Monday, February 25, 2013

Are We Too Comfortable with Being Comfortable?

I created a little bit of a firestorm with a Facebook post yesterday, but since I have a little bit more room in my blog to explain everything, that's what I'm going to do.  Warning, this may be a little out of order but bear with me and maybe you'll see the point in all of it.

When I did my first triathlon, I chose a bigger one here in town that was supposed to be beginner friendly.  When I got there, I was surprised to see people in what seemed like sponsored kits (seriously, why do triathletes dress like NASCAR racers) and I even saw a dude warming up on his bike while it was on a trainer.  Shoot, I didn't even know what that was at the time!  Needless to say, I was completely intimidated and completely turned off by triathlon.  And even though I continued to do triathlon on and off for the next several years, I never wanted to consider myself one of "them."

Flash forward to yesterday.  Dave was running the Last Chance for Boston 10K.  This is a one mile loop course where you can run a 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon, full marathon or relays.  I resisted the urge to sign up for the 5K and just went and supported Dave.  I didn't even realize I was wearing it, but "Mr. Triathlete" came up to me and asked me about Ironman Louisville as I was wearing my sweatshirt.  Now, I wasn't wearing the shirt to show off as many people do at races; I was simply wearing it because I have very few things that still fit me and that includes most of my maternity clothes.  Anyway, I call him "Mr. Triathlete" because, well, there is a triathlete stereotype and he fit the mold.  Not only was he decked out in all his gear, he talked to me at length about this ironman he's done and that ironman that he DNFed and the ironmans he wants to do.  He talked about his biking (they always do) and how he rides with power and he's learned how to use his body weight to his advantage on hills.  Mind you, I did not solicit any of this information.  This dude talked a big game, so when I saw him out on the course I was not surprised whatsoever to see he, kinda, sucked.

Where am I going with this?  Keep holding on....

The firestorm I started yesterday on Facebook happened when I posted that 80% of the participants I saw in this race were wearing Garmins.  As I mentioned before, this course was a one mile loop.  I said, "It's time to put away the Garmins. Learn to run hard, learn to pace, learn to RACE!!! If you can't pace for a one mile loop, you probably shouldn't have a Garmin in the first place."  Well, as you can imagine, I obviously had some people who disagreed with me regarding this.  Their responses were regarding keeping track of the laps (my argument was how hard was it to hit the lap button of your watch and they are NEVER accurate to the race course mileage) and to be able to review their race data after the fact (again, you can review lap splits from a regular watch).  

My point in all of this is, we have forgotten how to race.  And I mean RACE!!!

Look, I own a Garmin.  Heck, this household owns two Garmins.  And we use them, a lot.  I think it's a great training tool, but that's where I draw the line.  Use the Garmin in practice to (a) keep track of your miles if that's important to you and (b) learn how to pace; learn to feel what a certain pace feels like.  But when you get to a race, RACE!  If you're doing a 5K or 10K, shouldn't you be going balls to the wall, anyway?  If you're going further shouldn't you be trained enough to know how to pace, to a certain extent?  For example, and this is the example Dave and I argued together yesterday, if you are well trained for a race and your goal pace is an 8:00/mile and your Garmin says you're running a 7:45, you're likely to slow down.  But if you're trained for this race, maybe a 7:45 is doable.  I mean, it's only a few seconds different.  If you can run an 8:00, you can run a 7:45.  Now Dave argued that if you're running a 6:45 and you're supposed to be running an 8:00 that you're going to fast.  True, but then you haven't figured out how to pace using the Garmin during training anyway.  

How does this relate back to the triathlete?  I mentioned that he talked about all the ironmans he has done.  When talking to a runner the question usually starts with, "well have you done a marathon?"  It seems our community (running/triathlon) is obsessed with going long.  And I'm every bit part of the problem having done several marathons and at least trying the ironman.  But by going long we're learning it's okay to be comfortable while swimming/biking/running.  We have lost the urge to race and compete and would rather just participate.  We've become obsessed with numbers and paces and watts and whatnot and have forgotten what it's like to just lace up our sneakers and head out the door for a run. 


James Ford said...

My fastest runs have been the times I have not used my Garmin (I actually use the Timex Global Trainer, same thing though). I agree that we spend too much time worrying about the pace we think we should be running vs the pace we can run!

tri like mary said...

I have a Garmin and agree it's an invaluable training tool. Training for triathlon generates alot of data that is nice to have laid out somewhere so I can always see what I've done, what I'm doing, etc - typical type A numbers kind of girl here.

I also race 5 and 10k races and although I wear my Garmin for the data to review after (HR, etc) I don't look at it and just RACE all out, as you said. Maybe most of the people you saw did the same thing? Just because they were wearing them doesn't mean they were slaves to them.

M said...

I can see how this ignited a firestorm. I think everyone has their own "time" in triathlon - at first it may be to "just finish." Then it's to hit a certain time. Then you get into the analytics. You want to hit a certain goal, etc. And at some point (or maybe not) you get to where you just want to go out and enjoy it. Everyone has their own reasons and their own phase of the sport - none of it is right or wrong, just degrees of difference. Those people haven't forgotten how to race any more or less than the person who is out there for the first time. They are just racing "differently."

Liz Waterstraat said...

So true! You have to open yourself up to the possibilities, race from your gut and TRUST your STUFF!

Jennifer Harrison said...