Monday, November 24, 2008

I dont like running (data) naked

Yesterday morning, at 6:45, I was on semi autopilot, stepping out the door for my morning run. I grabbed my trusty Garmin 305, walked out the door, and hit the on button. And waited. And tried again. I figured my gloves were a little too thick, so I took one off and then pressed again. And pressed harder. Nothing.
After almost 2 years of pretty much day in day out use, in rain, wind, and snow, through heat and cold, thick and thin, my little friend had left the building. Operating on pure reflex, I plugged it back into the recharging cradle and went back outside, bereft.

This was a truly sad moment for me. There I was, in the dark and cold, trying to get excited about going running without second by second updates on heart rate, pace, altitude, and distance covered. At that moment I realized that I was being ridiculous, even diva-like. I mean, wasn't running for running's sake not enough? Would I have even had this mental conversation 2 years ago? Not at 0-dark-45 in the morning. When I'd rather be in bed, warm and comfortable, dozing in and out of consciousness. Instead, I'm standing in a slight drizzle with my headlight strapped on, bundled up from head to toe in waterproof yet breathable and oh-so-reflective winter running gear. It would be different if, say, I was running on the beach at Kauai, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I dont think I would need motivation coming from my wrist-top computer.

Then again, maybe I would. I mean the coolest thing about the GPS/HRM is that it tells a story, of where I've been and - literally - what I've done. It tells a story and then persists it, for later recall. When I upload my run to the computer, I get to see how slow fast I went, the hills on the route, the overall distance, and I get to remember how I felt at specific points in the run. And if I don't remember, my heart rate tells me. It's sort of like a data photo album, where the mix of lat/long, altitude, and heart rate combine to give me a snapshot of how I felt at every point in the run.

I took off on the run anyway, shamed by my dependence on data, determined to experience 'pure' running without instrumentation. And I actually did. I couldn't refer to my data feed, so I started to pay attention to my form, my breathing, my stride, my forward lean. I knew the mileage of the route I was running (6.23 to be exact), but didn't know exactly how far I had gone, or how far I had left. And although I knew that I was somewhere between 125 and 145 bpm, I had to pace myself by how I felt at that moment, not how my watch was telling me how I felt.

So, yeah, I enjoyed it, a little. And I was actually resigned to a month of 'naked' running while I sent my little buddy back to Garmin to be refurbed. It is, after all, the middle of winter, and I'm not training for anything in particular, more doing long runs to justify eating all those XMas sugar cookies.

I had just convinced myself that this whole zen running thing was good, really good. But when I went down to the garage to pack the HRM up so I could ship it back to Garmin for refurb I noticed that it was on, telling me that it was fully charged. Slowly, disbelieving, I turned it back on, and watched it search fruitlessly for a satellite connection. "Are you indoors?" it asked me. It seemed a little irritated. I turned it off, put it back in the cradle, and went back upstairs -- all of a sudden tomorrows early morning run is looking a lot more fun.

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