This morning my alarm went off at 5:30 AM. This would be ridiculous for most Sundays these days, but today I was trying my darndest to make it to the School Ghoul 5K in Los Alamitos. I have missed so many races in the last couple of years due to my poor health, and every time it happens I feel a little bit worse. My near constant fatigue has gotten in the way of just about everything in my life, no matter how hard I struggle against it, so I try to gain ground whenever and however I can. Fortunately this morning was a win. I successfully got out of bed at 5:30 AM and got ready to leave for the 5K. It helped that this race is small and local (Los Alamitos is not far from my house) so I wasn’t facing a long drive or difficulties with parking or crowds. Also, it was the only Halloween race I had any real chance of participating in this year, and I had a whole outfit planned for the occasion. If at all possible I was not going to miss this 5K.
I arrived at the race start line plenty early, picked up my shirt and bib, and walked back to my car to put on sunscreen. I had 50 minutes to spare. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t brought my GPS watch with me. Or my headphones. In fact, I had forgotten all of my running electronics at home. Is it obvious that I haven’t run a race in almost two months? At first I remembered that I have a spare set of earbuds in my glove compartment for just such an emergency, but then it hit me that my phone hasn’t had a headphone jack since 2017. So no help there. Facing the prospect of running 3.1 miles without my usual playlist was so daunting that I decided to rush home and grab the items I needed. If you thought getting home and then back to the race would be the most difficult part of the morning you’d be wrong. That part was pretty smooth! I got back to the race start with a full 25 minutes before I had to run, so I thought I was in great shape. Then I tried to set up all of my electronics.
Fortunately my interval timer is stand-alone so all I had to do was clip it onto my pocket. The watch and headphones proved to be more of a problem. Last month when the iPhone 11s came out I went to the Apple Store and took advantage of the newly lowered prices on older models to buy an iPhone 8. My iPhone 7 was slowly dying and it was time for an upgrade, but I didn’t go crazy and buy anything too fancy. Unfortunately, I haven’t run a race since before my phone swap so my Bluetooth electronics had never been paired with the iPhone 8. After a couple of attempts I gave up trying to get the Garmin app to recognize my watch since that connection wasn’t essential for the race, but I really needed the headphones to cooperate. The best part about wireless earphones is the wireless part, but it is also the most breakable link in the chain. No phone pairing = no music. I tried everything I could think of up until the moment the race started, but it was no use. My iPhone 8 and my Bluetooth headphones were just not going to play nicely together. I was resigned to run the race with no soundtrack, the useless headphones tagging along as ballast.
Plenty of folks have told me how much they enjoy “unplugged” running with only the ambient noise of nature and their inner thoughts to entertain them. Today I learned that I am not one of those people. There are two reasons I absolutely need my favorite playlist in order to make plodding along on the pavement tolerable. 1) Running by itself is boring! Without a the distraction of music I lose interest in this particular form of exercise very quickly. It’s monotonous and every mile seems to drag on forever unless I have songs to listen to or friends to talk to. Ideally both. 2) I have difficulty regulating my breathing without the aid of a tempo. I learned this a long time ago I got my first iPod and it completely changed my workouts. While running the 5K today I had to sing to myself the whole time (silently, of course) in order to keep from breathing erratically. It was rough. I was completely exhausted, mentally and physically, when I crossed the finish line. As happy as I was to run the 5K, it was a miserable experience without my playlist. I will definitely make sure all of my electronics are working before my next race!