I ran an indoor 5K last weekend, and I didn’t wear my Garmin watch because the race was inside. I know Garmins can be used as regular stopwatches (without the GPS functionality), but when there’s no GPS signal available I prefer to wear my smaller and lighter Timex Ironman non-GPS watch. That made me realize how much I’ve grown to rely on my Garmin for pacing during races. I didn’t get my Garmin until last June, and I ran several races before that without a GPS watch. However, I didn’t know what I didn’t know at the time, and once I got my Garmin I realized how bad I was at pacing myself during races and training races. Not that I’m great at pacing myself even with the Garmin, but it has certainly helped. Before the Garmin, I used the RunKeeper app with my phone, which I think is a really good app with many great features. But it can be cumbersome having my phone with me and easily accessible on runs, I don’t want my phone getting soaked when I run in the rain, it doesn’t offer the easy-to-get-at-a-glance instantaneous feedback that my watch does (unless I were to hold my phone while I run, which I don’t do).
So last weekend I ran the 5K without knowing my pace or the exact distance I had covered at any given time, and it was a little weird because I’ve gotten so used to seeing pace and distance info at any time (even if it’s only approximate) on my watch. I know the indoor track on which the race was run isn’t quite full distance, but I don’t know exactly how long it is and the race started in the middle of the track, so I wasn’t able to accurately gauge the distance while I was running. I kept splits of each lap, but it was hard to calculate my pace during the race without knowing the exact distance. The volunteers were awesome about letting the runners know how many laps were left, and there was a clock situated at the finish line with the elapsed time. I love working with numbers and doing math-related stuff, but as I learned last weekend, the middle of a race isn’t the best time for me to try doing quick pace calculations.
Unfortunately, I feel like maybe I’ve become too reliant on having instant pace and distance info right in front of me during races, though I’ve relied less on it during recent training runs – running by feel instead and only looking at my watch occasionally. I want to say that the easy answer is to just run as hard as I can during races and then it won’t matter, but it isn’t that simple for me. I’m just not experienced enough, or otherwise don’t have what it takes to know my pace or elapsed distance by feel. I know the difference in feel between a 6:10 mile and a 6:50 mile, or a 7:20 mile and an 8:00 mile, but I couldn’t tell you during a race if I’m running 6:30 or 6:40, or 7:25 or 7:35. I’m not good enough to place in my age group in larger races and I’m not shooting for any type of qualifying time for fancier races. But I do try to set PRs whenever possible, and I always try to run to the best of ability in any given race. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I do try, and even small variances in pace like those I mentioned above can be the difference between a PR and a “blah” race. When I don’t have feedback available throughout a race, I’m not sure if I’m going too fast or too slow, or of my pace is fairly consistent. If I start out too fast, I’ll be a wreck by the end; if I’m too slow at the beginning, I’ll feel at the end like I could’ve run faster and given more of an effort earlier in the race. But for me, one of the beauties of racing is that it’s always a learning experience and I have yet to find the “perfect pace” throughout a race.
So while I feel like maybe I’m a little too reliant on that instant feedback (which I realize isn’t even accurate all the time) during races, I’m not sure how else to monitor my pacing and try to make adjustments accordingly while I’m racing. I feel like maybe I would’ve run a little faster time in the race last weekend if I had pace and distance info readily available, but on the other hand it’s frustrating to feel like I need to have that info in order to make the necessary adjustments and maximize my performance during a race. Maybe more running and racing experience will help me get better at estimating my pace, but who knows? In the meantime, I’ll keep using my Garmin whenever I can, but also try to develop the ability to reasonably estimate pace and distance so I won’t be totally out of luck or be stuck trying to do mid-race math calculations if I can’t use my Garmin during a race for whatever reason.
On a training note, I set a personal record for my longest run this morning, with a 16.41-mile run at Stony Creek Metropark. My previous long run was around 13.5 miles, which I ran a few times last year. I was planning to run 10-12 miles today, but I felt good as the run progressed so I decided to add on a few more miles. It went pretty well, though I had some foot pain around miles 8-10 and some calf and hip/glute soreness by the end. Nothing major though – my foot and hip/glute feel fine right now, and I think (hope) my calf will be fine with a little more stretching. The weather was great for running, and there were plenty of runners, walkers, and cyclists out this morning. The park was very scenic, as usual, and I got a couple of photos while I was out. I hope you had a great weekend.
Do you use a GPS watch on your runs? If so, how dependent on it are you? If not, how do you usually track your pace and distance on runs?
Did you run this weekend? If so, race or training? How did it go?
Did you do any fun non-running stuff this weekend?
P.S.: Thanks to the band Marvelous 3 for inspiring the post title.