Saturday, September 6, 2008


Ryan Hall's recap of his race in Beijing.

am) 8 miles. Kind of easy but sort of hard at times. Not hard hard but just sort of hard. The easy jogging was sort of easy but not easy easy like a recovery run. If I had worn my HR monitor this would all be very clear and useful information. The way I felt today has no definable use or bearing at all in regards to training. If I had used gadgets then I would have a clear and definite picture of my reaction to stress. Instead- no gadgets = no knowledge. Although by running an 8 mile course that was measured using a gadget, I did (retro actively)use a gadget today... so I cheated.
The whole concept of not using gadgets implies that improvement stops. If I run at goal marathon effort today with out the use of gadgets, then repeat the workout next week, there is no way to know if I am training correctly. By using simple perceived exertion I am leaving hydration, glycogen repletion, mileage, stress, fatigue... all up in the air. To say that it is ok to even use a watch or run on a measured course means using a gadget. To wear lighter shoes means using a gadget. You can't say that the use of information is incorrect and expect to have any credibility if you too use even one gadget.
In order for me to improve I need to use a HR monitor to monitor my progression (or digression). To not use a HR monitor is simply avoiding data that can be useful to allow improvements in training. Relying on perceived exertion is not superior to being knowledgeable in the science of training... for me. Both as a runner and as a coach. I insist that my athletes use gadgets otherwise I am unable to quantify an athlete's effort. If one of my athletes described their run to me as I described my own run today, I would have nothing to say. The same goes for my own training. To look back at training logs from previous training cycles and see vague entries like 'easy' and 'hard' has little benefit to learning what works for my body. But to see that I was running at goal marathon pace of 5:30 miles at a HR of 155 tells me a lot and the details of how I acheived that fitness is the key to my future as a runner. There may come a day when I no longer need to use gadgets, but in order to get there I need to learn as much as possible about what works for me in regards to mileage and intensity.
And if the use of gadgets is wrong- then that implies that Dr. Rosa, Canova, Hudson, Daniels, McMillan, Brother Colm... all have it wrong. Ryan Hall, Tergat, Geb, Radcliff.. they are all screwing up.
I can see the benefit to not using a HR monitor in a race though. Once you have a clear idea as to what is possible with the fitness you have- then on race day you simply go for it and stick to the pace per mile that is your goal. In order to gain an understanding of what is possible in a race- you have to have an understanding as to how your body reacts to goal pace. Canova and Arcelli have done the research to know what intensity the human body can sustain in a marathon. This has a definitive value in terms of HR, pace and blood lactate levels that are relative to lactate threshold. With this knowledge an athlete can train at the optimal intensity to stimulate marathon specific fitness. Why wouldn't you want to do this? If you are truly serious about reaching your best in a marathon then why wouldn't you also include this knowledge to the training program? By eliminating the use of blood tests and a HR monitor you are limiting your development. Why would you not use the most feedback available?
I am speaking specifically about most runners and I don't think 'we' should be comparing ourselves too much to the top .01% of the marathon world. Of course the Kenyans that have developed YEARS of training base since they were 6 years old have a different sense of their limits. A runner like Ryan Hall who has been 'elite' since he was 17 has a better sense of 'self' than I will ever have. These guys have the basic elements that make them great marathoners. I'm talking about the normal people of the world- guys like me that started late. Relying on perceived exertion has too much margin for error particularly in regards to hydration, recovery, reaction to stress, adrenal response. These are all things that you won't be able to sense. When a HR monitor costs half as much as a pair of fancy running shoes, why WOULDN'T you choose to use one if you were truly serious and dedicated to achieving your potential?


GZ said...

For what it is worth, I think you just wrote a defineable use / lesson from today's training.

The use of gadgets is not wrong. The non use of gadgets is not wrong either. It is no more correct to say "if the use of gadgets is wrong- then that implies that Dr. Rosa, Canova, Hudson, Daniels, McMillan, Brother Colm... all have it wrong" than to say "is the use of gadgets is necessary, then Bowerman, Cerutty, Lydiard, Newton, Ryun ... all have it wrong. (although they used the gadgets of their time ... not HR monitors)"

I guess my point is this: don't let me or Uli or anyone tell you to use or not to use a gadget. Actually, let us tell you but you decide. There are days you will want to use gadgets because they are good tools to assist in your improvement and training. There are other days where you toss the damn things at the door and the only gadget you use is YOU. Both are valuable. Both are necessary. Anyone training exclusively without some gadgetry is probably doing themselves a level of disservice if they are trying to reach their highest levels. Anyone training exclusively with gadgetry is probably doing the same.

Me? I probably could use a bit more gadgetry and science in my training (just to reveal my bias).

Lucho said...

GZ- The runners of the past that you mention did of course use gadgets. Lydiard used HR. In his book he talks specifically of HR values.
I don't understand how using JUST YOU can have any value in moving towards a goal that is based on time.
Using just YOU has no value. The goal is to run 26 miles at X pace. These are strict parameters based on time and distance. "Just YOU" has neither. This implies that you neither know haw far you have run nor for how long (pace). After the run- how do you know if it was actually beneficial to the goal? Seriously, I don't understand.

GZ said...

Ok, I was wrong Lydiard (although I don't think he was using a HR monitor when he was training himself).

I think we are more in agreement on this one than disagreement (just in case that was lost). There are values to gadgets. HR monitors are great to monitor that. In 20 years there probably will be some other cool way to monitor progress (expired gases) that lay-people can use.

I do think there is value in just using YOU though. I think you have said this too ... perhaps under the title of "caveman?"

My point is - if you want a gadget now to be better to rip BBM, then use it. If you need a day without one, then do it. JUST YOU (not me or Uli or any one else) can tell you if it is right (although you might value some opinions more than others). There is no right or wrong as to how often to use it. Of course, if I subscribe to a coach, then I forfeit my right to be the person who decides that.

And, yes, I agree, I ought to use a HR monitor more.

All good man. An other of my points I was trying to make is that the value in today's run was gained clarity in that you want to wear a HR monitor to determine where you are.

(side note ... seriously, I am not sure how a coach subscribes to any particular aspect of training science theory! There are so many conflicting specifics out there about how to train ... it seems that the Newton's principles that were published all those years ago are the only thing that are absolutes! ... some folks subscribe high miles, some don't, some subscribe MAF, some don't ... weeding through the mess of what to do and what not to do ... ah!)

Lucho said...

Since I posted the Caveman thing I have flipped my opinion of it. The caveman approach (particularly the diet) has little relevance to a marathon race. For someone wanting to lose weight, maybe. But from a purely performance stand point it is not realistic. The metabolic requirements of the marathon would not allow it- the marathon is to intense. If you were going to jog the marathon (or just do Ironman) maybe.
You still haven't answered my question.. what specific value does NOT wearing a HR monitor have?
And to assume that I do not use RPE is incorrect. I would argue that I maybe BETTER at RPE because I can give my RPE direct correlation to HR. I have more feedback. Someone who never uses a HR monitor is only getting half as much feedback and is not able to compare what they are feeling to anything else but pace. They are limiting their knowledge.

GZ said...

I don't wear one because I don't like the lines it leaves on my chest after I take it off. That and it hides the "VENGENCE IS NOT MINE" tattoo. Okay, kidding on both.

Again, I probably could benefit from wearing a HR monitor more often and being more scientific about my training. I admit that. Why don't I? Lots of less than stellar reasons ... Your questions on why not wear one are right in there with, why not do more core work? why not run 10 more miles a week? why not eat better, etc? It comes down to choices I make. Part of why I run is because this journey reveals those choices whether I like them or not.

Since your original post, I see that you added some stuff as to when not to wear one. I'd agree with that. I know there have been circumstances where I have been with people on hard runs and they say they need to back off because their HR monitor is telling them they are going to hard. Not sure I'd agree with that approach on their part ... but I guess that is a difference b/w wearing one and having it tell you what to do. I think it is fine to wear one, as long as its feedback is considered appropriately.

Uli said...

"When a HR monitor costs half as much as a pair of fancy running shoes, why WOULDN'T you choose to use one if you were truly serious and dedicated to achieving your potential?"

Because your HR is not a reliable source for your efforts. HR is only one of many components.

I think one needs to get an understanding and feel for speed and intensity from inside. If you always look at data such as HR, you are pushing (or stopping) your body somewhere it does not belong. However, if need be, I am sure you would have been able to tell your HR/pace at today's run quite precisely. But: FWIW!
If you were told to run a hard 5k, I am sure you would be able to run it even splitted from start to finish without gadget. Same with a Marathon. Your brain just knows.

One guy I coach is completely gadget free. He can explain his feelings during training very well and we have great results with this approach. Another guy I coach used the full schwag when he started with me (SRM etc.). He is a data geek. After a while though he got frustrated with his training as he was ALWAYS watching the data (although I did not give him "data" for his training which at first also confused him. He wanted a "plan"). HR here, power there, speed etc. He wasn't even able to relax properly. Now that he sold his SRM he starts feeling much better and won his first race ever.

Don't get me wrong: there is no one solution. I just think that people are generally too focused on raw data during day-to-day training and actually too little come race day. I see some horrendous pacings during marathons. This is the day where you have to dial in even split from start to finish.

I hope you get that Fitzgerald book soon. Should be a good starting point for further discussions.


Lucho said...

So, how would you tell me to run a marathon pace run on a very windy day on a rolling course? Just by feel? And if I didn't feel good then am I not fit enough to run my goal pace? How do you account for heat, wind, hills and specific paces against various conditions?
How do you test athletes to make sure they are progressing with the training? In terms of marathon specific fitness a 5k, 10k, or even a half marathon race are not accurate tests. Perceived exertion would also not be an accurate measure of fitness, only exertion on that day, and even then perception can be skewed by a lot of different things like wind, hills, mood, caloric intake.. a HR monitor would allow more accurate assessment of exertion under varying conditions where pace is affected. HR shows inadequate hydration, PE doesn't.
I run by both PE AND HR. Not just HR. Where your athletes run only by PE. My point is why limit the data collected and the feedback from a session? What use is there in limiting your knowledge?
In regards to the use of a power meter- it has huge benefits in testing an athlete, but I sold the SRM I owned, gave back the Powertap and trained only once in a while with my Computrainer. But Ironman is far different from a marathon.
I think I need a HR monitor to in order to watch my progress and learn what works for me. This is the first year that I have done a period of intensity (LT+). In order to make sure that I still develop my AeT AND speed AND am able to recover, my HR monitor allows me to run at proper intensity even when I am fatigued. There have been many runs where I do not feel good and do not want to run hard- by watching HR I am able to use that as a guide to push myself to to an effort that is still of benefit but not so hard that I over train. And on other days I feel great but hold back to salvage a week of mileage and workouts. When I am balancing on the edge- it only takes one too hard run to wreck several workouts.
Because I get zero feedback in regards to my training and how I am planning my schedule- my HR monitor is helping me to coach myself.
At Vegas I won't wear my monitor- but I will know that the pace I am running is ok because I have workouts and tests that have given me the confidence to try.
Like I said before- someday I will be able to run just by feel, but as I am just learning, feedback is valuable.

kerrie said...

I think there is sometimes value in just getting out there and running and I don't think that a hr monitor can quantify that!

According to my hr monitor(as you know), I must have spent years running way TOO slow, lol. Did that hurt me? Who least I was doing something!

but yeah, I agree that for the hard stuff, it is really good to have some kind of concrete feedback to know not only how hard your body is working but also to get some kind of performance measure for future reference.

And GZ, no, it doesn't cover up the vengeance is mine tattoo!!