Why Do My Races Always Have Two Different Results?
Personal bests, course records and segment trophies - the possibilities are endless. I’m often surrounded by athletes saying they were on track for a personal best when suddenly the weather, a sick runner needing help or another unavoidable situation came into play. In these situations, we put aside our PB goals and hope for that our peak condition will stay until our next opportunity. You may have noticed from my social media posts that I often have two different results: An official time and my adjusted time for my leg. This blog explains why and how I count a personal record and why I count two separate times:
Why do I not count my official time?
To answer this question in its rawest form, it’s because i’m never competing on a level-playing field. Competing against able-bodied athletes, I know that my results are not comparable. Although I count my official rankings (3rd, 10th etc) with my official results, I am only ever competing against myself. If I was competing against other adaptive athletes, i’d only count my official time as it would then be a fair and comparable result.
However, I generally do not count my own times in the following situations:
Completion races, where times are irrelevant - for example, in a team race, a Tough Mudder (unless in the competitive wave)
Endurance races, where a maximum distance should be covered in a certain number of hours
Large events, where I can officially rank within a high position - for example, the European or World Obstacle Course Race Championships
Why are my official results always slower - what holds me back?
For those not aware of prosthetics or an amputee’s biology, I have to make quite a few adjustments to my socket when I run. As I continue to use my leg, my stump decreases in size and, as such, I need to make adjustments by adding in volume back to the leg through socks. Sweating is a huge problem and I often have to remove my leg to dry out the liner before continuing in a race.
To give you an idea, this is what i’d have to do just to make a small adjustment to my leg:
Remove outer sleeve
Remove up to 4 socks
Put on up to 4 socks (one at a time)
Click in leg, standing up
Hoist up outer sleeve
As you can imagine, these steps can take a significant time to perform and can really alter the timing results on a race, especially when they are sometimes needed every 2-5km. Some other adjustments that I may need to make include:
Pulling up liners or sleeves
Removing the whole leg to re-adjust to a comfortable position
Removing leg to check a blister/sore spot - only required for long distance races
Now if you take into account further matters of hydration levels, the weather, the pace (which at a higher level requires more adjustments), now you can see why my official results are slower than the results I actually count.
How do I calculate my own times?
Similar to a runner pausing their watch when waiting at a pedestrian crossing in training runs, I pause my watch when I have to make any leg adjustments, lasting longer than approximately 30 seconds. If I have to make a stop due to anything non-leg-related, I don’t pause my watch for example if tying my shoelaces, pausing to sip water or just pulling over from starting off too fast.
By doing this, although I'm gaining energy from pausing, i'm also needing to start again from stationary so I feel my adjusted time is still a reflection of my running ability.
In practice, I have two types of personal best - the official results and my own adjusted results. All that matters in reality is that i’m making both official and unofficial improvements and i’m happy. Perhaps it may be worth considering if you could have multiple personal bests. After all, any personal best is an achievement.