On my way to my Saturday morning run, I turned on my Garmin only to discover ... the batteries were low.
It wasn't so much that I was going to run without all the bells whistles this electronic devices provides -- the milage and pace and GPS map of my route and heart rate and time -- but that I would have to do a 90 minute run no real way to check my time.
So I turned around, ran back in my apartment and grabbed my heart rate monitor watch and accompanying strap. This was all I really needed anyway. My workout called for 60 minutes of one heart rate zone and 30 minutes at another.
I didn't really need pace and mileage.
And so, I set out on my first real long run in quite some time.
Ok, actually, it took a bit of time for me to get started as I pulled into Delaware Park as my friends Karyn and Jess had just completed their run. We caught up walking three quarters of a loop until I decided that I really needed to get my run started.
Off I trotted with my high cadence, small steps. I checked my heart rate zone. All seemed good.
Well. The heart rate monitor just wasn't feeling it apparently.
It would soar up into the 180s then dip into the 50s. For periods of time it would settle in to match my perceived exertion level and I thought all was fine. Until I checked it again and it was flashing "00." While running can be strenuous I am pretty sure I had a pulse at that point.
I played with strap but pretty much just let it go.
I knew that for an hour I needed to run an easy pace and for the final 30 minutes I needed to pick up my effort.
\ I thought about my form -- how were my feet striking the ground? I relaxed my shoulder and shook out my arms from time to time. I took a few pronounced inhales as I looked at the beautiful blue sky and noted the quick turnover of the PAL basketball championships taking place at the same time.
She has been dubbed America's greatest hope in the marathon and Goucher will be vying for a world championship title today in Berlin.
Goucher just started racing the marathon in the past year, taking third in her first ever marathon -- the 2008 New York City race in November then placing third again at Boston this past April.
Her success, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, is to take all those scientific training methods and throw them out the window.
Goucher runs twice a day during her marathon training but, according to the article, doesn't base her runs on mileage or time, choosing instead to run as hard as she can for as long as she can. It's a relatively recent approach to distance running in the U.S. but a formula (or, perhaps more a non-formula) that has worked for African-based runners who have dominated marathons over the last decade.
"It's not that Americans can't win," Goucher tells the Wall Street Journal. "It's just we get obsessed with time."
I thought about Goucher and the simplicity of just running. So all my gizmos went kerplunk on me. I just ran instead. Granted, I had a plan -- both for duration and exertion -- but I did it by just running, not based solely on the numbers.
Different approaches work for different people. Yes, I would love to be able to shut my mind down but I'm not wired that way. Thinking, believe it or not, is actually fun for me. Today on my long, hilly bike ride, I will enjoy the climbs in large part because I'll be practicing skills. I'll be remembering what my friends Howard and Jax told me about pedaling when I took a cycling tour in Italy through Women's Quest. Sure, I will take them as they come -- no need to worry about what climb may or may not be around the corner -- but I will enjoy trying to climb them while thinking of the technical lessons, the tries and misses, while smiling, laughing, grunting and cursing.
See, for me, learning and trying to implement the technique is enjoyable, regardless of whether I actually master the skill.
Because even though I turned off all the numbers (with the exception my duration) and just ran like Goucher on Saturday (metaphorically speaking that is), I didn't turn off my mind. I thought about my foot strike and my cadence and my posture. Not the entire time. But from time to time. As a check in. As a way to see how I'm doing on the learning curve. And with every check-in, whether I had it right or had to adjust, I smiled.
It's not about getting it right or doing it perfectly.
It's about getting a little bit better.
It's about facing a new challenge.
And there's nothing that says you can't run hard and smart at the same time. Or that hard, smart and fun are mutually exclusive.
--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amymoritz for updates on today's long, hilly ride.