Training and Racing With Power

I explained in my previous post on “Monitoring My Triathlon Training” about the concepts of:

  • Functional Threshold Power (FTP): The power one can race at for one hour;
  • Intensity Factor (IF):  The ratio of the power on a ride (NP) to the FTP (IF = NP/FTP); and,
  • Training Stress Score (TSS): Which is the demands of a ride (TSS = IF^2 x Duration in hours x 100)

In this post, I will bring the concepts together to explain my training approach and how I hope to use it in racing during 2009.

Training with Power

Triathletes are very familiar with the concepts of training cycles. We have a base period and then build to the race fitness. For 2009 I have adopted a different approach to training, as put forward by ‘Endurance Nation‘. It can be summarized as ‘Fast then Far’. Essentially, the off season is used to train to build power and speed, with the volume coming later.

So my training weeks are consisting of a lot of interval sessions. These see my riding up towards my FTP with the goal of increasing the FTP. So why not go past the FTP in training since that could conceivably make me faster? Because the cost of doing so is too great in terms of the recovery time needed.

The graph below from Hunter Allen and Andy Coggan’s book shows this. The red line is the physiological strain of arising from different intensities. Above 100% it increases rapidly, especially above 120%. The blue line is the duration at which one can maintain that intensity. The black line which is the training effect. This shows that once you get above 95% of your threshold power, there is a negative impact on your overall training.


In training one tries to stay in the ‘sweet spot’ of about 83-97% of FTP. The calculator below from FastCat Training shows what the range is for me with my current FTP of 230 watts. I do most of my training in the zone 191-223 watts, generally at the higher end of around 220 watts.


In case you are wondering, RPE is the ‘Rate of Perceived Exertion’. It is a scale of how hard you feel you are working. I am still trying to master that one.

Racing With Power – The Theory

On the basis of my training, I will know my FTP before the race. The key question is ‘so what’. How will this help my racing? Endurance Nation argues that if you use up more than 270-290 TSS on the 180 km bike ride in an Ironman distance race, you will blow up on the run.  They have a chart which shows the intensity factor vs the proposed bike split to be within that TSS range. For me, with a hopeful 5:30-5:40 bike split that works out as an IF of about 71%. An excerpt from their chart is below (you’ll need to buy the full chart as part of their training program).


From this IF there are four recommended power ranges that I should use in the race, as shown below. I’ve taken the liberty of assuming my FTP will be at 250 watts by the time of the race.


Most of the race should be spent at 178 watts, after a 30 minute ‘warm-up’ at 169 watts. Their argument is that by staying at this power, and keeping the power variability to a minimum, you will have done the bike ride in the most efficient manner possible and saved your legs for the run. What I have not worked out is whether cycling at that goal power will give me the desired bike time–that will come during my build season.

So that’s my approach for the 2009 season. Looking forward to seeing how it works!


3 responses to “Training and Racing With Power

  1. Chris,
    Thanks for mentioning Endurance Nation. A couple notes:

    Our pacing guidance begins with you estimating how long you’ll be out on the bike course and then entering the table from there. Of course, that can be difficult to do, but .70-71 for athletes expected to ride just at/under 6hrs seems to work pretty well.

    Also, a low VI is very important. “Good” is about 1.02-1.05. That’s relatively easy to do on the Louisville course, as there are very few sharp hills or sustained climbs.

    For readers interested in learning more (shameless plug) we have created a 4hr training and racing with power webinar. Stoopidly comprehensive resource for the multisport athlete, you’ll find it under “ebook” in the store on our site.

    Thanks again for the props and good luck! Patrick and I will be at the race!

  2. “Coach Rich” – thanks for your comment!

    The “shameless plug” is a good one. I purchased the 4hr webinar and it was a great help with refining my understanding of training and racing with power. It summarizes the key concepts from Hunter’s books as well as others and is a handy reference.

    I’ll also add another plug: Endurance Nation has a great DVD “4 Keys to Iron Distance Execution”. That is how I got to learn about their training program which I am following this season. Check out their materials. They are *very* contrarian to conventional IM training, but make good sense. Of course we will see if I say the same thing in 7 months after IM Louisville.

    See you at the pre-race function Rich – and BTW: against the strong advice you give I’m doing the Boston Marathon in April. After all, it is *Boston*. 🙂

  3. Keep it up! I’m on the same program and it’s really working for me. I killed myself last season doing brutal intensity and wound up slower and with less motivation to ride. I’ve since recovered from my rut with sweet spot training. I calculated a 2% increase weekly for my watts per KG and as my weight hasn’t changed much its applicable to my FTP too. 2% isn’t too hard to make as long as you’re not plateaued.
    Good Luck! I enjoyed the entry!

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