Good with Numbers

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Don’t let the title of this week’s blog fool you. I’m terrible with math. It took three attempts at Calculus in college to get the “B” I needed to major in history. My 7th grade step-daughter Emma has given up on asking me for help with her homework. My blank stares and heading to the laptop to Google for answers has left us both frustrated.

However I am quite talented at keeping up with numbers when it comes to my running. For better or worse I am adamant about keeping up with: pace per mile, miles per day, miles per week, miles per month, miles per year, total running time per day/week, total ascent (descent not so much) and even my core work has the same number of sets and reps. My speed workouts are accurately logged for pace per mile and compared vehemently to previous efforts. Since the day I started running, I’ve tracked just about every number there is to keep up with for running and recorded all this information in my log books.

Quite often all this number tracking can be helpful, especially if you use the information as a barometer to gauge how you are progressing with your training plan. Sometimes however this knowledge can backfire if you just go strictly by the numbers. Like all endurance sports there are other variables to consider when training. A six mile tempo run on a cool, dry day is usually easier or faster than the same workout in August here in NC. Trying to knock out a tough workout on tired legs will usually yield poorer results than when you are better rested. Other factors are proper fueling, nutrition, daily stress, footwear, and sometimes you can just have a rock solid run or an “off” day. There are many outliers to consider when tracking all your numbers so use this information smartly.

My former coach used to give me workouts that stressed learning how to achieve maximum pace and still finish a speed workout strong. A sample workout would be 10 minutes hard, 3 min rest, 15 minutes hard, 5 minutes rest, and finish with 10 minutes hard. I’d report back my pace per mile and round up or down the minutes to the nearest mile or half mile increment. So the workout to me looked like 1.5 miles hard, 3 min rest, 3 miles hard, 5 minute rest and 1.5 miles hard. We had a nice tug of war with my strategy and my need to know my exact pace per mile. Eventually he gave up and knew I was going to do it my way. I felt more comfortable with our strategy if I knew my numbers.

For some runners all these numbers can be too much and can actually create more stress. However most runners that I know love to talk about how many miles they just ran, the pace per mile, the total climb for the run, how many calories they burned and how many beers they can now consume for their effort. To prove my point, just look at all the running blogs out there now. Some of the numbers being tracked looks like that confusing Calculus equation in college that can take a while to crack.

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