Today I met with a high school friend of Stephanie's, Greg Moe. He and a partner run a fitness performance training company in Tustin called Rough-Fit. Greg has qualified for the US triathlon team in his age group for the Olympic distance and considers running one of his specialties.
I recently did some website copywriting for Rough-Fit, which you can check out here: http://roughfit.com/
In exchange, Greg was kind enough to offer me a coached running workout. Since Steph and I were in the OC to visit some family friends, today was the day to take him up on it. And I am so glad I did!
Riding alongside me in his Trek mountain bike, Greg counted my cadence, observed my foot striking, arm movement and body positioning. It turns out I'm doing a lot more right than wrong. My biggest accomplishment is that I've successfully transitioned to forefoot/mid-foot striking. Greg mentioned that my feet are under my hips and that he even didn't notice the fact that my left leg is longer than my right. In other words, my running is pretty balanced even though my right leg swings outward a bit (a structural problem, not necessarily technique).
Where I needed the most work was increasing my cadence, going from 84-85 steps a minute to 92 -- where Greg says most elite runners maintain their stride count. I picked up the tip quickly without trying to raise my speed, which is a common mistake among runners playing with cadence.
Then, Greg worked with me on using my arms more to help drive movement. He said that most runners think that swinging your arms forward makes you go forward faster. But Greg argued that driving your elbows back, so your fingertips almost brush past your hips, is more effective. The backwards drive of your elbows can help increase power and speed. A great analogy he offered was that I could try to picture filing my fingernails on my hips to get my elbows back more. I felt a difference most notably on some uphill drills we did in the Newport Beach back bay neighborhood. Fortunately, Greg said my body positioning during these drills was upright, which further helped.
Finally, Greg gave me some pointers on how to run downhill more effectively. In short, it's good to give in to the downward slope of the hill. Let the hill and gravity do the work, and do not use your legs as brakes if possible. Greg said he can gain up to 20 seconds on his mph-pace going down hill by letting his cadence and strides increase while keeping his heart rate the same or decreasing. I tried this on a few hills and went noticeably much faster than I ever have on downhills. Granted, my heart-rate didn't subside during those intervals, but Greg said that would come in time with practice.
Despite some heavy winds, I ran at a low 7:00-7:15 pace for a few miles on the way back to my car, Greg pedaling casually beside me and both of us doing our best to beat the imminent rainstorm. Today's lesson was a huge confidence booster. Greg validated that my running form is largely on track, and with some tweaks and practice, I'll get faster.
I may not be the world's fastest runner, but my form is improving, just like in the pool. And despite the workouts I've missed lately that may be key to preparing for Wildflower, Greg thinks I can definitely run in this weekend's Cheseboro Half Marathon trail run.
When I showed up to visit Greg I was on the fence. Coach Gerardo said I could do it but to see how I feel. Now that I know I'm not a "running reject," I think I'm ready to give it a shot. It only took two failed running events (LA 13.1 and Surf City Full Marathon) for me to participate in a half marathon this year.
It's about time.
93 days and counting.