Sunday, April 29, 2012

Learning to Race the Steeplechase

After years of thinking it was crazy and an unnecessary risk, I ran the steeplechase. (By the way, that top picture on the Wikipedia page is from NEWMACS 2006 I believe and I think the guy in crimson singlet and shorts is a WPI runner, but I didn't post the picture and I can't recognize the face so it may be K or K our steeplers, but I don't remember. Plus that was about 30 minutes after my first ever track 10k, so I wasn't paying attention to the race.) Why would I do something that is an unnecessary risk? Several reasons, I've had a decent track season with PRs at 800, 5000 and 10,000 so I'm in transition mode to my next goal so if I get hurt, now is the prefect time in the training cycle. Second, we have two athletes that considered running the steeple this season, but one has gotten faster so we will save her for less dangerous events and the other has gotten slower so we are afraid to put him in a race he might get hurt. The point is, I'm the 5k/10k coach and 3k steeple is a strength event so it falls to me to have an idea of how to coach it. I figured if I want to coach it, I had better put myself through it so I have an idea of what works and what does not work for training.

What did I learn?

  • The 3k steeplechase is very similar to the 10k. It is a slower event, closer to 10k pace and you need to be strong, even at 2950 meters going over the last barrier and at 2850 on the last water pit. 
  • You can run the whole race hurdling off of one leg, I did. I don't recommend it, but you can run it that way.
  • Practice at the water pit will save you valuable seconds off of your time. I landed with two feet every time. Not good.
  • Practicing hurdles at race height is good enough, the adrenaline of the race helps you jump the extra inch higher, I didn't even touch a single barrier but in practice I probably hit my trailing toe around 5% of the time. You do not need to practice hurdles that are higher than race height.
  • Longer continuous runs over hurdles more dense than a race is a great way to get used to hurdling when you are tired. I did 2000 meters over 60 hurdles (actually 58 I dodged two near the beginning) this week in practice and I feel it really helped me later in the race. 
Here is a video of my first water pit jump ever. When your head is eight feet up in the air that pit looks pretty far away. It's strange to watch myself.

Here is a video of me hurdling around lap five or so. Certainly not model hurdle form, but not terrible.

It was a good experience. Much learning was done. 

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