Too Much Information

I train with a powermeter on the bike and a GPS watch on the run and in pools with paceclocks. I appreciate these tools and use them for the majority of my workouts. After sessions I load up the data and have a quick look to see how it went relative to last time. It’s great to have this feedback to track progress in my different workouts week to week. 

Knowing about power on the bike has been particularly useful as we Minnesotans spend so much time riding inside. I have a pretty good notion of what power I’ll put out for easy, steady, strong, or big gear efforts. Because Kevin O’Connor has allowed me to race several times with the Zipp Powertap disc I even know what I averaged for 2 different Olympic races and 2 Ironmans. This just means I know enough to gauge the quality of different workouts after they are completed.

I was a long time guestimator of run distance so it is very nice to know exactly how far different routes are – as it turns out the loops we used as ‘long runs’ back in High School are not so long! Pace information for fartlek and tempo type workouts has been great. Previously exact pace information was a luxury I only enjoyed on the track. As with power, knowing the paces I can produce with different efforts gives me confidence and a better picture of what is to come in races.

I am baffled by the idea of using a GPS in the pool since paceclocks provide all the necessary information. Start on a regular interval and you can easily see your time for the swim. With math that even I am capable of you can turn that time into pace per 100. If you don’t do enough 200s, 300s, 400s, and 500s to know roughly what you’ll come in on and what pace that correlates to, you should be doing more 200s, 300s, 400s, and 500s.

For all three sports I collect data during, log it after, and take a look and make sure it is in line with expectations. To my mind this is a good use of the information. I don’t let it distract me during training and don’t waste time pouring over details after training.

This year in particular I have found one of the most effective ways to ruin a workout is to start looking frequently at power or pace. All my good bike and run workouts have been focused on giving the right effort and finding a good rhythm at that effort. Focusing on effort and rhythm has consistently produced the best outcome for the session. I have destroyed several sessions simply by getting sucked into the data while I’m trying to go hard. You give an effort and the results follow. Focusing on the results to control the effort seems backwards and disruptive. Data is useful but I try not to let it destroy the actual training.


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