You Need More Numbers

But then, what about Paula Newby-Fraser? Eight Ironman wins and she preferred to not wear so much as a watch? What about the pros who don't use heart rate monitors or power meters?What about Craig Alexander? Where are their numbers? Their number is in Ironman victories. That's not what I'm looking for. Wrong number.

And their number won't work for you or for me. That's assuming we even knew what theirs was. I am confused.

I knew I was confused a while ago. I had my SPEEDometer that told me everything I needed to know. Until I discovered what wind was and hills were. Those were the wrong kind of numbers. Questionable training method #1.

Then, for the past year I used my mind to gauge my speed and effort on 3x10's or whathaveyou's and prayed to whatever it is you pray to that in a race I would be faster. But then I learned that you probably shouldn't go all out every time. I don't know about you, but I sure as sunrise don't know what 90% feels like. I can guess, but I bet I'm 10% off in the wrong direction. Metaphorical numbers don't count. Questionable training method #2.

The only thing I can think of that logically would follow as Questionable training method #3 would be if I kept doing what I'm doing. That's not to discount the value of the work itself. Surely, just riding my bike quite hard on a pretty frequent basis is going to yield results eventually, no secret there. But having the opportunity to accurately ascertain my effort, I couldn't help but eventually smell what the rock is cookin'. I needed to know my number!

The feedback PowerTap will provide me will be invaluable. In my first experience, my number was 373. As Shanahan says, getting my 20 minute over 400 should be the main goal. Everything after that will be incidental. And so...the wholesomeness of doing things by perceived exertion and for the love of it is beginning to look a little threadbare.

Luckily, though, I think I did it right. Comparatively speaking, I enjoyed swimming before I started racing. I enjoyed basketball before I threw up an airball in my first game, and I did triathlon recreationally before I attempted to give it a go. I never excelled at hoops because the only measurement I could look to improve on was who I beat. That's great and all, but I'd rather stack up against my previous self. Just an FYI - that is exactly why Mario Cart Time Trial mode was the highlight of my video game career.

Point is, the playing field is now leveled. I can follow the clock while swimming, I can run the same course multiple times, I can look at the Erg screen to tell me if I'm being a girlyman, and now I can look at the Joule and know, no matter the route, if I'm better than I was the last time.

I know it's not a panacea, and I know it doesn't get easier - I'll just get faster. But if working at the bike shop has taught me anything it's that the right tool for the job does indeed help.

I'm excited. Looking at a number when I was rowing drove me insane some days, and others helped me live a little higher. Here's to learning to live and learning to die by the numbers.

The magic is in the man. Not the miles. - Bill Bowerman. Hoping to find a few more tricks in the months to come!

Get paper? Nah, man. Get Numbers!