On Friday, I had a 6-mile workout scheduled: 4 miles easy then 2 miles at 7:20-7:10 back home. I woke early and felt good about being on the trail before sunrise. I parked my car and was about to hit the start button on my Garmin.
Only my Garmin wasn't there. Nor was my heart rate monitor. In my pre-dawn, pre-coffee fog, I had forgotten to put it on. This rarely happens. My stomach dropped to my sneakers. I felt a momentary panic.
Tracking your goals, whatever they are, is important and holds you accountable. Apps can be helpful and allow you to chart your progress. There are apps to record your calories and fat/protein/carb intakes. Your runs. Your weight. Your sleep patterns. The books you've read and the moods you've experienced. Life's actions do not seem to count unless they are recorded. This age of the quantified self has helped suck much of the joy from living in the moment.
I literally cannot remember the last time I ran sans watch or app. After my runs, the data nerd in me likes to upload my files onto Training Peaks, and check my pace, heart rate, cadence, decoupling rate, etc. Admittedly, I can sometimes get obsessive about recording every workout.
The old, slightly more obsessive me would have driven back home to get the watch. Or I would have used my back up plan - the Map My Run app on my phone. This time, I took the angst I felt upon realizing I didn't have my watch as a sign that it was time to shake up my routine and go Garmin-less. On the spur of the moment, I decided to simply run by feel. I knew the mileage from running my usual route. I knew the workout I had to execute.
"Phantom Garmin" syndrome
It was a gorgeous morning. The full moon loomed large and hung in the sky, lighting the running path, while the sun simultaneously rose, painting the sky pastel baby-blanket colors. I stopped to take a photo and instinctively reached for my wrist to stop my Garmin. Phantom Garmin syndrome. It wasn't there. That was liberating. To be off the clock - literally.
I was a little nervous about the tempo finish of the run. Would I run fast enough, just by feel? I sped up to the point where I knew I was working hard by my breath and how I felt. I was able to focus on the burn in my legs, the sound of my breath, the tap-tap-tap of my cadence, the slight twinge in my left knee. It's amazing what you can miss while you are busy sneaking a peek at your watch.
I've often thought that the watch can work both ways. Yes, it can motivate you to go faster. But can it also hold you back? Seeing the fastest pace you've ever run appearing on your watch can induce a mini-mental freakout (aka, your body's survival instinct, kicking in) and cause you to slow down. The question is, if you didn't see the faster pace, you would have kept on and run even faster? Some runners, like Tina Muir, have trained themselves to not view their watches when they race. That to me is exemplary.
Running watch-less was a great exercise for me. Anything that shakes you out of your comfort zone is good.
Will I make running without my Garmin part of my weekly routine? Probably not. But I will be more likely to leave the watch at home on easier days and trail runs. It was, in some ways, like cutting a leash.