The Measurement Tool (+) / Comparison Trap (-)

Confession : I have a new vice. Reading last year’s training log.


you could stage a hostage situation with my master gdoc and I’d crumble and cave to your every demand, promise

I spent my entire lunch break yesterday pouring over cells and cells of run data. 15 months-worth ; 10 and 16 week marathon cycles, Hood to Coast hill training, and this year’s Half progress. Endless numbers and workouts and “oops probably should’ve gone to yoga more”.

This is good and bad. For many – some overlapping, some just crazy – reasons:

  1. it’s gratifying to see the progress I HAVE made
  2. it’s destructive because damnit I was in much better shape last year
  3. it’s motivating because I know what kind of shape I CAN get back into, and that I’m on the path to getting there

See, I promised myself this cycle I wouldn’t fall into the comparison trap – to other people or to the runner I once was. A lot has happened since then, and I really wanted to focus on coming back through the joy of running and enjoyment of the process. Being hard on myself (in a deconstructive way – I still subscribe to the Jillian Michaels Method of motivation) because this year’s times are all slower than last year’s is not the best way to foster an enjoyable cycle.

But as I looked at all those fast times of the past, I felt a fire re-light inside me – one driving me to WANT to work hard, to get faster and be better. Knowing what I was capable of then, and the potential beyond that, is hugely motivating to me.

And as I looked closely – comparing rest times, reps, workouts before/after – I found some silver linings. On the surface the times are different – drastically, even. But yesterday’s workout has more to say than its splits.

The Defender April 3, 2012 – 6×800, 2min rest

3:06, 3:05, 3:07, 3:06, 3:06, 2:58

The Contender April 9, 2013 – 8×800, 90sec rest

3:21 3:17 3:18 3:16 3:16 3:15 3:15 3:15

The desperate convincing “your legs will shake out/warm up/smooth out!” was bullshit – every single one of these 800s felt heavy and slow and HARD. But with four moderate-hard days already taxing and the (accidental) shorter rest it’s a miracle I churned out the consistent splits I did.

Not to mention that my head was in a place to let me.


new shoes always help – upgraded my old 2’s to the Kinvara 3

I’ve gotten away from the detailed workout recaps this cycle, because I thought it boring and also because I was embarrassed of my work (dumb). But someday I’m going to feel helpless and stuck in a rut again, and will need reminded to look either past the numbers or deeper into them. Did Enron not teach us nothing? A little creativity and you can make any data set positive.

I have no idea what this means for Eugene. I’m feeling very hippie “go with the flow” about it, actually. We’ll see how the next two weeks go and how I recover from Ragnar – and if nothing else just hope that Eugene Magic carries me through…

Sarah OUaL

* speaking of Eugene, I’m blowing the dust off those files and plan to have a pre-cap up on what I remember from the race last year. just for all you taperwormed crazies I’ll see in a few short weeks…


22 thoughts on “The Measurement Tool (+) / Comparison Trap (-)

  1. Yeah, it’s hard not to constantly compare yourself to last year, the year before, etc. On my training spreadsheets I only write down the workouts I did, not the pace I ran them at, though, which makes it better (or worse? I don’t know) to reflect/compare.


  2. I rarely look back at training logs so I’m not sure why I keep them. I think knowing they’re there is somehow comforting but the idea of possibly see no (or worst, negative progress!) keeps me from looking. I know, it’s crazy.


  3. I am obsessed. Obsessed. With looking at my training log (well your training log, with my numbers). I open it every morning to record my data and then just stare at the numbers for another 10 minutes before I close it. When I am feeling particularly anxious, I will open it multiple times a day and just read through it. Crazy. I can’t even imagine what it will be like when I have multiple marathon training cycles recorded to go back and compare. I might need professional help :) Also, maybe your “zen” attitude toward the race will be just the mental trick that you need to really thrown down a killer race, despite not necessarily having the same training cycle that you had a year ago? No stress = running faster! Looking forward to reading your Eugene pre-cap!


  4. I think looking back at old training logs can be good and bad. I think it can be good to look at your progress and maybe analyze where things went wrong or you should have done things differently. On the other hand if it’s going to cause you to beat yourself up, it’s probably not good


  5. I’m jealous of your shoes. I used to run only in Kinvaras but the 3s don’t work for me and I’ve had no luck finding a replacement :( :(


  6. I like to log my data, but my spreadsheet isn’t as detailed. I think it can be nice to see what kind of schedule I was on for different training cycles, but like you said — actually comparing can be good and bad. Your contending split times seem pretty bad-ass. Way to not think about it *too* much — go with the flow and see what happens!


  7. Out of context comparing sessions can be detrimental. Look for things like- how many easy days you had before it? did you do a long run in the days before the session? have you been doing other speed work? have you raced recently? Look at the lead up to both of the sessions and thats where you can compare. What were the keys in your build up to last years session vrs this year’s hard session.
    Good luck girl!


  8. I keep my log in a week-by-week calendar (yeah, I’m old school) and it’s really fun to leaf through the pages. And informative! The times I’ve gotten injured, I can often identify the training errors that led to it. I think I’m getting smarter about how to train because of it. At least I hope so…


  9. I like looking back at numbers I have had in the past. Sometimes good and sometimes bad! I am of course not as organized as you and still live in the old n days–and just write everything in a notebook! It takes a lot longer to find things!! :)
    Eugene is going to be great! I wouldn’t put the pressure on yourself to do amazing…because I think you will feel better—and than probably do better!! Good luck!!


  10. So have you found a good shoe to replace the Brooks Launches yet? I have the Pure Flow 2s and I just ordered a pair of the Kinvara 3s, but it looks like from your previous comment you don’t care for the 3s.


  11. I should probably look over my training log more often. The one good thing about having a hard rotation the last month before eugene is that working apprx 11-12 hr days has kept me busy and only just yesterday I figured out that the marathon is 2 weeks from today. Yikes.

    It is hard though. When I do go back and look it can go one of two ways: “wow, I’m awesome” or “omg, why do you suck so bad now?!? get it together!”


  12. Thanks for sharing your excel sheet! I’ve been trying to find a way to organize all of my trainings and I like the idea of being able to write a little note for future reference. You’ve motivated me to get one started :)


  13. I just lost my sh$t. I’ve found someone as/more OCD than I am. Kabillion spanx for the training log – you just saved my life and made me believe in unicorns. Bonus, you got a new follower. You’re welcome :)



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