I do not usually blog about a Team Over The Top training run for a specific race. This is the exception! After all, they are preparing for the toughest 30 kilometre running race in North America – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada’s Around The Bay. It also happens to be the oldest (as far as start date) running road race in North America – it actually started BEFORE the Boston Marathon!
The training date was Sunday, March 12, 2017 beginning at 8:00 a.m. It was a bitterly cold morning with a vicious north-west wind that added to the tricky conditions. There had also been 2 rather significant snowfalls the previous week. The start temperature was -20 Celsius with the windchill, warming up to a ‘balmy’ -11 Celsius by the 11:15 a.m. – the official end of the session.
Distances covered ranged from 17 kilometres to 34 kilometres – out and back along the most difficult section of the race (North Shore Blvd. which includes the infamous ‘Valley of Death 1’ (better known as Valley Inn Trail where my runners DO exceed 15 km/h!!) :-)) as I call it to the finish line. We actually started at the finish line, ran backwards to the 13 kilometre mark, and back!). I mention this since not many train on the course as intently as my runners. They power up and down the hills below goal race pace AND maintain goal race pace on the flats. It is quite simply DAMN difficult!
What I truly love about my runners is how they adapt so quickly to my Squat-Scoot method of tight, quiet, light, forward mid foot running. They say it is due to the fact that they NEVER get avoidable ‘itis’ running injuries moving like that! It sounds so simple and yet is so difficult to master. Please note in the series of photos below how my runners stay compact and low even on the steepest hills of the Bay course. What you CANNOT notice is how QUIET they are at any pace. Trust me, you would NOT hear them running up behind you – they are THAT quiet!These are my runners attacking the downhill section of the Valley of Death 1. Note how ALL of them have a slight knee lift. This helps them allow gravity to do more of the work with virtually NO strain on the quadriceps and hip flexors – the bane of most runners going downhill. You will also notice that the knees stay bent and the feet land just ahead of the knees but in a mid foot contact position (note Annette in Photo 5 above). This helps them hold speed without undue fatigue. Finally, note how their upper bodies stay upright and the arms drive forward in support. The head and neck stay in line over the shoulders – thus, there is no cramping nor muscle strain. A few will even do a slight weave downhill to cushion the impact without losing pace. Not many other runners can keep pace with my Team on the hills. It is beautiful to behold en mass!
Further along during the run, you will notice in the photos below that my runners take on another of the infamous Bay hills (LaSalle Park) with confidence and power. It is one tough mother of a climb in both directions. Thank God you only have to do it in ONE direction on race day!! In photo 1, David uses the forward weave drill near the top to save his legs for the downhill – perfect form! In photo 2, Teresa heads down the LaSalle hill lifting her knees at the perfect angle for safe impact and maximum use of gravity. In photo 3, Jason powers down LaSalle hill with perfect leg extension, bent forward knee, cushioned landing and upright body position. The result is no needless strain with maximum downhill pace. In photo 4, Jason’s 12 year old son (and my youngest runner in the clinic) follows his dad down LaSalle Hill in picture-perfect form. Remember – he is only 12!!The only thing I might change is his arm position (drop them slightly and drive them forward). Having said that, it was bitterly cold and young Ajay was not wearing anything on his hands!! Notice the runner beside him (not one of my runners). Her landing foot is totally flat and her drive leg is barley off the road – technique like this inevitably leads to needless ‘itis’ injuries AND loss of energy into the road!
In the next series of photos, you will see my runners powering along the flat sections of the course. I train them to focus on foot cadence by repeating the “1,2,3,4” mantra at the cadence they wish to average. When done properly, they simply leave any other runner on pace with them behind without added effort. Again, this is beautiful to behold – if you are a spectator!!!Alicia, Kimberly and young Rebecca (age 24) are literally floating along the Yoprk Boulevard and Royal Botannical Gardens sections. They are airborne BUT keep knees bent, pawing back with the lead leg to encourage a light, safe mid foot landing. There is NO shoulder rotation, thus keeping the whole body squared up and minimizing the road contact time. The power forward transfer of energy is thus complete!
I next include a few photos of Kimberly DOMINATING the Valley of Death 1 on the uphill segment. This is quite simply a nasty piece of business! It falls at the 25.8 kilometre mark and climbs relentlessly 900 metres at a 16% grade. It destroys 100s of Bay participants every year BUT NOT Kimberly. Note her efficient forward, tight weave that allows her to maintain a strong pace without undue fatigue for the final 3.6 kilometres of the run. Her subtle forward lean from the hips and visual focus of only 1 metre ahead also help her tame the monster!Finally, her heel flick and forward arm drive to propel her faster to the top are letter perfect. She conquered the demons on this occasion!!
As David approached the final 2 kilometres of his 34 kilometre ‘jaunt’, the pace picked up and his efficiency of movement actually improved – in spite of the fatigue. This bodes well as he gears up for the Mississauga Marathon on May 7. He is in perfect anatomical running position heading pastDundurn Castle about 2 kilometres from the finish. As you can see below, the effects of the effort are evident BUT the confidence gleaned from a run well done is off the charts.For most of you, training like my Team Over The Toppers may indeed be ‘over the top’!! If you even incorporate SOME of my techniques into your running, I guarantee that avoidable ‘itis’ injuries will be a thing of the past!