The Forest, the Trees and the Poison Ivy

By: Amy Baker


This is a year of new beginnings for me. I left my job as a teacher and started working for ACT testing in mathematics test development. In the spirit of my new job, I’ve decided to start my blogs with a math question for runners. Now this month’s question may not be as entertaining as last, but no amount of imagery can truly replace comic tragedy. Happy tends to be a little cliché, but as Kate Winslet says in the Holiday, “I’m looking for a little cliché in my life”.

Well last year’s training cycle is over and here I start new, building mileage fresh. I am not generally a rule follower, but here are two I live by:

1) Never increase your mileage by more than 10% a week.

2) Allow 3 weeks to adjust to a new mileage before increasing again

Following these rules how long will it take me to add 20 miles to my weekly mileage?

A) 6 Weeks

B) 9 Weeks

C) 15 Weeks

D) It depends on your starting mileage

See the end of the blog for the answer.

I think there must have been just one poison ivy plant on the entire Walnut Creek Trail, it’s march and a little early for them to be out. I ran the 1st race in the Rogue Trail Series last Sunday and somehow I was the only one who came back with not just a fabulous doormat (a prize i got for claiming 2nd place in the 10k), but also hives that run from my left shoulder down to my left knee. Lucky me! Now I can call myself a “true trail runner” and now that I am armed with my calamine lotion, I can now fight my way through the next 2 races in the series.

My 1st race in 2013 marks the beginning of a new training cycle. Now starting over is both frustrating and liberating, after last year I felt burnt out physically and mentally and needed to just LET GO. As my Rogue coach Carmen told me to say, “You have to see the forest and the trees all the time AND at the same time.” So I let that tree fall and began to prepare the ground for something new and better. Once you let go of the initial shock and stop beating yourself up over things you can’t control, starting over is liberating. I feel wiser, and full of hope that this will be the year. I’m starting out by building mileage which leads to this month’s question.

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 3.44.32 PM

Answer: D

Your mileage is like a bank account earning interest (and luckily you get a much greater return on your investment than any bank will give you). Both are examples of “exponential growth” (where growth depends on your starting rate) rather than “linear growth” (where the rate of change is constant). The more you have the easier it is to build. A runner starting at 40 miles who wants to go to 60 will need to increase their mileage by 50% a runner going from 60 to 80 miles need to only increase their mileage by 1/3 or 33.3%. Now using my rules that will take the runner starting at 40 miles 9 weeks (3 at 66, 3 at 72.6, 3 at 79.92. Now we can go ahead and round that up right?) Starting at 40 it would take you 15 weeks to before you are at/above 60 miles (3 at 44, 3 at 48.4, 3 at 53.2, 3 at 58.6 then 3 at 64.4).

So start building your base and give yourself ample time, especially if you have a low starting mileage.

Keep reading for more questions about math and running.


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