two years of triathlon

In Wired magazine’s Living by Numbers issue last summer, Gary Wolf wrote an article on what tracking every facet of our lives might look like. That feature’s play on the cover was what made me buy the issue in the first place, and I got a kick out of his precise record of everything from hours slept to milligrams of caffeine consumed. As he explained the degree to which “numbers are making their way into the smallest crevices of our lives,” I started thinking about my own relationship with personal data and how interesting it would be to have access to all these little statistics of life, from the mundane (how many cups of coffee), to the morose (how many hours spent waiting), to the pleasurable (how many hugs).

Trusting that others would find this equally interesting, Wolf started The Quantified Self, a website that tracks the release of web-based apps devoted to personal data gathering. This is all, of course, nothing new to athletes, who Wolf says are among the pioneers of this emerging culture of self-tracking. The training log has been a mainstay of the athletic world: an obsessive-compulsive’s (read: triathlete’s) best friend. Data made its way into my number-shy heart too, as triathlon revealed to me that everyone can learn to care about things they have no interest in if those things become useful to them. Perhaps this is obvious, but this is how it was for math and numbers when I tied them to activities I love.

This post marks the two-year anniversary of when I started reliably tracking my own athletic data. Maybe it’s more for me than my readers, who come looking for recipe ideas. But since my kitchen has cooled down (and shrunk!) significantly since relocating for a new job, I have other things to share right now. And as any multisport enthusiast can tell you, food and an active lifestyle are not only inextricably linked, but incredibly dependent on one another. (I’ve heard it said that the love of food is one of the chief reasons for getting into triathlon in the first place.)

On August 19th 2008, I started keeping track of my training (for my first marathon) on Runner’s World‘s Training Peaks-powered web log. I’d already trained for and raced my first Olympic-distance triathlon in the eight months leading up to that, but I don’t have those training hours recorded anywhere but on papers, long thrown away. On August 19th I became one of those people who goes out for a quick 4.62-miles, and logs 56.2 mile bike rides on the weekend. It was all about precision. Well, to a point: I stopped at just the basic record, forgoing elevation, calorie, mood, and meal trackers for somewhat of a more simplistic approach.

Still, it’s fun to look at the totals today, from the other side of that “can I do a triathlon?” experiment. It’s fun to look at all the memories, journeys, and goals, whether measured in miles, friendships, or bowls of popcorn and glasses of beer.

And so here it is, a probably-not-exact account of how my body kept busy over the last two years, not counting step classes with mom, walking to school or work, yoga, weight training, hikes with friends, snowshoeing with the hubby, or traversing new paths through Syracuse and D.C. No food. No recipes. Just numbers.

Run: 1366 miles/257 hours

Bike: 2243 miles/168 hours

Swim: 57906 yards/103 hours

Race: 142 miles/17 hours

Total: 3784 miles/545

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