I have my first 5k race this year coming up so I used my Garmin for my run this morning with the intent to do 800 meter intervals on the roads at race pace and it was the worse workout I've had in over 18 months. In fact, it was so bad I stopped my workout half way through, quit and went back home. The good news is I'm finally smart enough to know when to stop.
For the first time in over a year, my left Achilles felt tight with slight soreness and the minute I felt that I stopped running, and the cause was clear. I ran the first few 800 meter intervals at sub 5:30 pace but I wasn't running my feel. I didn’t let me body set my pace because I was running according to my Garmin and a pre-determined workout I set the day before . . . 25 min. warm-up into Intervals at race pace, ending with a cool down. Well, my body wasn't ready and in fact didn't want to run at race pace today and I could hear my body telling me during warm-up that it just wanted to run nice and easy but I decided to force the issue. Then, I compounded the problem by "forcing" race pace on my body and further compounding it by looking at my Garmin to make sure I was hitting race pace, instead of running by feel. The result was not only not running by feel but actually running faster than race pace as I was more focused on my Garmin than the signals from my body . . . the complete opposite of running by feel.
I am so happy I had the discipline to stop and now I feel great with no pain . . . just frustrated by a bad workout but there’s always tomorrow which took me years to recognize. It’s much better to stop before you do something bad to your body. Recovering from a bad workout is just a mental thing but recovering from injury is the worse . . . always do the former.
This is a stark reminder as to why I ditched the Garmin in the first place and why I started running by feel. In fact, that finalized my decision to race without a watch from now on, and so my next race will be my first race with no watch and I don't be going back to my Garmin during any of my regular running/training. While I wore a Garmin during my race last month, I never looked at it once and I ran a good time and hit all the splits I wanted to hit so I don’t see any advantage to using the Garmin, at least for me as a recreational runner (I get why elites us it and other technology). Ultimately I don’t know what my new approach to running will yield in terms of race times but that’s becoming less important to me as my body is responding great to just “run hard” and the time is the time, the result is the result.
It also a reminder that you can’t “manufacture” or “force” speed and pace as it has to come naturally. In fact, forcing speed just causes me to slightly change my form. When I forced the issue this morning, I noticed I had a shorter stride and faster turnover but that’s NOT good in this case because it’s not my natural stride and turnover. Just as you can have too long or a stride and/or too low of a cadence, you can have too short of a stride and/or too high of a cadence. This is where you define your own style (i.e., watching Kim Smith at Boston was hard to watch as she runs with your arms all over the place, hips moving, etc., but she led the pack for 20 miles before having to drop out so who am I to criticize . . . maybe that’s how she is designed).
Matt Fitzgerald said in one of his books, that we ran with Haile and Haile took 9 strides to his 8 strides and when he tried to match Haile’s turnover, it just didn’t work and his form feel apart. Obviously, form and technique is something we all should constantly work on but there’s a point where you find “your own” natural form and style and it may be a mistake to alter that.