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2014 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships weekend.
photo: Paul Phillips

2014 USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships Power Analysis


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By AJ Johnson
Training Peaks Power Analyst

Dani Fischer recently placed second overall at the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Milwaukee, Wisc. The 26-year-old from Wausau, Wisc., posted the fastest bike split of the day and was the only female to dip under one hour for the 40k bike at 59:57. She then ran strong, finishing with the fourth-fastest run split of the day. We took a look at her power file to show how well she executed the bike and how that helped her take a podium spot in Milwaukee. You can view her file here.

The key to a strong race, no matter the distance, is pacing the bike evenly. Using the Intensity Factor® (IF®) is a good way to monitor the effort. IF shows the percentage of power output relative to Functional Threshold Power (FTP), which is the amount of power an athlete can sustain evenly for one hour. The shorter the race, the higher the IF can be. For most athletes, riding at 90 percent of their FTP for an Olympic-distance race is a good strategy. When looking at Fischer’s file, we see an IF of .95. So she certainly pushed the pace, but when going for a high placing sometimes that is a risk that needs to be taken. In addition, Fischer’s swim put her well back of the other competitors, so she did have time to make up. Given that this was a National Championship event, there is no reason not to take a calculated risk.

Second, we look at the rider’s Variability Index (VI), which uses Average Power (AP) and Normalized Power® (NP®) to calculate if the power output was even or if there were spikes. The closer the NP is to the AP, the lower the VI, which is good. The cost of putting out a big effort is exponential, and can quickly decrease your glycogen stores. No matter the distance or course terrain, the best way to approach the bike is to put the power out evenly. The course in Milwaukee was flat and fast, so the only reason to spike the power would be to surge past a pack. In the case of Fischer, her VI was 1.0, meaning she was as even as possible. Visually, you can see that the only time the power drops is when she is making the two U-turns on the course, and there are no big spikes either. By pacing evenly Fischer is as economical as she can be. This allows her to maximize her bike split without harming her run. To learn more about how you can use power to achieve better results, download the TrainingPeaks free e book.

Other information that can be considered is cadence and energy expenditure. Fischer’s average cadence was 86 rpm, a bit on the low side, but cadence is a very personal element. Fischer also burned through 873 calories over the hour bike. Knowing calorie expenditure can help you dial in your nutritional needs for race day.

In all, this is a perfectly executed bike. Fischer pushed the pace, but was even and steady with the output. Knowing her swim put her behind the others, she took a calculated risk and pushed the pace on the bike. Much of racing is about taking advantage of your strength, and Fischer certainly did that. However, she wasn’t going so hard that she suffered on the run. Her fourth fastest run (only 30 seconds behind the fastest run of the day) clearly shows that.

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AJ Johnson is a Power Analyst for TrainingPeaks. He did his first triathlon in 1997 and has been a USA Triathlon certified coach since 2005.