Posts Tagged ‘running cadence’

Running through Historic Downtown: San Jose, Costa Rica

The City Tour 10k was designed to take runners on a tour of San Jose’s historic points of interest, while providing the opportunity for fast finishing times due to a flat course with a slight downhill bias. I can confirm that one of the two claims is the absolute truth and the other is subject to debate.

Approximately 465 runners toed the line at 7:30 am on November 11, 2012 for the inaugural running of the City Tour 10k. We took off from the intersection of the University of Costa Rica and the commercial center, Mall San Pedro. The street was narrow and jammed with runners. My plan to pace mile #1 no faster than 10 minutes per mile was quickly abandoned as my concentration was focused on simply finding a clear path. My efforts to move around, rather than through, the crowd were rewarded for the most part. What I will never understand however is why runners line up at the rear of the starting line if they plan on running at a world record pace right from the sound of the starting gun. I was elbowed and jostled more than a couple of times as back of the pack runners decided that the fastest manner to reach the front was to blast directly through the crowd. Not cool.

The streets opened up after about three quarters of a mile and I was able to relax and focus at the same time. Relax because I was no longer concerned about being pushed or tripped by the running of the bulls. Focus because I finally settled into a breathing pattern (thanks Darren,) a cadence, and a rhythm that felt comfortable and sustainable.

The sun was high and bright, even at this early hour. But there was a slight, yet constant breeze that never allowed you to feel hot. In addition, the downtown streets with their tall buildings on either side provided ample long shadows that covered most of the road. If at any time I found myself running in the direct sunlight I could immediately angle my path into the cooler temperatures of the shade without any extra effort or concern.

I potentially made my first mistake of the day at approximately mile #2. I saw a line of runners jogging in place at the first aid station and I decided that I did not need water badly enough to interrupt my thus far, efficient progress. Later in the race I cursed this decision, though hindsight is always twenty twenty.

When I reached mile #3 I was happy, excited and concerned all at once. I was happy because I had not experienced any pain in my foot or knee. I was excited because I was on pace to at least match my 5k personal record time. And I was concerned when I began fretting about whether I could maintain that pace over an additional three miles. I can trend toward the neurotic and slightly pessimistic. And that is not where I wanted to let my mind go.

At approximately mile #4 my second mistake of the day reared its ugly head. Although to give myself the benefit of the doubt, this was a result of simple bad luck and not necessarily a bad decision or choice. I was focused on the long train of runners ahead of me, watching a large group about 100 yards ahead as they crossed from the two right hand lanes over the center median and began running on sidewalk on the left hand side of the avenue. Being a proactive, intelligent athlete I decided, “why wait to cross all the way up there?” I made my move across the lanes without having to dodge any traffic and was feeling pretty good about myself. You might even say smug. That all ended when I heard a voice calling out, “Agua! Agua aca!” Water! Water here! The problem was immediately obvious. The aid station was about 25 yards behind me and on the opposite side of the road. The side I had just abandoned. There was no way I was going to turn around and backtrack, so forward I charged. Into the dry and parched unknown.

I have to admit that I have tunnel vision while running. Rarely do I look around and enjoy the scenery. I’m still cutting my baby teeth on this running experiment and it’s all I can do to stay focused on my newly found mantra of ‘ball-heel-knee.’ There was no mistaking, however, when we reached the mercado central or central market. I didn’t recognize my surroundings so much via sight. But the smell was overwhelming. Urine, alcohol and rotten fish. Not necessarily in that order, but maybe so. It’s all a blur to me now. Literally, there was an audible, collective sigh from the runners as we raced past the unfortunate indigents, drug addicts and fish market workers, who were leaving greasy trails of rank fish oil and slime trailing behind them as they hauled out the putrid and replaced it with the fresh.

Perception and self awareness are highly suspect qualities, and I was amazed that when I reviewed my race data that it did not confirm my belief that there would be a marked increase in pace during the interval through the Avenida Central. In fact, it was during mile #4 that my pace slowed to 9:25. I don’t recall any specific physical challenge at that point and there was no elevation change worth noting  either.

The toughest moment of the race for me occurred at approximately the transition from mile #5 to mile #6. My legs were feeling heavy. The previously smooth cadence of 1-2-3, 1-2-3 was replaced by asymmetric strides and a breathing pattern that lacked, well, any pattern at all. My breathing more closely resembled the start and stop hiccups of a novice driver facing a manual transmission for the first time. And there’s no doubt that my oxygen exchange abilities were as equally inefficient as that driver’s clumsy stabs at the clutch, accelerator and brake.

What ‘saved’ me was an act of generosity, on my part no less. A few feet ahead of me a runner decided to start walking and as I came even with him I slapped him in the shoulder and told him, “follow me.” It took a few steps before he committed, but after I had had him locked in tow on my right hip I felt a strange sense of responsibility, as if I had no choice but to finish strong after encouraging a complete stranger not to follow the completely rational advice his brain was relaying at the moment.

Once I felt confident that my new, random run buddy was motivated to finish, (and I had recovered from my brain-lung disconnect) I decided that there was no other choice but to run hard and ugly for the remainder of the race. It turned out to be my fastest mile of the day, covering the distance in 8 minutes, 33 seconds.

The City Tour 10k will be a memorable race. The weather was great. The course was agreeable and I ran my best race and finish time to date. Some of my math is a little off, as I am drawing data from both the race organizer’s information as well as my own sports watch, leading to splits not adding up exactly to the second. But you’ll get the idea.

The male winner finished in 32:09 and the female winner finished in 43:34

My official chip time: 54:28

I finished 181 out of 281 total male runners and 227 out of 465 total runners.

Splits: 9:40, 8:57, 8:54, 9:25, 9:02, 8:33

Splits Average HR: 160, 169, 174, 179, 180, 182

Avg/Max HR: 174/185

Shoes: Inov-8 Road-X 233

 

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Don’t Stress Over Changes – Just Adapt

Since finishing my rehab and recovery I’ve completed three full weeks of running in preparation for the ING Miami Half Marathon in January 2013.  I made a decision to run only on the treadmill until I was covering distances of 10k or more, in order to give my body time to strengthen after the six weeks of mostly non and low-impact recovery.  My plan was to swap out a single weekly run to the road, and every other week I would swap out an additional treadmill run for the pavement.

Today my wife returned early from our association’s gym to inform me that the treadmill was dead.  Out of order.  No mas.

Lacking choices, I laced up the Inov-8s and headed out the door, eager to finish before the sun had a chance to rise too high in the sky.  I am already sunburned from attending my daughter’s first track and field event on Saturday. Honestly, I wasn’t excited about running on the road.  I’m paranoid about all of the different variables that could have contributed to my original injury: too many hills, running  too fast, shoes that are too minimalist, overpronation, muscle imbalances.  The list goes on and on.

But sometimes a lack of choices is just what you need.  The ING Miami Half Marathon is run on the road after all, not on a treadmill.

First road run in over 2 months

The challenges were immediate and pronounced as I took my first steps.  I use a metronome to help me lock in an efficient cadence of 180 strides per minute.  This is also a great tool to prevent over striding and makes mid or forefoot landing more natural and not something you have to waste a lot of energy focusing on during a run.

It literally took me the entire first mile to find the proper rhythm, stride and cadence.  By that time it was too late, I had already burned my powder.  I ran three progressively slower splits. No clearer evidence exists of a runner who leaves the gate too fast, finds the pace unsustainable and eventually labors through the finish of the run.  And I still had 3 hill sprints waiting for me at the finish, courtesy of Jason Fitzgerald.

So how does the death of my previously preferred training device impact my race preparation?  Simple, there are a few key areas I need to adjust and monitor:

stride cadence

stride length

pace management and awareness

recovery ability

The simple truth is that I eventually had to face this transition at some point in my training anyway.  So I choose to embrace it now, earlier than planned or expected, but inevitable nonetheless.

The only constant in life is change.

 

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