Monday, December 5, 2011

How I Improved my 5K Time in 2011

This year I ran two 5K’s competitively – January 1 and December 4.  I logged a difference of -2:08, and most of that speed came after my 10/9 marathon.  After recovering from the marathon I just started running for fun.  With my next marathon 8 months off, this was the time to start experimenting.  It’s a very liberating time, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it!

I started experimenting with barefoot running.  I did some earlier in the year on the treadmill before I bought my first pair of Vibram Five Fingers in February.  Then after the October marathon I started back again (outside) - not all at once, slow half miles at first and gradually increased distance each week by a ¼ mile.  Once I broke the 2 mile mark I added a second day each week, although at less mileage (run until it stops feeling good or the feet feel like they’re cooked). 

I also worked on form.  I think I’m a sloppy runner.  I’m a runner with a bodybuilder history.   I am not sleek and elegant, and shades of thickness remain in the frame that once shouldered a lot more mass (and fat!) than it does today.   I feel like I’m flailing about as I run, and only with a lot of effort can I control excess movement.  I’ve looked at 3 running forms this year:  Chi Running, Revolution Running and Pose Method.  All of these work nicely with minimalist shoes and barefoot and the differences between them are best expressed as nuances.  However, I’m growing attached to Pose, or at least, that’s what I think I'm trying to do lately. 

Distance, Drills and Training Discipline
To a point, the more distance I put in, the easier and faster my shorter runs get.  During marathon training season I’m not looking for speed in my shorter runs, so the times slipped off (I didn’t even think about 5 and 10Ks).  But hard effort in a 5 or 10K is a lot easier to stomach when you’re looking back at a 26.2 accomplishment ("this ain't pain, remember mile 22??  That was PAIN!!!"). 

This November I opted to participate in the 100-up Challenge launched in Twitterverse (my blog on #100up and the results are here).  I know that drills seem so boring, I’d rather just go out and run.  But a few minutes of drills apparently can go a long way towards improving form and physical ability.  Lately I’ve been doing Plank-A-Day as well (another Twitterverse trend #PlankADay).  I'm also reviewing various Pose drills and will look to incorporate more of those in my schedule.

Having the discipline to run consistently is as important as anything else I do; in the end it’s the consistent weekly mileage that teaches my body to be more efficient at running.  Every run is an opportunity to improve one small part of my run; I pick just one thing to work on and only think about that for the run.  And the weekly long run is important too – just to get out and do the miles and let the hard work from the week’s barefoot, tempo and form disciplined runs just become part of my natural run.  I try not to think about correcting too many faults; just try to t relax and enjoy it.

This year I dropped my 5K time from 27:36 to 25:28, or 7.5%.  My goal was get under 24:00, but taking 2:08 off my 5K time is a nice feeling.  Considering 14 months ago I ran my first 5K for time at 32 minutes and had to walk twice, I like where I'm sitting.  There’s always goals and always next year.   I plan to report a sub-24:00 5K next December, but I’ll be happy with whatever my aging body can give me.    

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