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2012-366 Day 319 – Incremental Improvements

There are all sorts of things that change in small degrees in our lives. I’ve been keeping track of one (my weight) over the last year as part of my set of resolutions. That’s the thing about these changes, though, you have to monitor them to be aware they change. Leave them alone for any significant period of time and you’ll often be surprised at the result the next time you evaluate them.

Think about your age, for instance, people generally don’t count the days as they get older. That level of focus would probably drive you nuts. No, we’re happy enough to mark our progress in years (and half years if you are young enough to want a more granular level of evaluation, “thwee an’ a haf”) and go about our lives. By keeping our focus at that level, we can often miss the slow accumulation or degradation of skills and abilities.

That was a fairly high-minded introduction for what I wanted to talk about here. You may remember that at the beginning of the semester (back in September) I had to run a mile and a half in my fitness class for time. I was hoping to run a sub-nine minute mile and wound up running an 8:14 pace (total time 12:27). Well, we had our near-end of semester (we still have four weeks left, but I guess they wanted to do it while there was some semblance of light at five pm) follow up run on Tuesday. I got the email telling us about it that morning, so it was a bit of a surprise to say the least.

I really didn’t think that I would do all that much better. After having just ramped my activity back up, especially having run three miles the night before and playing Ultimate Frisbee at lunch, I didn’t feel I had much spring in my step. I took my phone out with me so I could log my mile and a half into the Nike site and keep my own time, since I had recorded the first go round on the app as well. We did some warm ups and then stepped onto the dirt track, having to complete seven and a half laps for the mile and a half.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually described the dirt track we run on for these classes. It’s built where some of the old temporary buildings and the old art supply store were. It’s 1/5 of a mile and built at a slight incline, so that you are running one straightaway uphill and the other downhill. It has two cement paths that cut across it so the curved section is separate from the straightaways (in terms of the dirt being broken up). The interior section is actually where we play Ultimate Frisbee during the day, with the cement paths on either side marking the beginning of the end zones.

So I threw myself uphill and tried to set an aggressive, but not all out, pace, knowing that this run was shorter than my usual runs. I had a hard time regulating my breathing, but also noticed I wasn’t really running out of breath despite that problem. My legs weren’t feeling great, but that was to be expected. The instructors had a timer going at the starting line, and I came around the first lap just under a minute thirty. I was too tired to extrapolate that out, but decided that I would try to keep close to that mark.

I will spare you the blow-by-blow of each lap, as it was just running around in a circle. I started the last half a lap around 11 minutes and finished in 12:05, though I couldn’t quite access my normal finishing kick on my tired legs. I hadn’t looked up my old time beforehand, so I didn’t know if I had improved or not, and, in fact, I felt that I had performed largely the same. My Nike running application did inform me that I had run my fastest 1K (4 minutes 40 seconds) and my fastest mile on that app (7 minutes 51 seconds). My average came in at just over 8 minutes, and my total time registered a 22 second improvement once I remembered to look up my old time on the phone.

So (finally) tying this back in to the top, I hadn’t been tracking my speed, I felt slower, and I was fairly certain I was not going to do well. Despite all of that, the incremental improvements I had been making in my fitness, between the class, running, the half marathons, softball, and karate, over the past three months carried me to a better time. I imagine if I had been rested I could have gone into the high seven minutes, which is amazing to me. And a little sad since I’m still nowhere near my high school times (yes, yes, I know, I’ve largely let them go, but I still miss them occasionally).

What other areas am I improving or sliding back on bit by bit? Realizing what an accumulated impact these sorts of things have, it’s a serious question to ask myself (and perhaps yourself), as it can be important to know when you need it. That reminds me, I have to get back to work on getting things together for my application to a doctoral program. Talk about the sum of incremental improvements . . .

Weight: 222 Loss: 18 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 349.7 miles
Softball Stats: Playoff Game – 3/4 (.750), 2 R Season – 21/28 (.750), 5 2B, 14 R, 12 RBI
Fitocracy Level: 26 ID: disciplev1

Posted in Matt 2012-366, Matt General. Tagged with , , , .

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