Sunday, May 13, 2012

Racewalking vs. Running: The Throwdown challenge.

She how smiley she is - and how blotto I am?

Admiral Karen and I have different ideas about running.

She, the Capricorn ballerina prefers the technically precise, mentally disciplined sport of racewalking. It’s a very odd, very efficient way of covering ground. Perfect for a former dancer.

Me, the triple-air-sign triathlete spazzoid prefers “Chi Running”, which my coach described to me as “Run like a 3 year old.” It’s a cab-forward style, all arms and legs, but still low impact. It’s a very odd, very efficient way of covering ground.

She is so good at racewalking that by the second practice of her “Team in Training” stint she was the model that all the coaches wanted the other racers to emulate. I have tried to learn the technique – lead with your ass! – but I am a novice at best. Still, we have done a few 5K races together (two more scheduled for this year) and she has been nice enough to slow up and let me stay with her.

Now I have a further wrinkle in my running technique, taught to me by my Triathlon Coach, who picked it up from “Couch to 5K”: Interval running. You run – RUN, not jog – for 1/10th of a mile and then walk the same amount, keeping track on your iPhone. Your heart rate raises, lowers, raises, lowers which is supposed to be good for you. I just know it’s interesting, and interest is always welcome when I am running, which, if I do not have a soccer ball in front of me, can be pretty darned dull.

Schwann Lake
So, in short, she motors, I spurt. And we always wondered which technique would cover the most ground. So today was RACE DAY. Two laps around the 1.1 mile loop at Schwann Lake. She racewalking and me interval running.

First off, she cheated and didn’t even wait for me to set up the Nike Plus Run System on the iPhone before taking off down the trail. So I walked for 1/10th of a mile before I could get the app to find the chip in my shoe. Then I ran and passed her by. I stopped and walked after the 1/10th of a mile, and when that was about half way done I snuck a look behind me and sure enough, there she was, coming up fast.

When the pedometer clicked over I took off running again, up and down a bit more of the trail, stopping to walk after another interval. This time she appeared farther along the walking portion. I was extending my lead!

I finished the first lap in 14 minutes, which for me was epic time. My form was still good, but I was winded. I celebrated by taking 2/10ths of a mile to walk. At the end I looked over my shoulder – and there she was, just coming into view.

Panicky shot of the trail as I lurched to
the finish line.
I started to feel like an escaped convict with the Sheriff on his tail. Gotta keep moving! Can’t get caught! Another run, another walk, and she was definitely eating up ground as I tired. I was getting a bit panicky – started seeing her as this relentless machine that would never stop. My wife, the Terminator.

Now she was close enough to speak to me! She sounded cheerful, calm, fresh as a flippin’ daisy! Ack! I stared at the phone until it showed a zero again and I was off, putting precious yards between me and my relentless pursuer.

The running sections seemed to get longer and my technique was falling away like the first stage of a rocket. The walking parts were over so quickly – and every time I looked back, there she was! The Nash Rambler to my Cadillac.

I stumbled to the finish, arms out, running blind, my head cocked over my shoulder, searching for my Doom to appear again, looking for all the world like a stray extra from a zombie movie.

I didn't win by much. And look at that perfect form!
After 2.2 miles I beat her by about 100 yards. She wiggled up, smiling, her form still flawless. She was tired, but not devastated. I had done a 17 minute second mile, for a total of 31 minutes. She usually does 5Ks in 45 minutes, so she was right on schedule. So, I won, BUT this was only 2 miles. My third mile was NOT going to be 14 or 17 minutes, but her third mile was going to be a steady 15 – meaning she would cream me in a 5K.

We laughed in the car, said that we missed exercising side-by-side and missed the conversation. But then we got quiet and admitted that we loved the competition and we really did push ourselves hard in this silly race.

So I think we have found a new wrinkle in our exercise routine. I have emerged victorious in this battle, but this war is just beginning!

Angus McMahan

UPDATE: 4 Months later we are lined up for 3 races in the next 6 weeks. Last weekend we did the Throwdown Challenge again, but this time for the full 3 laps, or 5K. After training all summer, what were the results? We completed 3.1 miles in 43:00 minutes, well under our goal of 15 minute miles. Yay! But who won the race? Well, I did, but only by the same margin that I won last time. I suspect that if we ran a 10K, or a half-marathon, or New York to Paris, that I would look over my shoulder at any moment and see her coming up behind me, calm, smiling, and HAUNTING MY DREAMS!!!


  1. Watch out, I'm coming for ya!

  2. Yes, but whom gets eaten by the bear?

  3. Eventually, everybody does. That's how the world ends.

  4. We outran the zombies, and we also did two laps, which totally confused 'em. Poor dopes.

  5. I have a slight injury to my hip. If I were fully functional, I would have gotten you!

  6. See? Do you see what is pursuing me??