I have the power!


Well friends, I finally have it - power. Watts, and watts of power! {evil laugh} mwuahahaha, mwuahahaha!!

No, you didn't misread that. And, no, I didn't pick-up Elmer Fudd's accent.

I did, however, pick-up a Saris Cycleops PowerTap SL+ 2.4 wireless power hub for my bike. I've been lusting after one of these for a number of years and finally fell into an unbelievable opportunity to purchase one.

The extremely fine folks from Cronometro made me a deal on a PowerTap that I just couldn't refuse. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but given that I've been after one of these for nearly three years, I guess I can justify the expenditure.

I can also justify it by using it as motivation to get my big 'ole behind off the couch. You're all familiar with my love/hate relationship with diet and fitness. Well, over the past three months, I have run exactly 0.00 miles. That's right - not a single mile has passed by way of running... And man, does it suck trying to restart a fitness program, so I'll say it again - if you're currently active, don't ever quit.

I managed to completely burn myself out on exercise. I could see it coming, starting sometime in the fall of last year. I went from averaging 32-34 miles of running per week down to 15-18 miles. I went from running 6 days per week to just two-or-three times per week.

My bike riding schedule slid as well - I went from riding 100-120 miles a weekend to at best, 40. I rarely rode during the winter months; the idea of hitting the trainer was unbearable. I found every excuse imaginable to avoid expending energy or burning some calories.

I tried mixing-up my routine, and that helped a bit, but the burn-out was still inevitable. According to my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch, I have logged 4,536 miles of running since February of 2008. That's more than the length of the United States.

So, I quit. I said, "who cares?!" I put all of my running gear into a storage container, threw it in the closet and figured I'd ride my bike every so often, and just enjoy myself.

Fast forward three months to September 14...

My Garmin watch shows that I've managed to ride my bike(s) a total of 644.7 miles since June 21. My Tanita scale shows that I've packed on a solid 28-pounds, and have increased my bodyfat by an alarming 8.1%. Wow. My pants are tight. My shirts are tight. My body hurts.

Maybe being lazy isn't so grand.

The thought of getting back out to run was just overwhelming. Try throwing a bag of cat litter on your back and going for a run. That's how I felt.

But, I had to do something. So, while out walking on Williamson Street with my friend Nat (he was in town from Dubuque), we wandered-in to Cronometro and saw they had a massive moving sale. I spied a demo wheel - a gorgeous Velocity-rimmed beaut, fitted to a PowerTap SL+.

I inquired, haggled, haggled some more, and left the store with the wheel in my hand. I also got them to include a cassette (the gears), tires, and tubes. I raced Nat back to my house and installed the wheel on my bike. I eagerly took it for a quick spin, and - wait, what's this? Where were the power readings?

A PowerTap works by measuring several data points as you ride. It measures your power output in watts, your speed, the revolutions per minute for your wheel, and with the correct sensor(s), it will also measure your cadence (pedaling rate) and heartrate. With that data, it can tell you a slew of things. And it does all of this wirelessly - ain't technology cool?!

Unfortunately for me, my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS watch, while super dependable and awesome, was just too long in the tooth to recognize all of this new-fangled gadgetry. While the hub was transmitting data, my watch couldn't do anything with it - it lacked the proper antenna and processing capabilities to display the data from the PowerTap hub. Sigh.

It was time to upgrade my watch. I did some more research, and $450 later, I had a new Garmin - the Forerunner 910XT.

What a drastic improvement! Aside from being ANT+ compatible (the technology for gathering and reporting data from the PowerTap), it was smaller, lighter, had a better display, better mapping, more accurate heartrate data, and triple the battery life.

Like my old watch, the 910XT is capable of tracking multiple sports activities, including: bicycling, running, swimming, and "other" (skiing, snowshoeing, walking, etc). So, I'll be able to use it for nearly everything.

Here's a shot of my old Garmin 305 (left) next to the new Garmin 910XT (right):

Picture 002.jpg

And here's a shot of the two watches on my wrist, side-by-side:

Picture 004.jpg

It took me a solid evening of working on the new watch to get it set-up and calibrated to my preferences, but after I was finished, I was ready to go. The screen quality and layout options are so much better than the 305. I guess that's what you get with 4 years of advancement...

With the new watch all set to go, I went out for my (nearly) maiden voyage. I was curious to see what type of power I could generate during a normal ride. I threw the Cervelo into my car, drove to my favorite riding area, and got ready to go for a ride. Here's the PowerTap hub - it's the silver/black thing in the center of the wheel, just behind the gears:

Picture 007.jpg

Here's a little better picture/view of it, as seen from the "top" of the wheel:

Picture 006.jpg

I hopped-in the saddle and rode for an enjoyable (and educational) 30-odd miles. It was crazy to see the differences in power when standing versus sitting and pedaling, climbing hills, fighting the wind, and descending. It was neat to watch the information in real-time; now I know why all of the pro athletes have these things - it's incredibly beneficial data.

After 32.33 miles, I called it a ride and headed back to the car to review my averages.

Picture 009.jpg

The only bit of data that is clearly suspect is the heart-rate. I was getting interference from static due to my wool t-shirt. I'm told this is fairly common with the newer heartrate strap... I clearly couldn't have had a maximum heartrate of 250+.

Other than that number, everything else looks great - I was especially shocked by the average power rating. 270-watts is pretty solid. According to what I could find via research, the average pro cyclist generates 300-watts while racing. Granted, that's over a 6+ hour span, so my 2-hour ride only represents 1/3 the overall effort...

So, I'm motivated. Or, at least I'm better motivated. I went for a short jog last night; boy was that difficult. I think I'll be doing some mixed walking-and-jogging for the next few weeks, or at least until I shake off all of the cobwebs.

It is truly shocking how quickly one can lose aerobic capacity. Just three months of downtime caused me to lose every single bit of running endurance I had built-up over 4 years. It's depressing.

So, let me be a lesson to you all - don't ever quit! Stay with it.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steve published on October 2, 2012 1:24 PM.

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