Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Joy of Marginal Gains

The Pheifferhorn: parking lot to summit in 1:33:55. Previous best time: 1:38---about a 4% improvement over a month of training. First off, that time is not going to win any medals, given the known record time is around 1:05---about 40% faster than my best.

No matter. I spent all Summer mountain running in the Wasatch with one expectation: cover a lot of cool terrain with the engine running high. Over the course of the whole year I guess my top sustainable split time on mountain terrain improved about 20%. My main proving ground for speed is Wire Peak, where I was first clocking in times around 42 minutes, then inching down to a sub 35-minute time recently: exactly 20% improvement.

Knowing how marginal gains work, I bet another season of directed training at the same effort will yield 10% better time, perhaps less. That would net a 1:25min Pheifferhorn time, or a 31.5 Wire Peak time. Time will tell.


  1. Such a mathematical approach...not surprising I guess. Does competition or anger play a role in your equation?

  2. No not surprising. I don't think I harness anger or competition in any constructive way when I go out, but I s'pose I bring whatever on the trail with me, anger or otherwise. I do get a lot of good ideas when I go out on runs/skis/hikes.

    But perhaps you meant your question to be how competition/anger might affect my actual speed. I'm sure it has to factor, but endurance sports are all about finding a sustainable balance point between over exertion and under. Competitive impulses, at least how they manifest with me personally, usually induce overexertion and thus sub-optimal speed. An attitude of clinical self-control is what one strives for---until the sprint at the end. But again, I'm not winning any medals. The only goal is to find that balance point for me personally.

    I'm sure with all your running background you've got your own perspective. Whatsay ye?

    FYI, the "marginal gains" is a buzzword of sorts these days: