Guest Post by Radek Bulva
Year 2014 so far has been unlike the last couple of years. Since I was a kid I could have run whenever I wanted and wished so. Never mind that until a few years ago I barely did so. In early summer 2009 by a strange concurrence of events I bought a pair of running shoes and, even more strangely, started running more or less regularly. A few months later I registered for a half-marathon race next spring and since then I have been in it without pretty much any major interruptions. Until this year.
At the very end of last year I developed IT band syndrome on my right leg. What started as a minor pain in the final kilometres of one easy run, quickly turned into a major pain in the ass. Long story short, after trying to run with it for two months I decided to take a break from running for a couple of weeks and use the free time to try to figure out what had gone wrong. In the end, I tracked the origins of my problems down to my poor running form.
Mountains of paper (luckily, mostly digital paper) have been written about running technique in the last couple of years. With barefoot- and minimalistic-running being all the rage since the release of Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run, most of the attention has been focused on proper foot strike, i.e., the way the foot hits the ground. In some quarters, almost a religious belief that the forefoot strike is the only right and proper way to go developed. Though not sharing the unconditional enthusiasm for it, after reading dozens of more or less balanced articles and posts on this topic, the forefoot strike seems to me to be more natural and efficient than the heel strike as well.
Nonetheless, what I find striking about the endless discussions about proper foot strike, is the amount of emphasis being put on its capacity to cause less/more injuries. For one, there is not a single rigorous scientific finding that would prove that either foot strike type leads to fewer injuries and all the arguments are at best backed by anecdotal evidence only. And for another, as anyone who ever struggled with a running-related leg injury and had the time to read up on it would probably agree, the origins of most of these injuries are to be found in disbalances in other parts of the body and are only rarely related to foot strike.
When this realization set in, it made me think and refocus my attention to the aspects of a good running form other than the foot strike, mainly to the correct body posture. While a decent amount of material on this topic is available, at first I found it frustratingly vague and confusing. Expressions like “run tall”, “lean from your ankles”, “keep your pelvis neutral”, “lead with your hips” did not convey much information to me and with hindsight I dare say at least some of them are if not misleading then certainly ambiguous. Anyways, I took a deep breath, summoned all my patience and gave it a go. At first, it felt awkward and unnatural, but after a while I started to feel some progress.
In the next couple of posts I would like to go through all the essential findings from my research on a proper running form and running in general and combine them with my own insights and experiences I have gained and all the lessons I have learned (usually the hard way) so far on my journey to a better running form.
by Vojta Lím
So, I decided to do Half Ironman (Czechman Triathlon). I can't really say that I trained any more than previous years (big mistake!), but after spending some miles in the saddle in Mallorca, and seeing that pretty much everybody from my tri-team was doing it, I wanted to give it go.
My pre-race logistics was not exactly smooth this time and I ended up packing my stuff around midnight. However, my morning "ham for kids and bread" routine went pretty well and I felt good before the race. We arrived to the spot, where racers were already pulling out their 6k USD bikes and heading to the transition area. I followed with my time trial aluminium rocket from 2006 (current market price 784 USD) and prepared all my racing stuff neatly in designed spot. When I saw 500 people in wetsuits and helicopter flying above us, I started to believe that things were getting pretty serious.
I had an ambitious plan of attacking 5 hour limit. Little did I know what this race and distance of 113 km is all about. I had little warm-up swim and headed back to the shore. The helicopter, which was supposed to serve as a platform for a series of aerial shots of the start, was somewhere in search for fuel. We waited for the helicopter then. It was fine experience to wait in a wetsuit in 30 degrees with other 500 like-minded people (thank you for the wetsuit EnduranceLab). Finally starting shot went off, and we set for the race. I am anything but an amazing swimmer, so my plan was to swim in a drag of no matter who. My strategy worked and after 35:55 minutes and 1,9 km swam, I was out of the water. So far so good and according to the plan.
As usual, change from swim to a run in transition area, makes me feel like on a rollercoaster, so I spent some quality time in the transition area before heading to the bike section. I still felt pretty dizzy for next 3 km and was lucky not to ditch my bike somewhere. Next 60 km was a pleasant ride along the meadows of Pardubice region filled up with regular consumption of fast carbohydrates and water. Around 60 km mark I started to feel pretty down, but I managed to paddle back the crisis by shovelling in a gel with coffein. I finished 90 km of bike portion in 2:43. Not amazing, but with 80 minutes personal best in half-marathon, I thought 5 hr time was still doable.
I'm not a big fan of running in hot weather (don´t know how you guys in Oz or Hawaii do it ?!?), so I knew pretty well that the last bit of this race will be fruitful experience. I wanted to stay around 4:30 per km, which I actually managed for the first 10km. For what came after, there is one nice name, "catharsis". I don't know if this is the famous wall that all marathoners are talking about, but I pretty much spent another 1:15 hours doing the last 10 km. I think, that when I was hiking with Radek in Scotland with full gear on my back, we had slightly faster pace.
My motivation for staying in the race shrank into one big mission from getting from one refreshment point to the other. After leaving each point, a thought of another sip of warm coke with no bubbles kept me alive. It was quite comical spectacle seeing all the poor guys barely moving, thus with such a strong will to make it to the finish. I somehow managed to drag myself to the finish line in 5:30 and for next hour felt into deep coma.
Lesson learned: I don't really know. I guess train harder, run longer and bike further. That's the plan for the rest of the season.
by Vojta Lím
last time hiking with my friend Radek in High Tatra, we found out, that we spend big chunk of our time, digging information on how to tweak our training. We are becoming little nerdy about this, so we decided, why not to share what we find with you guys.
This blog is meant for everybody, who shares the love for outdoors with us and sports such as running or biking.
During winter, we will be posting hacks how to improve your skiing.
Radek is naturally a lazy guy, so his main focus is on how to get the most amount of input with the least amount of effort. He will be sharing with you tweaks for training more efficiently and improving your running technique.
I will contribute with little piece of wisdom from the world of running, biking and triathlon. I also will share how I get high on endorphins on different races throughout the year. In triathlon there is a lot to go wrong during the race, so I hope there is a lot to look forward.
I dedicate winters to powder skiing, so expect we will dive into this topic as well.
We want you to get involved, so feel free to leave comments if you like what we talk about or if you disagree.
If you want to write an article for the blog, please get in touch, we will be more than happy to publish your thoughts.
Let's get started!