How many trail runners keep a training log? I've kept a log since the first day I started running back in 1980. I suppose it may be considered anal-retentive or obsessive-compulsive to keep a log for all those years, but I also don't think I'm alone in keeping a long-standing training and racing log. Some runners I know keep logs, others simply right mileage on a calendar each day.
There are quite a few things I like about training logs. For one, keeping track of time trials over the same route. Most of us have at least some level of competition innate in our being, whether it be competition amongst ourselves, amongst a rival runner, or perhaps against a particular course – be it a training route, or a race. Yesterday I ran a familiar and favorite route of mine in the mountains near my home. I took a friend on the run and said it would take about one hour and 46 minutes. She laughed and said, "Not one hour 45, not 1 hour 40, but 1 hour 46?!" I'd run the route enough to know that the 1:46 was a pretty accurate time estimate, but could be changeable based on weather conditions, or how tired I was. Still I didn't round the time up or down to the nearest five-minute increment.
My running partner thought it was pretty cool that I knew time increments from one point to another point on the route. I also knew the hilly spots and how long they would last, the terrain and when it would change from single-track trail to gravel-strewn road. I knew which spots would be in the trees and therefore quite possibly filled with snow, or ice patches. The run took us 1 hour 51 minutes (I have to admit my runner partner would have done it much faster, but she waited for me at a few points along the way). One of the reasons it was a bit slower was the ice and snow on a section that typically takes 22 minutes, yesterday it took 26. The other minute was probably lost when I was pointing out scenic vistas on the route. After the run, I visited my training log to see if I really was accurate about the 1 hour 46 minute route. I was right on the time. Mentally, I didn't feel bad about the five minutes I was over on yesterday's run, in fact I felt good about the time given the conditions and the fact that I was tired before we started out on the first climb! Logs are good to keep track of weekly mileage. Sometimes during our training we may feel sluggish and don't know why. If we look at our logs we may find an answer. One week we ran 50 miles, the next 70, the next week 70, the next week we struggled to hit 50. Maybe we increased our mileage too fast? Maybe the type of miles was more taxing – i.e., lots of elevation gain. Weekly mileage reports are good when we are racing or preparing for a race that we do every year. We can use our log to track how we prepared for a race and how we felt running the race – did we do enough mileage, or too much? Should we change our training focus for the upcoming season's races? Logs can keep track of not only mileage, but time spent running, or time spent doing other activities like cycling, skiing, snowshoeing, etc. Not only that, we can use our logs to chart notes about the runs we do. How did we feel, how long was the course (or how long do we think it was based on time run – or do we have a GPS watch and know exactly the distance), who we trained with, what shoes we wore, what the weather was like, what we ate on the run. Some people even use logs as their daily journal and include notes about things beyond their runs. Let me know if you keep a log, what type it is, and how long you've been journaling in your log.
Enjoy the trails,