Something happened to me this winter when I ran my first snowshoe race. It changed with way I think about racing and subsequently running and my running goals in general. It taught me that I can run by effort and perform infinitely better than when I run based on pace. It’s safe to say that prior to this year I’ve been a slave to pace. I’ve lived and died (I’ve felt pretty close to death at the end of some of my marathons) by pace. And it really hasn’t gotten me any closer to my goals.
What I realized, careening through knee-deep drifts, in the dark woods on a snowy night was that pace can mean nothing and in that moment it literally meant nothing: I was running a 10:40 pace but it felt like 10K effort, 5K effort at the end. I was working hard and I couldn’t rely on my pace to determine my expectations for the race, I had to rely on what my body felt. I turns out trusting my body was exactly what I needed to do: I finished third female overall.
I took that lesson into my training and haven’t really stressed about pace during this training cycle. I run hard efforts when it is schedule, but probably 60% of my runs (I have no idea if that percentage is accurate) have been around the 9:00/mile pace. Yet, I just ran a 19:45 5K this Saturday.
Running and racing based on effort has unleashed the strength and potential I always knew I had but never seemed to be able to surface. Three out of the four races I’ve run so far this season have been without my Garmin. For the Holy Grail 5K, Red’s 5 Miler and Peeper 5K I wore my Timex Ironman. I’ve used the stopwatch setting and simply took splits at the mile markers. I wore my Garmin for the Eastern States 20 miler but really only took note of splits and didn’t pay that much attention to my pace. I’ve mostly been racing based on effort and feel. And it’s been great.
So with the Sugarloaf Marathon just over a week away I’m facing a dilemma: do I wear my Garmin or just my Timex? There’s part of me that wants to be the purist, to wear the Timex and just run based on effort-to not be a slave to pace. If I eliminate the Garmin then I would be forced to run based on feel, especially when doubt creeps in and I start to eyeball that instantaneous pace. The other part of me wants to wear the Garmin so that I can race smart, not go out too fast and at least have a record of the run in case there aren’t markers at every mile.
I haven’t decided yet. Some days I lean towards the Timex, others the Garmin. I know I can set my Garmin so that I can’t see instantaneous pace and that’s what I would do if I chose to wear it. But then that purist in me nags that I might just surprise myself if I run completely based on effort and feel-like when I ran my first marathon and my most recent PR (2003 and 2011 both my fastest marathon times). Both were run before I even knew what a Garmin was.
What would you do? Do you wear a Garmin for races? Are there certain races where you don’t wear it?