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Race faster by thinking like a truck driver

Posted by on July 27th, 2011 with 0 Comments

In order to have your best race ever, you need to think like a truck driver.

This statement may sound preposterous but it holds more truth than you think.

For truck drivers to make a profit they must drive their trucks across the country as fast as possible without wasting fuel. Long delivery times and excessive fuel costs eat into profit at a tremendous rate.

Triathletes face a similar situation. They need to get from point A to point B quickly without using too much energy (fuel) that is still needed to finish the run – before earning their profit (PB).

Method athletes attack this problem by riding in a bigger gear with a lower cadence. That’s how they preserve muscle systems needed for the run. A properly trained athlete can ride at a higher speed with a lower cadence and a lower heart rate. This part of the equation is very easy to follow.

The nuts and bolts

Let’s now get down to the nuts and bolts. Big trucks have a multitude of gears, much in the same way that your triathlon bike has 18-20 gears. Each gear is good in a given situation and absolutely horrible in another.

Trucks driving along at 70 miles an hour (113kph) will use their highest gear on the flat sections and downhill sections of the highway. This gives them the largest return on their fuel economy.

A triathlete should ride in a similar manner. The caveat here would be that the cadence should be manageable at 70-85 rpm (revolutions per minute). Pedal stroke should be smooth and the rider should not be “mashing” the pedals.

So far so good. Let’s look at where most triathletes that try to ride with a lower cadence fail: ego gets in the way.

A truck driver will shift continuously throughout the ride to ensure that he maximizes his fuel (energy) economy. A slight rise coming up shift, small hills shift, big hills, shift some more. Makes perfect sense when we are talking about a big diesel truck, right?

The same holds true for the triathlete. Too much ego leads to not enough shifting, and that leads to way rapidly depleted reserves for the run.

It is important to shift your gears to match the terrain that you are riding. This will maximize both your time and energy. Not shifting on a slight hill and allowing your cadence to drop below 60 is burning up your muscles that you will need later for the run. Always shift and increase cadence for any size hill.

Think like the truck driver.

The truck driver needs to get his rpm’s up to get over the hill without losing too much speed. Triathlete needs to increase his rpm’s to get over the hill without using too much energy by breaking the work into smaller bits – or high rpm’s.

Truck driver uses a big gear on the flats and down hills to maximize economy. Triathlete should also use a bigger gear on the flats and down hills to maximize economy.

Truck driver makes money when he is both time- and fuel-efficient. Triathlete makes it to the run in better shape when he is both time- and fuel-efficient.

Truck driver can go for days on Twinkies and coffee. Triathlete dreams of the day when he can have a Twinkie and coffee.

Riding with a lower cadence only works if you leave your ego at home and think like a truck driver when it comes to shifting.

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