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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The last 10 days or so have been quite uneventful from a running perspective and I just smile as I say and write that. It's uneventful because I've just just been running and training. No injuries to report. No pain to report. In fact, I haven't been injured this year. When you run without major injuries, it sure frees up a lot of time. I forgot how much time one can spend attending to injuries.

I attribute this to a few things:

1. Moving from a forefoot to mid-foot/whole foot landing.
2. Rotating multiple shoes so as to give each pair at least 48 hours of rest. This also reduces chances of repetitive injuries since each shoe is constructed slightly differently.
3. Working with bio-mechanics experts.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Start Rotating Those Shoes . . .

Rotating two or more pairs of running shoes can produce the following benefits:

(1) reduced risk of injury.

(2) extended lifespan of shoes.

(3) flexibility to use different types of shoes for different types of runs.

It takes up to 48 hours after just a few miles of running for the midsoles of running shoes to fully recover their shock absorption properties. Allowing them time to recover at least that long reduces one's risk of injury and extends the life span of the shoes. In his book, “The Competitive Runner’s Handbook”, Bob Glover says, “Studies show that by alternating two pairs of shoes they’ll last longer than three pairs used consecutively.” He also says, “Rotated shoes retain 80% of their cushioning after sixty runs of an average of 5 miles (300 total miles) compared to only 60% for those not rotated.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

Top 3 or QUIT?

Here's a recent quote from Deriba Merga when asked about his mental approach and philosophy to running the major marathons:

"I never finish unless I will finish in the top three. If I anticipate ahead of time that I will not be top three, I quit. That is my philosophy."

I wonder what would happen if Ryan Hall took this approach into the Chicago marathon? It also seems to be a philosophy that Sammy W. follows also. When you are that good at that elite level, why not go all out and either place in the top 3 or drop out. For runner's at that level, what's the point of finishing 5th, 9th, or whatever . . . it's gotta' be about winning it. Haile G. has dropped out of several races where it looked like he wouldn't finish in the top 3. Of course, they brush it off as an injury but I don't think that's the truth.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

If I Had to Do All Over Again . . .

Last Sunday I posted the results from my 5k race. This happens to be the very first race I ever ran 3 years ago. When I was 38, I started running around March of 2007 and entered this race as my first race in September, 2007. For kicks, I looked back and I ran the race in 21:36, a 6:56 pace. I was surprised I ran in this fast and I forgot that I had but, I turn the clock ahead 3 years, and this past Sunday I ran a 19:08, a 6:09 pace. Obviously, almost 1 min. per mile is a big difference but not as much as I expected given the 3 year period. It tells me this is probably a distance and pace I was pretty good at, for a recreational runner. It is cool to be 3 years older and run it that much faster though.

What hit me was that perhaps I have found what I'm good at, which is middle distance and pace as opposed to longer distances and endurance running. My 3 year journey has brought me right back to the same distance running I started doing 3 years ago. However, my mistake was instead of continuing to improve on the shorter distances, I jumped from this 5k to the half marathon, and then to the full marathon and along the way, the world of injuries punched me in the face. If someone would have grabbed me at the end of my first 5k and told me to work on my form and technique and only run this distance for awhile, I think things would have turned out very differently.

It would only take a brash American like me to think I could ramp to the marathon that quickly without paying some dues and learning how to run.

My coach asked me if I was ready to move up to the 10k and I said "nope." I said, I'm not changing anything right now. The concentration on the shorter distances is allowing me to learn how to run properly. I've committed to only run 5k's (or shorter distances) this entire 2010 calendar year. After my next 5k, that will be five, 5k races this year and if all goes well, I will meet my initial goal of running a full calendar year of 5k's sub 20:00. At that point, I'll have the confidence that I can consider moving to the 10k but I still may not do it.

Like anything, it's about consistency, patience and steady improvement. There's no secret sauce, and patience is not a virtue many of us have but it's something I'm trying to learn.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

5k Race - El Grito

I just finished my 5k race this morning and I set a race 5k PR of 19:08 (. . . my group 5k PR is 18:45 but it was a flat course). The good news is I feel great. The bad news is I left too much in the tank and I easily could have run :20 - :30 seconds faster. This is my 4th 5k this calendar year and I'm still working on my 5k race strategy. However, I'm getting closer to understanding hot to attack a 5k race.

Today I separated the race into 3 parts: initial 1 mile, 1.0 - 2.7 mile middle and 400 meter finish. I finished the first mile in 5:54 which was perfect. Then, I ran the next 1.7 miles in 6:19 which was good considering there was a .6 mile hill that we had to loop, then I ran the last 400 meters at 5:42 pace. However, this is where I was too conservative. I should have started my surge at the 600-800 meter mark as opposed to the 400 meter mark. For my next 5k race, I will start my final surge at the 600-800 meter mark.

This was a popular race and the faster runners showed up. I finished 18 overall out of 300+ runners and I placed in my age group, taking 3rd place in the 40-44 age group. I raced in the Nike Katana Racr3's and I feel great so although I'm a bit pissed because I could have easily run a sub 19:00, I'm happy with the overall performance. I could easily go out and do another run so I know I feel good.

This race further confirmed the difference for me in running in racing shoes vs. minimalist shoes like the Evo's. It is easier to run the same paces (and faster) in racing shoes and the racing shoes delay leg fatigue which is key in a 5k race, especially late in the race.

I spent some time speaking to the guy that finished 3rd overall (16:07) and he gave me some great advice on 5k racing strategy and he confirmed that I need to start my final surge at the 800 meter mark as it is too late to surge at the 400 meter mark in a 5k.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Shoe Rotation

I've changed my running shoes considerably after realizing I needed a bit more protection for the type of training I do, and after having some issues with some of my minimalist shoes. As a result, here's my new shoe rotation which also addresses various weather and terrain variations.

1. Nike Zoom Streak XC. This is one of my daily training shoes. It’s a great all-surface shoe for road, trail and mountain running.

2. Nike Katana Racr3. This is other daily running shoe. It’s also great for road, rail and mountain running. I alternate the Streak XC and Katana for my daily runs.

3. Mizuno Wave Universe 3. The MWU3 is my track shoe. I use it solely for track intervals.

4. Barefoot. I continue to use barefoot running as a training tool. I run up to 1 mile barefoot each week, predominately as a warm-down after my track work-outs.

5. Terra Plana Evo. This is casual walking shoe. In the past, the Evo was my primary running shoe but due to blisters and other issues I decided to retire the Evo from my running shoe rotation and use it for walking. It’s a great casual walking shoe.

I never use the same shoe on back-to-back days, and my body feels great with this combination. It only took a few years to get here :) but it was well worth it.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

360 Degrees

After 1 week of running in Nike Zoom Streak XC's and Nike Katana Racr3's, I completely understand why elites run in shoes. I just finished my fastest pace week of running since I started running, and my legs are hardly fatigued. One advantage of shoes is that they save your legs which are important if performance (pace/time) matters. It's been a full circle experience after 3 years as I'm running in racing shoes with absolutely no problems. Of course, the racing shoes are much lighter and flexible than most regular running shoes but they have heel differentials (4-6mm) and slightly arch support yet I notice nothing (it's the racing shoes that are the closest to the shoe folks wore in the 1960's/early 1970's).

So this tells me it's all about form and technique. For me, I only learned how to run correctly by taking off my shoes so this explains the obvious as to why the East Africans can run in shoes without many problems. I have to admit that my feet feel better . . . no pain with the first steps in the morning, I can squeeze my Achilles with no issue, my plantar is painless, etc.). I've been thinking about this even while running.

For me, I'm starting to doubt that true minimalist shoes are going to work for me since I'm so focused on racing and performance . . . I'm a big supporter of Vibram, Evo (still pissed about the blister issues though), Feelmax, etc., but I'm realizing they are not sufficient for the type of running and training I do. I now have a different opinion as to shoes like the soon to released New Balance Minimus road shoe as I think this will bridge the gap for folks like me, as do some of the current racing shoes. I've never been a Nike fan but they make a good racing shoe, and I'm sure other shoe manufacturers make good running shoes as it will come down to personal preference as to individual requirements on shoe construction.

It's been a shocking week. I never would have believed even 6 months ago that I'd be running in regular racing shoes with no problems much less running in Nike's (I still can't believe that). The Nike Zoom Streak XC has performed great and I just finished 2 long runs in them in the mountains on tougher terrain. I've been searching for 1 shoe that I could use on road, grass, dirt roads and dirt trails and the XC's are turning out to be an excellent all-purpose shoe.

My main message is there are many different solutions for folks and it's the personal journey that allows you to find your own solution. It may be barefoot, in may be VFF's or similar, it may be racing shoes, or heck, it may be regular running shoes. This is much more complex than I ever imagined when I started running. I do believe there's an answer for every single person but it may require going through many peaks and valleys and that will take absolutely commitment and becoming a student of the game.

The 2 keys for me are: First, how much do you have to take off your feet to begin to learn correctly? For me, it required going cold turkey to barefoot running. Second, if you return to shoes, which minimalist shoes allow you to run correctly and allow you to meet your personal goals and expectations as it relates to running? For me, it's racing shoes to bridge the gap between performance and good form.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Nike Katana Racr3 - First Impressions

I did what you are not suppose to do which is to do a long or hard run in new shoes but I didn't to be a big foolish and take my new Nike Katana Racr3's out for my first run and do a hard tempo run.

Long story short, it was a great experience. I hit all my split times on ran with no pain during or after the run. The Katana's are wonderful shoes. Although they have a 5-6mm heel differential, that didn't bother me one bit and they are light and very comfortable.

I'm a big proponent of barefoot running and I continue to do barefoot running myself but there are advantages to running shoes and one advantage is the reduction in leg fatigue. To put it another way, I can maintain the same fast paces in shoes but not have to expend the same level of energy and I have fresher legs after a run in shoes. Now, I'm talking about racing shoes and not minimalist footwear like my Evo's or KSO's.

I've come to the conclusion that shoes are not inherently bad but "bad shoes are bad" so the key and challenge is to find healthier running shoes. I'm finding that racing shoes tend to be pretty good shoes while the heavy over cushioned, heavy, motion control shoes are terrible. I think the shoe companies know this but they are protecting a valuable revenue stream by continuing to produce those terrible marshmallow shoes and they also fear cannibalization of existing shoes lines but that will change in the near future. We have companies like New Balance with its Minimus shoe line coming out in March 2011.

I never thought I would return to regular running shoes and now I'm rotating the Nike Stream Xoom XC and Nike Katana Racr3's. I use Mizuno Wave Universe 3's for track work and some limited racing but the Nike XC and Racr3's are becoming my primary footwear.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nike XC's - First Impression

I took the new Nike Zoom Stream XC's out for a good 1 hr. run this morning and, based on my first impression, I give them thumbs up. They felt good and performed well on road and trail surfaces. I have a medium foot and I ordered a 1/2 size larger than normal and I have room for my toes to spread. However, if you have anything near wide feet, they won't work for you.

They are light (5.9 oz.) and responsive and, again, I understand why elite runners wear shoes. It's just easier to run faster, that is, less effort to run the same paces. I didn't notice the 5mm heel differential but there is less ground feel than the MWU3's or any true minimalist footwear (i.e., Vibram’s, Feelmax, Terra Plana, etc.). However, it's a pretty solid sole so it was pretty responsive. I didn't put any heavy pace on the shoes as I wanted to break them in first and this was an easy run day for me. They appear to have enough protection for mountain trails so I will take them up to the mountains this weekend and give them a try.

I should be getting my Nike Katana Racr3’s today so I'll give them a try this weekend also. I'm working on narrowing my footwear to 3 different shoes which I will rotate on a daily basis, except the Mizuno Wave Universe 3's which will likely be my primary racing shoe.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's the point of the Track?

I read an article last night from a coach that doesn't believe in track work outs unless his runners are going to race on the track. But, for runners that will only run road races on hard surfaces or trails, he said the track work outs are practically useless. This got me to thinking, which is quite dangerous as you all know :).

I only run road races and trail races so I was intrigued by this line of thinking. Here's what he had to say on the subject as it relates to runners focused on 5k racing (which is me of course but it can apply to other distances):

"Some runners bristle at leaving the security of the track. Let's face it, there's comfort in the perfect 400m oval and the equally perfect splits we can record while running around it. But, that's the problem. Road 5k's are not prefect ovals. We won't record perfect splits as we dodge runners, climb hills, and make 180-degree turns. Our goal is to become efficient at the race we're training to run, and training on trails and the road is the best way to make that happen."

This resonated with me so much that I ditched my group track session this morning and did my own speed work on the dirt trails and I loved it. After a 20 min. warm-up, I did 6x800 meter intervals at 5k pace with 2 min. recovery . . . it was awesome. I also had some thoughts while running which I think supports this approach. First, why train on a soft high energy return track which can give you a false sense of your capabilities (again, this doesn't apply if you actually race on the track). The track I run on is so soft and nice and you can run really fast splits but it doesn't relate to actual racing in terms of terrain. Also, it's harder to run fast on dirt so wouldn't you want to train on the hard stuff and race on the easy stuff as opposed to training on the really easy stuff then trying to race on the harder stuff (i.e., the track I run on is easier than roads).

I think Gordo and Tuck might agree that the last 5k we ran together, the track would have been useless to prepare you for that type of 5k and terrain. It had bends, curves, and a nightmare of a long gradual hill, with mixed hard surface and dirt.

And lastly, there very few things in life is as boring as running around the same oval track, over and over.


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