Warp speed. Thoughts on speed and strength.

Warp Speed

A selfie on the move – Mr Sulu would be proud

I had a good run to work this morning. The weather cleared up overnight but the temperature was still rather low. The sun was just coming up. A cold and crisp Spring morning. Perfect for running if you have enough layers and a pair of gloves. I had a couple of random thoughts during the commute.

I decided to try my 5K route. I haven’t run that one in a while and I need to start upping my mileage ahead of the Pony Express Half Marathon coming up in May. My initial thoughts were mainly on how slow I felt. This is a constant thing for me when I run. I feel slow. I feel like I’m making no progress in the speed department. It didn’t help that I had the traffic lights conspiring against me as well. It seemed like I had to stop at almost every one of them, making my average pace drop. Interesting then, that the selfie I took on the run makes it look like I’m flying along :-).

My thoughts also veered in the direction of the Crossfit Games Open. We’re 4 weeks in with one more workout to go. What an experience this has been for me. Up to now, I’ve only competed in events like half marathons and triathlons. A couple of cycle races. I’d never considered taking on anything which tests your fitness in the manner that the Open does. From the Crossfit Games website, it is described as follows:

The CrossFit Games events are made up of a broad range of functional movements. Functional movements move large loads, long distances, quickly. These movements also form the basis of our exercise program. Make no mistake—the CrossFit Games are designed to test, not train, fitness. The goal is to find the fittest athletes, not to produce an easily replicable workout program.

Is ‘replicable’ a word?

The Open is the first installment in the Games. Competitors from across the globe log onto the Games website every Thursday at 5PM PST to find out what the workout of the week will be. They then have until the following Monday at 5PM PST to submit their scores for that workout. The top athletes move on to the regionals where they compete for a place in the big event, the Crossfit Games.

I’ve never considered myself strong (still don’t) and have tended to focus on my cardio training rather than strength training. I’ve been doing crossfit since the beginning of September 2015 so I didn’t think I was ready to enter the Open. After a bit of convincing by the coach, however, I signed up along with 17 other box members from the I Will Crossfit affiliate here in Dublin, California. I’m so glad I did. The workouts have all been tough but I’ve enjoyed all of them. I’ve learned some new skills along the way (double unders and muscle ups) and identified loads of things I need to work on (general strength and hand stand push-ups to name two). I’m excited to find out what the final workout will be. I now have a benchmark for next year – yes, I’m already planning to enter the 2017 event.

So how do these two random thoughts link? Well, I started crossfit in the hopes that gaining extra strength would translate into gaining extra speed and endurance. In the California International Marathon in December last year, I felt that my endurance had definitely improved. My finish time was a new PR so I guess the speed was there too. However, I’m not sure I’ve maintained that speed. This is all part of my nervousness as an event approaches. I’m looking forward to the half marathon in May. I haven’t run one in a while. I can’t wait to test myself. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What are your tips and tricks for increasing speed? Fartleks or Yasso 800s? Do you do any strength training?

 

To run faster, you have to run faster.

Glenn Driver at the Barns Green Half Marathon in Sussex, England

Glenn Driver at the Barns Green Half Marathon in Sussex, England

One of my friends, Glenn Driver, is a super-fast runner (and as the link will show, a brilliant landscape photographer). Last time I asked, his half marathon time PB was around 1h17 and his marathon time PB was around 2h48. He’s been speeding up, though, so these might be out-of-date. He runs at a blistering pace and I always joke that I want to be like him when I grow up. The first time I spoke to him about improving my race times, he had the sage advice: ‘To run faster, you have to run faster.’

I laughed initially but then I realised that he was serious. I stopped and thought about it a bit more and had to admit that he was right. Often, I find myself settling into a rhythm and a steady pace for my runs. Particularly if I have a route I’m running regularly. I am so used to the scenery, the terrain, the changes in gradient that I don’t focus too hard on my pace. I just run to reach the end. When I think about it more I include some intervals or some fartleks but that’s rare. Then, a month later, I look at my average times for the route or my average pace for long vs short runs and I begin to wonder why I’m not any faster. I feel fitter and stronger but I don’t seem to have made any gains in pace. Recently I’ve been lamenting this slowness. The short answer is that I didn’t remember to run faster.

If I want to run faster, I need to run faster. Simple but great advice. It works. Go try it.