Ultra Adventure Racing w/ HR Only?

Hey everyone,

I am currently training for the Trans Am Bike Race. About 4200 miles self-supported across the US. I am constantly researching every aspect of ultra racing, but I have not been able to find any clear advice on this question specifically. Financially I can’t afford to just kit out my dream machine. I saved for a year just to buy my bike in its raw form!

I train with power on a kickr, and I know and understand all of the advantages to training and even racing with power. However, is it possible, when you know that you will be on your bike for 16 or so hours a day for 2-3 weeks straight that HR might be enough data?

If the answer is an “absolutely not, you will be at a severe disadvantage.” What are some suggestions for best power meter options when ultra racing? Battery life and ease of changing / recharging are very important, while accuracy maybe doesn’t need to be perfect. I thought a single sided pedal would be an option, but damn they are still quite expensive.

Thanks for anything you got!

Below is my personal opinion on this subject on which others may disagree:

  • When it comes to ultra events (particularly those that last multiple days), it is absolutely crucial that you learn to listen to your body and get that properly dialed-in.
  • While there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a HR monitor, it is better to be used as a “I wonder what my HR is”, rather working off it.
  • A power meter would fall even further down the preference and would most likely than not, be a distraction and an extra device to worry about.

There absolutely nothing wrong with using either device during specific workouts (hill repeats, etc).
When you go for that multi-hour endurance training ride, which as you know is going to be VEEEERY slow and VEEERY easy, it is better to either leave HR and PM at home, or leave your Garmin, etc. from displaying those fields, so you can go by feel alone.

Hey Kyle

I have a similar situation. Smart trainer with power inside, no power meter outside, interested in ultra-endurance events (albeit not at the level you will be breaking).

I have recently settled on using vertical speed (available on garmin devices, don’t know about others) coupled with heart rate and cadence.

I find it helps me enormously to pace up medium and long climbs when following a “sweet spot” of VAM (vertical) + HR + cadence. For me that would be something in the vicinity of 600 meters per hour, at about 140-145 BPM, and a cadence of 80-90.

Wish I could share tips about heart rate vis-a-vis feel/RPE, but I have not mastered that yet.

FWIW I think a power meter for these events is also useful when you feel sluggish, but take a peak and see that you are producing the watts you want. Or the other way around, when you feel like king but are really digging into reserves.

Cheers :slight_smile:

When it comes to PM’s it is not so much accuracy that matters, as consistency. A L/R imbalance is not in itself a problem with a single sided PM, as generally you are going to % of FTP, the issue is that a L/R imbalance can be different at different parts of your power curve. If you are a sprinter, or training/racing for explosive efforts, the difference between your L/R below threshold and above threshold can make finding the correct power zones hard. For an ultra-endurance athlete training and racing almost exclusively below threshold, then single sided power may be fairly consistent.

If you are going to be using HR for pace, then perhaps be aware of a couple of issues.

The first is cardiac drift, where your HR can take a while to rise. On a 10-20 minute climb, if you are targetting an particular HR level, you may go too hard (in terms of power) in the early parts of the climb. It may be worth looking carefully at your HR levels during 20 minute efforts on the trainer, to better understand how your HR responds to constant power.

The second is some of the external factors that can influence HR other than effort levels. High temperature is the biggest, but fatigue, lack of sleep, etc can also be issues. All of these are common during ultra-endurance efforts, so you may want to see what your HR does during some of your tougher outdoor training rides.