Damn Fool

So I stepped out this cool-for-once Thursday evening, all set to do a 6-mile tempo run at MP (marathon pace), which for moi is somewhere in the 7:55-8:05 zone. The GPS watch was charged up, and I was too. I’d eaten a heavy rice-and-beans-and-pernil lunch, but early enough in the day that I wasn’t too worried about it coming back to haunt me. Before leaving I’d walked the puppy, made dinner for the wife and kids, walked the puppy again, and was ready for an hour’s worth of me time. I was ready to go, so go I did.

For my warmup mile I wound down to the riverside road, through packed sidewalks and busy streets. Easy-peasey. At one mile, I paused, retied my laces, and then got busy, heading south under the Willyburg Bridge. Getting beyond the bustle was proving harder than I’d expected, lots of traffic and construction detours. And I was breathing harder than I should have been and feeling pressed. After five minutes or so I checked my watch, flicking past the first data screen on my Garmin to the custom one I’d set up only showing current pace. 7:49. All right, slow it down a smidge, Speedy. Remember all that roast pork sloshing around in your gut .

Soon I was tracing the perimeter of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where the sidewalks are much less populated, and where my watch showed me slowing down: 7:54. Good, now hold that for a while, young-feller-me-lad.

After another mile or so I checked my pace again. 8:02. Ack! Let’s not get too comfortable, pal. So I picked up my effort a notch or two and tried to settle in.

Okay, this has to be exactly right, even if I’m feeling huffy. But let’s hold off checking the watch until we get to that bus shelter half mile down the pike by the second Navy Yard gate . . . Huff, puff, huff, puff. Time to look: 8:08. What? I thought you were picking up the pace, cowboy. Now you’re fading even though the effort’s feeling harder. 

And so it went the rest of the way, up onto the Madhattan Bridge (8:12. But it’s an uphill ramp, man, so give yourself a break). And then it was time to cruise down the other side into Canal Street. Surely we will dip back to the 7:40’s again. Let’s check once we hit the crosswalk at the end of the ramp . . . and . . .

8:16! Whaaaat? On a downhill run where the wind was rushing thru my hair and my feet felt like they oh-so-fleet? I can never eat rice-and-beans-and-pernil before a run ever again. This is humiliating, this is—

And then I stopped in my tracks there on Canal Street and hit Pause as the realization came to me that my custom screen which I’d set up only to show the current pace—the custom screen that was giving me such fits—was in fact not a custom screen at all, but just the watch face giving me the current time on this lovely Thursday evening. I’d gone running at exactly the time that echoed my marathon pace, and as it ticked off each passing minute I thought my pace was slowing bit by bit.

Oy vey. With my watch-foolery I’d driven myself into all sorts of doubt and despair when I should have known just from how my body felt that I actually had been ticking off the miles at MP, more or less.

I had to laugh at myself. But then I turned it into a teachable moment. This is a training run and you are never too proud, too old not to learn from a foolish little mistake like this.

Weaving thru crowded Chinatown onto Delancey to the Williamsburg Bridge, I kept up the hustle for the closing 2.5 miles of my tempo, puffing up the .66 mile incline of the bridge ramp, burning my way across the flats, enjoying the downhill ride on the Bklyn side, happy to have gotten both a little wiser and a little stronger on my training run today.

Such are the wise words of a deluded idiot. It was then that I realized I hadn’t turned the watch back on way back at Canal Street, so any hope of seeing an accurate track for the run were totally lost, and you can’t really have a teachable moment when you’re dealing with a damn idiot.

Clearly I needed to have a serious sit-down with my watch settings when I got home. It was foolish errors like this one that could really mess me up on race day. But first I would hit the showers and have to have a bit of a chat with that foolish chap in the foggy bathroom mirror.