The Mighty GPS Watch

When it comes to runner things, I am both wildly experienced and still learning. I’d say I’m an expert when it comes to actual running, training, form, and shoes. At the same time, I’m a bit less so when it comes to innovative/techy things that my sport “requires” of “real” runners – think Strava, nutrition fads, must-have gear, and watches.

I’m pretty simple. Give me a pair of shoes, shorts, and a shirt and set me off. That’s all I need most of the time. Honey Stinger caff chews if it’s morning (so basically every run), Nuun Energy (friendslovenuun2018 25% off code til 11/17/18) if I’m on trails, it’s hot, or I’m running long. Watch on trails.

I used my trusty Garmin Forerunner 15 (it was $40) for five years on trails. It told me everything I needed – distance and time. But the battery life was rough – it didn’t last for most 50ks and if I forgot to charge it I was SOL.

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Showing off that my watch lasted for the full Shadow of the Giants 50k

At some point, someone mentioned I needed a new watch. Did I? Of all the things to spend hundreds of dollars on, a watch that I wear once a week wasn’t high on my list. But after too many running docs on YouTube inspired me to consider longer distances, it was time.

I didn’t want a fancy thing that told me how many breaths per minute I was taking in or how fast I needed to go to catch the person down the trail or anything. So Garmin Forerunner 35 it was (bonus points for buying at REI and getting dividends)!

I got it and was instantly fascinated by the specs. Distance, time, pace, cadence, heart rate, steps, sleep, weather. A dream toy for the analytically minded. I wore it for all runs, I wore it to work. I was determined to demolish any step/activity goal it threw at me.

This went on for about a month. I looked at and evaluated every number I saw. Fast enough? Far enough? Elevation enough? Heart rate low enough? How can I do more and be better?

Sheesh. Obsessed much?

The watch is powerful. The watch thinks it knows everything. THE WATCH DOESN’T.

I’ve noticed that the more information people are given, the less they pay attention.

These 1.5 oz wrist computers can spit out the details but if we put our full focus into the numbers, the quantitative findings, we’re losing out on what, arguably, matters more: the qualitative data. Questions like HOW ARE YOU FEELING? Or DID THIS HILL TAKE LESS EFFORT THAN THE LAST TIME YOU RAN IT? Or ARE YOU LESS TIRED AFTER CERTAIN DISTANCES THAN YOU USED TO BE? Or IS YOUR HEART POUNDING AND YOU NEED TO STOP TO BREATHE?

My goal – both here and as an ambassador within the running community – is to urge people to notice things and to not be ruled by the numbers. They don’t tell the full story of what’s going on during a run. I’m not saying you’re automatically going to get better if you solely pay attention to qualitative results (though I have). But at the very least, you might find a deeper enjoyment if you focus on feel and stop turning every run into a race.

So maybe just try taking off the watch.

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