Sunday, February 27, 2011

Statistics is Just a Fancy Way to Lie II (Part A)


I don't often delve too deep into the number on this blog. Honestly, I'm more interested in how we as runners approach long runs, races, running in general, and other philosophical or mental aspects of the sport. I also love the overwhelming support and encouragement bloggers share with one another (well...this guy and this guy have some issues to work out).

But, I won't pretend that I don't look at the numbers or think about them. I just know to never get too caught up in them. And the story below is illustrative as to why getting caught up in the numbers is a bad idea.*

Thus far this training cycle I've done three 20M+ runs, a 20M, a 22M, and a 22M. My average pace went 7:09/M, 7:14/M, 7:18/M. You could argue I'm trending downwards, notwithstanding the fact that I'm in better running shape than I was three weeks ago when I ran my 20M. So what accounts for this? A few things. First, my first 22M run was the weekend following my 20M. Back-to-back 20M runs is demanding, and a slight drop off is understandable. While this weekend I decided to return to the Lansing area and run my Hills of Death route (pictured below). So, despite being my slowest average, my 7:18/M pace is significantly better than I've ever run on that route (besting my 7:43/M top spot from last year).

And, yet, I don't feel overly optimistic about my HoD run because of the way I fell apart over the last seven miles. As you can see from the graph below, I started to really 'chunk-up' time during the last third of the run.

Still, at mile 20 I had a 7:15/M average; but the last two miles (also the first two miles) were unshoveled sidewalk lightly covered in a fresh layer of snow--the kind that conceals ice and matted down clumps of snow perfect for rolling an ankle. On my way out I nearly fell three times. By the time I returned to these miles I was unable to pick it up or even run fast enough to maintain the 7:40ish average I had for miles 17-20. Basically, the first time through the hills went well, but on the second round the hills ground me up like a piece of low quality processed meat. good.**

In case you ever want to run this fun little 11M out/back, you just start at the MAC and head north on Hagadorn to Grand River. Take Grand River east to Park Lake Road. Follow Park Lake north until you get to a road called Coleman (you cannot miss Coleman because you look to the right and see three angry hills). Go east on Coleman until it dead ends, run west back on Coleman to Park Lake and turn north again. Take Park Lake north until you hit the I-69 ramps. Turn around, then enjoy the hills again. The elevation gain is 2523, the loss is 2546, with a net of -17. Below is the elevation chart for my first 22M. NOTE: This route involves lots of road running. Basically, there are no sidewalks on Park Lake or Coleman north of Lake Lansing. If you are not comfortable running on roads, this is not a route for you. As always, be safe out there.

Above is the elevation graph for my first 22M run around the greater Howell area. Elevation gain is 2178, elevation loss is 2190, net is - 12. Now, compare the above two routes to another 'difficult' route.

Elevation gain is 1129, loss is 1545, and the net is -416.

* In Part B of this post I'll talk in depth about trends form five different marathon training cycles.

** Down goes another potentially lucrative endorsement deal.


The Laminator said...

I'm with you Spike...I don't really look at my numbers when doing long runs anymore, unless they are a planned pace workout. Otherwise, I just run at a comfortable pace until my legs fall off basically. The purpose of the long run is to build your aerobic capacity, not for speed anyway (save that for tempo, intervals, and goal pace workouts) so whether you are averaging 7:40 or 7:15 really doesn't account for much physically...although psychologically it may have it's benefits.

This comment went on much too long! Sounds like you're ready for the Newton Hills though!

Running and living said...

I do care about my numbers, but also, like you, take into account the terrain and how I felt during the run. ALso, now I am training with HR, so I look at how my HR changes for a certain pace. Generally, I "know" whether I am getting fitter, or overtrained, etc by how I feel, with or without the numbers, but my numbers help my confidence, which in turn helps my body, as so on...You are running some pretty fast paces!

Morgan said...

Heartbreak is going to be heartbroken when you crush it this year! I predict Boston glory and redemption when I see you round Boylston. I can't wait!

Ironman By Thirty said...

I believe this is the longest post I have ever read by you. Let's try and keep these posts short and sweet from now on. :) haha

It looks like it was a great run for Boston prep. You are going to tear it up on the Heartbreak Hills after training like this.

Jessie said...

I have been running with my heart rate monitor since January and I agree with running and living. I am a numbers crusher as Morgan gets on me about but lately Ive been running w/ no numbers. Well I still check my heart rate which fluxuates depending on the terrain. Since Ive started doing this my ability to run my longs runs has become much easier. If I see my HR climbing too much I focus on breathing and slow down a tad till I get where I need to be. Funny thing is Im actually getting a little faster AND Ive been w/out any ITB or Piriformus pain for 2 months! The river trail is not exactly flat lands! I LOVE it out there and cant wait for them to make it LONGER!

Nitmos said...

Oh, you're one of those "philosophy" guys, eh? F that. Give me numbers. Lots of 'em. Charts, graphs, too. This might be why this is my favorite post of yours. Maybe I'll join the hippy-hippy-revel-in-the-feeling-of-the-movement groups when I'm not after PRs.

But I wouldn't hold your breath.

Now, off to leave something snarky on Viper's blog...