Power targets on a hilly course | 80/20 Endurance

Power targets on a hilly course

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    After riding 70.3 World Champs at StG, I realized most of my training was on terrain where I could maintain a power number almost all of the time (lots of flat parts, short ascents, short descents.) Training with 80/20 Endurance training plans, I had a small power range in Zone X that I targeted for all of my race sim intervals as I closed in on the race. But how should I race a hilly course with a avg power target for the whole course, [b]considering the descents with zero or near zero power[/b]? Is there a rule of thumb for this, such as target 15% higher than your full course target for the ascents to balance out the zeros on the descents? Overall, I rode at an IF of about .83 which is on the high end for me I think, but I felt like I had more left in the tank when I finished the bike and wondered how to better manage and apply power in a hilly course. And does some app like Best Bike Split address this issue too?

    Matt Fitzgerald

    Ya gotta learn how to race by feel, Ted! Seriously, I know you’re a data guy, and that’s fine, but masterful racing always has been and always will be a matter of feeling one’s way to one’s absolute limit. I know this isn’t the answer you want, and perhaps someone else will chime in with a different answer that’s closer to the one you want, but it is my honest opinion that you’ll make the most progress as an athlete by learning to go by feel more.


    Hey Ted – Matt has a good point. I learnt a lot about myself during lockdown doing a bunch of Ironman Virtual races. I also nailed down my race pace / power during the last 5 weeks of training with the long bricks.

    I just completed Ironman 70.3 Aix en Provence which has 3 climbs totaling 1200m of climbing. Average power simply doesn’t help on rides like that!

    What helped me in planning my race was to take a look at Best Bike split to get some power targets and times for different slope gradients, and some TSS / IF / bike time charts to benchmark myself to understand what seemed a reasonable effort given my training and fitness levels.

    During the specific training phase i practiced doing 90km bike routes with 3 large climbs a lot. Going up the climbs I sort of followed the power target guidance from Best Bike Split. However, at the end of the day the climbs just ended up being what felt like hard efforts in Zone3 or maxing out in Zone4, but not so hard that I was really breathing too hard, nor that my legs were exploding. I had to learn what the “doable” power was by feel through constant repetition.

    On my Garmin head unit I ended up showing 3 metrics only on my primary screen – speed, power and gradient. On a second screen I had IF, TSS and average speed (I knew I had to average 33kph). I also memorized some times where I needed to be at key points in the race to meet my overall desired race time.

    All in all I learnt In my training that my bike leg needed to be a hard effort, just slightly below what I felt would sabotage me for the run.

    The 8020 training plan gave me lots of confidence in my fitness, so I really just focussed on going as fast as I could for any given ascent, descent, flat, headwind, and keeping my speed as high as I could during the race. That ended up being top zone2 / zone x on the flat, zone3/zoneY/zone4 on the climbs (for a 13 minute climb with 6-10% gradient my power range was 141-270-396watts!!). On that climb I was putting in a hard effort standing up from the saddle so not much time to look at power!

    So all in all, agree with Matt AND I used the available tools to set my targets, then practice, practice, practice until I could do it by feel!

    I hope that helps



    I have no answer for you Ted, but having done St. George I’ve got a couple thoughts.

    First, you say you felt like you had some left in the tank. My thought is that is more likely due to spending the last roughly 10 miles of the bike going straight downhill rather than improper power pace.

    Second, how’d the run turn out for you. If you truly had more left after the bike I’d assume your run would go better than expected. Was that the case?

    As a side, didn’t realize they’d changed the run course. Two laps? Wow, that’s brutal.


    Lots of good points above to think about… importance of learning to race by feel, some ideas on how to train for a hilly course (including BBS and IM VR), data to monitor in the race, and that the many miles downhill at the end of the WC bike might have restored my legs for the run in a way that is not common in a tri, thus me rolling into T2 with a feeling I might not have pushed as hard in the bike as I could… there might be some validity to my feeling, or it just might not be something I am used to and misattributed the feeling. Or a bit of both – maybe factoring in the downhill miles at the end, it would have made sense to push harder on the up hills, thinking of it as a 46 mile race and pushed harder to the top of the last hill at mile 46 knowing the next 10 miles would be rest before T2. For my run, it was solid, but limited by some shooting pain I felt on steeper stuff both uphill and downhill when I tried to increase the pace/power, so I had to dial it back to what I could maintain as a “run” for the duration. I ran on really flat terrain this summer and I guess my calves/achilles weren’t fully prepared. Ran with a higher avg power at 70.3 Gulf Coast in May in hotter conditions – was flat as a pancake. I think the athletes that really excelled in the run had good experience, strength and confidence running steep downhills.


    Seems like someone could create a formula that takes the average % incline of a long ascent, the number of minutes or miles to ascend, somehow apply that to the average power expected for the full distance (such as 80% of FTP), and that would give you an idea what your upper limit would be for the ascent. There is one large ascent in the StG course, from mile 40 to mile 46. Let’s say my FTP was 240 watts. 80% of that would be 192 watts. 15% above that target would be 220 watts. Anyone have a reaction? Would you ride up that ascent higher that 15% increase, or lower? That 6 miles took me about 25 minutes. Garmin says it was 1,051 ft. My actual NP for the ascent was 206w.

    WC Bike Course

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