Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Relationship Status: It's complicated.

I've learned a lot about running this year.

The best part is that Coach has figured out what works for me.

Running is so much more complicated than I ever gave it credit.  It's not difficult, necessarily. It's complicated.

You can do speed work. You can log hundreds of miles. Of course, that makes you a runner, but it doesn't make you a "good runner".

My running (specifically recently) has improved by leaps and bounds.

This year, I did a lot of reading (articles on running). I watched a few athletes that I consider to be very good at the whole running thing. I listened to a couple of people....some....complete strangers.

I noticed there was a trend to what people were telling me.

Then, I had the most horrifying experience of watching a video of me finishing a race.

I took all this information, and I started really paying attention to Liz's workouts.  Liz always tells us why workouts are important, and what it will teach us.

I took those lessons to an even deeper level.

Here's what I've learned about myself.

1.) When I got my bike in April, one of the things that bike fit dude told me was that my left leg is longer. Now this is totally normal, but all of a struck me that I was running differently on the two sides of my body. On my left side, I was dragging my left leg. It was almost scooting along the ground.

I passed along the feedback to Liz, who promptly gave me brand spanking new drills to address this issue.

For months, I had to focus on picking up my left leg. The weirdest thing was how weak I was. I was constantly having to work out this sore spot in my left hamstring because it wasn't used to be worked like that.

2.) Overstriding/Heel striking. There's a lot of debate about this issue. Believe what you want. Logic eventually won me over on this issue. I didn't care about articles telling me that heel striking is wrong. I didn't need to be lectured. I needed to figure out on my own, WHY this would be practice that I'd want to get out of.

I watched videos. Not "how to run" videos. I watched regular videos of people running at races...home videos, news coverage.....and I looked closely at runners' feet.

I started counting points of pressure. Heel, midfoot, front foot. That could be 3 seconds of contact with the ground.

I counted midfoot landings. There was really only one point of contact: mid foot then push off.

Three seconds, per leg, per step? That sounded like an awful lot of time. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize that the longer your foot touches the ground, the slower you go. (It's the same concept as overgliding in swimming).

This is NOT easy to change. I had to slightly shorten my stride. It was so slight of a change, but required so much effort!

It required a lot of lower body strength because I'm changing my stride. Whether it's habit or my natural running form, it has taken a lot of work on my part.

3.) Cadence: Hand in hand with shortening my stride (slightly) was cadence. When I shortened my stride, I noticed my cadence picked up. That's good. It's exactly like riding a bike. However, I quickly learned that at a higher cadence, I only had two speeds FAST and ALL OUT.

It took me months to learn how to have a higher cadence even while running at an easier pace.

A few things that we did to address this:

        a.) Very fast cadence work on the bike. Get off the bike and go run immediately. The high cadence work stayed ingrained in my brain. It transferred over to the run.

        b.) Treadmill/Outside running. Earlier on, there were a few sessions that Liz specifically wanted me to do on the treadmill. They were very fast, high cadence. The first few times, I thought I was going to fly right off the back of the treadmill.

I didn't take long for me to realize that a 7:40 pace feels very different with a faster cadence than that old 3 points of contact running that I had been doing. (For the record, I can now do these at sub 7 pace).

After awhile, I realize that the treadmill completely took out the opportunity for me to heel strike. It also ingrained how FAST certain paces felt. When I went took the exact same workout outside, I knew how a pace was supposed to feel. Then, I learned how hard an effort felt.

4.) HOW to Run Hills: This was one of those times where the light just came on, and I thought, "Why am I doing it that way?"

There have been many many articles and videos about how to climb a hill on the bike. The concept is that effort should remain the same but speed will drop.  On the downhill, effort remains the same but speed increases.  That's how I've always ridden.

But I was doing the exact opposite on the run. WHAT?! Most recent research shows that runners who maintain a consist effort (allowing their pace to drop on uphills) run the fastest!

Well, I'll be damned. Here, I was relaxing on downhills and really pushing the uphills.

5.) Arm swing: There's no better way to turn your legs over faster than moving your arms fast.
At every race, I hear people yelling at me "MOVE YOUR ARMS". I never understood the connection. I felt like I was moving my arms.


All of this requires incredible strength. Liz and I have been hitting strength training hard. I am do a lot of core work. I do a ton of leg work.

For the first time ever, I understand how important all of these pieces are and how they work together.

I always thought running was just about moving your legs faster or slower.

I had no idea how hard it was to learn how to run efficiently.

For many years, I thought those fast women runners had a secret.

Now I know I was right. They did have a secret. They knew how to run.