Friday, April 06, 2007

The Great Quandry

I ran my last hard work-out on Sunday, doing more mile repeats than I thought possible.

I would post the work-out except I also bought a new Polars RS800sd, and the Finnish engineers responsible for this latest little Polar baby should be taken out and fucking shot.

The lure of the RS800's data was too strong for me to resist. I made the mistake of buying it at the Running Room where the staff has so little product knowledge it makes you want to cry. In fairness to them, they are minimum wage slaves who get no real training to speak of... and most of them are doing the job for their love of running and the fat employee discount - well, that and to pass the time of day. I called every store in the lower Mainland seeking some information about the RS800 and came up dry. In the end, I had to wait until a store manager who had purchased one himself came back from a business trip to company headquarters in Edmonton.

Alex, the Store Manager, went above and beyond the call of duty. Without him I would have simply taken the watch back.

When you buy the new Polar, you also have to buy a new sensor to go along with it. The old Polar infrared device - worth seventy dollars - effectively becomes useless. So you have to buy a new one. I got a generic for another forty-five fucking dollars. Neither Polar nor the retailer is up front about this. A little like selling a car without tires or runners without laces.

Of course, both Polar and the retailer are a little fuzzy about mentioning this. Fuckers.

The watch and the foot-pod are both lighter and more streamlined.

The pod gets a big thumbs up.

The new RS800sd watch itself - design-wise - sucks. It looks and feels terrible. And for a product this expensive, that is a nearly unforgiveable sin. The watch looks and feels like a Star trek convention gimmick - all cheap looking silver plastic. The buttons feel cheap - especially in comparison to the S625x. And the red plastic start button - so retro disco it makes your eyes bleed. I would never wear the watch except to run.

But the upgrade in data makes the decision one of those cases where you grit your teeth and say fuck it. But it would be nice if Polar could get its act together.

The Polar technical help line is even more of a fucking joke. There is an 800 number to call, but I have no idea if there is any tecnical help beyond an answering machine. I called - get this - no fewer than EIGHT times in four days. Not ONCE did I get past being put on hold to wait for the next available technical assistance drone. I waited once for twenty minutes and twice for fifteen minutes. The worst part is that every few minutes they cycle their system and you have to press one on your key-pad to stay in the holding pattern. It's a total corporate fuck you - we've got your money and you're on your own now - SUCKER!

How does this happen? All Polar does is pump out heart rate monitors. You have to admire their comittment to their product niche. They have partnered up with Adidas. BUT...

The Polar web site, software and watches themselves are brutally difficult to use. The worst part is, I am a HUGE proponent of Polar products and have probably sold more of them than most of their product reps.

And Polar product reps are another bone of contention. Here on the West Coast the Polar reps are, and this is being charitable, barely noticeable as functioning, breathing human beings. It is tough to tell if they are alive. We know they are not competent.

Long-term, you have to think it is only a matter of time before a company that manufactures a product with good design, good support and good customer service will hand Polar their heart monitoring little hearts one day on a silver platter. Someone like a Nike or a Garmin.

I run with a couple of guy who are computer freaks - and I mean that in the most amazing, in-awe-of-their-talent-and-knowledge-of-the-technically-arcane way - guys who manage companies that design and write software and even these wizards are left shaking their heads.

Boston is now less than two weeks away. If I wasn't paid up in full I might very well have bailed out at the last minute.

Jeff Galloway has been very upfront about where he thinks I am, training-wise. Me, I am not sure I have followed his training regimen as intelligently as I could have. No excuses, but my brain has been pulled in all sorts of directions this winter and I have had a hard time pulling my Boston Marathon training into focus.

Hence these e-mails -

Hi Jeff,

I appreciate the race strategy suggestions for Boston, but the race plan you have laid out for me looks like it will result in a 3:35 or slower (much slower) marathon time.

Last year I re-qualified for Boston in Boston with a 3:30 time and an 8 minute per mile average pace.

Are you saying that my training results this spring negates the idea of a marathon any faster than a 3:35?

Also, my last two marathons, a 3:29 and a 3:30, I have taken thirty to forty second walk breaks at the water stations.

Best regards, Vince Hemingson


I will always give you the advice that I believe to be realistic, so that you won't have a bad experience. My concern is the key workouts that you lost when you were sick--and the speedwork adaptations from the mile repeats.

I'm a "no BS" coach and will not tell you what you want to hear. I will always be honest with you.

It is very possible that you could run 5 min faster in the last 6 miles because of the the downhill. Here is a slighly more aggressive strategy.

Miles 1-2----8 min pace
Miles 3-16--8:10 pace
Miles 17-20--8:30 pace
Miles 20-26--whatever you have left

If the legs are resilent, and the temperature is below 60, you can fly down the hills. Remember to use a short stride, feet low to the ground, quick turnover.


I am not going to Boston to run a slow fucking Boston Marathon. I need a 3:30:59 to re-qualify, which I do need to do. I need a 3:29:38 to run a Personal Best, or PR as Americans like to put it.

I have never run a marathon based on a "miles per minute" plan. I run what my training and what my heart rate give me. Warm-up, start out at 155 for the first 10K, 156-158 for the next 20K, at 30K ratchet it up 160-162, the last three or four K go for broke. This year I have no idea what that means in terms of my pace.

Weight this morning - 183. After carbing up, probably means I'll race in the 185 ballpark. Pretty close to my Kelowna weight and my 3:29:39 Okanagan Marathon.

I am cursed with trepidation and self-doubt this time around and find myself thinking of the myriad reasons why I will not do well, telling myself that my father's health and my getting sick were all beyong my control and not my fault.

I hate making excuses for failure and loathe the fact that my mindset appears to be doing it before I have even run the damn race.

Worse, I know that coming close to a 3:30:59 will require a herculean effort on my part, and that the last ten kilometres is really, really - did I mention really? -going to hurt. So I find myself equivocating about paying the pain price, knowing full well that I may be dipping deep into the well, and then coming up a few minutes short at the end.

So that is my great quandry. Qualify this time around, or put it off until the Fall? The problem with having re-qualifying in the Fall as my back-up plan is that it leaves me wiggle room for failure in Boston, and qualifying for Boston is never, ever a given. Too much can happen, too much can go wrong.

And so all I can ask myself is this. How badly do I want to run the Boston Marathon next spring?

And am I willing to pay the price in ten days?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't you choose the strategy that will allow you to achieve your goals? For you I would think just a hair faster than 8 min/mile. Do as many as you can at this pace and if at the end you just can't keep this goal pace up - then slow down and relax - enjoy the scenery etc.
This is a strategy I have employed many times on race day. You've got to give yourself at least a fighting chance of hitting your target race goals - otherwise you'll be kicking yourself in the ass all the way back home.


p.s. Don't forget 1 lb of extra weight is 1 minute slower. Cut back the salty foods and drink a ton of water - you might be able to lose a few pounds of useless weight before race day.

12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Vince Hemingson said...

All good advice.

Right now my speed in training at race pace at 156-158 heart beats per minute is about 7:45-7:50 per mile.

So we'll see what toll the hills extract in Boston and how well I hold up over the last 10 K.

12:53:00 PM  

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