These days, with Strava and Garmin and MapMyWhatever to track our every movement by satellite, it seems quaint to think back to a time when all we had to document our efforts was a stopwatch and personal perceptions.
This morning after our eight-mile run together, my wife and I could compare everything from the length of our strides to the cadence used to execute those strides. We compared average heart rates before, during and after the run. We ran the same pace together, so that wasn’t really fodder for comparison. But we did have fun looking at the color-coded pace map on the out and back course of the Great Western Trail. It resembles a candy of some sort.
All this data is fun, for sure. Every effort recorded through my watch blasts out from Garmin to Strava, where people offer Kudos and repetitive efforts can earn athletes a Local Legend rating. The app is doing everything it can to get people to stay engaged in hopes that more people will invest in deeper data and actually pay for the service. I do plan on doing that, because I don’t think it’s fair to usen that technology without paying something back to its creators.
No data geek
While I appreciate the information, I’m not a complete data geek these days. But long ago, when I first started running, I did document race efforts according to my own standards. There was a purpose to all this that I’ll explain in a minute.
The image above is a picture of the racing journal. It was kept on a single page of art paper during my sophomore year in high school. I finished the year tied for Varsity points with a senior named Bill Creamean. But the most fascinating thing about this racing journal is the honesty by which I measured my own efforts. In some ways, the criticism I leveled at myself was far more empiric in value than whatever raw data I might have gathered during these races if it had been available.
Typically the only feedback we received during races were split times at the mile markers. Many races, we were lucky to receive even that. We ran “by feel” and learned to associate closely with the sensations coursing through our bodies. The fact of the matter is that if you didn’t learn how to read your own body you would crash into reality––with often calamitous results. Those were lessons learned. Trial and error.
Of course, the real goal was learning to face that fact and still try to exceed your own expectations. When those breakthrough efforts came about, you had to analyze what led you to achieve them. Without data to study, it came down to a simple formula: Confidence > fear.
That type of internal “data” is what really counts in the end. Is your confidence greater than your fear? No amount of data teaches you how to build those instincts. You have to learn that formula on your own. Yes, the workouts tell you where your potential performance levels are. But you still need to go out and put that information to use.
That journal in the picture above is a chronicle of how confidence builds through trial, error and success. There’s great value in that.