Thursday, August 18, 2011

Running "naked"

For the past two days I've been in Atlanta, while my GPS watch was back home in Davidson, NC. But I was supposed to run nine-plus miles each day in Atlanta. Oops.

I didn't even have a digital watch to time the runs with, just an analog watch that fortunately had a second hand.

On Wednesday, I had an "easy" 9-mile run on the docket, so I mapped out a course on Gmaps-Pedometer and ran it. But since I didn't know where one mile ended and the next one began, I had to pace myself based on feel. I started the run and took a look at my watch: 7:15 AM. If I ran at my planned 9-minute pace, I should be finished 81 minutes later, at 8:36 AM. As it turned out, I finished at 8:30, which meant that my actual pace was about 8:23 per mile, just a touch faster than planned. Oh well!

Then today I had intervals on the docket: 8 X 1,000 meters at a 6:27/mile pace. A friend pointed out to me that Atlanta's Piedmont Park has a handy website with distances for popular running routes. The "active oval loop" was 0.7 miles, which is 1,126 meters. Close enough for me. A little math convinced me that a 6:27 pace is equal to 4:30 over 0.7 miles. I could time that on my watch, right?

I arrived at the park and saw that the active oval was on roads that had quite a few cars on them. I decided to modify my plan and use the gravel track around the fields, a .52-mile route. Completing this in 3:15 should be the equivalent pace, just for 800 meters rather than 1,000. But halfway through the loop I saw a bigger problem. A television crew was filming a commercial on the far end of the track, and I'd not only be running right through their shot, the crowd of extras and crew was so vast that running was impossible. Amazingly, I finished this first loop in 3:15 anyways, but I decided to move back to the street for the remaining 7 intervals.

As it turned out, all the vehicles belonged to the TV crew, and they were being quite courteous to all the joggers/bikers/dog-walkers in the park. I ran the first interval pretty hard but based on my analog watch's second hand, I was still too slow: 4:50. Maybe the website was off on the length of the loop? Or maybe I was just slow.

Somehow I did manage to improve my time over the succeeding intervals. I don't remember each time, but I know I gradually got better, with times ranging from 4:45 to 4:37. For the last interval, I gave it an extra push and finished at 4:29. Of course, I was completely exhausted and drenched with sweat. Then I went back to my hotel room and painstakingly traced the route on Gmaps Pedometer. Ha! It wasn't .70 miles, it was .7185 miles.

That means my paces were as follows:

4:50 -- 6:43/mile
4:45 -- 6:36/mile
4:37 -- 6:25/mile
4:29 -- 6:14/mile

Since most of the intervals were in that 4:45 to 4:37 range, I was actually right on target. Not bad!

I definitely felt a little bit like I was naked without my GPS trainer for the run, but I'm pleased that I managed to adapt. I've actually had the trainer for less than a year, so it was really just a matter of jogging my memory of how I was doing things before. The GPS is a convenience, but if you don't have it, it doesn't mean you can't train effectively.

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