Heart rate monitors like Polar and CardioSport have been the most used strategy in triathlons because these events have such long durations. So if you like to use a heart rate monitor for pacing, triathlon and especially ultra-distance triathlons are definitively the place to wear heart rate monitors.
It is clear that when a constant tempo is an ideal pace in a race situation, then there is a good chance that your heart rate will show you how demanding your current workload is. For example, the workload (Watts) in cycling races is very inconsistent (sprints, jumps, hills, breaking, corners, etc.). On the other hand, there is a lot more consistency in the power output in a traditional triathlon race. Thus, there is a lot better correlation between heart rate and workload.
Power Meters to the People
Power meters like SRM, Ergomo, and PowerTap are very common among pro triathletes, but actually, they would be helpful for beginner triathletes.
When a triathlete enters a competition for the first time, he will realize that it is challenging to get an efficient pacing strategy. It is very tempting to hunt down the opponent in front of him, and it is difficult to save the energy for the final part of the race (hint: there is a run AFTER the bike race in triathlons”¦)
Even though there is a better correlation between heart rate and workload in triathlons, there are excellent arguments to consider power meter training. First, by knowing your critical power outputs for the distances you compete in, you have the best opportunity to optimize your training program.
As an example, I would like to mention Dave Simonson, who participated in the power meter project. He has gained several watts because he has learned how to pace himself and trained at the right intensity.
Heart rate monitors are suitable for pacing, but they are still influenced by several external factors (temperature, caffeine, level of recovery, etc.) Nevertheless, this indicates tremendous potential for beginner triathletes to improve their performance.
Power meter training improves their pacing skill, which is one of the most critical non-physiological skills in triathlon.