Biking in the wind…a few lessons learned

Fun day on the bike yesterday, off the back end of Hurricane Irene…no rain left, but still windy…18MPH (29KPH) gusting to 26MPH (42KPH)…and hot…going out the door at 76F (24C), and finishing at 88F (31C)., with dripping humidity.

So with a planned 4 hour ride in front of me, I was interested to see what the impact of the wind would be on speed at my various power settings…particularly in my race goal range of 190-200Watts.

So I started the ride as I normally do with a strong Z4-5 interval, northbound on Shearer Road, which is predominantly uphill, and against the wind…so a challenge holding a stable power setting in gusty conditions, with the constant hills…it seemed that I was shifting every few seconds trying to stay on track….turned out to be only 238 Watts average…wanted to be closer to 250W…so sort of a washout for any comparison.

…over the course of the day, I found that I was better to focus on my cadence than on the power meter…and keep it in that 90RPM+ range where I’m most efficient…and sometimes just accept some lower power readings, rather than chase it, in the shifting wind conditions…if I tried to shift gears too often, to try to keep the power up, too often I found myself ‘lugging’ into a gust in the 75-80RPM range, which deadens my legs a lot faster…became better at it as the day went on

Southbound now, I was with the wind at my back, and onto a series of Z3 210W’ish+ intervals…this one @ 208W, 24MPH…last week 217W, gave me 22.3MPH

Northbound again, at Z3, my legs just didn’t seem to have any power…I was pushing hard to try to maintain 210-220W, and 15 minutes into the 25 minute interval, I pulled over at the only food mart on the route, to re-group…I was 1:44:00 into the workout at that point…and very surprised to realize that I had only drank about 20 ounces of water and 20 ounces of Perform…I _should_ have been at 104 ounces total…at least.

…I have a Garmin Edge computer on my bike that I have set to beep every 10 minutes to remind me to drink…usually 15 sips each time until I know that I’m hydrated…like peeing regularly…like once an hour optimally for me…and then back off to 10 sips.  Recently the Garmin’s been turning off when hitting bumps, so needs to go in for service…and yesterday, kept turning off, so I just left it off…and reverted to looking at my Polar watch to drink every 10 minutes…although obviously _not_, as I was focused on my other ‘stuff’…the wind…my power…my cadence…my aero position. there I was, 1:44:00 into the workout, and pretty dehydrated…to the point where my legs were dead…rats…

…so how did I get there, other than the distractions and my lack of 10 minute beeps?…I’m _normally_ very tight on hydration and nutrition

…the wind was the additional factor…subtly sucking the moisture out of my body without the sweat-pouring-off-me thing that is a constant reminder to drink drink drink.

…even though it was over 80F at that point, I didn’t feel hot, nor did I feel that I was really sweating much at all for the entire ride…although obviously was…

The good news / bad news was that I had over 2 hours left in the ride, so enough time to recover and get some legs back…so hit the hydration…hard…and backed off the intensity to allow my stomach to get to work without being split too heavily with my leg muscles…so running 185-190Watts

It just over an hour before I was back to ‘normal’ power…my 3rd southbound interval was at a smooth 194 Watts, 129 (Heart Rate) HR max, so nicely in line…and then north again for the last interval uphill, and into the wind 197 Watts, 132HR max…easy, on strong legs.

…oh yeah, about the speed thing…those last 2 intervals

South: 194W, 7.16 miles, 18:45, 22.9MPH, 129 (Heart Rate) HR max
North: 197W, 7.261 miles, 27:17, 15.9MPH, 132HR max

…so combining the two, was 46:02, 14.4 miles, 18.82MPH, at 196W average

…compared to a day with softer winds last Saturday…so the wind cost me about 1MPH:

#3: Z2: Average: 200W, 19.7MPH (31.7 KPH)
#3: N: 204W, 7.254 miles, 23:29, 18.5MPH, 132HR max
#3: S: 195W, 7.162 miles, 20:24, 21.0MPH, 139HR max

With my Ironman goal power probably going to end up in the 190-200W range…to be decided before race day…this tells me that even in very windy conditions…and Ironman Florida can be windy…that should still give me 19+MPH on the flatter course…so good…although my race goal will be a power setting not a speed, we do always seem to be drawn to the clock…19MPH = 5:53:41…with no stops

And although I won’t change my goal power based on wind or rain…power is power…speed determined by the conditions…I _will_ …and I _know_ this …adjust/stay on my hydration and nutritional goals…and if it’s really hot, I’ll need to pull back some of that power to allow my stomach to process, as it competes with muscles and sweat glands…to make sure that I give my legs a chance to hit my potential on the ride…at least that’s the plan 🙂


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