Friday 14 March 2014

Running Diaries - you keep one, but do you use it?

Judging by the volume of Facebook and Twitter chat, most runners do keep (and share) records of their runs.  Whether it's Strave, Runkeeper, Garmin Connect, vast home-made spreadsheets (yes, that's me), a blog, or good old handwriting, we keep a log of anything from number of miles run to the number of jellybabies consumed.  It's a great way to give ourselves a pat on the back, a little gold star, just for going out and doing what we want to.

But how many of us actually use the running diary for anything other than annoying our non-running friends & families or for ammo in the "I kicked your butt on that segment last Tuesday" conversations with our running buddies?  When was the last time you went back and actually analyzed your diary for something more subtle than "how fast did I do my 800m reps last month?"

What brings this to mind?  Well, this week I managed to complete a (not very) whopping 42.5 training miles, including some good trail runs and a full speed session.  It's the first good quality week I've had in ages, and I wanted to know just how long "ages" really was.

So, I dragged out the spreadsheet and hunted for weekly mileage over 40 that didn't actually include an ultra.  After all, weekly mileage that's 90-100% on one day doesn't really count as a quality week.  A quality day, yes, but that's only 1/7th of a week.

Having exhausted the rather short 2014 diary, I changed to the 2013 page and was pleased to see a couple of 40+ weeks in December, one in November, and then ... May.  OK, so I knew the second half of the year was patchy, so I wasn't expecting much.  But, it got me thinking: was it just a figment of my imagination that I was quite happily doing 35-45 miles per week before I made a mess of my ankle over the Summer?

The training diary trawl continued, not looking for specific totals, but trends; little (or big) stretches of the consistency that turns running into training, patterns of good and bad.  To say I was a little amazed at what I found would be a gross understatement.  I was shocked to learn that before my little blip in December, which ended with a total bonk 32mi into a 45mi training run, I hadn't logged 2 40+ mi weeks in a row for a year.  Consistency? Not here...  I knew 2013 had been a bit unplanned, but the erratic up & down was, on reflection, quite easy to spot.  I think I may need a weekly mileage graph on this year's sheet (if in doubt, add more graphs...).

I then started to ask myself a new question:  if I had such a crap training year (and I did, let's be honest), how did I manage to pull off the races I did?  Dig deeper, look at 2012, and there's the answer.  It would seem that the first half of 2013 was built on the laurels of 2012.  One third of my 2012 weeks had 40+ miles. I got through the next 6 months based on that foundation.

I'm not going to further bore you with the rest of what I found on that trawl.  I will, however, say that it's helped to build a picture of what I've done right before, and how I can build on that for the next year.

So, next time you're looking at your latest Strava segment stats, or posting that picture of your Garmin on Facebook, take a step back and look at the bigger picture.  You might see more than you expected.

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