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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

3 Yr. Anniversary - Overwhelming to Look Back

Tomorrow represents my 3 year anniversary since I started running consistently. Just for kicks, last night I reviewed my running log over the 3 years. Out of 1,095 days, I ran 915 days and missed 180 days due to rest or injury (of course, I continued to run through most of my injuries). I approximately ran 84% of the time. My goal was to achieve 3 years of consistent running and I think this qualifies. The last 6 months has been incredible and especially the last 8 weeks as I've been basically pain free. I actually think I've learned how to run in the past few months, as a result of the prior couple years of trial and error (of course, there's always much more to learn).

My damaged left ankle was analyzed last week and it has reduced substantially in size and is very close to the same size as my right ankle. It's almost as strong as my right ankle, and the flexibility in left ankle has increased tenfold and is very close to the flexibility of my right ankle.

I was told by much more experience and accomplished runners that it takes "3 years of consistent running" before your body adapts and you reap the true benefits. I'm a believer.

When I think of the last 3 years, honestly it's overwhelming. In some ways I get emotional because I went through a lot and had to knock down so many walls. I had so much support along the way (my PT, running coach, etc.) and specifically Barefoot Ted's group was one of the main reasons I made it as it was that group of folks that gave me the strength to continue many times (I mean that). Just thinking of how to describe to someone what I went through for 3 years is overwhelming . . . at times; I don't know where to start.

Now my mission is to help anyone I can. I can't tell you what it has been like the last 8 weeks to wake up and have no pain (other than normal nagging stuff). To walk at work after I cool down and have no pain. To get out of my chair at work and not worry about the next step. To wake up in the morning without pain. To walk with my kids without pain.

I wish I could name each individual that helped me but the list would be too long but I thank each and every one of you. Now, I'll do all I can do help anyone else.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do What You Love

At my group track session this morning (about 25 folks) we broke off into groups because the majority of runners are preparing for a full marathon and half marathon in the next few weeks. It was funny because there were of 4 of us remaining that were not training for a half or full marathon. Several folks were surprised that I wasn't running the upcoming marathon and asked why. I actually had to pause and then I smiled because the answer was so easy . . . I don't like the long distances. They looked confused and I said when I did run marathons it finally hit me that I did it only because that's what everyone does and I finally realized neither the actual race nor training was fun. However, once I discovered speed and middle distances, the love of running returned.

I told them my favorite training run in the world is the 1 hr. run. (20 min. warm-up, 20 min. progressive, 20 min. hard). I guess this is why the 5k and 10k are my favorite races. Funny thing is I only run about 15% fewer miles per week than when I ran marathons but I'm healthier, stronger and faster.

It was an interesting morning because I'm wondering if there are others with similar experiences. Seems most runners, even newbie’s, naturally gravitate toward the marathon distance. However, the elites all mastered shorter distances first and some never move up to the marathon distance.

Anyway, that got me thinking.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

600 Mile Threshold and Going Strong

So is $160 for a pair of running shoes expensive? On first thought yes, but it depends right?

The Terra Plana Evo's I purchased have just exceeded the 600 mile mark and they are still going strong. To put that in perspective, when I used traditional running shoes, I had to replace them every 250 miles and I spent about $100 on average per pair. So I spent $240 for 600 miles in traditional running shoes vs. $160 for 600 miles in the Evo's. Plus, the economics get better which each additional mile I log in the Evo's.

The beauty of true minimalist running shoes is they are very basic with a simple rubber sole so there's not much to wear out. They don't have the unnecessary marshmallow bottoms or waffle like constructions that wear unevenly.

If you think about rubber tires on a car, you can get 24,000 miles so a basic sole construction is very durable. For minimalist shoes, like the Evo, it's the upper that will eventually tear away from the sole but I expect to get up to 1,000 miles before that happens.

This is the secret that shoe companies don't want you to know. The have a business model that assumes you will replace a shoe every 250-300 miles and most folks continue to fund that model, so it works. Not me though. All running shoes, at a minimum, should handle 500 miles and many should last up to 1,000 miles.

So, I got a bargain. Many laughed when I spent the $160. Looks like the laugh is on them.


Monday, July 26, 2010

My Wayward Left Ankle

When I was video taped for the first time 3 years ago (in 14 oz. motion control Mizuno's), I had a mid-foot strike (I'm sure I had some heel strikes also) but my left ankle would do this thing there where it would slightly whip out to the left then align straight milliseconds before landing so the PT dismissed it because the actual landing was fine. I never thought about it again as I attributed it to all the basketball injuries to my left ankle and I figured the left ankle was pretty weak so it would flare out slightly as a result and then I could bring it back in prior to landing. As a side note, if you read the article is Runner's World about Meb (he is on the cover; a few months ago) he had something similar as they described one of his ankles as a "wayward" ankle and they worked on strengthening the entire side of his body to control and align the ankle for a more solid and straight foot plant (of course, Meb is a massive heel striker so there may be other issues with him as he is injured more often than he is healthy).

I had to work (and continue of course) on my entire left side of the body starting with my arms. My coach said I ran stiff for a long time and it was evident in my upper body and then I figured out how to relax and she said all the stiffness in my upper body is now completely gone. I did this by taking a note from Gordon Pirie and I forgot I had arms. I completely ignored my arms, relaxed and completely focused on my feet . . . everything about my feet . . . all brain waves went to my feet from foot lift to strike. I needed to communicate with my feet much better and that worked and I still do not think much about my upper body other than to relax which actually resulted in my arms moving a big higher and more compact (more like the East Africans as opposed to say Ryan Hall as my arms were much lower as with Ryan . . . so that was a major change in my arm placement).

Then, per the direction from my coach, I started focusing 100-150 meters ahead and running to that point then when I get within 50 meters I set another mark 100-150 meters ahead. As I started to do this, I think it exposed my defect because I started to run straight to the point I was focusing on and then it happened . . . the "ah ha" moment because as I was running toward a point my shoulders, hips and foot aligned better. Then, instead of focusing on my foot plant, I imagined a straight line that I needed to land on with each foot plant and then I just focusing on moving forward and everything started to feel better. This also forced me to concentrate on the shorter stride which felt great. My thought is the longer I'm in the air, the more chances there is for me to "mess up," and land incorrectly and lose control of my form.

As Gordon Pirie said, "don't let your body decide when the foot should land as you must force that foot down quickly . . . get the foot on the ground as quickly as possible . . . shorten the stride and quicken up." As I speed up I focus even more on the shorter stride (not a choppy stride) but a smooth easy shorter stride that feels very natural (I make sure to not fight my body but, at the same time, I won't let my body take huge strides either).

I need a video to confirm but I'm pretty confident the result is that I don't land on the severe outer edge of my left foot anymore. I still land on the outside and roll in but not as severe. That slight whipping action had to put stress on my ankle and specifically the plantar muscle which had to work over-time to re-align my ankle prior to landing.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Major Flaw Detected & Corrected

I have no idea how this happened but during one of my recovery runs earlier this week, I noticed a defect in my form and technique. I have no idea how I discovered it. I've been running without major injury or pain for 6 months and I've been running harder than ever so I've felt great. However, at times, I've had a slight discomfort on the outside of the forefoot of my sole on my left foot. It hasn't been an issue and nothing that has impacted my ability to run.

However, out of no where, I planted my left foot and felt this incredible level of relaxation. I took a few more strides in the identical matter and realized that the difference was the positioning of my hips and taking a straighter stride. I'm convinced that I was previously running slightly off balance and not running straight.

Since then, I've tried to run straighter and land with my foot pointing forward. This reduces the rotation and twisting of the ankle (and knees). It's about keeping the feet and legs moving forward with minimal twisting. I find something to concentrate on with my eyes that's 100-200 meters ahead and run toward that place taking the straightest route.

So for 3 days I've felt absolutely NO PAIN . . . and I mean nothing . . . not even the slightest discomfort. In fact, just for trial, I stopped doing the plantar stretches before taking my first step out of bed in the morning, and no pain at all. This must have been my Achilles heel (no pun intended).

I spoke to my coach and she said "OMG," remember when we taped you 2 years ago and you had that slight whipping action with the left ankle which we attributed to all the basketball injuries you suffered on that ankle . . . well, that may be it. She watched me run and said "that's it!!!!!!!!". She said I've strengthen by left ankle so much over the past 2 years and improved my form and technique to the point that we can start to concentrate on tweaks that add even more improvement. She said the whipping action was not apparent anymore. This is something I'll have to continue to focus on for quite some time but I'm thrilled right now.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Recent Developments

Obviously there's been a lot of discussion since Dathan's announcement that he has changed from a heel strike to a mid-foot strike with good commentary from Burfoot, Steve Magness and our own Pete.

However, something still bothers me. I'm not a scientist, coach or professor. I'm a former attorney that thinks big picture and is very visual. I tend to take complicated issues and try to make them as simple as possible for any lay person to understand. I defer to others that have a better understanding of the science behind running.

However, with that said, the simple thing, in my mind, that gets overlooked when it comes to analyzing stride and foot plant is Dr. Lieberman's point which is comparing barefoot stride vs. shod stride (whether it's minimalist footwear or traditional shoes). Is not barefoot running the most natural way to run and the best way to allow the body to take over? If so, if you run differently when barefoot vs. anything on your feet, isn't that the starting point for your analysis?

If you believe the human body is amazing and engineered to survive without Nike, then wouldn't barefoot be the starting point. I just don't buy the "I've been running is regular shoes for 40 yrs. so it's not possible to make the switch." The switch is back to your natural gait. Yes, it takes patience and baby steps but the transition is to the natural way to run. I understand there are elements to deal with like weather so maybe barefoot means the most minimalist footwear possible to account for weather and/or terrain but the point remains. I think this is a patience and confidence issue. We lack patience to take a long term approach and we lack confidence in the human body.

I'll put the elites in a different category because that's a different ballgame and goal. It's a different "risk/reward" situation. Elites push everything to the edge with the goal to "win" at all costs (even my approach to my insignificant small races is different than training wherein I'm willing to "cheat" at bit to place or win a race and I accept that).

We so under-estimate the human body, and we over-rely on technology to out perform the natural body.

Although I'm thrilled with the fact that these issues are coming to the surface, I'm a bit frustrated with the direction and focus at times. Many times the very simple "ah ha" gets over-looked through all the deep analysis (I'm not saying we don't need deep analysis because we do but don't let it over-shadow some obvious things).


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Elite Runner Stops Heel Striking

Dathan Ritzenhein Switches from Heel to Midfoot Strike: "I think I'm more efficient"

BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Dathan Ritzenhein of the...
The topic of running footstrike is a hot one right now in the running community. While it's admittedly just a single element of the overall running gait, it's one that runners have latched onto because of it's apparent relationship to footwear (e.g., heel height, cushioning, etc.), and it's one of the easier gait aspects for a runner to consciously focus on while out on the road or trail.

The vast majority of runners strike with the heel when they hit the ground, and the recent minimalist running trend has led to more and more runners attmepting to shift to a more midfoot or forefoot landing style. Although there is anecdotal evidence out there supporting the shift, what we don't know definitively, at least from a scienftific standpoint, is whether shifting from a heel strike to a midfoot or forefoot strike will result in a more efficient gait, or one that is less prone to causing injury.

Well, here's another anecdote, this time from elite runner Dathan Ritzenhein. If you don't know who Ritzenhein is, he set the US record for the 5K last year(since broken by Bernard Lagat) and represented the United States in the Marathon at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. In an article on the Runner's World website by Peter Gambaccini, Riteznehein discusses his plans to race in the New York City Marathon this Fall, as well as how he has modified his gait to from a heel to a midfoot strike to help deal with some recurring injuries. His coach at Nike, Alberto Salazar, also discusses Ritzenhien's gait change. What I like about this article is that it shows how an elite feels about the move from heel to midfoot, and also that he has some personal idiosyncracies in his anatomy that necessitated shoe modifications. All to often we forget that we humans are highly variable, and that what works for one may not work for all.

Quote from Alberto Salazar on Ritzhenhein's injuries and his shoe insert inGambaccini's Runner's World article:
"Dathan continues to have some foot problems which he's had for years. I had thought that just by keeping him on soft surfaces and making sure that he's recovered that this would be taken care of. But he continued to have metatarsal problems...

...We finally decided to do some in-depth studies. Gordon Valiant, who's the head of biomechanics for Nike, did an evaluation of Dathan and he was able to find some things that were unique to Dathan – just the way he runs and how he strikes his foot. With that, we have modified inserts – I wouldn't call them orthotics, I would just call them an insert in the shoe with a sort of excavation type depression in this area where he has an abnormal amount of force near his third metatarsal (on his right foot). And with that, it seems to have alleviated his symptoms completely…"

Quote from Dathan Ritzenhein on his gait change in Gambaccini's Runner's World article:
"I was definitely more of a heel-striker, so I'm definitely getting on to my midfoot more. I wouldn't say I get all the way up to my toe. I think I'm more efficient for the marathon if I stay in more of a midfoot stance anyway. But definitely, the posture of my body and the range of my stride, that's all stuff that has just kind of come through. Initially, the problem was we tried to focus solely on changing that without being strong enough to do it. We went back to trying to build it up from the strength side so it (the stride change) naturally took over instead of trying to think about it consciously. So that's the point where we'd at now; it's just a subconscious thing and I don't have to consciously think about changing my form anymore."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Another Bridge Crossed In My Journey

I have to say this latest experiment has been the best and most educational experiment for me to date. That is, returning to running shoes to compare against running in the Evo's and barefoot. It took a long time to reach the point where I could run in shoes without pain or injury so this provided me the opportunity to make a good comparison. Today was so clear (more than yesterday). I've completed the last few weeks of speed/interval track work in the zero dropped Nike Free 3.0's but today I returned to the Evo's and did 1x800 meters, into 8x300 meters, finishing with 1x800 meters. The difference was very clear. Again, I was sharper and cleaner.

However, the real difference is the communications paths were all open. I can't put an exact number or percentage on it but I'd say I had another 10-15% awareness of my body. I was able to make adaptations in mid-stride because the communications paths from my forefoot to ankle to leg to brain were wide open. I could literally feel my body at work in the Evo's and barefoot . . . I could feel the same in the Free's but not to the same extent. It was like trying to hear someone speak while you have ear phones on, with no music playing . . . just the plain ear phones. The ear phones just deafen the ears just a bit but enough that it's noticeable.

I think my long distance days may be over. I was thinking about it while do the intervals. All things considered, I think I'm built and designed for middle distance. Gordon Pirie wasn't lying when he said, "Speed kills endurance and Endurance kills speed." Funny to think 18 months ago my long runs were 20-30 miles and now my long run is 10-12 miles, but I can run those shorter miles efficiently with proper form
and technique.

I'm also frustrated that this group can't reach more people. I think we all have so much to offer others. It kills me to watch someone slam into the ground. It kills me to hear runners just accept that they must deal with serious injuries due to running.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Evo vs. Nike Free vs. Nike Run+ - Correction

First, let me say that I know I'm schizophrenic and I apologize for that :). I just received the final results of my last two 5k races and I was faster in the Evo's vs. the zero dropped Nike Free 3.0's, although I placed second in the race in the Evo's and won the race with the Nike Free's. Also, the course I ran in the Evo's was tougher than the course in the Free's as I spent a lot of time analyzing the courses last night and the race in the Free's had more hills but they were smaller while the race in the Evo's had a 1.25 mile gradual uphill climb on the loop toward the finish (I'll take the short hills any day because you get the immediate downhill and mentally it's easier to deal with). In other words, my performance in the Evo's exceeded my performance in the Free's.

I only share this for what it's worth as I've tried several experiments on myself and tried to keep it as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as possible.

I've spent 2 weeks running in the zero dropped Free 3.0's and Run+'s but this morning I returned to the Evo's. I've put about 140 miles on the Free's/Run+'s so my body had time to adjust. I enjoyed running in them and experienced no major pain or injury. I also held my goal times pretty well and tested the shoes on various terrains and elevations. However, as I returned to my Evo's today, among other things, the two words that describes the difference is "CLEAN," and "SHARP," all in favor of the Evo. My run in the Evo's is cleaner and sharper.

It's really interesting because the "energy return," is a comparison between the actual foot vs. the additional cushion. It's really a comparison between the natural functions of the foot/arch and the sole, cushion and mild arch support in the shoe. I've hard coded in my brain most of the elements of good running form and technique but I have to take a more active role in ensuring proper form and technique in the Free's/Run+'s vs. the Evo's. I don't have to think as much in the Evo's as it's easier for the natural body to take over. I can't confirm this but I believe I have a longer stride in the Evo's vs. the Free's/Run's which, on first thought, may be counter-intuitive. I probably actively shorten the stride in more traditional shods while the Evo's, and of course barefoot, provide for a much more natural reaction.

As for the cushioning, yes, it makes a difference. I can't tie it to injury or pain but it feels completely different. With less cushion, I'm a cleaner and sharper runner.

Now, I did do a little barefoot running and that provides an interesting distinction and discussion, at least in my mind, when comparing the Evo to barefoot running. To date, I am faster in the Evo's vs. barefoot and it may be physical or psychological, or a bit of both is probably the case.

I'm having a blast with some of these micro-analysis experiments on myself. Bottom line, is I think Amby Burfoot, Christopher McDougall and that Doctor dude are all correct when they say, "run in the most minimal shoe you can get away with." As with many things in life, when you hit the point where you can add support to the human body but it doesn't need it, you probably should not add it.

Hope some of this is interesting to some folks.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Zero Drop Dress Shoes

Just received my zero dropped Bruno Magli Ramazzole dress shoes. They feel great and that nagging heel is gone. All my shoes, casual, dress and running are zero dropped. Also, it's great to save these shoes since I paid close to $400 for them originally and now they are good to go for many more years.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

No Mid-Foot Strike For Me; Only Forefoot

After a week of trying to move from a forefoot to mid-foot strike (don't ask me why I tried it), I'm done. I really tried it and got to point where I landed mid-foot in a relaxed state but I could feel thetension on my plantar and achilles. One would think the opposite, right? A forefoot strike would put more tension on those areas, right? At least that's what I thought and why I tried it but the reverse occurred. I quit the mid-foot experiment yesterday after a very minor PF flaw up in the left ankle and minor tension in the achilles on the right ankle. This morning I returned to my forefoot strike, and all is good . . . no pain or injury (PF fine; AT fine).

This long journey I've been on (coming on 3 years) has cemented my belief and goal which is that I want to run in shoes the same way I run barefoot. I run with a forefoot strike barefoot so I should run with a forefoot strike in shoes. I wasn't born with Nikes on my feet so the barefoot strike is my natural and correct foot strike. I can only wear shoes that allow me to maintain a forefoot strike and any heel build-up interferes with my forefoot strike. Cushion doesn't interfere but the heel does so the only shoes I can wear must be zero dropped.

A complicated journey over the years with a simple/easy resolution and conclusion.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Migrating Up?

It's been an interesting 10 days. For the past 10 days I've only run in zero dropped running shoes, the Nike Free 3.0 and Asics Hyperspeed (my primary running shoe is the Evo). I've run in these shoes with no issue, injury or problem. It begs one question. How critical is ground feel? Or, is the heel build-up that is the primary issue? I know GB said this months ago but it didn't hit me until recently. There's a threshold of course but by and large, cushion isn't bothering me even as it removes some of the ground feel but the cushion amount needs to stay in the area of cushion on most racing shoes (4mm - 15mm).

I'm starting to believe shoes and cushion aren't bad if the shoe is (1) zero dropped to remove any heel differential and (2) very flexible. On the other hand, what is bad is (1) heel build-up and (2) arch support, especially any plastic or material in the arch area that makes the arch area rigid.

I know every runner is different and this is my evolution but thought I'd share it. Tuck predicted I'd end up like Anton K.; he's probably right!!!


Zero Drop Nike Free Run+

My new zero dropped Nike Free Run+. The cobbler did a great job again (he previously zero dropped my Nike Free 3.0's). I believe this is as close as you can get to a Nike Free 1.0 without destroying the shoe. They feel awesome and I'll report back after my run in them tomorrow.

The great thing is if they work, then I don't have to worry about Nike cancelling production of the Free 3.0 which is a possibility. Nike seems committed to the Free Run+ with all the marketing dollars they've thrown behind it. It's also empowering to know you can take a shoe and modify it to your liking (Gordon Pirie sure did it).

I wonder how Nike would feel about this?


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