Archive for the 'tracking' Category


Running Goals for 2011: Looking Back

As has become a yearly right for me, it’s time to review my running goals for 2011 and see how I did. Overall I’m pretty pleased with this year, but there are clearly somethings that could have gone a little bit better.

  • Distance Run: 1500 miles
    Nope – I’m pleased to say that I came much closer this year. However, there were four extended periods where I did little to no running. In March I spent about three weeks in China. I went running once while there and really stuck out, but the bigger issue was that the air was toxic. In August I made the stupid mistake of trying to barefoot and getting huge blisters on my feet. Just when I was getting better I managed to get the norovirus. In September I spent two weeks in Europe. Finally, December was shaping up great to make 1500 miles, but my achilles tendon started to hurt, so rest was in order. I’ll finish the year with about 1375 miles, depending on whether or not I go running today or tomorrow.
  • Marathons: 3 (Grandma’s, Chicago, NYC)
    Yes! Grandma’s Marathon in June was a blast. I set a PR and ran most of it with a friend before she threatened to kill me around mile 22 and told me to go on ahead of her. My experience in Chicago, on the other hand, was downright miserable – hiccups made me want to die by the end of the race. It was so bad that I signed up for the Hartford Marathon six days later where I PR’d. I managed to shave a few more seconds off this PR at New York three weeks later. It was a good year for running marathons.
  • Weight: 170lbs
    Nope – according to my spreadsheet I hit my lowest weight at 173.2. Right now I’m a little over 10lbs north of that figure thanks to holiday bingeing while visiting relatives. Still, I’m about 15lbs better than I was at this time last year.
  • Fastest Mile: 5:50
    Nope – I did only a single one mile race, the 2011 Fifth Avenue Mile. I finished in 6:10. I was happy, although I’d love to see that leading six change into a five.
  • Marathon: 3:30
    Nope – marathon time predictors say to take your half marathon time and double it then add 10 minutes for your full marathon time. If I could do a half in 1:40, then a full in 3:30 should be possible, right? Not quite. While I did drop my PR in the marathon about 17 minutes this year, at 3:57:45 it’s not even close to this goal.
  • Half-Marathon: 1:40
    Nope – I was tempted to call this an “Old-School Boston Yes”. However, let’s be honest, that second digit is still a 4, and for me to make this goal the second digit needed to be a 3. I missed this goal by 23 seconds at the 2011 Brooklyn Half Marathon.
  • Cross-Training: 2 days a week
    Nope – I often manage this in Minneapolis. In New York I lack a bike and fail miserably at this. I rarely cross-trained.
  • Barefoot/Vibram a race of 10k or more
    Yes! – I did this at the 2011 Independence Day Races in Minneapolis. Not only that, I turned in a 10k PR that was a faster pace than my 5k PR.
  • Bench Press My Own Weight
    Nope – I think I tried bench pressing three times this year. Fail.
  • Run to and from Work at Least Five Times
    Nope – by the time I thought about this it was already late September and getting too dark to run on the roads around work in the evening. I never even did this once.
  • Post at Least 50 Blog Entries
    Nope – this blog was a bit more predictable in 2011. Assuming this is the last post of the year I’ll finish the year with 36.

So, what’s the overall conclusion. I didn’t run as much as a I hoped, I didn’t cross-train nearly as much as a I hoped, and I didn’t write about running quite as much as a I hoped. Was this year a let down? No. I don’t feel bad when I set an ambitious goal and I fail to meet them. I think I would have felt worse if I set goals and met each goal – it wouldn’t mean that they weren’t stretching me enough.

Next up, 2012 running goals.


Counting Calories, Loosing Weight, and Marathons

A quick search around the web reveals hundreds of different diet plans: diets that let you eat almost anything, diets that eliminate entire food groups, diets that are loosely based on the science of how the body processes calories, and more. Unless you’re one of those people naturally gifted with the extremely high metabolism at some point in your life you’re going to need to watch your intake.

I’m not going to go into full details but about eight years I concluded I needed to loose 50lbs. Over the course of the next two years I lost about 55lbs and felt good. Then I started to vascillate up to around 200lbs. When I started running in May 2008 I wanted to know how many calories I burned, so I started tracking my weight. This got me to wondering, how does my own weight affect my running ability.

Let’s start out with something very basic, as a 32 year old, 6’2″ male, if I were to loose 30lbs and go from 195 to 165, my caloric expenditures in a marathon would drop by 631 calories. In more realistic terms, if I were to bonk at 22 miles weighing 195lbs, I could make it through the whole marathon without bonking at 165lbs. Plus, there’s the ancillary benefit of less wear and tear on your joints. Wondering about how many calories your next marathon will take? Here’s a little table I made with the help of Wolfram Alpha. It assumes a flat course and is set up for a 32 year old 6’2″ male. Someone remarkably similar to yours truly.

The key to loosing weight so you can further on the same amount of energy is simply understanding that you need to burn more calories than you take in. In other words, count calories. I’m a scientist (yes, a real scientist with the Dr. title and all) and spend most of my day recording and analyzing data. I’m also busy, so I can’t waste time creating two exact duplicate meals and burning one in a calorimeter to determine the exact number of calories in a meal. Instead, I cheat and estimate my meals using an online food tracker.

My tool of choice is FatSecret. Using FatSecret I can easily track both my weight and food intake. It’s not perfect — I can’t track other measurements such as body fat, running pace, my sleep — but it gets the job done. FatSecret also can give me a report of my food for the week including the nutrients and caloric breakdown (fats vs protein vs carbs). Although I’m not a finely tuned machine where these matter a ton, it does help me understand what is going into my body.

People find it strange when I tell them that even now I’m counting calories and trying to lose weight. I have a healthy BMI and look much skinnier than my BMI indicates. However, for me, I consider this to be an essential part of training, at if it means not bonking during a marathon, or even delaying the bonk a few miles, I’m willing to put up with indignity and hassle of counting calories. After all, many runners swap shoes because of mere ounces of weight difference — I’m talking about 30lbs. That’s not only swapping shoes, but also cutting off most of a leg. It seems a little crazy, but when I cross that finish line it will be entirely worth it.

Do you count calories while training? Any hints for people starting on the journey?


Know Your Calories

(note: this article has been in draft form for a while, seeing the recent post on Lifehacker inspired me to get it out.)

An under-appreciated element of training for a marathon is tracking your daily runs in a training log. A training log is a great way for a first time or experienced marathoner to go back and look at where they were and where they are now. It provides me a great sense of accomplishment when I look at my training log. In the case of an injury I can look back and see what might have precipitated the injury. Was it over training? Running too hard? A change in surface? I track all of these in my running log.

An additional helpful thing that my log tracks automatically is the number of calories that I burned during a run. After a run I can look at how many calories I burned and get an idea of what I need to replenish those lost calories. Although you can’t get an exact count of the calories you’ve burned without running inside of a calorimeter (is that even possible‽), there are numerous tools that give you a close approximation.

One of the easiest ways to get an idea of the calories you’ve burned is to simply use a table. Find a weight that is similar to your own weight and a pace that is about what you did and you’ll get an idea of how many calories you’ve burned. A nice advantage of these tables is that they often contain many different sports, so it’s easy to look up and see how many calories you burned during that game of beach volleyball or that run around the park too. There’s an excellent guide at NutriStrategy that has most sports you can think of and even some less sporting activities such as taking out the trash. If you want to get a bit more advanced, you can utilize calorie coefficients. These numbers tell how many calories you burn per minute of activity per kilogram of body weight.

Pace (min/mi) Pace (min/km) Coefficient
5:30 3:25 0.300
6:00 3:44 0.266
6:30 4:02 0.250
7:00 4:21 0.233
7:30 4:40 0.225
8:00 4:58 0.208
8:30 5:17 0.191
9:00 5:36 0.183
9:50 5:54 0.174
10:00 6:13 0.167
11:00 6:50 0.155
11:30 7:09 0.150
12:00 7:27 0.140

Calorie Coefficients for Running. Multiply Your Weight In Kilograms by The Coefficient and Number of Minutes of Running.

Another way to track your calories is to simply use a website that calculates your calories for you. RunKeeper, a great iPhone/Android app that recently went completely free, will approximate your calories based not only on your weight, pace, and distance, but also utilizes elevation information. It then displays the calories burned on information pages for individual runs and a running total on your RunKeeper profile page. If I were to use RunKeeper as my only log it would require no additional effort to provide calorie counts.

If you want more information than just calories, including expected times for races of other distances, then WolframAlpha can calculate them for you. Visit the WolframAlpha Home Page and enter your information in a format similar to this “194lb 6’2″ 31yo male running 4.33 miles in 39.5minutes” and WolframAlpha will provide a whole slew of information about your performance, including predicted times for races from 100m to a marathon.

Snapshot of Wolfram Alpha Calories

Metabolic Information Generated by WolframAlpha (Click for Full Report)

Of course, there are dozens of other ways to count calories while running. My personal approach is to use a consensus from a couple of different sources and average them out. How do you track your calories for a run? If you don’t track calories, why not?


Running Goals for 2011: Looking Forward

In my last post I performed a retrospective of my 2010 running goals that I set in December 2009. For the most part these goals were failures, largely due to injury. I don’t want to dwell on these failures, so I’m moving onward for 2011.

  • Distance Run: 1500 Miles
    This is the same goal as what I had for 2010. It’s a feasible goal especially if I plan on running a trio of marathons.
  • Marathons: 3 (Grandma’s, Chicago, NYC)
    Last year my goal was two marathons, Big Sur and Chicago. I might have added in another late fall marathon if I was healthy, but I wasn’t. In 2011 I’ve already qualified for the NYC Marathon, and I still want to do Chicago, even though they’re stupidly close together. For Chicago training I’ll run Grandma’s marathon in June.
  • Weight: 170lbs
    I ballooned once I stopped running this year. I even crossed that dreaded 200lbs mark once I stopped exercising and stopped cooking. I’m setting some other goals outside of running that deal with junk food consumption that should help me actually reach this weight.
  • Fastest Mile: 5:50
    I managed to do a mile on little training in 6:26 this year. I was thrilled. I’m pretty certain that if I push myself I can make it under 6 minutes.
  • Marathon: 3:30
    A huge stretch goal. I’ll need some help, but with training, motivation, and most importantly, a coach to help me out, I might be able to pull this off in Chicago.
  • Half-Marathon: 1:40
    Last year I managed a 1:43:44 in the NYC Half Marathon. I’m not certain what half marathons I’m going to run this year, but if I run one on a decently flat course I think I can make 1:40.
  • Cross-Training: 2 days a week
    This is what killed me and probably led to my injury. I need to work more on core exercises and cross training. Maybe I’ll even see about taking some swim lessons.
  • Barefoot/Vibram a race of 10k or more
    I bought myself a pair of Vibram Five Fingers for my birthday last year and have run about 30 miles in them. I’m not certain if it’s better of just different. It makes running a little bit more fun and exercises some different muscles, so I’d like to try these in an actual race.
  • Bench Press My Own Weight
    I have no idea how much I can bench right now. The buildings for both of my apartments have workout rooms, so I really have no excuse to continue to ignore my arms. This could be really hard.
  • Run to and from Work at Least Five Times
    By the shortest route it is a little over six miles to work from my apartment. If I take the scenic route it’s about eight miles. This requires me planning ahead and bringing an extra lunch and clothes the day before, but I think I can do this.
  • Post at Least 50 Blog Entries
    I’m not going to do a long-time-no-blog post, but let’s just say that it was hard to continue to post about running when I couldn’t run for a good chunk of the year. I’ve also got about a half dozen race recaps that I never fully completed. Maybe I’ll do some long term recaps on those. This is basically the PostAWeek project that is promoting.

Some of these are certainly stretch goals, such as the 3:30 marathon and 1:40 half-marathon. I fully intend on joining the Westchester Track Club and getting some better training, which should help out. The mile is a bit of a stretch, but I did the Continental Airlines Fifth Avenue Mile without any training and slightly injured this year and still managed a 6:26. I’m looking forward to incorporating some cross training and possibly doing a sprint triathlon this summer. Most importantly, I’m positive about 2011 and putting this last year behind me.

So, how was your 2010? What are your running goals for 2011?


Running Goals for 2010: Looking Back

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I regard 2010 as a big fat failure when it comes to running. Something went wrong in my right hip and lower back in May and it took me four months to finally see the doctor. Since then I’ve been in therapy and haven’t exactly made wonderful progress. My hip still hurts, but at least I can run. I’m optimistic about the next year, which means that it’s time to set some goals for 2011.

However, before setting goals for 2011, I’d like to take to some time to go over my successes (few) and failures (lots) of my 2010 goals:

  • Distance Run: 1500 miles
    Nope – injuries limited me to 676 miles this year. Since September I’ve run under 60 miles. I didn’t run at all in June and only ran twice in July. That’s a huge disappointment and has cascaded to other aspects of my life.
  • Marathons: 2 (Big Sur and Chicago)
    Nope – I ran Big Sur and registered for Chicago, but I made the decision to pull out of Chicago in early September because I hadn’t trained enough and was in some serious pain. That was the point where I finally decided to see a doctor. Not like that helped any.
  • Half Marathons: 2 (NYC and ???)
    Yes! – I started out the year with Manhattan Half Marathon in Central Park, followed it up with the NYC Half Marathon in March, and closed the year with a very painful Grete’s Great Gallop in October.
  • Other Races: Enough to qualify for 2011 NYC marathon
    Yes! – I did 10 NYRR races and volunteered at one. I’ll be running the 2011 NYC Marathon!
  • Weight: 165 lbs
    Nope – Utter failure on this one. Not running made me FAT. Seriously FAT. Next year I need to really watch what I eat.
  • Fastest Marathon: sub 3:50:00 (Chicago)
    Nope – I didn’t run Chicago. Big Sur was brutal on me, but I was still happy with my 4:22:49 time on a challenging course.
  • Fastest Half-Marathon: sub 1:50:00
    Yes! – I managed this twice, both for the Manhattan Half Marathon at 1:48:26 and then two months later clocked a 1:43:44 for the NYC Half Marathon. AWESOME!
  • Marathons ran with friends: 1
    Nope – I was hoping to run Chicago with some friends. That didn’t materialize.

It’s refreshing to see that I managed to complete some of my goals, but I’d still say that this year was disappointing. It’s really difficult to say what 2011 will hold. I’m still injured, but I’m getting a better idea of how to deal with my injuries and what I need to do to ensure that I stay healthy. Primarily this requires taking a more holistic view of running and my personal health.


Out with 2009 and in with 2010

As is customary around the world, here’s a summary of my running for 2009 and what I hope to do in 2010:

  • Total Distance: 1022.25 miles
  • Total Runs: 131
  • Total Time: 162 hours, 54 minutes, 27 seconds
  • Calories Burned: 148,846
  • Average Pace: 9 minutes, 34 seconds
  • Marathons: 3 (Pittsburgh, Twin Cities, New York City)
  • Other Races: 1 (Poland Springs Marathon Kickoff)
  • Fastest Run Pace: 7:37/mi (May 6 – 4.74 miles)
  • Slowest Run Pace: 12:37/mi (January 31 – 5.15 miles on a treadmill)
  • Longest Run: 25.2 miles (April 12)
  • Shortest Run: 2 miles (June 7)
  • Pair of Shoes Used: 5
  • Coldest Run: -4°F (sans wind chill)
  • Hottest Run: 93°F
  • Heaviest Weight: 204 lbs (January 4)
  • Lightest Weight: 181 lbs (most recent December 12)
  • Average Weight: 191.75 lbs

For 2010 my running goals are as follows:

  • Distance Run: 1500 miles
  • Marathons: 2 (Big Sur and Chicago)
  • Half Marathons: 2 (NYC and ???)
  • Other Races: Enough to qualify for 2011 NYC marathon
  • Weight: 165 lbs
  • Fastest Marathon: sub 3:50:00 (Chicago)
  • Fastest Half-Marathon: sub 1:50:00
  • Marathons ran with friends: 1

Do any readers care to share their running goals for 2010?

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Marathon Times

2011 NYC Marathon3:57:45
2011 Hartford Marathon3:58:17
2011 Chicago Marathon4:20:16
2011 Grandma's Marathon4:07:43
2010 Big Sur International Marathon4:22:49
2009 NYC Marathon4:37:05
2009 Twin Cities Marathon4:43:28
2009 Pittsburgh Marathon4:14:38
2008 Erie Marathon5:11:40

Upcoming Races

  • Nov 6 - New York City Marathon, New York, NY
For previous races, check out my Race Log