Entries in Natural Running (3)


Race Report: Run Thru the Hills 10K

The alarm woke me up at 6:00am. It thunder-stormed most of the night, so I did not get the best of sleep. Thankfully, my iPhone is my alarm clock because we lost power at some point during the night and all the regular clocks were blinking when I got up. So I went downstairs to get dressed (all my stuff was laid out on the kitchen table the night before). Got everything together except my shoes and socks, and then focused on my pre-race breakfast.

My normal pre-race breakfast is a banana, toast with almond butter, and a cup of milk, followed by two cups of water. So imagine my surprise when I see NO bananas in the basket!! This is NOT good! I am not necessarily superstitious but I gotta have my banana! Oh well. So I had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (poured my milk on them) with my toast, and contemplated how this was going to impact my morning.

Then it was time to deal with 'da blister'. It felt pretty normal so I cleaned it, put a blister patch over it, and then covered the patch with some adhesive knit. Then instead of using Body Glide, I broke the 'nothing new on race day' rule and used a powder I got from my running store yesterday called "Blister Shield" from 2Toms. It is a powder you pour inside your socks that coats your feet to prevent friction. It worked very well! I also put ENGO pads in my shoes to prevent friction on the balls of my feet (after 11+ mile runs, I sometimes get hotspots on the balls of my feet).

I have to say that doing these three things really made a difference in my feet during the race. My blister felt fine during the race. It twinged a little around Mile 4 but nothing much (and didn't cause me to change my gait at all). I think once the blister heals, I will go back to the Body Glide, but the powder did its job! After the race I had no significant change in the status or feel of the blister.

At 7:30am, I headed for the race (which was only like 2 miles from my house!) The weather was okay -- humid, 65 degrees, with 22mph winds. I wore compression calf sleeves, shorts, a long-sleeve tech shirt, and a hat. In hindsight, I should have gone with a short-sleeve shirt because after Mile 2, I was feeling a little warm.

I ran into a long-time friend named Rick right before race start. What a cool surprise! It turns out his wife was running the race as well (she is fast and finished 9 minutes before me) and he was there to cheer for her. I also ran into Mary, an 11-year old girl who is in my Natural Running class. It was nice seeing a few people I knew.

The race started on time at 8:00am with both 5K and 10K runners together (we would run together for the first 2.5 miles and then separate). I decided to start off at a 9:30/mm pace and see how long I could keep that up. Not exactly a preferred strategy, but I figured the hills would kill me so getting some good clock time beforehand could help my overall time. The first mile went very well. I scaled the first two 'gentler' hills and then saw my running partner Mike and his wife and son cheering me on!! That really made me feel great! Go WISH scream team!

I ran the next two hills and then made a left towards Mile 2. Then I hit the first really serious hill. I ran the hill, shortening my stride but trying to keep my cadence the same. I got to the top and then let the drop on the other side take me down. Then as I came around another corner, I saw my WISH scream team again! I yelled out to their son with a big grin on my face as I started to climb the next hill/right turn. Thanks Mike, Liz, and Robert for being there today!

I climbed that hill and kept moving, passed Mile 2 and heading towards the first water station. I decided to walk through the water station and let my heart rate go down a bit before starting off again. This was probably the least 'rolling' of all the hills on the route. I got to Crystal Lake Road and turned right (this is where the 5K and 10K runners split).

Now the MAJOR hill climbing began. As soon as we hit Hilltop Road (very well named), we had to run up a very steep hill. Oh My Lord! I made it up the hill, only to find a sharp descent followed by another hill. I tried not to put on the breaks (to save my Quads) but I really had no choice. From this point forward, it was basically going up a steep hill, then down, then up another, then down. It was hard to develop a running rhythm because there wasn't enough distance between hills. The route was very scenic though, and that helped my mind to stay clear.

I was staying hydrated through all this but kinda forgot about fueling until about Mile 5. By Miles 4/5, I had to take a few of the hills at a walk pace. It was then that I realized I hadn't eaten any fuel back at Mile 4 (my usual fueling rate is every four miles) so I knocked down a CLIF mini-bar. As I was eating, I was walking alongside a Dad who was pushing his son in a jogging stroller. His son, who was disabled, was telling his Dad "Run Faster!" He was so cute! The Dad and I talked for a bit and then he kept on going. (He finished just ahead of me).

Mile 5 brought me back to good ole Hilltop Road and back up the hill towards Crystal Lake Road. I was definitely getting tired but at this point, I was smelling the Finish Line and was still holding out hope for a PR in the race. So I picked up the pacing a bit and ran up the long slow incline to Acorn Rd (which was almost Mile 6). In general, my running pace was around 9:45/mm and I when I took walk breaks, those were around 15:00/mm.

Passing Mile 6 was a relief at this point. I knew I was going to finish and I was going to end strong no matter what! I had a little more in the tank so I ran the last third of a mile at am 8:32/mm pace to cross that finish line!

My official time was 1:06:02 at an overall 10:32 pace -- a full 36 seconds faster than my last 10K race back in October! I was pleased about that, even though I knew that I could have finished faster had I been able to take those hills with fewer walk breaks to recover. I really need to do more hill training to develop a solid approach for dealing with hills (other than my current attempts to avoid them at all costs).

So all in all, the race was a good experience for me. I learned that I can actually run a race with hills and survive the ordeal. I learned that the change to a more natural running form really made a difference (so the class was well worth it). I learned that my Newtons are amazing and I can't wait to run the IL Half in them (a flat course, yay!). And I learned that I have so much more to learn about running and how to improve.

Oh yeah, my classmate Chloe, the 11-year old? She ran the 5K race and finished FIRST in her age group (First Overall for the 5K Female runners)! She got an awesome medal! She finished the 5K in 21 minutes! Isn't that just awesome? I was very proud of her!

Graduation Day

After the race, I grabbed several handfuls of trail mix, a banana (yay!), some Gatorade and then headed to my last Natural Running class at 10AM. I took a moment to freshen up and change into a different set of socks, shorts, and wore the race tech shirt (ya can't wear a race shirt unless you finish). No need to expose my classmates to my post-race sweatiness. (Is that a word?)

I warned the coach that Mary and I would be coming straight from the race so our legs would be tired. But in actuality, my legs (and feet) felt fine by 10AM. We warmed up a bit (I really didn't need to) and then ran a good mile at a 10:00/mm pace. Then came back for our final Gait Analysis to see how or IF we had learned anything over the past three weeks.

She videotaped us running on the treadmill, and then she showed us our initial Gait Analysis video alongside the new video. It was cool to see how each of us had made adjustments to our running form for positive results! My own video showed a marked improvement in my cadence, my foot placement (much more underneath my center of gravity), and my overall running posture. I looked pretty good for a big guy! I can certainly 'feel' the difference in my running as a result of this class.

SO! Today marked the end of another running week. My total mileage for this week was no where near what it was for the week prior. Total Mileage: 21.6 miles. The main difference was I did not take a Long Slow Run this week because I had the race, and I didn't take a Long Walk this weekend either because I did not want to aggravate 'da blister'. And, this is the first week of my Taper for the IL Half. So I think this was a reasonable mileage week.

Next week, I will probably run the same number of miles, but add in a Long Walk maybe Sunday late afternoon. I will be attending a wedding in Milwaukee on Saturday/Sunday so we will see if I can fit the Long Walk in.


Think about your Stride Frequency (Cadence) to improve your runs

Today started with a good speed work run using a metronome to maintain a cadence of 90 (180 beats per minute). I ran my intervals of 3x500m at a 9:00/mm pace (with 1-minute recovery runs at 10:30/mm pace). I added 5-minute easy runs at 10:00/mm pace between sets.

Maintaining a cadence of 90 made things feel 'different' because I had to work on a new breathing rhythm. That is still a work in progress. But I could see how the lack of a steady breathing rhythm really affected my heart rate. But, I did the whole run in about 42 minutes which was excellent. It was a nice way to wake up, and start the day with 4 miles in the books.

Tonight I had another Natural Running class and it was awesome! We spent a good amount of time talking about Stride Frequency (cadence) and Stride Length to manage speed and running efficiency.

After we did some warming up, we went out for a short run as a group, with the coach running along to watch, make suggestions, and direct the flow. The objective was for us to get used to running at a cadence of 90.

So what is Cadence? Cadence is the number of steps you take in one minute. I usually calculate this by counting the number of steps of my right foot in 30 seconds and multiply that by two. So taking 90 steps in 30 seconds means your steps per minute is 180 (which is where you want to be). At least that is what my trainer tells me.

Some interesting things about cadence. You increase 'speed' by varying your stride length, not your stride frequency (cadence). My trainer told me that the faster your cadence, the less 'air time' you experience. The slower the cadence, the 'higher' you are when airborne, which increases the landing forces on your body, which can cause injury. A faster, consistent cadence can result in a smoother, more efficient running form that lessens impact forces on the body.

It also can make you faster. My trainer got on a treadmill and proved to us that she could maintain a cadence of 90 while increasing/decreasing her speed by adjusting her stride length. Even as her stride lengthened and she sped up, her cadence stayed at 90. This is what the elite runners do. The energy to increase your stride length is much less than the energy it takes to increase your cadence -- hence more efficient running.

In my Natural Running class tonight, we worked on cadence while doing acceleration drills. We sped up and slowed down, but kept our cadence at 90 (using a metronome to help keep us at the right stride frequency). It was awesome! My fastest running pace tonight was 6:30/mm!!! Granted I was only at that pace for maybe 30 seconds but still, that was fast!!

You can read more about it at this site, which talks about cadence and how the elite runners use it for speed and to reduce injury due to excessive stride lengths and impact forces. I am still working on getting comfortable with this whole thing since my usual cadence is between 84-86. But I can see/feel the benefits of getting to 90.