Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Training With A Heart Monitor

Dale Matson
Heart Monitor Chest Strap With Suunto Ambit And Electrode Gel

The concept and techniques of training with a heart monitor are not new. Sally Edwards has an excellent book The Heart Rate Monitor Book (1992).

I have trained using various heart monitors over the years starting with a basic Polar unit advancing to more sophisticated Polar watches that provided my VO2 max, calories burned, altitude and memory for different heart rate zones. I have also used the Garmin 305 (a GPS) unit that freed me to run anywhere and keep track of the altitude and distance too. The more sophisticated units can be downloaded via beams or micro cables to computer software programs that store and analyze the information.

My current unit is a Suunto Ambit. It is much more complicated than my previous Suunto Advisor that I used as an Altitude/Barometer/Compass (often referred to as an ABC watch. I can download the watch to “Movescount” and store and analyze my efforts each time. It has uploadable applications that allow expanded use and function. For example I have a ski, open water, trekking, running and treadmill function. It will not give me my heart rate in the water but will give me my distance and route on a topo/satellite map. I believe the Ambit II does do this.

Many of my friends use these devices simply for the distance and don’t even wear the chest strap that transmits heart rate (HR). In fact most folks I know that do use the chest strap have become so tuned into their level of effort/heart rate, they could tell you what their heart rate is without looking at their watch! Some of my friends like Faron Reed do not use any device and simply “use the force Luke” in guiding their workouts. I can't argue with a man who has competed in the Hawaii Ironman about 8 times.

The problem for me is that I have an average ability with an average (conditioned) VO2 max for my age. I have found that to optimize my athletic abilities, I have to train scientifically. This means that I have collected data over the last 20 years that is stored in my computer and in a journal. I knew that when I ran my first sub four-hour marathon at 190 lbs. at age 50, I would have to lose 30 pounds to go under 3:30 to qualify for Boston, which I did. Figure that you lose about ten minutes in a marathon for every 10 pounds you are over your ideal body weight.

Although Sally Edwards stated in her book that your maximum heart rate doesn’t drop all that much what I have noticed that I can no longer hold as high an average heart rate for an extended period of time. What I mean by this is that at age 69, my average heart rate in a one-hour tempo run is about 131 with a maximum of 160. (I call this cardiac creep since the pace is about the same throughout). When I was 50, I could hold an average heart rate of 160 for the same period of time with a maximum of 175-180. If one used Kenneth Cooper’s formula for a conditioned heart, the maximum predicted HR would be 205 minus half your age. When I was 50 I could hit 180. Now maximum is closer to 170. So, while my MPRH is 170, my capacity to hold a high average heart rate is diminished considerably.

While I bike, swim and cross-country ski, I rarely keep track of my heart rate during those exercises. I run three times a week. My Tuesday run is a tempo run to keep my speed and heart rate higher. One simply needs to be used to the sound of one’s breathing, pounding heart and the discomfort that goes with that. I do a duty run on Thursday with my dog and a long run on Saturday to keep my aerobic base up. There are hills for both my Tuesday and Saturday runs. My long run used to be distance but now it is time. It is 20 miles or 6 hours, whichever comes first.

Screen Shot Of Saturday Long Run Route On Movescount

The final point here is that on the long runs, I have always tried to run easy enough to make my maximum heart rate about the same as my average heart rate on my tempo runs. I do a lot of stopping to visit with friends on a long run. The recovery time according to my Ambit for my 20-mile effort is about the same as my one-hour tempo runs. Frankly I’d rather do the long runs!

Hike To Kaiser Peak Heart rate Graph
Notice That My Heart rate begins dropping below 8,000' On The Return Leg

I hope there is something you can take away from this that is not in a book.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Shop Class

Dale Matson

I Put Keepsakes In This Chest My Dad Made In Wood Shop Almost 90 Years Ago

My first introduction to what schools called industrial arts was in junior high school. All male students took wood shop and metal shop. The girls took home economics. I suspect that the division of skills that put males on one course and females on another today would appall feminists.

We had a series of projects that familiarized us with the basic use of hand tools both in wood shop and metal shop. In metal shop we also used a metal saw and lathe to make a ring out of bar stock. We made a dustpan and learned to shape and rivet sheet metal. We learned how to repair a broken window, fix a faucet, and patch a hole in sheet metal using solder. We also learned how to cut and thread galvanized pipe and drill a hole and thread it using a hand tap. We also learned how to sharpen a kitchen knife. Can you imagine bringing one of mom’s kitchen knives to school today! In wood shop, we built stools and gun racks using hand tools. We learned how to cut with a jigsaw, file and sand wood plus finish with stain.

In high school, these courses were electives and I took two years of metal shop and two years of wood shop. Others took print shop or auto shop. We used lots of power tools in wood shop including band saws, table saws, planers and joiners, drill presses and lathes. I made various pieces of furniture, some of which I still have including a walnut coffee table. In metal shop we used a furnace to harden metal, shaping and milling machines, drill presses, lathes. I made tools.

When I graduated from high school, I got a job in a precision tool repair shop. I didn't need much training since I was already familiar with the shop tools. I later became a journeyman plumber and once again, the skills I learned in school helped me take on the profession.

The skills I learned in shop class have served me well throughout the years. Knowing when to use a pipe wrench and monkey wrench and which way to face them depending on the direction of the turn is second nature to me. As a homeowner, having a basic set of tools, knowing what they are used for and how to use them has saved a great deal of money over the years.

There is certain condescension toward the trades and ‘redneck’ blue-collar workers by those with advanced degrees. Many look down their noses at those men with a lunch bucket who used to listen to Paul Harvey during lunch break. How do I know? I later got my doctorate and taught in the university setting for 17 years. The cable man is now the plumber of the Internet and just as necessary.

I think of all those young men today who are out of work or working in entry-level jobs. Many of them have a college degree. Yet skilled trades jobs go unfilled because of lack of trained individuals. Americans need plumbers, carpenters, and tool and die makers, Electricians and auto mechanics yet the industrial arts courses are no longer a part of the curriculum. In our local high schools, adult education classes use the shops no longer in use by young students.

Not everyone who can go to university should go to university. Many have left white-collar jobs for the trades or crafts. It was really where their hearts were all along. They were just a little late realizing it. Maybe if they too had taken that shop class in junior high school, they would have realized the rewarding feeling of working with their hands. Every carpenter knows the smell of mahogany being cut on a table saw. Every plumber knows the smell of cutting oil on a freshly threaded pipe. If only. If only young people today spent time in a shop using their hands to create things. Self-esteem comes from personal accomplishment as much as praise.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Men And Their Trucks II

Dale Matson

For those who own diesel trucks, it is often heard that Ford, Chevy and Dodge have one element. Dodge has the Cummins Engine, Chevrolet has the Allison transmission and Ford has the truck body. There are also arguments about the best years for trucks and most would say that Ford's best engine years started with the 7.3-liter diesel beginning in about 1999. Those trucks still have a good resale value.

There is an argument for the Chevy Silverado (GMC Sierra) during 2006-07 model years because the Duramax engine had the injector and overheating bugs worked out by then. Dodge had its most reliable diesels from 1996-98 with their 5.9-liter engines.

What diesel trucks have over gas trucks is power reliability and longevity. A diesel truck with a half million miles is not uncommon. I had a 2006 Silverado 4x4 with a 6.0-liter gas engine. It had 300 hp and 360 fps of torque at 4,000 rpms. Compare that to my 2005 Silverado Duramax diesel also with 300 hp but 520 ft pounds of torque at only 1,800 rpms. When it comes to towing, whether using a towing hitch or fifth wheel, the diesel is made for the job.

Today, I hauled a 6” brush chipper up the four lane (Highway 168). I was going 60 miles an hour at 2,000 rpm. It is a steady climb from about 1,800’ to 4,600’ in about 10 miles. It was like I had nothing hooked to the truck. I hauled small tractors, Bobcats, and chippers up the four lanes with my 06 gas Silverado and knew there was a load behind me. Trucks are versatile. We chipped brush today and threw the bigger logs in the bed to be hauled to our firewood pile. If we had used an SUV, that option would not have been available.

There is always the question of where to put your gear/equipment. Men who own trucks (not the posers) and actually use them for work need storage places too. The newer trucks have under seat aftermarket storage boxes. There are also aftermarket storage boxes that go behind the passenger seat of the crew cabs trucks. Many trucks have toolboxes mounted along the sides of the bed and or across the bed by the truck cab. The new Dodge trucks have storage chests built right into the fenders, which is a great idea. The main problem with storage boxes that are across the top of the bed is that they reduce capacity.

Bed liners are another feature that is available and necessary. They keep the bed from becoming dented and scratched. There is also a spray on material that works quite well at protecting the bed. There are bed caps and covers that keep material out of sight and out of the weather. There are also “slide in” campers that turn the truck into a travel recreation vehicle (RV).

There is also a certain kind of man that likes trucks to be like a fast car. They drove the Chevy El Caminos and Ford Rancheros. Today the Chevy Avalanche seems to be the preferred truck of the man who has a need to drive fast. They often have a few empty beer cans rattling around in the bed of their trucks. I won't say they are outlaws but they do seem to live closer to the edge.

Each man personalizes his truck with some decal in the back window or the back bumper. Some never wash their trucks and some wash them every week. Some see how much garbage they can accumulate inside the cab including on top of the dash. There are common traits that generalize to some extent. Men who drive trucks tend to be blue collar and conservative. Generally, there will not be rap music coming from the cab of a truck. They are less inclined to have vanity license plates. The higher the truck sits, the younger the driver.

And that is what I have to say about men and their trucks for now. I am tired from a days work using my truck.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Boys And Bicycles: Every Ride Is A Mission

Dale Matson

Yesterday Grandpa Dale, Grandma Sharon and grandsons Jamo (age 7) and Max (age 5) went for a bike ride. Grandma (didn’t get the memo) was on a road bike. I was on a mountain bike and the boys were on ‘dirt bikes’ (they were mountain bikes too but the boys preferred the name ‘dirt bike’).

We headed through the neighborhood toward the San Joaquin River passing the homes of the Sierra Sky Park airport. Grandma took the lead because she knew the route. Jamo was 2nd, Max 3rd and I was in the back. The ride also took us past huge dirt mounds that needed to be conquered a few times like moguls on a ski hill.

My vantage point allowed me to see boys being boys and to recapture that for myself for a few miles. The pace line was more like a slithering snake. Curbs meant to channel water became jump ramps. Grandma frequently turned around to admonish and caution the lads. Parked cars were obstacles to be avoided narrowly and at the last second. Max taught himself to climb the steepest hill by peddling standing up after walking his bike up the hill the first two times. Jamo dismounted his trusty steed on the fly allowing it to continue rolling into the brush. He began to throw rocks at and over Max and gramps as they passed by on numerous laps. Jamo said, “They're just dirt clumps grandma” when she scolded him for throwing rocks at us. She told me to be careful and I complained back, “I'm not a 7 year old!” Both boys enjoyed heading down the hill at top speed and hitting the brakes hard. It created a 20 foot skid mark with the bikes sideways to the hill at the end.

They didn't avoid the mud puddles and had wet streaks on the middle back of their respective superhero shirts, created by the rooster tails of the fender-less rear wheels. Only grandpa had the chutzpah to descend the steep abandoned road down to the river. (I have disc brakes) The rest parked their bikes in the bushes above.  Charlie, their dad showed up on a cruiser bike as all of us reached the top of the hill again.

On the return leg, Max practiced riding one handed most of the way while Jamo decided it was time to challenge gramps to a drag race. We took off and he was with me until we reached 15 mph with Jamo’s pedal cadence about 140 rpm. I finally pulled ahead and passed him far enough to let him know who was the boss biker.  Soon he caught up to me again with the rest almost out of sight to the rear. He gave me the look that said, “Let’s do this again” and again we were off with the same results. I might not be able to beat him next year. I may have talked a little trash at that point but I don't remember for certain.

This is written for many reasons but there is an underlying message about boys here. What boys do naturally is a part of who they are. They are not like little girls. In this journey… this pilgrimage, they are testing themselves and those they are with. They are fine tuning skills on this latest quest. They are simply not going through the motions. This is not treated as an adult would see it. It is not a duty ride to burn calories.

And gramps was trail sweep and rear guard most of the time. He was making sure all were accounted for on this mission toward manhood.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Men And Their Trucks Part I

Dale Matson

Property Cleanup

I bought my first new vehicle in 1970. It was a Ford F250 four-wheel drive (4x4) pickup truck. Men frequently name their trucks and mine was “Big Red”. The price tag was $3,500.00 out the door.

Since that time, I have had several vehicles (all 4X4s) including 6 trucks. My first two trucks were Fords and my last four have been Chevys. I understand the loyalty of the Dodge owners too. There are other truck brands but the American trucks are a long American tradition. There is a great deal of brand loyalty, pride and rivalry. Some of this is carried too far with provocative Calvin cartoons on the back window. It is also common to see an NRA sticker on the back window. Young guys like to run through a mud puddle and let it bake on as an exterior coating.

Emblems (also known as badges) on the trucks tell an additional story to other truck owners. The badges tell you if it is a half, three quarter or one ton truck. The one-ton trucks usually are equipped with dual wheels in the back.  Farmers and ranchers prefer them to the lighter trucks. They are big and hard to maneuver in the city. Often there will be a few bales of hay in the back. I think this is for 'tax' purposes.

An additional badge tells if the truck is diesel. Ford is “Powerstroke”, Dodge is “Cummins” and Chevrolet is “Duramax”. Diesel is an expensive option. In the Midwest and wherever road salt is used, the engine will outlast the body. Additionally, starting diesels in sub zero weather can be problematic. In really cold weather, the fuel actually becomes a gel unless it has an additive. The advantages are the increased torque, mpg, and longevity of the diesel engine. The resale remains higher also and used diesels are as scarce as hen's teeth. Guys in gas trucks often have a “Flowmaster” type aftermarket muffler installed on their truck to make it sound more impressive. The best sound however, is the low ‘growl’ of a diesel engine.

Another emblem is the 4X4 decal. Most trucks are two wheel drive. Here’s a surprise to some of you. Not all Z71 off road vehicles (GM) are 4X4s. Having only two-wheel drive for me is not an option. Our cabin driveway is gravel and in the mountains. Mountain driving is less dangerous with a 4X4 with the additional traction and control one has. In winter, vehicles are required to carry tire chains in the mountains. If the roads become snowy you will have to chain up if you only have two-wheel drive. If you have a 4X4, most of the time you will not have to chain up. If it is snowing, use your 4X4 to get home.

Pickup truck cabs were primarily a single bench seat initially, later they went to what is termed a “Crew cab” configuration. This was essentially the addition of a back seat like a sedan. This made the truck much longer with the standard eight-foot box. To counter this the manufacturers began offering a shorter 6.5’ box to allow the truck to fit in the average garage. Some make an extended cab truck that is a narrow seat behind the drivers seat. One of the advantages of the crew cab is the ability of a man to “sell” the concept of buying a truck to his family. The first thing my wife checked with my latest truck was to see if the rear seat could accommodate three baby carriers for grandchildren.

Length can be a problem for trucks. While the average SUV can do a U-turn in an intersection with two lanes on the other side, a truck with a crew cab (even a 6’ box) needs more room. If I lived in a rural area, a crew cab with an 8’ box would work but it is not a truck made for running errands in a city.  

Part II is here: