not a climber
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Atlanta, Ga
Bikes: road bikes '85 Italian steel 2x6, '95 USA titanium 2x9, '00 folder 1x7, '07 Taiwan carbon 2x10
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your fastest race, or race pacing with heart rate monitor
Is it really this simple? Once you've trained, eaten, got your gear, got a good nights sleep, and you're at the starting line, there's only one race strategy which will result in your theorectical fastest race: going as hard as you can go, keeping your heart rate as close to, just below, your anaerobic threshold or lactate threshold (LT), right? Any higher heart rate and (by definition) you will not be able to maintain it. Any higher, even for a few minutes, and you'll fade below your average until you recover before you can push it again. Right?
I'm not intending to start an argument of power meters vs heart rate monitors (HRM), I don't think you have to pick only one or the other. Power meters are great, to account for wind and hills on the bike, but that's another topic. For this question, I'm assuming racing with HRM only.
Of course, one has to consider the distance and the degree to which they've prepared for the distance. Have you trained with regular long workouts at the full race distance, or will this race be a "just hope to finish", first time doing the whole distance? For this question, I'm assuming one has trained sufficient to race the whole distance.
Next is "cardic drift", which is more of a concern at the longer distances (right?). I ran my last couple of marathons for the first time wearing my HRM. The HRM told me what I already knew based on perceived exertion, and experience. It reminded me to keep my pace slow the first half, while I was feeling fresh. The last couple of miles I was feeling good (I could smell the finish line, +endorphins), and tried to push my pace 15 seconds per mile faster than my average. I was like a car stuck in first gear, red-lining the tach, and not going any faster. My attitude was saying "go! go!" and my HRM was like Scottie on Star Trek "she can't take any more Captain!", and my legs were spinning, but I wasn't running much faster. I was spent. Even though I was over my usual anaerobic threshold number, I really wasn't or I couldn't have maintained it for 2 miles. I think this was cardic drift.
So I'm back to my question. When all the preparation is done, aero-position tested and tweaked, and you have your distance appropriate nuitrition plan: Is the fastest race your body can perform, to go as hard as you can, keeping you heart rate just below your anaerobic threshold?
One can break down the physical effort strategy into your swim plan (target pace, strokes per minute, target position in the pack), bike plan (target HR, focus on staying aero, execute nutrition plan, fuel & hydrate), run plan (target HR, monitor pace, fuel & hydrate), and the anaerobic threshold number is higher (5 to 10 points?) for the run (+ cardic drift). So you might have swim plan: steady stroke, keep lead pack in sight; bike plan: first 1/3 target max HR 155, 2nd 1/3 HR 160, 3rd 1/3 HR 165; run plan: first 1/3 HR 160, 2nd 1/3 HR 165, 3rd 1/3 HR 170, last mile full speed.