This is a leg from the recent Valley Goat --
As a training exercise, I ran most of the long legs 2 or 3 different ways to
compare the times. In all cases except this one, the route I expected to be
the fastest, was. In this case, however, I expected running in the yellow
to be the fastest, but dropping to the trail and climbing up at the end
was 18 seconds faster. This was a surprising result to me.
The first thing to note was that I ran this test on consecutive days, rather
than the same day. I guess that could invalidate it, but all the other route
tests run the same way had the expected results. I tried to run as hard as
possible both days.
In any case, whether or not this test is valid, it is interesting to
speculate as to what could cause this variability. The possibilities seem
to include --
- The trail was genuinely faster, and my intuitions about routes, even
after study, are sometimes wrong. This seems likely perhaps in general, but
I don't buy it here, but how do you know?
- Weather. It was cold with a strong headwind both days. Dropping down
into the trees/trail will reduce the effect of the headwind. Could headwinds
that large of an effect to affect route choice decisions? In the other route
tests I ran, the headwind, I think, was basically a constant for the competing
- Variability in nutrition and hydration. Different days will have
levels of "carb loading" and prehydration. Could differences in these things
to this much variability. If so (and I think I doubt it), it is an area for me
to learn about, and perhaps learn to control for improved performance.
- Warmup and fatigue. Different levels of fitness and fatigue on the
days perhaps is a likely culprit. But I was more fatigued, if anything, on the
day I ran faster.
- Sometimes you kick, sometimes you get kicked. Some days I just feel I
"have it" (physically and mentally), and some days I don't. I've never gotten
to the source of this variability. This variability can be significant in my
case, up to 10% on training runs in equal weather. Getting to the source of it
is one of my holy grails, but I am clueless about it.
- Experimenter bias. Perhaps I really pushed harder on the unintuitive
route so I would get the surprising result, because that is what would make the
leg more interesting. If this variability is the sort of thing that is able
to be harnessed by willpower, that is a good thing.