Thursday, July 26, 2012

Run Me Daddy, Eight-to-the-Bar

(Somewhere in LA, a couple Andrews Sisters are rolling over in their graves right now.)

I discovered something interesting the other day… Studying the data produced by Runkeeper for my last few runs, I noticed a pattern: my pace during run intervals is all over the place – 12:48, 10:17, 11:22, 9:55… it changes by the minute!  Why would that be?  It always feels like I’m running a nice, even pace…

I thought and thought, and then it hit me – music!  It seems my cadence matches the EXACT. RHYTHM. of whatever the shuffle turns up on my iPhone.  Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” playing?  I’m running a precise (and INSANE!) 220 steps per minute.  Florence and her Machine step in with “Dog Days Are Over”?  Yep, I’m magically transported to 150 steps per minute.

I don’t know why this surprises me.  After all, I more or less go through life in eight-count rhythm.  For real.  Apparently my many years as a dancer have resulted in some sort of mental metronome.  I regularly find myself mentally tapping out a beat while preparing breakfast, taking a shower, typing, even reading.  “One, two, three and four, five, six, sevennnn, eight,” as I crack an egg, stir it with a spatula and pop two slices of bread into the toaster.

And oh yes, when I’m running you better believe I’m doing so “eight-to-the-bar.”  Which, by the way, makes it really hard for this math-challenged lady to calculate cadence; my brain counts in eights, but I lack the skills to figure out on the fly just how many steps per minute I’m running if I’m doing seven sets of eight steps in twenty seconds.  (I’d place this type of equation right up there with the classic, “If two trains leave their stations, one in Philadelphia and one in San Francisco… makes my brain hurt.)  So I instead try counting by tens and routinely get lost somewhere around 40, when my inner rhythm section valiantly pulls me back to whatever music is being pumped through my headphones. 

I’ve pondered this for a week and, aside from making for an interesting (to me, anyway), blog post, I see the potential to make this idiosyncrasy work for me: what if I were to stack my running deck by creating a race-day playlist with musical selections that result in the perfect cadence for every portion of the run?  Some slower songs for miles one and two, somewhere in the 150-160 beats-per-minute (BPM) range to force an easy, relaxed warm-up pace… then bring in a nice medley with a consistent 170-180 BPM for endurance through miles three through eight… and finish strong with the power of a solid 182-190 BPM over the final two miles…  Could I possibly create my dream race through music selection alone?

Seems plausible, so I’m going to test it out!  Hopefully with some help from a few DJ and musician friends, I’ll try to piece together the Perfect Playlist for the Tower of Terror 10-Miler.  I’ll be testing it out over the next two months and will report back on my findings.

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