When Sport Meets Science

This past Monday and Tuesday my two passions collided as we took a more scientific approach to my training. Monday I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel of to California University Long Beach campus IMG_8491and visit with Dr. Jim Becker and Hilary Senesac at their brand new kinesiology motion analysis lab. There I got decorated all over with small reflective golf balls taped to strategic locations.


My limbs where sprayed with a fine sticky glue then the little reflect spheres are attached at key points , and then taped over to assure they stay attached.


Standing on the treadmill during initial sensor calibration

These little spheres would reflect the light that would be received by special cameras placed around the room. After I was all marked up it was time to jump on a special treadmill that could measure force applied and calibrate the equipment, making sure everything was properly placed and ready for recording.


Look Ma no hands!

Then I got to start warming up somewhere around 6min/km pace that we lowered down to my zone 1 target training pace of 5:30. Once I felt loose and warmed up I gave the ok to drop the pace to 4:30/km pace, my targeted goal racing pace.

For those of you who know me you are probably shocked that I was walking on a treadmill, not because it’s a boring training setting affectionately named the dreadmill but because I struggle to actually workout on such a piece of equipment constantly feeling the need to hold on with my hands. I felt the urge to grab the bar and tried to focus may gaze out in front fixating on a spot on the back wall. If I kept looking down at my legs and feet I knew this would affect my stride and not provide a fair representation of how I normally train.

It’s crazy how much harder it is to train on a treadmill and your perception of pace is totally skewed. My 4:30/km target 20km pace felt more like a mile pace effort! In general an athlete has a slightly different stride on a treadmill. For starters the stride tends to be shorter in the front. Another major difference is the treadmill is a belt that is constantly moving backwards; upon heel strike the foot moves backwards in the direction of the belt whereas on the road the ground remains stationary and doesn’t move the foot, the foot moves only by pushing off the road during toe-off propelling the leg forward by swinging at the hip. The backward movement of the belt on a treadmill is going to impact the ratio of anterior vs posterior muscle group use. But all things considered we can still compare our left side to our right side in both the forces applied and the movements generated. After all for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction and it will be exciting to breakdown my stride, dissecting out all these individual movements.Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 5.31.19 PM

After less than 5 min at goal race pace (seemed much longer as I fought the urge not to look down) we were done with the motion analysis data collection and it was time to take some measurements. We measured lengths and angles of my lower extremities as well as resistance strength using a dynamometry, which can measure strength as a result of applied force.

In about a week we will have a report generated from all the analyses. I am very interested to see the differences. I have already known for years that I am not perfectly symmetrical whether it’s slightly different wear patterns on my trainers or awareness of how my right shoulder rolls forward and downward but not on the left side. It will also be interesting to see how my strength compares on each side and if any imbalances can be further corrected, whether in the weight room, through drills, or even just re-patterning and proprioception training.

The next morning we drove to Cuyamaca Community College Track for a lactate test. I hadn’t done one since the very beginning when Tim began coaching me. But this time around I had a much better understanding of my heartrate zones and paces. The way we do the test is broken down into 7x 2k with 2min in between each 2k where we immediately do a finger prick blood sample and take a quick swig of sports drink. I also glance at my HR several times down the last home straight and this number as well as perceived effort gets recorded. The intended paces were: 5:42, 5:25, 5:12, 5:00, 4:48, 4:36, and 4:27. Aside from my first one (it’s almost harder to go a controlled slower pace) I was within 5 seconds for all the other ones until my 6th one. TEAMmate Molly started the workout with me and was to hold on as long as possible. She was still fighting strong when we started the 6th one and I got excited how well she was doing and accidentally dropped the pace a little too fast…Molly hit a 1k PB and by then Tim told me just to roll through it and maintain the pace. I held the same pace finishing up my 6th 2k. Unfortunately, this caused a bit too drastic of a lactate spike. I still had a 7th interval to complete and Tim said I had to go faster; he wanted a 4:25. Yikes! The other option was to maintain 4:29 pace and see the lactate increase while the pace was steady. Neither option sounded great to me but 2min was up and I went out for the 4:25 pace. I didn’t even do the math I just told myself it would hurt and I’d have to push. I was pleasantly surprised to roll through to a 50.1 200m. Since I still had 1.8k left I told myself to ease off the gas a little. I finished with a 4:21/km pace, wow I guess without any speed training I still could find another gear. That was very encouraging considering the fastest 1km split in training thus far has been 4:32 and that was only this past Saturday as we began transitioning from zone 2 to zone 3 training!

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I felt really great after the test and only wished we had the 4:36 pace lactate sample because it probably was the most informative. The good thing is I know that my zone 1 target of 5:30 is well within my reach and while a considerable increase in pace from previous years training I am capable of handling this pace for recovery days. Over the holidays with Tim and Rachel out on LI and now here in San Diego I have gotten a taste of pace 5:30-5:35 on a more consistent basis. All bets are off when I return home to winter on LI but I know when the spring thaw comes where I should be at. I am very excited to see how I adapt and improve as we enter our next phase of training. My right glute has begun firing again and soon we will get back to increasing my weights. I know I’m in a great place right now in my training and it’s exciting when you have some science to help back it up. This is going to be a very big year and I’m exicted to see how far I can take it, how low I can drop it and how many memories I can make along the way! Lot’s of confidence and positivity mixed with solid mileage and great company during this mini training camp!

A very special thank you to Dr. Becker and Hilary for taking the time to perform the motion analysis. Thank you to Dave Kerin for getting us hooked up with Dr. Becker. A huge thank you shout out to The Women’s Sports Foundation for their Training and Travel Grant which has been used to help fund this training camp. And of course thank you to my amazing Coach Tim Seaman and all my wonderful TEAMmates, Rachel, Molly, Nick, Katie, Natos, Steven, and especially Miranda and boyfriend Mike for letting me stay at their place and driving me everywhere.