By Lindsay Hyman, CTS Pro Coach
As a coach, it’s my job to find overlooked opportunities and strategies that lead to better results. One such opportunity presented itself as a result of gathering a lot of power data across a wide range of athletes, particularly when I compared an athlete’s power meter files from a training ride to one from a race. For instance, a typical comparison is illustrated below. Each yellow bar represents the percentage of total ride time (Y axis) spent in specific power ranges (X axis). The yellow bar at the far left indicates the percentage of time spent coasting (power= zero watts). This triathlete spent 14.5 percent of a 2:40 training ride coasting down the road (Figure 1). That translates into 22 minutes of doing nothing. But a look at her bike split from a recent race showed me that she spent only 2 percent—or 3 minutes—coasting during the race (Figure 2). That extra 19 minutes of effort during the race is a critical difference; since it’s time she hadn’t trained for during her long rides.
Let’s break down what this means in terms of speed. By pedaling consistently over 19 minutes, our triathlete would boost her speed and still keep her intensity at a comfortable pace. And she’d shave more than 6 minutes off her bike time over the course of 70.3 miles. Granted, this comparison isn’t a pure apples to apples one, but the point I want to make is how much faster a triathlete’s bike leg can be, simply by focusing on turning the pedals over for the duration.
Now if this athlete had trained by pedaling throughout her bike sessions—keeping her legs moving on downhills or in tailwinds—she would build the endurance to maybe shave an extra minute off that 70.3 bike split, but more importantly, she’d catapult herself into the run with less fatigue in her legs. Why? It’s because she didn’t suddenly ask her legs for 19 additional minutes of effort on race day. Since the run is where PRs are made, having fresher legs will make a difference.
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The best way to train for this strategy is to map out a few longer rides that will have few to no interruptions due to traffic, and are similar to the terrain tackled on race day. Athletes can start by putting in some bike sessions on on your indoor trainer to get used to constant pedaling, but keep in mind that the best training is going to be done on the road with its rolling hills, turns, wind and heat.
Last tip: Don’t forget that by following this strategy, the body will burn an extra 50–100 calories over the course of a half-Ironman bike leg. As such, mapping out and sticking to a solid nutrition strategy during the race (consuming approximately 150-200 calories per hour) becomes more critical.
Lindsay Hyman is a Pro Level coach with Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. and a certified USAT and USAC Level II Coach. In additional to competing at Ironman distance triathlons, she coaches athletes from first timers to World Champions in sprint to iron-distance events.
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