The tyranny of technology

My Garmin picked a hell of a time to conk out on me.

I was doing a tempo run this morning when it happened. The workout called for a one-mile warmup, four miles at an 8:10 pace, and a one-mile cooldown.

I ran the warmup mile and was halfway through the first fast mile when I glanced at my wrist to check my pace.

Blank screen.

I pushed a few buttons. Nothing.

I let out a string of salty language that I ‘m pretty sure wasn’t protected by the First Amendment. 

After that, I felt a little better. And because I had no choice, I kept running, trying to keep the pace.

It was challenging to pinpoint and hold an 8:10 pace for four miles. Especially at 5:30 in the morning.

But I figured I needed to just run midway between my Yasso 800 pace (equivalent to 6:40 a mile) and easy pace (8:30 to 9:00 a mile). I tried to find that speed and stick with it.

I chugged on, listening to my footsteps and my breathing, with no distractions from my conked-out GPS device.

It dawned on me that this is how distance runners used to train before the age of electronic gadgets.

They just had to know what a certain pace felt like for various workouts. They they learned it by experience, running fixed distances with a stopwatch over many weeks or months, and trained their legs to move at a certain number of footstrikes per minute.

After I thought about that, I began to feel like an old-fashioned runner, maybe Jim Thorpe or Eric Liddell. I swear I could hear the music from “Chariots of Fire” in the background.

Olympic runner Jim Thorpe -- without a Garmin. How did he do it?

For a few moments, it actually felt liberating, free from the tyranny of technology.

Maybe I didn’t need a $200 collection of microprocessors on my wrist. Or whatever is in a Garmin. I could go low tech. Or no tech!

People have been running without watches or GPS gadgets for thousands of years. The digital watch didn’t make an appearance until 30 or 40 years ago.

I began to wonder: who really needs computer technology to run? Is it a necessity? Or mostly a distraction?

Yes, rolling these thoughts around in my head was an interesting exercise. Liberating, as I said.

Maybe too liberating, however. I could slow to an 8:30 pace, if I felt like it, and nothing could correct me.

But I tried not to.  That would be defeating the purpose of a tempo run. So I kept going, pushing the miles.

I think I held my pace. But only the Great GPS Deity knows for sure.

At least I knew this six-mile course, a winding out and back (with a loop at each end) that I call the French Loop. So I knew when I hit the fourth mile of my fast pace and could start my cooldown.

I had to make a wild guess about how long I had run. I had left my watch at home.

When I finished up, I threw my Garmin in a dresser drawer and slammed it. I’ll check on it tonight to see if I can fix it. Maybe it just ran out of juice.

But if it’s dead, I have a few options:

1) Buy a new model, maybe with all the latest bells and whistles.

2) Find a low-priced, secondhand replacement.

3) Keep running like Jim Thorpe. Just me and the ground beneath my feet.

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2 Responses to “The tyranny of technology”

  1. You slammed the drawer? Watch it, Mister. That and the salty language are not going to help your reputation AT ALL.

  2. Great post! I’m still not sure technology makes our lives easier, sometimes I think it just complicates them, and we waste a lot of time.

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