by Kyle Larson, Owner, Endurance House Madison
I remember when I clocked a 5:15 mile at the Capital Mile in Madison. It was a 6PM race in July around the Capital Square. For a long distance guy it was a blast. Now a 5:15 mile doesn’t sound fast when compared to the 4 minute group – keep in mind I was a football lineman in high school and after college I found doughnuts. Getting back into running helped trim the weight and I found out that I could actually run at a lighter weight. I always wanted to break the 3 hour marathon and ended my fast marathon days at 3:05. I’ll take it. For an overweight lineman–I was respectably fast.
My training tools consisted of running shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, hat and a simple Timex watch. My training was – lets run and lets run on the track 1 day a week. Even as the 5:15 and 3:05 became more distant in my rear view mirror I continued to turn out fast training runs. Something funny happened with these fast times when I bought my GPS. My 6:45 minute mile tempo run slowed to 7:20 and get this – my 10 mile run became a 9.25 mile run. That watch was making me slow!
Truth be known – I did own a Garmin Edge 305 Cycling Computer for years but never saw the need for the run. And – the cycling computer made me faster. Odd? After I’ve come to grips with the fact that I may have been creating an exaggerated story by not knowing how far I was running and what pace I was running I’ve come to peace with my GPS. Yes – now I love my Garmin 910XT.
There are lots of options out there for any person. The 910XT fits my needs as a multi-sport athlete. Here is a guide to give you an idea of options.
|Good||Use your watch to track duration of your workout or race. Use perceived exertion as your guide.||
||$25 to $75|
|Better||The wrist unit will track heart rate in addition to duration. Bike units will track speed, distance and many will also track RPM’s.||
||$90 to $150|
|Best||The wrist unit will track heart Rate, GPS, requires charging the unit. Bike units will track speed, distance and many will also track RPM’s.||
||$100 to $299|
|Preferred||Heart Rate, GPS, Power / V02, requires charging the unit. For triathletes a multisport unit is the best option. New models are now including VO2 max measurements using an algorithm||
||$300 to up (Power meter is not included in this option.)|
The Case For GPS
You can certainly train and improve without GPS – I believe a GPS unit can get you there faster. Knowing how far you’ve run and what pace you are running can really help you with your training. While you are training you will be able to get pace per mile feedback with a glance of your watch. For example – you want to run 2 miles at an easy pace for your warm up at a 9 minute mile. After 2 miles you want to run 4 miles at your 10K pace and finish with 2 miles at 9 minute miles. With your GPS on your wrist you will have instant feedback – no more guessing.
With most GPS choices you can review your data at the end of your run with free software. Garmin Connect has a very user friendly analysis application and many people use Training Peaks as their software of choice. In many cases you not only see your distance and pace from your run, you also see elevation, your average pace, and many other data points to help you improve. And – if you are looking for running routes as you travel many of these sites, such as Garmin Connect you can browse routes for the city you are visiting – download and go!
The Case For Best/Preferred Options
In some cases a small incremental investment means lots of monitoring tools. The latest watches/devices have measurements for your V02 Max. You know what this is – you’ve seen people running on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary trainer with a mask and tube that is measuring your oxygen and energy burn composition. The good news is that these watches don’t come with a mask. By using elements from speed, distance, heart rate and your up and down movements an algorithm generates a measurement that is nearly as accurate as the mask and tube apparatus. What is great about this is that you do not need to reserve lab time and pay high fees to get your VO2 Max you will get your measurements after every workout all the time and it gets more accurate as more data is added.
If there is only room for one step up in your budget you should add heart rate. Heart rate and pace are 2 key measurements. If there is more room and you are a triathlete – get a multisport watch. For example my watch gives me all the run data and then for bike you can add in power measurements when you buy a power meter and the swim metrics are amazing. Aside from automatically tracking your laps (no more trying to remember if you are on lap 20, 21 the watch does it for you – automatically) – your open water swims will give you exact distance and viewing the map you will see how croaked the water is during your swim. 🙂
Some days I do head out the door without my GPS. It is tough to be separated from all that technology. On the days when it is me and my simple timing watch I really turn out the fast miles. See what I mean – that watch is making me slow.