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…and That is Why a GPS Watch Should Come With a Disclaimer

Posted Dec 04 2012 4:08pm

Yes, I know. There’s a “Race Recap Part 2″ still in the works, but I’m going to get things all out of order and blog about my weekend not-long not-run. It contains a lesson that applies to many — if not most — of us, and therefore trumps the lesson that karma taught me at the Turkey Day 8k.

This weekend, I was supposed to have a 6-mile long run. I had a standing offer from my pace crew (Scott and LilRunr on/in the mountain bike/bike trailer), but I decided that today would be the day. I would try to join…A RUNNING CLUB. I tried to start my own club last year, but you know who are somewhat unreliable running partners? Young moms. It’s OK, I can say it, I’m one of them. :) I did have some fun runs with college friends, but more frequently I had a 20-minute drive to Corporate Woods in order to run by myself. Which, of course, I can do just as well from home. So, I let the running group taper off and have been doing my training runs solo.

The problem, I decided, was in the numbers. I had 6 possible friends to run with on any given Saturday. If one has a sick kid, another has to work, the third and the fourth have plans, the fifth hasn’t gotten any sleep in weeks and doesn’t want to wake up for a run, and the sixth just plain forgets…well, things happen. And this explains why I was running by myself so many weekends. It’s the NUMBERS.

I decided it was time: if I wanted to run with other people, I needed to find a running club. An ACTUAL running club. So, I found an actual running club. It has a group run on Saturdays. I run on Saturdays, and I’d like to be running with a group. What could possibly go wrong?

Megan, Megan, Megan.

I showed up at a park looking for people to run with. It was 60 degrees in December. DECEMBER! Do you want to know how many people showed up? Just one. One people. A fella who said that usually there was a group of 15 or more, that he had just started running last year, and that he normally ran 8:10 pace but he’d be happy to run with me at 8:30 per mile or so if I still wanted to run.

I was definitely going to run. I didn’t drive away from my official pace crew just to drive back home with no mileage. Off we went. I quickly realized that my new running friend’s default pace was most likely not 8:10 per mile. We started off closer to 9:00, and I wasn’t sure if that was in deference to me but I decided to just go with it. Less than a mile later, he requested a walking break. Less than half a mile after that, he pulled up suddenly, attempting to stretch his calves and griping that he didn’t know what was wrong with him. He told me I could continue on my own, but he didn’t seem familiar with the trail and I felt a bad about abandoning him.

I came up with a plan — instead of running 3 miles out and back, we could turn around at the 2 mile mark. This would be immediately before a gigantic hill that would surely  not be appreciated by my new running friend, and I could catch up on my remaining two miles after showing him the way back to the parking lot. Win/win.

So that’s what we did. There were four more walking breaks on the way back. We would be cruising along at 9:15 pace or so, then NRF would look at his fancy GPS watch, make some comment about how slow we were going, and speed up. Thirty seconds later, he’d be walking. Repeat. I tried telling him that the pace didn’t matter, but he had it in his head that I needed to be going 8:30 pace, and he was going to attempt to find that at all costs. Male pride? Trying to be a good running friend? I don’t know, but my patience was wearing thin.

Then, at last, the goal was in sight — the parking lot where NRF’s car was waiting to receive him. “Ok,” I said as we entered the park, preparing to turn right (to run a loop around the park) as he would surely turn left (back to the cars) “Thanks for the run, have a good weekend!”

You know what he says? “Oh,” he says, “didn’t you want to run around the park?” “Yessss…” I tell him, not liking where this is going. So he turns. He keeps “running” with me. Even though I gave him an out. WHY? Why oh why oh why? We ended up near the cars about 5 miles in, and when he asked me if I wanted to do another lap I declined and went home. That was all I could take.

Now, this isn’t supposed to be some snobby “I’m too fast for these people” post. I’m not that fast, and under ordinary circumstances I would happily adjust my pace in order to have someone to run with. When that someone is so focused on running a certain pace — unachievable by them for whatever reason that day or ever — that they can neither carry on a conversation NOR carry on running, however, and I get cranky. Mucho cranky.

I blame the GPS watch. Back when I started running, such things hadn’t been invented yet. These days, we have access to way too much information for our own good. Current pace, overall pace, elevation…I mean really. That’s just too many numbers. The average person does not need to know exactly how fast (or slow) they’re running every single second. NRF knew he felt terrible, but he also knew that he wanted to be running 8:30s. The numbers got in his head. He just couldn’t quit thinking about them. 8:30s, 8:30s, 8:30s…argh!

Without those pesky numbers, it might have been easier for NRF to find a pace that actually felt COMFORTABLE given the day he was having. He might have been able to avoid many of those walking breaks and I could have avoided becoming extremely (and perhaps unreasonably) irritated.

THAT is why GPS watches should come with disclaimers. Something like, “These are just numbers. Don’t take them too seriously.” Or maybe, “Some days you’re going to feel like trash. These might be days where you turn the GPS watch OFF.”


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