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Running data – is it worth it?

15 December, 2009

I came across another good site for running blogs today. These people are not lazy! Not only do they track their daily and weekly mileage, they also keep track of data such as mileage at different training paces, mileage on the various shoes (typically they have five pairs), and hours slept per night. One of them is taking time out of school to concentrate on qualifying for the boston marathon. Some of them run 100+ miles per week. These people are serious runners.

I like having data to play with. Ideally, I’d have a gadget that would track everything: pace, mileage, elevation, heart-rate and store it in a database that I could access at some point in the future, without having to worry about dealing with the widgets and the gidgets, the windows software. They’re getting there, but it’s not happening yet. Soon after I started running, I got into the habit of tracking the mileage of my shoes and my weeks, and I would also make a note of average heart rate during a run (I wore a heart rate monitor back then). My intention was to see how this varied as a function of speed, and then use this to discern whether I was overtrained — before I actually started suffering the more obvious signs — as well as long-term changes. The reasoning is still sound, I believe, however the heart rate monitor ultimately proved to be a hindrance. For one thing, I found myself running to the pace dictated by my heart rate. There is nothing wrong with this per se, but what happens is that if you’re listening out for the beep of the watch to tell you that you need to run either faster or slower, you spend less time listening to your body. Finally, after a disastrous half marathon during which the chest strap just wouldn’t keep a snug fit, and I nearly dropped out due to an old injury, I decided not to use it anymore.

I read somewhere (now I forget where, possibly Noakes), that it’s really the resting heart rate that is useful as a predictor of getting sick/overtrained. My resting pulse is about 45-50 bpm, so now if my heart is managing to keep up with the clock ticking away in the kitchen, then I know I have to take it a bit easy. And that’s good enough for me. As for my shoes, I now rotate pairs. Supposedly the foam takes at least a day to recover between runs. Whether or not this is true, it is still useful to have a pair which is at least 100-150 miles ‘older’ than the other, as a way to compare the relative wear of the shoes.

Today, an easy six miles. And the rain is back, which I don’t mind, as it’s also a little warmer (although I may have to post a rant about the umbrella blind and the sidewalk hog). My plan is to do the same mileage as last week, before increasing the training load. I believe that it’s easier to maintain a consistent effort this way, making each step twice as wide as it is high, rather than building up for three weeks and scaling back for one, which I’ve done in the past. Even if you do manage to restrain yourself during the recovery weeks, there is no guarantee that the rest of your life will be compliant enough to leave you feeling rested and revved by the end of it.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 16 December, 2009 5:44 pm

    I love my Garmin Forerunner that collects all the info you mention. With various websites such as runsaturday.com I have lots of options for data crunching & analysis. Not a statistician’s utopia yet but getting there slowly.

    • 16 December, 2009 6:07 pm

      Does it give you access to the raw data in a nonpropietary format? Because if it does then I will probably cave at some point.

  2. 17 December, 2009 2:58 am

    You can export to gpx (a standardized xml format)

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