Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Do you have the right approach?

I'll say this and I know I may get a lot of disagreement but I don't believe you can be a "recreational runner," that is, someone not completely dedicated to the activity, or to any physical activity. It requires dedication, commitment and practice, whether you run shod or unshod and injuries will occur but the goal is to avoid the really serious injuries. We all have constant pains here and there. We are impatient in each instance. I'll stop preaching :), but, again, I wonder how much better the running experience would be if beginners spent years only running short distances until they were very proficient at short distances, then starting increasing distance. I've improved in the last 4 months more than the last 2 years because I decided that if I can't run 1 block correctly, then I shouldn't run 1 mile, or 2 miles or a 5k, or 10k, or half or full marathon. Hence, I'm still only running 5ks and I won't even sign up for a 10k until I run at least 5-10 good 5k races. This isn't about pace/speed as that goal is relative to each individual but it's about running the shorter distances with good form and technique and finishing healthy and without injury then expanding.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Running Shoes Are Garbage but we don't know it

So I had 1 hr. to kill after dropping my daughter off at dance class
last night so I headed to a local running store a few blocks away. I
naturally went to look at all the traditional running shoes and for
whatever reason decided to try some on, and even run on their
treadmill. It was interesting because I haven't put on a traditional
running shoe in over 16 months. It was like being a foreign object on
my feet and I tired at least 12 pairs from Asics, Mizuno, NB and

Here's a few observations from my experience:

1. All the shoes feel really tight, with narrow toe boxes and too
right on the sides of my feet. My feet couldn't breathe and I tried
Size 10, 10.5 and 11 just to see the difference. No surprise why
folks break toe nails in regular shoes.

2. There absolutely no way I could run without heel striking at
various times. I'm a pure natural forefoot strike (not even midfoot)
and I immediately started to midfoot strike at best and at times heel
strike. It's just so easy to heel strike with 10-14mm of heel build-

3. My senses went to sleep as well as my nerves. I couldn't feel my
foot and the connection between my brain and feet was cut off. I
couldn't tell if my landing was bad and I couldn't receive any
messages generated from my feet as a result of speaking with the

4. I could feel the shoe trying to do what my feet do. Having done
some level of BF for over 1 yr., I know the natural energy return I
get from a nice soft forefoot landing and the energy one gets with
VFFs, Evos, etc., but in this case, the shoe tries to return the
energy as opposed to the foot, thus resulting in less energy return
and weak feet since the feet aren't required to do much.

5. I tried the Nike Free 3.0 and it is just awful. It's a weird fit
and the heel is still much too big and almost no forefoot ground
feel. I'll say this, the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 is still one of the
best traditional running shoes although I don't run in them. If I had
to run in shoes, I'd choose them because they still provide a best
ground feel of traditional running shoes I've tried and less heel

6. The arch support of most of the shoes actually caused immediate
sharp pain.

I had no doubt but this is further validation that there's no turning
back for me. No wonder I was injured so much in the marshmallow
shoes. How can a beginning runner learn how to run when the shoe
blocks all communication. It's like getting your drivers license but
being blindfolded and told to go drive during rush hour, in traffic.

It did energize me to continue this fight!!!!! It's just not right!
I look down the isle at all those running shoes of which they have no
data to support the designs and the shoes keep adding more technology
crap without justification.

Oh yea, of course I had to mess with the shoe salesman. I asked him
what shoe he would recommend for me and he said, "a neutral trainer
like the Asics DS Trainer." I tried it on and of course, I laughed
inside. I told him I've heard a lot about these folks promoting
barefoot running and what he thought. He said they are crazy. I
said, "I've only been running about 3 yrs. and my goal is a sub 20
min. 5k and did you think I could do that in a Vibram like shoe or
should I stick with something like the Asics trainer."' He said it
could only be done in trainer or racing shoe. I said, "I saw some
dude run a 19:20 5k a few weeks ago in some bright yellow slipper like
shoe, I think it was an Evo." He said, "it must have been a very
experience runner." I said, "interesting, I wonder who it was." I
never told him it was me!


Monday, May 24, 2010

400 Miles & Still Going Strong

I passed the 400 mile mark with my Terra Plana Evo's and they are still going strong. I'm starting to believe that I could realistically put another 400 miles on them and perhaps push 1,000 mile mark. As I push forward to the 600 mile mark, they will turn out to be a great bargain at $160 considering it would take me 2 pair or regular running shoes at $100-$120 for that amount of mileage.

Without question, I can say overall the Evo is the best running footwear I've ever put on my feet (I also hit my 5k PR in them). Through trial and error I've discovered that I prefer the Evo without the insole. Ground feel is my #1 requirement (of course, a prerequisite for any footwear I choose is no motion control, no arch support and no heel build-up) and next to the VFF KSO, the Evo provides the best ground feel and, unlike the KSO, the Evo can be used in cold weather with warm socks and/or toe warmers.

The journey continues but I feel tremendously better than I did 1 yr. ago when my goals was simply to control pain as opposed to preventing pain as all regular running shoes just kill my feet.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Running is Humbling

After setting a 5k PR yesterday, I did a 10 mile run this morning and couldn't break the 11:00 min. pace barrier. I was cruising at just over 6:00 min. pace yesterday and couldn't break 11:00 min. pace today . . . I thought it was pretty funny.

The great thing is I've learned to listen to my body. It told me it was cool to run today but don't think about putting any type of pace, pressure or stress on the body, so I followed those clear directions and just enjoyed a leisure run on beautiful trails.

I think this is where many of us get injured. In the past I would have pushed the pace but I'm continuing to learn when to completely back off.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

5k PR - Sub 20 min.

I hit my goal to run a 5k sub 20 min. I just finished a 5k race in 19:18 and I was the 2nd overall finisher. I've never placed that high overall. I've placed in my age category (40-44) but never an overall placement this high.

I'll provide a race report in a few days. I'm on cloud nine. All the other runners that placed were under the age of 32 so for me who is a few days from my 41st birthday, I'm just one big smile.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Finally, An American Runner I Can Relate To . . .

For those that don't know Chris Solinksy, he recently set the American 10k record (beating Meb's prior record set 9 years ago) of 26:59:60. This is the fastest time by a non-African born runner in this distance and no one in the world (neither Bekele, Tadese, Kogo or anybody else) has run that distance that fast this year.

What I didn't know was that Chris was 6' 3/4" and weighs between 164-166. He is the heaviest and tallest sub-27 guy in history. He is also the first 6-footer to broken 27 min. in the 10k. Who is the 2nd-tallest? Well, no other than Paul Tergat, who was 5'11. Conventional wisdom is that someone so tall and so heavy shouldn't be able to run so fast for such a long distance. He is a 1500 meter through 10,000 meter specialist.

Well, I'm delighted as I'm just a hair over 6 ft. and I weight between 162-166. Since I've been focusing on speed, something told me to only concentrate on shorter distances like the 5k/10k. Probably stating the obvious in the relation between height, weight, distance ad performance.

Looks like I found my sweet spot and a new American runner to follow closely.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gordon Pirie - The Bible of Running

I personally believe Gordon Pirie's book, "Running Fast and Injury Free," is the bible of running. I didn't realize there was a long version of the book as I've read the short version. For those interested, here's the link to the long version:

Scroll down and you'll see links to 3 different versions of his book and the last link is the long version (153 pages). I just downloaded the long version which includes a lot of pictures and immediately I noticed all the minimalist shoes he and other wore (he talks about this in depth in Chapter 3).

In any event, while Born to Run and other books are great, I personally haven't found anything that comes close to Gordon's book from a technical perspective and in terms of substance. He was so far ahead of his time. I feel like he is writing to me personally when I think about my issues. For example, I've been struggling with deciding to run with or without the insole in the Evo but the few times I ran with the insole it caused a minor PF flare up. Then, last night I read his book again and in thinking about the issue with the insole, the following passage in the book convinced me to never run with the insole again:

" . . . Any soft, mushy material between your foot and the ground will decrease the amount of stability the shoe provides, and will also absorb much of the power you should be using to run with (try running on a trampoline or a high jump pad; it is simply not possible). Buy shoes that are not too soft, therefore, and do not under any circumstances put anything soft inside your shoes. You will defeat the purpose of buying a firm, lightweight shoe in the first place. Instead of looking for padding, learn to run properly, so that you stop punching holes in the ground with your feet."

No doubt he was speaking to me (and maybe, he is speaking to you also).


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Slightest Deviations Matter

I went back to running without the insole in the Evo and it's a major
difference (hard to believe a 1/8 in. insole (2.5mm) has that much of
an impact)). I think I've pinpointed my threshold. Anything with
more than about 4mm of sole is problematic for me. I truly have to
run as close to barefoot as possible. My stride was quicker and I
landed softer without the insole (no choice when you are that close to
barefoot) and I felt more comfortable again.

There's a lot of trial and error in this running thing for each
individual but the great thing is when you start to really pinpoint
the thresholds that cause you issues. The last 3 months has helped me
more specifically define my personal requirements in footwear:

1. no more than 4mm of protection
2. no heel buildup
3. no arch support
4. no motion control
5. less than 8 oz. in weight (closer to 4 oz. is even better)
6. traditional toe box design (I like VFFs but not a big fan of the separate toe design)


Monday, May 3, 2010

Lighter is Better

I'm not promoting Newton's and in fact I don't consider them minimalist shoes but they are definitely going in the right direction so I do applaud them for that. However, this is a good general article about minimalist running.


Lightweight trainers mean less impact, less fatigue and faster recovery

By Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

Wearing lightweight shoes and running with soft footsteps can be very beneficial for a runner of any ability or experience level.

If you have good form with a natural running (midfoot/forefoot) gait and you wear lightweight shoes, running can put you in a state of euphoric bliss as you effortlessly click off the miles. Everything flows together harmoniously and efficiently, no matter if you're running a minute or a marathon.

But if you have inefficient form and wear heavier, overbuilt shoes — and the two often go hand-in-hand — the simple act of running can quickly become very destructive to your body. Heavier training shoes typically weigh more because they have built-up heels, which translate to steep ramp angles of 8 to 15 percent. This encourages a heavy heel-striking gait and braking, both of which have been shown to cause a variety of overuse injuries.

Conversely, lightweight training shoes that have a very low heel-toe slope (5 percent or less, such as Newton Running shoes, which have ramp angles under 1.5 percent) encourage more of a natural running gait in which the foot hits the ground very lightly and almost level near the ball of the foot (very similarly to how a bare foot would engage the ground).

So how light is lightweight? Modern materials and manufacturing techniques — including less stitching, fewer overlays and lighter midsoles — are allowing shoes to get lighter and lighter. Training shoes still range from 7.5 to 9.5 ounces (depending on gender and shoe size) to 11.0 to 12.5 ounces. Two or three ounces might not seem like much, but you can feel the difference on your feet once you lace your shoes up and you'll certainly feel the effects after a long run.

But while lightweight shoes are better for all runners (especially when engaging in an efficient natural running gait), it's not only the actual weight that makes the difference. It's also about how the shoe is built and how much downward energy it can convert into forward propulsion. The Action/Reaction Technology™ in Newton Running converts impact energy into forward motion with up to 67 percent more energy return than traditional EVA foam midsoles.

However, that kind of midfoot/forefoot gait does not mean running on your toes like a sprinter. Instead, allow your foot to strike directly under your body and lift your foot off the ground instead of pushing off hard like a sprinter. Practice this method of landing lightly, let the foot settle level to the ground, then lever forward and lift the foot off the ground.

The benefits to wearing lighter shoes include less braking (and therefore less impact), less muscle strain and less energy output because you're lifting the weight of the shoe off the ground instead of using excessive muscular force to push off the ground.

Simple math says if you're carrying an additional 2 ounces over 25,000 steps in a half marathon or 50,000 steps in a marathon, it means you're lugging an extra 3,000 to 6,500 pounds to the finish line. And the difference of the impact transients — the forces that shoots up your body upon your foot's impact with the ground — is considerably more with a heel-striking gait in a heavier shoe than it is with a lightweight shoe that promotes an easy midfoot/forefoot gait. The combination of all of these factors means you endure less physical exertion and less fatigue in a lightweight shoe, and that ultimately means you'll recover faster.

There's a simple way to experience the metabolic differences of running with a lightweight, minimally constructed shoe compared to running in a shoe that's several ounces heavier. After warming up, run a mile in a pair of 12-ounce trainers on a track at a pre-determined pace (say 8 minutes, which means 60 seconds for every 200 meters) and record your heart rate data with a heart rate monitor. Then lace up a pair of 9-ounce trainers and run another mile at the same 8-minute pace. You'll likely find your heart rate is 5 to 10 percent less during the second mile when you're wearing lighter shoes, even though each mile was run at an identical pace.

The bottom line is that the weight of your training shoes can play a big role in how efficient you are as a runner. Lightweight shoes, especially ones that allow you to run with a natural gait and soft midfoot/forefoot footstrikes, can lessen muscle strain and fatigue, improve your endurance and help you recover faster, all factors in improving your running. But if you're considering changing your running form or the style of shoes you wear, do it gradually and carefully to avoid injury.

Danny Abshire is the co-founder of Newton Running, a Boulder, Colo.-based company that makes shoes that promote an efficient natural running gait. He has been making advanced footwear solutions for runners and triathletes for more than 20 years.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Good Hard Weekend

Polished off 12 miles Saturday, followed by 10 today. Ran hard on Saturday with a combined interval, tempo, and hill workout, with paces ranging from 5:30 to 6:50 per mile. On Sunday, I planned a 10 mile easy run and I ran relaxed but I ran much faster than planned maintaining a 7:15 pace.

I put the insole back in my Evo's and I'm still not sure if I prefer to have it in or out. With the insole in, I have a much snugger feel, and without the insole, I have a bit more ground feel. The Evo is a true minimalist running shoe with out 4mm of sole and a 2.5mm insole.

I'm very pleased with the new focus on middle distances, 5k to 10k. I'm really starting to learn how to run. I think we continue to approach running the wrong way. We should encourage folks to spend years concentrating on 5k/10k, then move to the half, then the full marathon if they so desire instead of buying shoes, adopting some 3-4 day running program and trying to run a marathon. Of course, that requires patience.


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