A slave to the stopwatchMay 3, 2008
How does that old saying go? Something like, “You can take the runner out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the runner”?
I’m primarily a road guy not just because of my “drunken sailor” biomechanics on the trails, but also because I’m one of those people who has to time everything. For a given workout or race, I like to know my mile splits, how they stack up against my (and my competitors’) previous times, and on and on.
Getting this level of quantitative feedback is harder when running on trails of variable terrain and uncertain distance. But I’m here to say that, with enough research and planning, a trail run can be nearly as regimented and stressful as an equivalent road workout.
(Some would say that I should just loosen up. But if I weren’t obsessed with split times I wouldn’t be me.)
This week I decided to do the Seattle Running Company’s standard 14-mile loop at Cougar Mountain. But how would I judge the quality of the workout? To what would I compare my time?
Fortunately for me, I’m not the only one who keeps careful training records. Uli Steidl’s online training logs (2005-2008) list over 20 visits to the Cougar loop, with times ranging from 1:43:38 to 2:16. Even better, he recorded splits for a couple of his fastest runs: 0:12 to Clay Pit Road, 0:31-0:32 to Mine Shaft Trail, 0:42 to the start of the Wilderness loop, 1:04 to the end of the Wilderness loop, and 1:23-1:24 to DeLeo Wall Trail.
So I was off to test myself against Uli (or, to be completely fair, against Uli running at some unknown fraction of his capacity). I matched his splits to the start of Wilderness and then lost about a minute to him on each of the last three sections. I finished in 1:46:42, which seemed respectable.
Perhaps next week I’ll see how close I can get to Uli’s best two-loop time.