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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Too much of any one thing...

Yesterday morning, I ran long again, though long is a completely relative term here. Just over nine miles, mostly on a whim, decided when the rain abated two miles into my run, where the trails intersect the road again.

So I left the dirt and went onto the road, with over seven miles remaining. At about five miles, I noticed something... My knees were starting to ache a bit, as was my lower back. I was transitioning from a concrete sidewalk to an asphalt path that was broken up from roots growing underneath. And as I started to run across this broken up area, my aches immediately disappeared.


So what was happening here? Well, I had run about three miles on the road, and I think it had to do with not engaging my core. I had relaxed my core because, well, everything was the same -- each step was going to be pretty much like the last. With no compensaion needed for terrain, side slope, up or downhlill, or stepping on the random rock, root, or branch. And by letting my core relax that way, my back was hyper extending, thus the lower back pain. My stride was off. I wasn't overstriding, but I wasn't landing as lightly as I normally do.

Wearing the Altra Instincts, impact wasn't at injurious levels, but I could feel it. Would I not have had this issue if I'd been wearing less shoe? Would the feedback have been more immediate, and reminded my to get my form back in line before I got to that point? Possibly, but I've got a long road ahead of me to adapt to true minimalism on the road. I'm not so keen to head down that path. Yet.

So... Why the "too much of any one thing"? It goes back to those steps, how each one would be pretty much like the last. We're dynamic beings, and I think we function best when we're forced to adapt to the environment. At least the terrain.

Too much of a sameness, whether its road or, heaven forbid, a treadmill, lulls us into relaxing things we shouldn't. And that leads to bad things.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trail fun

I finally finished a trail race this past Sunday. The Ft. Stielacoom Trail Run. I did the 10K race, because I wasn't ready to try to pump out a half-marathon or longer (not that I'd want to go longer). My wife did the 5K.

I say "finally" because I DNF'd the Soaring Eagle race earlier this year, which was to be 10 miles. I made it about 4 before bailing due to mis-stepping and injuring my foot. I've learned...

I wore the Altra Instincts for this run, mostly because I thought it was still a bit rocky to wear the Merrell Trail Gloves. I know there are some minimalist purists out there who would scoff at that idea, but I've found the Trail Gloves to be a bit thin for most anything but soft dirt/loam trails. In that environment, they shine, but once the rocks show up, my tender soles start complaining.

With the rains we'd had the two days previous (which only abated a few hours prior to race time), I was worried about lots of mud on the course, but the course was fine with the exception of some water-logged lawn
surrounding the registration/food area.

The course was two loops of just barely over 5K, with one good hill in the middle, and lots of twists and turns on the way back down. I managed to slog out a pace just a little under 7:30 a mile, even after a bee sting to the back of the neck on lap one.

At the post-race expo, there was a LOT of food and drink. Vasque and Vibram were there with their footwear offerings, and I tried on some Vibram FiveFingers just to satisfy my curiosity. Yup, as I suspected, they're made for people with shorter toes than mine -- by the time I got the overall length right, the ball of my foot fell into the cutaway in the arch. This is similar to what happens with the Trail Glove, and I hope that Merrell extended that area rearward in the Road Glove and Bare Access. We'll see.

The atmosphere surrounding the race was very relaxed, lots of fun. I can see myself doing more of these.

Oh, and just before we started, there was a guy who ambled through the start/finish. The RD/announcer told us all his name, that he's 73, and that he was doing the 50K... His fourth with them this year, and tenth for the year... so far. Amazing!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oh crap...

Time to get a little serious, and hopefully have some fun along the way.

A little blunt background: I have ulcerative colitis (UC), and have since 1997. It's mostly controlled now, and has been for about the last 6 years, thanks to meds. The journey here has been up and down, with some scary times thrown in.

For those that don't know, or don't want to look it up, basically UC is inflammation of the large intestine (colon) that leads to bleeding, scarring, and if left unchecked can lead to colon cancer. Often, the colon is partially or completely removed, and the ilium is made into a sac to serve the purpose. More severe cases will require an external bag. Yeah, that's the not-so-pleasant part.

At one point, I had a severe flare-up that lasted some 4 months. I lost 15 lbs over 2 months. I had to stop all workouts, because my body just wasn't repairing itself. It was scary, and I seriously thought I wouldn't be able to get a handle on it. Finally got the meds straight and things cleared up, but it was a LONG road getting off the prednisone.

I do function somewhat normally most of the time, though I do have the need to use the restroom more often. "Normal" for me is pooping 3 times a day -- twice before noon, and once after. But what the colon does is essentially extract water from the stuff traveling through, and if it's not working right... Yup, diahrea. And it can hit with little to no warning.

I get some warning signs before I go into a flare-up. My stomach gets noisy. As in embarassing-at-the-theater noisy. The demon speaks.

Over the years, I've figured out that fibrous foods are more-than-effective on me. Apples are out. Oatmeal is evil. Carrots, corn (though corn chips are fine) and lettuce are okay only in very small quantities. I do white bread and white rice. You get the idea.

And I've kind of figured out what my triggers are for a flare-up as well. Sleep deprivation is my number one Waterloo. One night of 4 hours I can handle. Two and I'm at high risk. Three is a guarantee of a flare-up.

I get annual colonoscopies. I highly recommend every one get one. Not just for the medical reasons. Those are all good, and early detection is always the best bet for illnesses. But there's just something about a colonoscopy that is so character-building. And it's not even the proceedure itself -- the prep is the thing.

One thing that UC has taught me is that public restrooms are really okay. I've seen so many women hold it until they got home... UC leaves you no choice. Buck up!

But it's not all sunshine (as if). There have been times when I've had to cut short social engagements. It has taken a lot of understanding on my wife's part, and she's great about it.

To say I'm in tune with my crap is an understatement. Constant vigilance, monitoring things like my bowel tones, sleep, watching what I eat (avoiding all those things that every one thinks is so good for us), taking my meds every day, and twice some days.

I look back to when I started long distance running, just out of high school, and remember having to carry TP in a zip-lock bag with me. Fortunately I lived in a very rural area, and was never more that a couple hundred yards from remote woods at any time. I just thought it was "runner's trots", but I often wonder if these were the early signs of what didn't show up for another 12 years.

If you get "runner's trots" fairly often, get checked out. If you're bleeding, PLEASE get checked out. If you have constant diahrea, PLEASE, PLEASE get checked out.

And don't be afraid of public restrooms.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Altra Lone Peak hits the store shelves!

Just got word via the Altra Facebook page that the Lone Peak is to be at "select" running stores as of... Today!

I've got over 200 miles on my Instincts now, and have been eagerly awaiting the availability of this model. Looks like the wait is about over.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Real-life game of "Telegraph"

Maybe you played this game as a kid -- Telegraph. Also known as Telephone or Gossip. You start with every one in a line, and at one end, whisper something into that person's ear. They turn around and whisper the same thing into the next person's ear, then they turn around... And when it gets to the other end of the line, it's amazing how the message changed. Just because people repeated what they thought they heard.

Had that happen this past week.

My wife went for a wog (walk/jog) with Eric's wife last Thursday. She told me something afterwards that kind of shocked me. Eric's wife told my wife... Well...

Apparently I had told Eric he needed to lose weight in order to race well.

Uh... I did?

So whatever I had mentioned to Eric got passed to his wife, then to mine, then back to me, and it made me sound like an absolute tyrant (who knows, some may agree).

I searched my memory banks, hoping it hadn't been completely purged from my mental hard drive. Nearest thing I could come up with was this: Eric was talking about how much weight he'd lost in the last year (I've asked him to guest-write a piece on his progression), and how much faster he is from aerobic conditioning and losing the weight. I replied that, as he continues to lose weight (up to a point, and we talked about that too), he'll likely get faster.

Now the context of all the conversations was probably lost in the translations as well. But somehow, in transferring that message three times, it became an edict that he needs to lose weight to get faster. And that's just not true. In fact, it's just as likely that he could stay at the same weight and improve the neural pathways (the mind-muscle connection), and get faster without any changes in body composition. And also, he could gain some muscle mass and lose some fat, with a net zero weight change, and be faster (of course the opposite could also happen if it's non-functional muscle mass).

In any case, it was an interesting case of how a message can get changed as it passes through hands. Or ears and mouths.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fully commit to your running, not every step

I noticed something a couple days ago, and I'll get to that in a minute.

I was pretty pleased that I passed the 48-hour mark after signing up for a race and not getting hurt. So far, it's been a week, and I'm still good to go for the trail run this Sunday. Eric, however, wasn't so lucky. He had signed up the day before I did, wanting to do the half-marathon option (I'm doing the 10K). Last Wednesday, he twisted his ankle during our lunchtime run. Honestly, I didn't touch him! There was no sabotage involved.

But it's not going to keep him from doing the event. We went out to the race venue and tried to navigate our way around the race course (as much as we could decipher from the map we had), ending up at just over 10 miles.

I noticed something about the way Eric ran vs. myself, and something about the difference finally struck home.

Eric is a heel striker. That in itself isn't necessarily bad. He bought a pair of the New Balance Minimus Roads a while back, but the transition was a bit overwhelming at the time. He works on it, and his cadence has come up a lot this year. This is also the second time it's happened to him this year, now having matching hinky ankles, right and left.

Also, I noticed that Eric doesn't hitch up his stride when he steps on a rock, root, odd rut, or whatnot. My stride is in a constant state of change, pulling up (like pulling a punch) when I sense that putting my full weight on my foot is going to cause a problem, and getting my other foot under me immediately.

I told Eric about my thoughts on Monday. I explained it as this: by fully committing all your weight to that foot landing right there, you can't compensate, can't pull up and catch yourself before it causes an injury. Whatever the landing is going to do, once your foot touches the ground, you've passed the point of no return and from there... you deal with it. You're committed. Fully.

One of the things that a higher cadence, shorter, non-overstriding form does is delay that point to where you can pull back before injury happens.

Ground feel has a lot to do with this as well. One of the things that the minimalist and barefoot runners will harp on is ground feel -- the only way to really feel what's underfoot is to remove what's between you and the ground. My most-used shoes recently are the Altra Instinct, which are not a minimal shoe by any means, but they do afford better ground feel than a lot of the market out there.

I'm NOT saying all this to say I'm so great. There are people that absolutely blow my doors off with the terrain they traverse with no ill affects. And I hurt my foot in a trail run earlier this spring by doing just this. A downhill turn in a darkened area, one step that I committed to a little too much, and my foot was in enough pain that I abandoned the race.

Stay committed to your running, fully, but leave yourself some wiggle and pull-back room in your steps.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Brooks PureProject -- Hands, and Feet, On

Last night I finally got a chance to see the Brooks PureProject shoes in person. My wife and I had gone north so I could meet up with some one and pick up a motorcycle part (bought from a Craigslist ad). We met at Kent Station, near the Road Runner Sports store. Since we'd gotten there a little early, and he was running late due to traffic, we went in and looked around.

I tried on three of the four PureProject models -- the PureGrit, PureFlow, and PureConnect.

Right before that, I'd tried on a pair of Saucony Hattori's, and was amazed at (1) how light and slipper-like they felt, (2) how small they ran, and (3) how tight the midfoot area fit. In spite of the hype in the zero-drop community, these were an immediate send-back.

Of the Brooks shoes, I tried on the PureGrit first, in 10.5. I liked how the rearfoot fit. Secure-feeling and no pressure points. The midfoot was equally conforming to my foot. The forefoot, though, was where things started to go wrong. I went up a half-size to make sure that wasn't the issue.

Next up was the PureConnect. This one I tried on in a 11 right off, so I wasn't struggling against the size. Like the PureGrit, the rearfoot and midfoot felt great. The forefoot felt narrower than the PureGrit, and I was told by the salesman that they do have different lasts... My little toe was trying to hang over the side of the midsole, and I had plenty of room at the end of my toes.

How about the PureFlow? A slightly wider toe box than the PureConnect, but my toes were still pushed together. I investigated this further by forcing my foot inward, and while that gave my little toe more room, my big toe was trying to force the upper over the edge of the midsole at a point that was much more stiff from the toe bumpers.

Then it was back to the PureGrit in size 11. Same feeling.

It's the same feeling I have with the Saucony Kinvara, and it's due to the shape, or rather the shaping, of the forefoot into a more pointed look. This is NOT foot-shaped, at the very least not MY foot-shaped.

My overall impressions were a bit of disappointment. The shoes looked great, and felt great until I got to the toes. The same reasons I won't buy the Kinvara again are the reasons that I won't buy these shoes. And that's not to say they're bad shoes, just that they won't work for me. If you like the Kinvara you'll most likely really like the Brooks PureProject line.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rain Rain Go Away...

It's the rainy season again in the PacNW. One could say that's most of the year, from September to July. And that's not too far from the truth... Not that this area gets more rainfall than other parts of the country, we just get more DAYS of rain. I just hate the unpredictability of the weather this time of year (and also in early spring).

Tuesday's lunchtime ride was wet. Very wet.

Last night's forecast said 20% chance of rain all day. As in not much at all. In fact, most likely it WOULDN'T rain, and I'd ride my motorcycle to work. Not that I'd melt or anything, I just don't care for dealing with darkness and rain at the same time.

Anyway, I woke up early (thanks Max), took a shower, then looked outside... Raining. It ebbed, then dowsed, then ebbed... I decided to ride anyway. My wife and I were joking that I'd be flipping the bird to the clouds as I rode in. That works, until I need to shift...

When I wheeled the bike out of the garage, the rain had pretty well stopped. "YES!"

I went back in, got suited up, walked outside... Raining harder again. Oh well. I'm dressed for it.

I passed some one riding a MTB on my way to work...

I guess the weather isn't all THAT bad.

Monday, October 10, 2011

To further something I wrote about a couple weeks ago...

Another rant.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about people doing the race-bandit thing at a benefit event, and how that's really not supporting the cause.

Well, yesterday I saw something that was even worse.

Now, I know that politicians are the most self-serving of humans out there. This should come as no surprise to any one. But I think they're so focused on themselves that they've lost some of their common decency.

My wife and I timed a small 5K/10K in Puyallup yesterday morning. The race itself went well, with the only real glitch being a woman who apparently registered for the 10K, but ran the 5K and "won" it. Problem is, unless she tells us, or the race director tells us, we have to go with the results from the information we have.

But in this event were several people wearing T-shirts from a certain politician running for local office. Okay, that wasn't so bad. I realize that these types won't pass up an opportunity to put their names in front of potential voters' faces, no matter how inappropriate it may be (and the one guy who ran carrying a campaign sign, which he put in front of his face at both the start and finish was just silly). But when one of those T-shirts crosses the finish line without a number... And then another one...

Not only does that say something about the integrity of the person who ran, but it also says something about the integrity of the campaign office, and by extension, the politician who they're boosting. It doesn't matter to me that eight others wearing the same T-shirt had numbers and had paid their way into the race, those two did more damage in my mind than a hundred speeches or endorsements could undo.

Palmer, you just lost my vote.

Wish I could DQ them for life...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A couple ideas.

I had an idea for a race a while back, something that is kind of an equalizer, and based on a workout we did in track with the distance runners. It goes like this:

It's a team race, each team consisting of two people. I'd kind of thought of it as a Valentine's Day event, geared towards couples. Anyway, you have a loop course, with one start/finish line. One person goes clockwise around the loop, the other goes counter-clockwise, and when they meet, they hand off... something, then turn around and re-trace their route back to the finish. The time would be based on when the second person got back. Variations would be that there could be a corral where the first person waits until their partner gets back, and then they finish together.

There's a bit of strategy here, where if one part of the course is more difficult, you'd send your stronger runner to go over that part before meeting their partner and turning around. When I did this in high school, we did it on our 5-mile loop. Normally we ran it clockwise, and there was a monstrous hill just past half-way. Kill Hill, we called it. The stronger runner would want to get over than hill before their partner got on it.

Now what could be used as the baton, the object handed from one to the other? In tri relays, they hand off a timing chip. Wouldn't really work unless we used the corral. Or it could be something Valentine's Day related, like a stuffed heart or other object. You just want to make sure they actually DO meet somewhere out on the course...

Haven't pitched this idea to BuDu yet...

Also, my wife and I are tossing the idea around of becoming USAT officials. Seems that not many races in the area have them. Maybe it's just a matter that the RD's don't want the expense, or don't see a need, but I've seen so many rules violations at the tri races I've been to that it's ridiculous. It's like the people on the course have no idea what the rules are... And that is likely true. I've ridden lead motor for several races, and even at the front I've seen (from my rear-view mirror) my share of illegal drafting. I can't stop to write down numbers...

How about this: We ride around the course, my wife on the back of the motorcycle, and she's carrying a paintball gun. Rules violation 1 -- you get hit once. If you have two paintball splotches at the finish line, DQ.

I've been paintballing before, and those things HURT! I don't think we'd get many repeat offenders.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Long(er) Run

I went for my long run yesterday morning.

Now, the idea behind a long run is that it trains your endurance to handle something greater than your normal workload, while not being something you do so often that it breaks you down. Used to be that marathon training had you doing your long run every week, and increasing it to beyond 20 miles as you approached race day. The increase was always small, so training plans went 12-, 16-, 20-weeks or more, depending on where you were starting out endurance-wise, and how much time you had available before your event.

I'm not training for a marathon. No desire to go that far again. Not without the help of some wheels, anyway.

But I'm looking at a half-marathon next year. Or two, maybe.

My training has been going well since the minor set-backs in my foot that derailed the half-marathon this year. Five and six milers have been no problem, and I can string a few of them together in a week. Yesterday, I wanted to extend that. I laced up the Altra's, set the Endomondo, and started off, water bottle belt and Gu on my back.

My thoughts leaving the house were that I wanted to do at least 8 miles. At an easy pace.

I started out as I had my run on Saturday morning, when I took Jake with me -- short route to the local trails, then following them out to the far end where they intersect a road. I knew it would add a little distance to the direct on-the-road route, but I was wanting to go at least eight...

When I got to the point where my route was to turn off from where I'd done some ten milers earlier this year, I decided I felt pretty good, and continued on. Took my gel. Gulped some water. Passed a couple people. Looked at my watch, and thought, "This can't be right." I kind of knew how far I had to go, and how long that would take me, and what my time would be at that point in my normal route. Too much time had already passed.

I kept telling myself, "Only three miles to go." Three is easy. Three is not even my shortest runs.

As I got to the last couple miles, I recalled something I found on Saturday -- my old running logs. From 1982-1988. College years, where I logged every run in detail, what I wore, how I felt, etc. My early triathlon training, where I equated every workout to calories burned so I could judge training volume by one metric, no matter what the mix of disciplines was for the week or month. But there was a page in there from the only marathon I'd run, the Seattle Marathon of 1982, the Saturday after Thanksgiving (the cruelest time to run a marathon, if there ever was one). But I had said in that report how, "the last several miles were a blur of walking and painful shuffling." Not that I was in pain during my run yesterday. Actually, my legs kind of felt numb. But I remembered how hard it was to get moving again after walking. And I knew that if I did that in the last couple miles, it would be that much harder to get going again.

I pushed on, though I felt like my pace had slowed a LOT.

I finished the run in 1:30:21, and Endomondo told me I'd run 11.19 miles. Let's call it 11.2 miles. There had to be some error in there, right? And it told me that my pace really didn't fall off much at the end. I guess I'm accepting the technology... But that idea of the small increase? Right...

Saturday, about 10, Eric came by on his way to the dump to pick up some things from my house, and he told me had had run 10 miles that morning. I SWEAR I wasn't trying to out-do him. Really.

And I did what I wanted to do -- I ran at least 8 miles...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Darkness falls...

Fall is here. This week has seen some interesting weather, with morning temperatures into the upper 30's on one morning, and the rain coming.

I've been watching the later rising of the sun with some degree of consternation. Lately, the twilight has just been hitting as I get to work, and on the clearer days I get a nice silhouette of Mt Rainier at the top of the stairs as I enter my building.

But this week, as I was finishing getting the house painted, I really noticed the earlier setting of the sun. The evenings get dark. The neighbor's dog barks because the end of the day is near, and he does the pavlovian thing of getting hungry when the sky starts getting dusky, because he doesn't know how to read a clock. Even a digital one. It gets difficult to do the things I want to do after work...

Four minutes a day is what we lose naturally. At least that's the number I remember from the Astronomy 101 class I took in college (while I was wasting a year getting into the Mechanical Engineering department).

And then, come another month or so, the powers that be decide to turn the clocks back and rob us of another hour of precious evening daylight, just so the kids, who couldn't care less, don't have to get driven to school in the dark in the morning.

There was talk some years ago about just leaving the clock alone... They pushed back the time change, but we're still monkeying with it.

Hey, if they could find a way to keep the sun up longer, I wouldn't mind that too. I want to up my mileage for some half marathons next year...