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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beach Running, and Frank Shorter

This past Monday, I had the chance to run on a beach. Long Beach, WA (okay, actually Ocean Park, which is just a couple miles north), home of "The World's Longest Beach" (no way to verify that) was the site of a two-night stay for a short vacation with my wife, daughter, mom, sister and her family. We arrived Sunday evening, had a great salmon dinner, and then battened down for the night.

I woke up first (normal), got ready to run, then headed out. It was cloudy with a very light mist falling, which I couldn't tell whether was from the clouds or from the waves, but it wasn't very windy...

I wore my Trail Gloves for the first time in a while, and the first couple blocks on the road getting to the beach weren't all that comfy. I've grown accustomed to the cushioning of the Altra Instincts. Once on the beach, though, they were awesome. It was low tide, so I had a lot of firm wet sand to choose from, and varied from near the waves to up near the high-tide mark. Strides were natural and relaxed, and I just glided along.

After 20 minutes, I stopped and just watched the waves break into shore for a while. Turning back, I followed my footsteps back to where I started. I noticed something almost immediately -- my footprints just barely showed any heel impression at all, and the forefoot had the normal "flick" pattern of a push-off. So I know I'm not heel striking, but I may still be using the calf a bit much.The other thing I noticed was that my footprints were VERY consistent. I wish I'd taken a couple pictures. But running in the soft dry sand wasn't fun at all...

Later in the day the sky cleared and the wind picked up a bit, and we were flying kites on the beach. High tide this time, so not a lot of wet firm sand. I left my shoes in the car and just went barefoot, and noticed that it was much easier to run on the soft sand barefoot than with the Trail Gloves.

I think I want to go back. Especially if we have the same beautiful weather we had the past couple days. And I'll just leave the shoes and do the whole run barefoot.


Pete at RunBlogger posted the videos from a symposium a couple weeks ago or so, and one of the panelists was Frank Shorter, winner of the 1972 Olympic Marathon, all-around nice guy, and long-time runner of minimalist nature.

He commented that all the runners of the time ran as we seem to be rediscovering with minimalist and bareform running, mainly out of necessity.

I remember doing a biathlon (as it was called at the time -- this was before the winter biathletes got all up-in-arms and we had to start calling it "duathlon") near Portland in, oh, must have been about '90 or '91, and there were a couple featured athletes at the event -- Kristen Hansen and Frank Shorter. I remember going up to Kristen's bike and asking her about her wheels, having no idea who she was... I knew Frank by sight, having been a long-time runner myself, but I didn't see him until well into the race. In fact, I got to see him twice on his second run. Once while I was finishing up the bike leg, and then again as he was finishing.

He looked utterly fluid, like he was floating. He defined the art of maximal effort looking effortless. And this was the SECOND run...

Later, as he accepted the award for first master's finisher, I was equally amazed at just how spastic he looked walking up to the announcer... The contrast was striking.

No offense, Frank. I just wanted to mention, mostly, just how much seeing you run for those few seconds struck me as the epitome of fluid, natural running.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

If you had one do-over...

I don't even know what show was on, something my wife had searched up on Netflix, I caught sound bites and quick glimpses as I went in and out of the room. Christina Applegate is an amnesiac who decides she's going to find out who she was. One line stuck out, going something like this -- what would you do if you could completely remake your life?

What if who you have been all your life could be jettisoned and you could start over, making your life anything you wanted it to be, right now?

How different would it look?

I know most people who read this blog are doing so because of a shared interest in running and/or triathlon. So how about this instead -- what if you had ONE do-over in your athletic life, some significant moment that's had a defining aspect to your life ever since?

Maybe it's that DNF that you wish you'd pushed through instead.

Maybe it's a day that you wished you'd stayed home instead of going for that one more run or ride.

Maybe it's the day you felt good and went out for a workout before the doctors said you should, and re-injured yourself (maybe worse than the original injury).

Maybe it's the day that you backed off, walked during a run, and let your negative thoughts convince you that you couldn't do it.

For a time in my life, I was around an organization that did a lot of "self-help" reading, lots of seminars and such. One of the things that was stated was that when you were faced with personal shortcomings, to draw a line in the sand and step over it. The meaning being to move forward, let the past be the past and not the future. One time, some one asked me, "So what if you've got a ladder of lines drawn in the sand behind you?" The answer is that if you see it, you're looking in the wrong direction.

What am I getting at?

Live your life as if you've already had that do-over. Those things behind you that cast a pall on your future, let them go. Your past is not your future.
Tear out the rear-view mirror of your life.

How things would be different if you had that one do-over...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Swimming in a washing machine

It's a common term that triathletes use to describe the mayhem, jostling, elbowing, kicking, frothy mosh pit that is the start of virtually every tri -- swimming in a washing machine.

Last night's aquathon was all that, minus the body contact. And it lasted well through the first half of the swim.

About two hours before race time, the wind started to blow from the north across Lake Washington. We were near the south end of the lake, meaning that there was nothing for miles to block the wind and calm the water. White-caps were blowing in to shore, with a decent swell going on top of that.

There was a missing Jet Skier just north of the race site, and the Coast Guard had a helicopter out looking for him from an hour before race time to well after we were done. I don't know that they have yet found him. An article said he was a "competent" swimmer... I think one would have to be more than competent in an emergency situation out there, with no wetsuit or floatation.

The water was warm, and I was considering not wearing my wetsuit. I'm glad I opted to wear it... Two weeks ago, at a different location on the same lake, we were dealing with multiple boat wakes, forcing us to breathe to the left or get a face full of water. This time, we were going directly into the wind to the turn-around, then surfing our way back in. I can honestly say I've never been in as rough a swim as last night. Rising off the top of a wave on arm recovery and slapping down into the trough. Ill-timed breathing as I involuntarily duck-dived through a swell. My goggles got water in them not from leaks, but just from the force of the water slapping me in the face.

It all calmed down a bit once we made the turn, as it was much longer between swells. Breathing easier. Timing not as disturbed. And I followed it up with a run a full minute faster than 4 weeks ago on the same course, and ended up 5th across the finish line (one ahead of me was a relay).

Maybe something about swimming in that particular washing machine cleansed me of something.

But it's not a swim I'd like to repeat any time soon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's too early for fall!

This morning dawned with a bit of chill in the air. Not enough to frost the pumpkin, but I felt it when riding in to work this morning.

I'm very fortunate to live in an area where I get a fantastic sunrise view of Mt. Rainier both on my commute, and from the balcony where I enter my work building. The silhouette of the mountain from the rising sun is beautiful. And as sunrise gets later, that silhouette gets less and less detail on the dark side as I make my way into work.

It's only mid-August! This year has been strange in that we've only had maybe two days above 79 degrees. It's like summer never got here, and it's already giving clues that it's almost over.

But one thing fall has always made me think of (besides back-to-school, how much I didn't practice my trumpet over the summer, etc) is cross country running. I've been doing a good percentage of my running off-road, which I love, but most of that has been fire road type stuff. Not "real" cross country stuff. I find myself daydreaming about running on the wilderness trails. Maybe it's all the ultra-runner blogs I've been reading...

I'm still toying with the idea of the off-road half marathon. Not this year, as it would only be 2 months away, and I'm not going to try to push myself to get that kind of mileage progression. Next year...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stress is stress

Injuries happen.

Endurance sports tends to attract technically minded people. People who think in terms of facts and data. Measurable stuff.

We, like steel, have a fatigue limit, some level of stress below which we can basically function infinitely.

As athletes, we think of the things we can measure -- distance, speed, frequency. The REAL number crunchers add in things like pulse rate, power, and the like. Ethereal things would be nutrition and sleep quality...

These things are stressors -- stress on the body contributing to that bar approaching our individual fatigue limit.

But there are other things that also contribute. Emotional tolls that also put stress on us. Family difficulties, financial problems, work stress... the variations in this realm are almost limitless. And they are every bit a part of that bar as the training stresses.

The most aggravating part of it is that the things we do to keep our sanity among these other stresses is the very thing that tends to break down when they're at their worst. When we need it the most, that's the very time we should be backing it off in order to be able to keep doing it.

No, I haven't re-injured myself. Everything seems to be going fine in that regard. I just wanted to post this up as a reminder to us all (including myself, as one of those "technical" people that tends to ignore the things I can't measure well) to take into account those stresses when we're looking at our training log and planned workouts. Be honest with ourselves.

You never know, today might be a good day to back it off a little bit.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I'm utterly SHOCKED! Skechers?

Skechers... Yes, the ones that made the rocker shoes (and I'm not talking music here)... Appears they're making a foray into genuine running shoes, and ones geared toward a midfoot strike at that.

Posted on BeginnerTriathlete today, by camy...

LinkMeb a shill for Skechers?

All I can say is WOW! Don't get me wrong, it all comes down to how they perform on the road and trail, but by all (scant) appearances, it looks like Skechers is serious this time.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What happens when you stop getting better?

This was a forum post by BuckHamilton on BeginnerTriathlete today:

This has been my third year doing triathlons and pretty much I have done better in every race (Always had PR's for the courses I have raced before). However at the age of 45 I can see the potential for things to slow down a bit in the next 10 years. Short term I still have a lot of room for getting better but I am worried about that day when I can no longer get my PR's. How does this affect your motivation and want to race and train? The great thing I have learned so far is that it’s almost impossible to run the perfect race so I strive for that knowing I most likely will not have it.

An interesting question. Or set of questions, really.

I've read several regerences to the 7-year window -- from when you start, you can expect 7 years of improvement in a sport. Of course there's the inevitable decline that the increasing number of go-rounds of the sun brings. At what point do those curves cross?

I know that my life-time bests are behind me. Yes, I still did them -- 1:06 half marathon, 34 minute 10K, sub 16 minute 5K, a 2 hour Olympic tri, 54 minute 40K bike TT... But I know I'm not going to hit those times again, no matter what kind of energy I put into training. I made most of those PRs in my late 20's to early 30's. And then I took several years out of any endurance sport, had foot surgery after coming back once, had a twoyear road to being able to run at all...

But I'm okay with that.

And that begs the next question: What is "better"?

If the only reason you do it is for the number on the clock at the finish line, if that's the only motivation for doing it, if that is the only "better" you've got, then you're destined for the rocking chair on the front porch, watching the world go by. I know I won't be faster, but that doesn't mean I'm not better.

I made a comment on a thread that asked "what do you wish you knew then that you know now?" My answer was to find the joy in the activities themselves, running, biking, swimming because there's joy in that movement, and you'll never lack for motivation to train. Though it might not be "training" as much as just that time you need for your own sanity... But the answer to the "what happens when you stop getting better?" question is the same to me: Keep doing it because you find joy in the process, even when the clock at the end of the event says you spent more time out there than last year.

In fact, what you may find is that you do less pointed training towards events.

And it doesn't hurt to reset the PR chart every so often and start over.