Can Numbers Lie?
Last spring, I was making the final climb up the Stone Fence Trail. My quads and calves were locking up. I was quietly screaming at myself to keep moving. I was about 6 hours and 30 minutes into the Big A 50k. Each 10 mile lap, this final climb to the top of Mount Agamenticus gets harder and harder. That day, I ended up crossing the finishing line under my goal time of 7 hours. Barely sneaking by at 6:58.
This past Saturday was this year’s running of the Big A 50k. I had the same goal, under seven hours, but I really wanted to beat my time from last year. To me, that would show a year of putting in the work and taking care of my body had paid off. How could I get worse? I run better, I move better, I’m stronger and more confident about running all day.
As I was making the climb up the Third Hill on loop 2, I realized there was no chance of under 7 hours. There was nothing I could do but stay focused and keep moving. I came into the summit aid station, restocked on water, ate some Swedish Fish and headed out for my final 10 mile loop.
Last year, the third loop was mentally debilitating. There’s still 10 more miles! This year, I was calm. Just another loop I thought. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or stressed. I was able to focus on running, even though my legs were starting to scream at me. They weren’t cramping like last year. I stayed focused, moving as quickly as I could, and chugged though the last loop.
I crossed the finish line at 7:18. I was pissed. Instead of seeing a year of work paying off, I was 20 minutes slower. It’s taken a couple of days for me to realize this, but even though I was slower, I had a better race this year.
On Sunday, I painted and mowed the lawn. I handled going up and down stairs with grace and continued to feel better the more I moved. I realized, I’m much stronger and have more muscle mass than last year. I’m able to handle more training volume, keeping up strength and recovering quickly. What’s there to be upset about?
By all accounts, I had a worse performance this year compared to last year. But when I think of other factors besides the race clock, I’m doing better. Numbers can skew our perspective. It's common for someone to confess to us Gain Coaches that they feel amazing, they’re sleeping better, watching what they eat, seeing their strength improve, but it’s all worthless because they scale said they’re 5 pounds heavier. We need to take in all the data, not just the scale weight, not just the time elapsed. They’re making us feel like we failed, when there other markers saying we’ve improved.
I’m going to make some adjustments on my training moving forward. When I get frustrated with my apparent lack of progress, I’m going to remind myself of the things that are getting better and update my processes to keep improving.