What’s a Quarq? My Decision To Continue Training Without Power

December 11, 2012 § 7 Comments

I am by no means a purist in the sport. I don’t pretend to be. I like fancy bikes, aero helmets, and lightweight wheel rims with dimples on them. I like the fact that if I wanted to buy a cover for my tiny straw that pokes out of my aero bottle to make it .0002 seconds more aerodynamic, I could. But amidst all the gear and the goodies, something that I have always resisted has been the “numbers.” Those of you who know me well know that it wasn’t until I started working with Hillary that I even broke down to buy a watch that would take splits. And I’ve had my Garmin for less than a year so I can (finally) not say “oh, I think that was about 16 miles, probably-ish.”

These days when you talk to fellow athletes, the question always comes up about training with power. “You don’t use it?” they ask. Nope. “Well, you use heart rate, right?” Nope. {jaw drops}

As I considered the purchase of these power tools (haha) for the 2013 season I had to think long and hard about what I want out of this spot. I know that I want to be the best athlete that I can be. And for me, that includes my mental well being. And part of keeping me mentally happy in this sport right now is not having a power meter or a heart rate monitor. I simply enjoy the mental aspect of the sport without those things too much right now to give it up. I’m not disputing that they are good – okay, great – training tools. And I’m not disputing that having power on my trainer intervals may help me push harder on days when I am sandbagging and may not even realize it.

But, I take a bit of pride in being my own power meter. I enjoy the fact that I can get on my trainer and in mid-interval separate the fact that my body feels like it’s going as hard as it can – but also tune into the mental thought of “no you aren’t you can always go harder” — and pick it up.  I read a lot on sports psych, and I think my years of running ultras in the mountains has taught me that I can always go harder. I enjoy sensing my own heartbeat and learning to push those levels without a watch on that tells me exactly how many beats per minute that is. And, I have never, ever had a problem taking my easy days truly easy. I most certainly don’t need numbers for that one.

Again, I think they can be great tools. But I don’t want to get lost in the data and forget what it feels like to simply race my hardest. And I don’t want to abandon the challenge of using my own brain to get me to take it to that next level.

When I listened to Ellie Greenwood talk before racing UROC about her course record shattering run at Western States this past June, someone asked her at what point she realized she was on pace to break the course record. Her response surprised a lot of people, and she writes about it in her own words from an interview on irunfar.com:

“On crossing Rucky Chucky [85 miles into the race], for the first time in hours I looked at my Garmin for the time. I’d been using my Garmin for mileage, but for literally hours, I had not looked at the time. My focus for this race was my position, my splits and final finishing time were a bonus to the possible win. So at Rucky Chucky I saw I was 40 minutes ahead of my 2011 time, a race where I had finished 18 minutes slower than the course record. Okay, I guess the course record might be on, but still – we had 22 miles to so to go, that was not going to be my focus, there was still time for it to all go horribly wrong, for the walls to come crashing in. Call me a pessimist, but it’s this attitude of ‘it ain’t over til the finish line’ that keeps me pushing every inch of the way. Even when Meghan of iRunFar yelled out if I knew how far ahead of CR I was, I rather abruptly said I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want that pressure, all I wanted to do was to run as fast as I could and win, without the worry of possibly making the CR (or not) by one or two minutes – that would simply add to the stress, I needed to stay relaxed and focused. I needed to just run.”

That mentality hits home with me. So I’ve decided to go another year without using power. Here’s to 2013 🙂


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§ 7 Responses to What’s a Quarq? My Decision To Continue Training Without Power

  • Andree says:

    I can’t believe there is someone out there like me with regards to this! 🙂

  • Adam says:

    You’re definitely not alone. I’ve never trained with power, and my HR monitor ran out of batteries…9 months ago (never bothered to replace it.)

    A power meter doesn’t make you faster. Training makes you faster. If you know your body (and it sounds like you do,) you can train just as well without one as you can with one. And besides, you’d miss all of the great scenery if you’re too busy staring at your bike computer!

  • Conor says:

    I love this post. And could not agree more. It’s actually reassuring to know people as good as you do train without power. I think it’s an overrated tool. Useful, sure. And It’d be nice to have the option if it wasn’t $$$$$$$$. But learning your own body, pushing yourself from within, that shit’s priceless. Keep up the hard training. Clearly you know what you’re doing.

  • Tejas Runner Girl says:

    LOVE IT! I think there’s something about an ultra-runner background that resists too many training tools. However, I will say I mostly don’t have a power meter because I’m too cheap. 😀

  • Alisa says:

    I just recently got a tri bike with a carbon frame…that was my upgrade for the next XXXXXXX years :). I don’t know what a power meter is (I mean, I do but I don’t) and honestly, for me, who isn’t going to win anything, it’s not necessary =).

    I am a happy cyclist spinning away hopefully improving my times in the process.

  • I with you! My best racing seasons have come out of training purely on perceived effort for periods of time/recovery.

  • davidwelby says:

    You and Maxon crack me up!

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