A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thoughts - April 7 - Be Human. Don't Be A Slave to Technology

So 2 or 3 some odd weeks ago, I visited the Multisport World Conference at Columbia University just to gauge the present state of our collective endurance events (triathlon, adventure racing, orienteering, ultra running, etc.).

It was an overall positive experience. A lot of clubs and new races were represented at the expo, including NYARA and City Tri Racing, which is indicative of an industry that is alive and well.

One thing that stuck out as a not so pleasant surprise was a product that was touted as an accurate way to get your lactate threshold.

For all those who don't know what lactate threshold is, this is level of exercise in which lactic acid starts to accumulate in your blood. It is an intense level that can only be maintained for a couple of minutes maximum. The body's aerobic energy system is a much slower process than the anaerobic systems and cannot completely metabolize the fuel, allowing lactic acid, a waste product, to accumulate in the blood stream.

In other words, you'll start to feel lousy and you stop.

This product that was touted works exactly like the insulin tester that diabetics use; it draws a drop of blood and tests the amount of lactic acid in the bloodstream instantly.

So basically, you're supposed to run a lap at a certain pace on the track, immediately prick your finger with this device afterwards, and it tells you whether you are going anaerobic or not. Do you get a sense of wrongness in this picture?

I do.

Now I do like technology, but only to a certain extent. I believe that there is such thing as an overuse of technology. Especially when a bit of humanity is lost in the process.

Do you really need a device that tells you when you've gone anaerobic, especially when your body is TELLING you that you did? I don't know, but the burning in my legs and the shortness of my breath is sending me that same message that this device does. And I don't have to break blood vessels to know that.

Biofeedback is EVERYTHING folks. One of the most critical long term goals of training is the HEIGHTENED AWARENESS of your body. Other technological devices such as the heart rate monitor and GPS monitor are helpful in showing novices how it FEELS at a certain intensity and pace, but after a while, you should know your body well enough to wean yourself off of these devices.One of my pet peeves is people wearing a heart rate monitor in a race. Now most of you agree that as humans, we have that ability to perform above and beyond what we perceive as our limits, right?

Well, what happens when you let your heart rate monitor set the pace for you in your race?

You restrict that human ability to perform above and beyond your expectations.

Think about it. You're in the middle of a half-Ironman triathlon, and in the beginning of the half-marathon, the last leg of the event. You're feeling great and are about to overtake some runners in front of you, but your heart rate monitor is constantly beeping. Your heart rate is way above the limits you set it for.

So you pull back to an easier pace.

Bzzzt! You might have just eliminated doing the race of your lifetime!

Who knows what you might have done if you kept an aggressive pace. Competition is a whole different beast than training, and you might have tolerated the higher heart rate for a lot longer than your target zones would have suggested in training. You just traded your human side to the machine.

Please remember that all this technology are good training tools FOR BEGINNERS. After a while, when that innate sense of effort and pace matures with your fitness, it is best to start weaning yourself off these devices and go with only your perceived effort when training and racing. Sure you can use the technology occasionally to keep accurate tabs, but the majority of your training should be without them.

Because you're human, not a machine.

Machines always have to perform within certain limits. Human beings have the potential to perform far beyond their limits.

Don't limit yourself. And who knows, one day you'll demonstrate what being human actually is and have the race of your lifetime.

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Although there is no Greenbelt Training Run on Saturday, I *am* running long on the Greenbelt White Trail this Saturday. It's an early morning run and my pace is very easy, so if you want to run all or any part of the run with me, let me know. I can give you roughly the time I will be at certain times on the trail.

This Sunday will be the official Greenbelt Group Run for the High Rock Challenge. 8AM at the High Rock Parking lot. There will also be official training runs on both Saturday and Sunday (4/16 and 4/17) the following weekend. So come on down!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thoughts. Personally, I love my GPS watch. It doesn't really dictate my pace, though I like seeing how a certain pace feels to me on a given day, and I like seeing how far I've gone when I don't have a map. I've managed to lose all of my other sport watches, so I've been using it in races too, but I never actually look at it. I think the that lactic threshold device is a little extreme...

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