By Garrett Reim
Matt Scherer is never late. He is also never early- not by a second. He is always on time. And he is paid for such precision. Matt Scherer makes his living as a professional pacer on the IAAF track and field circuit. Pacing 23 races over 11 countries in 2013, Scherer is one of the world’s most highly requested pacers.
To be a paid pacer requires immense physical stamina and an unwavering focus on a precise pace. Scherer explains, “the pace I’m given for a race is usually to the tenth of a second (i.e. 50.5). I generally consider getting within a quarter of a second of that time to be successful. And I get really pumped when I hit a split within a tenth of a second.” In this job, when success and failure are judged by fractions of a second, you cannot afford to have a bad day.
Unfortunately, “hand timing has about a 0.3 second variance in accuracy and that is my minimum measure of success in splits,” says Scherer. So to hit his assigned splits Scherer needs to practice with a highly accurate timing system. Because sports watches are too variable and GPS watches are also notorious for their inaccuracy, Matt Scherer uses Freelap.
Freelap is an “easy-to-use, fully automated timing system” designed for any sport requiring accurate and automatic timing of speed training. Portable and versatile it can automatically time a single athlete or multiple athletes simultaneously. By freeing athletes from awkward and attention demanding timing systems, the Freelap timing system allows 100% concentration on speed training.
Scherer explains, “using it [Freelap] is what helps give me the confidence to go out there and nail splits.” And “when I’m trying to hit splits to within a tenth of a second per lap I need to practice with something that is as accurate as the FAT timing systems that meets use.”
To perfect his pacing skills, Scherer uses Freelap all the time.
“I use Freelap whenever I am doing an interval workout on the track that involves 200’s, 300’s, or 400’s,” says Scherer.
For example, “one of my go-to workouts is 6-10x 200m… if the times are all supposed to be 27.5, I can use the Freelap system to time those and I can work on and adjust what I’m doing to really feel what 27.5’s should feel like,” says Scherer.
With a standard stopwatch, knowing the feel of the pace is often difficult. “The fact that the transmitter auto-splits for you makes it so much easier to use. You don’t have to reach over with your other hand to record a split that is probably going to be a couple tens of a second slow or fast,” says Scherer. Without the nagging need to clock splits on your wristwatch, “you can instead keep focused on your form or whatever else about your running that you need. It removes a variable from the equation so your attention can stay on other more important parts of training/running,” says Scherer.
Perhaps what makes the Freelap so lovable is it’s ability to make athletes better at what they do. For Scherer clocking well-paced splits allows him to help other athletes succeed. He says, “I enjoy helping runners run faster than they’ve ever ran before,” says Scherer. “It’s one of the stats that I keep track of for races I’ve paced and that number is 128 PB’s now.”
Post-race Scherer says, I will “usually have a few athletes thank me for pacing.” For any athlete, “setting a new PB is one of the best feelings… to think I helped someone get that feeling gives me a certain level of satisfaction.”
“Also getting to travel all over the world and run in incredible stadiums and cities is a nice perk too,” says Scherer. And with 23 races across 11 countries crammed into the 2013 season, carrying your life around in a suitcase often creates difficult packing jobs. Fortunately, the Freelap’s sophistication and accuracy does not come with bulk.
Scherer says, “I can literally pack my suitcase so full that I can’t fit in another dri-fit shirt and then still get a watch and two transmitters in my bag.”
It’s this slim design that makes for an easy setup and breakdown too. Scherer says, “my favorite part is how inconspicuous the whole set up is. I’ve got a watch on my wrist and then just one or two of the transmitters on the inside rail of the track that are smaller than batons. I’ve done workouts where people had no idea I was using Freelap until I finished and was picking up the transmitters.”
And that’s how it should be. Timing equipment that is highly accurate while allowing the athlete to focus on their sport. Nothing else.
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