Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Injury as a path to inner discovery?

So maybe I'm a cyclist after all.  My planter F is back right where it was back in November when I got a cortisone shot.  I've been here for about a month, it sucks.  But this past weekend we went to the beach and, of course, I brought my bike.  I had only one day at the beach since we also had to get back early for Mothers day.  So what do you do if you only have one day at the beach?  You go for a long ride!! 50 miles on glassy smooth freshly paved County highway and their bike lane shoulders.  It was wonderful, I loved it.  The ease of riding is very soothing to me.  As opposed to the violent crashes I take when I was trying to run.  I used to feel like running was 5 times harder then riding.  A (easy) ten mile run felt about as hard as a (fast and hilly) 50 mile ride.


So I am just now adding to a blog post that I started back in May.  Some of you might be wondering where I've been lately.  Weeeellllll I've been a bit busy, you see it seems as if we are going to have ourselves a little addition in about 9 weeks and we are in heavy prep mode.  What are we going to do?  stay or move? move where?  how to turn that room into a baby's room, blah blah blah.  Not to mention I have a new motivation to get more useful and more arduous PT certifications.  So I haven't had time to blog.  I have hardly had time to workout.  I had a few weeks lately in which I could only count my daily 3 mile commute and 2 spin classes as my workouts.  I was getting fat as well, I know right?!?!  ME!!  I didn't actually weigh myself you see, mind you.  I just could tell I've got about 5-10lb's extra.  So what did I do?  I started hitting the Crossfit real hard, upping it from once per week to 3-4.  The metcon stuff and the heavy lifting.  I also made a fateful decision.  I've fully committed to Millie (that's my road bike.  Forrest is my daily commuter but Millie is my first love).  I am a cyclist first and I don't run.  I may run once per week to strengthen my cycling but not for a long while.  Not until the PF is fully gone. 
So the question you must be asking yourselves is this.  Am I really born to run?  The answer...it is too soon to tell.  I've got a lot of life left, 56 years or so.  I'll get to this JFK50 thing after a while (believe it!!), but for now the adventure will be the as yet to be named and gender mystery tiny little person. 

But I would like to share that I had big miles on the bike 2 weeks in the last 3.  I was at the beach over the Memorial Day weekend and I rode all three days.  135 miles in all, it was wonderful.  Just this last weekend I got up early on Sunday (6am!! Dedication!!) just to squeeze in 25 more miles.  It was one of those mornings that was just brilliant out.  Clear, crisp, coolish air.  I was riding hard and was really driving the bike, pushing myself and Millie to our limits...it was fun.

So let's see where this adventure takes me.  Logging off for now but stay tuned.

Friday, April 13, 2012

AARP and the unleven abs

Forgive me my flock, happily I can say...I"M BAAAAAACK!!!

I needed some time to do a big pile of Honey Do's.  I have another big pile to do tomorrow and I didn't want the weekend to get away before I shared with you some thoughts and for whatever crazy reason, I feel like you want to hear my thoughts.

I must have jinxed myself, last time I mentioned getting on the podium at my little trail races that I like to do.  Well for the first time ever in this particular series of trail races, about 15 races in all over the last 3+ years, I did not finish in the top 5, I did not hit the podium.  I mean it's no big deal, right?  I ended up going a little slower then I felt able to do because my feet started to really hurt.  It was a combo platter of the Plantar Faciatis and lots of sharp rocks to step on.  Besides, my goal this year is just recovery and stride transition.  Then why am I still obsessed with it 2 weeks later.  Maybe it's partially due to the passing another birthday last week?*  Maybe it was the weakening of my immune system, as demonstrated by a viscous stomach bug that ripped me inside out for a few days?  Maybe it's because, according to my feet, I'm not as fast a healer as I was 10 or 15 years ago.  Whatever it is, I know I didn't lose my competitive streak, and that's a win for me.

Another thought bouncing around my noggin is my bone headed stubbornness.  I refuse to take my own advice.  I refuse to learn from my vast collection of mistakes.  I feel like my body is talking and I'm not really listening.  My feet have been tender for about 3 weeks now as a result of the natural trail running yet I refuse to stop or change shoes.  I'm the yin and yang of malehood, a tired and whiny old man and a little boy all wide eyed and innocent.  A strong and silent leader of men and a pimply little teenager.  Oh well, such is my life, I'm not going to change soooo.....

Finally, I went to a passover Seder last week.  The matzoh reminded me of my body as few 5 years ago, all flat and ripply and stuff.  Now I'm more like a good sized Matzoh ball, getting round and mushy and maybe even a little smelly and ripe.

*sidenote: I found out last weekend that the age minimum for AARP membership was 50!! WTF?? 50?!?! Sure, they offer great discounts on life insurance, bus tours of Miami Beach and the blue plate special at the Denny's but now that I'm a mere 6 years from AARP-age I feel like I can wait a while before I get to the back half of the inning.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

first day of spring run

originally written 3/19:

Those of you in the DC area this past weekend may remember, Spring officially sprung on Friday.  At least it did for me.  I know that the first day of spring is officially on the vernal eqinox which is on March 20th every year (as far as I know).  But my first day of spring is on a different day each year, I'm never for sure which day it's coming but on the day it arrives...AHHH!!! It feels like I haven't felt the sun in my whole life. It's one of my happiest days all year.  I tend to celebrate that day instead of March 20th.

What makes a day, a particular day like any other day and like no day before it for about 3-4 months...WARM SUNSHINE (accomponied by gentle breezes of dry, pine scented air).  For me the first day of spring is loosly defined as the first day of the year that it is warm, warm enough to run early in the morning, mid day, early evening or late at night and be equally comfortable.  Everybody has a day like this in their personal calanders.  But what do you do with it?  You go outside, we've been couped up all winter, it's time to get out!

So I did what I naturally wanted to do, go for a run.  I laced up my Barefoot Merril Trail Gloves and I took off down the trail, my mind was sort of all over the place when I started.  I was thinking about work and I was thinking about house issues and some family things and I had no idea how far I wanted to go and how much time I had to get there.  Then I remembered that I had a few errands to do so I grapped some papers for my realtor (we finally sold my old place, whew!!), and a small sport sack I would need to pick up some things at CVS and a charger at the Apple store.  As I was headed into town I started thinking about the National Marathon that will be taking place the next day.  I ran that marathon every year for the past 4 and some kind of spring marathon every year for 6 years.  It's just what I do...or did.  Not this year because I was injured most of last year and didn't want to rush my body back to fast, I may have decided to do a fall trail marathon if I find one close.  I started thinking about how much work and fun and work went in to doing a marathon.  They can be grueling but they can be very rewarding.  You really learn a little more about yourself when ever you do one, when ever you pass any test for that matter.

So I was inspired that today, on this, the first day of Spring, I will run 6.2 miles (I'll leave the first 20 up to my marathon brothers-in -arms).  I had not run that far for 9 months and I run nataurally now so my feet might not even be ready for a run that far.  But I had to try and sometimes trying is enough because on this day I ran my 6.2 miles (maybe 6.5 really, I wanted to be sure) and it felt good.  I saw a lot of interesting things and I felt a lot of interesting things and I even composed a poem.

I am loving this perfect weather day!
what it does to my soul,
and what it does to my my spirit,
to be outside in it.

Runnin' and gunnin' and soaking it in,
I can't wait for his dreams to begin.
Climbing trees and hills and heights unknown,
together we run b'never alone


The run felt great even though the balls of my feet are really sore still from the races on the past two weekends all is well, all systems go!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

race report

Trail running is a great way to experience something old in a whole new venue.  I get to be up close and personal with rocks and roots and trees and streams and creeks and incredibly steep hills all with fairly unsure footing.  I love it, it's much more fun then running on the road.  Sometimes I fall, but usually not.  I use my stopwatch just to get a rough idea of how much longer I need to endure the suffering that comes with a race.  The actual race time doesn't matter much because all trail race distances are an educated guess at best.  The first race was like 5.5 miles and the second was 5.6 miles.  I got to strap on my new natural running trail shoes and mix it up with about 400 of my new best buddies. 

I was hooked the first time I did one of these races.  My good friend Sara (also a successful Personal Trainer) told me she likes to do them all and I should join her next time.  Gentlemen, if a good looking and athletic red head says, "come join me it will be fun!"  Do not question her!!!  Back then I was in the middle of an impressive, if not daunting, stretch of 11 marathons, 6 half-iron triathlons and 2 full Ironman in a 7 year period.  I was getting a little burned out by the road and was looking for a change.  So I signed up for the full four race series of 10 mile trail runs.  There is a 5 or 10 mile option but at that time going big was second nature for me.  I was excited because everything was new.  The gun went off and off I went, over the creeks and up the hills deep into my "dark place" and about an hour and change later I finished and headed towards the finish line buffet.  Pizza, cookies and a coke later and I was human again.  "Let's go check the results," she said.  We wondered over to the results page paper clipped to the finish chute fence.  I found my age group and started looking for my name.  I started in the middle and started slowly moving my eyes up.  I have never won a race before in my life.  So I was pretty shocked when I found my name atop the list. "I won my age group." I said quietly to Sara and anybody else in earshot.  I won my first pub glass.  I was very proud.  2 weeks ago I began my comeback trail, well, on the trail.  This time I entered the 5 mile race.  I was more concerned about how my body would feel then how many fools I could beat to the line.  I found a pace that was hard but sustainable, some people passed me I passed some other people, I was running and it felt great.  When I got to the finish I was pleased with my effort and pleased to see that I had placed 4th, doing the approximately 5.5 miles in 43:43.  Another race, another pub glass.  After the race my Plantar Faciatis really flared up.  I really wanted to put some arch support under my feet.  Next time I will bring shoes to change into for sure.  I was worried that the balls of my feet would hurt but they didn't, just the arches and the heel.  The rest of my body actually felt really good.  Because of the stress of the race and the stress of the work week I only had time to run one day in the week between the races, a pleasant and flat 4 miles on the Cap C Trail.

The second race was supposed to be the easiest on the circuit.  5.5 miles of almost completely flat and only two serious hills.  The main difference this week was that a great portion of the trail was made up of smaller, sharper rocks.  The balls of my feet really feel it this time.  I crossed the line in 41:40 but only managed a 5th place.  No worries, I was still able to take my 20th pub glass home, keeping my string of 20 straight podiums in 20 trail races.  I changed into more supportive shoes for the awards ceremony and pizza brunch.  This time my Plantar only was moderately annoyed but the balls of the feet felt bruised.  Nothing a good massage couldn't help.

Bottom line here?  I don't really have one, I suppose if I was creative enough I could have spun a tale about not losing sight of the forest for the trees.  Anyway, next race is in 2 weeks and I can't wait.

a little test

I have long been a believer that if you really want to test yourself, if you really want to see what you are made of then you need to compete.  Competition causes people to really push themselves beyond their own perceived limits.  "I never thought I could go that far, or that fast, or that high or lift that much, but I really wanted to beat that person or my previous best time, etc."  People can never really do more work than is possible but people can always do more work than they thought was possible. I learned this lesson way back in high school. 

It was my senior year and I was running what I suspected would be my last official race representing the school colors.  It was the Fall of 1985 (I did not have a Members Only jacket but I did have an Indiana Jones hat, acid washed jeans and big hair.  I was listening to Squeeze and George Thorogood and The Police) and I was one of the stars, well...participants, of the cross country team and I really wanted to beat this one particular guy from a rival school.  Why was I so concerned with this dude?   I'm not sure, we were both middle of the pack runners, we rarely if ever figured into the scoring of our teams (only the top 5 score for each team, I was usually the 6 or 7 runner).  But this dude really bugged me.  First of all, he was a big guy.  What the hell is a big guy doing in a cross country race?  He was built like a linebacker or a power forward (a private prep school version not a college scholarship version), he didn't look like he could run far or fast!!!  I, on the other hand do (well...did), look like I could run far and fast.  In fact, I feel like did both... regularly!!!  Second of all, his running style made it look like he was not even trying, he looked like he was running slow, jogging.  He kind of lumbered down the trail, with heavy feet and slumped shoulders and a protruding brow.  OK, not really a protruding brow, he wasn't a caveman but you get the point.  So early in the season when out teams ran a dual meet and he passed me with a mile to go in the race. I tried to follow him, this Neanderthal with his distinctive style.  I was getting more and more frustrated that this big dude with the slow feet was beating me, the fast kid, at my sport!  You don't see me trying to slam dunk over big kids on the basketball court.  I never did catch him but I never forgot him and 3 weeks later our teams met again, this time at a big invitational meet with 25-30 teams of 9 kids each.  I wasn't sure I'd even see him.  I just wanted to run my race and do my best for the team.  But with about a mile to go I spotted him up in the distance.  He looked brutish and awkward, like he was going to trip any second.  I picked up the pace a little, I was going to catch him about 200m from the finish then blow past him as I whoooshed into the finishing chute and into the arms of the cute cheerleader.  But, again, it was not to be.  He felt me closing in and right at about 200m to go he broke into a sprint that sucked the will right out of me.  There will be no beating rivals this week, no self-indulgent pride, no confidence boosting cheerleaders.  So we flash forward several weeks to the conference championship race.  All 8 teams, best 9 runners each on the toughest course on our schedule all running the one race that we all have been training for all year.  The one race we wanted to win more than any other.  It was a cold and windy day in late November, everything was gray and stark.  The only color was the red on our cheeks and the Blue and Gold on our singlets.  I lost sight of my unknowing rival and soon forgot about him.  I was simply trying to run as fast as I could in order to stay ahead of the 2 or 3 guys breathing down my neck.  But again with about a mile to go I saw the lumbering fool.  This time I was going to leave nothing to chance.  Impossibly, I picked up my pace even faster and not only did I pass him I flew past him in two steps, like he was standing still.  "When you pass don't look back, just look ahead to the next guy you are going to pass!!" I heard my coach’s voice in my head.  "Looking back is a sign of weakness," is another one of his sayings that kept bouncing around.  I was right at my limit, right at the red line.  I broke out into the last open field.  The finish line was just at the other side 300m away and closing fast...250m and my season and my rivalry would be over...200m and my lungs were searing and my legs were on fire but redemption will soon be mine...150m and I started to hear a load cheer from somebody's dad, "Go Dexter GO!!"  50m to go and the finish line is close enough to touch, then out of nowhere Dexter blew past me so fuckin' fast I swear to this day I heard a sonic boom.  The lumbering idiot beat me again.  I finished one second behind him and pretended my momentum (or frustration) caused me to push him over in the finish chute.  I was pissed.  I cried a little, more because it was the end of my scholastic running career then because I couldn't ever beat the guy.  I have been known to cry at the end of really hard events that leave me completely drained.  So what's the lesson here?  What can be learned from getting beat by the same guy three times?  17:52 that's what.  It was, is and always will be my fastest time ever in a 5k.  I have never before or since come close.  I've gone under 20 minutes a bunch and even under 19 once on a downhill course but never could touch sub-18.  I was able to push myself beyond my perceived limit because the competition caused me to force my body into new territory.

Here I am again, pushing myself into a new territory, running on familiar trails with some unfamiliar shoes and a forefoot striking stride.  I raced twice on the last two consecutive weekends, 5 mile trial races both.  My feet hurt but the pain is eased by the pub glasses I brought home by placing in the top 5 in my age group each time.  In true cliff hanger tradition I'll report more on those two races next time because this blog has gone on long enough.

Bottom line is that competition brings out the best in us and I like it.  Who wants to join me next week?  www.ex2adventures.com

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How I reconnected with the earth

I have my first trail race coming up this Sunday.  It is the first race I've done of any kind since last June when I hobbled, under trained and injured, thru the DC Tri.  It was right after that race,  or maybe during, that I decided to take a month off of running just to let my budding Plantar Faciatis heal.  Or is it heel?  I had to let my heel heal.  Well a month turned into the summer, which lead into the year.  I was a DNS to my entire 2011 race schedule.  The Annapolis 10, The Nations Tri, the Pocono 70.3, a fall marathon TBD, the Fall Backyard Burn trail race series, the turkey trot and a few other random 5k-10k's.

But as you, my "faithful 4", as I shall now refer to you my dedicated following, already know...I AM BACK!!!  I have signed up for and am super excited to do the Spring Backyard Burn trail run series.  The first race is this Sunday.  I have competed in this series 5 times in the past several, always in the 10 mile races and always with success.  I don't think I have ever finished one of the great trail races from www.ex2adventures.com without being on the podium somewhere.  I've collected a cool set of branded pub glasses, each with that races finishing place and the EX2 logo.  My wife loves them, she thinks they are charming and practical and a testament to the virility of her lifelong mate and companion.  And by that I mean she thinks they are a hideous white trashy eyesore and must be hidden from sight, banished to that death row of knick knacks...storage.  I think they are cool.  So far they have stayed.  So far.

So here I am.  About to embark on the first official step, as evidenced by the entry fee and tee shirt, towards my BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal).  A set of 5 mile (stepping back, inside my new limits, go me) trail runs in my new natural running trail shoes.  I figured that even though I am easing into this I better put a few dirty miles on them so I  did the same run as last week to RCP.  This time I fell.  Hard.  I laughed as I brushed myself off and checked for structural damage.  No big deal, it happens from time to time.  I have a picture of an awesome raspberry I gave myself in a race a few years back.  It won an award from the Race Director at the pub glass ceremony (I'd show you the pic if I could figure out how to pull it off my iPhone 3).  This time I'm not so sure a pub glass is coming home to join his 13 other friends.  I'm slower now, but it's OK.  It'll just feel good to get out in the fresh air and push my new body to its new limits, in different directions.

40 minute run with 30-34 on dirt

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Moving to the beat of a different runner

I went for a run this weekend.  In my past life I couldn't wait to get out the door early on a Saturday morning, sometimes starting my runs in the dark.  I've even been known to wake up earlier on a Saturday then I did during the week just for the run.  The run (or massive 100 mile bike ride) was the event.  Now the run is just something I work into my weekend.  This particular the run was how I did some errands and I finally found time for it late on Sunday afternoon.  I had to drop off my keys at my realtor's house (anybody want to buy an efficiency apartment with a fantastic view of Rock Creek Park, a few steps from the red line in North Bethesda?), stop at an ATM, and mail a few bills (my bills are paid via the internet, but the wife is old fashioned).  On the way home I had a solid 2.5 miles to think.  I thought about a lot of things, my stride, the weather this winter, should the Redskins draft or trade for a Quarterback, I thought about a problem at work, I thought about a yoga class I took recently and the teacher kept talking about the rhythm.  The rhythm of my breath should control the rhythm of my practice.  That got me to thinking, there is something different about my running now, something subtle but sustantially and fundamentally different.  The rhythem of my foot strikes.

That sound, that particular and unique rhythem, I've heard it so much in my life that it sort of blended into the background of my thoughts. I never really noticed it until it changed.  My stride has quickened a bit and the pitch is a little higher.  It used to be a sort slow steady beat, like...

slap   slap   slap   slap

...but now its more like a...

tap tap tap tap

....a little faster, a little higher in pitch, a little quicker tempo'd.  I'm not sure if I am making any sense but it was someting I noticed and thought was interesting.


So as I continue to flush out the next insights to my thoughts disguised as a blog, I find that it is a week after I first started typing this particular entry.  I had to put the old 'puter down for a little while as life got in the way.  But I went for another run tonight and it gave me some more time to think.  Tonight I started to try to work in my new Merrill barefoot trail glove shoe.  I'm not ready to run a full 4 miles in it yet, but I could do a little bit. So I did what any one of you would do.  I started in the new ones and then changed shoes back to Brooks the Green Hornets after about a mile or two.  I brought them in a little backpack.  As I swung by a park bench on the other side of town I sat down for a few minutes to change shoes.  It felt like I couldn't have run much further on the barefoot shoes without it really starting to do some damage.  The Hornets finished the run just fine.  I think this might be a reasonable plan.  As I start slowly getting my body used to the barefoot shoes I still want to just ease into it a mile or so at a time.  Maybe I'll just add one mile per week per month just like I did tonight.  Should I even bring a backpack to my first trail race next weekend?  That would really go against my nature.  But maybe my nature has changed, maybe it's no longer my nature to try to beat people and place as high as I can in a race.  I guess that question will be answered later (and then blogged about).

As I sit here sipping a decaf coffee, drinking a large tumbler of water and eating Otterbein's Sugar cookies I start to recall last weeks run.  I recall my lower legs really being on fire for the last 10 minutes or so.  I remember the maiden voyage in the barefoot shoes about two weeks ago and how I couldn't walk right for about three days afterwards, it felt about the same as my first few marathons, but in the lower legs only.  The rest of my body felt fine.  I know for sure that tonight and tomorrow I will feel a lot better then I did two weeks ago.  I also remember last week as my legs were just on fire that it also felt familiar.  It felt familiar because I was going deep.  Going deep inside myself , inside to find my resolve and inside to find my inner drive, my inner strong, my inner bad ass that is always with me but doesn't often show his face to the public.  But I need that inner bad ass to show his face once or twice every year or so.  I think it keeps me in balance.  There are only so many days I can do the ordinary before I start getting the urge, the need to do something extra-ordinary.  Maybe that's part of the reason I want to do the JFK50, the need to go deep.  It might not be here yet, I realize that I'll have a lot of life getting in the way for the next few years but I also know that I have to have a goal on the other side to help pull me thru.  But, I feel as if I'll be ready, physically and emotionally ready to go deep, real deep.  But not for about 21 months.  I also have started to think that a man (as in mankind, some chicks can be pretty bad ass too) can only go real deep only so many times in his life.  So I'm not going to waste one of my last trips to the depths on anything less then a real big hairy audacious MF goal.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Natural running is a virtue

I couldn't wait!!!  The anticipation was killing me.  Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and do the thing you are not supposed to do, you know you are not supposed to do the thing but yet there it is...staring you in the face, daring you to not do the thing.  So I did the thing.  Ouch!  I shouldn't have done the thing.

I have been shopping around for my next shoes almost as soon as I got the old ones home.  The Brooks Pure Flow are great and I love them but they have always been a transition shoe for me.  A rebound girl.  We've all had the rebound girl or guy.  You know the drill, you just got out of a long term relationship, you spend the appropriate amount of time wallowing in your misery, then your buddies drag your sorry ass out one night just to blow the stink off of you and you meet someone.  She's not the one.  She is not bad to look at but there are better.  She can hold a conversation but not about anything you really care about.  She's not a complete loser, I mean she has friends, she has a job, she's out at the same time and place as you and she is starting to get that look in her eye.  You have no intentions of bringing her home to meet your mom but if she laughs a little too long at your dumb jokes one more time you might just bring her home.  But if or when you bring her home you already have a plan and an exit strategy.  Do you sneak out when she's asleep or go get some coffee and tell her the truth in the morning or exchange fake phone numbers or date her for a few weeks then toss her the old, "it's not you it's me, you're great I'm just not ready"?  Whatever, you've got a plan. 

Sidenote: I feel like my old transitional girlfriends will read this one day and all they will see is, "blah, blah, blah....are great and I love them.....blah, blah, blah"  Let the drunk texting begin!!!

So I've been running a bit in the Brooks Pure Flow shoes but I just picked up the Merrill Trail Glove barefoot running shoes.  These may be the ones.  I got them home and put them on and immediately felt the pull, the call to go outside to the trail and be alone with nature and my thoughts.  It was once again a warm sunny day in mid February so I headed out in my short sleeves and my new trail shoes and it was magic.  There was plenty of foot flexibility, but unlike the Pure Flow, lots of trail traction.  If you reference a previous post you'll see that I didn't take that one last trail.  This time I did and it was the right one.  It took me all the way into Rock Creek Park, to a series of long and amazing trails that I know very well and I ran.  I don't really know how far I was but when I got to a turn around point I started the watch and it took me 29:13 to get home.  The way back was mostly uphill so I'd say the whole run was about 55 minutes and since I'm about a 9 minute miler currently maybe I went about 6 miles.  The shoes felt great and I felt even better.  That is how running was supposed to be.  The form was great, short almost choppy strides, quickish turnover, legs just trying to keep the momentum going.  My feet could really feel the trail without getting hurt by the occasional sharp rock or odd root.

But that wasn't the plan!  The plan was to run exclusively in the step down shoes until May and then slowly work into the barefoot shoes, to the tune of adding 2 miles per week on average every month.  I was just supposed to wear the barefoot shoes as my walking around shoes in order to get accustomed to them.  Now I'm walking around like my grandfather.  My calves are sooooo soar, I've been stretching them all day to no avail.  They haven't felt this stiff since the day after my first marathon.  What the hell are fifty miles going to feel like?  Did I make a mistake here in undertaking this massive shift in running form and fitness philosophy?  I still have a few miles left in my old Brooks Adrenaline's.  Maybe I'll just scrap the .......... 

Patience.  Patience.  Patience.  Back to the plan (but not until this weekend).  The Trail Gloves are the one, they will be going home to meet mom, we just need more time to get to know each other first.  I'll take my rebounder girls out for another spin on Saturday and will then come home to my future and I'll wear them to the mall and the hardware store and maybe Bed, Bath & Beyond.  I don't know if I'll have enough time but it's going to be a good little Saturday.

6 miles in 55 minutes

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Inertia and the natural runner

My body at rest tends to stay at rest, my body in motion tends to stay in motion.

It looked like a perfect day to do some couch surfing, it was sorta rainy and sorta snowy, grey but not too cold. I was feeling lazy and tired from a long work week with too little sleep and too little movement. I hadn't run since Wednesday and hadn't lifted since Monday and frankly I had to slack off the last 10 minutes of my Thursday spin class. I could feel myself start to slide back to lower levels of activity that marked the second half of last year and this is not good, or is it?

Part of the beauty of this blog is that I can write down the thoughts that come in to my head, relevant or odd or obscure, and see if I can make some sense of them. You see there was a time in my life, and it wasn't that long ago, that if I was going to do a workout I was going to go big. I was always prepared to go deep. Deep in to the pain cave. I would lie in bed at night and get myself psyched up to run my standard 8 mile loop in under 56 minutes. I would feel a sense of pride or accomplishment when I would ride Millie (my race bike) over to the Morman Temple hill for 8 vicious hill repeats. When I was completely wrapped up in my Ironman days I would regularly get up at 5:30 in order to get to work but I would wake up at 4:30 on Sundays, my only day off, to ride 100+ miles. I would ride Millie from my little apartment in Bethesda to Fredrick or West Virginia. The fitness I would gain from these rides was awesome. But more then that I loved the reaction I would get from people. This one time (not in Band Camp) I finished one of these epic training rides around 12:30 on a hot late summers day. I parked Millie on the front porch and sat down only long enough to put on my running shoes and take off my shirt and head back out for a quick little 3 mile transition run. The run felt good, the body was dealing with the heat adequately, I was hydrated enough and had a few calories left in reserve to call upon. As I finished the run and walked thru Bethesda's restaurant row to get back to my place and begin the recovery process, I came across a couple of trainer buddies of mine. They had taken their girlfriends out to lunch and were enjoying a Sunday afternoon Margarita at a sidewalk cafe. Will and Joey were impressed but understood what I had done and why. Dominique gave me the standard, "you are CRAZY!!" response. Ellen's reaction was more shocked then impressed. She couldn't even speak, it was so far out of context for her that all she could do was look at me like I actually was insane, like I had some sort of OCD, but instead of washing my hands 7 times after peeing I had to be constantly moving forward under my own power for 8 hours and it was because of a sickness not free choice. Come to think of it I might have been a little nuts during that time. But, for reasons I still don't fully understand to this day, it was important to me to do that sort of thing.

Are mega-endurance events still important to me today? I'm not so sure. I've run 12 marathons in the last 8 years (not including the 2 at the end of the Ironmans also completed in that time). In that span there have been many cold, blustery, gray, windy, snowy (or worse 35 and rainy) days. Nasty days like that never even gave me a moments pause. I can't remember a time when I looked outside and said, "fuck it, let's find a good movie instead." I do remember many many days in which I would just bundle up, go outside and do the work. A 17 mile run in 17 degrees, riding home in a driving downpour, the day I completely bonked on a 80 mile ride in 95 degree heat...all of these stories were born on days when normal people would have said, "let's do something else today" But I had to keep going, I had momentum and I simply had to keep it going.

So that's what I did yesterday, I kept the momentum going. But the difference between "Iron Jeff" and the current version was that this time I just did the minimum to keep the momentum going. I have been pretty consistent with running 3 miles or so 2 or 3 times per week since Christmas day and I was happy with that. I don't need to get up early for a 20 mile run in the snow anymore. I am changing as an athlete, I have new goals and new outlooks. Don't get me wrong, I am still going to do the JFK 50 (or another 50 mile trail run), but I also have been able to wrap my head around the real long term goals. Goals like taking my grandson to his first baseball game and dancing with my granddaughter at her wedding, goals like hiking the length of the App trail or riding a bike across the country, both of which won't take place until after I'm well into my 70's. So I went for an easy 3 miler and I let faster runners pass and I never bothered to try and catch and pass people I would have easily passed before. At first had trouble being comfortable with what my 43 year old body could do vs. what my 33 year old body could do. Then I remembered what my 23 year old body could (and couldn't) do I was cool again. I just relaxed and ran at a comfortable pace.

That is also the best way to describe this natural running form, super relaxed. My legs weren't pushing me forward as much as keeping my momentum moving forward. I sort of feel like I am gently falling forward on a slight downhill and my legs are just keeping up with me. My face is relaxed, my arms swing gently and easy, even my legs are relaxed as they pendulum forward. The only hint of tension in my entire body is in the Glutes as they swing the legs back and forth and in the lower legs as they act as the primary and initial shock absorption system. I also was interested to note that being more relaxed allowed my feet to start working a little differently while running. I actually felt as if each foot had 6 points of contact. Each toe and the ball of each foot had it's own purchase on the slick and muddy trail. I had much better traction and control then I did when I let each heel strike the ground first, giving me only one point of contact. It was pretty cool actually.

So I kept my fitness momentum going yesterday, I went out for an easy 3 miler in the cold and it felt great. Physically at first and emotionally later on but just great none the less.

Peace y'all

Saturday, February 4, 2012

My soul and the three energy systems

As so often happens in life, my life at least, the weekends end up being a lot busier then the weekdays.  I'm at work 8-9 hours a day (which is really more like 11-12 hours) so when I get home I'm pretty much spent.  Too spent to do anything but watch a ballgame or some crappy reality show that my wife loves...or a ballgame.  So on the weekends we wake up thinking we have all the time in the world to do the laundry and do the dishes and go to the grocery store for the weeks food and go get a haircut and start getting your taxes together and dealing with the leaky kitchen sink all before daytime turns into night because at night you have to get ready for the evenings activity, dinner with friends, date night, etc.  So I found myself today trying to squeeze in a quick 3-4 miles between unloading the groceries and getting some bungee cords and a new trash can from the hardware store.  "All right babe, I'm going for a run." I anounced to the little missus, "I'll be back in 30-40 minutes."  "Can you make it more like 30?  We still have lots of stuff to do!"  My internal "hurry up" was officially activated.  I figure I can get my 3 miles in a little faster, if I push I can be home in 25 minutes.

For the first time in a long time I was running.  Really running.  Not jogging like I have been all last month but but running smooth and fast and it felt great.  Sometimes it takes a little unwitting encouragement from an outside force to run a faster tempo.  I ended up doing two miles at this fast pace and then I remembered something I learned a long time ago when I was first getting my PT cert.  There are three different energy systems in the body.  For the sake of dumbing it down for the general masses (I realize that neither of my followers need me to dumb it down since you are both very smart, I just don't remember the scientific names) let's call these three energy systems: long distance slow, middle distance fast, and full speed sprinting.  As the creatively simple names indicate, your body has these three "speeds" that you draw on everytime you run.  So as I got to the two mile point today I wondered what natural running feels like at full speed, with "run like you stole something" fury.  So I slowed to a walk, spent a minute getting my breath back then slowly eased back to a run.  I've done these "pick-ups" a thousand times.  I start off at a very gentle jog and I simultaneously start counting seconds in my head 1...2...3... I try to increase my speed gradually 5...6...7 until I get to 10 when I am at full speed (I actually strive to get to about 95% speed, tests on Olympic sprinters found that they tend to run faster when their perceived exertion is a 9.5 out of 10 as opposed to a 10 out of 10.  I think it has a lot to do with relaxing the muscles that are not actively involved in moving you forward, facial muscles, shoulders, arms, etc.  Interesting, right?). I then try to hold this fast but relaxed pace as I continue to count 16...17...18...then I just as gradually bring the speed back down until I am walking at 25...26...27.  I kept walking for 15-30 seconds and then repeated the whole thing.  I did about 4-5 of those "pick ups" and they just felt magical.  I felt like I was one of those jet powered racing boats you occasionally surf past on late night TV.  When you hit the gas, all but the props of these boats seem to rise up out of the water.  I felt something stirring deep in my soul.  I want to race again.  I want to test myself against others.  I want to run as hard as I can for as long as I can and see where it takes me.  It often times takes competition to bring out the best in people. Really hard physical work like that sometimes takes me to an almost spiritual place.  It can be so freakin' hard to run past that skinny dude with the chiseled calves as you go up the monster hill.  The effort takes everything you've got, but it also clears your mind of all the stress and drama and crap.  The budget just won't balance, My mother-in-law is being overbearing again how do I deal with that, how will I be able to afford a new bathroom floor, will they ever make triple stuff oreo's, etc.  None of these thoughts, or any of the millions like them that enter our heads, will be able to stick while you are running full bore.  It's impossible to think of anything else because your mind is using every available neuron to force your body to ignore all of its warning signs and JUST KEEP PUSHING!!!

But for now I am content just slowly building strength in the lower legs and grooving the new form.  Unless I'm told to hurry up because we have to go find a rug to match the new table.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

my journey from the couch to the Ironman...

...in 12 short years.

Previously in my writings I had mentioned that I have been active my whole life, except for a large chunk of my 20's. In college I ran for a few months, I lifted for a few months, I skied a lot, I played a lot of racquetball, rode my Mt. Bike to class and on the trails a little.  I ran competitively in junior high and high school, fall, winter and spring.  In the summer and weekends was swim team and driveway basketball and backyard football and summer camp with all manners of running around.  If I think even further back I remember being one of the worst players on one of the best teams in the12 and under children's soccer league...We were good.  We won Championships!  Well, Willy won championships.  Willy and Dicky and Robbie and Robbie's Dad, the coach and Tommy, who was the toughest kid I knew.  But my point is that I rarely went more then a few days without doing something physical, some game or sport or activity that required human movement.

This next part of my story is so common among the "20 something college grad" set that it should have a name, "responsabilititis?".  I no longer had an easy outlet for recreational sports.  I was a little burned out on running and there was no good mt. bike trails where I lived in FL.  I didn't have a gym membership because things were tight and I didn't want to spend on a gym membership.  So I went to work every day and then I would come home and watch "Jeopardy" and I would drink a beer.  The weekends were more of the same.  Home Depot does *not* a workout make.  Then one day I turned 28 and my dog looked me in the eye and said, "Dude, we are fat!  Take me for a walk!  Tonight!"  Actually he said something that sounded more like, "HHHHhhrrrrumph..."but I could read his eyes and that's what they said.  So we walked for 20 minutes that night and 30 minutes the next.  Two weeks later we were walking a full hour nearly every night.  I still ate like normal, some good, some not so good.  Then we, Daisy and I, started running. First for 10 minutes to start the hour, then 20 minutes, etc.  Week after week, month after month as I would slowly build up the miles I also slowly took off the extra 37 lbs.  I would go running every two or three days, I was up to a comfortable 12 -15 miles per week.  Several years had passed in this manner, 2-3 per week and 5-6 per run, and I was getting bored with running again.  I needed a new challenge so I made a decision.  I issued myself a challenge.  In the middle of December in 1999 I resolved to run a marathon in 2000.  By January of 2004 I had finally run my marathon.  It only took me a touch over 4 years (and 3 hours 36 minutes).  Ya see, wha' ha' happ'n wuz...I kept getting hurt.  I would build up my miles too fast and then hurt a knee or a foot or the other knee or back to the first knee again.  Each time I took 2-4 months off and each time I came back I would build up the miles too fast and then get hurt again.  All these injuries led me to do more cross training.  Spin class then riding, yoga, lifting, swimming and running all had an equal place in my weekly schedule.  It also lead me to really think about the body and what it does and how it should move and the potential of it all, which lead me to do two things. By November of 2004 I became a personal trainer, so I can help others with what I have learned.   In September of 2007 I became an Ironman because it is just a frickin' cool thing to be able to say. 

So here I am right now, on the precipice of history(at least my own personal history), standing in the doorway of greatness (in my own mind) and I still need to remind myself of the lesson learned in 2000-2003.  Slow down, don't get too excited about short term gains, keep the long range plan in sight.  BUILD UP SLOWLY!  My plan is to only add 2 miles per week, per month.  So in Jan. I went 4 miles per week, in Feb I'll do 6 miles per week, etc.  I tried to do my first 4 miler over the weekend, I made it 3 1/2 before I had to walk it home, it's all good.  The next day I did a lovely 2 miles at tempo and felt great.  Monday was a rest day, Tuesday I taught spin, and yoga'd, Wednesday I lifted again.  All of this is going to work, it's just going to take a while.  But that's ok, nothing worth doing ever came easy, nothing worth having came with out a price.

3 1/2 miles easy on Saturday, 2 miles at tempo on Sunday.  Both felt as expected, hard but getting a little easier each time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

the ingredients for a perfect trail run

Well my ultimate goal here is to run the JFK 50 miler in minimalist/barefoot running shoes.  That is one long ass trail run. Granted that goal is at the very tail end of an 18 month "grand experiment" I am performing on myself.  I have lots of smaller, more intermediate goals like a 5k in March and some 5 mile trail runs in April.  But, yeah, there it is, one big hairy audacious goal.  Run 50 trail miles in one day.

Legend has it President Kennedy said that a good man, an officer in his army, should be able to cover 50 miles. over rough terrain. by foot. in less then 18 hours.  From that statement was born the JFK 50 one of the nations first Ultra-marathons. So I thought it would be cool, you know, to add that to the t-shirt collection.

Anyway the point of all that is to tell you, my adoring, and growing public, about todays fitness activities.  Today was my first time!   Running from my new work location that is.  I knew there would be some trails nearby since I guessed I was about 1 mile from Rock Creek Park.  So, around 2pm today, I whipped off my clothes down to the short sleeve tee and shorts I was wearing (not like Clark Kent, more like Clark Griswold) and I headed out into the 62 warmth of a January day in DC.  That's right bitches!! 62, sunny, breezy and warm!!! 
side note: all things considered, global warming is not that bad. 
I headed left out the door, down Albermelre, and it wasn't long before I found a trail head.  I dove into the woods and it was bliss.  I felt like I was floating or gliding over the ground like...a gliding-type animal.  This trail had almost all the ingredients of a perfect trail run.  It was sorta dry in places, kinda drying in other places, but mostly it was muddy.  It had trees and roots and rocks and logs felled by storms long ago.  I crossed over a creek, a small tributary to Rock Creek, 3 times.  I got a little lost, not really lost since I was pretty sure I could run in almost any direction for no more then a mile and I'd find a Starbucks, but I had never been to that spot before in my life, and that was pretty cool.  I even felt like I had a small moment of meditation (or at least reflective thoughts).  The only thing it was missing was more miles.  15 minutes on the roads round trip only left me 20 minutes in the woods, which is fine because that little patch of woods might have been played out.  Although there was one more path I didn't take.  Maybe I'll explore it next time.

34-35 minutes. distance: unknown

random questions and observations:
  1. When did high school kids become so brazen as to light a joint while walking down the sidewalk on the way home from school...and not even offer me any.
  2. Brooks Pure Flow are not good in mud!  (Relax Ilisa they ARE great on the road)
  3. I've received 50 page views here, including 4 from Russia and 5 from Ukraine, who the hell do I know from the former Republic?
  4. My form on the trail seemed pretty natural and the soft surface helped a lot.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The joys of running

I happened to head out the door tonight for another easy little 3 miler (like all of them have been) and I run into my neighbor, the triathlete, on the sidewalk as he's wrapping up his bike commute home.  We've been talking for a year about going for a run or a bike ride for a long time, since snowmaggedon I believe.  Unfortunatly, we keep having conflicting schedules, Dave and I do.  He often goes to his Virginia farm house on the weekends and neither of us have been able to run for a while due to one injury or another.  But the mircle of random timing was on our side this time.  So off we went and I soon remembered one of the simple joys of this joyfully simple activity.  We hit a natural but easy stride, he was still running like an artificial runner, heal striking down the trail.  I was feeling very comfortable as I settled into my more natural and stride.  I've come to realize the more I talked about it that the running stride should be like any athletic stance found in every sport around the world.  Up on the balls of your feet a little bit, your weight slightly forward, your gaze about 10 feet ahead.  Our conversation hit a natural but easy stride as well, as we chatted about our life's loves... specifically our bikes and our wives and kids.  Dave told me he wanted a new bike but bought his wife one instead.  I told him that I want a new bike as well but really, I can squeeze another season or two out of Millie (yes I name my bikes, both of them). 

I have only told three people in person about my true long term goal of doing the JFK50, until I started this blog that is.  I told my friend Ben just a few short hours before he accidentially died, I told my wife and I told Dave on our run this evening as the sun was setting and that's it.  I may be a bit daft but at least I can state my reasons for doing these crazy endurence events.  There was a time in my life that I felt like Ironman was something I needed to do.  It was because it is the toughest one day endurence event on the planet, or at least among the toughest.  I did two of them and may do another, maybe not, who knows.  But I now I feel like I need to do an Ultra, and from what I hear, the JFK 50 is the one to do.  I'd love to do it in barefoot shoes as a sort of final exam in this big test I am putting myself thru.  Ben was the first person I told about the barfoot ultra who responded with a smile.  "Respect to you sir! I like the big dreamers attitude and the massive set of beans on ya" is what his smile said, what his eyes said.  So partially in honor of Ben I will do a natural running ultra, naturally.  It was him who inspired me to blog, him and Jordan and Fritz and Monica and hundreds of other friends and aquantinces.  Maybe I'll bring a picture of him with me on my race day.

My body felt really good tonight.  We hit an "easy 10 minute pace" which was easily more like an 8:30 pace.  It was the most relaxed I had been lately.  The stride is getting a lot more comfortable, I didn't really think about it to much tonight, just sort of checked back in as the conversastion ebbed and flowed.  I even forgot to start my watch until about 1/4 to 1/2 mile into it. 

Dave and I agreed to do this again soon but no hard plans were made, we talked about racing some local 5-10k's and maybe some trail races together in a few months.  If you run please join me, I'll be doing the Backyard Burn trail races this spring, I'll do the 5 mile series instead of the 10, I hope I'm still fast enough to bring home some Pub glass age group awards, my wife hopes the pub glasses "fall off the shelf."  Either way check it out and come out and see me.  http://www.ex2adventures.com/

3 miles.  :28 to :30 -ish 

Ah, the joys of running!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

another running lesson (re)learned

Rule number 7.3(b) If you work at a gym and are there all the time and are sort of responsible for part of it, then don't workout or run at your gym!! Especially during the prime times, evenings and weekends.

I should know better, I've been doing this fitness thing for 30+ years, essentially my whole life, except for most of my 20's, and I have learned a great number of lessons.  Some of the rule's I challenge from time to time, like this natural running/heel strike thing.  Other rule's stand the test of time.  Perseverance and persistence will always get you where you are trying to go (they also are kinda redundant)!  Keep your shoes fresh, always warm-up before and stretch after a good run, trail running is more fun and better for the body then road running and road running is more fun then treadmill running.  Oatmeal is a good pre run breakfast.

But today I forgot the don't run where you work rule I got about a half mile in and a member stopped me to ask about buying some personal training, damn right I hopped off for that.  Then about 3/4 of a mile in one of my trainers had a problem with her pay, damn it I have to stop to talk her off the ledge. Then exactly one mile in and I had to stop again to help someone else decide on PT.  So I bagged it and went home, I'll do it tomorrow.  I think it might be time to try it outside anyway.  Let's see how the ice effects the new stride.

What's the lesson to take home from today's adventure?  Plan your workout time in your day and hold tight to that appointment with yourself.  I keep thinking I can just get it in because I work there, but I actually have a job and can't just walk away to workout (just like everybody else).  I have to plan my time.  A lesson I learned very well in my Ironman training days, and have since forgot.

Side note: if you are a personal trainer and you want to pick up clients, it would be real easy if you just hang out (and let the sales team and managers know you are hanging out) on the fitness floor during the prime times, like shootin' fish in a barrel.

'till the morrow

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Treadmill vs. Outdoors

People ask my advice about running all the time.  Why do my knees hurt? What shoes are good? what should I eat? What is a good race to run? etc.  My answer is almost always, "It depends."  First I have to get to know you and what your goals are, what your fitness and athletic background is, what you enjoy about running and what you don't.  The only question that I am always steadfast on is treadmill vs. outdoors.  I hate the "dreadmill" it is so boring, plus there is the random noise from the spin class next door and the banging weight machines and 58 TV's with 58 different shows on, not to mention all the people walking around not working out.  I'm trying to not let that bother me anymore but seriously...after sitting at your desk reading some damn spreadsheet all day the last thing you need to do is sit on a recumbent bike peddling at 57 rpm reading about if the Bachelor is dating a Kardashian or if the guy who played Batman broke up with the chick who got busted lip syncing the national anthem...but I digress.

In light of my current situation I actually found the treadmill to be ok.  Yes, the big girl was still cruisen' the recumbo, and the hip hop cardio class was comical, and I did get to catch up on the days news and sports scores and an old episode of "Friends", all at the same time, BUT, the treads do offer an advantage over running outdoors.  Perfect running surface.  No cracks in the sidewalk, no curbs dropping off suddenly, no cars and other people trying to kill me or worse throw me off my stride.  Since I am still new to this forefoot striking, barefoot running transition I really need to think about my foot placement and if I was outside I would not be able to spend :30 solid minutes thinking about nothing else.

So here a few things that you should try to remember if converting to natural running.  I am trying to shorten my stride in front of me but lengthen it behind me.  In order to do that I try to have a slightly quicker stride then normal (or what was normal).  Although I feel pretty certain I was landing directly beneath my center of gravity it felt as if I was not even finishing my stride, like I was cutting it a bit short or like I was almost shuffling.  It also felt like my feet were not on the ground very long, defiantly shorter then when I was a heel striker, which makes sense since my stride is shorter (think:quick steps, quick feet).  I also found that I can actually run smoother and find the balance between the amount of weight I put on the ball of my foot vs the amount of weight I put on my heel better when I go a little faster.  10 min miles were ok but a 9 min mile just felt more natural to me.  If any of my 18 followers out there (thanks mom) are trying to convert also please keep in mind that fast is relative.  10 min miles might be haulin' ass for you.

Yes I miss running outdoors, yes I miss the solitude, yes I miss getting so deep in an endorphin fueled daydream that I literally forget I am running and forget where I am, and yes, I admit that I miss passing everybody on the trail (well, 98 out of 100), and yes running outdoors is harder then running on the treadmill and therefore does more to get you in shape.  But is running outdoors always better then running on the treads?  It depends.

3 miles. 27:30

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Natural running vs. Organic running

Today's run was great!! The first of what I hope to be many small breakthru's.  Sunny and cold but very little breeze made the weather perfect for a little 3 mile jaunt down the CCT.  I was able to run the whole thing without stopping.  Meaning I walked the first 200m, stopped to tie one shoe at the top of the first hill and the other one at the bottom.  I did walk at the turnaround but only 3-5 steps, just enought to reverse direction and get moving again.  Don't know the pace or time, it's not important right now but I felt like a 9:45 pace was sustainable.  I find that I need to wear a bit more clothes then I would have if I was moving faster.  I'm def. still getting used to the forefoot strike and would have been much quicker in my old heel strike/mild pronator style.  But I was comfy and relaxed. 

A couple of form notes.  I did much better being consistant with the fore foot strike.  It doesn't feel "natural" yet but it is inching closer.  I have find that it helps get me into the proper form if I bounce in place for a few seconds and do alternate leg butt kicks.  From that movement I just lean my hips forward but keep my body pretty much straight and away we go.  I can feel my body working with every step, trying to adjust from what it is used to into what it will become.  Another trick I try to do is land with about 67% of my body weight on the front ball of the foot and just about 33% on the heel.  Maybe it is more like the old 80/20 rule again.  But that's what it feels like to me.  I also try to land with a bit more flex in the knee so the decelaration from landing on the ground is absorbed in the quads.  The Hammy's and Glutes, the gang responsigle for forward movement, are as strong as they need to be since they have not been complaining yet.  But my lower legs get tight and achey and tired pretty quick.  I have been working on strengthing them at the gym for 3 weeks now and I will continue to do so untill I feel that they are not the limiting factor anymore.  In the gym I usually start or finish each session with  a circuit of bent knee calf raises, straight leg calf raises (step heel drop) and one leg balance stuff on the Bosu.  Although the lower legs were hurting today like always I still had to force myself to hold the run at 3 miles rather then add the viciously steep but short half mile loop at the back of Norwood Park.

I've hear this style of running being refered to as "Barefoot Running," or "Chi-Running" or "POSE Method"  I've also refered to it as "Crazy running" before.  Now I think of it more as Natural running or Organic Running.  This form feels like the way our bodies are supposed to move if we just get out of our own way and let the body do what feels right.

Final thought.  How come when I go running, 3 times out of 5 I have to stop and poop in the woods.  Does a bear do it in the woods?  Can't say for sure.  Does a long distance runner do it in the woods?  Magic 8 ball says,"Absolutly!"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

My journey from a traditional to barefoot runner

Hello world. 

Like a lot of runners I have read the book.  Of course I am talking about, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, the true story about a tribe of natives in remote mountainous villages in central Mexico that can reportedly run mile upon mile wearing nothing more then thin rubber strips lashed to their feet with some rope.  How can these dudes run 30, 40, 50 miles or more at a time with out heel counters, EVA midsoles, polyurethane arch support or any of the other innovations marketed to us by the well paid engineers at Nike, New Balance, Adidas, etc.?

I suppose now is a good time to mention that I had plenty of time to read this book this past summer because I was laid up for about 6 months with a wicked case of plantar fasciatis.  After have run about 3-5 days per week since 1999 I think my body was about to teach me another lesson.  I did a lot of research on line as well as talking to friends and fellow runners, and I started to think that maybe barefoot running could be the answer.  Maybe Phil Knight, founder of Nike, was wrong!  After all he's not a doctor, not a exercise physiologist, not a human bio-mechanist (does that even exist?).  He was just a runner at the University of Oregon.  Ok, so he was a really fast runner (good enough to run for Oregon, but according to legend he was often injured and rarely placed in even the smallest meets), but does that make him qualified to tell me that millions of years of human evolution is wrong and a wedge of foam rubber glued to a kitchen experiment is better for me as a runner?

So I decided to transition myself to a barefoot runner.  Like the dudes in Mexico I want to run a 50 mile race in "barefoot shoes" (I actually like the oxymoronic vibe of that).  Whenever I coach an athlete, either myself or a friend or a client, I always preach caution.  Build up slowly, build strength first to prepare for the task at hand, rest often.  To that end I decided that as I dip an intrepid toe in the water I will start with what the the well paid engineers call step down shoes.  I will also be so cautious as to only run about 5-6 miles per week and every month add about 2-3 miles per week on average.  I am not even going to introduce totally flat or barefoot shoes until about the 5th month of the plan, and then do so for only about 2 miles per week on average.  Eventually, like around Feb '13, I hope to be back up to 20 miles per week, all of them in some sort of barefoot shoe.  If I can make it there safely I'll start to build up to a Fall marathon (NYC!!! finally) and my final exam of sorts will be to check off the JFK 50 (or maybe some other trail ultra) from the life list in Nov '13

Step down shoes are supposed to be a step down back towards natural evolution, towards the natural running gait our bodies were designed for, which is more of a mid-foot to fore-foot strike.  Traditional running shoes have about 14-16mm of cushioning in the heel, which promotes a solid heel strike.  These step down shoes have about a 4mm rise.  The plan is to slowly get back into running in the Brooks Pure Flow, which by the way are the most hideous florescent green you could imagine, they look like something that would be worn by the Green Hornet or Elton John circa 1977, I think they can be seen from space.  I can now safely run at night. 

The plan here for this blog is to recount my experiences as I train my body to learn to run in the manner it was born to do, as a forefoot striker.  It might hurt, it might work well, it might take a few months, it might take a few years, I might just say screw it and get back on my bike and ride.  If anybody reads this blog and wants to be entertained or enlightened or informed or advised on how to live life keep reading.  I will find it hard to not include personality to my words.

I've been back on the road for about 2 weeks now.  I ran/walked 3 miles on Christmas day, before we ordered Sweet and Sour Chicken and Kung Po Beef. and have done 3 other runs of about 2-3 miles each.  Actually one run was more like half a mile.  Although I love running as a fitness activity and as a mental and emotional regulator I seem to have forgotten how hard it can be, especially when you start engaging different muscles then your body is used to.  I have found that it is a little easier to run barefoot when I pick up the pace a bit.  But since I haven't run a step since Mid-June (DC Tri I believe) running fast is hard, so I usually pepper in some walking breaks. 

I also am now hyper-aware of any little ache and pain in my body, particularly in the lower legs.  As soon as I feel something not right I stop to walk until I can run again.  I am averaging 10 min/miles.  I used to be able to cruise at about a 7:30 pace.  This transition might be hard.  Some of the new sensations I have felt include tightness in the glutes and hammy's, soreness in the calf muscles, and one time I felt like I actually strained a tendon in my big toe (it was fine the next day).

I look forward to the day when I can cruise thru a trail run and let my mind wander as the trees and streams move past me. I miss racing, I miss the trails, I miss running.  But for now I am focused on the perfect foot strike.  Stay tuned for more