Sunday, April 10, 2016

The data behind the pace

Open the stride and quicken the cadence
Today's run (street): 5.5 miles

Conditions were chilly this morning and I had to dress like I was going out for a winter run. I feel like it's payback for all those weeks of unseasonably warm weather that we had in March. Somehow I picked the right combination of gear and set out for a run in a nearby neighborhood. I started out with a loop around a local business park that has one hill that I always dread. I did another half loop before moving on to run in what I call neighborhood #3.

Once around the park
My run was fine and, although I thought I was doing a good job introducing speed at times, I ended up running fairly slowly. When I looked at the data from today's run, I noticed that my current pace hasn't degraded that much since mid-2014. It was interesting to see that my training paces were often 2 minutes per mile slower than my race paces. That gave me hope that I could get back into race shape if I wanted to start focusing on performance.

I decided to do an analysis that compared three data points from my run history: pace, stride length and cadence. I randomly selected thirteen runs between 2013 and today that had data captured via my Garmin foot pod. Pace is measured in xx:xx time format, stride length is typically between .8 and 1.1 meters and cadence usually falls (for me) between 160-180 SPM. Those disparities required me to index the metrics so they could all be displayed on the same scale.

My first reaction when the data was visualized was that faster paces are clearly correlated to longer stride length and faster cadence. Not a surprise. I know that 13 data points doesn't yield statistically significant findings, but it's enough information to be directional. It shows that if I want to get back to 9:30 training paces, I'll need to average between 172-176 SPM and stride lengths between .98 to 1.0 meters.

I have work to do to get to those numbers but at least it's a baseline target. I need to decide whether to focus on cadence and let my stride adapt as needed, or if I should try to open my stride before taking on the tougher metric. I'd prefer the latter, but messing with stride length is tricky because over-striding is the gateway to injury.

2 comments:

  1. Why worry about training pace? It's just training.

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    Replies
    1. I know. I guess it's mostly has to do with getting back to training paces that allow me to stay with my running buddies. I also want to ramp up my conditioning and be able to cover more distance in the limited time I have to run.

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