Are ‘speed cycles’ real?

It drives my sister crazy the way I slow down and speed up on a run. But I don’t think it’s quite as random — or nutty — as she thinks.

It’s not like I do it on purpose. Most of the time I’m not even conscious of it until she points it out. It’s only natural to run faster when you feel good and slow down when you don’t, right?

But what I’ve noticed, now that I’m paying more attention, is that there’s more of a pattern involved than you might think. These “speed cycles,” as I’ve taken to calling them, remind me of the rhythmic patterns of luck that occur naturally — but consistently — in everyday life.  It’s a pattern so familiar — two steps forward, one step back (or vice versa, if you’re in a real rut) — that we don’t even really notice it. Yet somewhere in the realm of fractal geometry, somebody’s probably figuring out a way to measure these cycling patterns (if they haven’t already).

To me, these speed cycles work much the same way. Barring any external events that might be influencing the run — say, heat or a blister — I tend to periodically surge, fall back into a recovery cycle, then gather myself for another surge.

I suppose I’m more prone to these patterns than many runners because I don’t wear a watch.  Lately Traci’s been trying to “cure” me with more interval sessions, ostensibly under the guise of building speed and burning calories. Pre-programmed sprints, especially up hills, do tend to quash my seemingly random speed shifts.

But I bet that most people — including Traci — do experience their own speed cycles to some degree. She’s just so busy paying attention to mine that she doesn’t notice her own.:)

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