This post has, in some ways, been a long time in coming. For too long I have sat idly on the sidelines, not commenting when I felt as thought it was necessary. For too long I have held my tongue at the inane comments many throw out there that are oftentimes uninformed, mis-informed, or pure speculation.
What exactly is power? Well, some view it as "the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events." That is only related to what I am talking about in the sense that when one uses power[watts] correctly, one will definitely influence the behavior of others AND the course of events. So, with proper power comes...POWER.
I have now been training with power in various forms for about 3 years. Before you say it: no, that is not really a particularly long time. To go from having no idea what anything like "TSS, IF, VI, NP/AP, PMC, MMP, ATL/CTL, TSB, etc" meant 3+ years ago to trying to sound like I know what I'm talking about is a little bit of a stretch. But, I do think I know (generally) what I am talking about.
Almost everyone I know rides too hard in long races. I can think of very few exceptions to this rule. Actually, I can really only think of two exceptions, and one of them just so happens to have the same coach as I do. If you are reading this and you train with power and you're not Scott Woodbury, nor are you coached by Brian Stover, then yes...I am talking about you.
That's a pretty wide net to cast, but I think it is cast accurately. Many of the athletes I know are capable of far, FAR better run performances than they display in races. But it is very, very hard to resist the urge of a fast bike split. Very hard indeed.
But with proper pacing, comes proper racing. I see a lot of 4:50 IM bike splits followed up by 8 minute pace runs. Being able to ride 23 mph for 112 miles and truly having the ACTUAL FITNESS to ride that fast means you really should honestly be running faster than 8 minute pace. 7.5 mph is not really that fast if you are comparing it, relatively speaking, to 23 mph.
Ultimately, you should want to be the best TRIATHLETE. It's certainly cool to have people look at your splits on paper and say things like "Wow look at that bike split!" And conveniently not notice the struggle of a run that followed. When people look at my results I want them to see a well-rounded TRIATHLETE. That is, one who displays proper pacing throughout the duration of the race.
I remember I was helping someone race Cozumel last year and this person had a certain watt range that wasn't all that high. But it was consistent with what they were probably capable of (if anything, it was probably a bit high). When the number was said, the reactions elicited such things like "Wow you could definitely ride harder than that!" Stuff like that. Sure you CAN ride harder, but why would you want to? Riding 15 watts lower in an IM may cost you ~5 minutes on the bike (if that), but it could gain you 60 minutes on the run. The swing from a good run to a bad run is a huge time difference. Most people have bad runs. But they somehow think they have good bikes. There is a disconnect there that needs examining.
I admit, I am skeptical of my ability to hold these thoughts in the forefront of my head at Cozumel in 6 days. I WANT that fast ride. I need it, almost. But you know what really matters more? How fast you run. Triathlon is still all about running. It's about being fit enough to swim fast without killing yourself. It's about pacing yourself appropriately on the bike. And then it's about running your guts out.
Will I ride "fast" in Cozumel? By some standards, sure. But my hope is that if a casual bystander looks at my splits on Sunday they will see someone that they will perceive to be a "runner." When really, if they read between the lines, they would see a good TRIATHLETE.
Because it's still three sports people.