The harsh beauty of empiric data on running and riding

By Christopher Cudworth WeRunandRideLogoCyclists and runners spend so much time covering the landscape in their endurance pursuits that it can be easy to bypass the empiric data generated by their travels. These days that empiric data landscape is easier than ever to chronicle and view, given the proliferation of smartphone and online apps to track your workouts.

Perceptions Heading into a recent organized ride it was my impression that I was reasonably well prepared for the effort. Yet somewhere in the middle of the ride things got tough around the quad area. I obviously wasn’t trained for the climbs. photoAt least that’s what I told myself. Hadn’t done enough hill work. That’s the explanation for the burning sensation near my knees. And that was legitimate. I truly hadn’t done enough hill work. In fact, I had not done any specific hill work at all this summer, other than what came along in weekly rides.

Strava does not lie. Usually.  It became evident how trained and untrained I was when the smartphone app I use to track rides and runs revealed the empiric truth about this summer’s running and riding. Strava lays it out there. I had not really looked at my main profile in a while. But here’s what it said. In the last 28 days leading up the ride I had recorded only 6 rides for 183 miles. There were other, unrecorded rides, included a few intense 20-milers on a course I use to measure fitness, but there could not have been more than 3 or 4 of those, totaling another 60-80 miles.

Sum totals = Some totals photo (7)So the sum total the last 28 days was probably 10 rides, which is hardly the training regimen of a champion. The recorded rides totaled 183 miles and just over 6,000 feet of climbing. All told that amounted to 10 hours and 31 minutes of riding. Bleh. The average number of rides per week was 1. Not exactly Takin’It to the Streets. The average distance per week was 46 miles. Hoo boy. The year-to-date recorded miles (again, not every ride was recorded) totaled 987 miles. My total miles might be a mere 500 more than that, plus those lumpy winter miles on my mountain bike that don’t seem to count for anything. It hasn’t been a very intense training year, to say the least.

Still, decent Yet, I’m fit in many respects. I recently rode my 20-mile test ride at just under 20 miles an hour. There are significant climbs on the route, and I beat my best times for the segments on those rides several times this year. Things are still looking up. Too bad the daylight is giving out. I might actually have to race the bike in a crit this weekend to bookend the summer…

In comparison In recent years I’ve ridden between 2500 to 4000 miles. Again, not mega-mileage as cyclists go, but quite a bit more than this year. As a result, my weight stayed in the mid-170s in 2013, whereas in 2011 I got as low as 163. The average time I’ve spent on the bike per week this year is just 2:37 and the longest ride accomplished was 79 miles. The biggest climb was 649 feet. I’m guessing that was recently, in Wisconsin, not in Illinois.

Running thin The running data is even less impressive. Too embarrassing to even list. Oh, okay, I’ve gotten this far I might as well lay it out there. I’ve averaged one run per week and an average distance per week of 5 miles. That’s almost laughable yes? Year to date I’ve recorded 86 miles of running but truly I only record about 1 in 4 runs with my phone. So the total is probably more like 400 miles this year. Again, not much by running standards, but enough for me to stay reasonably fit. Yet I raced a 5K at the tail end of a triathlon and ran a 21:51. Basically 7:00 mile pace.

Topography of self It’s an interesting landscape overall. The empiric data recorded during my runs and rides is nice feedback on a good portion of my overall running and riding. The key here is that I’m not obsessive about either the data or the activities of running and riding. My commitment is to enjoy these two sports (and add swimming this winter) in ways that help me keep fit, compete now and then and share the road with others. Empirically, those goals have been accomplished no matter what the smartphone says.

About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at, and Online portfolio:
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