Monday, February 22, 2010

Data-love and training optimization.

This week, I bit the bullet and signed my life away on the 2010 Chicago Marathon.

As promised by all my seasoned marathoner buddies, running a half only makes you want to run a full. I wish it was called something other than a half-marathon... it almost feels like half an accomplishment. So ridiculous, considering three years ago, I couldn't run a mile. Anyhow, I'll be running my brains out on October 10, and you all will be subject to my training updates along the way. I apologize in advance. I'm crazy.

I've hated and successfully avoided running my whole life. Until recently! So, why the crazy?

I'm no Feltron, but a good portion of my recent success in running can be linked directly back to the start of my dailymile membership. I know it's supposed to be a networking site, but I could care less about the social aspect (sorry dailymile). For me, it's motivating as a data catalyst.

Something about being able to map out my running stats is a real spark plug for me. And, not just because I can see the holes in my week and feel like a worthless bum when I don't run. Not because I know other people can see when I don't run. Media kids love data, right? We love to optimize? I had a near panic attack when I thought I lost my TI83+ last week. I only have this one little website, but I strive to optimize my posting schedule, tags, titles, etc., based on my Google Analytics data; I get the same rush out of optimizing my training based on dailymile data.

It's motivating to know that in the months where I ran at least 4 days a week, I was more likely to feel good or great about my runs. It's motivating to see that in the weeks where I incorporated strength training into my weekday workouts, I was able to feel great for longer runs on weekends. It's motivating to track miles I've put on my shoes and guesstimate when I'll need new ones. And, it's incredibly motivating to look back over the months and see how far I've come. It's also just plain useful information.Your body is a machine, you know? It's fun to tinker with the inputs.

Training schedules are really helpful for big runs, and I'll certainly be using one as I train for the marathon. But when you get down to it, a training schedule can't help you determine on which days of the week you should swim to get the most out of that week's miles. You can't massage a schedule and try to determine what is linking together the feeling-blah days, figure out what's bothering your knee. A schedule doesn't send you weekly newsletters to remind you to keep kicking ass. Just like every website feels a bit different and needs custom optimization, so do you and your feet. You're special. Like a snowflake. And it's really helpful, at least to me, to treat my training that way.

There are tons of sites out there like dailymile that help you add some optimization into your training. I highly recommend social fitness tracking to any of my nerd friends who could use a good kick in the pants in re: their currently pathetic data.

Plus, look at the pretty charts!

Happy training!


  1. Wow — you are a total numbers nerd. What a cool way to approach running.
    I just started doing, eh, Couch to 5K. It's no marathon, but it'll do for a start, again.
    Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts!

  2. TOTAL nerd, that's for sure. Thanks for reading :) A 5k is no joke, I trained for a year before my first 5k! Haha what a wimp :)