Monday, June 29, 2015

On Running By Feel

Last August, when I ran the Reno 10 Miler, I wasn't sure how to approach the race as it was my first time at that distance, and it was quite hilly. I decided to just run and use my watch solely as a guide rather than the law. What I discovered was that I was able to keep a relatively even pace, and finish faster than I could have if I went by watch time. Unfortunately, it has taken me a long time to apply this method in other races.

In May, I did the American Parkway Half. Like every race I do, I planned for this one to be the race. The race I would break my PR. Honestly, it was a dream race for me. Low elevation (I normally train at about 5000ft), pancake flat course, early start. Despite the perfection on paper, this ended up being one of my worst races, and I'm not just talking about time, I'm talking about the way I felt. I was chained to my watch. I had a plan on exactly what pace I would be at on exactly what part of the course. I planned to start off slow and then speed up. It didn't happen that way, I started off slow and got slower. By the time the halfway point came up where I would generally start to speed up, my body felt like it was running on empty. I was mentally and physically drained. When I approached the 10 mile marker, my mind and body where down and trying to shut down. I did what I swore I would never do in a race, I walked.

If anyone has ever read any of my previous posts, they would know my biggest fear in racing is starting out too fast and having nothing left for the end. That happened at the Parkway Half, and you know what, I'm still alive. Yeah it was horrible while it was happening, but it wasn't the end of the world. Now that that has happened to me, I honestly no longer fear it, and since I no longer feel it, for the past 3 races, I have barely even glanced at my watch. I have been running completely by feel.

If my body says lets speed up, I listen. If it says to slow down, I slow down. The only reason I glance at my watch every now and then is just to make sure I'm not terribly off pace, but if I am, no big deal. I feel like the clock is no longer my enemy. Since adopting this new race style, races have become so much less stressful. I have gone in to each race hoping I do well, but not beating myself up if I don't. I just finished a half last weekend, and I PR'd (a race recap post will follow shortly). I looked at my watch a total of 4 times. Mostly I was looking at it to judge when to take my GU.

I used to look at my watch and think "wow, I'm going this slow ad I feel this tired" or "jeez, I still have this far to go". I found that each time I thought those things, I built up a mental block little by little. Imagine 15 of those thoughts during a 5k. The mind is a powerful thing, and whether you think you can or can't, you're right. Ignorance is bliss sometimes, and in the case of running, it is for me.

GPS watches can shake your confidence, your body knows best

I have actually adopted running by effort into my training runs as well. Easy runs and tempo runs are all done by perceived effort. I have to say, I have never been such a consistent pace runner in my life until now. Now, I'm not saying GPS watches aren't helpful, but I think as runners we rely on this data too much, rather than listening to our internal data.

Moral of the story, trust your body, it knows best. Your watch has no clue how your feeling that day, it doesn't know what kind of shape you are in, it doesn't know the weather. But your body does, and it wont lead you astray. I would challenge everyone to give it a try at least once.

Have you ever ran solely by feel?
If so, how was it?

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