I am going to let you all in on your new secret to running success. Gather 'round.
For the love of running, PUT YOUR GARMIN AWAY!!!!
Believe me, I'm a numbers person. I love statistics. I love charts and graphs. And I might get a little orgasmic creating new spreadsheets (more on this later this week). But for the love of running, put your Garmin away. Garmins and GPS sports watches are killing your potential as a runner.
Yes, I have a Garmin. In fact, this household has two Garmins - a 310 XT and a 405. And they have been used extensively. I use one mainly in workouts that require a certain pace to be matched. I do not use mine for track workouts, easy runs, and definitely never in a races.
So why are you losing potential as a runner by using a Garmin?
First, it's just technology and technology fails. If you're running in a big race, in a big city, in the woods, etc. your Garmin is not going to be accurate. Period. Satellites do not hover over your head like Ziggy's cloud. There will be times when your watch cannot pick up the satellite and your Garmin is going to compensate by guessing and smoothing the data. Your watch will read erratically and you won't know what the hell to do. Speed up? Slow down? Recalibrate the damn thing?
Secondly, you're not learning how to pace. You are letting a watch dictate your pace. You need to teach your body to feel pace. I can tick off miles and miles of pace within seconds of each other without a Garmin because I know exactly what a 9:00 pace, 8:00 pace, 7:30 pace feel like. To run a successful race you must learn to trust your body and pace evenly if not negatively. To practice this, put on your Garmin and throw a sticker over it. Turn off any beeping mechanism on it. Now go out for a run and try to maintain the same pace from start to finish. When you're done, check those mile splits. Learn to run evenly. Learn to feel.
Lastly, your not going easy or your not racing to your maximum potential. When you have an easy run on the schedule does that mean you have a certain pace to hit? For me, that answer is no. An easy run may be a 9:00 pace or it may mean an 11:00 pace. I have to listen to my body on those days. And those easy run days I don't wear any watch. Nothing. Completely naked running. When racing you should be RACING! If you're wearing a Garmin while racing, well, you're not racing. You're pacing. You're looking at your watch and it's telling you a number that your head feels is too fast. You slow down. The Garmin tells you you're going at a pace that is slower than you wanted to go, you speed up and out of your comfortability. Then you hit the wall and die at the end. Learn to feel a race. For marathoners, like myself, you work your ass off for months for one race and you taper so you are ready for race day. You want to run an overall pace of X:XX but you're in such good shape and so ready for the race that you may be running faster than what you expected. Guess what? That's okay. That might be the pace you are supposed to be running. Go with it. Don't let a piece of technology dictate who you're actually feeling. Also, I do not believe that all races require numbers. Sometimes it's about place. If I enter a small race, I may have a goal to place in my age group or overall. I'm going to find ways to work my way through a field and not worry about pace. My goal? Podium, not a necessarily a new PR.
Winter, the off season for most, is the time to practice, practice, practice. You're building your base and creating new habits for next summer's racing season. Now's the time to put away your technology and feel. Just run, damn it! It's not rocket science.