🏃 ramoneando

A Casual Conversation on Running and Metrics

Of course I'm not researching all the time, and however, topics of study appear in casual conversation when I talk with a friend. This Friday I visited Chotín who has been historicaly a non-sports person, or rather non-skilled but still enthusiast. I haven't seen in some months so we catch up a bit on several topics: his soon to come to life daughter; our shared interest in travel and reading; and books on running and the training itself.

He says that he's interested in a serious preparation because he wants to run a the 42K (Marathon) in NY (New York). And to be best fit he began preparation with a professional trainer, Elisa Lapenta. I ask how and what does he do. Basically he had an interview to check on his habits and levels of fitness, and also on his possible average and maximum rythms.

Here is when the chat becomes rather technical. A language that I understand but don't speak much. Why? Lack of interest. And perhaps this makes me less serious. Afterall, like another acquiantance said not long ago about soccer: some practices, left to extremes, become a complete other thing, what I like about it is the game, the play. Same to me for running, and I could add that my interest is about how to have fun, explore the world (external) and the inner cosmos. All in all, running as meditation, or also running as art. Pre said this about a race before. Although again back to how the conversation went.

Chotín was running a big distance everyday. He had been going to work and back several days a week, and the other days doing the same by bike. I don't even remember how much of each, but I do recall that he said that his expected time for a marathon would be 3:30. This number, the total for a given race, is what most runners can't just leave away. It just comes out as global number at minimum.

He asked me if I ever ran a Marathon and I told him that a proper run had been in 2004 Buenos Aires and I explained my training and resulting time. At age 20 I ran my first 20K with no formal training. I was just running on a daily basis and when my father invited me to go together I responded that I wasn't sure I was ready. My dad just cared about the same stuff than I did: not big focus on time or speed, but rather on doing something interesting for a while together, while keeping fit. With the same logic and invitation I ran a 30K sometime in the following years.

So when my dad said that we could do 42K just 2 months before the race I just resolved to train for an hour and a half everyday. And I believe it gave good results, in the parameters that I was following. I ran at the slowest possible pace I could, and intended just to arrive to the end in one whole piece. And the goal was fullfilled quite well. I felt just great. So on my valorative continuum the options ranged between broken/unbroken. And I ended in the happy end.

Where are the numbers in all this? You always have to keep track of some number of items. How many times do you run per week and month, how much do you rest during nights (and days too!), how much distance can you cover in a given time, what is your perceived rate of exertion (that is measurable for example in how many beats per minute your heart goes and can resist).

One of the most traditional measures for runners is not learning how much kms/miles per hour they can go, but rather a translated to a tribal wording that looks at minutes per kilometer/mile. For example my slow 4 hs 22 mins would be, according to my friend, close to a 6 mins 10 seconds per km pace. Which for a 42K, in his opinion was not bad. What he intends for himself is a 3 hs 30 mins, which would be close to 5 mins per km (mns/km). Or in other words, 50 mins per 10K.

What measures are most valuable to runners? For some it is their body weight, or percentage of body muscle and/or fat, and for me one of the most interesting would be the VO2 max. [See Notes below.] Overall it takes into account accumulated miles of training on spans of years, and also considers use of max speed, still not at an anaerobical pace.

All in all, tracking time and distance can come rather easily for runners and can be seen from afar with little calculations: just knowing the distance and ending time allows to know the average rythm (with no other instruments than those clocks available at the end of a race); and on the other hand, other runners like to know the second by second changes of pace and can see this through a gps watch thay says which is their current pace during a (training or race) run. A whole other measure is one that musicians use and I like to imagine that I follow, that of the metronome: keeping a steady 180 foot lands per minute, at any speed. That is, the amount of hits to the floor remains the same, regardless of the length (or shortness) of stride.

On another note, many measures are standarized with artificial/artificious instruments. But other measures are ready-mades available in nature and are useful for the non-techie runner. For instance, if you don't want to carry a watch, you can always check on the length of shadows ratio to the sun (like old shadow watches) to notice time elapsed during the day. In this fashion you can run loops around a long circuit/perimeter, and calculate the length of own shadow, the length of the shadow of an object you pass by at a certain fixed point, and you can even use the rise and fall of the sun to notice how and when the light hits directly into the eyes and when big objects impede this attack, or rather when the verticality of the angle solves the problem.

A playful note. One can imagine the runner as a game character in a Role Playing Game [RPG], be it in videogame or live action game. Two important finite measures would be the distance to be finished, and another would be the capacity of the player to end the run in one entire piece. Failing in the first would imply a DNF (did not finish, that is, game over); failing in the second, would mean that something (or all) got broken in the way. Aditional measures can always be added: the amount of nutrients the body is using, digesting, craving; the amount of burnable fat available, exact amount of water required to run lightly and not bloat up, and so on. A simple game can ilustrate this: feed the dude [with food, hugs or playfulness]. If any of the elements are missing, the dude dies.

Regarding nature, measure and meaning. Trails are a big space where us humans can cultivate paths, leave traces where we create our environment. And at the same time, this doesn't mean much if we just run in circles, like a mouse in cage.


Notes

What is VO2max?

VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise. It’s a combination of how much oxygen-rich blood your heart can pump, and the muscles efficiency in extracting and utilizing the oxygen. // Since oxygen is critical to running fast, your VO2 max is the single best measure of running fitness. | linked | best marathon workout: 10 mins rest in between of session

Wikipedia

VO2 max (also maximal oxygen consumption, maximal oxygen uptake, peak oxygen uptake or maximal aerobic capacity) is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise.[1][2] The name is derived from V - volume, O2 - oxygen, max - maximum. Maximal oxygen consumption reflects the cardiorespiratory fitness of an individual and is an important determinant of their endurance capacity during prolonged exercise.

Runner's World

For most runners, however, knowing your VO2 max provides little useful guidance, in part because it’s simply a measurement of your current maximal aerobic capacity. It’s a safe assumption that, unless you’ve been training at an elite level for several years, you can improve your VO2 max, and therefore improve your race times, especially at race distances from the mile to 10K.

Beginning and relatively inexperienced runners can improve their VO2 max simply by logging more miles. More experienced runners need to do harder workouts to boost VO2 max. The best workouts to improve VO2 max involve repeated bouts of running at about 95% of VO2 max; this intensity roughly coincides with current 3K to 5K race pace.