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

Friday, November 30, 2012

MicroShift White -- a budget alternative to Shimano Ultegra

Chris Morelock, a fellow BeginnerTriathlete regular by the handle leegoocrap, posted a GREAT review of the MicroShift White component group.

When I was looking at piecing together a group to put on my coming Surly Cross Check frame, one of the things I considered was to go with MicroShift -- price-wise they're WAY ahead of Shimano, while being completely Shimano compatible. I chose to go with cobbing together the build from used, eBay, and forum classifieds parts, but if I were going to do another true performance build (say, re-speccing one of my road frames for racing again), I'd likely go with MicroShift as Chris did. And I'd likely go with a funky color of the White group.


After a nice visit with my orthopedic doctor yesterday, the diagnosis is not so bad: Mild rotator cuff tear, some tendonopathy, tendonitis, and general inflammation. No need for any surgical correction.

The options are to do physical therapy, either supervised or on my own, with options to go with a cortisone injection or strong anti-inflammatory medications (or not, just depends on what I want to do there).

I chose the at-home exercise plan, and I'll do the anti-inflammatory meds. I've got a nice long thera-band to use, along with the tubing I've already got stock-piled from previous bouts. And when it's all over I can use it to make a great slingshot.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Slices of me...

I've been having some shoulder trouble lately, and the funny thing is I haven't been swimming. Nada. Nothing since September when the local YMCA did a bait-and-switch on the pool schedule rendering my (low-cost) membership useless. They allowed me to cancel it immediately, as I was EXACTLY 30 days from when I activated it, but that was the last time I got in the water.

So it can't be "swimmer's shoulder", because I haven't been swimming.


I think it happened when I was changing the re-mounting the wheel on my car in the (steep) driveway, after plugging a hole made by a 1/4" bolt that had lodged itself through the tread.

Anyway, I went in some 3 weeks ago for the initial exam, and after a lot of painful manipulation demonstrating the limits (and way beyond) of my pain-free mobility, he declared a suspected torn labrum, and ordered up an arthrogram.

For those who might not know, an arthrogram is an MRI with contrast, a liquid pumped into the joint via a needle threaded INTO the joint capsule.

Strangely enough, my wife has been having similar issues with her shoulder, and had gone through an arthrogram just a week before mine. She'd had considerable pain when they were injecting the contrast. Me, being the wimp I am, was dreading that part of the procedure. I'm not all that fond of needles (though you'd think I'd be okay with it, given that I have to go through many blood draws to track medication levels due to my colitis).

But I've got to give Paul at Sound Medical Imaging props -- aside from the first poke, that part of the procedure was nearly painless. 

The other part of it was that going with Sound Medical Imaging go me into the procedure a good two weeks before the place my doctor had originally sent me to to get the arthrogram.

So anyway, after listening to classic rock, being fed into a tube and told several times to hold my breath and not move (just for short periods of time), I walked out of there with a CD of all these images, like a spiral sliced ham laid out like a deck of cards that is my left shoulder.

The phrase "any way you slice it" comes to mind...

So that was over two weeks ago. I (finally) have the follow-up appointment tomorrow morning to go over the results. Hopefully it's something that's easily fixed... Even though I haven't been swimming, I still want to be able to click off a few laps.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Three from the hip... What are you thankful for?

Too seldom do I, or I suspect most of of us, take a pause to reflect on the fortunate circumstances in which we find ourselves. Sometimes by design, sometimes by blind happenstance. More than likely a blending of each tending towards the latter, or in my case, being fortunate in spite of my best efforts.

And so I tender these meager offerings of gratitude to God, Allah, The Great Spirit, The God of Chance, or whatever personification of fortune you prefer:

* The relative health I enjoy, enough so that I can pommel myself in pursuit of athletic mediocrity.

* The love of my wife, daughter, friends and extended family, and their support in my life. I can't look in the mirror and say that I deserve either, but they're with me nonetheless.
* The life I've lived that has made me what I am today. I can't look back and say that it's any kind of "example" to follow, but I can point to myself and say I'm stronger for it.

What about you?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Trying on the Altra Superior

This past weekend I had a chance to get my hands (and feet) on a pair of Altra Superior trail running shoes. And I've gotta say, they're everything I was expecting, and more.

The day started with 2 hours on the stationary bike, then shower, breakfast, and bundling up to spend a couple hours honoring our veterans at a parade. Then on the road to my old bike shop to tie up a couple loose ends, lunch, and then a stop by The Balance Athlete (I had called ahead to make sure they had the shoes).

Picking the shoe up, it feels lighter than the Instinct, though not racing-flat light like the Skechers Go Run. But this shoe isn't meant to be that light. It's a pared-down version of the Lone Peak, and I think they've made something that will, at least for the trails in the Pacific Northwest, work every bit as well if not better than their beefier offering.

The fit is very much like the other Altra shoes -- snug in the rearfoot, where it's supposed to be, and free in the forefoot, where it's supposed to be. Toe room is ample, nothing pushing anything in the wrong direction. The collar feels more cushy than the Instinct, but doesn't feel like it's giving up a secure fit.

For some reason I had envisioned the rock plate similar to that used in other shoes -- a piece of plastic in the forefoot making the shoe stiff. Even when some one asked me about a "negative drop" feeling when trying on the Superiors, I had answered that maybe removing the rock plate would help (it did, but not for any reason I had thought). I really had no idea what the rock plate looked like... I figured it was attached to a full-length insole that was removable. I was surprised to see that it is a full-length insole-like plastic insert, separate from the "Contour" insole. My shoe-geekness is slipping! Underneath the Contour insole and the rock plate is the flat "Strengthen" insole sewn in.

I put the shoes on (going up a half-size -- the Superiors run slightly small compared to the Instinct) with the Contour insole and rock plate in place, trotted around the store, and just grinned. My Instincts have a lot of miles on them, and they're finally getting to where I need to retire them from active duty (at about 18 months). These felt even better than those shoes did when new.

But I did leave the store without buying the shoes.

I know, it was difficult. But I was reminded that Christmas is just around the bend, and I DO have a lot of shoes...

Ever since a hike with my wife this past August, I've been planning on doing a long (for me) run/hike circumnavigation of the Crystal Mountain basin next summer, and have been giving some thought to which shoes I'd wear for such a day-long excursion. I wore Merrell Trail Gloves that day, but if the terrain had been more severe, I'd have wanted something more. I think the Superior is just the ticket for a day like I have planned -- long, mix of running and hiking, trails and rocks...

Friday, November 9, 2012

You don't just run with your legs

I've been watching with interest the running gait research and theories with great interest. But I also watch it with a bit of amused chagrin.

Researchers like to simplify things in order to more easily analyze them. I get that. Engineers use things called "free body diagrams" to lump large structures into a single unit in order to simplify calculations.

Much of the research and theorizing of running gait likes to treat the upper body as a "free body diagram" and isolate the running movement to those parts of us from the hips down. Further, the motion of the legs is simplified to acting like springs, neglecting the complex coordination of muscles and skeleton.

I've gotten into discussions with some of these people with regards to the landing of the foot under the body's center of gravity. They mostly vehemently declare that it is PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for the foot to make initial landing directly under the center of gravity unless it is undergoing acceleration. I maintain that it is not only possible, but also preferable, for the initial landing of the foot to be directly under the body's CG.

It comes down to resolution of moments, and realizing that the body CANNOT be simplified to acting only in the legs. The body is constantly rotating about the body's center of gravity, the hips coming forward and backward relative to the CG, the arms swinging, the shoulders rotating, the feet providing forward force as well as vertical force (and not in direct proportion to each other)... Rotations in three axes that allow what, on paper and over simplified, seems impossible.

Yes, if you ignore all these rotations and moments, and look at the body as a static mass at the hips (and also ignore the rotation of the hips about a vertical axis near the spine), then I agree -- the only way to keep the mass moving in a constant velocity is to balance the stance phase of the gait in both directions, forward and backward, about a vertical line through the CG. But this isn't reality. Simplifying the human body so makes any conclusions drawn as far from reality as the assumption that everything above the hips is static.

Of course all of this is really just mental gymnastics on something that is so natural that it's comical to ponder it for too long. That some people are getting PAID to study this in so much (horrific) detail is mind-boggling. It's interesting, but...

It's so much better, and more fun, to just run.