Should I ride by feel in my event or hit certain numbers

I just started using TrainerRoad and a power meter in April to prepare for a 160 mile road ride with 10,000 feet of climbing at the end of July. The training seems to be going well, but I’m not sure how to ride the event. It’s not a race, I just want to finish and feel good at the end. Should I not look at my power numbers at all and just ride the entire time by feel? Am I supposed to try and keep my power in a certain Zone all day? Or allow it to spike on the climbs and take it easy on descents and flatter roads? Is there something I can read about this, or does one of the podcasts talk about this? Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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I’m a big proponent of “race the race” (or in this case ride the ride). That said technology is a tool that can help you pace better. I think as long as you don’t obsess over the numbers during the ride you’ll be ok.

Back in my running days I remember running a 10k tempo with a training partner (he was much better than me) and we rolled though the first mile in 5:05 (wanted 5:20). I let out a few choice words as I saw my watch and he said, “don’t look at the watch the rest of the way, just roll with it.” We ended up averaging 5:05s the whole way. (He was a 28 min 10k guy & 2:12 marathoner and then went out for another 5 at the same pace).

I guess my point is let the data help you, not hold you back.


I think you’ll enjoy it more if you go by feel and don’t spend the entire event staring at your GPS.


Feel, but maybe use the power as a tool to stop you going too hard on the early climbs (I have a tendency to ride a bit too hard early on - generally will be faster/feel better if you don’t go out too hard).


There is a great Nate quote from an old podcast…can’t recall which one and it was years ago…the quote is all that matters.

‘In a race - the wheel in front of you is the only power meter you need. Do however many watts you need to hold it - do that many watts.’

When I first started racing with a Power Meter (and before that an HR) I learned I needed to hide those metrics and ignore them as you hopefully put out best numbers on race day!

Distance, Time, Averages…use these in races and NOT HR or Wattage

Ride to feel on a 160 mile ride can be dangerous. In the beginning threshold will feel easy on the event day and will be totally unsustainable for the whole ride. I would suggest a hybrid approach. Use your pwoermeter as a governor. What has worked well for me, is this:

When climbing, try to stay near 90-95%, UNLESS you are out of gear and grinding, then you don’t have much of a choice.

Pedal through the crest of the climbs into the descent, this doesn’t need to be a lot of watts but 30-50% will accelerate you quickly, then coast.

on any flats, I’d shoot for Z2, but don’t be afraid to go easier if it’s feeling hard, I would caution going any harder if it’s feeling easy until the last 1/4 of the ride.

I’ve used this theory to great success, You need to be willing to watch the leaders ride away. If they are capable of holding that effort, then good for them, if they are doing too much, You’ll see them later in the day😉


that might work in a Crit or shorter road race, but for 160 miles, you CANNOT ‘do whatever watts to hold the wheel in front’ Unless those watts are within your wheelhouse.


I’ll give you the perspective of someone who had never done a race that I tried to pace before, until about a month ago - Wilmington Whiteface 100K MTB with 8000’ of climbing.

Having a power target was VERY helpful for me. I knew my FTP inside, I had pedals that matched my trainer, so I optimistically targeted an 85% IF, and finished at an 83.6% falling off at the end after starting too fast. Helped me not over exert myself and dial it back when I realized I was.

For someone who didn’t have any experience trying to pace an event like this, and had no illusions of competing for a top spot, having a number to target was very helpful for me. It was a big win to finish that event with my fueling successful, not feeling crushed, but also feeling like I didn’t leave anything out on the course.


The only time (for a ride) I look at the power meter numbers on this type of event are 1) to make sure that I am recovering on the flats and 2) to not go above tempo on the climbs. Otherwise, enjoy the ride.


Before I had a power meter, and did longer rides, I would always feel good early and be going great, but then towards the end would just be holding on for dear life trying to survive and finish. I was hoping the power meter would help me from going out too hard, but I don’t know what too hard is.

Thank you! This makes a lot of sense. In the past doing longer rides by feel I have started out strong and then by the end I am just trying to survive and finish. Through the TrainerRoad Training Plan I’ve been doing I feel a lot stronger and fitter. I feel like I could push harder on some of the climbs and recover in the flats and descents, but it looks like you would recommend never going above FTP?

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Sorry, what is 85% IF?

Super useful on the long rides - finding a power ceiling to temper your climbs so you’re not burning matches that will come back to bite you in the last third/quarter. Feel can be dangerous particularly if your not used to racing as all that novelty and excitement will have you jumping around and dancing on the pedals early on - not so sustainable near the end…


Should be able to find your IF on your Garmin - Normalized Power, Intensity Factor and Training Stress Score | TrainingPeaks


For events and races, you shouldn’t blindly ride-by-numbers, but use numbers to inform yourself. Mostly, you should pace by feel and let numbers like power and heart rate serve as a way to double-check your perception.

E. g. many people go way too hard in the beginning and pay a big price later. At long events like the 160 miles you plan on riding keeping a lid on things is essential. You should use power to not overdo it and prevent you from burning out. Another factor is the weather, especially heat and humidity: if it is very hot and humid, then your capacity to put power to the pedals is greatly diminished. One quantitative sign is that your heart rate at a given power level is too high and doesn’t recover as quickly.

If I wanted to keep things simple, I’d set myself two target powers, a climb power target and a power target for the flats. Avoid sudden spikes in power as much as you can and make sure to have enough easy gears on tap. However, don’t worry when you briefly have to go over your power targets in order to climb a brief steep section of a climb.

Personally, I would suspect the biggest determining factor in whether you will enjoy the event or not are your nutrition and hydration. Ideally, you should aim for 80–100 g of carbs per hour. Drink enough, especially when it is hot and humid. Oh, and I would pack something like a gilet and perhaps arm warmers in case it starts raining.


I wouldn’t say ‘never’ but I would make it a priority to try and stay below. You will likely find situations that make it hard/impossible to stay below, just try limit how often and by how much you do go over ftp. Also, those numbers work for my courses, shorter punchier climbs. If the climbs would be longer, I would probably lower my climbing target a bit.

Lots of good advice in this thread.

If your power hasn’t seriously fallen off, but it just HURTS and you can’t wait for the finish line, then I’d say you paced it perfectly.

In a stage race, which I’ve never done, I am sure you want to race it a bit differently so you aren’t dead for the other stages, but in a one day race, I want to cross the line feeling like I left it all out on the course.

I recently had a race with an over an hour long climb. My brand new garmin pedals stopped working in the beginning of the race so I had no way to pace it. I was wearing a HRM but even more luckily I had ridden that climb before so I had my previous segment time.

I paced it by HR and segment goal and it worked perfectly. This definitely was easier since it was a constant climb and not varying terrain, but I held myself to that pace and it ended up working well. Nutrition was absolutely key for me to be able to put out consistent power.

I don’t know if it helped me or hurt me not having power for this one, but it was a successful race.

I was dead when I got to the finish but I was still cranking out the watts to get there.

Bon Jon Pass Out :1st_place_medal: | Ride | Strava

I’m really surprised by the responses in this thread….imo, @Cory.Rood is the only one who has it right.

First, the OP said it was ride, not a race…but everyone is making analogies to racing. Secondly, he said he wants to be able to finish strong and now people are telling him he should feel knackered at the end.

This is a major ride…160 miles, 10k feet of climbing. Telling him the only thing that matters is the wheel in front of him (Nate’s racing advice) is a recipe for disaster. There will be riders there much stronger than him and with more experience…if he tries to follow those wheels, he will blow up spectacularly.

UWdawgs, I assume you know your Z2 range….stay within that as much as possible. As Cory said, there will be times when you will likely have no choice but to grind it out on some hills and exceed those numbers and even your FTP. That’s OK, but keep it to a minimum as much as possible.

The other piece of the puzzle is your nutrition…make sure you stay on top of your calorie consumption, especially early in the ride when it won’t feel like you need it. I’m guessing you are shooting for a 10-12 hour finish…you need those calories early so they are available later. Have you worked out what your nutrition plan is? If not, do that ASAP and test it out on some of your longer training rides.

Good luck….pace yourself well, eat regularly (Always Be Eating), drink and enjoy the day / accomplishment. Follow that and you’ll meet your goals.


Its funny there are some people here who think they are the arbiters of truth over what is “wrong” advice.

Typically, if you consider everyone else wrong, maybe you should look inward.

To each their own if they need that false sense of superiority :man_shrugging:

OP, we know you aren’t racing, but since you said you want to pace the event, obviously you have a target of some sort in mind that isn’t just “finish”. If it were just to finish, you should ride low Z2 or Z1, take plenty of breaks, eat a lot, and enjoy the time.

The verbiage of “pacing” to me means that you want to optimize your effort so that it is consistent and not slower than necessary. I and others posted racing experiences because those also require a good pacing strategy. To me, a 160 mile ride versus a race is simply a matter of pacing strategy because both have the risk of blowing up. The reason I posted my race is to show that even without power, you can still pace with heart rate or perceived effort if you have the experiences to know what you can sustain and what you cannot.

So as I said before, lots of good advice in the thread. Take what you can from all of the contributors, apply it as best as you can for your specific event, and have fun!

Good luck!

And people say irony is dead…

You saw the “IMO”, right? Not certain when “opinion” became a synonym for “arbiter of truth”, but whatever…

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