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Published September 20, 2010, 12:00 AM

Wagner: Training log can explain why race times are slow

A high school friend emailed last week after finishing a 15K race more than three minutes slower than last year.

A high school friend emailed last week after finishing a 15K race more than three minutes slower than last year.

In another four-mile run, he clocked a time more than two minutes slower.

It’s a common theme – he reports all of his runs are slower this year than last, his first full year of running.

My friend wanted to know if I’d ever experienced something like it – and what the problem could be.

Well, I have been there. My first summer of running, when I focused on 10K races, saw my times increase significantly. As much as I wanted to deny it, the heat of the summer most likely played the biggest factor.

Running the same race from year to year serves as a good barometer for fitness. But a lot of factors can make a difference for the one statistic most of us care about: our chip time.

When it came to diagnosing my buddy’s increasing race times, though, there are too many factors for me to pinpoint the problem.

So I asked him this question:

“Do you keep a training log that includes times, distance, weather and other important notes? I have been keeping a log for quite a while, but last year started including things like temp, humidity, a poor night of sleep or undisciplined eating and the like. It's not super detailed, but it certainly is helpful. I only write down things like sleep and eating if they likely contributed to a poor performance.”

And there are other things that can affect our running: work and life stresses, our mood, setbacks from injury, even our confidence going into a race.

My email to him finished with this:

“There's a ton of factors that could be at play, but if you feel like you're more fit than before, than you probably are and I'd say there's other factors in play.”

As I prepare for the upcoming Chicago Marathon, I’ve gone back to my workout log to compare similar workouts in my training this spring for Grandma’s Marathon.

The training program has been nearly identical, so my performance in key workouts should provide enough information to predict my next marathon time.

Forum News Director Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found at www.areavoices.com/runningspud. He can be reached at (701) 241-5542 or swagner@forumcomm.com.