Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Minimalist Running

Over the last couple years the shoe industry has been trending towards minimalism. Shoe manufactures are cashing in on the movement (Fila Skeletoes) or rethinking assumptions about shoe function and building from the ground up (New Balance Minimus). Christopher McDougall’s bestseller, Born to Run, has motivated thousands to kick off the foot coffins and hit the streets “naturally”. Zealous minimalist runners preach dumping shoes altogether while moderates assert less is more when trying to run “naturally”. 

Anecdotes and stories generally fall under one of the following themes (1) heel striking is bad (2) less shoe = less injuries (3) trails over road (natural over man-made). After wearing different manufactures and comparing the wear on them when I retiring a pair I discovered I heel strike with shoes that have a drop of 6mm or greater.  While heel striking my knees hurt and my stride over commits (read as: gets longer) and I feel more fatigued at the end. Lower drop shoes (flatter) have helped me shorten my stride, run further, and stay stronger. 

Do I wish I was a Tarahumara? Having the ability to traverse hundreds of kilometers on beer and Chia seeds? Si seƱor. I read Born to Run like everyone else and what I gleaned from it was: GET OUTSIDE.

I think that the gift of minimalism to the running community has been to demystify “running” by showing that there are as many ways of doing it right as there are people. Whenever I am asked my opinion on “toe shoes” or minimalist shoes generally say to do what works. If they feel better in a “minimal” shoe and it keeps them injury free and smiling, do it. If you want to try it out for possible performance gains, transition slowly. Any info beyond that point is an experiment of one.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Coaching Changes

I am child of the AOL 3.0 generation so naturally I searched online for help with my fitness goals. I started listening to podcasts and among the myriad found the "Geeks in Running Shoes" podcast. The show introduced me to my running coach who subsequently trained me for several marathons and ultra marathons. Unfortunately the coach/athlete relationship came to an end this month. It is sad because I came to rely on the feedback and ease of having a schedule laid out for me. "We had joy we had fun we had seasons in the sun; but the hills that we climbed were just seasons out of time"("Seasons in The Sun, Terry Jacks). I have a lot of things on my plate and had to make some changes. I am not sure if I will ever return to being coached but if I do I know there are wonderful ones out there.

In similar news; I am going to start coaching athletes. I am the first to admit I do not have 1,000 years of experience with professional athletes nor do I remember running in Onitsuka Tiger shoes (the first Asics) although come to think about it I did run in my share of Nike Cortez(s). The idea of becoming a running coach has kicked around my head for a few months. Recently I find myself wanting to run with people. I mentioned it a little bit in the So Cal Ragnar post about the joy I get helping others conquer their goals. It is also very selfish of me but I love the feeling of getting others to want to be healthy. Most importantly; I want all runners to run happy.

So I decided to work on being ITCA certified and will probably pick a few more certifications this year. I enjoy learning about running and consume more fitness knowledge per week than most do in a month, there is a diagnosis for me out there I am certain. I am passionate about helping people be better and health is key to being the best person you can be. I am not saying that unhealthy people are not good; I just think that health adds a je ne sais quoi to your life like nothing else can. Focusing on athletes as people rather than just cranking out a schedule and hoping they stick to it is the only way to coach and its the way I have learned and the way I think the majority of athletes can see how much clearer the world gets when you step outside the A/C and get some vitamin D. The journey begins. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Return is finally here

But the virtues we get by first exercising them, as also happens in the case of the arts as well. For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g., men become builders by building and lyreplayers by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.
-Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

I entered law school; unconquerable. I worked full-time, helped my parents out and commuted 120 miles 4 days a week all the while reading the law books at night and maintaining a relationship. When reality set in after a year and half the grind was too much. I had to stop. Physically and mentally I was a wreck. The day came and I admitted this battle was lost but swore to keep fighting.

I am set to start my law degree in the fall 2012. I have worked very hard to prepare for this return after a less than graceful break. It is exciting to actually have a support system that understands the grind and is committed to being there for the long haul. I never gave my family and close friends enough credit for all they do for me. All of them continuously surprise me. Friends I see every few months are always stepping up when I need them. Family members whom I have little in common with trust me enough to ask questions about getting healthy and turning things around. Heck my first 50 mile attempt even included T-shirts with my mug on the front.  

I was a much different person a few years ago. There was eternal preparation but never any action. It was a combination of circumstance and gut instinct that kept me from pulling the trigger on a few things. Something inside always said, "this is not right...this is not you." I felt like a third person was living my life and the real me was off on vacation. It was a profoundly depressing realization. Not wanting to be part of your own life and being content with others choosing for you sucks. The result: stress, poor health, pessimism and a perennial chip on my shoulder.

What changed? acting rather than preparing.

My life and attitude did a 180. I started smiling more and being 40-50 lbs lighter with better overall health helps a lot with the attitude. Believe it or not I am happy to deal with aches and pains from moving too much rather than from moving too little. 

It is not easy to get out of your shell and "do." It is scary and often times you will be met with criticism and even cynicism from those you love the most. DO NOT LET THEM STOP YOU. When others make choices for you; life stops and dying starts. My change in attitude has had a ripple effect. I discovered that positive people have stuck around and the negative people faded into the background. They don't do this on purpose; we just see the world differently. My core group of friends, the ones who were there at my bottom, remain the same. The major difference is that acquaintances are now people I meet through fitness rather than tequila shots. 

It is going to be difficult and stressful but beautiful. Beautiful because I worked very hard to get back and I am doing it for the right reason: me. I am no longer only achieving for others. Riding pine is over and up at the plate I am not going to look at a called strike three. 

If you do not believe, they never will.

Monday, May 7, 2012

2012 OC Marathon Race Report

Over the last few months my training has been more consistent and I have focused a lot more on recovery. A week ago I quit on a hill repeat workout and my total distance that day was 1.1 miles. The soreness in my calf made it ludicrous to attempt to complete the workout. The tweaks I was feeling dictated my race strategy for this one, aka Billy Badass. I decided to run hard with good form and hope I did not burn out to badly in the end and just see what happens. 

Garmin 910XT (setting only on the time – no other windows b/c i did not want to scare myself with the pacing)
Headsweats Visor
Oakley Zero Glasses
Pearl Izumi Sun Sleeves
iPod Shuffle (Current Fav Song: “We are Young” by FUN)
Asics Shorts (picked these b/c they have extra storage for the gels – and they matched my grey attire)
Green Layer Tech Tee (Altra Zero Drop/PRSFit Racing Team) – yes…grey…It’s the only place I try to match
Drymax HyperThin Socks
Altra Instinct (Review)
Gels – Hammer (easy to consume and can take w/ little or no water), GU (Vanilla Bean)/ Clif Shots (Citrus) – these were back up Gels - carried them b/c they have caffeine, I expected to bonk b/c of my race strategy thus I expected them to come in handy
Electrolytes – Gatorade/ H2O at Aid Stations / Salt Stick Caps

Race Start
This race is a point to point race with an early start time for the marathoners (5:30 AM). The field was also small, 1,825 finishers, which made setting a good pace from the start easy since you were not rubbing elbows for the first few miles. I arrived at the finish line at 3:45 AM in order to drop off my car and then be shuttled to the start line. I was probably a tad early but I wanted to make sure that I did not end up on a late shuttle and that I gave myself enough time to use the bathroom and loosen up before the effort. 

Miles 1 - 13.1
I ran with the 3:45 pace group for the first 4 miles. I knew I was not going to be able to hold that pace but I figured that I would “bank” time and hope. Disclosure: I made beginners “mistake” and wore new shoes on race day. This was a conscious decision and I do not regret it. I know that every list of do not do’s says “nothing new on race day.” I have been running in Altra Running shoes for months and I trust in their products (Instinct Review) so I was not worried about the performance or feel of the shoes.
All that being said the only thing I forgot to account is lacing. On the trails I prefer very loosely fitting shoes and on the road I tighten them up. Most runners make no distinction for the terrain but I am weird therefore I do. I stopped 3 or 4 times in the first 8 miles to readjust. The final stop I saw the 4:00 pace group running by as I fiddled with my laces. I panicked slightly and decided to just go trail mode on my laces. I loosened them up for the last time and ran that pace group down. The timing for that little chase could not have been more perfect. There was a gradual downhill that let me catch and pass while not exerting too much effort. By the half mary mark I recovered my place in the field right around the 3:50 pace just ahead of the 3:55 pacers. 

Miles 13.1 – 25 
The second half of this marathon was a gradual realization I could hold on rather than burn out. Since the running illness got me I tend not to run 8-ish pace after the 12 mile mark. You can imagine my surprise that the miles kept ticking and the pace alerts kept telling me otherwise. I did not feel overexertion and I kept my form relatively quiet with legs tired but turning over.
Mile 20 the garmin shows I was slightly under 3 hours. If I had it in me to run a 10k in under an hour I would break 4. At this point I decided to go for it. All day I had been exchanging position with another runner. I will call her IW (IronWoman) because she had Ironman gear on. Due to the rolling course I caught her on slight downhill stretches and then she would pull away on slight up hills. The furthest she got away from me was about 300 yards. I settled into a rhythm matching her pace after we left the Santa Ana River bike trail around mile 21. I arrived at the mile 23 water station and saw she had stopped and was hydrating. I felt good and decided to try and just get some time on her so blew by. I did not have a chance to turn and peek when I felt her off my right shoulder. I could feel her drafting off me then subsequently I would draft off her when she pulled ahead. IW and I kept changing places in the last few miles and were passing runners as we went. For those familiar with cycling we were pretty much running an echelon. I would move ahead and she got off my shoulder slightly to a side. Whenever I dropped the pace she would pick it up and I would draft of her shoulder. We must have passed a few dozen runners during this stretch.

Mile 25 - 26.2
How well was the echelon/drafting working? Mile 24 - 8:50, mile 25 - 8:27, mile 26 - 8:16, .2 - 6:17 pace. When I made the left turn off the street into the fairgrounds I accelerated. She picked it right up and was not giving me a thing. I gave a second burst and broke free from IW and passed another male runner with about 40 yards to go. IW and I had worked so hard together and against each other to run people down I thought it would be weak sauce not to give it 110%. All of a sudden the guy I just passed suddenly passed me back with 30 yards to go. I heard the announcer saying something to the effect of now we have a race. He was maybe a yard ahead of me I went into chase mode and just left it all out there. I got up to a 5:03 pace and beat him by about 30 feet. 
Right when I finished I turned around to cheer for him and congratulate him on the effort. He smiled at me saying “that was fun” and gave a high five. I thanked him for the boost at the end and he gave me a bro hug. A sweaty gross one but I am not leaving a runner hanging especially not after the effort we just threw down. I also found IW and thanked her for the pick up at mile 24. I let her know I was chasing her for a while. She said she knew since we were changing places all day and thanked me for pushing her along. I let her know I appreciated pace setting. (IW actually beat me by 00:00:03 because of the difference with the gun time-she earned it for sure)

15 Minute PR with an Official Time of 3:50:03. Those Garmin's sure are accurate.

Overall: 372 / 1848
Male: 285 / 1140
M 25-29: 32/129
Time: 3:50:03

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

PR’s and The Importance of Rest

The month of April was my best racing month ever. I shaved almost an hour off my Los Angeles Marathon Time 4:56:28 (2011) vs. 4:05:19 (2012) and two hours off my 50 mile PR 11:37:53 (Rock’n River) vs. 9:31:46 (AR50). I got my Western States qualifier and finally felt like I raced rather than just surviving the distances. Lately, I have been feeling the effects of sleeplessness and stress. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions regarding work, family and potentially a return to school. Knowing that I am stressed out I decided to look back at my “best” month to find clues that would help me get back on track.

Considering I raced a marathon and a 50 miler; April was very low mileage. I logged 128 miles for the month. Throughout the training log for April the pattern that emerged was my conscious effort to rest and recover. By no means did I lag during the month or not put out the effort. My training dictated recovery runs and focused workouts to stay strong rather that just adding more miles to the total. Coach Jeff gave set up a tough schedule to assure I maintained peak fitness for my races but not overbearing to the point of burn out. Having a coach that is cognizant of the athlete and the person was vital for April being so successful.

So how do I apply this to my life outside of training? Simple answer: I need to sleep on time and take care of business. There is plenty of data focusing on the importance of sleep for performance and general health. Here are some links:

Competitor – (video) Recovery and The Importance of Sleep 

Many of us newer to the running scene and even the veterans will get carried away by unexpected results and immediately set new loftier goals. I often forget that training is meant to make my body stronger and healthier not simply to become a PR machine. This battle to stay in the present is something I fight with all the time. I want to recall and live by my past success and push forward to the next race, but the fact is I live and train now. It is a hard pill to swallow to know that every training run is not going to be a PR, every week is not going to be more miles…there will be bad days. Now that the rest is slipping away I find myself struggling to keep my same enthusiasm and getting out the door is hard again. So what to do? Focus on recovering and remember that training is training and racing is racing. Leave PRs for race day and get out the door, because in both life and training getting out the door is a victory.