Looking Ahead Without a Spreadsheet

As mentioned in a previous post, I track the miles I run and ride. I keep tabs on the number of days I do each activity.

Bike ride? Check.
Trip to the gym? Check.
Miles ridden or run? Write them down.

I usually take great pleasure watching the trips and miles add up over the days and months until they culminate into a great big digit fest at the end of the year.

Enthusiastically I review and compare the information, consider what the various numbers mean, and draft out plans and goals for the upcoming 12 months.

Stopping by Dyke Marsh on a New Year's Eve ride
Stopping by Dyke Marsh on a New Year’s Eve ride

This December, I found myself scrutinizing all the digits and instead of feeling fun, it felt like math homework. Rather than the numbers revealing something exciting, they just sat there looking at me blankly from within their cell on a spreadsheet.

In the end, the story the numbers told was the following: I have been on the same basic program for the past three years. Same overall mileage, same number of days ridden, and the same number of trips to the gym. The only difference was that my 2012 running mileage increased noticeably from 2011.

I think I would be ok with the story of sameness, had I felt like my program was satisfying. But it feels like something was missing from my 2012 endeavors.

This year I experienced an overhwelming, albeit brief, urge to quit on a brevet simply because I was not into the ride. There was nothing physically wrong. I wasn’t bonking. The weather was not unpleasant. The distance did not intimidate me. The course was pretty. I just did not want to be riding my bike 300 kilometers that day.

That desire to quit shook me. If I ride the brevets, I want to be all in. If I time out or something happens that’s outside of my control, fine. But to mentally check out? That is not acceptable and it is something I need to think about for this upcoming year.

DC Randonneurs 600K. Shadow Panda. Obligatory Cow Photo

Given my waning enthusiasm midway through the Super Randonneur series, I was proud of Felkerino and I for our perseverance. We thoroughly dug in and enjoyed ourselves on June’s 600K brevet, which was also a qualifier for the 1200K distance. We agreed to focus on forward momentum and be efficient at the controls and any other stops.

Our solid team effort on the 600K redeemed my confidence in us taking on the Colorado High Country 1200K in July. As long as we could execute a similar plan in Colorado, we would be good.

To my relief, the High Country 1200K proved to be the event highlight of my year. Incredible course. Good riding company. Felkerino and I rode well and were synchronized throughout. While the year did not necessarily leave me feeling satisfied, the Colorado High Country certainly did.

As I noted in my wrap-up post, 2012 stands out largely because of all the new people we met, particularly the BikeDC community. It was not a year about numbers.

That said, I want 2013 to be different. I don’t care if the miles are the same. I don’t wish to ride or run fewer miles or even less frequently. I want to allocate the miles differently somehow. What that means in concrete terms, I am still puzzling through.

Maybe I need to throw my spreadsheet away.


  1. What about adventure racing? It allows you to ride and run with some paddling and navigation thrown in. And it’s a team sport so you can do it with F. Maybe throw in one or two amongst your brevets ?


  2. It is really nice that you can take this higher-level view of your own riding. And I’d certainly agree that the Colorado High Country 1200K was a very special ride — remember the low sun skimming across the hills as we rode back toward Colorado on that chilly second morning? And that fantastic stretch crossing back and forth across the river as we flew through the Poudre Canyon? I certainly hope that, even as you spice things up with some other activities, you and Ed keep riding the DCR brevets!


    • Yeah, those moments were spectacular. I hope I never forget what it felt like to be experiencing and seeing that (except for my cold toes on the second day!).


  3. Time for a changeup. That is why I hired a personal trainer. She motivates, and she helps me vary my workout. What if you tried a new activity?


  4. I love my spreadsheet. I love the fact that I know the temperature on my last three New Years Day rides. I love knowing all the little details of the scores/hundreds of rides/runs I do. It’s like a little scrap book of memories.

    That said, I wouldn’t want my scrap book to determine my future. It’s interesting information, but I wouldn’t like it to turn into a math problem, as you describe. Perhaps what is needed is more balance, not a dramatic swing to a new position.

    Best of luck in 2013, whether you have a spreadsheet with you or not I am sure it will be exciting!


  5. Yeah, I get your drift. I ended December in a bit of a funk. I would recommend that you add other sports to the mix. Hiking would be a good one. If we get any snow, try snowshoeing or cross country skiiing. All three would take advantage of your aerobic base. Another idea would be to try some kayaking. Maybe just set a goal of one day per month to try something.


  6. Another tack would be to keep it off the computer, at least until after Thanksgiving. Go ahead and log rides, runs, and workouts, but do it on paper — an appointment calendar works well, it has space, but not too much. You can’t watch annual, monthly, or weekly totals creep up or fluctuate if you don’t calculate them. Keep it simple, e.g., 4 mile run, short route, heavy overcast with sleet last 1/2 mile; or late spring 200 k, bike tour operators should have been taking pictures of us riding past blooming sourwood on a beautiful day.

    A fringe benefit is that, on a stormy in December when you give in and put it all into a spreadsheet, you’ll look back and remember all the outstanding days, good and bad.


    • This is an excellent suggestion, and I’m going to do it! This was the first year I kept a spreadsheet as opposed to a mileage log like you describe so maybe I got carried away.


  7. You hit on so many things in your post, nice lady. I think many of us that spend a LOT of time on the bike get a bit fried at the edges as the year goes on. I spent close to 900 hours on a bicycle in 2012 (Yes. I like the numbers too.) I’m guessing your numbers were kinda similar. It is hard to keep it fun.

    Part of what made 2012 wonderful and difficult was that we really didn’t have much winter. Putting in close to 1000 miles in January definitely had me a bit torched come mid-June. I got sick and a few of my things I wanted to do during the year got a lot more difficult.

    That helped me refocus for the last half of the year. Fun became a much higher priority. Fortunately I find long bike rides fun… but having the fun of a ride be a more important factor when choosing what to do and when helped finish out the year strong.

    I’ll still keep counting in 2013. For me it is a safety thing… When I see my numbers drop off, I know it is time for me to give my body a rest and change things up.

    Thank you for hitting the nail on the head… as you always do!

    Rock on!


    • Good point about the lack of winter. We had big miles this past January compared to those in years past. It felt good to knock back a bit in the fall.


  8. I think this is a common theme among our other Bike DC friends– it’s not so much about counting the miles, but about the other aspects of riding: the company you keep, the places you go, the memories that last. The narratives you and other bloggers write about their experiences are valuable to me, and I enjoy reading those than just statistics.
    Like Pete, I’ll keep track of the numbers because I notice the correlation between them and my perceived fitness (but unlike Pete, I’m still a newbie and nowhere close to the amount he’s logged in!), but it’s still gotta be fun for me, or it’s not worth doing.


  9. I’m very interested in the fact that you do running and randonneuring. (that PBP and marathon double is awesome). I am a lifelong runner who is trying to take up randonneuring. But I have trouble doing both sports well. How do you manage this ? Do you workout daily?


    • Thanks Joe! I don’t know that I do both sports well, but I do have a method for making it work. I think I might blog about it in the near future. If not, I’ll email you my secret recipe.


  10. How about advocacy? A little more than a month ago I got hit by a car while coming home from work. I’m okay, but the experience sure gave my brain a smack-down. I sometimes ask myself how do I manage to ride 8k miles/year?

    Is it:
    Because I am strong and resilient. I have focus and train for goals. I do what’s needed to prepare my equipment to function for my needs. I make smart reasonable decisions which protect me from harm?

    I am lucky to have a body healthy enough to allow me to ride. I am fortunate to have resources that keep me well fed and well clothed. I have loved ones who spur me on. Someone made a bicycle for me that I am able to entrust with my life. Most others who use the roads look out for my safety as I use those same roads.

    We depend on a lot of things as we exceed in life. It might be good to get involved in teaching others to ride, or with improving bikeability in your area, or getting together with someone who used to bike, but no longer can. BTW your blog continues to be spot on. Keep pushing.

    -Bob o’ Baltimore


    • Thanks for your comment, and I think you are on to something about the volunteering/getting involved in bike advocacy… That is definitely something that interests me, the time seems right, and I plan to follow up!


  11. I don’t keep track of miles, I rarely ride off cue sheets when I begin rides out of the house and, until recenlty, I didn’t use a cycling computer. I just ride. Sometimes I get lost.


  12. I don’t use a spreadsheet (I’m too much of a neo-Luddite to figure out how Excel even works). Instead, I’ve kept track of my miles ridden in little notebooks, recording each day’s miles and notes about the weather, my energy level and scenic high points by hand:
    I find that writing down actual details about my rides not only helps me to recognize potential patterns that may arise (in my health or the season), but it also gives me a nice record of special rides that make me smile when I go back and re-read entries a few years later.
    Happy riding!


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