Monday, April 20, 2015

Running progress via VeloViewer

I love VeloViewer, which does amazing things with the Strava API. In this case, it plots my accumulated over the course of each year in each of various activity categories, like cycling, running, walking, and hiking. I am interested most right now in running as I prepare for the Ohlone 50 km.

This first plot shows total distance (km) running per year since I started using Strava in late 2010:

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There's three periods where I've managed to sustain a relatively rapid rate of distance increase. The first was towards the end of 2012, when I'd decided I was going to run the California International Marathon. That didn't quite go as well as I'd hoped, with leg problems kicking in near mile 20. But from the plot it doesn't seem like there was a shortage of training: I ran close to 1100 km starting in September.

But the marathon caused damage. I tried to continue running after, but I just couldn't get rid of the nagging pains and stinging numbness I felt at the race. Every attempt at a long run caused a recurrence. What I really needed was a good rest. So starting in February I decided to focus more on cycling. And indeed that was going well. I built cycling fitness quickly, riding the Berkeley Hills Road Race in May, then the Memorial Day Ride 4-day tour to Santa Barbara, then the Devil Mountain Double where I did very well. It all came to a painful end, however, in June, when I crashed on a bike path avoiding 3-abreast walkers, one of whom had cut quickly into my path (since then I've installed bells on my bikes). This further set back my running. I didn't start again until after Low-Key Hillclimbs, in November.

That began my second strong period on Strava. My goal was the Woodside Ramble 50 km in April. Preparation for that was curtailed when I got sick in March, but I recovered in time for the race, where I ran very well. I finished the race, running the whole way, and finishing strongly. It was probably my best run performance, a nice contrast to CIM 16 months previous. Note though that eyeballing my running preparation before the 50k I did only 900 km total in contrast to the 1100 km total I'd done for CIM. But the nature of my preparation was clearly better, stacking up hard training days in up to four-day blocks, and doing more hilly trail runs to strengthen my legs. Of course you can't directly compare performances on a 50 km trail race and a 42 km paved road race, but I definitely felt better about my trail race effort.

But after that my running was again curtailed. I again switched to a cycling focus, doing the Memorial Day Tour in May again. But beyond that "real life" matters got in the way, and I was sort of treading water until a spending 6 weeks in Switzerland in the fall reignited my cycling in time for the Low-Key Hillclimbs.

This year, 2015, I got greedy and wanted too much. I did the San Francisco Randonneurs 200 km brevet at the end of January, then the 300 km brevet at the end of February. It's easy to see my running miles were lagging well behind what they were in 2014. However, after the 300 km brevet, I decided I needed to pick one or the other, and I went with running. I was really happy with the 50 km trail race in 2014, capping off a series of trail runs which had been my first trail races since early 2012. Even though I hadn't run much after April last year, I felt I could build upon that experience and do another strong 50 km this year, and maybe, just maybe keep up the momentum and try for a 50-miler. So I ramped up my running again.

This time by early April I wasn't ready for a 50 miler, though. This plot makes it quite clear why I felt this way. My total distance of concentrated running was only around 400 km. So I did the Woodside Crossover 35 km in the same time slot. That went very well, also. It gave me confidence that I would be able to step up to 50 km in May. A key difference from 2014, however, was that in 2013 I took a too-long break from running, from February all the way to late November, whereas my only really long break from any running in 2014 was the almost 2 months from April to June. From there my running was intermittent but there's a big difference between running occasionally and not at all.

It's interesting because as much as I love running, I probably love cycling even more, and since I like concentrating more on one versus the other at any given time, I've not been able to really focus on running to realize my full potential there. My cycling has also suffered, not riding as focused as I used to before running got as much attention as it does now. Certainly bike racing demands full focus: the best masters bike racers are at it 12 months a year. Similarly the best runners are at it year-round although you can get a lot more satisfaction out of doing running races at less than top fitness than you can out of doing bike races inadequately prepared. Bike races without proper preparation really are miserable.

Here's another plot, this time showing each day as a color-coded block.

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Of course the data and so the story is the same. But this plot focuses more on the consistency of the running as well as better highlighting the truly long days. You can see some pretty major holes in my early 2014 schedule, these most clearly due to the presence of races ramping me up to that 50 km goal: first a half marathon, then a 30 km. Racing is tough on consistency. Same deal in 2012, although there my races were on the road: a 10 km race, a half marathon, and running Highway 9 in the Low-Key Hillclimbs (which was surprisingly less stressful).

Anyway, hopefully Ohlone goes okay. I look forward to seeing what happens there.

1 comment:

timojhen said...

Agreed on the value of these. Ben is really killing it on the visualizations - it's one of the things I like most.