In a world where we can follow icons of the sport on Strava, see real-time numbers during a World Tour race, and track ourselves while we sleep …where do we draw the line when it comes to data? The accessibility of power meters, heart rate monitors, CGMs, etc. is a great evolvement for the sport, but it makes stepping away from the numbers even harder to do. There’s something to be said for being able to turn off the noise and focus in on our bodies, the task at hand, and how we “feel”. Furthermore, there’s nothing you can do about Van der Poel’s power up the Poggio or what Nino Schurter’s FTP is – it’s about you and your situation.
Data’s Role in Training
This is the bread and butter of our data, gadgets and gizmos. Training can be the most benefited from having a power meter or heart rate monitor at the least. I’d even say Strava – where you could use segments or portions of trail and road to see how you are progressing. As discussed in my Zones article, structure and diligence with our training through the year is important (aka knowing when certain efforts are to be trained). Additionally, with the bleeding of Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) from the diabetic/medical world into the endurance world, we can use insights from this as to how we respond to food and fine-tune our fueling.
Additionally, using those HRV measurements, readiness scores, and fatigue estimations (Whoop, Garmin, Oura Ring…) are great for keeping tabs on how you are responding to training over time. If we pair it with how we actually feel, this can give us an indication of when to push and maybe when to “feel things out”. Although, you can’t let a “bad score” keep you from lacing up and giving it a go – this is where you need to be open to learning how you feel. This, is where I want to move onto the topic of racing…
Data During Racing
Where things get tricky is when to rely on the numbers during events. When it’s a road race, gravel race, or some sort of “durability” type of event then it can be really helpful to supplement our pacing with this info. It’s helpful to gauge your efforts and “save matches” with HR or Power by keeping within yourself (and your threshold).
On the flip side, data can be a leash to us. I’ve seen it too many times, especially in shorter events like XC, where numbers really don’t mean all that much but we can allow them to impact our perception, pace, or expectations. This is the “paralysis by analysis” situation. When it comes to race day, we need to learn to go off of feel, be confident in our prep, and turn down the noise from these inputs. Don’t let your data talk you down from giving things a shot – it’s a race and a chance to try.
Take a look at those numbers retroactively and then draw some conclusions, break down the race, and learn.
Aside: Power v HR
Power and HR both have usefulness in training in different ways. Power is often the “golden metric” for cyclists (as pace is to runners) because it is constant, fixed metric. It represents direct workload being produced. Heart rate (HR) is the response to work that your body produces. HR can be affected by a variety of factors though, such as fatigue, temperature, caffeine, etc. I use power when it comes to nailing intervals and pushing limits on intensity. However, during the base phase, I often rely on HR more because I want to accumulate time in and/or below certain zones to stay aerobic.-taken from previous article on Zones
Know when to turn things off, not rely on numbers, or go off feel. Know when to change the page and just settle into your task fueled by intuition and feeling.
Carson Beckett, 22 // UCI MTB Racer // Coach // // Student // Outdoor Enthusiast