Math and Other Problems

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.

Stony Creek Lake looked very scenic today.

One of the rare moments this morning where I didn't see any other runners, walkers, or cyclists on the main path at Stony Creek.

Questions:
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.

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10 Responses to Math and Other Problems

  1. lnknake says:

    I run two and very occasionally three days per week with a watch, and the only GPS I have is for my car. The rest of my runs are just by feel.
    For me, focusing too much on the numbers (miles and time) leads to overtraining. The thing that keeps me the healthiest and happiest runner is to train by feel. I do pay attention to time on my workouts and tempo runs, obviously because those are meant to be at a certain pace. My easy runs are always without a watch. I do this because in the past I’ve told myself my easy pace needs to be specific, such as 30 seconds slower than MP. What is much healthier for me is if I just run whatever pace I need to that day to recover. There are days where I’m conscious to keep myself slower than I’d like to go.
    Sometimes I’ll throw on the Timex to see how fast I’m running on my long runs, but I’m pretty good at knowing approximately how fast I’m going by feel. The main thing is doing the pace I need to run on the right day. Many runners run too fast on easy days and too slow on workout days. With a watch, a GPS or without either, we just need to get the right work in on the right days.

    • Matt says:

      I love that philosophy. Training by feel has kept me healthier and happier, too. I’ve been running by feel on most of my training runs since the end of December, after I recovered from a twisted knee. It has helped me a lot, and I haven’t felt any self-imposed pressure to hit a certain pace on training runs. I still glance at my watch occasionally – probably out of habit more than anything – but I don’t really care what my pace is during those runs. I might run a route at a certain pace one day, then run the same route 45 seconds/mile slower the next day and not care. Last summer and fall, I was paying way too much attention to pacing on just about every run except my weekend long run, and that was starting to affect my enjoyment of running. I agree completely that we just need to get the right work in on the right days, and I need to remind myself sometimes that the gadgets aren’t always necessary to achieve that. Now I just need to become less reliant on my Garmin during races…

  2. Jeff says:

    I usually try not to look at my GPS too often. Great pictures of Stony today!

  3. Becki says:

    I used to race completely sans watch. Watches weren’t allowed in high school, and I was so used to running without a watch that I never raced with one in college either. I used it during practice, but I left it with my trainers during races. After college, when I no longer had a coach calling splits, I started racing with a watch, and I started using a GPS in 2010.

    I generally use a watch or GPS (depending on whether it’s track or road) for speedworkouts, and I bring a GPS on long runs if I have no clue where I’m going, but prefer to do my easy runs without them. I don’t want any pressure to feel like I have to hit a certain pace, I want to run by feel.

    FWIW, my 5K PR involved the second mile being 25 seconds faster than the first and then dying the third, so apparently I can’t pace either.

    Nice job with the long run!!

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Becki! I think my long run was good from a mental perspective because I didn’t fall apart (always a good thing, haha) and I increased my previous long distance by nearly three miles, so now I have a new baseline to work with. I wasn’t planning to bump my longest run distance up by that much, but I felt fine and it was past time for me to step it up a little bit.

      I think I’m going to experiment with running without a watch for training runs on routes where I already know the distance, or maybe just wear my basic Timex so I can log my total time without worrying about pace or splits during the run. I’ve become a huge fan this year of running by feel. I could have used someone calling splits and distance (and yelling at me to go faster) during the race last weekend, though! The starting line placement meant I had no idea what my distance was at any given time without having to think about it too much, so the splits weren’t much help during the race.

      I’m glad it’s not just me with pacing issues. :) As poor as my pacing usually is, I’m always glad to get a PR regardless of how it gets done. I actually ran the second and third miles at the same pace when I set my 5K PR, but that was more than 20 seconds slower than the first mile. The second mile is usually the slowest for me in 5Ks, and I’m all over the place in longer races. Maybe I’ll learn how to race one of these years…

      • Becki says:

        So it sounds like you ate that long run up. Nice, man. Just make sure you recover well…a runner is only as good as his recovery!

        I was ecstatic with that PR. It was a breakthrough race for me because I had had a pretty poor indoor season after a great XC season, and that race finally matched up with my 6K times. Maybe I could have gone faster had I paced it better, but honestly, I was so happy with it that for me to complain now would be ridiculous. I wish I had had another chance to race a 5K that year, but it was the last meet of indoor and I ran the steeplechase outdoors.

        • Matt says:

          Thank you. I appreciate the advice, and I’ll definitely follow it. As much as I get pumped up after a good run and want to go try to duplicate it as soon as possible, I know that’ll just lead to trouble and frustration if I don’t let myself recover properly.

          That’s awesome about your 5K PR – I wouldn’t complain, either. I think my pacing sucks in any race, so whether I run a PR by a minute or miss a PR by a minute, I guarantee I could’ve paced it better. :) It figures that was your last meet of indoor and you didn’t get another chance to improve upon that PR, but at least you went out on a good note!

  4. Ali Mc says:

    COngrats on the PDR Matt :) great job! I don’t use a GPS, I use nike + = not entirely accurate but good enough so I don’t have to map my long runs.

    No running for me :( doctors orders. I am losing my mind with out it. Can’t cross train either. BLAH!

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, Ali! It definitely makes it easier when you don’t have to go back and try to map your runs manually, especially if you run in hard-to-map areas.

      Good luck with your recovery – I hope it goes well! I know it sucks when you can’t run, but it’s very important to make sure your recovery properly and thoroughly so you don’t have any worries when you do get back to running. Not being able to cross train must make it that much more intolerable though. :/

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