I confess I’m a running data addict. I like to look at the numbers produced by my Garmin both during and after a run. I used to equate fitness with speed, thus pushing myself to run just a bit faster, hitting a pace on my Garmin, regardless of feel, and then calling it “easy.”
After learning the importance of making easy runs truly easy, I switched from monitoring pace to monitoring heart rate. Keep it easy! This has worked to improve my running fitness, and to help me better run by effort. But I still check how I’m doing too often while running. The problem with being so wedded to the data is that we sometimes allow “the number” to dictate our performance.
In a race, this can be good and bad…depending on the data. A few examples:
- While running my least enjoyable half marathon a couple years ago I struggled through the whole race…for a variety of reasons. The first of which was my Garmin telling me my “performance condition” was -4. This was deflating…my coach later said, “you need to turn that thing off!” I haven’t turned it off but I’ve since learned through experience that it will ALWAYS give a negative performance condition number when starting a run with a hill climb. Conversely you can get a very high positive number just by starting a run with a descent. Not helpful data.
- For my third marathon, Surf City, I used a race predictor. This is a data screen that gives real time data to predict a finish time based upon current pace. I walk the water stations, so the prediction always readjusted during these walk breaks. At mile 18, the predicted finish while walking was just under 5 hours. My previous race was 5:04, so I was excited to see that I could walk the rest of the marathon and have a PR. In this case it was helpful. Race Recap – Surf City Marathon
- I used the same race predictor in my fifth marathon, Carlsbad. This time my Garmin was so far off the course mileage that what I thought I was going to do and what I actually did was off by about 2 minutes. In the later miles this discouraged me so much that I had trouble finishing and missed my first attempt at a Boston qualifier by just over 4 minutes. My coach said, “you need to get rid of that data screen.”
- In my sixth marathon I ditched the race predictor. But I did look at average pace and I knew what I needed for my Boston qualifier. I had a great run, but like everyone I had to dig deep for the end. I knew that if I could hold on I was “going to Boston.” In this case seeing the number on my Garmin helped. Mountains 2 Beach – Race Recap
- While not the fastest, I believe that the San Francisco Half Marathon I ran in July was my best race. Seeing the pace on my watch seemed helpful, but in retrospect I think I could have run even better. I Can Run Hills! A Recap of the The San Francisco (First) Half Marathon
- So…all this to say that I’m going to try something new when I run my seventh marathon on Sunday. I’m going to put one data screen only on my Garmin. Distance. That’s it. I’m going to solely run by effort, by feel. It’s an experiment. I’m a bit afraid…that I’ll go too fast at the start, or go too slow at the start, or feel lost without my “average pace” data screen. I’ll report back on how it went.