Posts Tagged ‘Speed’

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…when it comes to speed. What is fast for some is slow for others and visa-versa. Still, the one standard you can compare yourself to is, well, yourself. Part of the reason many of us enter footraces is to see just how fast we are. Once we have finished one, we use each subsequent race to measure how our speed has waxed or waned.  Much of our change in speed can be attributed to diet, hydration, training, weather and quality of sleep & recovery.

But what about Mars Blackmon’s eternal question, “Is it the shoes?”

Can what you wear on your feet make a significant impact on how you perform on the streets?  Nike, along with Blackmon (Spike Lee) and Michael Jordan, tried to sell us on that idea way back in the early 1990’s.  “It’s gotta be the shoes” was everywhere.

Runners today have a myriad of shoes to choose from when they enter a running store.  Every shoe has it’s selling point, whether it’s support or cushioning, firmness or flexibility.  And of course, we all have different feet, so the range of choice is a good thing, right?  But what if you are simply looking to increase your speed.  You feel you are close to whatever goal it is you have set for yourself, but you have fallen just a little bit short.  Is there a shoe for that?

People are constantly asking me, “Can you run fast in those, uh, things?” They point at my Vibram Bikilas or Treks, not sure what to make of them.

Commercial hype and celebrity endorsements aside (Joe Montana – it is so sad to see you pitching those Skechers Shape Ups), let’s do a simple thought experiment.  Let’s pit twin brothers against each other in a long distance race.  Each has had the exact same training, eaten the exact same foods, and received the exact same amount of sleep.  They are wearing the exact same outfits and weigh exactly the same.  They also both incorporate the same running style.  Which one would you bet on to win this race?  You can’t, because any bet you make would be a complete guess.

Now, let’s take one of the twins out of his traditional shoes and put him in a pair that weigh half as much (12oz to 6oz each).  This is now the only difference between the twins.  One is literally carrying 3/4 of a pound less than the other.  Now you may wonder, what difference can 3/4lb make in a footrace?  Well, based on certain calculators out there on the internet, for a 175lb man like me, it can mean 9 seconds in a 10K, 22 seconds in a half-marathon and as much as 45 seconds in a full marathon.  For a 150lb runner, the time difference is even greater.  What’s 9 seconds?  Well, it can mean the difference between placing in your age group  or not (I’ve missed placing in my age group twice 5 seconds or less).  It can also mean the difference between qualifying for Boston or not.  I still have over 9 minutes to make up, but if I ran in traditional shoes and clocked a 3:21:40, I’d be pretty ticked off!

So what am I getting at?  Vibram Fivefingers are my racing shoe.  They literally are half the weight of my old Brooks trainers and I am convinced that they have helped me reached times that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  Between the  forcing me to run in a more efficient manner and allowing me to carry less weight, my speed has picked up.  At the age 40 and with only a little over a year of consistent running under my belt, I was able to record a sub-40 in just my second 10K.  I was not a runner before November 2008.  Was it solely because of the shoes?  No way!  But I don’t doubt that they had a huge part in my race that day (of course, I still missed the podium by a few seconds).

If you are a dyed-in-the-wool heel striker with no desire to change your stride, then the minimalist shoe is probably not for you.  But if you are naturally a mid- to fore-foot striker, or are like me, a partially reformed heel-striker, and you are looking for ways to cut down your times, the Vibrams, and more specifically the Bikilas or Treks, may be the shoe for you.  I’ve heard people say that as heel-strikers they cannot possibly run in the Vibrams.   I would have to disagree.  I have always been a heel-striker and although I’ve  tried to alter my mechanics, using a cross between chi-running and barefoot techniques, I will still land just ever so slightly on my heel.

Providence Marathon

Boston 13.1

Boston Run To Remember

That said, my heels have been fine.  I am a faster, stronger and more efficient runner than I ever was.

Taken to extremes, you may ask, well why not toss out the shoes altogether? Go barefoot!  That’s another 45 seconds right there!  The problem with that for me is I don’t have natural tread on the bottom of my feet.  Both the Treks and the Bikilas have enough tread so you can run hard and still maintain traction with the ground.  If I tried that barefoot, I think I’d rip the skin right off the bottoms of my feet.

I’ve put well over 1000 miles in VFF’s over the last 12 month, with close to 400 in either Treks or Bikilas, interspersed with some runs in my traditional Brooks.  I know my comfortable pace in my VFF’s is about 20 seconds faster than my Brooks.

Based on my personal experience therefore, I have to agree with Mars. “It’s gotta be the shoes!”

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…the Need for Speed.

The primary training tool in the marathoner’s tool box is mileage. The more miles you put in the bank, the more likely you will be able to successfully complete a marathon. Logging 60 miles a week (something I’ve never done) will force your body to adjust to the concept of 26.2 miles much more aggressively than running 20 miles a week. That’s not to say that you can’t complete a marathon on 20 miles per week training, it’s just makes the task a bit more painful.

That said, my goal really has never been to just complete a marathon.  Don’t get me wrong.  Completing a marathon is huge.  HUGE!  But from the very start, I wanted to eventually be able to call myself a Boston Qualifier.   As much as I have improved over the past 8 months, dropping 24 minutes on my marathon time, I am still 9 minutes and 12 seconds short of accomplishing that goal.

As banged up as I was at the end of both Boston and Providence, my legs recovered quickly and I was upright and walking down stairs within a day.  Fitness is not the issue.

Speed is.

I have a need and the need is speed.  At both Boston, but especially at Providence, I had opportunities late in the game to pick up the pace and finish close to 3:20.  As much as I tried, the speed just wasn’t there at the end.  I never stopped running, but in both cases, the last three miles proved to be my undoing.

Enter Yasso & Galloway.

My hopes are that this fall, Bart Yasso and Jeff Galloway will take me to the promised land.

Both are running experts and both have “discovered” certain indicators that can tell you if you are ready and able to hit your desired marathon time.

I plan on using their methods as part of my speed training this summer to help me get to where I want to be.

You can find their indicators here & here, but in a nutshell they work as follows:

Yasso 800’s: Once a week you go to the track and run a series of 800 meter intervals.  Starting with 4 intervals and adding one each week, you try to run each 800 in minutes and seconds in the time that you would like to run your marathon in hours and minutes.  I would like to run a 3 hour 20 minute marathon or better, so I will run 800 meter intervals in 3 minutes and 20 seconds or less.  In between each interval you walk the same amount of time.  Eventually you build up to 10 intervals, and if you can do that, you should be ready to run your marathon.

Galloway’s Magic Mile: Once every 2 weeks or so, you run a mile about as hard as you can.  Galloway says that at the end of the measured mile you shouldn’t be able to maintain that pace for more than another 100 yards, though he does emphasize no puking.  Over the course of you training, you do 4 magic miles, eliminate the slowest, and average the remaining 3.  From there he has a program that calculates what your magic mile average indicates.  I need to average a 5:53 mile or better to run a 3:20 marathon.

The indicators alone won’t be enough speed work by themselves, so I plan on throwing in some shorter intervals along the way (some 400’s and 200’s).  If you have any suggestions, please let me know.  My goal this summer is to do Yasso 800’s once a week, running 3:20 splits or better and check my Magic Mile at least 3 times.  Hopefully come October (I’m looking at the Smuttynose Marathon on October 3rd) both of those indicators will tell me that I am more than ready to break the 3:20 barrier in the marathon.

Stay tuned!

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