20 Days to Go

Counting down to the Kiawah Marathon. I didn’t think I could have a better training cycle than the one I had leading up to Wineglass, but things have been going well, particularly with my long runs (knock wood). Today was 22 miles. My pace was a bit slower than I’d wanted to see (9:34 average with zero stops save a few street crossings totalling less than 40 seconds), but my left hamstring has been super tight, so I wanted to keep pace very comfortable. I didn’t look at my Garmin for the run, and comfortable it was. My heart rate was a nice 142 average, I ran a slight negative split, and my last mile was my fastest. I definitely could’ve kept going at that pace. I call it a good run. 


Race morning by the Hudson River

 Yesterday I ran the Girls on the Run 5k with my 9-year-old running buddy. She had to miss the practice 5k (I doubled up with a different girl and her buddy at the practice), so I didn’t get to meet her until race morning. The GOTR coaches teach about pacing, but I think it doesn’t always stick with the kids that age. My buddy did a lot of running at her top speed, then walking because she’d get a stitch in her side. So we did a bit of a Fartlek race. It was pretty fun. The course was an out and back, and when my buddy saw people, including other GOTR participants, coming back in our direction, she asked if we could please just turn around and go back then instead of going all the way to the turnaround. To which I said, “Nope! No cheating! You don’t want to do that — it’s no fun.” She didn’t really look disappointed at my response. Sometimes I think kids just want to push on those boundaries. 

There was this great man out on the course who I believe was the dad of one of the GOTR girls. He wasn’t with a running buddy, but did have a team t-shirt and was wearing a tutu. He passed us just after the turnaround and said to my buddy that she didn’t want to get beaten by an old man in a tutu. After that, my buddy had to stay ahead of him. Any time he got close, she’d let out a squeal and take off. This went on all the way to the end. Later, I found the guy and thanked him for motivating her (and her two friends that joined us for the second half of the race) and keeping it fun. 

We finished in just over 40 minutes, which was the amount of time I was supposed to run on my running schedule anyway. My buddy did awesome at the end, with a killer finishing kick. 

My coaching client for the last phase of my NAASFP running coach certification has her first marathon next Sunday. Eep! She’s been reporting that she’s felt pretty good and positive for her long runs, so the last thing to worry about is her getting rest and eating right this week and acclimating to the Florida weather after being in New England for her training. She’s already down there getting herself used to be temperatures. I’m going to be there to help her get to the finish line. I’m so excited for her. 

I won’t be running the whole race with her, but I do have a bib for the half marathon. The half starts 30 minutes before the full. When I finish my race, she’ll be somewhere around mile 6-8 in her race. My husband will see her off at the start and meet her a few miles later. We’re double teaming as her cheerleaders. 

My coach gave me instructions to run my race as a progression run, ending at half marathon to marathon pace, and then I’ve got 5 more miles to run in addition to the race. Normally I’d do these prior to the race, but this time I’m going to run my bonus miles to meet my client — at that point in her race, she’ll be heading towards me. Once I check in with her, my husband and I are going to use the car (on a different road from the race) to drive to additional meeting points until we get to the final 4-6 miles, at which point I will run with her to the finish.

Sadly, my husband’s grandmother died a few days ago, and so we have a funeral to go to next weekend right before we head to Florida. We visited her in Iowa in November and May and both times were lovely visits. It is a nice way to remember her, still trying to cook us breakfast at 93 and watching the Hallmark Channel with closed captioning and the sound turned off. She was a fantastic lady and I will miss her very much. 

After the Space Coast race, I’ll be staying with family in Florida for 10 days to get my own body ready for southern temperatures. I really enjoy running in the 40s & 50s we’ve mostly been treated with this fall in upstate NY, but it will likely be a bit warmer in South Carolina. I’m hoping it will be no warmer than the low 60s race morning, but you never know. I’d rather be trained for heat and then go to colder temps for the actual race than the other way around. 

I am pretty happy to be packing running shorts, that is for sure.  

Oh, and I almost forgot, I jumped into a fun 5k trail race a couple weekends ago and got 3rd in my age group and was 14th female of 201. And I ate a hot dog grilled by local veterans after the race. I eat maybe one hotdog a year, and that was a great one to be my annual hotdog indulgence. 


was tempted to go for seconds, but it was like 10:30 in the morning


My age group award


Enough with the “My Garmin says the race course was long”!!!

I’ve got a little rant. And to be fair, I used to think the same way as the people who do this when I first started running. But enough already. 

Garmins and other GPS watches/apps are fantastic tools to help with running. They are pretty amazing devices. But they are not infallible. The way the technology works is pretty darn smart, but it is hardly precise enough to rely 100% on. Basically, the watches ping off satellites far, far away about every 10 seconds and are able to to mostly pinpoint where you are located. But there can be a lot of “noise” around those signals, including trees, buildings, even by so many other runners accessing the same satellite simultaneously, etc. 

Most race courses are very, very carefully measured multiple times by nifty gadgets used on a bike. These measurements are often certified. And also, these measurements are going to be a heckuva lot more accurate than your Garmin. [An aside, your Smartphone apps are usually even less accurate than a dedicated device like the Garmin. I used to run using both, and the phone app was always more optimistic about my pace. I recently ran with a friend who uses Runtastic, and his data said we ran 5.7 miles while my Garmin said we ran 5. Boy was he bummed.] 

Have you ever looked at the mapping of your Garmin data after a run and seen that it looks like you cut corners when you know you didn’t? Or as if you ran through a building? Go ahead and look at your Garmin data for a race you felt the course was long or that you ran the tangents poorly. See if your running map closely matches the actual course. 

I just ran the Rock n Roll Philly half marathon on Saturday. The first three miles were in the middle of Center City. 

My Garmin beeped about a minute before I hit the first mile marker. No, the mile marker was not wrong. My Garmin was wrong. Here’s a graph of those first few miles. See how erratic it was? I promise I wasn’t jerking along the race course, going uber fast then stopping. 

What was happening here is that the watch got confused by all the buildings. On the map, my run looks like this:

You can see it looks like I ran through some city blocks. I’m Superwoman, flying right over buildings! If this picture doesn’t convince you, here’s a close up:

I have no idea what was going on here. I was stumbling through Philadelphia, apparently. I won’t bother posting the graph, but the elevation charts are all over the place on my GPS recording, but except for one dip down then up under an overpass, this section of the course was very flat.

Here’s an example of one time when I was running on a track. This kind of mapping error accumulates. I’ve realized if I want more precise workout feedback that it’s better for me to use a simple stop watch for track workouts or to turn off the GPS and use the calibrated footpod. It’s doubtful the tracks I run on are long, so it has to be that GPS isn’t perfect. 

According to my Garmin, during the Philly race I ran the first three miles in 8:18, 8:21 and 8:13. Not that I’m not capable of running those paces, but I didn’t on Saturday morning. I ran this race as part of an 18 mile training run. I ran 5 miles before the race started then planned on running the race at around goal marathon pace. I was running by feel (had my arm warmer covering my watch, but I have it on vibrate for the mile laps), and I knew I wasn’t running that pace. The timing mats had me running the first 5k in 27:18, which averages out to an 8:48 pace. Right on target. 

Once we left Center City, my watch tracked much better with the course, although by then it was about 3/10 of a mile ahead of reality. I had something similar happen when I ran the NYC Half in March. My watch lost it in Central Park and rather spectacularly in Times Square. As much as I’d love to believe I ran a 4:40 mile through Times Square, it didn’t happen. I missed my goal for that race because I was depending on Garmin, and Garmin was all over the place for the first 8 or so miles. I thought was running much faster than I was. The good thing was that I realized I had a problem when I hit Times Square, and I gave up looking at the watch and ran by feel. This was the first time I’d tried it, and it was largely successful. I still missed my goal, but my second half of the race was right on target. My body knew better than the watch what pace to run. 

My race in Philly went really well. I ended up running the last 5k faster than marathon goal pace (about an average of 8:28/mile) and faster than the first 10k. You can see from the RnR results page that I picked up speed after the 10k mark. It’s nice when this happens, especially since I’d run 5 miles ahead of the race and was feeling strong by what was about miles 15-18 for the day. I felt relaxed and comfortable — confidence boosting for my marathon in 6 weeks. 


According to my Garmin, I ran 13.4 miles. While I didn’t fuss over my tangents and probably could have run them more efficiently, that isn’t what accounts for the excess 3/10 of a mile recorded by Garmin. It was watch error. And I’m telling you, while it is possible for a race course to be off due to human error, the vast majority of the time it is the correct distance, NOT what the GPS device says. 

I used to want to believe the Garmin because it certainly puts my running ability in a more flattering light. But it’s not reality, and in the long run, it doesn’t serve me to deceive myself. It’s also better for me to not be so reliant on that little wrist-sized bit of technology. I’ve learned to trust myself and enjoy running more by staring less at the watch. 

If you don’t believe me, go back and look at your own data. Do a little tough critical analysis. You can thank me later. ;)