As many regular readers will know, I made a big effort to focus on my running in preparation for Ironman South Africa. My final run time, though a PB, wasn't what I'd hoped for. To that end, I've been evaluating how I can achieve a breakthrough Ironman run split. I mentioned in my last post that every element of my training has been closely scrutinised, and this included running technique. Now I'll be honest, this isn't an area I've ever given much attention. The last time I did any run drills was at the end of 2008, so to say that it's an area I've neglected would be a gross understatement.
Starting the process, I wasn't that clued up on what 'proper' run technique actually is. So I became a student, reading up as much as I could on the subject and looking at photos of optimal vs poor technique. Perhaps the method that best help me understand proper run form was a YouTube run analysis from Kona 2009, comparing Craig Alexander to Chris Lieto. Of course, purist runners may (perhaps rightfully so) point out that a triathlete is not the person to model your run technique on, but as one of the best runners in the sport, Craig Alexander fits the bill as a pretty darn good runner. There's also a great analysis of Mirinda Carfrae, again, the best female runner in the sport. Extension, shoulder rotation, foot strike, arm position, upper body position, hip drop, cadence... there's a lot of things to think about. I suddenly felt quite foolish having assumed that these factors would automatically 'be right' as long as I logged he miles in training. Having gone through a whole bunch of race photos on the run from the past few years, it's clear to see, I have some work to do.
So here's my critical self-diagnosis - what are my limiters, or rather, how can I improve?
Extension - I don't have enough of it. Poor extension + low cadence = SLOW!
Shoulder rotation - I have none of it. Indicative of weak rotational core strength. Ab exercises here I come!
Foot strike - I'm often guilty of overstriding. Improving extension should help the feet land underneath the upper body.
Arm position - actually I think isn't too bad - my elbow bend is typically at 90 degrees or slightly less, but I don't bring my elbows back enough.
Upper body position - everybody comments on how upright I am when I run. Clearly the optimal 5-10 degree forward bend has eluded me.
Hip drop - judging from past photos, definitely something to improve. A sign that my gluteus media and TFL needs strengthening.
Cadence - generally ok at around 88-90 strikes per minute, although a few more steps wouldn't hurt.
Armed with my new found knowledge and an appetite for efficient running, my first drills session in 30 months began at the track this morning at 6am. Drills included heel flicks, high knees, ankling (landing on toes to heel), baby steps at a high cadence, pull throughs (concentrating on bringing the elbows back and rotating the shoulders) and my new favourite - 'run like a waiter' - where you run with your palms in a supine position. I also did a few sets of one-legged squats and calf raises, the purpose of which is to strengthen the muscles required for running. I'll also include a few more stretches in my daily routine targeting my hip flexors, to try to improve my range of motion. I know that my running technique isn't textbook and has a lot of room for improvement, so there's time on the table. This is a good thing. I'm hoping that weekly drills like these will help mop up some of that time, translating to better efficiency and ultimately, faster run splits.