Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Running better than Paula

I received a tweet from Paula Radcliffe this morning: "Thanks guys. Pretty s**t day for me but great to see the London course looking so good and so many runners. Just need to fix myself!" She'd just placed 3rd in the Bupa London 10,000 in 33:17 — a respectable time for a 37-year-old mum, but well outside her road PB of 30:21. Paula's disastrous run reminds me that all runners have their own individual standards as to what is a 'good', 'average' or 'bad' race.

In my current state of fitness, if I were to run 12:45 for a 3000 metre race I'd call that a 'good' performance. On Saturday afternoon I raced in the YCRC 3k at Campbell Park. I placed 23rd in 13:43, which looks to be well outside my definition of good. Thinking about it though, I'm encouraged. The race was cross-country (on dirt tracks actually); there were tree roots, rocks, rutted tracks to negotiate; a horse stile on a sharp turn at the 500m mark; a dry creek crossing; a climb of some number of metres to the half-way turn. Most of the runners in the race ran a minute or so slower than what they would for a track 3000, so I'll be generous and give myself a 'good' rating for that race.

How did my stride feel? Not quite as expansive as it did in the 5k the previous week. I tried to take on board Rick's tips (from Earl Fee's book) about keeping my hips and chest forward. I couldn't quite get it happening though. Perhaps the 10k jog I did Saturday morning took the edge off my legs. Improving my stride is still a work in progress. Also on Twitter, Pete L. linked to a video from Dr. Yessis about over-striding and stride length. The doctor makes some good points that make sense to me, including "If you want to increase your speed the first thing you should do is increase your stride length, not your stride frequency."


Blogger Scott Brown said...

"All runners have their own individual standards as to what is a 'good', 'average' or 'bad' race."

Never truer words spoken! This is what I like about this sport. It's really only the runner themselves that knows whether it was a "good" run or not.

My last half mara was only about my 5th fastest one but to me it was my best considering were I'm in my training phase and injuries and the like.

Doesn't matter what we think if you think it's good then it is. I heard Paula say her 10K run was "rubbish" and that she was "embarrassed"! While I thought as much It's really not my place to say and it isn't really true unless she says it.

8:04 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

Ewen sounds like a fun race.
Dr Yessis-I did buy his book 2 years ago but was not very impressed with his ideas after trying what he said, he's a bit of a guru and as Pete magill once told me when you see a running guru coming towards you run in the other direction as fast as possible!
To pick up speed first you need to increase stride rate and as momentum picks up so stride length will increase.
You will not get anywhere fast if you think of stride length alone!
Over striding-reaching out infront and landing on your heel will result in a breaking effect and increase shock to your body.
The key to good running form is starting with good posture.
Run Tall!
Press your hips and chest forward- imagine your pushing your hips and chest into a wall.
As Steve Magness has shown the push off, knee drive are a result of stretch reflex-so let it happen naturally.
Don't pull your foot off the ground- this will result in a shorter stride.
Work on hip flexor stretches-lunges etc.
Work at improving flexibility of the calf muscles as tightness here will reduce stride length.
On a final note look at any elite warming up at slow paces they will only have a short stride as speed picks up there stride increases- ie running at 23 min for 5 k does not require a long stride!
Work on short hill sprints and also include some downhill strides on grass.
Running Form

8:49 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

On Paula Radcliffe
She is still the marathon record holder and an amazing Athlete.
But to get to the top she had to follow a very punishing training programme.
Her body is now rebelling and breaking down, I think she needs a new approach.
Training the way she use to do when she was younger will no longer work!
Maybe cutting mileage working on quality and incorporating cross-fit type strength training might be a better option-but who I'm I to say!

9:02 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

You have earned the right to your opinion Rick!

You know as much as the next man! Well, as long as that "next man" isn't "Jack Daniels"!

Me, I don't know as much about running. I only recently found out that "Lactate Threshold" isn't when one is chugging down milk too fast and it comes out the nose!

9:42 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

Ha that's funny Scott.
and I thought Jack Daniels was a drink!

9:47 pm  
Blogger Thomas said...

Sorry, but I really have to disagree with you here.

"If you want to increase your speed the first thing you should do is increase your stride length, not your stride frequency."

That's an invitation to overstriding. Total bullshit.

Oh my God, I've just realised I've agreed with Rick. How did that happen?

10:12 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

Ewen is probably asleep! Please someone if you know his phone # call him to wake him up! Or by the time he does wake up his reputation will be destroyed!

I hope he really is sleeping cause a just got this terrible vision of Ewen in his pajamas, jumping up and down clapping his hands together in rapid succession shrieking "controversy! controversy!" over and over again!

11:01 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

The thought of Ewen in his Jim-jams and Charles Dickens sleeping hat jumping up and down is Not a pretty picture!!!

3:20 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Give me a Jack Daniels, quick. I just had a bad dream!

Scott, I thought the same about your last half, but I know you as a runner almost as well as your wife does.

Rick, yes, I get the guru thing. I'm 'reading between the lines' with the video... stride frequency is an easy thing to improve (anyone can run at 200 per minute by shortening the stride - the classic marathoner's shuffle). Improving stride length is not so easy.

Thomas, agreeing with Rick will get you everywhere;) Lengthening the stride by 'reaching out' with the lower leg is an invitation to over-striding. My thoughts are that a good long stride comes from hip extension and pushing off the ground strongly (stretch reflex involved there).

4:58 am  
Blogger Grellan said...

Do you think they talk as much about stide length and frequency in the rift valley.

Didn't think much of Dr Yessis video. It's surprising the amount of conflicting advice from "experts" I have seen on the intertubes since I started running. If I took it all on board i'd be in a home for the bewildered.

As you say you are enjoying your running at the moment and that's the main thing, results come second. However the only reason you're running better than Paula is because your strecth marks are older.

7:11 am  
Blogger Robert James Reese said...

Strangely, I ran into Ryan Hall right after both this year's NYC Half and last year's Boston. He ran "bad" races in both, finishing very far in front of my personal bests. It struck me both times as interesting how his bad could be so much better than my good. That's a cool thing about running, I think. The fact that everyone can be competitive with themselves, even if they're not at all competitive with the front end of the field.

7:32 am  
Blogger Girl In Motion said...

You are a racing machine, almost every weekend right? Or is that every weekend? Glad it was a "good" race for you. It's so true that, our definition is so completely driven by our own histories, as it has to be.

The video...I really like my Yessis book with all the photos of runners frame-by-frame, but I'm not all for what he had to say. In my own experience, increasing stride rate was the easiest increase of speed for no effort I have ever experienced. I wish there was some other simple trick like that. Now, maybe if I was a 6' tall man, increasing stride rate to 180ish would result in a real compromised stride length - I know it's harder for longer legs to achieve the same rate.

Made me laugh how he wouldn't name Pose by name and I agree with the ridiculousness of the gravity claim they make.

8:34 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Grellan, hope Paula didn't hear you say that ;) They don't talk about stride length and frequency in the Rift Valley because they don't want for either. It's us old suckers that are imperceptibly losing stride length.

Robert, I think Ryan would be one of those elite runners empathetic to how hard we ordinaries are trying when we finish minutes (or hours in the case of a marathon) behind.

Flo, I'm going to do short races (under 5k) every weekend for a while. Racing is good practise for racing and recovery from short races is quick. That's cool about your easy speed improvement with the increased stride rate. Improving stride length isn't so straight-forward. Rick mentions some of the things that can help achieve a longer stride. I'd ad plyometrics to the mix and running drills.

9:18 pm  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

Increasing stride length as a means of increasing overall speed may well make sense in theory but it is difficult to achieve. It means fundamentally altering your natural gait. And while that is do-able with regular practice, it may initially feel awkward and (paradoxically) slow because it takes so much more effort. I wouldn't discount increasing stride frequency because it is easier to incorporate into your natural running style. Perhaps a compromise? - ie, slightly longer strides, slightly faster :) Enjoy experimenting with all of that.

4:19 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Jog, my natural gait is nothing to write home about so I figure it's worth the effort to try and alter ;)

I know my natural stride frequency is poor (slow), so yes, I need to work on that too. Not sure about doing a bit of both at the same time. I find it difficult to do two things at once. Maybe, but don't confuse me! Good point about stride and form changes feeling awkward and effortful. I'm losing form after 3 or 4k of my 10k runs.

7:19 pm  
Blogger Jaymee said...

Wow, the comments provide for some entertaining reading!

Adding in my two cents on form: I think that most of us are limited in how much we can deliberately alter our form by dysfunction in our bodies. I would never have come to this conclusion had I not witnessed the transformation of my own form over a two-week period as a chiropractor in Phoenix worked on piles of scar tissue that had formed over a lifetime in my legs and back, including daily intensive treatment for 11 days, sometimes twice a day. Before treatment, I was trying to change my form using all of the guidelines that you've surely been exposed to. I could not do it and was actually hurting myself further by trying as well as getting very frustrated. Once my hips and hamstrings were free to do what they were designed to, my body naturally adapted to these changes and my form became closer to textbook. This is not a fun thing to read, because most of us want to be able to force our way through this--indeed that's what I tried to do. But, the bottom line is that your body is a remarkable machine that adapts to dysfunction in ways that make us less efficient runners. Until you fix the underlying problems that inhibit function, I honestly don't think you can change your form.

5:12 am  
Blogger Superflake said...

I change it from good to great. Certainly worth a min with all those obstacles on course.

2:02 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Jaymee, don't encourage them! I get depressed when the comments are more entertaining/better value than the actual post ;) Great point about dysfunction and addressing that before improving form.

Flake, thanks. Not sure about that, but I'm learning things from these short races.

10:42 am  
Blogger Black Knight said...

Good or bad race. I agree with your thoughts but I want to focus another point of view.
Most of us (included myself) prefer a good finishing time to the position overall (or age group).
For instance yesterday I ran my worst race of the season, I could slow down without being "smoked" but I didn't. Crazy, I know.

9:24 pm  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

Diverting to an older topic .... are you still PowerBreathing?? If so, do you think it's made any difference to running performance? If not, why not (can't be bothered, made no difference to running performance or ?)? Just curious.

8:32 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Stefano, that's true for all of us who aren't capable of winning a race. For myself, I'd rather be 20th in a 5k in 19:59 than 1st in 20:20.

Jog, I stopped when I had the break for the skin surgery.. wanted to do the return to running 'unaided'. I think it was making a difference up until then in that breathing was less stressful when running hard. I'm going to resume doing it - tomorrow! Although I sense at the moment breathing is not my weakest link. I think it's leg strength (and following on from that, stride length), so hill intervals and short hill sprints are in order...

9:13 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Jog, I forgot to say yesterday that I also want an indication of what effect my new pattern of training is having (lower miles, higher intensity, more recovery) without the results being confused by simultaneous use of the powerbreathe.

9:08 pm  

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