We live in an era of gadgets and devices. On cold or rainy mornings when I take the bus to campus instead of walking or riding my bike, at least 50% of the other passengers are texting or checking Facebook, listening to music, doing something with their smart phones.
My latest gadget is my Garmin Forerunner 310XT GPS watch. When I’m out running, it tells me when to walk, when to run, what my pace is, how far I’ve traveled, how much time has elapsed. If I’m wearing the heart rate monitor, it reports my heart rate too.
When I get back, it shares the information with my Garmin connect account. I can see the map of my route and it tells me the distance. It lets me compare that with my performance on previous runs.
One night I got twitchy and irritated because I made the mistake of telling it I was inside (because I was, listening to a clinic talk before our group run). It shut down the satellite and only recorded my time. No distance. No map. No pace. It was almost as if the run hadn’t happened.
This past weekend, I went to visit my parents. They live on a lake about 5 hours from me. Their place is on a serene cottage road that’s a perfect 5K out and back route with just the right number of hills, a good balance of sun and shade, and always a low probability of encountering any traffic.
I packed the Forerunner. But not the charger.
When I turned on the GPS it said “low battery.” I paid no attention. I’ve had a few gadgets before. They usually start to give the low battery warning with ample time to squeeze out a bit more juice before they die. Not the Garmin. I wasn’t even off the property, hadn’t even rounded the corner to where Kipp’s Lane climbs up to Birch Narrows Road, hadn’t even locked on to any satellites, when the screen went blank.
It was only then that I noticed I had no music either. The smart phone was on my dresser. That twitchy irritability took hold again. Just me, the lane, the cold country air, and nature.
And then something happened. New possibilities presented themselves to me once it sunk in that there would be no tracking of this run and no music to distract me. I glanced up the hill. Instead of the 5K, I opted for some hill training. It was perfect. I went up, then back down, then up, back down. Ten reps like that. No tracker, no pacer, no sense of whether I was going fast or slow, and yet a keen awareness that I was working hard. Hills are perfect for high intensity interval training.
When I’d done my ten repeats, I continued out to the other road that sloped up still further. It was a longer stretch and I chugged along to the dead end at the top. Rounding back, I ran past our lane into a little dip in the road and up the other side. Then I turned back, down again and up again.
I may not have tracked, but I can tell you this: I worked! I didn’t miss the music. I didn’t miss the stream of data.
From now on, I’m going data free when I do my hill training. And I’m more committed than ever to enjoying running without music.
The real test of that will come this weekend when I run the 10K in the Forest City Road Race. I’m taking the race organizers’ suggestion not to run with earphones. Technical issues with my music were my undoing at the Run for Retina a couple of weeks ago.
So the music stays behind. But the Garmin, freshly charged and ready to keep my pace, is coming with me.
For more on data, gadgets, and fitness, see Sam’s post Data Geekery and Fitness. What gadgets, devices, apps, and data-tracking are you into?