Monday, January 26, 2009

The Science Experiment

My eight-year-old son, Braden, has entered the school science fair again. The project he chose to do this year was to determine the effect that fertilizer has on plant growth. We talked through our plan together and developed a hypothesis. He felt that the fertilizer would stimulate the growth of the plant.This was well known. His experiment was to determine that if more than the recommended amount of fertilizer was given what the result would be. He hypothesized that it would result in a huge plant. Like “Jack and the Beanstalk“. Makes sense right? More is more.

I looked around online to find clear planters where the root systems of plants could be visualized. I found some from Edmond Scientific and placed an order for three. We placed pea seeds in the Plexiglas planters with equal amounts of soil. Colored construction paper served as a barrier from the soil and also identified our control and experimental boxes. One of the boxes received the recommended amount of fertilizer while the other box got a whopping four times the recommended amount.

It has been two weeks into the experiment and he was astonished by the results. The control box was the first to sprout but the fertilized box soon surpassed it and it is flourishing. What he felt that was unusual was that the over fertilized box had barely sprouted. The growth of the seeds appeared as if they had been stunted and they have failed to progress pass the sprouting stage. Most of these seeds won’t even germinate.

I had no idea that this experiment would amount to much, but the results even surprised me. We are often lead to believe that if you give or do more of something, the results should be better. As I sat at the table and stared at the experimental boxes through my fog of fatigue from my own workouts I started to think…This little pea seed experiment reminded me that too much of a good thing, no matter what it is, can lead to poor results. I was over fertilized with training, work, and family obligations.

Training for triathlon is a science experiment for me. I’m a busy guy but I still want to perform well. I want to make the most out of every training session. They always have to have a goal and a purpose., no junk miles here. I love to keep detailed logs that include graphs logging my stress scores, fatigue scores, power, pace, heart rate, and even blood lactates on selected intervals. I know that if I get too much of a dose of training the results decline just like the pea seeds with too much fertilizer. The key is to get just the correct dose… The recommended amount of fertilizer consistently. If you get too much…Well, you know what happens…. Fried, Cooked, Shelled what ever you want to call it.

I read an article in “Popular Science” a few months ago about Andy Potts Andy Potts article and felt that he and his coach are really on to something. The body responds to all kinds of stresses and this has to be monitored on a DAILY basis. There is no use in doing a hard workout if it is going to be sub par due to underlying fatigue. The data I collect tells me exactly how much stress it takes for me to get a training effect and by looking back at times when I have been shelled, such as this moment, I can look at fatigue scores which show me what I need to avoid in the future. My best results have come by listening to my body and, currently, paying attention to these graphs and numbers. It’s nice to be able to associate a feeling with a number.

My wife teases me about all my meticulous data collection. “JFT” she says. I just don’t think it would be as fun for me. I like all this detailed data collection. I get a better feel for what my body is capable of and get a better sense of proper pacing for longer races. The Raceday software has helped me keep a good eye on this.

The science fair is January 29th and last year Braden won with his electric generator project. We will see were this project leads. In the meantime, I’m monitoring my own training doses and with the help of Dr. Phil, the results are coming along very well. My science fair is coming up this spring;-)

1 comment:

Rainmaker said...

Sounds like you have a blast with all the various science experiments you do. I like the colored construction paper touch, pretty cool.