Monday, January 15, 2007

Power To Weight

Friday night – Chris and I are at home around 10:15 pm and talking about things that triathlete couples find themselves talking about when no one else is listening – power to weight ratios.

I was at my computer, downloading my Power Tap from the evening’s ride and telling Chris about a book I read last week. It was the latest in books about Lance Armstrong. Reading my own power output, it seemed apropos to mention that I had just recently read that in order for one to win the Tour de France a cyclist must have a power to weight ratio around 5.

This intrigued me. If I were a man, could I win the Tour de France? Could I have fame, fortune, and hot podium chicks? Would I wear the yellow jersey while clutching a bouquet of flowers and a stuffed lion?

And, more importantly, if I were a man, could I kick my husband’s ass?

This is often a topic of conversation. If the playing field was leveled out, if all things were even, if Chris and I went head to head, who would win? In fact, we will often do our own equalizer in races, giving me a 9 – 12 minute margin depending on the race distance. This is what happens when two triathletes marry. Yes, I’m sure there are triathlete couples out there that completely separate themselves from this competitive push and pull. But what fun is that? There is nothing like giving your husband a slap on the rear while running by him. Conversely, there is nothing like having your husband start 5 waves behind you in a race and come riding up behind you while shouting YEE HAW in a grainy, loud, rogue cowboy voice as he whizzes by at top speed.

And as much as we try to keep the competitive fire out of our relationship, it sometimes can’t help but get tangled up in our burning love. Sure, he has his own goals and I have my own goals. But when we show up at the same workout, or the same race I know that he knows that I know that he’s watching me as much as I’m watching him. It’s the nature of the competitive beast. It’s who we are.

Of course, each has their own reason as to why they would be the winner in any given race against each other. And anything, any little reason is fair game. For example, we just discovered that Chris outranked me in the duathlon rankings for 2006. He was 2nd in his age group, I was 3rd. For the next year, he gets to throw in “but I still beat you in the rankings” to trump me in any situation. He earned that right.

I’ve had my fair turns, too. But, I suppose my “I outran you by 5 minutes at Halfmax” has just now expired. When I told him this, he confirmed this by saying, “Oh yes, that ship sailed long ago.”

Thanks.

A week ago, I was doing a brick that involved running to a path through the neighborhood behind our house. If you can clear those 1.5 miles in 10 minutes, you’re doing all right. So the other night when I cleared the course in 8 minutes and 41 seconds I felt like I had something to sing and dance about. I walked in the door, sore and shaky from my effort, and asked Chris the fastest time he had ever run “the route”.

7 minutes.

Damn. I thought I might have “won” for once.

Later that night, lying in bed I did some calculations in my head. I realized that his 7 minute course record was……a fib. After all, I don’t think my husband has ever ran a sub 5:00 minute mile let alone averaged 4:50’s for 1 ½ miles.

He almost had me fooled and somewhere later that night I’m sure he was laughing a loud, very loud laugh in his head because he knew I was calculating comparing his time to my time and wondering why I was so slow.

I’ll get him for that.

And so, it is no surprise to myself that I was interested in comparing our power to weight ratios. I wanted to know if my maximum power output average for someone my weight put me in a category of those capable of kicking my husband’s ass. And, as you may or may not know, this would be no easy task. My husband’s ability to bike and bike fast is what he does best. A sub 55 minute 40K is not extraordinary for him, it’s par for the course. Longer distances? Even better. This past summer, even as a short course specialist, he pulled me on a 4 hour and 50 minute 100 mile ride – on his easy day.

And so when I threw the carrot out there, about needing a ratio of 5 to win the Tour de France, he took a bite. I knew he would. I knew he’d want to be in on this game. After all, you gotta be in it to win it. And he knows that physics equations, math, and calculations are not my forte. He was in it more for accuracy than anything else.

That’s what I get for marrying an engineer.

We quickly did some calculations. At first, we made the error of using pounds instead of kilograms. This actually worked in my favor and soon had me dancing around the kitchen singing to the tune that pound for pound I could outclimb and outride him. Which obviously meant that if I was a man I would indeed kick his ass. Plus win the Tour de France.

I was so set.

But then we realized that the ratio actually required pounds to be converted to kilograms.

I stopped dancing.

He quickly did some calculations of power to weight ratio and discovered my ratio was 4.25.


“You’d be good, but no winner,” Chris said. Oh, ouch. Somewhere behind me, I heard a YEE HAW coming my way. And saw no maillot jaune, no stuffed lions, not even a stage win.

“What about you?” I wondered. Could he be better than my good? Could he be a winner? He already got me on the duathlon rankings, would he get me here too?

He tossed a paper in front of me and threw the pen down. Under his calculations, I saw the number 5 circled.

Oh. He is a winner. He seemed to glow yellow in return and had a vision of a hot podium chick floating in a cloud above his head.

This will happen again. It always does. It’s part of the fun of sport, the fun of being with someone that also loves sport. And it’s all for fun. For I know that he knows that I know that hands down he’d outswim, bike, or run me as a woman or a man. And that’s ok.

I may not be able to outclimb him or outride him, in numbers or in actuality. But at least I can keep trying, keep training and pushing my big gears to improve my power output or work a little harder to decrease my mile splits. And one day that 4.25 will grow closer to 5.0 and I will pull up behind him on the side of the hill and say “giddy up” as I pedal off ahead of him in my roguish cowgirl voice.

And today he’ll read this, and probably reply that he could outpedal and outpower me even if he pedaled with his tongue. And he’d probably be right.

But one can dream, no?

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