Saturday, July 5, 2014

Racing sans GPS

I don't have a GPS watch (although I'm sort of eyeing the Garmin Forerunner 15), but I do run outside with my smartphone and RunKeeper for GPS tracking. I set RunKeeper to give audio cues for time/distance/average pace every 2 minutes. It's not as good as being able to look quickly for up-to-date average pacing, but even in a 5K race, I'm going to get 10 separate pace indicators.

Unfortunately, my smartphone's GPS decided to take a vacation during my Fourth of July 5K race. It was a clear, sunny day, so there shouldn't have been any obstruction to the satellites, and anyway, even on our often overcast days in the Pacific Northwest, I haven't had to wait too long. I suppose I could've started RunKeeper earlier, just to have it ready, but I didn't. And so when the race started, RunKeeper was still looking "searching" for the GPS satellites.

Now, the race was chip-timed, so I suppose I could've just stood there while a mass of people started around me, waiting waiting waiting . . . but my son was running with me. I guess I could've told him to get going, that I would catch up - after all, I was going to run at my own pace anyway. But this idea didn't occur to me at the time, and anyway, I think the public shame of just standing there, staring at my smartphone screen would've been too much to endure.

That is how I came to run my first race without GPS since a long time ago. Worse yet, because I was flustered at this turn of events, I didn't even start my digital watch timer, although I did manage shortly afterward to glance at the time, so I was able to estimate the approximate elapsed time of the race.

It wasn't terrible, and I felt like I paced myself fairly evenly, although of course I can't be too sure. I think I hit the halfway point around 10:30 or so, and I finished at 21:13, so if my estimates were right, I was a little slower in the second half. But the second half also had a slight elevation gain, compared to the elevation loss in the first half.

The major downside to not having those 2 minute pacing indicators was that I didn't have an accurate sense of whether I could meet my primary goal of finishing in under 21 minutes, which would require an average pace of just over 6:40 minutes/mile. If Ms. RunKeeper had been calling out, "Average pace six minutes forty-nine seconds per mile" at the 16 minute mark, I would've known that I needed to step it up. On the other hand, it's not like I was lollygagging the last half mile of the race. I had just caught up to the fastest female runner, and that was motivation enough to keep going.

I'm still having some issues with the smartphone GPS; looks like I might need to replace it when my upgrade period arrives.

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