Monday, March 23, 2015

It's really about the Newton's

During a St Paddy’s Day 5K event one of the 5 lugs on the bottom of one of my Newton Motion III’s ripped off.  Somewhere around mile 1 I could hear this “flapping” sound, but of course since this was a race I wasn’t about to stop and investigate.  After all, I was neither in pain nor bleeding profusely, so I kept on running. I ran the rest of the race with that “flap” sound at every step until I crossed the finish line, and then realized that one of the lugs on the bottom of the shoe was hanging by a thread (the “flap” sound with every step was the sound of the lug slapping the pavement), and then within a few steps while getting some water, ripped off completely. Ok, no biggie I thought, I still had 4 lugs left…  I took a picture of it and called it good.

I love these Newton’s… really. I’ve flirted with other brands, but I always come back to Newton’s. I’m on my third pair, if that is saying anything… In a crazy way, they help me run faster, they encourage me to run stronger, and I believe, they help me run more efficiently.  I just wish that they weren’t so damn expensive… I’d try other styles of Newton’s if I could afford them…

When I get lazy during a run and my form starts to droop, somehow the feel of the Newton’s prods me to pay attention. Other shoes don’t do that for me. I’m not exactly sure how it happens, but there is a subtle feel in my midfoot whenever I start to lose my form, coupled with another odd feeling in my core-area.  And as soon as I fix it, I start running more efficiently.  Best of all, when I get into the groove I can easily out-run my intended distance for that day – which has good and bad ramifications...

But I do find that in order for me to run in the Newton’s “properly”, i.e. get the efficiency of form out them, I have had to build relatively solid core strength as well as well-conditioned hams and quads. I’m not talking about going crazy with core exercises, squats, and so on –I’ve just been doing general routines – and I can both see and feel the difference. But it turns out that this is pretty important, because the stronger my core and legs feel, the better my form, pace, and endurance are.  And better yet, the more confidence I have. And I think that running with Newton’s has had a lot to do with it.

I’ve had situations where during a run, perhaps within a mile or so from being done, I’d run into an acquaintance running the other way, and on a whim I’d spin around and join them (of course, I always ask if they want some company or a pacer… after all, sometimes we run because we want the alone-time…). My point here is that I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have the confidence that I had the endurance to extend my run. And I think that the Newton’s have done a lot to give that to me.

Oh, and by the way, I placed second in my age group on that 5K, flapping lug and all…!  I missed first by 27 seconds !  If I had paid a little more attention, maybe I could have claimed 1st Place !  But I should also note that this was a very casual event – yes it was timed event, but it was a gun start (no starting line mat) and the start itself was somewhat very half hazard.  For all I know, the guy that beat me had lined up way in front, whereas I was way in the back with my wife and son and had to bob and weave my way up..  Once clear of most of the starting area pack, I ran pretty hard, despite the fact that it was very hot (yes, this was a Florida event!).

I narrowly missed destroying my ankle while cutting a corner though: the course ran along an asphalt trail and just before the finish had a 90 degree turn onto a sidewalk. I was in the process of passing another runner at that moment (bad timing on my part – lack of patience) and he suddenly bobbed out towards me causing me to miss the sidewalk and land on a rocky edge. It’s amazing what goes through your mind in a situation like that. I remember simultaneously thinking that this had disaster written all over it for me, while at the same time calculating where could I place my left foot to take the weight as soon as possible. As it turns out I was able to get my left foot firmly on the sidewalk right about the time I felt my right ankle complain. Fortunately nothing bad happened (I have a history of ankle injuries) and I was able to finish strong. But that little tiny event, a duration of perhaps 3 seconds,  reminds that I ought not take this stuff too seriously – this is supposed to be fun and I want to be able to run for years to come. I could so easily of destroyed my ankle in my desire to pass somebody at the worst possible time and that would have sucked big ones!

But the best news of all is that I'm getting new Newton's !!! Yea!!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Adversity as a challenge

"Adversity introduces a man to himself". This is a quote from Marcus Lattimore, a running back with the San Francisco 49ers who recently retired from the NFL due to knee problems, without ever playing in a single game. His is an interesting story, but I'll let you look it up on your own. The adversity that he is referring to I think was specific to his physical and athletic challenges and own personal athletic aspirations vs an interpersonal type of conflict.  Taking that assumption, his statement is in line with some physically issues of my own that, quite frankly, have been driving me nuts.

A few months ago I strained my Achilles, I worked my way through it and was able to have a good go at the Reach the Beach Ragnar Relay in September Reach the Beach Ragnar Relay  ( My ankle and Achilles were not perfect, and it hurt, but I figured out how to do the hills and run a respectable pace without destroying myself in the process. I love to run, I love the feeling of running, and even though I'll never win a race, I love to compete. But I won't do it at the expense of permanently damaging myself. And that is where the adversity comes into play.

I understand what Marcus Lattimore means by what he said. Granted, this guy is a star athlete. He's got the goods. I'm just an old, amateur wanna-be runner... But I get it. When something fails to work out as I planned, I get annoyed and I challenge myself to find a way to fix it. I've stopped being disappointed by injuries and feeling sorry for myself, and instead focus on solving the problem and setting a new objective. I'm not settling with the situation or even close to giving in, but rather I make myself accept the facts and look for solutions or other ways to satisfy my craving to achieve a specific goal.

Case in point: I had signed up to run a Half Marathon for this past weekend - but it didn't happen for me. For the last three weeks I've been fighting my Achilles strain and then I managed to roll my ankle, totally compounding my problem. I actually thought that I was going to be ok (after rolling my ankle), but couple of days later it reared its ugly head. I eased my way through my runs, feeling mildly optimistic that things would work out. But no cigar....

On a beautiful early Sunday morning, two weeks prior to my HM event, I started a run and didn't get 200 ft. The pain was a hard signal that I ought not be running. I could walk ok, but running was out of the question. And yeah... I got mad, was disappointed, and felt sorry for myself... I let those feeling last for the entire 200 foot walk back to my house. Time for a new plan and solutions. This half marathon wasn't going to happen for me (although I will admit that up until the night before the event I carried the thought that if my ankle felt better that I would still try to run it... But better sense prevailed..).

What I read from Marcus Lattimore's quote is that when things go sideways you discover if, and how, you are able to handle them. You are truly introduced to yourself. How will you handle this situation. The question then becomes: are we able to, or even willing to, look beyond the problem, the adversary situation. Are we willing to look in, and out of, the box for the solutions... Sometimes it's all about getting our head in the right frame of mind. I think that it's ok to feel the emotions of the moment (the disappointment, anger, etc), but the key is to get over it quickly and move on.

Of course, this particular situation just happened to suck just a little bit more.... I couldn't help but look at the race results yesterday: It turns out that there were only 13 runners in my age group that ran the HM, and given the pace that I've been training at, I had a pretty solid shot of placing in the top 3, if not first in my age group! This kind of set up, an event where there weren't really any seriously faster runners than me in my age group signed up, is a rarity, and it sucks that I could not take advantage of it. <Sigh....> But that's cool - I'm still all in. It just means that I need to put a little more effort into the next one!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How much should I run?

Seriously, how many miles should I run?  How much should any runner put in?

I put this question up with a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek - because the answer invariably is: "it depends".  It depends on where I am in my running experience, level of fitness, and specific goals and targets.  It is easier to answer the question if I have an upcoming race event, and therefore I am structuring my  running mileage accordingly in order to be adequately trained and ready for the event.

But I'm pondering the question outside of training for an event: given my age and overall health (which fortunately is pretty good) how many miles per week will provide me with the optimal return in maintaining a healthy body and mind...?   And the corollary: at what point am I causing damage to my body (by running too many miles)...?

If I put this question up to Google, I get over a billion results... so this seems to be important to a lot of people.

I run about 30 miles per week, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less... I'm prepping for a Half Marathon, so every week I'm doing a 10, 12, or 14 mile long run - no big deal, right?  But I keep asking myself: for conditioning purposes, should I be running more weekly miles, like maybe closer to 40 per week? Or should I be doing fewer miles to reduce the risk of damage or injury?

On the one hand I am concerned about whatever conditioning I might be missing by not running more miles, but on the other I worry about what part of my body I might be damaging or wearing down. We've all heard the saying "what hurts you makes you stronger...", which I've bought into most of my life, but now I'm beginning to wonder if I'm always going to be able to recover from that which hurts me... You can see the conundrum...

Well, it turns out that even science (my usual go-to source) can't help me here, simply because I don't have access to the specific data regarding the status of the wear and tear of my joints, muscles, ligaments, cardio, or vascular systems, etc.  I have to literally rely on "how I feel".  I have to try things and if I feel that there is improvement, continue doing it, and if something hurts, I am supposed to back off. Hardly scientific, but it's the best I've got (short of instrumenting myself somehow and having a budget of many dollars to pay for it).

So as runners, we push ourselves through pain and discomfort in order to build endurance and performance levels. And by doing so, we believe that we are able to do more. If at some point the pain is so uncomfortable that it is not tolerable, we say 'ok -that's as far as I can go', but we do so at the risk of actually damaging a critical part of our body.

Let's not kid ourselves: as we run we are wearing down cartilage and all the other pieces that help us move. And we have no idea how much of that is happening or at what point it will cripple us. For some people it happens faster than others.

So what do we do? What should I do?

I'm going to run until I feel that I've run too far or too much. I'm going to be confident that I will recognize the signals that I should tone down my mileage or workouts. Obviously this is highly subjective and I may be influenced by what other runners my age or older are accomplishing (or not accomplishing) or by my own competitive nature. But the other reality is that we, as a species, never got better by not trying... so therefore I want to push the envelope until I sense a tear in the seam... (does that make sense?).

Now - what about the other part of that question: how do I know if I'm not running enough?

That turns out to be a multi-faceted question since it has at least two parts: 1) how much running is necessary to achieve a desired level of endurance or performance, and 2) how much running is appropriate for a better than average cardio-vascular health?

The answer to the first part is actually very straightforward because it is actually just asking how competitive do I want to be?. If I am really competitive, I have to put in a lot of miles... no bones about it, and guess what?, this falls back into the question of how many miles can my body take...  ahhhh, the catch-22, the self-eating watermelon...

The second part is easier: Thirty minutes of aerobic activity 3 times per week is what is lauded as the "minimum recommended" for general cardio-vascular health, or 90 minutes per week. I have no idea what exactly is that based on, which makes that a somewhat less than a satisfactory answer, but let's take it at face value for now.  [I think that it is based simply on the fact that any activity is better than no activity, which is kind of a lame answer.]

So for a "better than average cardio-vascular health" goal, my personal goal would be running a minimum of 200 minutes per week, split up across the week, with an actual target of ~250 minutes, and a stretch goal of 300 minutes. Head's up: this is a purely arbitrary conclusion on my part based on my personal condition. But it seems in keeping with general fitness thought. Personally, I know that if I run at least 200 minutes per week I can drink beer and eat ice cream...  :-)

And just for grin's I thought I'd also toss in this notion that our heart has a lifespan of a defined number of beats (say what? says who? and how do they know?) and so by engaging in an aerobic activity such as running, and thereby increasing our heart rate, that we are more rapidly using up our allowance of heart beats.  And that is so wrong.... As it happens, if you regularly exercise aerobically, your heart conditions itself to the point where your resting heart rate is sufficiently lower than if you did not regularly exercise. There are numerous studies on this - do an internet search - that quantify this in detail. The interesting fact is that by regularly exercising aerobically and conditioning your heart to beat at a lower rate (resting) you actually wind up using substantially fewer heart beats than if you did not exercise.

More as it happens...
Honeymoon HM in 3 weeks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reach the Beach Ragnar Relay 2014

Confirmation that runners are truly insane is volunteering to participate in a 207 mile relay race. I was invited to join a team running in this year’s Reach the Beach run in New Hampshire that goes from Cannon Mountain at 2000 odd feet down to Hampton Beach and, oh yeah, it was an experience.

If you don't know what one of these relay events are like, this is how it works:

The first thing you do is get a team of 12 runners together and split them up into two groups of 6 runners, each group has a van. Preferably, each group of 6 can get along pretty well with each other - and this is important, because each group is going to spend the better part of the next 24 to 40 hours in very close proximity to each other. Seriously close.

The next thing is you divvy up running rotations. There are 36 segments, so each runner will ideally run 3 legs. The distance of each leg is determined by the relay event organizers, officially defining a "transfer point", with legs varying between 3 to 9 miles more or less. So, "runner #1" starts the first leg - everybody piles into the van and you drive down to the next transfer point, and he/she passes the baton to "runner #2", and so on. After you cycle through your 12 runners, runner #1 gets another go, and the cycle continues until you "reach the beach" ie the finish line. No hotels, no stopping. You are always hopscotching the current runner. 

Here is the elevation map... wicked for those of us (me) who have spent the last 12 months running on flat terrain:

Each team has to have a name – ours was “Close the Gap”. There is a significance to it, but I don’t remember what it was about... Other teams had crazy names like: “Girls gone Miled”, “Fuster Clucks”, “Beach Balls and Bikinis”, and so on… One of my favorites was “Out of Breathalyzers”.

The teams are divided into 2 vans. Vans 1 and it's 6 runners go through the first 6 segments and then meet up with Van 2, where upon Van 2 takes over for 6 segments and the folks in Van 1 get a little break until they take over at the end of the 12th segment. And then Van 2 gets a little break, and so on.... You sort of getting the drift?

It all sounds very straight forward, and it is, except that we are talking about more than 500 teams, each of which has 12 runners.  Some teams are "elite" teams with only 6 runners, or in our case 11, due to a last minute drop by a team member. Believe it or not, it took us 2 hours to figure out how to fill in the segments that the dropped runner would have run.

The transfer points are chaotic and crazy with vans pulling in and out, runners finishing their segment and handing off their baton (or in some case arriving and not having someone to hand off to because: a) the Van is late b) the van got lost c) the new runner is not ready d) the new runner is in a porta-pot, or maybe e) the runner is so incredibly fast that he/she is beating expected times....). Remember that are over 500 teams and there are two vans per team!  That’s a lot of traffic. This picture is from one of the very "calm" transfer points.

Did I mention that this was a non-stop event? I didn't sleep a wink for 40 hours. It's been a long time since I've done that...

Ok, so let's run through this: I was runner #8 and in Van 2 (the "cool" Van - btw; apparently there is a bit of competition for coolness between the vans...).  At the transfer point runner #7 hands off to me and I take off for a ~6.7 mile jaunt. No biggie; the course goes from the mountains to the beach so it's all an easy downhill, right?  No way dude - we're in New Hampshire - and it is freaking hilly! And the down hills are brutal!  But I gut it out and run hard. But oops, there is going to be a problem...

There are so many vans associated with the event that we have created our own traffic jam in one of the little New Hampshire towns. And I mean serious traffic jam – these are two lane roads and we have overwhelmed the traffic capability. A couple of miles out from the town (and my transfer point) I can see that vans and local cars are all backed up and I start thinking about what do I do if my van didn't make it to the transfer point with the next runner. Do I keep running? Do I just kind of hang around? What is the protocol? So as I'm pondering my options I happen to pass a van that has an arm hanging out the window with a water bottle and I'm think "damn I could use some water", and I realize that it's my van, they see me coming and were thoughtful enough to realize that I might need some water, but even better, had already busted out our next runner who was trekking on foot to the transfer point! Awesome! I happened to catch up with her about a half mile from the transfer point and we jogged in together for the official hand off. Hooraa, one down for me.

But now it's back into the van (after walking back through the traffic to find it), squeeze into the designated "stinky" seat (no time for post run stretching) and we rush to get to the next transfer point before our new runner gets there. Now I can give myself a wet-nap bath, get out of my sweaty running duds (safely locking them into a zip lock bag to reduce some of the stinkiness), and do a little stretching.

My first run had started at about 5PM, and this pic is one of our runners coming in from the dark at around 8PM. My next run, leg #20, isn't until around 3AM. Yeah, you read it correctly. 3AM. But I can't stretch out in the van and take a nap - there just isn't room. It’s just a minivan.. We've got bags, snacks, fluids, clothes, towels, maps, garbage, etc. it's a packed van. Plus there are things to do - like, someone has to drive, someone else needs to navigate, someone needs to keep a eye on a stopwatch so that we can keep track of the runner we just started, the runner that just finished their segment needs to get themselves cleaned up a bit, and so on... Hopefully, we get the to next transfer point in enough time to let the upcoming runner change into new (and dry and better smelling) running duds and ideally warm up for their run. Oh, and we need to keep the other van updated on our progress so that they can be sure to be at the next Van Transfer Point so that they can take over for their 6 rotations. There is a fair amount of necessary coordination and organization. 

We (Van 2) finished our first rotation around 8:30PM, sending Van 1's first runner off with a big cheer. We dive into a restaurant eat and try to relax a bit. Then it's back into the van and we navigate our way to the next Vehicle Transfer Point, roughly an hour away. As soon as we get there (a school parking lot) we try to find a place to park and hopefully catch some zzz's. But this is not a nice quiet school parking lot...  There are at least 200 odd vans pulling in and out, there are people (trying) to sleep on whatever patch of grass they can find - picture cocoon-like blobs (runners rolled up in sleeping bags) scattered helter-skelter everywhere - people (trying) to sleep in their vans - car alarms going off because someone accidentally hit the Panic button, headlights, backup beeps, trucks with flashing/rotating beacons... Are you getting the idea yet that this was not the place for some rest? You got it...

Ok - so it's getting close to my turn to run again... Do you remember that our team was down a runner? So, out of all this we shuffled rotations and distances around and I'm picking up a couple extra miles in order to somewhat relieve the guy running before me (because he’s a stud and he picked up another segment). That means that we are going to pull off to the side of the road at a location determined by us and wait for him to reach us (and find us in the dark) for the baton hand off. It's 3AM. Dark. 40-odd degrees. Country road. Hilly. We had already passed a van that pulled off to the side but missed seeing a deep ditch and fell into it, breaking an axel and who knows what else - bad night for them – hope they bought the extra insurance :-(. 

And so we are waiting. I'm all set. Reflective vest. Headlamp strapped to my forehead (I've never run with one before). Blinky light clipped in front and one in back. I'm ready. And we're waiting.  Did he run by us and we missed him?  There are lots of vans and lots of runners going by... Easy to miss him...

But suddenly we spot him as he is passing us - we did almost miss him! and I'm off. Now I'm off on this surreal run - ok, it's only 5.5 miles, no biggie there, but it was just weird.

I'm expecting a run down a quiet, rolling, dark country road illuminated by what's left of the super-moon and guiding my way with my headlamp. Oh no.. not so much... It was not quiet and it was not dark. The road was a constant parade of vans leapfrogging their runners.  Plus, the pavement was not perfectly smooth - hey, it's a rural road, what did I expect? So I had to concentrate on where I was stepping to avoid potholes or cracks in the road or rocks and so on...  I found it helpful to draft a runner and let her find most of them for me. Yeah, it would have been way more chivalrous of me to let her draft me and let me stumble through the mine fields, but hey, she insisted on passing me and I decided to keep up and follow her. Besides..., well, you know.....  So anyway, I never saw much of the moon. The bright side is that I also never had to over-anticipate an upcoming hill because I could never see it coming - I just knew t was there when I hit it. The downhill ones were the biggest surprise because all of a sudden I'm loading up my quads and wondering just how steep and long the damn thing is going to be.

One of the other elements of the event is the concept of "road kills", i.e. how many people have you passed. I'll tell you right now that I got passed a lot, even though I was running at what I thought was a respectable 8:15-8:30 pace. At one point I get passed by this one bonehead who mutters to me as he passes "road kill!" And I shout up to him "yeah, and I've got 30 years on you - how do you feel now?!" To which he now felt some measure of chagrin and I think said "sorry". Some vans made a big deal of it by decorating their van with tally marks of their "kills". It's all good - I get it ;-).  I just thought it was funny.

The hardest part is the third segment, especially after having no sleep. Three of our guys had to run a total of 4 segments so this last leg would be even tougher for them. I managed to rest a little bit by laying down on some grass at the last vehicle transition point while we waited for Van 1’s last runner. With the help of a little 5HR energy shot I gave my last 6.8 miles all the game I had, still managing to maintain an 8:15-8:30 pace. My quads were getting hammered on the down hills and my calves and hams screamed at me on the up hills. From an endurance perspective I seemed fine, but my legs did not like the terrain. I was sooooo happy to finish.

Once we launched our last runner on the last and final segment of the event, we all cram ourselves back into our van and scoot down to the finish line area. Now we are truly combating with all 1000+ vans, plus local traffic (the town of Hampton must of hated us!). Fortunately we had rented a house within a half mile or so from the finish line and could park our van at the house and walk over. The temptation to jump into a shower before doing so was huge, but if we did we would have missed our finishing runner. The bummer of being the last runner is that he had to run about 3/4 of a mile on the beach to the actual finish line – I’m not sure that I would have had the juice in my legs to do that through the sand! But here he trudged, running in his socks, shoes in hand, gamely claiming a "road kill" at the finish line, and we all joined in with him to cross the finish line together with the announcer calling out the name of our team. It was great to be done. Now, where’s the food and where’s the beer!!

We weren't able to capture a "crossing the finish line" picture, but we did get a group pic at the end. That's the beer and food tent behind us - lets go already!

540 teams signed up to run, 530 started, 522 finished. The fastest team finished in 20hr 24min (an incredible 5:54 pace), the slowest finished in 37hr 30min.  We finished in 28hr 43min (an 8:18 pace), 133rd place overall.

From an event organizational perspective, I was impressed. The race organizers had to coordinate an entire 207 mile route and all that it entailed; through towns and villages, arranging transfer points, traffic and police, signage (i.e. runners: go this way.. Vans: go this other way..), do whatever they can to avoid totally annoying the entire population of  New Hampshire, organizing volunteers (especially tough on those needed to work the midnight hours), and so on. I suspect that it was a tremendous undertaking. I totally appreciate their work and efforts - thank you.

It was truly a different experience for me, so different than running an individual event – fun at so many different levels, hard at others, as well as being challenging. I was running with a team of whom I only knew one person and fortunately we all got along great and helped each other. I’d like to do it again and if I have that opportunity I’ll have a better training routine and a better race-day strategy to manage my legs.  Hooraah

Next up, Honeymoon Island Half Marathon November 8 !

(If you would like to leave a comment I've been told that it may be necessary for you to temporarily allow 3rd Party Cookies - it's not my thing... it's seems to be a Google Blogger thing... For example, if you use Chrome as a browser, go to "Settings", scroll down to the bottom and select "Show Advanced Settings", select "Content Settings" in the Privacy section, and then un-select "Block 3rd Party cookies...".   I would not recommend leaving your settings that way, so be sure to reset it back to block 3rd party cookies.)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back to the Newtons

This is like one of those "forgive me for I have sinned" moments... Thinking that my old Newton's weren't cutting it I went off the reservation and bought a pair of  Saucony Triumphs. They felt good. They felt different. And I put 150 odd miles on them. But after the first few runs I found that they just were not working for me. My gait was off, my ankles didn't feel right, my achilles got tight... nothing was right...

So I went back to my old Newtons and immediately felt the difference. It was like finding an old friend. They felt great. Well used, but my run felt so much better than my runs with the Saucony's.

But I don't think that this necessarily has anything to do with Saucony shoes from a quality perspective - they are good shoes - they just weren't working for my gait and physical characteristics.

One of the things that I noticed while running with the Saucony's was that my left foot was toe'ing in. A friend suggested that it was because of a weak or tired muscle - but I was somewhat skeptical about that. I did sort of notice was that when I ran in my old Newton's that it did not happen, but that little fact did not totally register with me until later.

Then, on a whim, I went into a local running store to re-visit Newton's and the woman who took care of me suggested that perhaps I needed more of a stability shoe.

I said "nah.... I'm good, I want to try the Gravity's that I've got now"... I did, and as I ran around the store she noted that my right foot was caving in from time to time.  Hmmmm.  I mentioned my issue with my left foot toe'ing in, and she said yeah, that makes sense. That the left foot was basically compensating.  More hmmmmm.  I'm not totally sure about all of it, but ok, I'll take it at face value. Then she had me try the Newton Motion Stability model - and I absolutely noticed that both of my feet were on track, no toe'ing in. They felt great. I want to be back in Newton's!

And I would have pulled the trigger on buying them if they didn't cost $175.  Folks, that's a ton of money for me, and so I didn't buy them, much to that woman's disappointment. I also had a little issue with the woman, but I won't go into that - it was just a little off-putting, and that was another factor in my not being that anxious to give her my money. But still, $175 is a lot of money.

But guess what?  I was able to get a 20% discount directly from Newton. I feel bad for not being able to support my local running store, but 20% turns $175 into $140. And now we're talking.  I'm hoping to get them before I leave for my Reach the Beach relay run in New Hampshire next week. Hopefully, I'll be able to have a great run with them!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Struggling but I'm winning

The summer humidity, the ongoing commitments of day to day life, and some nagging ankle issues are working hard to beat me down. I'm struggling, but I'm winning, and I can't wait to see the view from the top...

I make an effort to be committed to my running goals, but they always get re-prioritized by life's other priorities (family, work, social commitments, etc - you know how it is...). When I have a pressing ongoing project I am tempted to forgo my morning run so that I can get an even earlier start on the project, the rationale being that there are other people that are affected by the status of the project. On the other hand, I'm not being true to myself and my health by dropping my run.

I remember years ago rationalizing that there was no way that I could get to a gym or start a running routine because I had "urgent and pressing" responsibilities that just had to be addressed. Once they were taken care of, then and only then could I think of myself... but of course that never happens.

Of course, I've had people tell me that I needed to literally schedule my workout time as if it were a business meeting, i.e. make it mandatory. And predictably, I never did that. I always felt too committed to my work and family priorities. It was not until I sold my company that I suddenly had the time to run - which is how I started running...

Now I'm facing the same issues again, work projects and family commitments are demanding time and I've been tempted to forgo my runs to take care of those responsibilities. Just a few weeks prior to the Marine Corps Marathon last year I got enveloped in a huge project into which I felt so committed that I scaled back my marathon training - at obviously the wrong time - and I am sure that helped contribute to my tough marathon. It's not an excuse - it was my decision, but in hindsight a bad one.

But I've pushed back.

I am forcing myself to reschedule projects and meetings in order to accommodate my running and training routines so that I can meet my running and training goals.

The current levels of humidity are a different story, and there is not much that I can do about that. It has a way of just sucking the mojo out of me - it is so hard to run when it is so oppressively humid. Ugh.  I've been scheduling my runs early in the AM before the sun breaks the tree line - it's still humid, but at least the solar radiation is not knocking me down. Plus I'm working on the premise that by gutting it out and pushing through my runs that I'm actually getting stronger (yeah, right....).

I'm also fighting an Achilles strain, which requires careful running, resting the ankle, ice, and elevation. I've got a Ragnar Relay coming up in a month, and I'm determined to have a good run!

I'm struggling, but I'm going to win my battles!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It's all about the shoes

Newtons, Saucony, and Cloudtec
I have fallen out of love for my Newton running shoes (Gravity)…  After running 560 miles in my first pair and 515 in my second, I just wasn’t feeling the love anymore for the Newton's. Perhaps my gait has changed, but something is different. At 500 miles it is obviously time to consider new running shoes, and as I readied myself to do so, I have to admit that the cost of the Newton’s was also a consideration in my choice of a new pair.

And so, after trying a myriad of different running shoes, I opted for Saucony Triumphs – and so far they feel good. They are a little bit heavier than the Newton Gravity’s (306g vs 252g) with an 8mm heel-toe offset. To be honest, I can’t really feel the difference between the weights of the shoes. The important part, of course, is that they just feel right when running. The odd thing that I've noticed while running with the Saucony's though, is that I’m not as focused as I was with the Newtons with regards to landing on my midfoot/forefoot, although I know that I am still doing it. I do notice that my steps are quieter. For some reason I was unable to land as softly as I would have liked with the Newtons and I tended to hear a “plop” sound with every step. Odd. It may have been my gait.

When I took up running with the Newton Gravity shoes I noticed that I was a tad faster, probably because I became more focused on my form and doing the midfoot/forefoot thing, and so I have been curious what the effect, if any, would be with the new Saucony’s. The answer is still TBD… It has been so hot and humid, that any real evaluation or analysis is going to have to wait until the weather gets a little more cooperative. I’m still running in this humidity, but not with a tremendous amount of gusto. My running mojo is sucking…

But then entered a wild card…  I fell into a pair of CloudTec Cloudracers (230g, 5mm heel/toe offset) (website: the night of a 5K. I immediately felt the lightness of these shoes. Wow, so this is what lightweight shoes feel like! But they are a little weird in that the soles of the shoe have these rubber “eyelets”, or bumps (see the picture...) that are kind of little bouncy, spongy things… My initial reaction when I saw the shoe was “yeah, right… forget about it”, but then I tried them on and ran the 5K race with them.  And I PR’ed it… on an incredibly hot and humid night (it was
a midnight 4th of July run…) I ran the fastest 5K I have ever run. It must have been the shoes...! (uh-huh...) But yes, they really, really felt good. I felt a little extra spring that was very dynamic. Maybe that is what those rubber eyelets thingy's do.

I’m a little skeptical with regards to how many miles I can get out of the Cloudtec shoes, because I am sure that the rubber eyelets will either fatigue and collapse, or will rip out. We’ll see. I may just use them for events. But they do feel real good!

Next up: I'm hoping to run in one of the Ragnar series relays, the New Hampshire Reach the Bay (or is it Beach?) in September.  Never done one, hope to see what it's like!

After that its a Half Marathon on Honeymoon Island in November.