I've mentioned this before but I feel as if I can never say it enough:
Nothing new on race day.
How you train prepares you for how you race. Now, it's not necessarily just with performance either. If you plan on wearing a new shirt or shorts during a race, it's probably a good idea to train with them a few times. After all, what if there is some strange stitching that leaves a nice red mark on you when you use them? Best find that out during a six-mile training run versus a 10K.
On the weekend, I had something new. It wasn't by choice of course but it was mostly a new experience. I had a total Garmin fail.
My trusty Garmin was not up for the Long Beach Half Marathon on Sunday. It was there in body but not in spirit. The lights were on but nobody was home.
I scrambled. I worried. I fretted.
I thought before the race that I would try to rack up as many miles in the 8-minute range as possible. I would try to get up some strong early miles and then see where I was at midway or close to 10, and then gauge how much distance I had left and see if I could crank it up some in order to ensure the best time possible.
All that strategy fell into a crumpled mess somewhere on the 710 Freeway.
Garmin was fine for the first two miles. I had a strong first mile, at 8:20, but Mile 2 was slower than I'd wanted. At 9:10, I tried to slow it down but slowed it down too much. Still, my average time was somewhere in the 8-minute range, which is what I wanted.
According to Garmin, Mile 3 took me 16 minutes to run.
Now, I was able to trust in myself and my training and my ability to maintain a strong pace and that helped get me to a good time.
But it goes to show that the only thing that will get you to the finish line is you. Technology will fail you. This isn't the first time it's failed me during a race. In each of my two marathons, my phone died somewhere around Mile 20. Not sure if my iPod would have died as well but that thing stopped working properly years ago. So, my well-thought-out playlist for each marathon was not all the way effective then.
There was a time when Garmins and iPods and heart-rate monitors were not an essential part of running. They are tools we use because they help us, because they provide information or support or both. Ultimately though your body determines your pace. Your mind and your will and your determination keep you going, not your music player.
Now, I happened to have my Polar heart rate monitor with me. That is a tool that I wholeheartedly believe in and have faith in, but that too has let me down. Still, it came through with flying colors on Sunday. I had originally intended to use it for the heart-rate information only but used the watch function instead. So I got lucky, not only that I wore it but that it decided to be an active participant in the race.
So I do believe I was lucky because of that. I am not sure if I would have been able to hold it together mentally without Polar's reassurance that things were indeed going well.
Since I run with a group on Sundays, my long runs are commonly ran without the aid of music. That's helped me. However, I usually have my Garmin with me. I care about my time and my pace and all those cool statistics. Perhaps if I were interested in only my distance then the other things might not matter as much and then I might not rely so much on the Garmin. But I think that leaving it at home every now and then won't be a bad thing.
After all, it abandoned me in my time of need. And if it wasn't reliable once, what's to say that it will be reliable for my next race?