Monday, February 1, 2016

Doing My Part for February

February is definitely the cruelest month, at least when it comes to my running.  It is, by a long and cherished tradition, the month when I usually catch some horrible lingering cold and end up missing a lot of days.  Also -- and much less importantly -- it's shorter than other months.


  • My cumulative running mileage for the month of February -- all Februaries -- is 246.82.  By comparison, the "eleventh-best month," April, is at 345.62.  
  • The "Best February Ever," 2014's 68.57 miles, is worse than the median years for April, May, July, October, and November.  
  • Four of the 14 worst months on record are Februaries.
So, it's pretty bad.

What you're seeing on the left are my daily records.  For instance, the "all-time record for February 1," today, is 7.95.  A trained eye (mine and mine alone, that is) can immediately see that the February records are kind of anaemic.  Three of the four remaining "no-record days" are in February (including, it must be admitted, the elusive, hard-to-capture February 29).  Those, plus Feb. 4 & 13, make up five of the 20 remaining "sub-four days."  Obviously, I'll be pretty motivated to get something going on those five days, all of which are for better or worse weekdays.

But the records aren't the half of it.

Over on the right, you're seeing the cumulative mileage per day of the year.  January 1, for instance, is one of the best running days on the calendar (it's #2, to be exact) because it is always a holiday with nothing particular to do, and so I always go running.  Cumulative mileage fir February 1 (2009 to present, as always) is a modest 12.05.

As you look down the February column, you see that most days are steeped in the orange shame of sub-ten mileage, the red-on-yellow humiliation of sub-five mileage, or the lurking red-on-black opprobrium of no mileage at all.

Here's another way of looking at it.  On this graph, each line represents a month.  Left to right is the duration of the month, from the first to the last day; the height represents the cumulative mileage for that day.  The thick light blue line is February.

If you're understanding the graph, you can see right away that February days are among the worst across the board, from the first to the 29th.  And this leads us to the last and strangest way I like to look at daily cumulative mileage.

There it is on the right.  February is the second column, of course, and the rows represent days.  Today, February 1, is the "seventh best" among the 12 first days of the month.  (January 1, for reasons already discussed, is the "best first" by a country mile, or to be more precise by more than eleven country miles.)

LOOK AT ALL OF THOSE RED TWELVES IN FEBRUARY!  Those are all dates of the month that are the worst of their kind: February has the worst 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and so on.  

What's the point?  Part of the point is "it's fun to play with spreadsheets," but more importantly I find all of this weirdly motivating.  For as long as we're in February, I will be trying to get rid of as many of those 12s as I can.  I will need to get out there and run to do my part for February, against the rest of those months.  Obviously there's a lot of work to be done.  

It should come as no surprise that as soon as we get to March, I'll be on March's side, trying to bury February whenever possible for the greater glory of March, right?  

In the meantime, I will hopefully get out and run quite a lot this month.  Ideally, I'll enjoy it, and it will make me healthier, stronger, and happier.  All of those things would be great side-effects of improving February's standings in the spreadsheets.

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