TITLE: Continuous Feedback on the Track
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: July 15, 2004 12:07 PM
DESC: what I learned about continuous feedback while running
While out on a run recently, I realized that I was practicing the agile
software development principle of getting continuous feedback --
without even trying.
Most mornings, I want to control the pace I am running. Maybe I am doing
a tempo run, on which I want to average my 10K pace for a few miles.
Maybe I'm doing a speed work-out and need to run several repetitions of
a particular shorter distance at a faster pace. I have to be careful when
trying to run fast, because it's easy for me to overdo it. Then I run out
of gas and can't finish comfortably, or at all. And it's even easier to
run too slowly and not get the full benefit of the workout.
Or maybe I *want* to run slower than usual, as a way to recover from faster
work-outs or as a way bump my mileage up. On days like this, I have to be
careful not to run too fast, because my body needs the break.
So I need a way to pace myself. I'm not very good at doing that naturally,
so I like to use landmarks to monitor my pace.
One place I can do that is on a recreation trail near my home. This trail
contains a 6.2-mile loop and has four 1-mile segments labeled. When I try
to run a steady pace on this route, I used to find that my miles varied
by anywhere between 10 and 20 seconds. These days I do better, but sometimes
I can't seem to get into a groove that keeps me steady enough.
I do my weekly speed workouts on the indoor track at my university's
wellness center. This track requires me to do 9 laps per mile, and
it has signs marking 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1200m splits. Running on
this track I get feedback every 1/9th of a mile, and I can synchronize
myself at the longer splits, too. Not too surprisingly, I pace myself
much better on the track than on the trail. And more frequent
feedback is the reason. When I get off by a second or two for a lap,
I make can make a small adjustment to get back on pace -- and I can
tell if the adjustment was successful within a 1/9th of a mile.
Doing my Yasso
800s on the small track has been invaluable in helping me get faster.
Even better, they have helped me learn to pace myself naturally. Now
when I run mile repeats on the trail, I find that my pace rarely varies
more than 10 seconds per mile, and sometimes I can clip off several miles
in a row all within 3-7 seconds of each other. Getting continuous feedback
as I've learned has helped me to develop better "instincts".
I recently took my speed workouts outside to the university's 1/4-mile
track, to enjoy the summer weather more and to
my repeats. Running consistent 1200m repeats on the longer track is
tougher, because I don't yet have the instincts for racing fast at a
desired pace and because the track gives me feedback less frequently.
But I hope that a few weeks of practice will remedy that...
My goal is eventually to be able to find a groove where my pace is steady,
comfortable, and right on the mark for a particular marathon time.
Continuous feedback plays an important role in training by body and mind
to do that.
I think that this story may be a good way to illustrate and motivate the
idea of continuous feedback in my Agile Software Development course this