When Something Is Wrong: Training with Metrics

You know when something goes wrong and you can’t quite put your finger on it, what do you do?  In my case, I develop a bad attitude and fixate on little things that really don’t matter too much.  Unfortunately, I also seem to lose the importance of long-term goals and the vision to achieve them.

The Dork Run Fixation

Last night and today, my fixation was focused on the dork run.  The name refers to the form that I use when running at a pace that keeps my heart rate in zone 1 and 2, which is between a really fast walk and really slow run.  The point of the dork run is to build endurance and teach my body to burn fat efficiently, so that when I run a marathon, I don’t deplete my glycogen stores too quickly. As much as I dislike “running” at awkward (aka dork) pace, it is an essential part of the training plan.

In fact, dork pace was so uncomfortable, that my left knee was quite sore by the end of the run.  This is quite surprising as the long dork run I finished on 11/1 was quite enjoyable, albeit slow.  Check out the two images of the data collected from each dork run below.

Nov 1st Dork Run (click for interactive data)
Nov 9th Dork Run (click for interactive data)

The top image was my first long dork run on November 1st.  Note that the heart rate and pace are fairly consistent.  Now compare this with the bottom image, Novermber 9th’s dork run.  While the routes are very similar, the 9th’s heart rate and pace are very sporadic with extremely short periods between high and low, patterns indicative of a stressed out body. Two very different runs with two very different attitudes:

1st – Slow, but fun and leisurely wearing FiveFingers without the iPod.
9th – Not fun, inconsistent and stiff wearing shoes because my feet hurt in the FiveFingers and my iPod Touch for music.

The Factors That Caused the Wrong

What caused the difference, the fixation, and my bad attitude? A number of things that center around my weekend activities:

1) Saturday morning I ran the NewsPress 5K Fun Run and did great, but pushed my body hard.
2) I took one tablet of beta alanine prior to the 5K, this causes me to have strange moods 24-36 hours afterwards.
3) Saturday afternoon I hosted a BBQ where I consumed some margarita, cheese cake, cake, and other products made with refined flours (basically, the diet was horrible).
4) Sunday, the diet continued to be less than desirable as I continued to consume left over refined foods and fatty hamburgers.
5) On Sunday I also rode the bike 10+ miles, my first ride in a month.  This was not a good idea since I was still recovering from the BBQ and 5K from the day before.
6) I also ate a complimentary Starbucks Mocha Ice Cream bar on Sunday afternoon (I love my favorite barista who gives me free stuff).
7) When I started the Nov 9th run, I wore the FiveFingers, but my feet hurt too much.  I returned to the car and switched to shoes which ended up hurting my knee.  My feet hurting should have the indicator to stop, go home and go back to bed.

What these items boil down to is this: wrongness with a really bad attitude.  My body was exhausted and I continued to push it. Making matters worse, my diet was so bad that my system was confused and fogging up my brain.

The Realization

All of this boiled over on Monday night and Tuesday morning as I started to realize was what happening:

  1. I realized that I had lost touch with my long-term goal and the meaning of the dork run.
  2. I realized that my diet had gone totally off course and immediately started consuming quality whole foods.
  3. I needed to rest and let my body recover.
  4. The bad attitude was like night and day as I started to cleanse my system, most likely driven by the horrible refined foods I ate (refined foods seem to act like mind altering drugs to me).

The shameful part is that this isn’t the first time this has happened.  In fact, my trainer can tell you many stories about my strange attitudes and some of the not-so-great stuff I can dish out when I am in one of my moods.

Training with Metrics

To prevent this from happening again, it is essential that I continue to track and enhance the metrics that I review routinely.  Using Training Peaks, Excel, and paper, I record my workouts, weight, food intake, and general mood.  However, I need to develop an enhanced way to bring all of these items together into one training center that will allow me to correlate them. Hence, the importance of developing my training dashboard.

Even simpler is developing enhanced discipline to:

  1. Maintain a proper diet in sufficient quantities
  2. Listen to your body’s signs of fatigue
  3. Stay focused on your long-term goals, no matter what

I have to point out that having a system of metrics in place isn’t a replacement for discipline, but they are great for making sure you are holding yourself accountable.

This past weekend I dropped the ball in a major way, a way that threatened my long course training forever (injury and being rude to my trainer) and that is wrong.

Going forward, I will stress the importance of tracking metrics and fully understanding how they relate to the training plan.  With some tracking obstacles to overcome, in the coming weeks I will discuss more of my training dashboard and share with you my ideas for the ultimate training metrics.

In the meantime, may the dork runs rule!