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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mizuno Wave Universe 3 - The Real Heel Differential

For those of you that use or are interested in the Mizuno Wave Universe 3, you may find this interesting. Long story short, the reported 9mm heel differential is really only 3mm. For the full story, link here:

Update October 8, 2010: A few weeks ago I started wearing size 9’s in the MWU3’s, up a half size. I think this is great evidence to support the idea that if you have a generous toe box your foot will widen when unconfined. More importantly though, a new discovery. A new discovery I had been suspicious about for a long time. The Running Warehouse web­site gives a heel-to-toe ratio of 15mm in the heel and 6mm in the forefoot. For a long time I've been suspicious about this measurement because it seemed wrong. But at almost $100 bucks a pop and plenty of miles still left in even my old est ones I didn't want to slice them up to see. Now that I've sized up, taking my beloved flats to the chop shop was justified. I sliced them in half from front to back and measured the real heel-to-toe ratio. Surprise, surprise: <= 3-4mm of difference. That’s a big difference from the original. I thought for a moment… “well maybe I've worn them for so long that I've flattened them out”… nope, if that was the case the difference between the heel and toe would have increased with the fore­foot portion becoming more compressed and the heel staying the same as my heels never touch the ground… so not possible.

The reason why the measurements are different is because the outside of the mid-sole is built up around the edges to support the upper in other words the mid-sole is concave. If you measure the outside then yes you get a big difference. But when you cut them in half and measure where your foot actually sits–bingo–big difference. So once again another testament to what I think is the best flat out there. My wife is in Spain right now with the cam era so no pictures yet, but I did buy a brand new translucent ruler just to give ya’ll some tangible proof.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Double Days

I’ve been slowly adding Two-a-Days to my running routine. I started a few weeks ago and now I do double sessions 3 times a week, in conjunction with intervals and tempo training. As a result, I’m up to nine (9) runs over 6 days and I’ve noticed some positive results pretty quickly after the initial adaption. The old saying, “run, run and run some more,” seems true as my form and technique is getting crisper (I can understand (at a layman’s level) why the elites generally run twice each day).

The double days have brought me up to the 60 miles per week (mpw) range which is a good increase from my prior 45 miles per week. A few years ago when I was running near 60 mpw, I was constantly injured but now I’m handling the load pretty well even with increased speed, pace and intensity. Of course, my primary concern is injury so I’ve tried to be as smart as possible which is why, other than my 3 hard runs each week, I either run without a Garmin as I pick a route that I know the distance or I run with the Garmin but only activate the timing feature so I can’t review distance or pace until I’m finished with the workout.

My reasoning is this causes me to truly “run by feel,” and allows me to cue into my muscles, tendons, breathing and overall body functions much better thus giving me the information to gage how far to run and/or if I’m doing too much on a given day. It will be interesting over time to see how my body reacts since I’m getting a double boost in metabolism thus producing more fat burning over a 24 hour period.

The results so far have been wonderful and I think, although I was early in the process, it contributed to my recent 5k PR. Another reason I decided to give this a try is because I think it may allow me to retain the speed progress I made during the Spring/Summer since I can have shorter and more focused workouts when the weather gets really cold to deal with those days when it’s difficult to finish longer runs. I’ve also balked at the idea that we need as much rest for a set number of days off as it is such an individual dynamic and, in the end, it seems to be all about understanding and listening to your body. This also allows me to keep my body “off balance” of sorts which I think is a good idea as I can mix all types of workouts with this approach.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Running Lessons Learned So Far . . .

1. Land lightly and lift quickly

2. Don’t heel strike!

3. Run by Feel (lose the GP unit and learn to feel the paces)

4. Barefoot is the baseline (when in doubt, run barefoot for a bit and let your body self-correct)

5. Don’t forget the hips

6. Balance is critical (practice it every single day)

7. Strong feet is the trunk of the tree (weak trunk and the tree dies; strengthen the feet daily)

8. 99% of the current Running Shoes are terrible (select shoes that don’t interfere with the natural functioning of the foot; any combination of a heel differential, inflexibility, and/or too much cushion can hurt you as that is not how the natural foot functions)

9. Practice, Commitment, Patience and Dedicated is required to learn how to run (you can only figure things out through repetition)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Children Don't Run with Garmin's, So Why Do We?

The fastest 50 American marathoners in history have run a total of 57 marathons in times ranging from 2:08:47 to 2:11:53. Only 8 of these races occurred in the 1990's with all of the others occurring between 1970-89, and 8 of those occurred before 1979. Thus, 41 of them or 72% were run by 37 different runners (74%) from 1979 to 1989, which many refer to as the "Golden Decade" of American marathon running. After that, things fell apart quickly (this doesn’t include Ryan Hall’s marathon times including his 2:06 best but that doesn’t impact the data much). Of course, it’s interesting to point out that the Garmin did not exist during this “Golden Decade” of American marathon running.

So how did so many of these Americans run so fast from 1979 to 1989? Obviously there are many factors to consider but from what I’ve read and researched, these runners would “run by feel,” and often did not adhere to a rigid set daily schedule, or record every split second using a GPS or Garmin-type device. Sure, they ran everyday but they monitored their bodies and performance based on effort level and feel.

In Amby Burfoot’s book, “The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life,” Amby recalls that after his last season of collegiate cross country running he rewarded himself with “several months of simple, unfocused training.” Amby kept running regularly because he had goals for the following spring which included the Boston Marathon which he won. In any event, for several months Amby engaged in “non-specific” training. He just woke up, put on his shoes, and ran without any watch, without regards to intervals, hill repeats, long runs, easy runs, tempo runs, split times, etc., and he just ran in every direction, on any terrain, all at comfortably to comfortably hard paces as dictated by his body.

In other words, he “ran by feel.” Then, January rolls around and he decides to enter a 2 mile race which included the world record holder and several fast Californians. To quote Amby’s recount of the race, “I have never run so light on my feet, never picked up my knees so effortlessly to launch to the next stride. I seem to skim across the track like flat rock on water.” Well, Amby took 3rd place in 8:45 and that was: 20 seconds faster than expected.

He goes on say:

“This race taught me a profound lesson. The simple approach is often the best. As we enter ever more technical times, with ever increasing levels of complexity and decision making, we need to remember the simple path can harness great powers.

We were meant to run and we do so naturally when left to our own devices. Watch a group of children on the playground and they play games like tag where they run for a while, squeal with delight, and then rest until they are fully recovered again. Run and rest, run and rest. It is the perfect exercise program because it is coded in our genes. It is what our forefathers did millions of years ago. “

Many of us (including myself) search for running programs, hire coaches, run according to devices on Garmins’s and GPS devices, and the like, when if you want the best and most “Effective Training Program,” just watch and copy children.

Amby ends by saying, “. . . my own running has often been best when I have left it alone, left it simple.”

Back to the alarming data whereby 72% of the fastest American marathon times were recorded between 1979 and 1989 and you have to ask, “If we taking one step forward and two step back?”

What do I think? Well, let’s just say I haven’t put on my Garmin in the past week and I’m enjoying my running more than ever.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

New 5K PR

I'm beyond thrilled with a smile that will stay on my face for days. I circled this specific race today earlier this year as the race I would try to run my first sub 19:00 5k and I smashed that goal by finishing in 18:24 in the EVO's and I took 2nd place overall.

Before I provide some details on the race, I ran in my Evo's. Yes, I ran in the Evo's and ditched the Nike's.

I didn't say much earlier this week but late last week I switched back to the Evo's and only ran in the Evo's this past week. I knew I was going to go all-out for this race and I just couldn't allow Nike to play any role in my performance. Now, this PR is significantly faster than my previous 5k PR of 19:10 so I guess I'm not faster in Nike :). But, being serious, the difference, which is why I switched back to the Evo's, was my ability to control my body and I had better balance in the Evo's. While the Evo's do provide protection and are not the same as barefoot, they do allow enough ground feel for my feet to communicate with my brain which, in turn, allows me to control my stride much better.

As for the race, the first place winner finished in 18:02 and we are both 41 yrs. old (another major score for us old folks :). The third place finisher was 24 yrs. old and finished in 18:58 and too see his face to finish behind too old guys was classic but he was a really cool kid and I told him, "with age, comes a little bit of wisdom."

This was the first race that I actually exercised discipline and ran my own race and followed the game plan set out by my coach. The plan was to split the 5k into 6x800 meter segments and too hold back the first mile as much as possible. My goal was to run "even pace" and make the last mile my fastest mile. My 800 split times were pretty close at 3:03, 3:04, 3:06, 3:05, 2:59, and 2:55. I'm proud of myself in that I was able to exercise a high level of discipline and not chase after the lead pack during the first half of the race. I stayed just behind the pack and at the 1 mile mark, I was in about 12th place but I stayed to the plan and at the 1.5 mile mark, I started to pass folks and at the 2.0 mark, I was in 5th place, at the 2.5 mile mark, I was in 3rd place, and shortly thereafter, I moved in 2nd place all alone. I could see the first place finisher in sight but no way I could catch him but I had a comfortable lead on the 3rd place finisher so I knew all I had to do was relax and sprint toward the finish.

I had a discussion with the first place finisher and we both talked about the hellish 2nd mile which was straight into the wind. Once the wind hit me, I knew it was going to be around for about 1 mile until we changed directions so I switched my mind set to hill running and shortened my stride and relaxed even more. No need to battle Mother Nature because she always wins. The first place guy is also a sub 3 hr. marathoner and he said the 5k is the toughest race of all the races and he said he runs all distances. I said that's interesting and asked him why and he said, "because you can't make a mistake in the 5k as there is not time to correct a mistake." He is right about that because once you hit the oxygen debt zone, it's all over as there isn't enough time to relax and recover.

As for my body, I feel great. No pain or, even better, no injuries, and my feet feel awesome. Now, I did see several pair of Vibram's :). I saw at least 6 runners with Vibram's and I overheard several of them telling other folks about the advantages of running barefoot, how great the Vibram's are, how cushioned shoes are terrible, how they corrected their form/technique in the Vibram's, etc. I just smiled. There was no reason for me to jump into the discussions but just hearing that was a thrill. That would have never happened a few years ago. And all these runners were younger so I'm confident we will see a different generation of runners.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Where Are You in Your Running?

1. Unconscious Incompetence;
2. Conscious Incompetence;
3. Conscious Competence; or
4. Unconscious Competence

The 4 stages of competence. What level are you at with your running?


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Too Much Focus on Shortening Your Stride

It seems the benchmark of 180 strides per minute is the accepted threshold in the running community to qualify as an efficient runner. However, based on research and my personal experiences, I challenge whether that is the appropriate threshold to focus on and, to go further, it may be that shortening your stride is detrimental.

There are many studies on this subject such as a Danish study that analyzed the running form and technique of elite 5k and 10k runners. It found that when running speed increases from 10:00/per mile pace to 5.42/per mile pace, stride frequency increased by only 10% while stride length increased by 83%. It wasn’t until runners reached a 4.20/per mile pace that pace increased due to stride frequency (there are other studies that cite similar results when analyzing stride length and stride frequency).

The fear of course is that runners will over-stride. However, this may be over simplifying the problem. My friend Pete Larson has provide video of elite runners at the last Boston marathon and there are quite a few runners that appear to be over-stride, that is, landing in front of the body but let’s think about it further. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to initially land under the body. Additionally, there’s a different between “landing” and “loading.” The issue does not appear to be so much about landing in front of the body but identifying the point in the stride where the weight loading is occurring which is commonly under the body as your center of gravity passes over your feet and legs (i.e., think of forward momentum). If you over-stride, there would some type of breaking effect, so if you are running smoothly, it’s difficult to over-stride.

I don’t have a problem with 180 steps per minute being a reference point but stride length is often over-looked in the discussion. Many of the best runners that maintain 180 strides per minute or higher, are doing so with an optimal or longer stride. In fact, in another study that analyzed 36 experience male runners with an average 5k time of 18:22, they found the average stride frequency to be 171 on average, but a longer stride length than compared to less experienced or recreational runners (the stride frequency did not increase until the runner’s decided to surge or sprint for a brief time). I see many runners taking baby steps or shuffling which causes fatigue and can interrupt a runner’s natural stride. I find it tiring to shorten my stride.

So a take-away for me is that middle and long distance runners are better off concentrating on increasing stride length and sprinters benefit from increasing both leg turnover and stride length. Based on my personal experiences, lengthening my stride increased by running speed almost effortlessly. Only when I needed to sprint, did an increase in stride frequency become a key factor (so middle/long distance runners still benefit from speed work en ensure they can sprint to the finish line).


Monday, October 4, 2010

Quote of the Day

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao-Tzu

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