Tracking Mileage via Point System


Experience From - Kevin Setnes , Steve Pero , Coach Weber , Kevin Setnes #2 , Karl King , Alex Feldman , Chris Scott , Bryan Bee , Bill LaDieu , Jim Winne , Matt Mahoney ,

Kevin Setnes

It is kind of fun to look at peoples mileage totals for the year and up until about 15 years ago - I did very much the same. I think I got to 4500 one year, never making to my goal of 5000. Probably could have used Joe Schlereth's advice.

I would like to point out the danger of getting to wrapped up in mileage totals. It was my downfall in the early 80's - leading to many injuries. Tracking ones mileage totals can become obsessive and destructive. The same holds true with running-day streaks.

But since it is quite natural to want to measure or quantify what we do, I developed a point or reward system for what I do. I did this back in the early 80's when I finally got fed up with all the nagging little injuries that would interupt what I was trying to accomplish.

I was told that there was another similar system put out by somebody (maybe Runners World - I don't know). But my system allowed me to count what I did during the month and became one of the major reasons, why I was able to eliminate the ups and downs of training and racing.

Some of my friends know about the system and instead of answering "How far did you go today?" the traditional way, I occasionally answer them with a "a 3 pointer".

Here is my system for measuring "What I do". (Note: I have a couple of rules that I will point out at the end).

Variations of this can include (I don't use these) Rules include: You can't score points in any 3 successive days! You can't score more than 6 Points in 3 days! After an ultra, you can't score any points of any kind for two weeks. During a 2 month "off season" - NO POINTS of any kind! Also this does not take into account cross training, which I tend not to do.

So with this scoring system, I can score no more than 60 points in a month. If I am training very well and up to my optimum (preparing for an event), a score of 50-60 is great. 40-50 is good. 30-40 is marginal. 20-30 is "I better get my arse in gear". I have had perfect 60s, and on occasion a 61 or 62 on those 31 day months.

The danger with counting miles is that sometimes people get too caught up with the idea. Then they start running multiple times a day - sometimes 10-15 times a week, just so they can get their miles in. While accumilating miles is good - to a point, it soon becomes counter productive. The emphasis should then come back to working on specifics (long runs and speed). After that a runner must incorporate rest and recovery. That is the best way to develop as a distance runner. Yes I have used the point system on people and this was just a mechanism to get them to back off when I wanted them to.

When I work with runners, I rarely have a problem - whereby they don't do enough of the work. More frequently, it is the other way around - they want to do more then what is prescribed - and that is a problem.

All in fun!

Steve Pero

The other day I read the fine article in Ultrarunning by Kevin Setnes on his point system of training and have to say that I was intrigued by it. So much so that I have read it 2 more times since to fully grasp the theory.

I have to tell You...I train quite a bit by most standards. I usually average about 250 miles a month and hit 280-300 during this time of year while preparing for the summer races. I found out that while I felt like I was doing the proper training for this event, you know...back to back long training runs of 3-4 hours each day, hills at least once during the week and fill in runs on the other days of about 8 miles each on hilly trails or roads...this all figures out to be around 28 points...egads! Maybe 30 points if I'm lucky...I'm one of those junk mile runners!

So...I have decided to try Kevin's system. If you read the rules, one cannot get 3 point days in a row and cannot accumulate more than 5 points in 3 days, so I have to figure this one out. If the 3rd day you get no points, then it makes sense that it should be a rest day. I think this is what Kevin is trying to Impress on instead of my fill-in runs being 8 mile trail runs, then I should just go out for an easy 30 minutes or just not run at all, then I'll be rested up for a much better 2 day point gathering period that follows, where maybe I could do a long tempo run to get 3 points or a hard hill session which would also be worth 3 points, replacing what He would call a 3 point interval workout session.

Figuring this out I should get during a typical week...5 points for the 2 weekend runs (the max allowed), 3 points for a hill session on Tues., and 3 points for a long tempo run on Thurs. Add to this a point each for my quad weight that I do 2 times weekly that add up to 13 points or 52 for the typical month...much better than what I've been doing. Better points, but my mileage would be about 50 miles per month less. I'm not sure if this will help my 100 in Vermont, but may help my road 50 in the fall more.

This system reminds Me of a Benji Durden system that was published in Runner's World back in the early 80's...Basically it was eliminate all 60 minute runs and run more 30 minute runs and 120 minute runs. Thus the rest from the 30 minute runs allowed one to run more 2 hour runs.

Coach Weber

How Many Points? How close to a 'perfect 60'? A 'Mile High Metric Challenge' T-Shirt to the one who gets it right first! Final decision on points to be made by Kevin (I have not asked him...but I'm sure he'll help out).

Here's 2 weeks of training/racing (April, a couple years back) from a Comrades Top 10 Runner (not Charl):

04/01 AM: 16K in 1:03:26
04/01 PM: 18K in 1:10:05 + weight training.

04/02 AM: 16K in 1:07:25
04/02 PM: 12K with Tempo + weight training.

04/03 AM: 16K in 1:07:06
04/03 PM: 12K with 8K (5 miles) of it in 25:57 + weight training.

04/04 AM: weight training
04/04 PM: 27K in 2:01:18

04/05 AM: 16K in 1:07:36
04/05 PM: rest

04/06 AM: 54K Race in 3:29:00
04/06 PM: rest

04/07 AM: 15K easy
04/07 PM: rest

End of Week One

04/08 AM: 16K in in 1:09:06
04/08 PM: 18K in 1:19:48 + weight training.

04/09 AM: 16K in 1:06:14
04/09 PM: 14K Fartlek

04/10 AM: 20K in 1:23:00
04/10 PM: 12K with 8K (5 miles) of it in 26:24 + weight training.

04/11 AM: weight training
04/11 PM: 25K in 1:40:50

04/12 AM: 16K in 1:09:00
04/12 PM: rest

04/13 AM: 70K in 5:04:00 (18K 'warmup', then marathon in 2:58, then 'cooldown' of 10K)
04/13 PM: rest

04/14 AM: rest
04/15 PM: weight training

End of Week Two

Jeff Riddle

I also read the article several times to fully digest the content. Very interesting way to control quality miles vs alot of miles. I found it would be very difficult to get 60 points in a month and 40 points was indeed a good week. I've adjusted my training to more ultra related with more 12 mile runs than 5k speedwork, while still keeping a hill session mid week: a 2 week sample looks like this:

Day/SessionWeek 1Week 2
Tuesday -am66
Wednesday-am12 (2)12 (2)
Wednesday-pm5 - hills (2)5 - hills (2)
Friday1012 (2)
Sunday24-30 (4) 9 tempo (3)
Totals78-83 (8) 64 (9)
* all distance in miles

The problem I have is I love to run, especially this time of year, light at 5am and peaceful, that I do alot of runs very easy practicing fast steady walking. Anyway I enjoyed the article.

Kevin Setnes #2

Thanks for the comments about the "point system" that I wrote about in UR.

The whole premise of this method was to emphasize value - when I did train hard and then to equally emphasize the rest, when it was time to rest. I wanted to eliminate most of what was in the middle. It really preaches the Hard-Easy method of physical training.

I would also like point out that this is in the specific period of training leading up to any event. This is typically 8-12 weeks. It does not necessarily apply to the base endurance phase of training - when the objective is accumulate a base aerobic level of fitness. This can be achieved by simply logging accumulative miles (though care must be taken to keep from getting carried away with mileage counting).

It also helped me personally govern my rest and recovery periods from an event. People are typically shocked, when they hear that I take about 60 days of "no running" in per year. Personally when I train, I think I train as hard as anyone, but when I rest, I rest very intensively.

Karl King

Point systems are a means to evaluate and "reward" training according to a numerical score. If they help a runner to better and more effective training, then they are valuable. Training is complex from a scientific viewpoint, so a simple grading system to aid those who don't wish to bother with all the science has some merit. Certainly, figuring out effective training by making every mistake in the book is very time consuming. Having some information, or a system as a guide can save one from groping in the dark.

Just be aware, the points are not the runner: the map is not the territory.

Mr. Trail Safety has made comments about poor training practices. It would be interesting to see a point system that included subtracting points for poor training, or not taking a rest when the body was calling for it. One could subtract points for abusing the body by failure to maintain adequate hydration, caloric and electrolyte levels, or not getting adequate sleep.

Any point system begs the question: for what are you giving points? What training modalities, loads and frequency are worthy of points? Why would one type of training be worth twice as much as another? Should the point value for one mode ( e.g. speedwork ) be contingent on the presence of another mode ( e.g. stretching )? Should the point value for endurance work be as high for a miler as it is for an ultramarathoner? If a miler does a 20 mile run, should he have points added, or subtracted?

Should pacing count in the scoring? Should you get as many points for a run where you went out too fast and dragged your butt to the end, compared to one where you paced yourself well and finished strong?

When you take into account the fact that the trainee is a person and not a machine, training methods encompass art as well as science. For example, suppose a runner is having gut-wrenching emotional stress from a personal relationship. How would that affect the runner's training? Clearly there are age and gender differences. Can we compare on the same numerical basis the training programs of Ian Torrance and Helen Klein?

The value in a point system such as Kevin's is that it gives people a better idea of what to do and how much to do, and does it according to a simple methodology. I like the aspect that his system discourages inadvisable work loads. Note also the long break he gives himself from hard training.

For those who keep a training log, it would be interesting to take two blocks of time and score them according to Kevin's system. Take a block where you were happy with your running, and a block where you weren't happy with your results, and score them both. How do they compare? Were any of Kevin's restrictions on workload broken?

If you have a long career of ultrarunning with no blocks of time when you were not satisfied with your results, then perhaps you should be sharing your methods with the List.

Alex Feldman

I have adapted Kevin's point system to my own peculiar requirements, viz:

While I think I've missed part of Kevin's point that you need more rest in order to get quality workouts, I think what I have been doing is appropriate for the base, and it will make it far less likely that I will get injured, as I did last year. I'll try to move to more intensive rest/workouts about 8 weeks before Wasatch.

Injuries have been the bane of my running. THe one last August absolutely destroyed me. I think the SPS (Setnes Point System) provides a valuable framework for runners like me (?) to discipline their running in a quality way. Time will tell.

Chris Scott

Steve Peros wrote:

"The other day I read the fine article in Ultrarunning by Kevin Setnes on his point system of training and have to say that I was intrigued by it. So much so that I have read it 2 more times since to fully grasp the theory.

I have to tell You...I train quite a bit by most standards. I usually average about 250 miles a month and hit 280-300 during this time of year while preparing for the summer races. I found out that while I felt like I was doing the proper training for this event, you know...back to back long training runs of 3-4 hours each day, hills at least once during the week and fill in runs on the other days of about 8 miles each on hilly trails or roads..."

and adds something else about Benji Durden's system from back yonder, then asks for comments. Oh, boy!!!

Bottom line, you're still an experiment of one. If you believe that, truly, then reading further ain't gonna enlighten you much. When reading suggestive/prescriptive articles about how one should train, I usually veer away from those written by the cream of the crop. Not because of reticence about the validity of their advice -- it is VERY good advice -- but because the advice usually comes from an experience of being at or training for the front of the pack. I'm not there; never have; never will.

And while I also don't aspire to the training regimen of Matt Mahoney (Mr. 15 Miles per Week), for survival purposes (which applies to at least half the field in any one 100), Matt's ideology is arguably more on target than that espoused by some front runners. More to the point, are you running for points, or for enjoyment? From which do you derive more pleasure on your training runs, the PLANNED quality of your run, or the REALIZED joy that only being out there supplies? Is your running defined by the occasional event (or singular or multiple 100's), the multitude of training runs which give you ability to run events, or combination thereof? If 250 miles/month is the rough litmus of how much you're enjoying your running, AND it gives you opportunity to survive (with sense of accomplishment) a 100 or two, does it matter if there's a somewhat objective measure layed over that experience?

Just go run...

Bryan Bee

I thought Kevin's point system was very intriguing and useful from the first time he described it on the ultra list a little while back; especially since I was trying to devise much the same system for my own training. I was bothered by the fact that if you go only by mileage in your tallies then a 5-mile interval workout is equivalent to a 5-mile easy run. How to reconcile this problem? Kevin's point system is certainly a start. I'd like something a bit more quantitative but I haven't figured one out (maybe multiply % heart rate times miles to get a measure of "effort miles"?).

Anyway, I also took to heart Nick Marshall's letter to the editor. So, how do we address this seeming contrast: Kevin gives the most points to a long run (where tempo running is down the list) while Nick notices race times dropping off. Do we just need more people working hard to bring times back into line (a la Kevin's system) or do we need to emphasize more strongly the value of moderate-distance tempo runs (which I am starting to believe have more benefit than the super-long weekend runs)? My personal bias is this: tempo runs, for someone with limited amounts of time and energy for running, are the heart of training. I simply don't have the time to wander around for hours and hours on the weekend (or any other day) to do 30 miles. So, instead, I do one or two tempo runs during the week (1 the first week, 2 the next, 1 after that, etc): one which has approx 4 miles at 5:55 pace and one of about 12 at 6:30 pace. I then get in my "long runs" every other weekend: about 12-15 miles at an easy pace. Granted, that's not too long. However, going by the maxim of "you can race hard up to twice your maximum training distance" this gets me comfortably close to 50km with a hard effort and 50 miles and up with only a little discomfort. Maybe someday if I get a real job I can train for better for longer distances (I might add a few miles to my long run) but this is a start. Just wanted to throw out the idea of the importance of tempo runs for improving race performance and/or race comfort (if a person doesn't want to "race" so hard I think having done tempo runs makes a mild-paced run much more comfortable).

Bill LaDieu

While I don't keep track of points my training has evolved to three hard workouts a week which I believe is in keeping with the sprit of Kevin's point system. One weekly fast pace road run, a track workout and a long run (trails) on the weekend. The balance of my training is whatever I can manage. I usually don't run more than 4 or 5 days per week and average between 50 and 65 miles. With the longer mileage weeks associated with longer weekend runs.

One variation to what has been proposed is that I take a rest week every 4th week. During my rest week I drastically cut my mileage and do no fast pace running. Mileage during the rest week is typically less than 20 with several days off. After the rest week I find that I'm raring to go and feel fresh and able to handle progressively harder workouts than the previous training cycle. In my opinion, the rest week helps to prevent overtraining and is a good break physiologically from hard training.

In my opinion, it works. I've used this to prepare for West Highland Way (95 may trail run in Scotland) that I will be doing next month and have never felt more fit. I feel the fast paced running really prepares you to take the pounding that occurs during a long ultra. Also, I have noticed that my long runs are easier and faster as I have progressed through my build-up.

Jim Winne

I think we all struggle with quantity/quality issues at some point. In my case the defining training factors are injury and my enjoyment of running. This presents a dilemma in that I'd run as much as I could every day if physically possible. Due to age and chronic leg problems it's not, so I've developed a 3 week cycle of hard, moderate, easy, repeat, mileage weeks which incorporates rest days. Injury potential also severely restricts my "quality". The risk/reward payoff of true, all-out speedwork is not worth the improvement it may provide.

While I do a lot of what many people would consider "junk" miles, every mile I do is done at least at race pace. This means long runs in the 5+ MPH range and 6-10 mile runs in the 6+ MPH range. I've learned that quality for me means anything over my race pace. Since my race pace is around 5 - 5.5 MPH, if I run for an hour and do 6+ miles, then that's a tempo run for me. Elites will be substantially faster than this, but is the effort any harder? Perhaps instead of looking at "quality" miles, we should look at "quality" time and how it applies to us as individuals.

Since I stopped doing serious speedwork, I've been curious as what other "average" runners consider to be tempo times or speedwork. Would you consider 1 mile faster than race pace a tempo run? For the injury prone, what types of speedwork, if any, do you do?

Matt Mahoney

Weber wrote:

"How Many Points? How close to a 'perfect 60'? A 'Mile High Metric Challenge' T-Shirt to the one who gets it right first! Final decision on points to be made by Kevin (I have not asked him...but I'm sure he'll help out). "

I get 9 points. The 54K race in 3:29 on 4/6 is worth 5 points, but the next 2 weeks are shot because of rule 8, "No points for 2 weeks after an event". Only 4 points are allowed for one week before (rule 7). I am also counting the 5 mile time trial in 25:47 on 4/17 as a race, so that blows off the rest of the month. Of course I'm assuming that April doesn't fall under the "mandatory 2-month 'no points allowed' rest period a year" (rule 9).

Under the rules, it is possible to score a perfect 60 by running a 4 mile tempo run (3 pts) every day, with every third day off. That comes to 20 miles/week, which is about what I actually run. However, when I analyzed my log, I found that my total for this year so far is nada. Thanks to rule 8, my two 50K's, two 50 milers, 100 miler, and 16 smaller events, and all the interval/fartlek runs, weight workouts, etc. in between all count for nothing. It seems there is not a single 2 week period all year in which I did not have an "event", a 5K race, orienteering, triathlon, or something. I guess I better get off my lazy couch-potato butt if I'm going to do Hardrock.