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Pacing / Effort Level with a Power Meter

Last updated 2014-04-13 - Send Feedback
Related: bicycle power meter, training

Establishing one’s own sustainable effort level is a powerful pacing tool for events and races because the biofeedback of a power meter is completely objective regardless of wind or grade or hydration or temperature.

For example:

  • While riding, progress seems slow: but a glance at the power meter shows good power output consistent with the goal. Knowing this helps steady the psychol0gy and prevent over-efforting to perceived slowness. Wind is particularly problematic this way; progress might be slow and tedious yet power strong. But it doesn’t feel like things are working because of the wind.
  • Reduced power: watts are dropping, which is a strong clue of dehydration or heat or inadequate fueling. Or over some days, a sign of not enough recovery.
  • Smart pacing: training over months can establish metrics for what one’s own capabilities are. If the power meter says that effort is already topping out for a sustainable effort, chasing down that rabbit ahead might prove to be disastrous an hour or two down the line (“burning too many matches”). On the other hand, being 20 watts low is a good reminder to pick it up (so long as other factors do not explain it).

Very hard races are bound to show a decline in power output (dehydration, fueling, fatigue). But pacing principles still apply as a goal to shoot for.

2014 Solvang Spring Double Century power and heart rate with elevation profile

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