Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ode to my Garmin Watch: Breaking 40 minutes in the Theta Breakers "10k"

Finishers milling about at the Theta Breakers 5k and 10k
Maybe this post going to sound like a commercial for Garmin GPS watches, but I don't care.  A few months ago, I saved up a bunch of "thank you" points on my credit card and got one of those Garmin watches that indicate how far you've run using GPS.  Perhaps in part I was motivated by my last big race, a half-marathon in San Francisco last April where the first few mile markers were clearly wrong and I had no idea what my pace was.   This proved to be a killer in the half-marathon as I ran out of gas miles before the finish line.   I'm a pretty anti-gadget runner, but had to admit if I had one of those fancy GPS watches at the time, the half-marathon would have likely gone a lot differently.

It wasn't until today that I finally had a chance to use it in a race at the Theta Breakers 10k.  The race is in it's 27th year, and is put on by the Stanford University chapter of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority to raise money for Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, which provides court appointed representation of abused and neglected children.   The picturesque course starts next to Stanford Stadium and twists and turns through the university and surrounding Palo Alto  neighborhoods. 

And wouldn't you know the Garmin watch came in handy about a half mile into the race.  After we all take off and run all  the way around Stanford Stadium, I look down at my watch and see my current pace is 5:45.  Considering I was hoping to break 40 minutes for 10k which is about a 6:25 pace, you might say I was going out a wee bit too fast. So I backed it off, but still came through the first mile in a way too ambitious 5:58.

At each critical turn in the race course, there was a helpful and enthusiastic Kappa Alpha Theta sister holding a glittery arrow showing everyone where to go.  There were also cheerful Theta's spaced out at each mile of the course holding signs saying things like "4 miles!!!  You can do it!".  Except according to my Garmin watch, each mile marker was actually about a block or two beyond where the actual mile mark should be located. 

My trusty Garmin watch letting me know the "10k"
was really 0.2 tenths of a mile longer than 10k
So instead of having no clue of how fast I was really running, I came through mile 2 at 6:24 (right on pace), and then an uphill mile 3 at 6:39 (yikes!), and doubt set in as to whether sub-40 minutes was really in the cards.   Hope returned on a downhill mile 4 (6:16) and another slightly downhill mile 5 (6:26).  Pushing hard the last mile to beat the 40 minute 10k goal, I crossed the finish line at 40:37. 

Bad news for the sub-40 quest?   Not really.  The course was actually 6.4 miles according to my Garmin watch, and so the effort was equivalent to a 39:16 10k.  Mission accomplished!  And instead of going home dejected with a "slow" time, I discovered I'm not as slow as I thought, thanks to my new fancy Garmin watch.  (And no, they aren't paying me to say that.) 

And forgive the bragging, but this earned first pace in the male master division, never mind that few old guys show up for sorority races, and the fast old guys were probably running the Rock and Roll Half-Marathon in San Jose that day.  At my age, you realize there are only so many small victories left and it's best to just savor them in the rare moments when they occur.  With a beer, of course.

Another shamelessly posed photo of my sweaty 1st Male Master Finisher certificate,
a frilly bag with a gift card to a fancy San Francisco eatery, and a celebratory beer.

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