I like to run. I've learned that it really isn't about where you're going, it's about the getting there - the how, the why, the who with. This blog is just a little repository for my thoughts along the way; the setbacks, the lessons learned, and the occasional triumph.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mastered by the Spreadsheet

It's been such a busy couple of months that I didn't even notice that I had failed to plot a training schedule past the end of October until October was already over. I needed to do a long run last Saturday but hadn't planned how many miles I should do.

The training plan that I map out for myself and keep on my computer is my running bible. I keep it all in a spreadsheet I designed several years ago, which has now grown to impressive proportions. OK, ready? With it, I track my mileage, the day, date, and time that I ran, what the weather was like, the shoes I wore, my post run weight, my workout times, split times, the location of my run, the type of workout I did, my weekly mileage, my monthly mileage, my annual mileage, and the total miles run since I created the spreadsheet. On a separate tab in the same spreadsheet I also breakdown my monthly totals for each year, and average mileage for each day, month and year.

I've already written a post where I let my possible running shoe fetish out of the closet (as it were). But I also use my training log spreadsheet to track how many miles I've put on each of my shoes, when the shoes were put "into service", and what kind of shoes they were. (When I was trying to recall how many shoes I own for that earlier post, I didn't actually go to the closet to pull them all out, I just opened up my training log to look them up!)

And this is all just my Training Log - I have a whole other, separate Spreadsheet that I constructed for my Racing History! (Just imagine!)

It's hard for me to explain, but the satisfaction I get from plugging numbers into the sheet after a completed workout is a large part of the reason why I get the workout in at all. Unless something major happens, I always run five times a week. I always get my miles in. I always do my tempo run once a week. Why? Well, that's what I plotted in my schedule and I hate having to go back later to log in different numbers.

Back in May, something happened that, in retrospect, kind of spooked me out a little. Right before I went to run the Madison Marathon on Memorial Day (m,m,m,m...), my computer suddenly crashed and died. I was hoping not to have to spend the money on a new machine, and while I was trying to explore repair options, a few weeks passed when I just didn't have a computer; no training log -- And I barely ran at all.

Now, it must also be said that I did run a really strong marathon - I finally broke four hours for the first time - just as my computer crashed. And I was overloaded with work which interrupted the time of day when I normally got my runs in. And I have rarely taken a true rest period after any of my hard marathons or training periods, so maybe it was just time. But it was an odd stretch for me, and it totally coincided with the complete absence of my training log. I did try to keep track with pen and paper in a notebook, but it was never quite the same.

What turned the tide and got me back out on the trails? I finally replaced my computer. I got into the old hard drive and retrieved my training log spreadsheet. I picked a half-marathon to work towards, plotted my schedule and everything returned to normal. I had a moment or two when I genuinely wondered if I could be mildly autistic, but realistically there must be plenty of other runners out there with this same problem, so I must be relatively normal. (Right?)

Now... Wait 'til I tell you about the spreadsheets I've been keeping for 14 years to track my baseball teams and comic book collection! Did I mention the spreadsheet art I once "painted"? (See, not abnormal at all!)


704 Studio said...


Interesting post, as usual!

I joined the FRB blog 1 year ago today, and it pretty much does everything your spreadsheets do for you. It is great to see all the miles adding up, and it is one of the reasons I started running everyday - to not miss a day builds momentum in the log, and stopping that momentum by not running seems a worse alternative than getting out and putting in the miles, no matter how bad I feel or how crappy the weather.

As to being autistic, I recall sitting in a Las Vegas library one hot summer day and reading an article about an autistic marathoner who had a supreme focus for his training. It was inspiring, and I felt an awe for his ability to concentrate so intently on something he loved to do.

Keep up the good training, the cold weather has arrived, which makes training tougher, but it also toughens us up if we get out there and put in the work.


Paige said...

I keep a spreadsheet of all my racing, but am overwhelmed by the idea of doing the same thing for my training...I got nervous reading your blog, that's a LOT of stuff to keep track of! Not sure I have enough time in a day to put it all onto paper. My Garmin does most of that work for me, thankfully, and I pen my miles into my planner each day I run. Nothing is really "pre-planned", generally, but Mike's getting me onto a bit of a plan so I'm more than ready for McNaughton in April :) I'm more of a fly by the seat of my pants type with training, but know my long runs are most important each weekend. More power to you and your spreadsheets, that's great :)