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January 24, 2010 / elodie kaye

Sick to My Teeth*

I didn’t really plan on doing a fartlek run at all this week, but now I’m happy I did.  I took a little off the pace for strides, and held it roughly twice as long.  On most of the reps, I was looking at my watch wanting it to be over with about 15s left to go.  That was perfect.  It forced me to hold on just a little longer, enough to ride the edge of fatigue, without going over.  I think I did 6 or 7 reps, enough to cover 2.3 miles including the recoveries.  By the last rep, it was taking all my concentration to hold good form, so I think that was the right volume, too.  I wouldn’t describe it as enjoyable, but it did feel good to get up on my toes, and remember what it feels like to run fast and relaxed.

My reason for doing the fartleks is pretty much the same as strides.  Fast running makes me raise my cadence, and encourages my legs to find economy at speed.  My stride lengthens and opens up behind me, and my foot strike moves forward so I can get a stronger toe-off.  My hands drop closer to my hips, my arms swing farther behind, and I lean slightly more forward, leading by the hips to get more power out of the hamstrings.  Unlike my lovely and talented boyfriend, I wasn’t born with a beautiful gait and it will never be as fluid as his.  My natural tendency is to slump into a shamble.  Short bursts of 5K pace repeated over, and over, tire me just enough that I am forced to look for ways to make it easier, while holding pace.  Where I did luck out in the DNA shuffle is that my form doesn’t slide as I get fatigued.  It holds up pretty well until I’m at my limit, and then it falls off a cliff.  So I don’t usually pick up bad habits, as I move up in the rep count.  Instead, my body remembers all those things that I forget, and more importantly how much to adjust.

Part of this post is a sort of response and expansion to Keith’s great observations on cadence.  When I first began reading about how to improve running performance, I found it baffling that every running book, magazine, and blog cites studies with just 10-50 subjects most of the time, and elites all of the time.  What’s even crazier is that the next best sources are anecdotal observations by coaches.  That said, I’ve learned to live with it because that’s the best information there is.

The runners who commonly run at 90 rpm are also running 7:30 mpm for a recovery.  Never say never and all that, but I feel okay saying that 7:30 mpm is never going to be easy for me.  7:30 mpm is closer to 5K pace for me, and when I run that fast it’s not hard to hold 90 rpm.  In fact, it’s pretty easy to get up to 95 rpm when I accelerate to 5K pace.  When I race 10 miles, I average 89 rpm at 8:00 mpm, even though all my easy runs leading up to it are ~84 rpm, and no faster than 10:30 mpm.  I am a little outside the fat part of the curve with racing times that are somewhat faster than the training would suggest, but not far.

I prefer to approach cadence as part of a whole package of changes your body must take on when you ask it to run faster.  The degree of adjustment is, and should be, different for everyone.  I try my best not to over-intellectualise the details of how my body should run fast, instead I simply ask it to do a little more than is comfortable, with a receptive stance towards changes that make speed feel like I was born with it.

*Nicked from ‘What Did I Ever Give You’ by the Kaiser Chiefs which happens to be 84 bpm.



Leave a Comment
  1. Keith Peters / Jan 24 2010 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the expansion. I find a lot of running info somewhat confusing. Although it’s always couched in scientific terms, it’s fairly impossible to do a proper double-blind scientific method on most of this stuff. A control group who just thinks they are running at a faster cadence? I don’t think so. And as you mention, most of it is anecdotal, or put forth by coaches who often have some book or training plan that they are marketing on the side based on their particular technique.

    So I just kind of read all I can, take it in and let it simmer for a while, and then try to apply bits and pieces that make sense. And it’s great to get feedback from real people with a bit more experience at this than me.

    • elodiekaye / Jan 24 2010 6:10 pm

      I was going to comment on your post earlier, but couldn’t avoid the wall-o-text effect. I figure it’s okay to assault my own readers.

  2. Keith Peters / Jan 25 2010 9:14 am

    It’s cool. I got the pingback on my post. Readers follow the link, you get the bandwidth.

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