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Getting dirty

20 April, 2010

My first time on a dirt track, at Brockton Oval, has clarified a few points for me:

  1. In a rainforest, recovery time includes spluttering from the flies you’ve inhaled during the interval.
  2. Dirt tracks aren’t popular. Therefore, you can run clockwise without getting in the way of others (apart from an occasional, colourful bird trying to dig a hole in the side of the track).
  3. Running clockwise reveals nascent imbalances (a left glute complains — nothing debilitating at this stage, but good to know about).
  4. Running on dirt is a soft surface for sprint-type workouts. The landing is plush, but the toe-off is more demanding.
  5. Toeing off dirt helps me to understand something that a local shoe-guy — and elite runner — had previously tried explaining to me, without it really going in, after he noticed the amount of wear in the toe region. ‘Flicking’ the foot at toe-off, though it feels like you’re getting more bang for your buck, is actually not economical. This may be for two reasons, I now realize. Firstly, it increases the ground contact time which reduces stride rate — this is easy to see intuitively. Not only that, but as the point of ‘departure’ moves towards the front of the foot, the position becomes less stable. You may be able to utilize the toes, but you’re likely to waste at least some of that energy. The extra wear in the toe region of my last shoes did not indicate necessarily that I was exerting more power at that point in my stride, it was due to slipping or scuffing. Wasted energy, in other words.

So, it was a case of 16x200m [35, 37, 37, 36, 36, 36, 36, 36, 36, 36, 36, 36, 36, 37, 36, 36s] with 200m recoveries (all 68-72s). I look forward to this workout almost as much as I dread it. Maintaining a consistent pace and recovery throughout allows no room for sloppy running. Limbs move only in the sagittal plane — no flapping or swirling! Head must stay up — no bobbing, tuck the chin but look up! Shoulders, neck and face relaxed. Anything else is self-sabotage. This is one major reason why we as runners do speedwork. Don’t ask me to explain the physiological changes that occur, but I do know that it’s also about maintaining form at high speeds and fatigue levels.

Yesterday: 7 miles running. 16k cycling.

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