Ok so let's touch a bit on my last two race reports and let me assure you I, really, am no Garmin freak (Though I do find this song very entertaining!). The truth is I live in NE Ohio and in this running scene it is well known that most of the shorter local road races are not certified. In fact a few of the races are gossiped about being short so much so that I have friends that shoot down your PR before you can even let them know if the course was legit. Most of the time if I don't care about the result or time I won't even wear the garmin as I'd prefer to be oblivious if the course is a hair short. But to be quite honest I like the feedback post race and a lot of times courses either don't mark a mile or they misplace markers etc. Volunteers are just that, they aren't professional course markers and they are human and make mistakes. It's nice to have a relatively reliable feedback during the race if one of those situations arises and you are gunning for a certain time.
Right now any races I do are serving as a direct feedback into where my fitness is at and that plays into my coaches decisions on my training and what I am capable of. Sure I am also using these to practice my mental tenacity and to get my racing legs back under me, but mostly these are reality checks right now. I know how to race, I know I will race well, so the clock time is important feedback to tell me where I am at and what reasonable goals I should be making in the near future and for this year.
How does that apply to my reports as they were written? Well I made it clear that I believe neither course was legit. I'll give the 5k a waiver of doubt and say it was probably pretty close, close enough for me to be confident that my 5k fitness is at least where it was the last time I raced a 5k, and perhaps a little better. But it was definitely not a fitness breakthrough (though there was a nice mental breakthrough for me!) and I don't feel comfortable calling it my PR (How I wish I would have raced on the track that day!!!).
The 5 mile on the other hand gives me no real indication of where I am at for that distance because it was significantly short and the course wasn't my kind of course. There were some rollers, a lot of downhill, and a significantly climbing mile, followed up by a fast downhill finish that was cut short.
Had I not wore the Garmin I possibly would have walked away from this race believing I was in 28:50 shape. There was no 4 mile marker and my pace the first 3 miles was fast, actually faster than the 5k I just ran (you'll have that when the first 3 miles are mostly downhill!), my effort was pretty high and I might have believed I held that third mile pace through the hill. But I did wear the garmin and while it may be a little inaccurate, that 4th mile was nowhere close to the 5:46 I would have had to run to make my finish time legit. It was around 6:37 kids, so yeah, that fourth mile was TOUGH! I run marathons faster than that pace.
Point being thanks to my garmin (and every other garmin map online, and every fast runner without a garmin who knows what they are currently capable of) I know what I was capable of running for about 4.8-4.85 miles on that course. And it wasn't the pace I wanted :) I was hoping my fitness was a little higher right now. Had I not wore the Garmin I might have believed I ran 5 at that pace and coach may have bumped up my workouts this week and I can assure you I would not have hit the paces, I would have fallen off, and I would have been frustrated. Hell as my log shows I didn't even hit the paces I was assigned this week :)
The garmin is certainly not the end all be all when it comes to races or workouts. I raced hard at both of the above mentioned events, and I competed at pretty much the same level at both. They were nice efforts on tough courses. But they weren't fitness breakthroughs yet, these races put me solidly where I left off before the injury woes of last year and training still isn't quite back up to where it was at its height. And that is where the Garmin is handy, it is a good indicator of whether or not a course is what it says it is and on making sure I base my workouts off of my real current fitness. It says nothing about the course that day, the conditions I ran in, about the field I raced, or how hard I worked on any given day, it just gives me relatively consistent feedback that I can compare to all of my other efforts to ensure I am training properly and continue to get faster without going back down the injury rabbit hole.
I decided at some point last year that I would not base my personal bests on race times any more. I can honestly tell you Philadelphia was the best marathon I have ever run. I worked harder that race than I ever worked to get to that line and though it was not a PR it was clearly my best effort and result. I honestly believe had I been on a course more my style that day I could have PR'ed, but my PR is still 2:49:53 :)
My best 5k to date was actually one of my slower ones last year. I ran the Hyde Park Blast and got my ass handed to me by all the fast chicks in the state, but I ran as hard as I could that day in those conditions all the way to the line. I can tell you I worked harder in that 5k than any other and if it had been flat and cool most certainly it would have been a PR kind of day. But the truth is every day is not a PR kind of day and that is what makes PRs so very special! And as a competitive female I need to be very careful that I don't rate myself by my PRs. My worth as a runner and a female are not tied up into my race times. And most certainly not by what my Garmin tells me on any given day. I am a strong woman and a tough little runner. And trust me when I say on the days I bring my best to the line, I don't give two shits what the garmin or the race clock says :) But right now when I am building fitness and setting goals, I like to know about what ball park I am in!