Thursday, October 23, 2008

Llanos Power Hawaii 2008

Here you can see the 2008 Hawaii Ironman power chart for 2nd-place Eneko Llanos. This is from his Power-Tap and found on the Saris website (,guid,983fb23f-1a03-4315-b652-dc71e448b4cd.aspx). The Saris website also offers a summary of his data by quarters in the race. His bike split was 4:33:27, the 6th fastest on the day. The chart is a bit hard to read. The only part that really tells us anything here is the power graph, the yellowish line across the middle. Unfortunately, there was no heart rate data.

What you see here is fairly typical of the pro race among those with the top bike times each year. In the first 20 minutes there is a lot of power variability. Lots of peaks and valleys. He is probably quite excited at this stage of the race having come out of the water in eighth place three minutes back from the leaders. So he was undoubtedly working his way up toward them. Being with the lead group is quite an advantage. This may be partially mental as well as physical. Mental because it seems easier to ride hard when there are others nearby. Riding alone makes it very difficult to keep pushing. And even maintaining a staggered gap on the riders ahead within the rules may still afford some drafting benefit if the wind conditions are right. A group of riders going down the road, even though spread out, can displace and redirect a lot of wind.

Note that power for the first half of the race is fairly steady once beyond those initial 20 minutes spent looping through Kona with several turns. His average power for each of the first two quarters of the bike leg was 286 and 284 watts, respectively. Around the half-way point power begins to fade a bit. In the third quarter he averaged 260 watts and 251 in the fourth quarter. This, again, is typical for the pro race. Llanos is paying the price for having gone out so fast early on. He faded less than many of the others since he split the bike in fifth place among the pro field.

Allowing power to fade a bit may also have to do with anticipating the run. He would like to have something left in his legs now that he’s established his position in the field. And this tactic paid off as he ran a 2:51:49 marathon, the tenth fastest of the day. With a tenth-best run I would not have normally expected him to take second. But that day the early leaders on the bike faded significantly. In fact, among the pro men, of the top 10 fastest bike splits only four made the top 10 overall. Six of the top 10 overall finishers were well outside the top 10 fastest bike splits. For example, ninth-place-overall Michael Lovato had the 25th fastest ride of the day (4:45:21). (Some day I’ll write on this. I once looked at what was the best predictor of a high finish place in various Ironman races. In Hawaii it was clearly the run.)

With an average power of 270 watts and a weight of 72 kilograms (158 pounds) Llanos’ average power-to-weight ratio for the ride was 3.75 w/kg (1.71 w/lb). As you can imagine, that’s quite good for riding 112 miles.

While effective for Llanos and a few others in Kona this year, I would not recommend this way of Ironman racing for most amateurs. First, amateurs are likely to have several other riders near them regardless of how hard they work. In Hawi we saw only a few amateurs riding with no one else nearby. The pros train to race this way – or at least they should. Most amateurs do steady state rides for their longest bike workouts. You should always race the way you train. But given that there is a 15-minute gap between the start of the pros and the age groupers, the amateur leaders out of the water who are contending for a high overall and age-group placement may well want to race much as the pros do. There are very few of these in the race, however.

The average watts per kilogram for the other amateurs should probably be in the range of 2.9 to 3.3 w/kg (1.3-1.5 w/lb). And that’s only for the young males. For every year beyond the age of 35 subtract a half percentage point. Women can lower that by yet another 10 percent. So for a man who weighs 72 kg and is 55 years of age, the estimated Ironman power range would be approximately 188 to 214 watts (72kg x 2.9-3.3 = 209-238w, subtract 10% for 20 years of age = 188-214w). A woman of the same age who weighs 60 kg (132 lbs) may subtract another 10 percent for a ballpark range of 141 to 160 watts.

Now realize that these really are just ballpark estimates and not carved-in-stone, scientifically proven facts that everyone must abide by. It’s merely intended to give you a starting point for determining what your average power should be for the bike portion of an Ironman. Some will find the range too low and for others it will be too high. Extreme heat (as in Hawaii) must also be taken into consideration. Learning to apply all of this is one of the reasons that you train—to narrow down what your targeted power should be.

Most athletes I talk with don’t do this at all. They train using heart rate and assume that will give them the best possible bike split. Whenever you are seeking a specific output (bike split) you should measure output (power) not input (heart rate). Heart rate tells you how hard you’re working (plus a lot of other stuff such as what you had to eat or drink and the weather) while power tells you what you’re accomplishing. This is not to say that heart rate is not valuable information during a race. It is. But it must be compared with power (or pace on the run) to be meaningful. This is another completely different post I’ll do some day.

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At October 24, 2008 8:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


What Ftp would a 70k rider need to ride consistantly under 5hour bike splits and still have left for runing a solid marathon?

At October 24, 2008 12:48 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Anon--Of course it will depend on the course profile and the rider's aerodynamics. So let's take an example from Hawaii. I know a guy who did 4:55, weighs about 70k and averaged 254w. To come off of the bike with decent legs for running this 254 would have to be about 70-75% of FTP. That puts FTP at 340-360w. Now many of the elites do 75-80% of FTP and still run around 3 hours. That would make FTP for a 254w average 320-340w. That's a little more realistic FTP for most young age groupers weighing about 70k (body weight in kg x 4.4 roughly predicts a young, male rider's base FTP) but it may mean that the legs are trashed for the run.


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