Power by the Numbers — A Coaching Saga

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Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 9.42.12 AMI’ve rarely worked with a power device. I’ve also rarely worked with a coach. This week, I started to work with both.

Confession: the idea of a power test scared the hell out of me. I didn’t want to put out crappy numbers, and I was nervous that showing my coach, Heath Dotson (who you met back in this blog post), would be embarrassing and be more of a “oh man, we have a lot of work to do” than a “nice job” kind of scenario. Not because Heath is an unsympathetic coach, but because I tend to assume that I’m secretly not a very good athlete. I just know how to fake it occasionally. Numbers, however, don’t lie. So I was a little terrified going into the week, especially since I hadn’t been using power much so I had nothing to base my numbers on.

I’ve never really done power testing, and definitely not a 30 minute power test, and I quickly realized that the hardest part for a first time ever test is just knowing what to aim for. The three minute test? Pretty simple, just murder myself for 180 seconds. Can do. But 30 minutes? What’s the baseline?

I decided to try to keep it as close to “over 200” as possible. Head down, up Hueneme Road and onto Route 1 heading towards Santa Monica. 10 minutes in, no problem. 15 minutes in, still no problem. Heart rate steady at 170 BPM, power wavering slightly above 200, no problems. 20 minutes in, when I figured I’d be dying, I realized something. I wasn’t feeling bad.

Head down, and thankfully, there were suddenly some people off in the distance to chase. By the end, I realized that a) my power had been increasing and b) my heart rate wasn’t really going that much higher. By the end, my average was 213 watts, and I was shocked at how OK I still felt. Tired, but not like I couldn’t ride hard anymore.

And so, we have this power test:

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 9.58.20 AMLots to improve on, of course, but definitely better than expected. If anything, in the past couple of years, I’ve gotten stronger, despite a distinct lack of training structure until the past month. Maybe it’s just getting older, maybe it’s the endurance miles I’ve been logging lately, maybe it’s just from ’cross racing and 40 minutes of all-out intensity every weekend. Considering the fact that I’m training for Xterra triathlon, not road, not MTB, nothing cycling-specific, I’m pretty stoked that I can put out numbers like that.

But like all athletes, the first thing I thought, after seeing the numbers, was “Next time, I bet I can hit 225…”

What have I learned? Mainly that now, having a baseline, tests are going to be a lot tougher but also easier—I’ll actually know what I can do, and that means I’m not racing the computer, I’m racing myself.

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