Gina Kolata has another interesting topic in her Personal Best column this week: heart rate monitoring. I’ve used a monitor for years but am becoming less and less reliant on it, although my love of equipment hasn’t waned. I’ve gotten calibrated, so that I can guess my HR fairly reliably without looking. More recently, I’ve developed a pretty decent sense of pacing, so I can freak out my friends with my accurate predictions of our mile splits.
Kolata’s warning not to wear the monitor in a race itself is a viable one. Dependence on the numbers can stand between you and the breakthrough the data would say you aren’t capable of. In graduate school, I was taught that comments written on a student’s final paper or exam are useless. Commenting should happen instead in conferences scheduled during the draft process. Getting HR data from a peak race is similar: it might feel useful, but that chapter is closed once the performance is turned in.