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The Best Technology for Pacing

Gadgets, gadgets everywhere, (and the best ones you were born with).

The multitude of electronics that we use to monitor training metrics serve two primary purposes.

First, the macro, which measures the dose side of the

dose --> response relationship. If you are familiar with the Performance Management Chart™ used by Training Peaks, you are familiar with the concept. Everything you do is “scored” based on how hard and how long you do it, and training is modified to accumulate points correctly, while adjusting up or down the rates at which you increase or decrease your weekly point accumulation. Long and short term fatigue can be monitored, and everything can be manipulated to assist in achieving a peak performance. All of this is made possible by recording and analyzing pace, speed, intensity, and duration.

Second the micro, or “How am I doing right now?”. What is my pace? HR? Swim speed? Power? Cadence? “How hard am I working?” or “How long can I do what I am doing right now?”

It’s the micro, and specifically those last two questions, that I want to address. I think those are the questions most relevant for technology neophytes, and I think that technology can take us further away from our intrinsic ability to answer those questions for ourselves if we are not careful.

My premise is two parts but pretty simple: 1. You have an intrinsic ability to pace 2. You can and should develop this ability to the same degree as world class athletes.

I’ve never met an athlete who was unable to cultivate exquisite pacing skill by the simple actions of caring and paying attention.

The ability to pace 400s on the track or 100s in the pool down to :01 accuracy. The ability to do longer runs over varied terrain or long straight swims in the pool down to :02 precision per mile (or 1000 yards). The ability to know your power output on the bike to within 2% without looking at your computer. Athletes can do all of those things, and not only world class athletes, but everyday athletes can develop world class pacing ability. (It’s not really world class pacing ability, it is fundamentally human pacing ability)

It is your intrinsic pacing skill, not your electronics, that will never let you down. A highly developed sense of exertion takes into consideration accumulated fatigue, temperature fluctuations, uneven terrain, and simply having a bad day. Once you are very good at tuning into your body, whether you sense you can or cannot continue for your chosen duration at a given effort level, you are usually correct.

If you consistently value the information on your GPS or bike computer more than what your body is shouting at you, those shouts become whispers, and then nothing at all. On the other hand, if you are open to listening to your body, you will fail… at first. That failure is really just feedback. You thought your body was telling you one thing, but it was saying something else. The next time out you will be more capable and tuned in. The more you exercise your awareness, the more aware you become.

Beyond the effectiveness of internal pacing, it brings a level of sublime enjoyment to our activities that is unmatched in the realm of electronic gadgets. I often encourage athletes to “embrace the race”. Engage, compete, and defeat or be defeated by that other person, because unlike violent confrontations, committing to race a person who has committed to race you will bring you closer together. To really race is both pleasurable in the moment and satisfying regardless of the result.

Developing your internal pacing is much the same. It develops a connection to your body that is both a joy in itself, and will help to produce more satisfying results.

Regardless of the devices you choose to measure and record your efforts, remember that the best gadget is the body itself. The soles of the feet and palms and forearms as they feel the force of the road or the pedals or the water. The skin as it feels the water or air rush past. The brain and deeper mind as they seamlessly weave those inputs into a performance which both approaches your potential and respects your limits.