Thursday, June 19, 2008

Saved by technology

(first published May 2006)

The other day a friend asked how my training was going and I beamed a little as I let him know that my sessions had been very strong and that I've been working on my pace to try to get a little faster. I'm a pretty steady just below 12 minute per mile kind of guy and it's something I want to improve on this year. Things were going great, or so I thought, until I was out for an 'easy' session the other morning. I could see in the distance a couple approaching me, but well before our paths crossed, my course took me down a side-road. I was feeling strong and sure that my 'easy' pace was a little faster than last year's, that was until the couple that I had seen in the distance trotted up behind and then right on past me. Oh they were quite polite, saying 'good morning' and giving me the 'runner's wave', but as I watched them pull farther away, all the while maintaining a conversation with each other, I began to question how fast this new pace of mine really was. The answer was in the mail.

A few days earlier, I had purchased a GPS device on e-Bay. I'm a technology freak, and the idea of being able to upload your training sessions and see them on a map really tickled my fancy. The unit arrived on the afternoon of the same day I had my pride handed back to me by that running couple. I spent the night with it on my wrist pressing buttons and finding out all about what it could do for me; the following morning I would put it to the test.

I normally get out of bed at 5:30 on the mornings that I run, but this morning, I was up at 5:00, perhaps because of the excitement surrounding my new gizmo, but most likely because I had eaten pizza the night before and it was playing havoc with my stomach. Dressed and ready to go, I started my warm-up walk while the GPS unit acquired the signals it needed from the sky. After a few minutes, I pressed the start button and off I went. I finished about a minute earlier than I normally do for this particular course and I then proceeded my cool down walk back to my house. Once inside, and still sweating profusely, I attached the device to my computer, uploaded the data and started the analysis. It showed me the route I ran, the elevation gain and decline over my course, and a whole bunch of other info that I would not normally know (or care) about. But the one bit of info that I was most interested in was the pace of the run, I had to know if I was getting faster, or if my mind was playing tricks on me.

I'm happy to say that all is well with me. The unit reported that I maintained a 10:57 per mile pace, about a minute per mile better than I usually do. I was impressed with myself. While these numbers would hardly catch the attention of the serious, performance runners, this little GPS unit turned out to be all I needed to ensure myself that my approach to this running season was on track.

Now if I could only get this thing to take dictation.

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