On racing by feel versus metrics
Lance: I definitely love athletes to have a power meter, and, like any piece of technology I always emphasize that it’s one piece of information that you have to overlay with everything else that’s going on. There’s definitely the tactical element as well, so with these rollers, there’s times when you want to put a ceiling on the athletes as well—try not to punch over the top of the hill at 900 watts if you can avoid it, try to distribute your efforts—but there’s also times tactically at worlds where you just have to take a risk and ignore it a little bit too. Do you look at your power meter or do you just throw your heart over the hill and race? I think at worlds you have to temper both. You can’t be a fool but also, like Pete Jacobs last year in Kona, he saw he was pushing more watts than he had ever done in training and he just kind of went with it because he was feeling it that day.
Matt: It’s important in training to coach athletes to look inward and see how they’re feeling—that’s going to be the primary decision maker in a world championship or in a big race. We train really consistently on power—I like athletes to use power on the day, but I don’t force them into a box. Ultimately, in a half-Ironman race it’s a dynamic environment and you’re going to have to be able to make decisions based on how you’re feeling or what’s going on up the road or around you—decisions not based solely on a number of work output.
Cliff: I am a huge ‘feel’ coach—I love my athletes to develop that ability to race off feel. But to learn pacing, power is a good guideline, and then you can get to a point where you know what a certain effort feels like—Sam McGlone raced a large part of her career without power, and at Ironman Brazil Tim O’Donnell didn’t have a power meter on the bike at all. With Heather we’ve used it a little—she’s definitely a ‘feel’ athlete—but it’s helped her mature as an athlete. It can act as a kind of governor and you can have a bit more of a calculated race.
Matt: Riding 56 miles still takes a certain amount of pacing, and many athletes ride the first 30–40 kilometers too aggressively and then two days later they reflect back on it and don’t have good information. One of my athletes, Jesse Thomas, raced Oceanside this year and was beaten by Andy Potts in a sprint at the end. When we assessed his power file afterward, over the course of the 56 miles he spent 10 seconds or more at about 400 watts more than 50 times during that ride. Any time there was a little stretch in the rubber band, he’d push on the pedals really hard, costing him a lot of energy. So the next time he went to race, at Wildflower, he raced a much smarter race. It’s an interesting case of using raw, objective data. But by the time they get to Vegas you want them relying on feeling.