My fourth time at the Breck Crest marathon might not have been a charm, but it gave me a great opportunity to learn something new.
I entered the race at the last minute, hoping to get in one final long training run for the Run Rabbit Run 100. The Breck Crest offers a course where I could get some time on my feet at elevation (higher even than what I’ll face at the RRR), and some practice on the steep technical descents that I’m rather bad at.
Last year’s Breck Crest was a blizzard-y mess, so I was relieved that this year’s conditions were nearly perfect. I was able to leave the rain jacket behind, and forego the vest/pack hydration system for a single handheld.
I learned a great lesson this year, namely that there are some advantages to running a race without a watch. Don’t get me wrong. I think having time and pace and HR data is often useful… but that’s not always the case.
I wanted to put forth a solid effort, but didn’t want to be distracted with thoughts of how my time would compare to prior years’ performances. (Sure, I could try to just not look at the watch during the run, and only analyze the data afterwards. But I know myself, and eventually I’m probably going to sneak a peek…)
Wearing a watch makes it likely that one of two not-so-awesome things will happen. First, if I’m on a pace that approaches a personal best, then there’s a risk I’ll take myself out of my groove and increase my effort to a level that I don’t want to be at (and which might ultimately end up leading to a much slower time if I crash and burn). On the other hand, if I’m running slower than past runs, I could be tempted to shut things down and just coast to the finish without giving it an honest training effort.
By not having any of that data, I was forced to look inward (and only inward), and stay more in tune with how I’m feeling, rather than the pace at which I was running. My body has a good understanding of how hard it’s working, and how good I’m taking care of it, but it doesn’t really care about (or understand) a particular pace.
My biggest challenge at the Run Rabbit Run is likely to be staying tuned in with how I’m feeling, and making decisions (fueling, hydration, clothing, walk vs. run, etc.) based on that feedback. Running the Breck Crest without a watch helped me get some practice at doing that.