Dead Reckoning

By March 18, 2020Coaching, Fuel, Triathlon

Do you ever read something and think, “YES! This is exactly what I believe but didn’t know that I believed it”? Someone puts words to your mishmash of ideas lost in your subconscious.

Last year, a cluster of words grabbed me and helped me to organize my thoughts about making decisions in life. In his book “Love Does”, author Bob Goff uses the concept of “dead reckoning” on the open seas to explain how using a set number of “fixed points” can help us navigate life. We can “draw a line from them” to ourselves and where the lines cross is the direction we want to go.

Definition of dead reckoning according to Merriam-Webster.com
1: the determination without the aid of celestial observations of the position of a ship or aircraft from the record of the courses sailed or flown, the distance made, and the known or estimated drift

I love the idea of using dead reckoning in life because it takes the emphasis off of being perfectly calculated in each minute detail and decision. As long as we are heading in the general direction that we want to be going, becoming the person that we want to be, then the specific path does not particularly matter. To me, this is freeing because there is no “one right way” to go– no “one perfect job” or “one perfect person to marry”– we get to choose our course within the protective bounds of our set points.

As a coach, a couple of my set points are:

  1. hard science: objective data points in physiology, psychology, etc
  2. soft skills: subjective relationship and communication abilities

Hard science helps me to measure an athlete’s progress over time, while soft skills enable me to work with the individual in a way that uniquely fits them. I look at both of these points to “draw my lines” and then, using experience to guide my intuition, carve a path somewhere in the middle to point toward the athlete’s desired destination (i.e. performance goal).

Another example of using dead reckoning occurs in my training. Once again, hard science is one fixed point. This includes objective data gathered during workouts such as pace, power, heart rate, etc. Another fixed point is RPE (rating of perceived exertion) which is more subjective as it is based on perception rather than reality. Taking into account these objective and subjective points, I draw two lines and set a course down the middle. The specific course is partly data-driven and partly experience-driven and intuitive.

Just for fun, one more example: baking sourdough bread. I have been learning the science and art of this procedure for over a year, and I am still quite a beginner. What I love about the process of cultivating the culture, creating the dough, rising, baking, etc., is that there is such a science but also such an art about it. A good bread maker knows their dead reckoning on the seas of sourdough!

I have tried many different techniques, ratios, rise times, kneading tools, baking methods, etc. Sometimes the results are predictable and consistent. Sometimes I do the exact same steps only to yield almost indistinguishable loaves.

Seasoned bakers know that the dough feels like, what it smells like, how it reacts with water, etc. They just know. That is the art of baking which, combined with the science, creates the perfect course to that crusty-on-the-outside, soft-and-holey-on-the-inside, hollow-sounding, soup-dipping kind of sourdough bread that I want to make.

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