Monday, March 13, 2006

Half Marathon Maniac

One day distance experiment by the natural scientist:
Two half marathons.
1h57m in the morning
Lunchtime party
1h59m in the evening.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Greenwich Meridian 10k 2006

They're off! The start gun fires and the elite pack races off to do the first couple of flat laps around the park. The brutal hills are later on, cruely close to the finish.

The elite runners zoom off into the distance, I stay in the middle of the pack for the first km, to ensure a measured start. Always important to be restrained initially, it's not so easy when you are pumped up with adreneline.

I am somewhere behind the runner in green.

Here I am, running along in my upwright way, feeling fresh and looking forward to an evenly paced race, aware that this will be hard for a course as hilly as this. I'm really enjoying myself here, since it is during te early stages and my legs are not yet tired.

One last push to the finish! I can see the line and have a good idea that a PB is likely, so I try my best to squeeze just a few seconds more, a few seconds in time, a few metres away from the origin of time in Greenwixh Medidian, here on planet Earth!

Final result: A very evenly paced race, almost a negative split, something like 21:10,21:39 for a time of about 42m49m (unofficial, so plus minus about 20s) This is about a minute faster than last year, on this tough course.

To ensure I enjoy the race, negative splits are the key, for me. What are "negative splits"? some kind of painful excercise? No. It just means you run the second half of a race slightly faster than the first half. It've found it works for me for several reasons.

This ensures I don't stress myself too much. Also, you get a better performance if you do this, based on the fact that many world record times are run in this way. But, mostly it is just more fun. As you gradually increase your pace, you overtake others in the latter stages. I find it is also good for another reason, the "I'm having a bad day" syndrome. Let me explain.

If I can start out the first few portions of a race slower, I can then accelerate towards the middle and through to the end. If I feel like it. If I am having a "bad" day, then I just continue at the same pace and don't have those "Why am I doing this?" moments, enduced by over exurting myself. Makes great sense to me, as a "natural runner", also. Why? Well, here's a brief theory.

Our ancestors, during a hunt, might chase our prey for a period and then move in for the kill as our prey wore down. Who knows?

Finally, all this "easy running" I have been doing, for the last couple of months, has not had an adverse affect on my speed, apparantly. So, that is interesting: no pain, some gain! Posted by Picasa

First 5K race report

Just got back from my first ever 5k: The "Last friday of the month 5K" at Hyde Park in London, fantastically organised by the serpentine running club.

The race was spit into 2 groups, a fast group, group A and a slower group, group B. Since it was my first race of this distance, I thought I should start in the slower group, in case I went out too fast at the start. Group A set off first, around 2 minutes before group B. I think that there were around 100-200 runners in each group.

Everything came together and I had a perfect race! My aim for this year is to run under 20 minutes for a 5k, and I managed 20m14s, pretty close to my goal, considering it was my first shot! My 1k splits were near perfect:
3m55s,4m07s, 4m06s,4m06s,4m00s. The gods conspired to ensure immaculate pacing. I was amazed when I checke. Perfect barefoot pacing. Wow!

Lesson learned: No matter how well you prepare, there are times when everything apparantly falls into place, without any reason.

As an added bonus, I caught some of the runners who set off in the fast race, even though they set off 2 minutes earlier. I placed second in the slower group after having a fun race with the guy who lead for most of the race - I caught him on the last 1k and he then regained first place in the final 100m or so....

I'm still on a real high, so I better sign off before I start talking real nonsense!

5ks rock!

Barefoot runner since December 2004.

Activity Journal

With the aim of exercising to simulate life as a “natural” human, I have recently been trying to run across more difficult terrain, such as through long grass, through woodlands, up, over and under obstacles, leaping over park benches, hanging off goal posts and sprinting up and down short yet steep hills. I hope to get more agile in movement and more sure-footed. I am learning to fall properly too, so that when I fall over, I am less likely to get hurt. Kind of like a barefoot stunt-man. It is another dimension for me, in addition to my “mindful” running where I focus on form.

I guess I am practicing wild running. Or, maybe you could call it “Free Running” or Parkour, the French sport of moving efficiently through your environment, although it does tend to incorporate more daring movements such as balancing on high walls, things that give me the heebie jeebies, but do not faze most fearless teenagers. I feel able to do all this, since I have built up a foundation of strength from a year of barefoot running. The whole world is my gym!

My body feels these new demands, in a good way. I am surprised that my stomach muscles are sore after all this clambering and jumping across things, yet I have not done a single sit-up. Boy do those muscles in my back hurt! I am excited that after around a month of this kind of running, I am having no alarming pains in my feet or joints, no messages telling my that my body is getting injured. Had I done this a six months ago, it would have been a guaranteed recipe for injury.

When I run across smooth concrete now, boy does it feel easy! I think that by running over more demanding terrain, I am making myself faster over easier terrain. I’ll have to see.

One problem though: How do I log this in an exercise log? I have really enjoyed logging all my miles over the last year, since I can see the progression over time. I went from running a regular 10 miles a week to a regular 35 miles a week, sometimes 50 plus miles. I love analysing numbers and guessing at trends and stuff, so this has given me some nice data to work with. It is bordering on obsessiveness, maybe it bourn out of a desire not to get injured? Maybe that’s the real reason that runners carefully log their weekly mileages, since we are used to always being injured and have to increase mileages in a slow and measured way?

Our love affair with the high speed transportation has meant that we have optimised our environment for the wheel. To take advantage of this, I often ride my bicycle to work. But, how can I equate bicycling miles to running miles? For me, it feels like 3 bicycling miles is about equivalent to 1 running mile. Any ideas there? Should I log those miles in my weekly mileage?

Basically, I am looking for a different way of logging “effort expended” to log my exercise over time. I am thinking that heart rate is surely a better way of doing this, since I am doing all these different forms of exercise.

I have tried out an inexpensive ($30) heart rate monitor watch and found it to be very quirky, despite putting the relevant conductive gel on the sensor. Perhaps the expensive ones are more reliable and do not give such spurious readings? Any ideas on how to extend my activity log to incorporate some of these aspects?

Running Free

Having run barefoot for around a year, I have decided to start keeping an online record of my progress, since I have made such a huge amount of progress in my running in only a year. One of the main interesting things that has happened is that I have increased body awareness and a more complete understanding about what it means to be really healthy. My original goal was to simulate some of the things that our ancestors did, to put my body through the same kinds of demands that it has evolved to do, so that I would be living more in tune with our design, not fighting it or somehow trying to "overcome" nature.
With this in mind, I am constantly finding new ways of being a natural athlete. Something I have just read about is free running, or Parkour, which is something else I shall try to incorporate into my running. I am often tempted to leap up onto things as I run, to hurdle benches and up onto small walls, since otherwise, a kind of monotony can set in. Instead of doing boring press-ups and sit-ups, why not climb over walls and practice rolls to build further body strength? Which is more fun? Which is more natural?

Free running is not about leaping across building tops, but more a way of flowing around obstacles. Why not try to navigate an assault course Tai-Chi style? There are plenty of obstacles to find, there is no need to actually go to an obstacle course, just as there is no need to go to a gym if you wish to get fit. The location is immaterial too: urban, country. Imagination is the limit.

So, I am going to incorporate this third dimension into my running, to transform it from two dimensions by practicing some basic skills such as climbing walls and doing forward rolls to learn how to safely break a fall and to actively seek obstacles as I explore my environment. I look forward to improving my strength, balance and spatial awareness.