Sunday, May 01, 2016

Sven and the Art of Cycling for Maintenance

I commenced an ever so gradual return to running with the Tuggeranong Parkrun on Saturday. I walked the first half then alternated roughly 100 metres of running with 100 metres of walking for the second 2.5k. My time was 38:11, with the run/walk section at around 7 minutes per kilometre. The calf was good, so touch wood that continues to be the case. It's been 43 days since the original tear/strain which has included two aborted comebacks.

The popular (and sensible in my view) thing to do when injured is to cross-train by doing some other aerobic activity. This can be walking, cycling, swimming, deep-water running or training on an elliptical machine to name the more popular forms of cross-training for running. My choice has been cycling combined with a couple of days a week of brisk walking. I've been riding around 220 kilometres per week (90 minutes to 2 hours per day or more). Long rides have been for 4 or 5 hours. All this cycling leaves me feeling very fit aerobically — my resting heart rate is as low as it's ever been in recent years. My legs are good and strong too. For cycling.

I'm close to becoming a cyclist who can run, but not that well. Running is a very specific discipline of movement. And within running there is sharp specificity at different race distances. Sprinters don't do that well at marathons and marathoners don't do that well in mile or 800 metre races. Triathletes are good at swimming, cycling and running because they spend a lot of time training for each of the three activities.

The recently retired Sven Nys is regarded as one of the greatest cyclo-cross racers of all time. Cyclo-cross is a sport in which you race a bike for around an hour over often muddy, hilly and sandy circuits while running the sections that are impossible to ride. Sven's aerobic capacity would be the equal of a runner capable of competing well at the World Cross Country Championships. His running ability in hard-soled cycling shoes (while carrying 8 kgs of bike) was the skill that often made the difference in World Cup races. He's a good runner! And he now runs 'for fun' — in the Antwerp 10 Miles race on 17 April, Sven ran the good but not remarkable time of 61:53 (around 3:50 per k). I'm sure, given 12 months of specific running training, he could take 5 minutes or more off that time. If you want to run well, you need to run. Simple!

Walking to the finish of the Tuggers Parkrun on Saturday
Heart rate during a steady 41k bike ride. Average of 105. There's lots of coasting when cycling (unless you're riding a time trial on a flat or uphill course).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope everything goes well with your gradual return to running.

Yes running is undoubtedly the best training for running, because nothing else involves the same specific eccentric contraction at footfall. But impact at footfall is damaging. Three challenging questions are: what is the minimum amount of running necessary to optimise running performance; what is the best balance of types of running sessions; what is the most beneficial form of cross training?

7:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about this long-lasting injury, Ewen! Hang in there, it should clear up soon!

6:20 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Canute, thanks for your good wishes. I think it's been the most frustrating injury I've ever had. Curiously, I noticed my feet/ankles felt the strain of running on Saturday which I guess is because they're not used to those specific eccentric contractions at footfall.

Thanks Anna. I hope so too!

10:06 am  
Blogger Mark Watson said...

Hi Ewen. Mate … I didn't realise the calf was as bad as it has been. No one better than you to manage the comeback. 43 days days is a fair chunk of time though! If it weren’t for the cycling I reckon you might have just about lost the plot! (awkward pause) Nice to see your fan base still coming out to support you at the finish which of course they should. Had a look at that Sven character on YouTube. Watched him fly up some outdoor stairs with bike across his shoulders … say no more … I was suitably impressed. Good luck with the week ahead.

9:59 pm  
Blogger allrounder said...

I'm finding my mix of hard commuting (I try not to coast at all!) for three days (~105k total) combined with my almost daily running is working well for me...will be interesting to see what you can get back to...

maybe you'll be up to running the 5k for the Burley Griffen parkrun launch!

9:46 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Mark, think it was only bad 'cause I was too impatient to start running again. Sven is worth watching - especially the way he races, often coming through the field from slow starts. He was still winning at age 39 in races so competitive that the U.S. champion Jeremy Powers thought a good day was making the top-20, a great day the top-10.

AR, you're running very well off the commuting/running training. Wish I could run 21:XX for 5k! I'm walk/running Batemans Bay so will be at BG for sure :-)

2:50 pm  
Blogger strewth said...

So that's why I haven't seen you for so long. You have a great attitude and all that cycling is bound to make your legs stronger for the hill running when you get back to it. We were thinking of going to the BB parkrun on 14 May as this coming Sat is Dave's 50th at Gindy. Looking forward to our new parkrun at LBG. We will be overseas for the launch though. :)

8:12 pm  
Anonymous Raina said...

Running is funning.. Biking is a good alternative, but what we really want is your calf to be 100% !!

5:14 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Ruth, yes, not up to regular group runs yet. You'll enjoy the BB Parkrun - nice and flat, scenic and not so chilly down at the coast.

Thanks Raina. I know! It's such a frustrating injury. Sadly I had a relapse during my run this morning, so more time off I'm afraid.

7:21 pm  

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