On this edition of The Kona Edge, we catch up with Owain Matthews and discover what he attributes his success on the bike to. He chats to us about introducing the use of the power meter into his Ironman bike training and reveals how it has helped him improve his strength on the bike.
BRAD BROWN: You’re listening to The Kona Edge, we head back to Sydney, Australia now to catch up with Owain Matthews. Owain, welcome, nice to chat again.
OWAIN MATTHEWS: Yeah, thanks for having me, looking forward to chatting.
BRAD BROWN: Owain, let’s talk about your bike, you’re obviously strong on the bike now. It wasn’t your wheelhouse, if you’d excuse the pun, when you first started, but it’s something you’re really good at over the last few years. What do you attribute your success on the bike to and just how good you have got?
Stubbornness leads to improved Ironman bike
OWAIN MATTHEWS: Yeah, I guess initially it was a little bit of stubbornness, I knew that I was a very fit guy and I had a really good engine, from my running background and I knew that I had the potential to be a good rider. And a little bit of stubbornness early on, kind of started to get me to improve that. I spoke to my coach and said I wanted to devote a bit more time to training with that because I feel like I could be a good biker and compete with everyone else.
I guess initially some of the biggest gains I made was improving my strength. Again, I was a thin runner, weighing 64kg and I didn’t have a lot of strength to get me around, didn’t really have a lot of strength or definition in my quads or my hamstrings or glutes, so I did a lot of strength endurance stuff early on to kind of get that to work. I put on a little bit of muscle which made a big difference to my bike. And then from there, I guess one of the biggest drivers forward was how I actually had to learn how to ride and I invested in working with a Power meter and that propelled me forward quite a lot once I started doing that.
Do you know how to ride correctly in your Ironman bike?
BRAD BROWN: You talk about how to ride and some people might hear that and go, well, it’s two wheels, you’ve got to keep upright, but it’s slightly different. Particularly riding to Power, it’s nuance, but it’s very different to what you would do if you were just going out and riding.
OWAIN MATTHEWS: Yeah, I think the idea of Power meter, for me, and for athletes I work with now as well, is that it’s more of a benefit in training and you start to learn how to ride smoothly in terms of not exerting effort inefficiently in a race. You don’t want to spike your effort as you’re riding, so the more consistent your Power is, the more efficiently you’re going to outlay your energy throughout the race.
I learnt that as a technique through using my Power meter so I could monitor how hard I was riding at different points. Also, in training, to be able to make sure that when I was supposed to be riding easy, I was riding easy and then when I was supposed to be really trying to work harder, that I was doing that and not just kidding myself. The Power meter gave me that quantifiable data to help me learn how to do it, cause I could physically see how to ride and how to be smooth.
BRAD BROWN: Do you find that’s a big mistake that people do make in triathlon, they do their easy sessions too hard and their harder sessions not hard enough? We had a very interesting session in the recent IM Summit that we did here at The Kona Edge on that exact point, is that something you see a lot of people making that mistake?
OWAIN MATTHEWS: I think the biggest thing I see with that, the biggest trend I see from the data I see and from talking to people as well, especially when I came into triathlon is people run too hard all the time and they bike too easy all the time and there was just too much of those ends where they weren’t doing things correctly. I definitely found that with the bike, people were kidding themselves a lot of the time and I found that myself when I started using Power, that my hard sessions I wasn’t accessing probably nearly the sort of area of zones that I should. I should have been working in certain areas and working harder above threshold and I just wasn’t. Definitely people don’t really realise until they can see something quantifiable to do that.
BRAD BROWN: What do you love about the bike?
Do things differently on your Ironman bike and get better
OWAIN MATTHEWS: I think one of the things I love about the bike is the potential to do things differently. The run is very pure, it’s an all body impactful sort of movement and you can fatigue very quickly, whereas the bike has a lot of potential to ride in very different ways, in different races, depending on the courses and stuff like that, you can recover quite quickly as well.
The better you get at the bike, the more scenarios in a race situation that you can adapt to and I think that’s the biggest thing. The higher up the field you get in terms of your age group or professional or whatever it is, you’ve got to be able to adapt to being down out of the swim, being with faster riders and there’s a lot more potential to work on different things with the bike. Whereas the run is a lot more about pacing and you don’t have that room to play with that much because there’s only a certain capacity there.
BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. As far as workouts, what sort of stuff do you absolutely love doing on the bike?
OWAIN MATTHEWS: I’m a hill, a strength, endurance, hill sort of favourite. I have two favourite workouts. I like the strength endurance, low cadence stuff, 12-15 minutes long hill intervals where you’re grinding out low cadence at a 4-5% gradient, I love those sorts of things, but I also do a lot of riding on different weeks with groups.
In Sydney we have a lot of hills here and I did a lot of this in preparation for the hillier course in Mooloolaba, the 70.3, just recently, where I’d ride with the guys on a hilly course and it was just like all out on the hills and recover between, on this undulating course that we have and yeah, the sky is limit. Just go as hard as you can on the hills and get your Power up as much as you can just enjoy having a bit of competition between the group that you’re with.
BRAD BROWN: That’s awesome. Owain, we’ll chat about your run next time out, I’m looking forward to that, but we’ll save that for another day, thanks for your time today.
OWAIN MATTHEWS: Excellent, thank you.