My Garmin is both wonderful and evil. Having the data and being able to track my every mile is enlightening. I can’t lie to myself about how fast I’m going no matter how “hard” running feels. And even if I manage to convince myself that I’m pushing hard enough my heart rate clearly explains when that’s not the case (or is). On most runs I don’t really know how I ever managed without the bugger! During long runs my watch keeps me focused on the task at hand and motivates me to stay strong, but no matter the workout having data makes following instructions more concrete. And one of the few things I love more than running is following instructions!
However, when it comes to speed work, or even just running fast, the evil side of my Garmin starts to show. At a certain pace it takes all of my physical focus to keep striding forward and not fight the run, and when I’ve hit that point it takes all of my mental focus to will myself forward without breaking something that’s supporting forward movement. Checking my Garmin breaks my physical form without a doubt, but even more than that I think it breaks me mentally. Moving forward with speed (aka running fast) is both a mental and physical exercise, and I really think my Garmin does not support doing so successfully.
Checking a watch is just a simple twitch of the wrist in the forward-most position of your arm swing, right? No. Not right. I don’t know about anyone else, but every time my foot hits the ground my arm shakes, and I misread the screen. Then the data field changes (pace to heart rate to whatever) and I have to try to time my next peek right so that I hit the correct rotating screen. Inevitably this takes me 3 tries. All the while I’m probably running funny and am definitely wasting energy, but that’s not the least of it.
When I see my pace, it all falls apart. If I see a pace slower than prescribed all I can think is how impossible it will be to complete the next three sets. Yes, in that moment, I literally feel like it’s impossible. If I see a pace that’s fast – not too fast for what’s prescribed, but whatever my mind thinks is fast, could just be a significantly quicker min/mile than I usually run – I freak myself out. Omigod this is sooooo hard and I am dying! DYING! The fact is sometimes I am dying, but usually I am not. Usually I have already psyched myself out by checking Training Peaks and thinking too hard about how I’ve never run that fast or last time I did this workout I didn’t hit my splits or just in general about how anything below a 7:15 min/mile seems completely outlandish. My mind and my legs aren’t always in agreeance in regards to what’s possible.
So the point of all this is to say that this morning I made a conscious decision to not look at my Garmin during the fast portion of my run. I warmed up, then started my fast set in a place where I could guesstimate the distance. I knew what my pace was supposed to be on paper and rather than accelerating like a bat out of hell I sped up to a pace I know, pushed harder, then tried to hold on to something uncomfortable. I focused on breathing, even strides, heart rate, arm swing, leaning forward, and…
When I got to what I thought was 3 miles (it was 2.8, so kill me), I took a look and had averaged a 6:54 pace. Nothing insane, but my instructions were a 6:50-7 min/mile pace so it warranted a smile. A 6:54 pace for 3 miles is nothing for some, and I was far from the land of sufferfest, but I overcame my brain and allowed myself to just do. Good stuff this morning. It was good stuff.