Monday, July 29, 2013

Running Camp Coming to a Close

Running Camp Coming to a Close

Well, as things wind down and my time on St. Thomas comes to a close, so does my so-called "running camp." Overall, it has been a great disciplined practice that I know I would not have undertaken if I was back in Colorado. Every other day is a speed day down at the "track" on Magen's Bay. In between I run a brutal hill route that involves 2,700' of gain and 9.25 miles. The hills here are steep and short, so there is a lot of up and down, which I am hoping translates well when back in Colorado, where most hills are much longer. The speed sessions revolves around a 3.25 mile warmup before alternating between short and long efforts. The short efforts alternate depending on whether I'm running clockwise or counter clockwise based on where the gates are placed, which I use as my markings. Clockwise my times seem to hoover around .50 seconds, with a PR of .47 seconds. On slow days, it bumps up to .54 seconds on my slowest effort. Counter clockwise the times are 1:30 to 1:34. I've done 13 speed sessions total and although my times have not dropped significantly (but they have come down from my initial times), my ability to do them and the level of pain and suffering involved has diminished. The last speed session was the best, as I came into it rested. For the first time I felt like I could really drive and grip the ground on each step as I pushed. I could feel my entire leg working in a unified manner, which was really cool. This is when I got my .47 second PR.

The between short speed attempts I do a longer speed lap that hoovers right around 2:40-2:32. These longer speed attempts have not seen the drop in time as the shorter ones have. I run them at a fairly good pace - 5K or under pace - but I can't seem to drop the times. I do feel stronger during the attempt, but the time seems to stay the same. I guess it takes longer to develop and bring down this longer speed time than the shorter all out efforts.

Three more speed sessions left before returning home. Can't wait to start incorporating back in longer runs, as that has not really been possible while on island.

Ultrarunners are used to walking/speed hiking during long races. The switch between running again and continuing to hike/walk is always difficult - you want to keep hiking but know that you can run the terrain faster. I've never really thought about the process much before, simply working with my mind to get my legs to start running again. Turns out, according to a new study, that the entire shift from walking to running takes place in one single step! That is good to know mentally - it is only a single step and the transition from speed hiking to running is done.

Some sunset photos from the other night...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Running Tracks and More On Foot Strike Patterns

Running Tracks and More on Foot Strike Patterns

The science on foot strike patterns (rearfoot vs. forefoot) continues to be inconclusive. Although much of the science has indicated that a forefoot strike patterns is the most economical and results in the most efficient biomechanics, not every study conducted arrives at these results. A new study just published looked at the economy and rate of carbohydrate oxidation during running with rearfoot and forefoot strike patterns. Interestingly, they found that the forefoot strike pattern is NOT more economical then the rearfoot strike pattern. This is one of the few studies that took natural forefoot and rearfoot strike runners and tested them while both running with their natural strike pattern as well as while running with the opposite strike pattern (i.e., rearfoot runners would run in a forefoot pattern and vice versa). Most other studies simply look at the biomechanics and economy of the runners natural strike pattern. So in this study, they found that neither strike pattern was more economical across the board - meaning that your natural strike pattern may be the most efficient for you. Or, that if you are going to work on your form and strike pattern, it may take some time for it to prove beneficial (until it becomes natural to you). Although the science is still out on foot strike patterns and what is best for you, it does seem to indicate that a forefoot strike pattern is more efficient biomechnically and slightly more economical, but only when it has become your natural running strike pattern.

Here on island I have been working on my form a lot, as speed work forces one to focus on form. I can say that the forefoot strike pattern is not my natural pattern yet, and especially on downhills, but that it is slowly starting to feel "more natural." Only time will tell, but it is something to continue to work towards as the potential payoff can be quite dramatic in terms of overall times.

On another note, I've mapped 60 running tracks in the Boulder/Denver/Front Range area. These are all standard tracks that are excellent for speed work or track workouts. I made the map so that anyone can easily find the nearest track to their home, hotel, friends house, etc. The map is basic right now, with only the tracks mapped, but I plan on adding more information under each track as I can. If anyone wants me to add a track, or provide information about a track (i.e., surface type, open to the public, etc.) I would love the help. You can comment here or send an email to I'll add it then to the map, which will automatically update.

Finally, some random photos from the island...
 Looking down into Magens Bay and the Peterborg peninsula. The Peterborg run goes out from Magens to the end of the peninsula and back for a total of 8 miles and 1,200' of gain.

 This is a cactus that only blooms at night once a year. It was going crazy a couple nights ago with blooms...

Monday, July 8, 2013

On Island Basline Times

On Island Baseline Times

Now that we've been here a little bit, we have developed a solid training routine that will hopefully translate well when we return to the "continent." Everything starts and ends at Magen's Bay, simply because this is a great place to run and with the beach just a few feet away, it is possible to cool down after. There are a couple different runs that we have been alternating between which we now have solid times for.

Peterborg Run: 8 miles, 1,100' gain, :51 minutes finished with some laps around the track.

Trail Laps: 3 miles roundtrip, 700' gain, 13 up, 10 down. I've been doing three laps with a lap around the "track" between each.

The Track: .8 miles in one loop. I do speed on the backside of the track (the side in the trees), and mark each distance by the 3 gates. Going clockwise on the loop I have Gate 1-2 fast session: .54-.59 seconds, Gate 1-3 longer session: 2:32-2:36 minutes. Going counter clockwise on the loop I have Gate 1-2 fast session: 1:30-1:34 minutes, Gate 1-3 longer session: 2:33-2:38 minutes. Between each speed session I do a lap.

The speed sessions are the most interesting for down here. Never having done any sort of speed work, I am finding them particularly challenging and fun. Likewise, the trail laps are also unique in that the trail is extremely technical, tight, and slick. Nothing like a trail in Colorado or anywhere that I have run. Steep, rocky/rooty, very tight, and usually wet.

I'll continue to work on bringing these times down and hopefully after a solid 8 weeks of speed work (with some hills), I'll be a bit faster on my standard runs back home. Similarly, I'm hoping to see an overall improvement in my basic tempo speed which will hopefully allow me to cruz at a slightly faster pace during races and longer runs. Each run averages around 10-12 miles down here, so no long runs, but hopefully I can ramp that up fairly quickly (as compared to gaining speed) once back home. I have a 15 mile race mid-September that is at 10,000' so I'll have to hopefully get acclimated quickly, but I'm also hoping all of the speed work will compensate a bit. Below are photos of the backside of the track and of the trail - different then anything I've run or trained on before.

 This is the backside of the track where I do the speed work - nice surface.
 The technical trail - 1.5 miles one way with about 700' of gain

 The view from halfway up

The bottom of the trail going through the mangrove area. The trail passes through 3 different ecosystems as it climbs: mangroves, dry island forest, and wet island forest.