When I was growing up, the best way to do this was to get a fancy running watch, like a Timex Indiglo (I had two!) with a lap feature, and use it to track your time running laps around the block in your neighborhood. Of course, after your run, you had to write down your lap times in a notebook or type them into a spreadsheet if you wanted to be able to compare your performance over time!
Nowadays, we have a huge variety of running apps we can use on our smart phones, as well as some sophisticated pieces of hardware we can wear on our wrists. But believe it or not, many of these do not have a simple “lap” feature.
Enter “Strava Segments”.
If you’re not already a Strava user, I suggest you download the free app and log in with your Facebook account, if you have one. Then check out the segments feature. This handy tool makes tracking your performance over time a piece of cake, without having to use a lap feature of any kind. Once a segment is created, you can literally “set it and forget it!” This is because every time you happen to run the same segment, the app will track you speed, pace, etc. without you having to do anything. Then, you can review your performance over time.
Here’s an example of a segment I have run a few times at the North Jupiter Flatwoods Natural Area and how the app displays my performance. You can also change the view to show how your results compare to other men and women who have run the same route. And watch out, you may just be crowned “King of the Mountain” if you get the course record on that particular segment!
And creating a new segment couldn’t be simpler.
Here’s how it works. Simply go for a run in one of your favorite locations and track it using the app. Then, log in to strava.com on a computer and click on the activity (from Training/My Activities). Once you are viewing the activity, click on the small wrench icon on the left and select “Create Segment”. This will bring up a map of your activity. Once you do this the instructions on the page will tell you exactly what to do but here are some tips.
Change to Satellite view and zoom in.
Click on the green and red start and end points on the slider at the top, and you will be able to pinpoint exactly where you want your segment to start and end.
Click next, and give your segment a name that makes sense not only to you, but to other Strava users who may also run along that same route. (Uncheck “make the segment private” box.)
And that’s it! From this point on, every time you run over that segment during any of your runs while using the app, it will record your performance. Oh, and your past performances will show up too, as long as you recorded them with the app. And viewing your performance over a segment is really easy to do using the smartphone app too.
So give it a try..what do you have to lose, except maybe a course record if someone faster than you tries it too!
These are words to live by, for sure! But do they apply to the world of digital publishing? I’d say yes!
Test Twice, Publish Once!
I’m so happy I was able to publish my first running workout album on all of the major music sites, and from all of the preliminary reports I’ve seen, it’s doing well out there in the market. If you haven’t tried it yet, you can purchase it on iTunes, stream it on Spotify, or download it for free from my website for a limited time.
But now that the album is done and “out there”, the more I listen to it, the more I want to tweak it, modify it…edit it. But what’s done is done! That’s why I’m taking even more time to “test twice” before I publish my next one. And I could use some help.
The Cadence Booster Core Program
I’m currently working on a 4-part workout series that’s designed to teach the fundamentals of running form and cadence. I’m calling it my “Cadence Booster Core Program” and I plan on releasing it in April (2018). As you can imagine, there are many components that go into creating something like this, not the least of which are the music tracks that guide the runner to stepping at the right cadence (steps per minute).
My original idea was to have three basic levels: Beginner (166–170 BPM), Intermediate (171–175 BPM), and Advanced (176–180 BPM). But as a result of testing, I’ve determined that I should create a fourth level. So now I’m adding a new level to my plan that will be called “Expert”. The music for the expert level will be in the 181–185 BPM range. This is because most expert runners run at this cadence during longer runs, and I want to ensure I am providing a level for anyone who wants to try the program.
You might be saying to yourself, “But why would an expert runner need a core training program?” and to that I’d say, “That’s a great question!”.
The reason is because a lot of runners I know have never received formal training. And what you’ll learn in my program are the fundamentals of good running form, and a lot about running cadence. And , running cadence is really important, and not a lot of people know about it! So the information that I’ll provide in my program could help just about anyone, no matter how expert!
Drop Your Cadence!
One more thing I should mention. Sometimes your cadence will drop, meaning, you won’t be able to take as many steps-per-minute as you normally would, if the terrain is particularly challenging. So if you’re running up a steep hill, over technical terrain, or on soft, sandy trails, your cadence might slow down a little and this is normal. But that’s another reason I am providing several different program levels. If you normally run at the Advanced level, you may want to use a track from the Intermediate level if you plan on running on a softer, technical trail.
A Little Testing Goes a Long Way
If you know what your typical running cadence is, post it in a comment. below If you don’t, just count your steps the next time you go out for a run for thirty seconds and double what you get. Then let me know.
On Thursdays, I try to do a speed workout, to achieve two main objectives, to learn to move my feet very quickly and use efficient running technique.
And the best way I know to do a fun, motivating speed session is to do a 30-minute Cadence Burst workout. So today I headed out to the closest park near my house to unwind after a long day at work.
The best place to do a Cadence Burst session is a sidewalk or non-technical trail that doesn’t usually have a lot of people on it. I like to go to North Jupiter Flatwoods Natural Area, where there is a nice ¼-mile paved nature trail loop that is perfect for this type of workout.
Each Cadence Burst session starts with 4-5 minutes of warm-up walking, plus an additional 2-minute walk that starts off the intervals. I usually start my watch when the first sprinting interval begins, and hit the “lap” button every time I change speed.
Cadence Burst intervals consist of alternating two-minute walks and one-minute sprints, for a total of ten intervals. Today I ran four of my one-minute sprints at a sub-7 minute/mile pace! The fastest was 6:46. Now, if I could only maintain that pace for a whole mile! Someday…
Today I ran to the fastest track on the album, Run Like the Wind (up to 194 BPM).
Special Offer for my Readers
Right now, I am offering my entire Cadence Burst album for free, to anyone who requests it. I don’t know how much longer I will have this promotion active so take advantage while you still can! And if you do decide to try one, please leave a comment so others can benefit from your experience. And if you have any feedback about how I can make them even better, just let me know!
At least once a week for the past few months, I’ve been running speedwork sessions, without going to a track. I’ve been using my Cadence Burst workouts, (that are now available on iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, and many other music distribution services). These workouts are great, and they are really helping me run faster! All you need is a somewhat flat and firm surface, like a sidewalk, road, or non-technical trail, and you’re all set! Continue reading “Speed Work, without a Track?”
I should know, because the only other half-marathon I’ve ever run was the inaugural Walt Disney World Half Marathon in 2004 where I finished in the top 10% for women overall in 2:01:37. And today, despite being a much better runner than I was back then, my unofficial time was 2:52:00!
TK Gator Trail Run at Tanah Keeta
Enter another inaugural half marathon as today I ran the TK Gator Trail Run and placed second in my age group. To say the course was wet would be the understatement of the year. In fact, this one almost got me to the point of a DNF (did not finish)…mentally, not physically. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The race took place at the boy scout camp, which is practically on the Palm Beach/Martin County line. In fact, it was literally in my back yard! The trail is technically on private property, which made it all the more intriguing and mysterious because pretty much everyone who ran today had never seen the course before. However, since the camp sits on the southern-most portion of Jonathan Dickinson State Park on a parcel of land that was deeded over to the boy scouts in the 1950’s, it looked a lot like the trails I ran last week at the DTR Full Moon race.
Most of the course traversed the Mike Machek Trail, a 5.2 mile loop made up of sugar sand, flatwoods, and other various types of wetlands. To complete the half-marathon, we had to run the trail loop twice, then the 5K route once, for a total of 13 miles. The first mile or so was dry as a bone and I started thinking to myself, “Hey, this isn’t so bad!” Famous last thoughts!!!
When the Water Hit the Fan
During Mile 2, the proverbial sh** hit the fan as the trail started to get “a little wet”. “OK, no problem,” I thought, “I’ve run in a little water before.” But as it turned out, it was more than a little water. What I’ve neglected to say up until this point is that since I knew it was going to be a tough race and a fairly long distance, I didn’t shoot right out of the gate in the beginning. In fact, I believe I was pretty much in last place by the time I saw water for the first time. After running through a few smallish puddles, we came around to bodies of water that were literally bursting at the gills, spilling out into everything surrounding them, including the marked trail.
Yes, it was beautiful to say the least, but slogging through copious amounts of water can be very tiring on the legs and I knew they would have to be moving for three hours or so! So I had decided to start out nice and easy. And I’d say it was around mile 2 1/2 or 3 when I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me. With each and every water-filled portion of the trail I was losing ground fast! And the water wasn’t just 50 or 100 yards long. In some areas it was a quarter-mile or longer before you were able to step up on dry land again. And by dry land, I mean roots and mud!
By the time I hit the four mile mark, and the trail once again looked like this for approximately a half mile…
…I had really started to lose it. I thought to myself, “Would I have the mental fortitude to finish this 5-mile loop, run (or swim) it AGAIN, and then have enough strength left in my weary legs to run (or maybe even swim some more) for three more miles?! And where was everyone else? Surely I wasn’t the only one who was struggling both physically and mentally with this course?” And missing a trail marker right around this point and running around in circles for awhile only adding insult to injury.
Well, I am not a quitter and right then and there I decided to suck it up and finish what I had started!
On the second lap I decided to just have fun. Sure, I had been running alone for more than an hour with no other trail runners in sight but I wasn’t going to let that deter me. I started taking pictures and videos and just basically laughing to myself at the absurdity of what I had gotten myself into.
And then, when I thought I might have to finish the entire race without ever seeing another runner (there were, of course, volunteers at various aid stations along the way) I spotted a few up ahead. Yes-I was on the right track! And I’m not the only one who was struggling. I hate to say it but seeing other runners struggling like I was rejuvenated my spirit and I got a rush of adrenaline that carried me through the rest of the race.
Sure, these two girls weren’t running the half-marathon but that didn’t matter to me. At least I had caught up to somebody! (It turns out they were running the 5-miler).
The Final Leg
As it turned out, I wound up seeing and passing quite a few of the 5-mile runners, which was good for my ego but bad for my sense of direction! Because once I had passed all of them I was on my own again. As I approached the end of the second lap I managed to catch up to another half-marathoner right at the place I got lost on the first lap. (No, not the place I already mentioned, this was another place where I went off course for some distance!). I introduced myself to Charles from Delray Beach and found out he was new to running and only picked it up a month ago when he signed up for the race. Good for him, I thought, and also told him as much. We found the trail markers after a short while and finished up the lap and headed out together on the final 3-miles. What could go wrong now?
Well, as it turns out, a lot could go wrong, and did. About 2 miles into this final loop we ran into a few other half marathoners who were coming at us from the opposite direction. We were all like, “Eh, what? YOU’RE running the half-marathon? WE’RE running it too! Why are we running in opposite directions?!” Well, as it turned out, Charles and I were on the correct route (phew!) and so they turned around and joined us. But our success didn’t last long.
At this point, tons of campers were walking towards us, seemingly from all directions, carrying their coolers and tents and such, so we figured we were heading back in the right direction. The only problem was that after passing a yellow trail marker 50 yards back we couldn’t find another one! We ran a little further and still, no yellow ribbons. We backtracked and saw a left-hand turn so we went down that way a little and still, no markers. We did a 180 and headed back towards the others we had been running with (who had slowed down at that point so they were still behind us) and we told them that we couldn’t find any markers anywhere up ahead. What were we to do? Holy Moly-only one mile to go and now this! Well, we decided to just head back in the way the campers were coming from because we knew the entrance to the camp where we started was in that general direction. To make a longer story a little shorter, we never found the correct route, but we did manage to run 13 miles and eventually find the finish line, cross it and get an official time!
So…all in all, I am very happy with my results because I had the mental fortitude to finish, despite all of those obstacles. Would I do it again, you ask?