I had a few early afternoons off from work this week and with errands and chores pilling up decided to catch up on life instead of training. Wednesday I ran in the evening and decided to try something new after researching running techniques earlier in the week. When I began forefoot strike running last August one of the things I learned from the Evolution Running system was cadence. Specifically that of a minimum of at least 180 foot strikes per minute. I have been working on technique and distance, but have neglected to develop my cadence until now. I downloaded a metronome app and set off to run some flats, as well as some hill repeats with my new rhythmic friend. Bap, bap, bap went the sound of the metronome as I sped off at my first attempt.
The reason for the cadence is simple. To effectively use the elastic response of your tendons your foot can only be in contact with the ground for a fraction of time, otherwise the store energy in the tendons dissipates. Also it doesn't hurt to know that all of the worlds top runners have foot strike cadence of far more than that, 190 to even over 200. This issue with lower cadence, which most recreational and beginner run settle into is that it means you're over-striding and getting to much height of the ground increasing the force of your landing.
All that being said, I never liked making just the minimums so I set my new friend "Mettie" to 184 bpm and took off. It felt a little strange at first, but like toe tapping to a great song I found myself slipping mindlessly into a perfect rhythm. Bap, tap, bap, tap. My stride quickly assumed the beat until the sound of my foot strike and the metronome became indistinguishable Btap, btap, btap. First thing I noticed that I was putting in a lot more steps into my 5:00 min/km pace, the second my heart rate was around 151 bpm and usually at that pace i would be in my zone 2 with about 147 bpm. The next thing to cross my mind was a fluency I hadn't felt before. I could tell my technique felt different. Since I couldn't see myself I could speak to better or worse, but different. I could feel my recovery leg was coming a little higher and tighter towards my butt, my foot strike was more under my hips and I was using more of a pedaling motion that I have seen so many times watching top runners. What was really strange was how I could speed up or slow down my pace greatly all while maintaining the same 184 bpm cadence. Btap, btap, btap. The last amazing change was discovered as I hit the hill repeats. I kept the same cadence, but my stride became smaller as I hit the "meat" of the hill. My heart rate however barely changed during my climbs or descents Physiologically speaking, my body barely noticed a shift from flat to up or down. I will keep working and experimenting with cadence and keep posting my findings
Saturday brought the weeks long run. I decided with Around the bay, just around the corner I needed to ramp things up a little. I planned a course starting with a long, slow climb up the Chedoke Radial trail, back down again, then through the city with a back and forth along the hill section of ATB. it would be 28km in total, the furthest I have run to date and with the most hills I could pack into this brutal course. Only one flaw in my plan. The weeks thaw and freeze had left the Radial Trail a complete train wreck of frozen foot imprints and sheets of ice. A broken ankle or fractured face waiting to happen. I told myself, just another challenge and decided to press on. It was insane. An absolute clusterfuck of icy jagged edges and foot flexing ridges. I made it to the top and back in one piece holding around a 6:00 min/km pace, but it completely wasted me and I had only completed the first 6km. Ugh. I told myself do the best you can with the rest of the run and when you can make it another step pull the cell phone from your Camelback and call Chris for an emergency pickup.
I managed to quiet thoughts of quitting with a little help from Eminem's "Till I Collapse" rapping inspiration into my ears from Chris' playlist on her Ipod shuffle. The last 5km was absolutely brutal, but I just kept telling myself what if this was the race, would I just quit then? No. I would finish. So I did, only a few hundred meters from my door, dragging my exhausted body up the porch and inside to a loving hug from Chris and a much needed hot shower.