Five Reasons Garmin Rocks!

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These are the true confessions of a technology convert. For the past 11 years of my running career, I have used a simple sports watch with stopwatch for running. I figure out math like splits and pace in my head.  I have gone through two sports watches over the past 11 years. They cost $30 apiece.

Running is a cheap sport. When it comes down to it, all you need to do is put on a pair of shoes and start putting one foot in front of the other. There are even people out there who run barefoot, so you can technically skip the shoes. That’s cheap. Just go.

I have always said that my running shoes are the most important piece of equipment I need for my sport. Therefore, my running shoes should be the most expensive piece of equipment and nothing else – shorts, tops, etc. – should cost more than the shoes. It’s logical.

As you know, this year I am completely changing my training plan for the first time ever. I have always trained for time. Runners who train for time tend to be in the minority. Hey, don’t knock it – even Meb, who won the Boston Marathon in 2014 and represented USA in the Olympics, trains for time. More commonly, runners train for distance.

This year I am training for distance instead of time and incorporating whole new things that include a lot of math, into my training plan. I decided it is time to break down and buy a GPS watch.

I have been extremely skeptical of this whole watch thing. I don’t believe I spent more money on a watch than I spent on my running shoes. I also don’t believe I now own a watch that not only has an on/off button but also has to be plugged into the wall to charge. This thing is completely alien and absurd. Plus, it’s smarter than me.

I have now completed two 4-mile runs with my new GPS watch, and I have to confess, I have fallen in love. Here are the five reasons why Garmin rocks:

  1. It can math. Hard.

I have decided that I am doing the Canadian 10:1 walk plan this year due to my age and injuries. This means I will be running for 10 minutes, then walking for one minute and repeating continuously for 26.2 miles. The math inside my head was getting complicated. Walk from :10 to :11, then run from :11 to :21, then walk from :21 to :22, then run from :22 … You get the idea. It’s actually very simple math, but when you are running a marathon, any math is hard.

I know calculus. I can find the square area of a horse if you want. But no way am I going to be able to do that running a marathon. The only thing I am thinking during a race is:  “Am I breathing? How much longer? Why can’t I feel my legs? Did I die?”

The Garmin is doing all of that math for me. All I have to do is learn to let go and trust the watch and stop trying to math inside my head. Not only is it giving me the 10:1 schedule, but it tells me when I have completed each mile, and my average pace for that mile so I can be sure I am staying on track. I know exactly where I am and how fast I am going at all times.

This means that instead of doing all that math inside my head, I can get “in the zone.” This makes running a much more pleasurable experience mentally. When I’m running distance, I like to think of myself as an airplane. It typically takes me until about mile 6 or mile 8 to get “in the zone.” When I do, I imagine that if I were an airplane, it would sound something like this: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have achieved cruising altitude. Feel free to just drop out, tune in to your body, and settle in for the next 18 or 20 miles. Let the crowds carry you to the medal stand. See you in about 4 hours.”

With Garmin doing all the running associated math for me, all I have to do is respond to the little beeps and keep running. Now, I sound like Pavlov’s dog. I digress. Let’s continue.

  1. Dear Fashion, Meet Practical.

I’m not all that into fashion. No one looks good after running 26.2 miles. Except maybe Shalane Flanagan. She looks good at all the miles. But the rest of the world looks like a hot mess that’s been through the blender and then chased by a pack of rabid squirrels when coming across the finish line of a race.

This watch is pretty. The package says the strap is blue, but I’m honestly not sure if it’s blue or green. Compared to my old sport watch, it’s very attention getting. Not only does it look good, but it is practical too.

The screen is large print, so I can see the display no matter how much sweat and tears I’m covered in. It’s waterproof. I would even go so far as to say it’s sexy. I also just finished a run, so I could be pushing it a little. What can I say? I’m in love.

3. My own personal cheerleader.

Now, when I first programmed this watch for the 10:1 sequence, I thought I messed it up. The watch beeped and there was a 1 and 8:00 on the screen. All I could think was “Noooooooo. I don’t want to walk every 8 minutes. I want to walk every 10.” Then I realized it was telling me I had just ran an 8-minute mile. All was right with the world. The watch was performing even better than I expected.

When I reached the 10 minute mark, the watch did a series of 3 beeps to let me know I needed to slow down for my 1 minute walk break. When I got to the end of my 1 minute walk break, the watch beeped twice, then instead of the third beep, it played “Charge.”

Yup. That’s right. It plays that 6 note sequence right before everyone yells “Charge!” Whoever programmed this watch has a sense of humor. They must also be a runner. How cool is it to have your watch cheer for you to start running again after your 1 minute walk break? I have my own personal cheerleader right on my wrist.

Not only does it cheer for me to run, but when I reach “Goals” there is a display of fireworks on the screen. I honestly have no idea what “goals” I’m reaching. I didn’t program any in, and I have no idea what it means. The watch gave me fireworks once after my run when I was in cool down. I got fireworks again on mile 2 of a run. I have no idea why. But, I’m glad the watch is happy and giving me fireworks. I’m wondering if it likes my heart rate or something, but I honestly have no idea whatsoever what the whole “goal” and fireworks thing is about. Who cares? I’ll take them.

  1. Technology for the challenged.

Part of my reluctance in getting a GPS watch is all the technology involved. I have a hard enough time using my cell phone. I’ve had the same phone for 3 years and I still don’t understand it. I do not need two devices that are hard to use. Plus, I had heard a lot about GPS watches and satellite signals, synching, etc. It just sounded like way more technology than I could deal with.

I am happy in that I was able to program the watch to do exactly what I wanted it to do. Not only that, but it does some things that are surprising to me but I am really happy about. This watch is definitely very user friendly for the technology challenged. I have not had to plug it into a computer, internet, or sync it to anything, so that is even better. I just charge it, turn it on, the buttons are easy to use, and I can read everything easily on the large print screen.

The watch is also making the math easier for me for my running statistics and spreadsheets. Yes, I am that kind of runner. That is part of why I completely changed my running plan this year. I analyzed 10 years of data to figure out what I did during my best year and then try to replicate it in the safest way possible. But the watch is making my math and data analysis easier too. I like it when technology helps me, even if it is smarter.

  1. Worth the splurge.

While I keep saying I can’t get over spending more on a watch than my running shoes, it was worth the splurge. I got one of the entry level models that does everything I need to do, so at least it is not one of the watches that costs say, one month’s rent. This watch was the equivalent of buying one and a half pairs of running shoes.

Yes, the watch was more expensive than my shoes, but at least it wasn’t double the price of my running shoes. So, I can live with it. It was worth the splurge for all the data I am getting out of it and for how much easier it has made running this week. I have enjoyed my runs so much more when I don’t have to think so hard and can just go. After all, that’s what running is supposed to be is fun. It’s not all data, pace, and negative splits.

These are the true confessions of a technology convert. I have 3 more weeks to play with the watch and become comfortable with it before I officially start training for my fall marathon. So far, I can honestly say that Garmin rocks! I’m looking forward to incorporating this new piece of equipment into my training plan.

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The Turtle Wins

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Above: View of the country-side from my running trail

There are many forms of wildlife on my running trail, which goes along a lake. Depending on the time of year, I see deer, beavers, bunnies, chipmunks, squirrels, frogs, various birds, fish and turtles. The turtles lay their eggs on the banks of the lake, and as they hatch make their way towards the water. I often see them on a log in the water sunning themselves, or swimming happily.

I have not seen turtles on the trail yet this year. We are still getting intermittent bouts of snow. Yes, it is May and Upstate New York is still getting snow! Last week on the trail, I saw a small family of bunnies. The bunnies took off down the trail way ahead of me, and there was no way that I was going to catch up with them. I was content to watch the white puffs of tail bounce off.

The experience reminded me of the old fable of the tortoise and the hare. As a child, its a cute and amusing story. As we get older, we begin to understand the moral of the tale – “Slow and steady wins the race.” We may understand that concept, but as young adults, the adage is often accompanied by rolling our eyes and a sneer.

As a middle-aged marathon runner who has overcome many injuries and is still dealing with medical issues, the tortoise and hare fable is becoming my mantra. I start training for my fall marathon in June. Honestly, I am unsure at this point if I am physically going to be able to run another full marathon or if I will have to scale-back and be content with the half marathon distance. The doctors seem confident I can still run a full, so I am going with that. But I also know my own body, and lately I have had more bad days then good.

I think of that fable, and even though the tortoise was moving slow, he kept moving. He kept going and he finished. That is important. He may not have been as fast as the hare, but the tortoise was able to keep going. I have been stuck in this mindset of time. They say for every marathon, you should have three goals. You never know what is going to happen in 26.2 miles, so if you are unable to reach your first goal, you will at least reach one of the three.

Two of my three goals for when I run a marathon are related to time. One goal is to BQ (qualify for Boston), the other goal is to PR (beat my own personal best time = become faster). The third goal I usually phrase: “Oh, well, yeah, and if all else fails, just cross the finish line.” Crossing the finish line is kind of “if the shit hits the fan” kind of goal. But at the same time, I’m pretty adamant about that finish line. I also say that “run, walk, crawl, dragged, or if in Philly in drag, cross the finish line.”  To be honest, the finish line goal is the one I have always taken for granted. I say that goal with a laugh – of course I’m going to cross the finish line!

After my 2015 marathon and 2016 health issues, I can say that goal is no longer a laughing matter. Crossing the finish line is going to be my one and only goal when I run my full marathon this fall. I am completely abandoning any goals of time. This year, I will simply be thankful to be able to complete a full marathon. I am staring down the possibility that I may no longer be able to complete a full marathon. I need to think like the tortoise and keep going. Even if I go slow, I need to cross the finish line.

Another saying in running that has always elicited a smirk (at least from me) is “DNF (did not finish) is better than did not start.” My 2015 marathon was the first race in my running career that I came dangerously close to DNF. That was the race in which I tore the muscle in my hip around mile 18. I finished, but it was slow and involved incredible pain. It was the first time I needed wheelchair medical assistance when coming across the finish line.

That race was tough. A year of planning and five months of training to not finish? That’s a hard pill to swallow. One thing I did learn in that race is that walking is okay as long as you keep moving. That’s one of the many reasons why I am using the Canadian run/walk method in this year’s marathon both training and race day. I still think that a DNF would be hard for me to handle. I’m the type of person who will just keep going even if it kills me because I want the finish line. I want the medal. The marathon means a lot to me.

Not being able to deal with a DNF is something I still need to work on psychologically. Hopefully it will never happen and I will not have to deal with it in real life. But I feel I should be prepared for the possibility mentally.

What I am prepping myself for this year is the solo goal of: FINISH. I am going with the tortoise philosophy of “slow and steady wins the race.” When I run this fall, I don’t care how long it takes me, I just want to cross that finish line. Giving up my time goals is wicked hard.

But do you know what’s harder? Not running.

Not being able to run anymore would destroy me. We can’t have that.

So I need to give up my time goals so I can continue to cross finish lines. My glory days and records may be over, but as long as I can still GO, it’s a good thing.

If you think about the fable, the turtle always wins. Yes, he may be slow, but he finished. The hare goes fast, but he gets tired. He may become injured. The hare will only be fast for so long and then he will slow too. The hare may win the race and get the medal. There will come the time when the hare slows and does not get the medal – the younger hare will get the medal and the older hare will be in the same position the tortoise has occupied all along – of finishing.

The turtle always wins.

Part of me feels that in this scenario, I am settling. I feel like I am giving up my goals because they are “just too hard.” I’m not sure if that is true or if I am just being realistic about what my body can do now given the health challenges I have.

My ultimate goal is to keep running for as long as I can – hopefully my whole life. So I’m trying to justify sacrificing my time goals in order to meet my ultimate goal. If I push myself to the point where I can no longer run a full marathon, then I lose it all.

Turtles live a long time. They live longer than bunnies. So, I’m going to stop smirking and rolling my eyeballs and take the tortoise lesson to heart. I’m training this year for distance, not for time. I want to cross the finish line this year and for many more years after this.

The turtle wins.