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Diving head-first into high-tech running

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  March 26, 2012 07:59 AM

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100lindsay_kos.jpg Lindsay Kos is one of five Boston Marathon entrants testing the Polar RCX5 personal training computer and blogging about it for Boston.com.
Iím honored to have been chosen as one of the five Polar gear testers. As a New Yorker, I'm both excited and nervous to run my very first Boston on April 16. After racing shorter cross country and track distances in college, Iíve definitely settled into my sweet spot with the marathon and half-marathon distances. This will be my third marathon and Iím aiming to knock about 3.5 minutes off my PR to break 3:00. Training has been going very well (thanks to the fake winter we got here in the Northeast) and I'm looking forward to sharing the next three weeks with you.

Admittedly, most of my running career has been very basic, technology-wise. A running watch only needed a start, stop and lap button as far as I was concerned. I never cared to know my exact pace on runs, as my group of teammates naturally fell into a rhythm on the roads. Exact distances werenít vital information as workout routes were always pre-measured by our coach or done on the track. You simply figured out your pace when you got to the end of the interval. Too slow? Speed up next time. Trees and benches served as markers to gauge pace from the previous interval. Despite training for a top-tier Division1 team, simplicity seemed key. Thatís what our coach was for, we just ran and put in the hard work.

And then I graduated college, moved to NYC, and suddenly found myself running alone for the first time in more than 8 years. No coach to prescribe workouts and routes. No teammates to run with or push me. Just me and Central Park. A year later, I started training for my first marathon: the 2010 NYC Marathon. Estimating distances and paces for long runs and workouts with my dinky stopwatch was incredibly inaccurate, especially as I didnít know how long or how fast I should be running, let alone how far or fast I actually was running. I stuck to pre-mapped routes for workouts, not knowing my pace until I plugged my time into an online pace calculator.

The basic approach worked, as I surprised myself by running a 3:04 debut. After that, I knew I needed to get a bit more serious and have the feedback necessary to improve my pacing and race times. It was time to buckle down and get a fancy GPS watch like the rest of my new runner friends.

Iíve been using a GPS watch for a bit over a year now and haven't looked back. I'm a total data nerd now. After just a few runs with the Polar gear system, Iím astonished (and honestly a bit overwhelmed) by just how much data it provides. So many numbers! What to do with them all?! Iím particularly interested to learn more about heart rate zones and how I can use the numbers to better impact my training.

Hereís one of my first runs with the system, sans foot pod because I havenít calibrated it yet. For this recovery 10+ miler, I simply aimed to keep steady and slow after recovering from the previous dayís 20.5 mile long run at 7:30 pace. Simply mileage on the legs with minimal exertion- achieved with an easy 7:48 average pace and HR in Zone 3.

After hitting 72 miles this past week (a new high weekly mileage ever for me!), I am more than ready to taper and get to know and utilize the Polar system data a bit better. ĎTill next Monday!

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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