Two Mile Time Trial

Today was a two mile time trial. Not unexpected at this point before a marathon.

But this time I was to do it on the elliptical.

I don’t trust the elliptical. When I first started using them seriously, back in about 2003, there were 4 machines in the gym I then frequented, and I quickly learned that they were calibrated differently. When the two on the left were at resistance level 10, it was roughly equivalent to the two on the right at resistance level 7.

My coach claims that at incline 10 and resistance 10 things are roughly equivalent to normal running. Mmm. If I ellipt at 180 strides per second (which is about normal running cadence) then the machine claims I am running roughly 8 minute miles. Which seems reasonable. But after 15 minutes of this my HR is approaching 160 (or 80%) which would not be happening after really running 8 minute miles.

Then, when I start using the beast it prompts me to enter my age and weight. If I do that things suddenly get easier and it claims that I’m going further at the same pace. Now this doesn’t make sense. The stride length doesn’t change. So I don’t enter those values and just use whatever settings the machine has as its defaults. I want my workouts to be commensurate and not dependent on my age.

Finally the machine is a lot easier when I’m holding on to it than it is when I’m balancing. I’m not entirely sure why this is, maybe just because balancing with free hands takes effort. So I generally ellipt without holding on. However, when I’m going fast I can’t balance and I need to hold on.

My coach asked me (about 6 months ago) to ellipt a mile at a 6:30 pace. Now the only thing I can change on the elliptical is my cadence, and if an 8 minute mile corresponds to ~180 strides/minute then a 6:30 pace should correspond to (8/6.5)*180=222 strides/minute. But I found that if I ellipted at a 222 cadence then the machine reported that I was moving at a 6:15 pace or thereabouts. I had to slow down to about 214 or so.

So I have no idea what the wretched machine thinks it is measuring when it claims to show distance. All I know is that it isn’t (number of strides)*(stride length).

So today I was to do a 2 mile time trial. Whatever that means. At level 10, resistance 10. I guess I just exhaust myself until the machine says I’ve done 2 miles.

When I walked into the cardio room I was annoyed. The treadmills were full of people walking. Walking slowly. Not particularly old people, but people roughly my age, maybe a bit older. But not infirm. Who needs a treadmill to walk? Go outside and walk on the sidewalk by the beach; it’s much nicer. No one in the room appears to be sweating.

Why doesn’t anyone else try?

Anyway I get on my elliptical and do a 2 mile warmup (level 10, resistance 10, 185 strides/min) which takes ~15:30 minutes. After about 12 minutes I need to take off my glasses because the sweat causes them to slide down my nose.

Then off I go. The machine has no pace indicator, just strides/minute. And, unfortunately, there is only one display which toggles through distance, strides/min and total strides. I can see how rapidly I’m cadencing, or how far I’ve gone, but not both at once (another annoying thing about these machines). I’m guessing a 235 stride/min cadence will be something I can hold for ~12 minutes.

For the first few minutes the cadence flutters around 235 fairly wildly. After a bit it settles down some, and I start to feel better. After about five and a half minutes I switch the display to distance and watch as I move up to the first “mile”. 5:44. I really don’t know how fast I could race 2 miles in, but a 5:44 pace doesn’t sound unrealistic.

I’m actually a bit pleased by this. The obvious conversion suggests that a 235 cadences should be equivalent to ~6:05 pace.

Anyway I pick up the pace now (a bit) and watch the cadence flicker between 250 and 238. But things are starting to get hard. My breath comes in gasps. The machine is rattling. Sweat pours off my face and a nasty mixture of mucus and sweat comes out of my nose. It takes forever for each minute to tick past. I switch the display with less than a minute to go. 3.87 miles. Arrg. another eighth of a mile left. It seems to drag on forever. I close my eyes for a while (why? I don’t know. It just seems right). Eventually 3.97 miles. And now things seem to change quite rapidly. 98. 99 4.00 and I slow. 5:40 for that “mile”.

I totter over to the box of tissues across the room and blow my nose.


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