Thursday, November 11, 2010

Going Steady With My Garmin

Despite the title of my blog "running with the herd", I feel like I haven't been posting very much about running. I'll work on that. But don't worry, I have been running, I just haven't been posting about running.

On Tuesday I had a nice, comfortable 7 mile run. It was 70 degrees and sunny here in Chicago- absolutely BEAUTIFUL! One of my goals for my next training cycle is to use my Garmin more often and more effectively, so that I can target my problem areas in hopes of becoming a faster runner and eventually a Boston Qualifier (in the distant future, people, don't judge).

I've had my Garmin since I started running in 2006. Back then I used to measure distances along the lakefront path, but not so much to track pace or to use any of the fancy features that I still don't understand. But I found that having pace information on my wrist, readily viewable at all times, made me very stressed. I would run for a bit, then look at my pace and think "oh my god, I'm so slow", speed up, end up huffing and puffing and have to bail or shorten my runs. No good. Even when I told myself that I was running for fun and if I couldn't breathe it wasn't fun, I still obsessively looked at the Garmin.

And up until this year, my goal has been to run for fun only. Because if it becomes not fun, there's no way I'll keep doing it.

This may be a good place to remind my readers of what a wimp I am. I am lazy. I don't like to suffer. When I'm short of breath I (used to) slow down. When I'm tired, I like to sleep. When I'm in pain (on a training run), I generally stop. (I actually think that last one is a good thing generally, because I- knock on wood- have been injury free since I started running 4 years ago).

Then 2 things happened:

1. I spent a year with a personal trainer. My trainer (Alina McKnight at River East Club- she's AWESOME) kicked my butt. She pushed me to my limit and then some. I worked my muscles to failure every single session. I've never suffered so much in my life, and boy was it great! Initially, I was amazed at what I couldn't do (who knew jumping jacks were so freakin' hard) but after a few weeks I was amazed at what I could do. And, more relevant to my running, I realized I could suffer. I could be completely short of breath and still keep going. I embraced the suffering. And I got stronger as a result.

2. The 2nd thing relates to the first and was my half marathon PR in Rockford. That was really a perfect race experience for me. You can read my race report here, but in short I ran my heart out: didn't slow down when I was nauseous, didn't slow down when I was short of breath (well maybe a little in the last few miles) and pushed through the pain. I suffered for 2 hours and 19 seconds and I lived to tell the tale and the rights to talk about my PR until I'm blue in the face (until I get a sub-2, hopefully soon!) A combination of slow steady running for a few years, my personal trainer strengthening both my mind and body, some early pacing by my husband and perfect race conditions (including good spectators!) convinced me that I can become a faster runner.

So my running goals have changed from running just for fun, to working on becoming a faster runner understanding that it won't always be fun. And knowing that I can always go out for a slow, fun run when I want to. One of the benefits of becoming faster is that there are a myriad of slower paces that are perfectly conversational and comfortable. Who knew??

So, the Garmin. How can I best use the Garmin to help improve my running? I just learned how to set it to auto-lap at each mile, so I'm pretty much still in Garmin infancy. I'm open to advice.

One thing I can't do is use the beeping pace alerts. There's this setting where you can set a pace range you would like to run at and it will beep at you when you are too fast (dee-da-dee-da-deeee!) or too slow (dee-da-dee-da-dough). As evidenced by the graph below (distance on x axis, pace on y axis) from my Garmin training software, my pace is super variable, so I just get beeped at left and right. I try to speed up when told and then I'm going too fast, I try to slow down and then the beep says I'm going too slow. Arg!

So my question for fellow runnerds out there is, how do you use your Garmin?

What's your favorite/most useful feature that you use on your Garmin and how to you incorporate it into your training?

Additionally, I have one specific question: Is it true that you can start moving (running/walking) while "locating satellites" without messing up the signal?

In other running news, I want to give a shout out to my mom. She started running recently and has worked her way up to nearly 3 miles. Earlier this week, she went on a 2.6 mile run and was bit by a dog. Multiple times! But she kept on trucking. Amazing!


  1. I use 4 displays: distance, current pace, average pace, and time. I don't really care about time, though, mostly the other ones.

    I have it set to auto lap every mile, so I can easily see my splits when I'm done.

    I love the "average pace" window. Usually. It becomes this fun little challenge for the last 2 miles of every run to see how much I can knock off of that. It has really helped me pick it up at the end, which works out really well for me at races.

    Otherwise, I try really hard not to look at it. If I start feeling like crap, I glance to see if I'm moving too fast (which of course I usually am) or if it feels too easy I look and see if I'm going too slow (again, obviously. lol).

    I couldn't run without it, I don't think!

  2. I hope that your Mom starts running with some pepper spray. I'm impressed she kept going. Some dogs have given me some scares over the years, but I've never been bitten.
    I've had a Garmin for a couple of years. It will locate satellites while moving but it takes longer.
    I use the auto lap miles as well. I tried doing some of the workouts but it just kept beeping at me.
    About 95% of the time, I just hit start and take off. When I'm done I check out the data. I like to try to run negative splits, so I usually hit the "Lap" button at my halfway point if it is not an even mile and then run the second half faster that the first.
    Occasionally, I'll use the "Course" function since I have a few standard runs and compete against a past run.
    I have also fallen into the habit of obsessively watching it and trying to hit a certain pace exactly. Sometimes I have to put it away for a while and get back to running for fun.
    Do you have issues in Chicago losing signal if you stray from the lake front and run amongst the buildings? Kris had issues with it during the Marathon and turned it off.

  3. Angie- I like the idea of trying to improve your average pace near the end- that requires a lot of speeding up, esp on long runs!

    Jason- So excited that you are reading my blog:) So, my mom had pepper spray. It was actually her first run w/ the spray but she was so shocked (the owners of the dog were there!) that she didn't think to use it. I like your idea of using the 'course' fxn. I'll try that one. Re: my Garmin in the city. I generally don't stray from the lakefront unless I go to the 'burbs to a forest preserve or something but during races in the city, I rarely have problems. The only exception is lower Wacker, can't keep a signal there. Too bad that screws up everyone's Garmins right at the start of the marathon!

  4. Great blog. I could not live without my garmin

  5. Woo hoo! Congrats to your mom! Tell her to keep it up. Who knows maybe next year at this time she will have already run a marathon!