Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Feel your way to better running form – in the dark

This evening I planned to go out for a hill session. Since the house move this is a bigger effort than normal as it’s about 7kms to get to the bottom of the new track I have found for my hill sessions.  Fortunately this is also about 1km long with 100m vertical, much like my previous hill track.


The sun was setting as I headed out so knew that I would need my torch to complete the session, the prospect of a hard hill session on a trail in the dark made it far more exciting. However, whilst running along the road in the dark I got my torch out of my pack, (which I always have with me along with all my mandatory trail race kit) only to discover the batteries were flat. Being a proper boy scout I also have a back up torch, and this wasn’t working either! Once again the Boy Scout in me came to the fore as I also carry two spare sets of batteries, one for each torch.


The challenge was to change the batteries as it was now completely dark. So the easy option was to do the backup torch first and use that one to provide light to change the more tricky head torch. The problem was that the batteries in my back up had leaked and corroded the torch shut. Now I had to try and change the head torch in the dark, with 3 AAA batteries. I could just about make out which way around they were using the light from a passing car.


So the moment of truth...I turn it on and it is barely glowing, offering no benefit at all. I must have left the spent batteries in my pack last time the torch ran out!


I had no other option, well no other safe option, but to return home along the road, reflective vest on, and a white line to follow.


It was pretty disappointing as for the first time in a while I was running smoothly and feeling strong. I did not waste the session though, choosing to make the best of it by turning it into a tempo session.  For the remaining 7kms to the finish I accelerated each km so that I was near sprinting for the final km.


The interesting thing I learnt from running in the dark where you get very little visual and auditory input is that it encourages you to use your other senses. I focused on proprioreception and the feeling of how my body was moving. Especially with the smooth, consistent road surface, I could distinctly appreciate my foot strike, as well as other biomechanical actions I have been working on.


It is just a case of allowing your brain to focus on your running without distractions that cloud your attention. This is just another reason not to run with music (as covered in a previous post), at least not all the time. Of course you don’t need to leave your torches at home, you could just find a safe stretch of road and switch them off for a bit!


Some good came from torch fiascos. I adapted the situation to get training benefit from the session, and I learnt to check your kit BEFORE you head out, especially if you’re likely to be using it!  That said if I didn’t have my reflective vest in my pack the run home could have been pretty hairy.


Run safe and run happy
Andy


"Failing to plan is planning to fail"