Last weekend was Provincial Indoor Champs, Montreal Endurance’s first appearance at a championship meet! We came away with five provincial gold medals and two silvers, pretty good I’d say. I was slotted to race both the 1500m and defend my title in the 3000m but had to scratch the 3000m due to problems I’ve been having with my foot.
My therapists tell me that I’ve developed sesamoiditis which, in my case, is probably brought on by some irritation of the tendons surrounding my sesamoids in my right foot. This is probably a residual issue from back in the fall when I stubbed my foot, possibly creating small fractures (another likely cause, but fractures would have been healed by now). From favouring the sesamoids, driving, and doing loads of pool running, I’m told that I’ve also given myself a bad case of turf toe and that combined with the sesamoiditis is causing me to favour my right side also causing my plantar to flare up. My therapists tell me all is not lost, these are all fixable, I just need rest, aggressive rehab and alot of massages. Sounds good to me.
Its tough not being able to train, or rather, not being able to train the way I’d like to. I was cross training abit, but I can’t do much because cross training on the bike, the eliptical and in the pool all seem to aggravate something different. Earlier I told myself that it was safe to feel a bit of pain because cross training (to me) was an automatic fail safe. Nothing was bad doing cross training. But now I’m not so sure, and I’m paying attention to those pain signals. Because I’m not loading tons of focus into my training, I feel abit like a chicken with its head chopped off. My days seem unstructured, and I’m not getting that accomplished feeling I love so much.
The past few days I’ve snuck in some easy runs, but I don’t thing they did any good for me, nor anything really worse, probably just delaying my rehab abit. Along one of my runs I had the pleasure to run with Graydon and John. The more I run with these two guys the more I appreciate what John is wrestling with when he throws together programs for me, and for other people. The more I run with these two, the more I appreciate how inquisitive Graydon is, that guy has a lot of questions, we try to bang out answers, but they usually lead to a plethora of more questions.
One thing we went over was running economy, or efficiency and the smoothness you can automatically identify in a stride, and the relationship it may or may not have with faster times and more competitive elites, and if there is a relationship with work load. So higher mileage=faster times. Of course, its not that simple, there is a correlation, in the way that they may go in the same direction, but the relationship is a weak one. Running economy, however, probably has a higher, stronger relationship. Slower runners don’t generally look as smooth as faster ones. I think this is where a bit (I mean alot) of athleticism comes into the sport. That smoothness, comes from a combination of fitness geared towards running and being aware of how your body is moving. Training for distance running is about putting in the miles, and getting the right rest and striking a balance between the two. But its also about training the mind to do it all efficiently and effectively. My bud Didier Morelli sent me a vimeo video entitled ‘Man on a Mission’. It’s about Eamonn Coghlan, a former world record holder in the mile and Olympic Champion, exploring Kenya’s dominance in distance running and a specific school near Iten where Brother Colm O’Connell appears to be the source of many Kenyan champions. One of the workouts featured in the film was an easy jog, single file, under the watchful eye of O’Connell. The exercise is simply for the athletes to focus on the easy run, on foot strike, on posture and on rhythm. This isn’t a secret workout or anything. Most of my easy runs are like this, especially if I’m running alone. Left on my own , I usually find myself focusing on staying as light as possible on my feet, even if I’m tired. I’m not focusing on myself so much that I start to run fast, its more like forcing myself to run properly and efficiently. The work is absorbing not exhausting. Instead of focusing on how hard it is, or how heavy you may feel, this ‘workout’ is purely about form and technical ability.
I’m not showing the lack of a specific workout like this in my training (and assuming most north american training programs) as the reason why we don’t succeed. What I do think is that the focus on technical ability through the applied action of running is lacking a bit, and that that attributes to a different attitude towards the sport that likely contributes to a dumbing down….sort of. We focus on drills, then when the running comes you just hope for the best.
I’m not saying I’ve noticed ugly form in North American distance running. The point isn’t form. Its the thought processes and the links one makes between running easy, running workouts, doing drills, rehab etc. In a nut shell, its culture. HA Anthropology plug. Check it out: an article comparing two elite marathon groups Yes, it uses V02max, which doesn’t say much about performance ability, but here, performances are controlled, and the research seems sound.
What’s the difference then? Why the heck do they keep winning? Or, what does that say about the relationship between elite level running, and visible running economy: Part of it, played out in the vimeo movie (which sadly you now need a password to watch, which I don’t have, sorry guys, there’s a handy synopsis) is that they expect to, and their training reflects it. And, they put themselves in positions to win better than anyone else. They just want it more.
After sitting for awhile writing this blog and re-reading it I’ve realized how exhausting this subject has gotten. I’ve considered erasing most of it, but thought it was silly since I took the time to write it all. I feel now that I have to be apologetic for bringing it up, but I suppose it comes up every other month/season anyway so why not pre-empt the conversation and initial questions with a straight up answer: Culture. What to take from it all? Coaching people to run fast is one thing, coaching people how to win is another.
Shout-Out to my cousin Meggan Franks for being a Boss down south and WINNING the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon. She’s always been a big influence on my running, knowing family members run, and have run in the past, has always helped me focus and be confident about what I’m doing. One day I’m going to have to get down to Mississippi and visit, I always imagine jogging with my cousin to be awesome, can’t wait.