If you take a look at me, especially in wet spandex, in high resolution, at some particularly unflattering angles, I’m not exactly the person you would size up and think about being on the podium. That’s for skinny, fit people with 8% bodyfat wearing extra small tri kits, right?
Which, let’s face it, I am not.
Well, I’ve proved that theory wrong a few times with some podium action, but it’s the exception and definitely not the rule. And because I keep improving just a little bit at the short, local stuff each year, it’s starting to be in my grasp to be fighting for the top few spots in my AG if things go really well. It’s another avenue for motivation during a race besides just hitting HR/pace/power numbers, which is fun.
I didn’t know it then, but 15 of the other 21 pink caps were behind me.
Size is barely a limiter at all in the swim. Frankly, most triathletes that enter the local sprint tri not great swimmers. Because I have pretty good form and practice swimming (both open water and speedwork in the pool) a few times a week, I usually come out pretty close to the front of the pack for my age group.
Cycling, I’ve clawed my way up the power to watt ratio with lots of specific work on how to hurt myself and like it over 1, 2, 5, 20+ minutes. It’s changed from my worst sport to generally the one I place the highest, even with my old, entry level road bike. This year, once I get the hang of my new Death Star, I have a feeling that I’ll be hanging on with the top ladies in my age group for said reasonably local-ish, smaller (and flatter) races.
Thumbs up for doing all the passing and not much of the falling back.
My transitions could use a little work sometimes, but I rarely get hit by gravity anymore. As the season goes on, I get more efficient, and I believe I’ve pared down to only things I really need. I could do the shoes on the bike trick and go without socks, but I’m not quite there yet.
The run is where it all falls apart. I’m generally hanging on in a good spot after the bike, if things went well. I was fourth last race. If I had a good run, I could have tried to hunt down third place and voila! Podium! However, the ladies that are swimming and biking like me run 1-2 minutes faster per mile than I do. What happened instead – I was in fourth, I got passed once putting me in fifth, and I’m actually really surprised that I finished in fifth because my run was only ninth best. I just beat sixth, seventh, and eighth by enough on the swim, bike, and transitions, they ran out of room to catch me.
Horns up because I earned my freezy pop!
There are two paths to get my 5 seconds of fame at an awards ceremony.
- Get so good at the swim and the bike that I’m coming off in first place, and hope I don’t get caught by more than 2 people in my age group on the run.
- Try to improve my run so I could possibly, potentially, maybe actually run someone down off the bike instead of getting passed passed passed passed passed all the time.
While the first would be really cool in and of itself, I think that I need to find the missing link for the second and it’s not the obvious things. I’ve thrown volume at it, I’ve trained fast miles off the bike consistently, I’ve trained in the heat, there’s just something that’s not clicking on with my run in races. So it’s time to do some things that I haven’t done before in pursuit of a better run leg.
First…nail down a nutrition plan AND FOLLOW IT. I am NOTORIOUSLY horrible at this. I went into the run at Pflugerville on ~40 calories in the hatch (from the half bottle of Scratch I sucked down on the bike). I forgot how to eat on the bike and I am SO lucky I put an emergency gel in my handheld (who needs a gel on the run for 3 miles? …that would be me). The ONLY reason I did so well before that is I had remembered to eat some highly caffeinated chews about 1 hour before the race, and they were OBVIOUSLY wearing off the first half mile of the run.
Here are things I’m going to do:
- Carby snacks. I’m already working towards making sure I don’t overdo the protein and fat (while still hitting my daily recommendations) so I can dedciate every other calorie possible to CARBS (more carbs while taking care of the other stuff = better fueled workouts).
- Fueling more workouts in better ways. This is pretty much sports nutrition 101, but in practice, I think I’m a special snowflake who doesn’t need the calories to perform. Yes, this takes away some of my french fry calories. Suck it up, buttercup. This will make me a better runner and probably more likely able to hunt someone down…. 😛
- AM workout (less than an hour) – gatorade, coconut water, or other carby snack before I leave for work unless I’m eating breakfast right away.
- AM workout (more than an hour) – one gel or equivalent every 45 mins, carby snack either before the workout, before I leave for work, or split between both (ideal).
- Lunch workout – carby snack if I’m not immediately eating lunch (which is rare, but happens).
- PM workout (less than an hour) – carby snack before (I should not be super hungry starting a PM workout), carby snack after or dinner within 30 minutes.
- PM workout (more than an hour) – carby snack before, one gel or equivalent for every 45 minutes, and a carby snack or dinner within 30 minutes.
- Any workout that goes beyond 2 hours – must have carbs before, every 45 mins, and immediately after.
Second…work on my running FORM. Now that I’ve studied up on biomechanics and optimal running form, it’s pretty clear to me I’m doing it wayyyy wrong. Apparently, I’ve been JOGGING and not RUNNING (running means both feet off the ground at the same time and according to race pics – I don’t do that). We need to fix that, because my pride says that I am NOT a jogger.
Here’s some pictures from the race to illustrate my point. Learn with me while I analyze my race photos. This is what running is supposed to look like:
My running “pose” position sucks. I should look more like this guy above. Instead this is what I look like:
With my leg so low, I’m not getting any momentum as it swings through, so my stride length is super short and shuffly. I am bent at the hips, I should be leaning with my whole body and my ankle should be dorsiflexed instead of straight up and down.
With my pose lacking, it means the rest doesn’t go very well. My leg doesn’t swing out very far because it has very little momentum, and I don’t have far to fall, so I’m not getting that good lean going on. And that’s not good because that means my stride is short and lacking power. Look – I’m jogging. My feet are not both off the ground at the same time. I’m a jogger. Ugh.
Because I’m not leaning (or falling) enough, I’m heel striking. If I could get my body over my leg a little more I’d be hitting the ground on my midfoot, touching just a little heel (and also a little toe). But I’m not.
This essentially puts the brakes on. I’m giving up energy I worked really hard to create! That sucks! Why would I want to do that unless I was running down a steep hill? If I can move my strike more forward, I can keep more momentum going, which means less energy needs to be created by ME per stride.
So, how do I do this?
Concentrate on my form every run. I need to work on improving my pose, I need to learn how to fall correctly, and I need to strike in the correct spot on my feet. Like riding a bike (or at least, riding a bike in traffic with clips), I need to concentrate on this all the time until it’s totally natural… and then probably some more.
Photographic proof of progress. I need to have Zliten and I play paparazzi with each other more often to snag pictures and video of our running form to see how it’s developing. Either set up a camera outside the house and do loops of our block or go to the track or something.
Drills. I always say “yep, I should be doing drills” and what do I never do? Drills. I found a pretty comprehensive list of things to do here and I’m doing to make sure I do them at the very least once a week during an easy run.
Monitor my cadence. Oddly enough, when I trend towards a 90+ cadence, I feel better, expend less energy, and I bet I’d be running instead of jogging. This means smaller strides, but much quicker ones if I’m doing it right, which is not a bad thing.
Strength Training. I’m already doing this, but I need to pay attention once I am running with good (better) form to see if it reveals any weaknesses. Who knows, maybe this will solve the glute/hammie cramping thing I get during long runs? That would be rad!
And, hey – if nothing else – it will be nice to do something on the run this summer instead of think about how hot it is!