By Coach Steve

A power meter can help you master even pacing.

Your heart rate will drift up as the race progresses and this poses a problem: If you follow a target heart rate from the beginning of a workout or race you will start too fast. Following a set plan for watt output throughout can keep your pacing even with no fade assuming your target output was realistic going in.

A power meter is also a great tool to assess economy.

Economy is how fast you go at a specific heart rate. You can’t increase your max HR, and once you’re tuned to hard efforts near redline that’s all there is.

So the only way to increase your speed at a certain heart rate is to improve economy.

For example: to assess economy with your power meter do a ride on familar route at a set percent of max heart rate such as 65%. You do not need to hammer for this test! Try to hold your HR as steady as possible. If the course is hilly target an average for all the ups and downs. At the end of the ride look at your average watts and compare to similar rides.

If you can ride at a specific heart rate with higher watt output your economy has improved.

The ways to improve economy are limited to: continuity of traning for new athletes; optimizing form (efficiency of movement) and repetition (bulk) of workouts that leads to cardiovascular fitness. Intensity tunes for quality race day efforts but won't improve your economy.

The most obvious value for a power meter is even pacing. Heart rate is not exactly in sync with power output. Heart rate drift starting a workout I’ve explained, but HR also does not react instantly during an event. For example a hard effort up a short climb may keep momentum going, but will also spike your HR.

Spikes in HR may not harm your overall time for a sprint or OD event where energy reserves are not an issue, but for half and full IM events even pacing is crucial. A spike in effort level shifts metabolism to a higher energy level requiring more carbs, but a strong finish for a long race requires a balance between carb and fat metabolism. Up the pace too many times during a race and bonk is inevitable.

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