Learn To Train And Race By Feel

Runners doing a run workout
August 27, 2020

D3 Staff



We triathletes sure love our gadgets.  We have power meters to measure our bike and run efforts.  We measure and record our strokes per lap, RPM and cadence.   

While these tools can be useful to help us understand our effort and recovery better, they can also become a crutch.  Learning to train and race without technology (by feel) should be a KEY step in every triathlete’s career. 

Relying too heavily on these technology tools can lead to many issues.  In training, data anxiety can result in sub par training efforts.  If you don’t hit your pace or power for the first set, you may perform poorly on the following sets,  “I’m just not feeling it today.”  On race day these tools can sometimes hold you back.  If you blindly follow your watch you may miss out on the breakthrough race by not pushing past your “race pace.”  

Learning to train by feel or at Relative Perceived Effort (RPE), allows for a deeper understanding of how our bodies react to different conditions and efforts.  One such example is when the weather is hot and humid, heart rate is higher than it would be in cooler conditions.   This higher heart rate will require an adjustment to your threshold pace or threshold power.  If you learn the effort required for your LT pace or power, (a rule of thumb would be the point where you can only talk in short bursts)  you can gage efforts in all conditions. 

Understanding RPE can insulate you from some of the stresses on races day.  If your batteries die mid-race, no problem.  If you forget your power meter at home, not an issue.  You can still perform well even without modern tech gadgets.  The first IM athletes didn’t have any of these technology tools and still managed to race hard and put down stellar times.

With all of this technology, we sometimes forget that each of these sports are actually quite simple.  Just get out and swim, bike, and run while listening to your body. 

Below are a bike and run workout that will help you to “get a feel” for different paces.

Bike Workout:  “Feel for Paces”

In the main set, make the change in each set by feel without looking at your Power Meter.  Once you have settled on the new effort THEN look and see how close you came to the correct effort.  Do this for each change in effort from IM to 70.3 and back.

Warm up: Cadence

  • 5 min @ 40-50 % of FTP (Functional Threshold Power) 90-100 rpm
  • Warm up: Seated Single Leg Drill
  • 6 min @ 40-50 % of FTP
  • Alternate: 1:00 min 80% of workload right leg, 1:00 min 80% of workload left leg

MAIN SET: Repeat 3 times

  • 7:30 @ 70-72 % of FTP (IM Pace)
  • Throughout the workout, guess your FTP BEFORE you look at the meter.
  • 7:30 @ 80-85 % of FTP (70.3  Pace)
  • Throughout the workout, guess your FTP BEFORE you look at the meter.

Cool Down

5 min. @ 40-50 % of FTP

Run Workout:  “Progression for Feel”

Cover your watch (except for time).

There should be a noticeable change in pace at each step.  Learn to “feel” different race paces.”

Warm up

  • 10 min @ 3-5 RPE
  • Ramp up in 3 steps
  • 15 min @ 5-6 RPE (Marathon Pace)
  • 15 min @ 6-7 RPE (1/2 marathon pace)
  • 10 min @ 7-8 RPE (10K pace)
  • 2 min @ 8-10 RPE (5 K pace)

Cool Down

8 min @ 3-5 RPE

Coach Bill Ledden knows it’s one thing to have a solid training plan, but an entirely new world opens up once you understand the reasoning behind the individual elements! That’s why my goal as a coach is to develop the whole athlete rather than just the technical side.

Bill is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach and USA Track and Field Level 1 Certified Coach.

schedule a call