Friday, September 11, 2015

Perfect running form, and other thoughts about cycling

I used to run with a bloke who, when he ran, reminded me of Henry Rono. My friend ran with beautiful form that made me, a marathon shuffler, extremely jealous. The funny thing is, my friend wasn't that fast — he ran around 20 minutes for 5k when I'd run 19 (this was a long time ago!). I suspect my friend's exquisite form was part natural and part emulation. He had a high heel-lift and loped along with ease — his cadence was slow, in the manner of Mo Farah, but with a stride quite a bit shorter than Mo's two-plus metres. Lovely running form isn't everything, but I still wish I could run like my friend.

There are many reasons why I like cycling, one being there doesn't seem to be such a thing as 'perfect cycling form' — no high heel kick, hip and knee drive, elastic (Paula Radcliffe-like) recoil off the ground of the perfect runner. My feet are attached to the pedals just the same as Chris Froome and my legs go round and round and round. I can even spin at the high cadence of Froome — in fact if I were to ride next to the great man (at a speed I was capable of, say 30 kph), no spectator would think 'that man's form is terrible, yet he's keeping up with an elite athlete.'

As a professional runner, I think I'm close to zeroing in on my ideal training day. In previous posts I've mentioned Jack Farrell's article: 'Re-Thinking The Hard-Easy Myth' where he explains why too much rest has just as negative an impact on development as over-training, by violating the principle of balance. Jack's runners train at the same intensity level every day, with no really hard days, but also no easy or rest days. Variety is achieved by running on different courses. "The goal of this training is to lower the comfort zone, that is the pace at which an athlete can run gradually longer distances at a steadily decreasing pace." I think my ideal training day is 50 to 60 minutes of running in the (late) morning or at lunch time, followed by 90 minutes to 2 hours of cycling in the late afternoon. This is something I can repeat day after day, week after week... Cycling in the morning and running in the afternoon doesn't work! I've tried it and my runs have been ordinary to terrible on those days.

Just recently, with all this volume of aerobic exercise, my running has started to feel really good — today 5:10 per k pace was only producing a heart rate of 132, slightly above my MAF heart-rate. So the legs have been strong and the heart has been cruising. On Sunday for a slight change from day-after-day training, I'm competing in a duathlon out at Stromlo — 5k run, 20k bike, 2.5k run. Should be fun!

Shuffling along with less than perfect form at the Tuggeranong Parkrun

Testing the old Aluminum bike at Lake Tuggeranong this arvo


Blogger Mark Watson said...

I'm rushing to complete this because I'm desperate to be 'first' to comment on your latest post. Not that I'm going to set the bar high ... just be first. I enjoyed that Ewen. Probably because I could relate to a lot of what you wrote about. I reckon we all strive to look good when we run. I know I do. When I'm running 4.30's I picture myself gazelle like with the agility of a Kenyan running effortlessly as if on the moon. And then I catch my own reflection from a nearby shop window and cringe. Must try harder. I've always bought into the moderate to high intensity level training with every run. I just think it works better for me. Introducing trail running has been the only way I've been able to reduce my splits in training. I've logged 'recovery' runs in my schedule but rarely do they work out that way. Reading your link makes me feel a little better. Good luck on Sunday.

10:20 pm  
Blogger strewth said...

Good luck for the duathlon Ewen. I'll be out there to cheer you on. We miss you at the speedygeese training these days - far too much cycling if you ask me! I hope all that strength in your legs gives you a positive result on Sunday. :)

10:45 pm  
Blogger TokyoRacer said...

That's an interesting "new idea" about training. Two things, however. One, it's not much fun to train that way - I like to push myself sometimes, as do most serious runners. And two, not many people are able, schedule-wise, to train that way. Most people just have more time on the weekends, and well, less time on weekdays. So to do decent mileage, you have to do more , often a lot more, on weekends.

11:54 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Mark. I'll rate that comment as setting an appropriately high bar. I've also done the 'shop window' thing and always cringe when a finish-line video doesn't show me running as I imagine I do.

That'll be great Ruth. I was there last Monday, but left early as I had to walk on the warm-up run. I'll schedule a very eary ride Mondays from now on.

Bob, that's true about most runners having extra time on the weekends to do more, hence the traditional 'Sunday long run'. On being fun and pushing yourself, I think you can still do that within the Jack Farrell style of training -- his runners raced regularly (fun?) and ran in groups over hilly courses, also fun, but not as stressful as structured intervals. I was reminded recently about Mark Nenow, who ran in a similar way 'off season', but with slightly longer weekend running -

7:05 am  
Blogger Raina R. said...

That seems like a safe approach. Would you train for a marathon and a 5k on the same mileage per week?

1:40 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Raina, not I! Highish mileage works well for the 5k racing, but you don't need "long runs." The type of training I'm doing would be fine for races up to 15k. I'd be doing long runs, more running and less cycling if I was training for a marathon.

2:45 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

The shuffle works! It's not pretty but it works. Steve Moneghetti once commented on mine as the perfect marathon gait, so I just ignore myself when I find myself wishing I had a loping, gazelle-like stride. Sigh, I do wish I did though.....

9:11 am  
Blogger Janene said...

With all the mileage on your bike, you may have to call yourself a professional cyclist soon ;-). You must be getting plenty of sleep and recovery. I'd be exhausted doing the training you are doing! I hope it all pays off and you smash the 22 min barrier!

3:36 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Rachel, I know! You have a textbook fast-cadence marathon shuffle. And 38 minutes for 10k is quick too!

Ha ha Janene - I can't call myself a professional cyclist until I start crashing. Yes, enjoying the daily sleep-ins so much :)

7:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The consummate master of consistent training, determined but not destructively obsessional, is Ed Whitlock. But I think the five key factors in his ability to do a large volume of training most days are: genes that endowed him with robustness; a gradual build-up of training volume over months and years; avoidance of undue stress; a preparedness to stop whenever there is sign of injury; and determination. But for those of us with no prospect of achieving world records to keep us motivated, I think one also needs to add the ability to enjoy running.

8:38 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Canute, thanks for that excellent comment. Those five key factors need reading and re-reading by prospective distance runners. The "robust gene" is often overlooked when observing what makes up a talented runner. And yes, enjoyment - you've got to have fun with running.

10:42 am  

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