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TriLiving's picture
Joined: Feb 11 2010
Posts: 70
Throw out the computers for first IM

I am doing my first full IM this year in Loiusville. I have been racing for many years -- tons of sprints, olys, a half, etc. but never the big one. I use both a Powermeter and HRM in my training and in many cases my races. During shorter distance races, the power meter helps me to not slack off on the flats and not blow apart on the hills. I also use my Garmin for pacing on the run.

During a long ride this weekend, I was contemplating whether these devices could be a negative during an IM for a first timer. My thought is that the best approach would truly to take it by feel and to trust my training. I tend to get caught up on what my pace is, how much farther do I have. I could be on a slight incline or headwind on the bike and get frustrated if I sense my MPH is dropping off, or on the run have a target in mind and push more than I should.

If I am not at all concerned about missing cut-off times, would it be better to race with feel and just be in the moment? I have read that for a first timer you want a gear easier than you think on the bike for most of the time and to really go out comfortable on the run... all seems feel oriented. I do see an advantage to a clock to help manage nutrition, and I could see keeping the HR from redlining, same with the power. Anyway, was wondering of anyone has had similar thoughts....

Iron Dan's picture
Joined: May 16 2007
Posts: 672
I would not throw them out.

I would not throw them out. They will provide you with much more information than you would have racing by feel. I think the more information you have access to, the better your chances of racing to your potential. I have had many races long and short, where racing by feel would have blown up my race. Your adrenaline will be high and your feel for pacing and effort may be off as a result.

RV's picture
Joined: Jan 19 2005
Posts: 3419
Agree - use them. Just use

Agree - use them. Just use realistic power levels for an IM distance rather than short course.
Same for running on pace - very easy in IM to come out of T2 like your hair is on fire and run a ridiculously fast pace that will really hurt you later on.

Anton's picture
Joined: Mar 4 2005
Posts: 5352
Most of the time When I use

Most of the time When I use an HRM or my computer...it's to make sure I'm not going too hard. Sure use your watch for a feeding schedule, but I doubt, with the experience you have, that you'll miss cut offs. Yes, there is the possibility that as a first timer, even following your technology, that you might blow up. That's Ironman. The distance IS a whole other animal and a completely different learning curve. Hopefully in training you'll come to understand how the feel fits to the technology. I've had a few bad IM's that turned into an Iron-walk-athon. I'd talk to folks who are also walking...some of them trusted in their gadgets and they blew up. Others didn't rely on tech and THEY blew up. ..all the while we were being passed by folks whose dependance on technology worked well and others who didn't even use a watch cruised happily by.
Only YOUR training will give you an idea how YOU will do.

joe_h@triathlete.com's picture
Joined: Mar 15 2010
Posts: 11
I'm an ironvirgin too but I

I'm an ironvirgin too but I have problems not riding like a total spaz especially on the start of the bike and plan on using my HRM too keep me from going too hard on the bike but if you can do it without it more power to ya

TriSooner's picture
Joined: Dec 20 2007
Posts: 3376
TriLiving wrote:My thought

[quote=TriLiving]My thought is that the best approach would truly to take it by feel and to trust my training. I tend to get caught up on what my pace is, how much farther do I have. I could be on a slight incline or headwind on the bike and get frustrated if I sense my MPH is dropping off, or on the run have a target in mind and push more than I should.[/quote]

Absolutely 100% yes. Couldn't have written it better myself. I like your style. It's ball-zy. Trust your training. Know [i]how[/i] you should be feeling. Stay "within your self". Measuring where you think you should be by reflecting on a computerized pace [u]on a course you've never riden[/u] could be a disaster (for your first). I bet 99% of us can eye-ball our speeds within +/- .5 mph. "How fast do you think you're going?" You can probably answer this pretty dang closely just from experience of being on the bike, what the wind feels like, road surface and profile, what the cadence and gearing is, the hum of chain and tires. All these external senses give an experienced cyclist a pretty good indicator of speed.

[quote=TriLiving]I have read that for a first timer you want a gear easier than you think on the bike for most of the time and to really go out comfortable on the run...

Comfortable on the run? Uhm, no. You won't be. At any pace. Let that thought go, man, and embrace the Death March called a marathon. You will find no comfort in the run. You will be thankful to be off the bike, but that's not the same as being comfortable on the run.

wirebook's picture
Joined: Aug 9 2007
Posts: 196
I think there's some merit

I think there's some merit to it...but I don't think doing it on your first IM race is the place to try it.

In my mind, if you do it - then you need to do it like everything else you'd do with respect to the race. Stop training with them now. The very first rule of Ironman racing is never do anything different on race day than during training.

That said, in my mind the key benefit to these technologies in an Ironman race is NOT to tell you to go faster. Quite the opposite, it's to tell you to go slower. May sound odd - but I guarantee you you'll come out of the water blazing and ready to tear it up...and will do exactly that for the first 90 minutes on the bike. Because you feel great. You feel fresh. And you feel like you can rock it all day long. Because that's how it works in those first few hours. It's not until mile 80-100 or so on the bike they you have your 'oh crap the day is long' moment...which is immediately followed by a 'perhaps I've been pushing too hard' moment.

Given you paid good money for your power meter and associated gadgetry, it seems like an Ironman is an ideal place (more than any other race actually) to use them, in particular on the bike. The run will be the run - trying to control it is mostly futile. The bike is where it's at.

deepbluex's picture
Joined: Oct 5 2005
Posts: 897
I wouldn't throw it out.

I wouldn't throw it out. Most people who use it have probably grown accustomed to glancing at the computer every once in a while. Not having it on race day may throw you off, mentally. It can serve as a reassuring data-check even if you resolve to race "by feel". When you're tired, you may doubt yourself and feel unsure about your own estimate. A quick look at your handlebar may make it all go away whereas if you don't have the computer, the stupidest tiniest mental grain of sand in your brain may throw off your whole game.

jnrice's picture
Joined: Sep 5 2008
Posts: 1243
My last race of last season

My last race of last season my computer died as I left T1. All things said it was a good race and I had fun w/out the computer but given the choice I would have used it. I say use it but don't be a slave to it. I like knowing where I am, maybe just leave it on the distance display and put tape over the speed display? I like knowing when my turn around, aid stations, finish are coming up.

kpollock's picture
Joined: May 8 2009
Posts: 144
My first tri was the Vineman

My first tri was the Vineman IM distance last August. It wasn't until I came out of T1 that I realized I lost the sensor to my bike computer. I thought I would be totally lost without it but I ended up riding by how I felt and finished in exactly the time I trained for! Would I had preferred the computer, yes but was ok without it. I would say even with your computer...ride by how you feel. On race day, you may be confronted with challenges you hadn't anticipated (high winds, heat, etc) so don't get consumed with your computer numbers.

Now as for the run, Trisooner said it best...there is nothing comfortable about the run! Clearly I don't know your training or physical ability but all the people I know who've done an IM, when it came to the run, there was no strategic plan....you put one foot in front of the other and your body will dictate at what pace you will go...it's usually slower than you like:)

Have fun! And if you like me say to yourself after you cross the finish line...."I will NEVER do that again"...that feeling only lasts a short time!

Ironmom's picture
Joined: Nov 30 2006
Posts: 1820
It sounds like you know

It sounds like you know yourself pretty well. If you're the kind of person who lets the numbers get you all worked up, you may be better off without them. On the other hand, data can be helpful especially if (as others have mentioned) you use it to ensure that you don't go too hard. It's very easy to come blasting out of T1 on the IM bike course and go out too fast, only to pay a very steep price later.

I think a good compromise, if you can do it, is to have your gear but don't let it dictate your pace. Heartrate is probably one of the better things to look at, because if you're pedaling into a headwind or a slight uphill and getting amped up by the fact that you're only going 16 mph but your heartrate and perceived effort say you're in the right zone, those are the things to pay attention to, not the MPH. If you can balance your bike computer with how your body feels and where your heartrate is at, you will probably do well.

It's all part of the challenge of Iron racing!

gfd's picture
Joined: Jan 28 2006
Posts: 3086
1st IM I used my HRM on the

1st IM I used my HRM on the bike to make sure I didn't blow up. It worked, but I was overly concerned with it and took my mind off of some of the things that make the first time so special. My run was a shuffle.
2nd IM I did by feel and was able to run better than the 1st, which means I actually ran.

Unless you are able to run close to your training pace, I feel that a HRM is useless. It really is moment to moment and one foot in front of the other. If you want a tool that really works, find someone to talk to and the miles will start melting away.

rachapkis's picture
Joined: Jan 11 2010
Posts: 164
There is an article on the

There is an article on the McMillan Running website that addresses just this issue. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

When I started running way back in the 20th century, I wanted longer legs. Long, lean legs for a flowing stride that would simply eat up the ground. As a runner in the 21st century, I find that I need longer arms. I'm up to my elbows in watches, GPS units, heart-rate monitors, and iPods. And I'm not alone. Some runners look like they are straight out of a science fiction movie-water bottles in holsters circling the hips, gadgets running up and down the arms relaying detailed information on location, position, elevation, temperature, speed, heart rate, and distance from the target. A pre-dawn encounter with a 21st-century runner in full gear can be quite scary!

There is nothing wrong with our 21st-century technology. Over the last few decades, remarkable advances such as heart-rate and speed/distance monitors have enhanced our ability to better prescribe and monitor training for a variety of runners. Coaching is now so much easier, and new runners can avoid the problems runners in the 20th century faced. Any training can now be adjusted to any runner.

The problem is that we are at risk of becoming too dependent on the technology-so dependent that we forget the art of learning our bodies. And, learning our bodies is what this sport is about. After all, we can't predict the conditions for race day, so we need some internal gauge to properly adjust our pace. How will you know how to adjust your pace if your marathon day turns out to be hot and muggy? What if it is windy? How can you adjust if you've only relied on external devices to guide your training? Too often, we're slaves to the tools instead of using the tools to learn ourselves. We need to calibrate our inner GPS.

Ace3's picture
Joined: Mar 10 2009
Posts: 47
Great post TriLiving. I'll

Great post TriLiving. I'll be doing my first IM at Louisville too. And thanks to all the vets for your words of wisdom.

I've really zeroed in on my HRM to guide my effort and have learned tons about myself in regards to how I feel at different effort levels, especially on the run. My bike computer on the other hand can be my nemesis. I tend to push myself harder when MPH isn't what I expect, and since I can't continually see my HRM on my wrist I go more from feel, perceived effort. I did a 55 mile ride last Sunday focused on gearing, cadence and perceived feel. I average a little over 18 MPH, which I frequently use as a measuring stick, and kept my HR in check. Learned I didn't have to push myself hard up every hill or into the wind to keep a decent average pace. I like my data and will be using all my tools in Louisville.

Warrior's picture
Joined: Dec 5 2007
Posts: 1567
Know thyself.

Know thyself.

GGehrke's picture
Joined: Dec 17 2007
Posts: 221
One thing I haven't seen

One thing I haven't seen anyone mention is the logging. Even if you really don't want to see your stats during the race, you'll probably want to review it afterwards. Maybe if you have a wireless version you can put it in your pocket - then you'd also have it available if you changed your mind mid-race.

PrinceofClydes's picture
Joined: Sep 13 2004
Posts: 3265
Your post brings back

Your post brings back memories..

My first IM I used a HRM to stay in my zone: 125-133 bpm.
All went well until mile 16, when I went into a very dark place.
My field of vision became this tunnel and everything seemed like I was staring down the barrel of a gun.
I learned humility. I learned to walk, and enjoy the spectators, and my fellow walkers.
It was a revelation.
I finished though, and was a better person for it.

The next year, I ditched the HRM. My run was only 15 minutes slower but a lot less scary.

Mostly I'm with wirebook on this. Ray nailed it about the first 3 hours of the race. Coming out of the water, riding out of T1 through those excited spectators as you leave town is exhilarating. You have been tapering for 2-3 weeks and the swim is over. The morning feels fresh and you breathe better than ever, the legs are feeling great.
"It's a race, dammit!" you cry, as you pump up those first few rises, passing people, and it takes great discipline to stay within the planned zones.

That's where the technology may guide you to slow down. It's an IM, not a Sprint.

Tech has made the IM experience much more manageable - [i]IF you use it, [/i]and use it right.
I've done IMs without a computer, or even a watch, and had a great time.
Use the tech consistent with your goals.
Unless this first IM is going to be your only IM, you don't have to lay it all on the line.
You have no PR at IM yet. My advice?
Sandbag the first one.


"What you you get when you suffer? You get results!" - Paul Sherwin

Ironmom's picture
Joined: Nov 30 2006
Posts: 1820
PrinceofClydes wrote: Unless

Unless this first IM is going to be your only IM, you don't have to lay it all on the line.
You have no PR at IM yet. My advice?
Sandbag the first one.


+1 !!!!!

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