spare change to justify spluring on a power meter. :-)

Kat~ said...

Nice meeting you up in Madison. Ran a couple miles in the morning w/you & Wil, had a great time. Like your notes on "power". Hmm, can I just talk the man of the house into "power" now?? Kat~

Comm's said...

I love that. good job.

Rural Girl said...

yeah, on with power! I agree. Heart rate training had me running sooooo slow with little improvement. Great power numbers! 6hours at Steelhead?....No problem!

SimplyStu said...

Nice post. I love your comments about the zones.

IronMatron said...

Dude--185 watts??? That's awesome (for we women folk, that is...):) And cadence is so easy to fix! You are going to rock!
I can't stand heart rate usage either. Definitely feel like when I use it as the only measure I get slower and slower!

allanjel said...

Kick some arse tomorrow w/ that power girly!!

Love, love, love the bike...have I told you that?!