Two weeks ago I crossed the finish line of the San Diego 50 miler, without wearing a watch or having a clue of my time, I set a PR for myself of 9:47:35. This was my (4th) race without a watch and with a whole new set of intentions.
My previous (3) watch-free races included incredible finishes:
5th in a 30k at Mt Diablo that had over 4200’ gain and a super elite who led the female pack
2nd in the Quad Dipsea, a 50k with 6,800’ gain
1st in an informal, mostly asphalt 50k, the Fear and Loathing Hunter S Thompson race
Running based on effort and running with pure joy. And, without a watch. Without getting too philosophical about what running ultras means to me, let me just say that the thing holding me back from being better has always been my damn mind. The watch has been a source of noise for me. Always comparing, “where am I supposed to be” “I’m not there yet” “How much more do I have” “I’m sucking” “What the fuck. I thought I was closer.” None of this noise is helpful in moving towards the finish line. It just made the finish line seem WAAAAY further away. Not a fun feeling after 10 hours of being out there. So, I removed a source of distraction and just ran.
Expectations are also a source of noise for me. Expecting to do well, or to place in the top 10 or be better than my last race also created a ton of noise. Upon realizing that these expectations were not going to be met, more noise would be created. “You already blew it.” “Why bother pushing now”. “You’re not even close to what you were thinking”. YUCK.
I’ve removed the word expectation and now set (3) intentions for each race, which seems to be working.
Each race is broken down by my intentional running effort:
And, each finish goal is:
A neutral finish (to just simply finish - running most conservatively)
A good finish (running mostly assertively)
A fast finish (running mostly aggressively)
This replaces my watch. If I choose to run more conservatively, it may be because I’m just getting time on my feet, I’m working on some new skills or there’s a pain/injury that I’m a little nervous about. All that I can expect is to just finish. If I run assertively, I’ll start a bit faster, create more distance from the rest of the female pack at the second half of the race and I’ll push a bit on all three pieces (climbs, drops and flats). And, if I run aggressively, I’ll start faster for sure and try to maintain distance and push effort through the whole race.
No expectation of finish time. The race just becomes me and my cooperative mind.
Now, I’m an athlete and I understand that this concept may seem totally rudimentary for other seasoned runners. But, for me, this has brought so much more joy into racing. I feel more confident and have way more fun. And, it’s proving what I really can do. I share this only because the change has been valuable for me. For coaching purposes, I have clients who love technology and I coach with those tools - and others who just run, and I coach to that. There isn’t a one size fits all for us in terms of training. And, I completely respect those who nerd out on all the cool tools available. I use my watch during my training runs. Sometimes just to be sure I come back by a certain time. Sometimes to track my pace. Most often though, you’ll see me without a watch. Just me, my mind and my smile.
See you out there!!