On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

To GPS, or not to GPS

I'm contemplating getting a Garmin.

Everyone I know who has them absolutely raves about them. I've held off because I've never thought of myself as someone who runs far enough or, frankly, fast enough to be able to use the data. I have this vision of myself as a lone runner, wind in my hair, running for the joy and the thrill of it with no regard for petty aspects of running like speed, distance, heart rate, etc. I run as far as I want, as fast as I want, when I want.

Trouble is, that's not how you get better, and I really really would like to get better. And, regarding my thoughts that I don't run far enough, I have done 5 marathons. Just because I'm much closer to 10-20 mpw right now than I am to long runs of 10-20m doesn't mean I haven't put in the lifetime miles, nor does it mean that I won't in the future. So the Garmin is a seductive little beast.

I had one of the first incarnations, the version where you strapped what felt like a deck of cards to your arm, waited several minutes for it to find a signal, and then got back a choppy read on your speed and distance. It wasn't the best, and once google maps and walkjogrun.net came along, it really didn't do anything for me that I myself couldn't do with a stopwatch and a preplanned route from the computer. Those days, I did my speedwork on a track and was happy about it.

Yes, speedwork! I'd love to do it again. I'm trying to follow a training program for my Jan/Feb half marathons that calls for me to run several runs at my 10k pace and my planned half pace. Running 10 minutes at my 10k time on a track is a) boring and b) too much math for me to do on the fly to make sure that my laps are all at tempo.

I do have an iphone, and runkeeper/mapmyrun are sort of useful. I hate carrying around the iphone - there's that deck of cards strapped to your arm feeling again, not to mention that it's awkward and bulky to check the iphone midrun. I've had bad luck with both programs when the phone is anywhere but strapped to my arm. I also have a nike+, and while I swear on it for the price factor ($30? hell yeah!), I hate listening to music while I run and it, too, isn't quite accurate enough for checking midrun. I've found its distance calculator to be nearly spot-on for me, and the overall pace is good, but the two together mid-run... It seems to always record me either doing a 17 minute mile or a 6 minute mile. Neither of which is where I'm at right now!

The Garmin 405 is tempting, with its beautiful fashion-forward watch look. The 305 still sort of looks like a deck of cards, but the Amazon reviews suggest that its design is much better (evidently the 405 is a deadloss when you're sweaty). Better yet, the 305 - with HRM - is only $170.

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