Saturday, June 10, 2017

Streaking for dummies

The guy on the right has pretty good form.
Note: For you old people who hear the word "streak" and immediately think of that 70s fad that, well, got some people running in a minimalist fashion (and inspired a song called "The Streak" by Ray Stevens), you are about to be disappointed. Sorry.

I listened to Ultrarunning Podcast's interview of Wally Hesseltine this week and it got me to thinking about running streaks. Wally is a Bay Area legend - on a whim of sorts he decided in the early 80s to run a Marathon, and has run at least one race every month since, with over 500 finishes, 200 of which were of an ultra distance. He came on to my radar last year at Western States, where he missed the 30 hour cutoff by a bit under two minutes. At the age of 71.

And then I stumbled on an article in Newsweek about Jon Sutherland, who is credited with the longest known current streak of running at least a mile a day - for 17,546 days (since May of 1969). That's astonishing.

We have many local runners who have done or are doing long streaks as well (I think Catra Corbett is up to something amazing, especially considering almost none of her miles are flat and only running a mile would be a day off for her).

All of this got me to thinking what sort of streak I might have going on. (Spoiler alert - not much.) My records aren't nearly as detailed as Wally's - I don't track what passes for workouts or training, for example - but they provide the basic information I needed for this.

Consecutive months streak

From the standpoint of longest streak of at least one race run a month, my longest streak was 56 months (Sept 2010 to April 2015). The streak was broken in May of 2015 for reasons I can't figure out. I don't think I was injured, but maybe. (March seems to be the leanest month for races for me.)

From the standpoint of longest streak of at least one race run, volunteered, or crewed a month, that streak is at 90 months and counting. In that 90 months (since my first Brazen race in January of 2010), there have been three months that I didn't actually run a race, which surprises me since I figured injuries would have knocked me out more than that.

Consecutive weekends streak

On Feb 4, I ran the 10K at the Inside Trail Runs Fort Ord race, and that started a streak of running a race for 18 weeks in a row. To be clear, only three of those were Half Marathon distance - many were 10K and 5K, with one weird 1.5M race thrown in when I really should have known better. So, as cool as that streak sounds, it wasn't really all that impressive - it mostly meant I had too much free time on the weekends and nothing better to do with the bit over $1000 spent on race registrations. (I did win outright two of those races, although I was the only runner in that distance for both of those, so, well, a win is a win, I guess.) In any case, I'm not doing anything race-wise this weekend, so that will break the consecutive weekend race streak.

Close the rings streak

I have an Apple Watch, and probably the thing that comes closest to justifying it are the activity rings. (For those of you not familiar with the rings thing, I put some details in the PS at the end of this post.) For the month of February, work had a "Close the Rings" challenge where the goal was to close all three rings every day.

Starting on Jan 23, I had a streak of closing all three rings every day up to June 7 - 135 days of at least walking/running a mile or more. And I missed it on June 7 because the universe was against me (well, and I mostly forgot about it):

  • I spent the day with the grandkids, including making a play structure for the grandson's cat. This kept me busy, but did nothing for my exercise ring.
  • I started watching the Warriors finals game three. All games up to this point had been pretty much decided by the third quarter, so naturally, this game was tense all the way to the end. At 8:30, I finally realized my streak was in danger, so I decided to watch the end while walking on the treadmill (which has a TV in front of it).
  • It turned out that that TV does not, for reasons that only karma understands, receive the station that was broadcasting the game. 
  • I decided to suck it up and listen to the game on my little old Walkman-like radio thing. I turned it on, found the station, and heard about seven seconds of the broadcast before its battery died.

And that was it - the game was getting more and more tense, it was getting later and later (if I do any kind of exercise too close to bedtime, which is 9 PM for me, I have a really hard time sleeping), and my knee and IT band issues were not thrilled, so I called it a streak, went back to the bedroom, and finished watching the game.

I was pretty sad about that streak getting broken, but it actually has been a bit of a relief - I really need to give my issues time off, and that streak thing was keeping that from happening.

Brazen Racing streak

In 2010, Brazen Racing noticed that three runners had run all 15 of their races that year. It hadn't occurred to anyone that something that bizarre would ever happen, but since it did, and since it would likely never happen again, Brazen surprised those runners with an amazing shadowbox containing all that year's medals.

In 2011, those three plus fifteen more ran all the races. At that point, Brazen knew this was a real thing and decided to run with it, giving the streakers their own numbers, a shirt, the shadow box, and a red carpet ceremony.

It's now a yearly tradition for people to try to streak all the races - there are now 173 streakers, many of which have struck multiple years - even though it's significantly harder to do now that there are 27 Brazen races during the year. Making it through that gauntlet of races and not having some sort of conflict come up is a pretty astonishing feat.

For reasons unclear to me, Mrs Notthat decided that this would be our year to take a shot at streaking. We've made it through 11 races so far, and the 12th, Double Dipsea, will be claimed not by running but by volunteering (which is a perfectly acceptable way to claim a race - all the rest of our races, barring injury, will be claimed by running though).

So that streak is still going along. But the challenge of not missing a race in the next seven months is going to be huge.

Playoff basketball streak

And then last night, the Warriors, who had won 15 playoff games in a row, had that streak snapped.

Streaks are a weird thing - they can be really impressive, but they can also ramp up the stress and cause you to do things you likely wouldn't normally do. They can also be a lot of fun and maybe even sometimes worth the trouble.

And now I've got to deal with my self-inflicted earworm - "Oh yes they call him the streak…"

That's it - move along…

PS: Here are the ring details.

There are three rings:

  • Standing: The idea is for the watch to think you're standing for at least a minute once an hour - the ring closes once you've done that for 12 hours. This is the easiest ring to close, especially once you realize that the watch really doesn't know whether you're standing our not - it just checks to see if the watch's orientation is consistent with hanging at your side. This means you can be standing at one of those tall desks, working away on your computer, only to have your watch suggest you stand up for a bit. This also means you can be driving down the freeway when your watch tells you to stand, and all you really have to do is dangle your arm by your side for a minute to feel the congratulatory tap of a stand well done.
  • Move: Using mysterious methods, the watch tracks how many calories you burn by way of, I don't know, breathing? It's weird to be sitting in the recliner, mainlining chocolate chip cookies while watching TV, only to have your watch congratulate you on reaching your calorie burning goal. The watch does use your heart rate to help with this, so doing mildly strenuous yard work or washing the cars will burn the calories faster, so it's not totally bogus. But if you didn't get out of bed all day, you would still burn a bunch of calories. This is the only ring that you get to set the goal. My initial goal was really hard for me to reach - I generally hit it only two or three times a week. For the challenge at work, I had to set the goal to a much lower value (double my weight), which has made hitting it significantly easier.
  • Exercise: The idea is to do a workout of at least 30 minutes each day. A brisk lunch walk is fine for this - it's a little mysterious how it decides whether what you are doing is an exercise worth tracking or not (mowing the lawn does not count, but walking from the car to donut counter does). You can manually tell it that, contrary to all outward appearances, you are currently in the middle of a workout, and it will roll its digits and happily congratulate you. (I've only done this once, just to see how it would work. I think most people use this mode a lot, since many workouts would be hard for the watch to automatically detect.)

The Move and Exercise rings can be looped multiple times if you are doing something particularly strenuous (pretty much any race for me). You get "awards" for some random accomplishments.