Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Garmin in the Bronx

Yes, my running friends, I did it: For better or for worse, I finally succumbed to the world of high-tech running gear and bought myself a GPS watch.

So far, I'm not entirely sure whether it was for better or for worse.

When it comes to high-tech gadgets, I'm not quite on the cutting-edge. I didn't get my first cell phone until 2008, and I still don't have a cell phone that can talk to me, or give me directions, or check my email, or just about anything other than send texts and make phone calls. The most complicated software on my computer is probably iMovie, and that program came pre-installed on the computer when I bought it. I've never owned an iPad or a gaming system, and technically I don't even own a TV; the 48" screen in my living room belongs to my boyfriend.

So when I purchased this GPS watch--which, by the way, is a Garmin 210, as shown in the picture--I was hoping against hope that it would be intuitive and user-friendly and do just what I needed it to do without almost any thought on my part at all.

Which, it does. Sort of.

My first clue that this must be an easy device to use was the owner's manual. It has--literally--eleven 5" x 5" pages. Once you read through the "getting set up" instructions, there really isn't that much more left to read. Which, to me, implies, "Just start using the darned thing."

My first few runs were awesome. This thing told me my real-time running pace and showed my per-mile split times afterward! Gone were the days of guessing whether I had just run for three minutes at a 6:45/mile pace the way my coach had asked me to, or at a 7:30/mile pace like I felt like I must have run. No longer would I have to assume that I "must have run farther" than the mapmyrun told me I had, since "there was no way" I was running as slow as 8:45/mile. Now I had a machine that would keep track of all of this for me! Easy-access data!

The watch really is cool, because it lets you program workouts. You want to run 6x3:00 at 7:15 pace with a 1:30 recover jog between each? No problem! Punch a few buttons and then the watch will magically beep when it's time to change intervals. And what's more--it will keep track of how fast you ran during those intervals, too!

The trouble arose not when I was programming my first interval workout, but when I went to program my second one. Silly me, I didn't realize that there were three options on the "Turn Interval On" screen: Yes, No, and Set. I never got to that Set option, so I just got frustrated and finally ran the workout without any help from my watch. I'm used to doing this, so there it didn't cause me any real problems. The real problems would wait until I really cared about the data.

The real problems arose when I went to run a race.

Since I got this watch, I have only run workouts; no races. Therefore, I was super excited to use it for the Bronx 10 Miler, coming up on Sunday, September 29th. Finally, I'd know for sure what I had only assumed to be true about my running style: that I started races out slow and got faster as the miles progressed. My splits provided by the races themselves have indicated this trend, but I would finally get a mile-by-mile breakdown. I was stoked!

The day of the race, I connected my Garmin to the satellites well in advance of the starting gun. The last thing I wanted was that stupid "connecting to satellites" bar to be halfway full when the gun went off. However, when the gun finally did go off and I pushed "start," I got a message that said something like, "Warmup will continue until lap is pressed." What? This wasn't a warmup. This was the race!

However, since this was the race, I didn't have the time to mess around with a stupid piece of equipment. I had running to do! So I just ignored it for the duration of the race, basing my pace approximations on the race clocks throughout the course.

The race went well. While I think that touting it as a "flat course" was severely misleading--I would described it as "rolling hills"--I still managed to run in my usual style, getting passed at the beginning and then burning by other runners at the end. The race splits bear that out: I ran the first 5 miles in 35:25 and the second 5 in 33:55. And I know I was cruising at the end, because I finally managed to pass the green-shirt-wearing guy I had been following the entire race in the last mile!

However, I'll never know exactly how fast or slow I started out, because my watch didn't capture a single split . . . unless you could the 10 mile time a split. It counted the whole thing as a warm-up and fed back a single finishing time of 1:09:27.

Guess that's what happens when you put too much stock in electronic devices! Nevertheless, I am still stoked to have run a personal best time, even if I've only ever run one other 10 mile race. My goal was to finish under 70 minutes, and I did it. What's more I somehow finished 5th in my age group. How about that?

A note on the results from this race: While officially came in 5th in the F25-29 age group, I technically placed 7th. The top two finishers in my age group placed in the top 3 finishers for all women, and so they were removed from the age group award winners.

Race Length
Finishing Time
Average Pace
Overall Place
Gender Place
Age Group Place (F25-29)
10 miles

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