DIARY: Morning Drills–Saturday part 1…

Six runs, two sessions, one race, 60km run, 2200m climbed, and one world champion. It’s all in a weekend’s work, a Kerry Weekend, that is, away with IMRA. Here’s the first instalment about the thirty-something who dared a weekend of adventure and long nights…

Jason has tasked us all with writing reports for the Kerry Weekend entry on the IMRA website of the many different experiences we had down there. This won’t deter me from talking about it on this blog obviously, so let’s start with the groggy bunch who awoke to a lovely sunny morning, had a leisurely breakfast and started assembling outside cottage 3 in the Kenmare Holiday Village for my morning “speed session”.

“I liked how it turned from “speed session” to “speed development” to “really just a stretch”, one attendee commented! Well, with the wisdom of better advice, I decided that what we all really needed was being loosened up and relaxed ahead of the tough climb up Ireland’s highest mountain – Carrauntoohil.

All about ankles…

A short jog down towards the water started the session and then we went straight into a set of loosening exercises (hip rotations, leg swings and other leisurely drills) while always keeping a focus on holding a strong core. We try not to do static stretches before exercises as this weakens the stretched muscle for up to an hour after. The exception is that pesky hip flexor, the enemy of a free-flowing stride, which we promptly worked on so it wouldn’t bother the runners up Carrauntoohil (there’s enough resistance as it is!).

To demonstrate the energy drain on running from unnecessary tension in the muscles, I asked all to run on the spot while starting to tighten every muscle in the body starting with the facial muscles, working down through shoulders, arms, core and into the legs. Watching the transformation from fine running style to awkward robot helped get the point across and Eamonn noted how much of this type of tension you take into your style when sprinting at the finish. Tension is resistance, anything you don’t use, except the core, should be relaxed.

From here we progressed through a series of stride and quickness (reaction) drills before Jason put the entire group to shame during “the snake” a swerving run through cones. While most of us more or less elegantly side-stepped through the cones, Jason floated from side to side as if held up by one of those hover-boards from “Back to the Future 2”.

The quickness drills deserve a word too as they are not used very often: Runners were paired with each other and had to take turns to initiate their run and the task of the other runner was to react as quickly as possible and give chase. Unsurprisingly many false starts where attempted to throw off “the partner”.

Finally, it was time for a drill I picked up on La Santa during the Running School there: Keeping the heel low during running lower the energy-cost of running and allows you to strike the ground more gently (because the foot falls from closer to the ground). On an uphill, like Carrauntoohil, this is particularly effective as lifting you heel towards your kneecap adds little forward propulsion.

I demonstrated the drill and immediately everyone cried foul! Even after several trainings, I was myself lifting my heel too high off the ground. Thus corrected, I showcased the drill and let everyone have a go. Unsurprisingly, the majority of attendees showed too much heel lift but once made aware started to correct quickly. I am warming to this drill more and more and expect to see it frequently in the hill sessions.

The final part was pure “fun and frolics” and caused the most giggles on the morning: The vaunted hop-scotch was thrown at unsuspecting runners. At first I found myself lambasted too for my poor coordination and form, but once the majority of the group where let at it it became clear that this exercise was challenging to most (particularly the men, the women showed much greater affinity!).

So, a morning of loosening, speed, quickness, and coordination, would we be ready for Carrauntoohil?