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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Running blind

Two weeks ago I went to the CAR fun run for the first time.  On the way there I decided that I would run with the group and not look at my watch.  I guessed that the pace would probably be a bit faster than my solo easy runs, but unless I was really struggling I was going to keep up.  I knew early on that we were running faster than I normally would, but it never felt uncomfortable or hard.  Just like I was pushing it slightly more than I would on my own.  I was able to chat the whole time and felt good at the end.  It turned out that I was probably running about a minute per mile faster than I'd usually run.

After seeing these "results," I decided it was time for a little experiment. I've long suspected that my brain is holding me back because I feel like certain paces are too fast for me or unsustainable for a long run.  So maybe if I took my brain out of the equation, I would actually end up running significantly faster.  My one hesitation about running with no idea of pace was that I would start out too fast and really struggle at the end.  This has been a problem for me in the past in longer races, but I've grown a lot as a runner in the last few months and I think that at this point this is probably more a myth that is holding me back than a reality.  I need to teach myself to run based on effort and feel and take my Garmin (and brain) out of the equation.

So two weeks ago before the long run I set up my Garmin so that I could only see distance. I started the run with some teammates and tried to settle into a comfortably hard pace.  I could tell that they were running faster than I tend to start long runs, but I tucked in and just tried to keep up.  They were doing ten miles, so they turned around after five and I was on my own for the last nine.  I was a bit worried that my pace would drop off without someone to chase, but I focused on maintaining the same effort level.  At mile seven I took a quick bathroom break, ate a snack, and put on my iPod before turning around and heading back.  I felt good the whole time, though I didn't have the energy to really drop the pace for the last few miles.

I tried this strategy again this past Sunday with similar success.  Once again I had company for the first few miles, but did the bulk of the run on my own.  I really thought about keeping a steady effort level and continuing to push when I could feel myself start to back off or slow down.  I felt pretty strong most of the way, but like the week before didn't have that next gear to turn to for the last few miles.  I think that will come with time though, as my body adjusts to running at this faster pace.

Both weekends I ran 14 miles and while I was a bit slower this week, I was faster than my current half marathon PR at 13.1 both times!  Obviously I knew that my PR was very outdated (and the first week I took a break at mile 7), but it is still a great confidence booster.  I know I have a lot of work to do to get where I can be, but this is a step in the right direction.  Obviously every run won't feel as strong as these, but taking my brain out of the equation can only be a good thing.  So while I'll still be wearing my Garmin (can't live without the post-run data!), you won't see me looking at it.

9 comments:

amy said...

This post makes me so happy! Want to run on Saturday this weekend?

Beth said...

I'm really excited to see what you can do once you turn your brain off. I forsee PR's dropping like crazy all year long!

Jessica Karazsia (@irun26at8) said...

You are such a strong runner and I think this is going to be a kick-ass year for you!

Victoria (The District Chocoholic) said...

Sub 1:50 PR. Use the blind watch to make it happen.

AKA Darkwave, AKA Anarcha, AKA Cris. said...

*applause* - as you know, I'm a big fan of ignoring the watch. I seem to always run my best races when I focus on how I feel, and not on the numbers or what others are doing.

Katie said...

just like I always say, the less you use your brain, the better!

Dash said...

Yes! I figured that out on a tempo one time, when someone next to me calculated the pace, I threw the breaks on so fast. Otherwise, it was the same pace I always ran, I just never paid attention to it. ;)

LAPT said...

Woweeee! That's awesome! Yes, sometimes knowing how fast you're going distracts from how you FEEL. I can't wait till you run a half marathon again. :-)

Elizabeth said...

Fantastic! The mind is a powerful thing and it's good that yours is no longer standing in your way.