Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: North of Boston, Massachusetts
Likes Earned: 168
Likes Given: 2
This is a GREAT topic, and I'm glad you, of all people, brought this up. I say "of all people" because you are driven and talented, a coach, and someone people look up to as knowing the in's and out's.
When I first got into this sport two and a half years ago, everyone talked about carbon and aero as if they were things you absolutely needed to go to the next level. I learned very quickly that this was not so. The latest gear may help an athlete go faster or be more efficient, but the darn truth is that for us ordinary athletes -- ordinary being non-Pro -- if we really want to go 1 mph faster, which even if you had the very best equipment you might not get, there are so many other much easier ways to get it. This is even more evident when you look at the raw numbers. So over the course of an Ironman you'll gain a minute if you had xyz on your bike or person. But the truth is, if you stayed focus on mile 95, when things were getting really ugly, you'd have that minute back and more.
We all want the latest equipment, me included, but I totally agree that the utmost benefit isn't nearly what it is made out to be. You still have to have the engine to run a small power plant if you want to average over 25 mph on a bike. You still have to work your ass off. You still have to go through a lot of pain to get to that level. You still have to be smart but committed with your training. And you still have to make those pedals go round and round.
A common theme about aero equipment, especially wheels, is that you won't see a benefit unless you're averaging over 21 mph or more. And even then it isn't much. But speed up to 24, 25, 26 and more, then you'll get even more benefit. That much I believe. We all dream about short circuiting that progression, to take our piddly 19.8 mph average and slap on equipment in hopes to get to 25, and although there will be a benefit, the biggest is with strength training and power-based analysis. There are no short cuts. None at all.
Another common theme is how some people look at Pro's and gush about their natural ability. Natural ability might be true. But it's also true that these athletes probably push themselves much harder then you and I, and they've been doing it for a much longer time, and they've started at a much earlier age. That's what makes it seem natural. Natural is working their asses off. Natural is training themselves to hold onto that pain even longer. Natural is the internal drive earned through racing hard, racing smart, and taking more chances than possible.