An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Last night, I did my first test of the calf. I could say I ran, but really it was more of a wog -- short jogs interjected into a walk. Overall it was about 2.5 miles, with a good 1.5 of that in "jog" mode. Doing this per the Calf Heart Attacks article that I found a little while ago. I've had two massages, with one more scheduled for Thursday.

Jake was my accomplice, and my pace always suffers a bit when I run with him. Maybe because I'm paying more attention to keeping him reigned in and less on keeping my pace up. Dropping your guard means he starts taking the lead.

I wore the Kinvaras, mostly because I wanted a little heel lift. I walked up to the local elementary school, which has a cinder track around a soccer field, then started walking around. A half lap in I started the test. I started in on a light jog, keeping the steps short and the cadence up, concentrating (as much as I could with Jake along) on keeping my lower legs relaxed.

Interestingly, my left calf felt better than my right.

After a few laps on the track, I continued on with my neighborhood-road 1.5 mile loop (which includes a couple small hills). I did more jogging on the roads, which went fine, but didn't feel as good as the cinder track.

So I passed this initial test, and there are no negative after-affects this morning. No soreness or tightness. I'll do some self-massage and stretching anyway, though.

I'm thinking that maybe I'll try a "run every day" plan in a while, once I get back on my feet, so to speak. If things go well, I may look into a September half. But for now, it's one day at a time.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I just don't get it.

Yesterday morning, my wife and I timed the Army Strong 5K at Ft. Stielacoom Park. Made to increase awareness of a more fitness oriented lifestyle, it was put together by JBLM, with military organization and support.

This was a FREE event. With awards. And schwag. On a beautiful day.

Fourty people pre-registered. Many of these didn't show up. Maybe 20 showed up for day-of registration. Total field at the start: 54.

Granted, pre-registering required the patience of a saint, with some 10+ screens to go through just to get to where you had to create an account for JBLM and then find the race site. But still, show up on race day for a free event, and there was a good chance you could do well.

The course was probably 50% on grass and dirt/gravel trails, the remainder on a paved path around the lake in the middle of the park. Not flat, but not ridiculously difficult either. One woman managed it pushing a double jogging stroller. And pregnant. The winner crossed the line at about 18:30. Eric did it (I told him about it on Friday -- he hadn't even heard about it) and finished 7th overall in a PR time.

Sure, the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon was the same day. But COME ON PEOPLE! The event was FREE!

I would have loved to run the event. Maybe next year.

Friday, June 24, 2011

It hurts so good!

I got a massage this morning. For free!

The company I work for has "Industrial Massage, Inc" come in to our building twice a week. It's called "deep tissue intervention"... I guess they know about my addiction.

I've taken advantage of them a couple times in the past, but decided to have a concentrated calf massage this time around.

Wow... One thing about giving yourself massage is that you have a tendency to back off the pressure before you really get to the good deep-tissue stuff. It hurts. Really hurts. When some one else does it, they kind take your grimaces and squirming as a sign that they're getting
close to the right amount of pressure. Just a little bit more, and they're there...

Yeah. Ouch.

I had to keep reminding myself to relax. And breathe. And not swear. Loudly.

But 15 minutes of prodding, probing, stroking... all with clothes on... and I felt a huge difference.

I immediately signed up for two more appointments next week.

No, the company I work for doesn't give out a free lunch, so no worries there. But I'll take a free massage.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Looking forward.

With the calf strain still on the mend, I'm contemplating races -- those I may be skipping and those I may do instead. With only 6-1/2 weeks to the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon, and still not starting back running yet, I think I'd be lucky to get enough training in to be able to finish the race, let alone post a time that I'd find respectable for myself. Yes, I know, that's still a long time and anything can happen.

Right. Like pushing things too quickly and re-injuring myself.

So I was looking ahead to other half marathons in the area towards the fall. I found two that are likely candidates:

Race for a Soldier, October 16, in Gig Harbor, $65
Ft Stielacoom Trail Run, October 23, in Tacoma, $35

The trail run looks intriguing to me, though the likelihood of posting a truly good time is less, even if I'm in great shape. Who knows -- maybe the solution is to do both?

Then there's the Seattle Half on Thanksgiving weekend, which has the very real chance of cold and wet weather... Not that the October dates don't have the chance of wet, but not so much cold.

I'm going to start the "rehab" phase for the calf strain this weekend -- Negative reps, lots off massage, and lots of easy stretching.

Tomorrow, though, is going to be something new. My wife and I, to celebrate her birthday, are going stand-up paddle boarding. Wish us luck, and her a happy birthday.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Whining, salty water, and some humor

My wife and I timed an event on Saturday in Fall City, WA. A small-town that appears to have grown up a bit, there were about 560 participants between the 5K and 10K, on a day that showed close to continuous light rain. Because of street-fair set-up, and not having the road closed, along with the placement of the start/finish line, we had all of 25 minutes to set up the area for the race. Okay, we got that done... I saw one Vibram-wearer, and one barefooter out there.

I've always thought that runners were a hardy bunch. I mean, we go out and slog out the miles to train, sometimes it's a cathartic thing. But I remember way back when (maybe, what, 10-15 years ago?) where you showed up, there was a chalked line on the road, some approximate distance that was convenient around a few roads, sometimes even accurately measured, you ran your butt off, and the first guy across the line was the winner, the next was second, then third, etc... until every one was done. The last person to finish usually got the loudest cheers. Top-3 awards would be announced at some point, and if you weren't in there, you often didn't know where you finished -- "complete results" was quite a luxury, and if you wanted your time, well, most of us had stop-watches on our wrists (many the ever-present Timex Ironman).

Now we've got electronics, RFID, and laptops. There's still a manual back-up system, but that does only one thing -- take down your race number as you cross the finish line, so that we can get a finish order. The time isn't all that accurate.

But what the heck? People want to know their time and place within seconds of crossing the finish line. People whine that their pace isn't based on their "chip time". People will cross the line and say "Oh, I registered for the 10K but decided to run the 5K, can you move me over to those results?"

The parade of requests and whining will sometimes continue for days...

Now I'm all for technology making things easier. It would seem that all it's done here is raise people's expectations. We want our popcorn NOWDAMMIT! and our race results sooner. I'm just amazed that a race can post complete (and I mean COMPLETE) results by 2pm for a race that finished at 10.

I guess my own modest proposal for racing is this: Let's get back to some basics. We can still use the electronics -- I'm not one of those "get off my lawn" types that wants to see the return of the horse and buggy. But how about this -- your official time (for results) starts when gun goes off, and if you're concerned about it, want to be competitive, think you're vying for overall or AG top placings, get to the damn front at the start! We can still provide you with a chip time, for people that are one- or two-minutes back from the start line, so you'll know what your actual time for the distance is, but that just for your own personal gratification. Have fun with it. Figure out your own pace (it's not that hard, really, and you've probably got a Garmin that's giving you real-time at-the-moment pace and your overall pace anyway). If you're really good, maybe you can brag about how your time was faster than the overall winner. Shoulda lined up in front, bucko.

Let's stop the insanity and whining. Okay?

Yesterday was Fathers' Day. I had a great day with my wife and daughter.

One of the things we did was go to the Colman Pool in Seattle (near the Fauntleroy Ferry terminal) for some family swim time. Admission was only $2 per person.

This was my first time in a salt-water pool. I've been in the ocean (Pacific) and Puget Sound, but this was my first time ever in HEATED salty water. In fact, I think it was my first time ever in a heated outdoor pool of any kind -- they've always been unheated (which kind of makes outdoor pools a rarity in western Washington). It was kind of a strange feeling. Being in the water wasn't too bad. Getting out? Brrrr.... Air temps were maybe low-60's with a good breeze going. Yeah, chilly.

I didn't notice better buoyancy, but then again we weren't swimming laps. We played around for about 90 minutes, then got out for the walk back up to the car. Fun time.

On the humor side, I'll test out my comedic writing. Be kind...

So we're driving up to the race site on Saturday morning and I said something that kind of led to a "that would make a great blond joke" moment...

So this blond walks into the electronics shop, places a bag on the counter and says she wants to return a video game.

"I just don't think it's safe to be playing a video game in the car, and besides, there's no way to win! No matter what I do, I can't get ahead of it. The darn thing seems to KNOW every move I make before I make it! It's frustrating. I want my money back."

And then she pulls the GPS unit out of the bag...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A great article. "Calf Heart Attacks" by John Parker and progress in my wife's shoe search

There was a post on BeginnerTriathlete this morning that may well save me a lot of down-time. And it comes at a very opportune and fortunate time in my life -- I just happen to be dealing with the very thing this article is addressing.

Calf Heart Attacks by John Parker, published in Running Times. Okay, it's not specific to barefoot running, bareform running, shoes, or minimalism. But it IS specific to the injury, rehabbing the injury, and preventing it from happening again. Any one making the change to minimalist or bareform running KNOWS that the calves are making a big transition, and need some TLC. This is great stuff.

In other news, there was progress in my wife's shoe search. I had gotten a gift certificate for a new pair of shes at South Sound Running for winning the local 5K a couple months ago. I went in there on the evening that I registered for the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon, but they didn't have anything there that worked for me. So... I figured that maybe she could use it for a pair of new kicks.

We went in, told her story, showed them the shoes and insoles, the blisters... And the clerk there went back and brought out a couple pair of shoes for her to try on. Interestingly enough, the first one he put on her feet was the Asics 2160. I asked him why that particular shoe, and he said it was because it was the one that would likely fit her foot shape best. We made no indications previously that she had worn the predecessor to this shoe before with no injuries, so it was interesting that this was his first choice. And they felt great on her feet. She tried on the others, but they weren't as comfy.

So now she has new shoes. Hopefully they'll provide many happy miles.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...

Yesterday morning, I went out for a swim for the first time since my last tri over Labor Day weekend. Nine months ago.

Mr Crampy's from Issaquah put on a swim clinic at Beaver Lake yesterday morning. Medusa_Ann on BeginnerTriathlete posted it on the Washington forum, and I looked it up on Mr Crampy's Facebook Page. Sounded like a good time, and since I can't run for a while, I kind of wanted to do that for a workout.

The morning was clear, and we loaded up the wetsuits and headed into the plateau, arriving just before it all started. We slithered into our seal skins and donned caps and such. They divided us into two groups at first -- those who were relatively new to open water swimming and wanted some work with swimming in a group, going around buoys, and sighting, and those who were comfortable in the water "and can swim 400 yds or more in a pool in a single stretch". My wife chose the first group, as she's had issues with dark water. It kind of freaks her out. The latter group broke up further into a clinic group, and those that just wanted to swim the lake. I chose this last group.

So divided up, we who were swimming the length of the lake took off second, going around the buoy line (and the first group stopped there) and continued on around the horn to "the rock". I started off feeling smooth and with power, staying with the leader. I thought, Hey, I've still got my speed. Well, after we got past the buoys a ways, the leader started to pull away. I tucked in behind him to draft... No dice. Yeah, I had my speed, but my endurance is crap! I guess that makes sense having been out of the water for 9 months.

After several course corrections (I was tending to veer left), I finally made it around the horn and to the rock. It looked very inviting from a distance, but up close and underwater, it was kind of disgusting. But it seemed the right thing to go all the way to the rock and touch it before heading back. That was .6 miles, so I was told. I have no real idea. I wasn't impressed with the time split to that point, though...

On the way back I was pretty much alone the whole time. I was swimming straighter, but I also noticed that I was falling back into some OLD (and I thought well behind me) had habits of dropping my elbows. Oh well, Dory from Finding Nemo got stuck in my head... "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

I got back to the bouys, and found my wife... She wasn't wearing her goggles because the strap had come undone. I gave her mine, and then went around the buoys once with her before we headed to shore.

It was a good workout.

But wow, am I sore this morning.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Calf Strain...

Before I get into the calf strain, I wanted to write a little bit about just HOW much of a good decision it was to not run the Chicago half marathon last Saturday. I went out for a 10-miler on Saturday morning, the day of the event, and at 6:30 in the morning (when I left the house), it was already 74 degrees and rapidly rising. I didn't have the best of runs would be accurate, if not a little understated. In the midwest farming country, rarely does ground water run clear. Miraculously, I found one yard draining into a ditch where the water was clean. I stopped and dowsed my head to help cool off... Helped for about a mile.

Anyway, I got an email yesterday morning from the race. In it was the following:

There have been many questions about the timing and results of this past weekend’s 13.1® Chicago Marathon. This email should answer most or all of your questions, however should you have additional questions, there is an email address listed at the bottom of this message that you may email for additional information.

When the Red Flag was issued at the race at 8:51 AM, official timing was stopped and all clocks were turned off. This was done to let runners know that the event was no longer being timed and that participants were encouraged to slowdown and/or walk for their safety. When the timing was stopped at 8:51 AM, there were only 130 participants in the half marathon who had finished the race. These 130 people are the only runners who will receive an official time from the event. The decision to go to the Red Flag is never easy, but it was done with the safety of all runners at the forefront of our minds.

If you have any additional questions on this topic, please send them directly to

So they called the race at 1:38 from the start (for the first wave). We would have still been on the course, with quite a bit to go. I think it would have been pretty devastating to start, with all the issues going on, only to not get an official time.

Yeah, it was a good decision to forego the event.

Anyway, on to more recent events -- yesterday's lunchtime run. After the time in Illinois, with the heat and running on nothing but roads, I was looking forward to a run in familiar climate and terrain. I laced up the Trail Gloves and went out with Eric on a normal 5.3 mile loop. I could feel my left plantar fascia feeling a little sore at about 3 miles, but it wasn't bad, and wasn't getting worse. I could then feel that my left calf was a bit tight. At least that's how it felt. Not out of the ordinary, or something alarming -- wasn't affecting my stride.

Well, at 4.6 miles, my left calf tied up with that knife-in-the-muscle feeling, and I immediately knew the run was over. I've had calf strains before, usually in my right leg (for whatever strange reason), so I know what they feel like.

What caused it? Who knows... Could have been not enough warm-up or stretching, could have been dehydration, could have been a sudden swap back to the Trail Gloves or trails after 10 days of roads and the Altra Instincts.

I have a neoprene calf sleeve from those past calf strains. What I remember was that I'd stop running for a couple weeks, it would feel good, and then I'd try running again, only to have it tie up a quarter mile into the run, starting the whole process over again. I'm determined to NOT go through that again.

So... I guess I'll be taking some MORE time off running. Grrr....

Warrior Dash is in 5 weeks, and the Tacoma Narrows Half is in 8. I may be ditching those events as well. Nothing like wasted entry fees... Hopefully it won't come to that.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Another shoe search ensues...

Jason Robillard recently did a post on the Barefoot Running University railing against the common shoe fitting process in most running stores. In that, Jason talks of going to several different stores, and getting varied "diagnoses", all using the same tests.

My wife's issues with her running shoes, which were the final straw in pulling out of the Chicago Half Marathon last weekend, are a personal highlight in the same vein. I do feel that the store really did a dis-service this time. I stayed out of it, and wish I hadn't.

I won't mention the name of the store, but they used similar tests as what is described in Jason's post, done visually. What she ended up with was the Saucony ProGrid Omni, a motion control shoe (the first she's ever had) with a Superfeet insole. Her issues now? She feels like the shoes are forcing her to the outside of her feet, and she's getting blisters on the outer edge of her foot (midway up the 5th metatarsal).

I took the insoles out of the shoes, just to see where they're compressing... Sure enough, the ball of her foot compresses an area about 1/3 of the way across the forefoot area, and the head of the 5th metatarsal is leaned more than half-way off the outer edge. You can even see it in the shoe itself -- the upper in the forefoot is leaned way over toward the outside. I mentioned that she may need to go to a wide shoe, to which she responded that she doesn't have a wide foot. That may be true when measured on a Brannick device, but they may be functionally wide.

Why is this significant? Because the combination of a curved last shoe and the extra arch of the insole, plus the motion control, are forcing her foot to point outward relative to the forefoot of the shoe, and it's riding the edge of the shoe (and insole) because of it.

I remember back when I first started distance running in the late '70s, and the Nike Daybreak was my shoe of choice. The best feature of those shoes? A straight last. I've had a few others like that over the years, and they've always been the most comfortable. Problem is, they're hard to find. And I think that is why the Merrell Trail Glove and the Altra Instinct are the shoes I find most comfortable -- it's not so much the zero drop (which I like), but the straight last. The Altra's are often described as being triangular in shape. I think this may be the heart of the matter I had with the Saucony Kinvaras.

So we'll be on a hunt for running shoes for my wife. Again. She's not ready to go zero drop, so that could make finding a straight lasted shoe more difficult.

Friday, June 3, 2011

When it's best to not run...

We had planned to run in the Chicago Half Marathon tomorrow morning. There was mileage build-up, equipment, travel... We also had a reception for my wife's family in Danville (where she grew up) last weekend.

We got to Chicago last Friday, and immediately the temperatures soared into the mid-80's, with the usualy matching humidity. Being from Seattle, we are not acclimated to this. Add allergies, and some ongoing blister problems with my wife's shoes, and yesterday we made the tough decision to forego the race. I think it's the better decision, especially considering that she would be starting the event with painful feet. Obviously we have some shoe issues to iron out with her.

I know I could have run and finished the distance, even if my wife had not run, but that wasn't the purpose of doing this event -- I wouldn't have been satisfied with my time as a test given that I was basically trained to run a decent 8 mile time, but not a half marathon. I've got another one sceduled for August 6th, and have plenty of time to build up the mileage to do a real half-marathon test.

I wrote about running in this area last November, and though the temperatures are very different now, I am still remarking at the terrain. So far, though, the Altra Instincts are performing very well on the local roads.