Karen snapped this pic of me with both feet airborne and Haystack Mountain in the background. I’m partial to pictures of me airborne. I don’t know why, just am. But this relates to my story too. And I know I blogged on this topic recently, but I’m still thinking about it after an email exchange with my buddy Ken.
My next planned running event is the Bolder Boulder 10K on Memorial Day. Ken just ran the Capitol 10,000 in 45 minutes. Good enough to place him 4th among 55 year olds. After telling him it’s been 20 years since I ran that fast, Ken suggested my half marathon pace supports my ability to run a 45 minute 10K. But my experience suggests otherwise. I’ve documented this. My pace doesn’t vary much whether it’s a 10K or a marathon. I even tested my ability to run faster Sunday by pushing myself into oxygen debt in the first mile. I can run a 7:30 pace all day long but I can’t hold 7:00 for more than a mile.
Don’t think I’m ready to throw in the towel though. This just means I need to train for speed. Ken suggested I train at a lower altitude and he’s right – that would work. It’s not very convenient, but it would work. I think. I don’t understand the science behind it but you can push your heart rate higher at lower altitude where the air is thicker. I suspect training for a 5K or shorter distance would benefit most if performed at sea level. And I would think training for half marathons and marathons benefit from altitude – 4000 feet or higher. 10Ks are questionable and I am willing to bet a mix of training at sea level and altitude would be ideal for that distance. And as that hybrid scenario suggests and I’ve already stated, spanning geographies is not very convenient. Click on this link; there’s a company in Boulder that provides supplemental oxygen equipment to train at low or high altitude regardless of where you are.
But for a 10K, I should benefit by doing some speed work out on the LoBo Trail. And per my earlier post on this topic, I intend to do that by running fartleks. I did try a fartlek workout a couple of weeks ago. I nearly lost my beans, but then that’s the point – adapting my body to recover from the limits of reaching my top speed. I’ll try to do this more between now and Memorial Day.
I can tell you another method for improving speed is running with a foot strike that is mid to fore foot. Avoid over-striding and landing on your heel. I already land mid foot and don’t see myself changing much more to the ball of my feet, but I am sharing this as part of the discussion. And this is where the airborne pic comes in. Studies support the notion that the more time you spend with both feet airborne, the faster you run. There are different techniques for achieving this flight, and one is the bio-mechanics of moving your center of gravity forward by avoiding heel strikes which stop your momentum. It also helps to keep your toes pointed downward, which is something I am doing in this pic but also a technique I am still working on. This is essentially a shorter stride which some people look at and think is less efficient, but it actually promotes speed. Running occasionally in minimalist or barefoot running flats helps to teach this form. I did this about a year ago, not to improve my speed but to recover from plantar fasciitis. It worked.
I’m going to focus on the fartleks. My goal is to run a 45 minute 10K two months from now. Not to take away from Ken but a 45 minute 10K will not be nearly as competitive in the Bolder Boulder as the Capitol 10K in Austin. This is freakin’ Boulder. But it’ll feel pretty fast to me.