Focus on Five, fix your form, finally get faster…

In case you didn’t know, it’s ridiculously hot and humid in Florida pretty much 8 or 9 months at out the year but summer is the absolute worst. I got in as many long runs as I could this summer but I also took the time to focus on getting faster and I knew I wasn’t going to get any faster if I didn’t first, fix my form.

Something clicked for me this year because I did manage a couple of PR’s and I was running in the 8’s and sometimes the high 7’s which NEVER happens to me in the summer. I can only hope that I will improve throughout the winter and really hit some major PR’s this fall and winter. A few people emailed me and asked me what I was doing so I thought I would share with you, the five things I focused on to get faster.

Cadence

The more time your feet are on the ground, the more energy you need to go forward. If you increase your cadence, you’ll increase your speed. Focus on the amount of times your foot strikes the ground and not on your stride length. Optimally, you should be at around 180 foot strikes per minute. When I started this my foot strike was around 145 and I though 180 was cray cray, it’s now around 170, still room for improvement but I now see that 180 is doable.

No Heel Striking

Heel Striking can sometimes lead to injury and it also contributes to a slower cadence. When I started focusing on where my feet were landing, I was able to increase my cadence and therefore, my speed. Wearing minimalist shoes (Brooks Pure Flow 2’s) has helped me with this. You can also run on the grass for a short distance to get an idea of what your natural stride is. I ran on the beach a little bit and that helped me too.

Mobility + Momentum

Increasing mobility can be achieved through stretching. There are two things that I have been focusing on. First, you can practice yoga. Yoga is extremely beneficial for runners. I don’t always have time to go to the yoga studio but I do have a wii fit with yoga and it’s a great alternative. I was also fortunate to learn about Phil Wharton’s Active Isolated Stretching method. This has been invaluable for me. You can learn more about this method and watch one of the videos here. I highly recommend it especially if you, like me, are prone to injury.

Practicing forward momentum was a tough one for me and I’m still struggling with it. The idea is to lean forward from your ankles and keep your head level and avoid bouncing. I watch videos of some of the best runners in the world to help me learn this but I continue to struggle and I still bounce. If you have any ideas, I’m open to suggestion.

Relax the body!

Practice running relaxed. I know it sounds kind of silly but it was really hard for me to do, probably the hardest. I tend to have really stiff posture and running relaxed and fast has never been easy for me. I watched videos of Paula Radcliffe to try to learn how to relax and understand her form but the thing that worked best for me was practicing the following:

Keeping my elbows bent at 90 degrees, even in the back swing. Much to my surprise, this was hard, and something I still struggle with but I’m about 80 % better than I was.

Jogging with my hands on my head to learn to keep my core straight. (My neighbors already think I’m an idiot so I wasn’t worried about doing this one but you could do it in your backyard if you’re concerned. I wouldn’t suggest trying this on a treadmill though because I think it would be dangerous).

Shoulder raises at certain intervals while running. (You basically raise your shoulders up to your ears for a few seconds and then lower them). I started off doing this every ½ mile for the first few weeks and then every mile. Now I do it every 2 or 3 miles.

Practicing Speed

I accomplished this by adding in at least one speed session each week. It can be anything from running hills to fartleks or even a tempo run. Speedwork will definitely help you increase your speed.

I’m still working on it and I hope that with time and practice I’ll get better and better. Of course this would all be much easier if I had the new Garmin 620 which is like a Coach on your wrist. (Another shameless plug for #Garmin, are you listening Garmin?)

Do you have any suggestions for working on running form? Do you think better form helps increase your speed?

Just how long would a long run be if a long run was real long?

Long-distance running can be as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Usually when I want to cut a long run short, it’s mental. Today it was definitely physical.

I hate to cut any of my runs short. When I plan to run a certain distance, that’s it, if it’s part of my training plan, then I do it. However, if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that sometimes you have to know when to call it quits, like today.

rottenecard

Since I cut my long run short by 3 miles last week, I was determined to get in 18 miles today. Unfortunately, I was sick for most of the week and I only ran 12 miles so 18 seemed like it might be a stretch but I thought I could handle it.

I’ve also started running with the heart rate monitor on my long runs. I shoot for 75% of my max heart rate and then gradually increase to around 80-85% for the last 3 to 5 miles.

The first few miles felt fine. I struggled to keep my heart rate down so that I wouldn’t burn myself out but other than that, everything was good. I kept my pace around 11:00 minutes. At mile 5 I slowed down a bit and drank some water and then continued on.

All was okay until around mile 7 and I started to struggle. My legs were like dead weight. They just didn’t want to move. I kept going to mile 9.5 and I stopped at the marina for some water. I drank a ton of water and then splashed the cold water all over my face and I felt like I could continue on.

At mile 12 I came to a hill and I walked it. At the top of the hill is a water fountain so I stopped again and drank a ton of water. I felt like I was going to shut down but I pushed through and ran to the end of the park. It took quite a bit of effort but I managed to make it to mile 13. Finish time 2:23:18.

I know that part of the struggle was mental. I started thinking about my training and how much time I have left and how important my long runs are, and I get frustrated. I start to wonder if I’ve recovered enough or if I’m still a tad bit under the weather. I wonder if I’m pushing myself too hard…or hard enough.

mental noise

That’s when I start to worry that I won’t be ready to run 26.2 and even though my thoughts are probably irrational, they are still there.

I finished my run at 13 miles and then I started to immediately focus on what went wrong:

  1. I have been sick with a cold for almost a week so my body is not 100%.
  2. I haven’t been doing any strength training or weight workouts and I’m paying for it.
  3. It’s still quite hot out. Even though it was 73 and breezy this morning, it was in the 80’s by 9am.

After I got home I took the dogs for a walk and did a little yard work. My legs have been tired, but not too bad. I plan on getting in a few miles tomorrow and I’ll pick it back up again next week.

Tired legs baby

It still sucks that I didn’t get the long run in that I had planned but I think it may have hurt me more if I would have pushed it.

Did you get your long run in today? Have you ever cut a long run short?

Race Etiquette, unless you don’t want any friends…

This morning I ran a very easy 4 miles around the neighborhood. That makes a total of 6 for the week. They felt like 60. Sometimes, it’s a little overwhelming after taking a few days off and especially if it’s due to illness but you just have to press on and not beat yourself up and that’s what I’m doing. I’ve got a 15k coming up in a few weeks and then several halves and maybe a full within just a few weeks of each other. I need to be sure that I’m healthy so that I don’t have to pull out of any of them. It’s just going to take me a little time to get back to where I was…

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I was thinking about the races I have coming up when I was running this morning and instantly I started to think about runners’ etiquette. It’s amazing how after years of running, I can still remember races or instances during races where someone has failed to follow the rules, unspoken or not.

Whether you’re new to racing or you’ve run 100 races these are some of the things you should be aware of…unless you want other runners to hate you and in that case, don’t bother.

At the start of a race, if there are corrals or pacers with clearly marked signs, such as 7 min., 8 min., 9 min., etc. be sure to line up in the appropriate area. If you’ve never run a 7 minute mile, don’t line up in 7 minute coral. In my last 5K, I lined up in between the 8 and 9 minute mile pacers because my average pace in the 5K is 8 and a half minutes and I still had to pass around 200 people.

Please listen carefully to the announcements before the race. If not, you may miss something very important, like where you’re supposed to turn around; and most runners don’t like to talk during races and get a little annoyed if you’re asking them questions you should know the answer to, if only you’d listened.

If you slow down or start walking, mover over to the right so that those people behind you can pass. If you stop, by all means move to the side. During another 5K that I ran a few years ago, several runners, including myself, came flying around a corner and tumbled over a woman who had stopped in the middle of the course to tie her shoe.

If you’re running with a group, please don’t crowd the course by running side by side. Two people side by side is generally okay but when you have 5 or 6 people running side by side on a smaller course, it can cause some problems.

When you stop for water, ease up to the water stop gradually, carefully take your drink and continue on. And this is the most important thing, after you finish your drink, throw it in the garbage or carefully drop it to the side of the road. Please don’t throw it behind you especially without looking, you might hit someone. And speaking of water, if you start the race with a water bottle in your hand and you finish it, don’t throw it down in front of other runners, you could very easily trip them. Carefully throw it to the side of the road preferably at or near a water stop.

If you’re wearing throw away clothes, make sure you throw them to the side as well. Just remember to look behind you. I can assure you that the other runners do not want to be pelted with your cups or clothes.

When you cross the finish line, keep moving, there are still other runners behind you and they need to cross as well.

Be mindful of all those who haven’t finished yet and may be starving. It’s an after race meal and not usually an all you can eat buffet. It’s also not polite to bring your family and friends food when there are still hungry runners waiting to eat.

Rude Runners

Lastly, please remember that most of the people working at these events are volunteers and they deserve to be treated with kindness at the very least.

And lastly, when you’re putting together your race calendar for the year, consider volunteering for just one race. Not only will it give you a chance to see the race from a different perspective but you’ll be able to cheer for other runners as well.

Did I miss anything? If I did, feel free to add it in the comments?