Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reset

I apologize in advance for this lengthy post.  I haven't updated this blog in a while and I finally have the desire to fill in my one or two (maybe three?) readers on how my running has been going.

During July I knew in my mind what this year's running would look like.  I planned to build more base miles though the fall, culminating in a marathon or two and perhaps an even longer trail race in December.

I ran regularly till October.  It was at the beginning of that should have been pleasurable month of cooler PR friendly temperatures and low humidity bliss that I began to feel the subtle clues of an impending and mandatory rest.  It started with questions to myself:

- Did I used to need three days before my legs felt fresh again after a moderately paced run?


- Have I always felt this tired every morning?

- Have I always had half of a pot of black coffee just to bring back the urge to run fast or feel fully alert?

- Did I ever really take a break last winter?  (I pretty much picked up pool running and cycling immediately upon getting injured.)

Rest

These questions weren't hard to answer.  No, no, no, and no.  I made up my mind pretty quickly that with my somewhat shaky recovery from injuries this year (at least five distinct ones) and almost certain burnout (residual overtraining, adrenal fatigue, chronic dehydration, caffeine dependency, or whatever) a real break couldn't hurt.

I settled into the path that many others before me have adopted as a yearly ritual.  Endurance athletes with reasonable success and longevity such as Scott Jurek, Mark Allen and others all write about their annual breaks of a month or more from running and training.  I also recalled at the time another olympic runner with longevity in the sport who purposefully abstains from running a single step for a month and lives sedentarily while eating in such a way as to gain twenty pounds during his annual "rest".  The purposeful weight gain may be an extreme example, but when it comes to healing a worn body each year such an approach might also be worthwhile.

I settled on a "rest" of exactly 6 weeks.

Kick the Habit

Because of my fatigue issues and dependence on caffeine for reasonable running, removing a daily mega-dose of a stimulant seemed like the right thing to do.  It was much more difficult to eliminate my caffeine intake than I anticipated.  Here are my brief recollections of this process that I actually started two weeks before my running break.

Week 1 - My running immediately dropped to a slow and half-hearted effort each and every time I  got out the door.  I slept for 11-12 hours a night for the entire week.  I had extreme difficulty waking up despite these epic bouts of sleep.  I was still constantly tired and also took many naps.  After a short pilgrimage to Death Valley and Badwater basin to explore I recall falling asleep in the car for at least another hour one day.  It's a good thing we were on vacation.

Week 2 - I slept 11 - 12 hours a night, and still had trouble waking up.  I began supplementing with licorice root, magnesium, vitamin c, and cod liver oil.  I did find that the licorice root helped with maintaing a stable (albeit low) energy level throughout the day.  I would recommend the licorice root as an herb worth investigating to anyone looking to recover from potentially coffee induced burnout.

Week 3 - I slept around 9 - 10 hours per night, and at least felt stable but sub-par energy levels each day.  Although not energetic, I felt better when I thought about how bad I felt the first week.

Week 4 - I slept around 9 hours a night and most noticeably started to feel that I was much more relaxed and stress free.

Week 5, 6, 7 and 8 - My sleep remained constant at 8 to 9 hours per night, and gradually I noticed that I felt energy levels formerly associated with coffee merely from getting out of bed in the morning or eating a little fruit at breakfast.

Kicking the caffeine habit was tough, but ultimately the end result was worth it.  If I consider the timeline of improvements objectively, I believe recovery took practically a full eight weeks.  My overall hydration, energy and appetite have become much more consistent.  Had I generally used a moderate and controlled intake of coffee without side effects I would probably not have decided to go this route.  For me however, I simply need to recall my overall state of fatigue in the time prior to this break to see that eliminating caffeine and coffee as a variable was a good idea.

Improve the Body

Small compensations in a running stride after injury can over time cause some strange asymmetries  in function to manifest themselves.  I discovered this when standing on my left leg, and then my right leg and attempting to balance on each.  My left and weaker but typically uninjured leg was far superior in balance to the right.  Since I wasn't running I made this a daily focus.  I balanced on one leg on both sides of a bosu ball for up to an hour each day.  Without running I had freed up quite a bit of training time to use for alternate purposes.


I did this for hours each week.  It wasn't that fun.  I did not wear a sports bra.
I suggest headphones and some good podcasts or music.

I also followed up balance exercises with a circuit of calf, quad, glute, hamstring, hip flexor and hip rotator stretches and foam rolling.  In addition to poor balance, my right leg also lacked the flexibility of the left.  Although it did feel strange to spend an hour at the gym doing noticeably unusual amounts of foam rolling and stretching I also took some solace in the fact that passer bys probably assumed from my regimin and running attire that I must be serious and have recently finished running many miles.

In the end my flexibility improved after about a month and my balance and control on either side has improved to the point that I can balance on foot, ball, or a rolling board for likely ten times my previous limit.

Over the last three weeks of the "rest" I also focused some of my efforts on daily weight training focusing primarily on leg and core strength.  I even did some laps of "power skipping" around the SRSC track to hopefully get a little more power in my toe off.  I skipped faster than most people ran so that was a little odd for both of us when the occasional pass by occurred on the track.

Reset

After all this preparation, I declared Saturday, December 1st to be my first day to train again.  The entire rest and caffeine withdrawal process felt much like pressing the "reset" button on an overly difficult build of running base.

To make sure I minimize injury risk, for the time being I am going to back to a triathlon training schedule I had self tested for 9 months in preparation for an Ironman in 2009.  At the moment, this is allowing me to quickly build cardiovascular base and add some all around strength with swimming and cycling that I wouldn't get otherwise.

I'm not sure yet how long I'll stick with this sort of plan (only 3 or 4 running days a week) but for the time being I'm enjoying the variety and some renewed desire and energy to train.  Typically I have kicked off focused training in January, so I do feel like I have a well rested head start and an early new year that started in December.

I'm almost done with two weeks of this, and each day I have essentially sprung out of bed clamoring for a challenge.  It feels good to be back at it!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Haribo Macht Runner Froh


I woke up yesterday with a restlessness to get out on the road and run.  I opened our porch door to check the weather conditions and saw that the cool temperatures were also complemented by a clear and sunny sky.  I had a good week of shorter runs this week, but had also been craving a good long run.  It's been almost a year since I've ran longer than marathon distance.  I combed the kitchen for gels, fruit bars, or some other reasonable snack to pack along.

I finally found an old bag of one of my favorites.  I rate Haribo Happy-Cola in my personal top five list of gummy style candies.  Each tiny cola bottle has a satisfying but easy to chew consistency and a flavor that effectively emulates a tiny bottle filled with cola.  I questioned whether a single bag would provide enough calories, and upon looking over the nutritional content I was satisfied that it would.  One full bag contained 580 calories, of which about 70% were from sugar.  Surprisingly, this also included about 12g of protein.

I put the bag in my waist pack and set out on the road.  I ran east through town and was soon free of the traffic and relaxing on the slight downhill grade of Lampkins Ridge road.  After about an hour I consumed six or seven tiny colas without breaking stride.  The gummy bottles were easily chewed and swallowed and only required a minimal sip of water to wash down.  If only these tiny bottles of cola were also caffeinated!

I continued to eat a few every 30 minutes and as the miles counted off and I ran over the hills east and north of Bloomington I managed to totally stave off any hunger.  I stopped once for a refill of my hand bottle at the "Short Stop Food Mart" (13 miles) and then again at another convenience store on the north side of town (24 miles).  At the second stop I filled my hand bottle with a mix of half water and half Mountain Dew.  I had brought a few dollars and offered to pay the price of a small polar pop but the friendly staff simply wouldn't allow it.

Pleased with my good fortune, I finished my last few happy cola bottles and welcomed the kick a little Mountain Dew provided.  Finally, I looped my way around the B-line trail and through the middle of campus.  As I picked up the pace for my last few 7 to 8 minute miles I felt a wave of elation that I rode all the way back to the house.

I had run over 30 miles.  It felt good to run long again, and I had a new snack to recommend to any other gummy candy obsessed runners.


Friday, September 14, 2012

How to Run Commute

I'm always looking for ways to integrate more running into my day.  Run commuting has worked out pretty well for me to add in a few additional miles.  Looking back at the last 7 weeks in my running log, I've run to or from work 25 times.  Otherwise I ride my bike, which is technically cross training but doesn't really require too much effort.

I started run commuting occasionally back at the beginning of 2011.  The initial problems I thought I would encounter turned out to not be such an issue.  Here in the form of a Q&A are the things I wondered myself.

What kind of bag will be comfortable to run in?  Do I have anything that will work?
I tried the typical unstructured cloth race giveaway bag (more of a sack) a few times.  No matter how I tried wrapping the strings, tightening, etc. it never worked very well and swung around way too much to be comfortable.  I ended up using a "fast pack / day pack" sort of bag I got as a gift.  These can be incredibly cheap.  The REI Flash Pack 18 I have been using for almost two years has an MSRP of only 34.95.



The bag has held up for almost two years of use and abuse (carry it on my bike too) and that seems like a pretty good test so far.  It has chest and waist straps so if adjusted and packed well it's extremely comfortable.  The largest load I typically run with includes lunch, a change of clothes, shoes, and a Macbook Air.

What about breakfast, won't a full stomach be uncomfortable to run with every day?
I typically eat for breakfast 3-4 eggs, a grapefruit or banana, toast, and occasionally an avocado as well.  If we have bacon or turkey bacon, I'll sometimes eat that too.  I would consider this a decently protein and fat heavy breakfast.  Even so, after my first few times running with a "fuller" stomach I found it not to be an issue.  The intensity of my running first thing in the morning tends to be low and limited in distance by the commute itself (usually under 3 miles).  That definitely helps.  A full stomach might not be good for a hard workout or race, but seems to be just fine running at a less than 80% of maximum heart rate type effort.

What about clothing?  How can I not hopelessly wrinkle up dress clothes?
So far, packing clothing has worked out well for me.  If I roll a nice cylinder of pants and shirt and make sure these are on top of the bag wrinkles tend to me minimal.  Another solution I have used  some is to just leave a few shirts and pants or dress shoes at work to make packing up everything even easier.  There was one day I carried a poorly sealed container of indian food and accidentally packed it on top of the dress clothes.  This ended in some leaking and curry smell infused clothing.  Make sure to put food on the bottom.

What if I don't shower, won't I smell terrible?
I am lucky in this respect.  Since I work at a fitness facility, I have a great locker room with showers waiting for me at work.  However, I have alternatively showered at home before and just refreshed with some deodorant at work upon arrival.  I've found that showering first still leaves me feeling fresh and clean as my skin and pores were clean to begin with.  So I think either way could work pretty well.  Also if I commute early the combination of low effort, cool weather and minimal sunlight makes a big difference in overall sweat anyway.

How will this affect my workout, since these will pretty much be just junk miles?
First, I don't really believe in junk miles.  Every mile counts for something in the grand scheme of developing fitness.  A few slow morning miles can greatly improve my preparation for "higher quality" runs later in the day.  I've noticed that I feel warmed up and super alert all morning at work after running to work.  This feeling of being completely warmed up remains when I begin a lunch or late afternoon workout.  I've also noticed that my second run of the day in these cases (or even my commute back home) feels even better than if I hadn't run earlier that day.  If I'm beat up from a workout the day before, the morning "shakeout" seems to help my legs feel fresh for a later run.

What about adverse weather?  What if it's really cold or it rains and my stuff gets all wet?
I've found colder weather to improve my commuting experience.  I have battled occasionally with cold temperatures cycling to work where the wind feels relentless in creating discomfort in the body's extremities.  Running has been a great solution to this problem since I naturally stay warm at a higher intensity and slower speed.  Also, I sweat even less in the cold conditions that aren't comfortable for cycling.  When the rain comes, I found a pack cover to be the most important piece of equipment I own.  I found a cheap pack cover that stuffs up into a tiny ball to keep in my pack in case of rain.  Since I'm changing clothes it doesn't matter much if I myself get wet.  Something like this would probably work well, mine is similar.

Those are the big questions I had.  I have been hard pressed to find reasons not to run to work!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pushing the Pace Early in a 5K

My blog updates have been sparse as of late.  To all you readers of "The Running Yoders" (all 2 or 3 of you), I present the "fall blog series".  The idea of a series came to me today while running, as a way of forcing myself to put up a few posts in a timely manner.

Today, while running a short loop around the neighborhood and trying to briefly pull myself into a 5k effort level I started thinking about how a well run 5k feels.  At least for myself, it is on the edge of extreme discomfort for as long as I can sustain.  I still think one of the most difficult feats in distance running is to truly run the best 5k one is capable of.

When I was thinking back, my fitness and preparation really don't seem comparable in any of my best 5K performances.  In my recollections, only the effort I sustained and pacing strategy does.

There was a good article on The Science of Sport a few years ago (and perhaps again more recently), that had a bell curve showing the pacing of world record performances in several shorter distance races.  I recall reading other articles aggregating PR performances that show a similar pacing outcome.  I think for me (and maybe you) my best 5K can only come from a pacing strategy that looks like this:


Optimal 5K Pacing Strategy by Kilometer

I still think I have no handle on judging 5K fitness, or on really pressing myself to the limit.  I enjoy racing long distances for the most part.  But I keep thinking about pushing myself past the limit for a mile and hanging on for dear life until I can regroup and finish fast.  I still haven't actually settled on a single race for the fall.  But, I'm starting to think about it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A 5K Hot Streak

As the summer rolls on, Katie continues to maintain a solid streak of 5K racing including last weekend's Sarah Jones 5K in Bloomington (part of the Mag 7 Race Series).  Thanks to a flat course and an agressive first mile, Katie was able to finally break 23 minutes and finish in 22:57!

Here's the breakdown of recent 5K racing:

24:08 DINO Series Brown County Trail 5K (3rd 25-29)

24:46 Judah Jog 5K (2nd 20-29)

22:47 Sarah Jones 5K (2nd 25-29)


Age Group Medaling at Brown County (Photo from Trevor Pittman)


Fast First Mile at Judah Jog

A PR High 5 from Tim after the Sarah Jones 5K

Next up for Katie will be the Brown County XC Challenge this coming Saturday.  This is another Magnificent 7 Series race and run on the Brown County High School cross country course.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Update

I just realized it's been around 30 days since my last post.  There have been plenty of post-worthy happenings so instead of rolling them all into one post I'll be working on some individual "catch up" posts for some of these.

Happenings include:
  • Cross training and adventuring with a tandem kayak
  • A trip to Lake Patoka and running challenging trails at Ferdinand State Park
  • Several 50+ mile weeks and a track workout for me (it's been a while)
  • Some new shoe experience and reviewing of the New Balance MT110, Merrell Trail Glove, Brooks Pure Grit, Brooks Pure Cadence, and New Balance RC 1400
  • Some other new gear and nutrition experiments
  • Finishing lots of running related books including Running with the Buffaloes, Becoming Odyssa (Jennifer Pharr Davis), Running with Joy (Ryan Hall), The Marathoners (Hal Higdon), Eat and Run (Scott Jurek)
  • First trail race of the year at the DINO Brown County 5K (Katie) / 15K (Me)
  • A roadtrip with camping and running out west in Colorado and Utah
  • A rock/foot collision that ended with a new (but minor) injury for me
  • A 5K this upcoming weekend for Katie

I have lots of writing to do.

Running up the Continental Divide

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ferris Ridge Trail

For me, part of the joy of running is exploring interesting terrain that can't be well explored any other way.  I've now made two visits to a relatively unused ridge trail off of TC Steele Road (accessed from SR 46) that is just south of the TC Steele State Memorial.



This is an out and back trail but can be used as a connector to McGowan Road along the north fork of Lake Monroe with a little of bit of effort to get through heavy undergrowth and brush.  The key landmark to look for as the end of the "somewhat groomed" portion of the trail is a huge grove of very tall pine trees near Lake Monroe that can also easy be spotted on Google satellite view near the North Fork Wildlife Refuge.




This is part of the Yellowwood Forest and really doesn't have any other name that I could find other than Ferris Ridge as it is identified on a topographical map.  The trailhead is pretty inconspicuous but there is just enough room to park off the side of the road without blocking the entrance.


Trailhead (from my early spring visit)

As I ran into the trail this past Sunday, I noticed the grassy trail was a little trickier to run on than the early spring when there was less ground cover.  This ground cover combined with sticks, etc. scattered below it create a somewhat tricky run.  This probably wouldn't be my top recommendation right now for people who trip frequently.


The ground cover was actually volatile enough this time to snag one of the tiny square holes in the forefoot of the MT110s and create a giant hole.  If I didn't like this trail so much I would have been pretty irritated at the ruination of my favorite trail shoe.




Despite this setback, I cemented my opinion that this trail is awesome for a few reasons.  First, there doesn't seem to ever be anyone on it.  Second, the gradual roll along the ridge is useful if looking for a nice easy trail run that still isn't totally flat.  Third, after almost three miles in where the grove of pine trees marking the end of the groomed (sort of) trail appears there seems to be a hotspot of wildlife activity.


Landmark: The clearing with pine trees behind the front layer of trees


So far in only two trips (one last week, one in January) back here I have:
  • Seen several deer stand and look at me and then run around the ridge
  • Observed and stalked a wild turkey from the trail down into a valley
  • Had a coyote trot out of the woods right in front of me, stand and look at me and then trot off again
  • Had an odd and silent encounter with a large rather mean looking opossum


I'd like to get faster at getting my camera out to film but I did manage to capture this footage below of this opossum when I came out in January.



This last visit, I also found out that the connection to McGowan road from the "pine tree" area isn't too difficult to navigate.  This is especially useful since this will be a key piece of the almost entirely off road route I plan to use to run from Bloomington connecting to the Tecumseh trail and then through Brown County State Park to the Trail's End restaurant (near Stone Head).  This won't be until I'm ready for a longer point to point run.   So, not just yet.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Running at Red River Gorge (Gray's Arch)

Yesterday I covered Auxier Ridge and the adjoining loop trail in Red River Gorge.  Our first loop on Friday was the Gray's Arch trail, leading to my personal favorite formation in the area.




We saw some pretty amazing things on Friday running from our campsite on Tunnel Ridge Road to the Gray's Arch trail, Rough trail, and then Rush Ridge trail.


The views overlooking the gorge along Tunnel Ridge Road were expansive.  Tunnel Ridge Road also had some interesting trees with enormous flowers hanging down from them that neither of us had seen before.







Flowers as big as your head!

Things really started to get interesting as we moved from smooth sandy trails along cliffs toward the lower reaches of the Gorge.  As we walked out one overhang, we caught our first look at Gray's Arch.



From this easily (if not watching on the right of the trail for it) missed overhang looking down at the arch we ran down toward the it.  Moving toward the arch there also a sweet cliff next to the overhang we came from that dripped a small "shower" down toward us.  It was pretty hot at the time so the cooler area and natural shower were a nice break.


There were also plenty of cliff walls along the way with walls that looked like this one below with the oddly patterned designs.


We ran into a cave under the overhang we were originally standing on above and took a picture out at the arch.




After a steep and rocky climb up to the level of the arch, we actually after much deliberation climbed up the sheer side of the arch and onto the top.  This was quite an accomplishment in overcoming fear to us non rock climbers.  Katie can be seen celebrating below.


 We then ran further down the Gray's Arch trail to the Rough Trail and back on the Rush Ridge trail which took us down across some creeks and up some extremely steep climbs and then along cliffs back to where we started.



A clear view on the Rush Ridge trail where a forest fire had cleared some trees

This run was a great way to start the weekend.  After seeing some pretty amazing sights along the trail we were eager to see more.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Running at Red River Gorge (Auxier Ridge Trail Loop)

Much like I said in our last post, the trails within the Red River Gorge geological area were certainly varied.  They were also full of intrigue and scenic views.  The most difficult part of keeping a steady pace on the trails was continually running into interesting geological formations.  If I had to pick one "must run" route for a visit to Red River Gorge it would be the following loop from Saturday.




We ran up the Auxier Ridge Trail and then left to the Courthouse Rock Trail, past Haystack Rock, Courthouse Rock, back on to Auxier Ridge and then turned around and came back around the Auxier Branch Trail with a detour up to Double Arch and back around the loop to return to the parking lot near Nada Tunnel where we started.  Auxier Ridge is probably the best view in the park, basically running along wide expanses of the Gorge.  After the higher single track and lots of pines we dropped down at into floor of the Gorge where it felt like a rainforest.  I said over and over again that if I woke up in the lower Gorge trails I would probably assume I had been dropped off in South America.




The whole loop was rugged, steep (>15%) at times and required some climbing and jumping over large rocks and gaps.  The last 1.5 miles on the "Double Arch" trail back down to the parking lot were pretty much smooth rolling dirt road so quite a departure from the rest of the trails.


Here are some photos I shot along the way.  As you might be able to tell we ran in alternating sprinkling rain or fog depending on our elevation most of the way.


Looking off Auxier Ridge Trail
Off the ridge and onto the Courthouse Rock Trail
Up toward Courthouse Rock
Back side of Courthouse Rock
Front side of Courthouse Rock
Out and Back from Courthouse Rock on Auxier Ridge
Looking through the fog off the Ridge
Running up the Auxier Branch trail toward Double Arch
Double Arch

Looking back at the Auxier Ridge trail from near Double Arch
An orange friend on the trail








Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Camping at Red River Gorge

This last weekend we made a trip to the Red River Gorge geological area within the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky.  From Bloomington, this is only a 3.5 - 4 hour drive so perfect for a weekend adventure!

The Map




Everything that was critical to this adventure was found on this linked map.  Topography would have been nice but we had fun being surprised by cliffs, steep climbs and sort of discovering the layout of the gorge by scoping locations we had been to from the high points.


Camping


This is a great place to camp.  We found several excellent primitive sites throughout the area, and the "Koomer Ridge" campground was also reasonably priced at 20 a night with nice gravel tent pads and pack hanging poles.  The spots in Koomer Ridge were very far apart, quiet, and also all connected to the Koomer Ridge trail, the Sheltowee Trace trail (stretches for 250 miles point to point) and the rest of the trail system.  We decided to try these out on Saturday night and used it as a base for our Sunday morning run.



The spots we used on Friday night up on Tunnel Ridge Road were even better.  At several points along the gravel road close to trailheads are small gravel lots with a modern pit toilet and a trail leading back to two or three isolated campsites with no evidence marking the site but a primitive fire ring made of rocks.  A five dollar "three day" back country parking pass purchased from local stores in the town of Slade nearby is the only cost associated!  These are  right next to the southmost "cliff" of the gorge so were a great place to start a run on the trails from.


We've also been working on our efficiency of tent setup, so I decided the process could use a little post-setup video analysis.





Departing from these campsites, we ran and hiked pretty much every marked trail in the park from Friday evening to Sunday morning, and used our limited climbing skills to climb up a few large rock, arch and cliff formations along the way.  This ended up totaling around 25 - 30 miles for the weekend, with a great mix of terrain.  The trails included lots of scenic rock bridges connecting ridge top cliff trails along what I would consider the "Grand Canyon" of the midwest.


I just started compiling the numerous photos I collected along the trails, so a follow up with my favorites will be my next post.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New Balance MT110: The Review

Google New Balance MT110 and apparently you'll end up at this website.  I wrote a very brief post about getting the shoes as an early Christmas gift.  I say brief, because I literally only wrote about one sentence, and was still injured so not really running.  Since December, this non-review has been clicked from a Google search over 160 times.

So to you 160 anonymous blog readers sent from Google, I dedicate this actual shoe review.  I apologize for your fruitless search for information that ended in a photo of our Christmas tree and only one sentence of actual information indicating that the MT110 was indeed an early Christmas present.


About a month ago, I began running again and was convinced the stiff sole and forefoot roll of the Newton shoe was just the thing I needed to run comfortably and prevent irritation of plantar plate.  Unfortunately, after two runs and about a week I figured out these were not the shoe for me.  The top of my feet hurt for some reason, and I just couldn't get used to running around in a shoe that felt so blocky.  I might try them again sometime.

In the meantime, I had been waiting patiently to try out the MT110.  Since I was frustrated with the Newtons, the time had come.  I ran for 3 or 4 miles on road and trail on my first time out in the shoes, and I knew immediately I had stumbled onto a great shoe.

If you have a narrower foot and lace these tightly, the "hug" of the shoe from ankle to mid foot just feels extremely secure and balanced with no tight or uncomfortable spots.


Looking at the shoe from above, what I felt in the fit is also visually apparent.  The shoe has a narrow and comfortably secure mid foot, but also a spacious but not ridiculously wide forefoot that gives your toes adequate room to spread without blistering.  This is simply for my taste one of the best fitting shoes I have ever worn.

The inside of the shoe doesn't have a traditional insole, and has a thin liner surrounding upper of the shoe.  In both my road and trail runs done without socks my feet have been comfortable with no uncomfortable rubbing.  Also when running sockless, I didn't get the achilles tendon rubbing and eventual bleeding I had from the New Balance Minimus Road or MT101.

I've now ran every mile for three weeks in the MT110.  Although not designed as a road shoe, it actually works out pretty well.  The mid foot lugs made of a less resilient rubber compound have worn down pretty quickly, but the heel and forefoot lugs still look new even with road abuse.  The shoe has just enough cushioning to be comfortable on the road with a mid foot strike.  The first few times I ran in the shoe due to the low 4mm heel to toe drop I had a little upper achilles tendon irritation on my less flexible right calf.  As I have settled in to running in the shoe and worn it walking quite a bit I haven't had any trouble.

As for trails, the sole isn't quite as grippy as I thought it might be on wet rock, etc. but is overall grippy enough.  The light feel of the shoe and precise fit does make trail running feel particularly nimble and a little like dancing on trail when tricky footwork is required.

I've put the most miles on the shoe in the Deam Wilderness, and this is a case where the shoe particularly excels.  Because of the often muddy, wet and creek crossing filled lower areas on the trails it is probably my favorite shoe I've worn there.  Instead of worrying about hopping on rocks I have just blazed through the water and it feels great.  The shoe drained incredibly quickly after these crossings and I forgot that it was soaking wet.  Even immediately after a creek crossing the shoe didn't feel heavy.

Also having kicked or stepped on roots and rocks I would argue the shoe has adequate protection in the front as well as under the forefoot in the rock plate.  I think that for Bloomington area trail running this will be my usual shoe for a while.

Post run, the shoe is easy to clean up because the synthetic surface just wipes down for removing layers of mud.  The exterior of the shoe is also reasonably tough as the shoes still look new.  For some reason the interior gets very smelly though, so I have battled trying to air it out somewhat.

The Breakdown

Good

  • Lower price than competing shoes at $85 MSRP
  • Minimal, but more cushioning and greater stiffness than most other "minimalist" shoes out there
  • Minimal, but adequate protection for the foot
  • Very light weight (7.7 oz)
  • Fast draining and doesn't get water logged
  • Awesome fit for the narrow foot
  • Reasonable toebox avoids blister
  • Perfect "no sock" interior
  • Silver color is cool
  • Durable and cleans up easily
  • Knowing ultramarathoner Anton Krupicka has contributed to the design while logging hundreds of miles in the shoe

Bad

  • More expensive than the MT101 was
  • Gets smelly inside pretty quickly
  • Not that cushioned, but if you like the feel this doesn't really matter
  • 4mm drop and relatively small platform might make this a tough shoe to run a 50+ mile ultramarathon in
  • Probably not the best shoe for a heel strike on harder surfaces
  • Knowing ultramarathoner Anton Krupicka has logged hundreds of miles in the shoe and is still battling injury

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Running Together Again

I've been to three doctors, and five different physical therapists since December.  I admit, I probably would visit ten times that number if I had to.

I think the injury to my foot has finally healed.  I'm cautious about believing this, but I think this is the case.  I still felt that my foot was tight two weeks ago, and I began having aches all over the rest of my forefoot but not exactly the swelling in one spot I did before.  My ability to run reasonably, forefoot flexibility and pain have improved dramatically over the last two weeks.  In the process, I think I've learned a lot from my previous mistakes and how to return from injury and prevent re-injury.  I'm finally starting to feel confident running again.  I credit this to three different plans of attack:

Fixing flexibility issues on my right leg:  Calf, Ankle, Hip

The reward for really getting to the root of some of my specific issues goes to a physical therapist at St. Vincent Sports Medicine (ask me for a name if you need one, he was clearly superior to any other I have ever visited in his attention to detail and knowledge).  My right foot dorsiflexion (bringing toes toward shin) suffers from flexibility issues at the calf, ankle, and achilles tendon.  The actual measured angle difference between right and left foot upper limit of dorsiflexion was 11 degrees!  I can't quote numbers on my hip but suffice to say the flexibility difference between left to right was glaring.  I've continued to use a number of stretches recommended on a daily basis.

Fixing left/right strength discrepancies and balance

I have a weaker right piriformis and gluteus minimus, weaker left quad, and weaker right calf. My weekly strength training now includes all of the following exercises:
  • 1 Legged Squats
  • 1 Legged Calf Raises
  • 1 Legged Dead Lift
  • Individual Leg Extension
  • Individual Sideways Hip Extension
  • Individual Foot Raises (dorsiflexion with resistance from pulley)
  • Lunges
  • Front, back, and side planks (core)
  • Back Extension on Exercise Ball
  • Crunches on Exercise Ball
  • Crunches with holds and legs extended and separated in Roman Chair
  • Inner and outer thigh weight machine
  • Balancing on an upside down bosu ball with one leg
  • Quick climbs on the Stairmaster at 120-135 stairs per minute
The strength gains I've made in such a short time have been greater than I expected.

Fixing my foot, eliminating the symptoms

With great results, I have continued to just hot water bathe and continuously massage the bottom of my foot with a golf ball.  This definitely has been working, and is even more effective when I start my day with the hot water bath and massage.  By the time I start moving around the foot tightness and pain is gone.

I also finally visited a podiatrist (Bloomington Foot and Ankle Center) and was pleased to get some  answers and a plan to eliminate the roughness and pain in my forefoot.  It did take a while to get in for an appointment (three weeks) but was well worth the wait.  The original foot pain I had was caused by a now healed but previously strained / damaged plantar plate according to his diagnosis.  I started up with an immediate twice a week graston and ultrasonic treatment on the bottom of my forefoot and plantar fascia.  This also seems to be working, as my tendons and plantar plate are starting to feel "smooth" again.

Supplementing

Just to make sure the healing process isn't delayed by an deficiencies I've been taking Cod Liver Oil and a "real food" based multivitamin.  I'm not sure if this has contributed to the healing, but I have been sleeping well and seem to be bouncing back quickly from long bike rides which I think is a good sign.

Back to Running Together

In the meantime, I've been running every other day with Katie.  In the last two weeks, we got to run trails at the Deam Wilderness, Lake Griffey, Morgan Monroe Low Gap Trail, and around town a bit.  Katie's faster than me right now and it just feels great to tag along and be out on the trails and roads again.

The last three weeks have totalled 11, 12, and 13 miles respectively.  This is absolutely the slowest and most controlled "return" to running I have ever done.  I guess I am accidentally observing the often quoted "10 percent" weekly mileage increase rule for the first time in my life!

Cycling for Cross Training and the Nashville 90

I think my leg strength has been helped on the trails from all the cycling.  I've been cross training on my bike almost every day in order to sort of "use up" my energy to keep the temptation at bay to run too much right now.  I've kept up my weekly long rides and managed to ride the "Nashville 90" route on Monday.  I forgot how beautiful, fast, and fun this route is.  I haven't ridden the whole thing since Ironman training in 2009 and I had forgotten completely about SR 58.  This road has light traffic, fast rolling hills, and plenty of great views of the forested hills to the north and south.







Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Training

Spring has brought unseasonably warm (80+) weather and perfect conditions for runners and cyclists alike.  We took advantage of this last week during Katie's spring break week as we made our way to Pensacola, FL and back for rest, relaxation and some great training.


Saturday


We kicked off the week with a Saturday "St. Patrick's Day" 5K in Nashville, TN.  I spectated while Katie ran her first 5K of the year.  She finished in under 24 minutes but thanks to a timing chip malfunction we aren't sure exactly where she finished but would have fallen in the top 10 of 300 females in her age group.  I thought this was impressive considering her back of the pack start and pushing through a crowd of 2500+ runners.






Sunday


After arriving in Pensacola, we visited the the Gulf Islands National Seashore where I climbed up a roughly two story old artillery bunker and then went for a short barefoot run of about 30 minutes on the beach.  I forgot how incredibly difficult it is to run in sinking sand and the top of my right foot felt pretty sore but overall I was just happy to be running with my feet free and soaking in ocean water and air.


Later I went out for an out and back bike ride with roughly 15 miles of hard effort sandwiched between two easy spins for a total of 45 miles.  This was a mostly flat route with four "bridge" climbs over the harbor.


Monday


Monday Katie and I rode from Pensacola Beach through the Gulf Islands National Seashore to Fort Pickens and back to Pensacola Beach.  We did the mistake of riding with the wind first so our first taste of ocean headwind was a shock.  This barrier island is a "must ride" in my opinion as it is 48 miles long and almost entirely national park and natural beaches with few visitors.  There aren't many cars either, and either large bike lane shoulders or bike paths are on both sides of the road.  We fueled our 40 mile ride with some delicious vegetable and fruit smoothies as there was unfortunately no ice cream available on the island.





We also found a local running store called Running Wild and had to stop in and check it out.  We chatted with the owner and discovered that the area definitely has far more triathletes than trail runners (which I thought might be the case given how many aerobars on other bikes we saw while out riding).  We tried a new flavor of GU (Peanut Butter) which we both liked a lot, and got a new electrolyte drink that I especially liked.  I've not seen Nuun brand "Kona Cola" electrolyte tablets before but they made the water taste just like a watered down flat diet coke which might sound questionable but is great with a little ice.  I definitely will add these to my rotation of drinks.







Tuesday


We rode another "out and back" route on the island over a bridge to the mainland and back, with a stop for fish tacos in between.  Since we had the wind at our back we pressed through a "time trial" in what looked like Death Valley between ocean and harbor in the Navarre Beach Park.  Katie and I both tried to reach a "flat land speed record" and were each successful.  I topped out on the flat in my big chain ring at 37 mph which was a shock to me.  It was still extremely difficult to sustain this "max speed" for more than 10 to 15 seconds even with the mega tailwind at our back.  It was another good day of cycling ending with almost 30 miles.


After our ride, we also ran an "out and back" on the desolate park beach for about 25 minutes.  With the rough ocean washing up anything and everything, we saw a portuguese man-o-war roughly ever 10 to 20 feet along the sand so that added some extra challenge to the barefoot running.


Wednesday


Wednesday morning Katie and I ran along the Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway and then down to the Bay Bluffs Park for a total of about 55 minutes of easy running and hiking.  The Pensacola Bluffs Scenic Highway is definitely beautiful with nicely rolling hills, cliffs reminiscent of a California coastal highway, and beautiful views over the harbor.  I saw plenty of other runners and cyclists on this route, so it must be a local favorite.






In the afternoon I got in a longer ride north of Pensacola over the Highway 90 (Scenic Bluffs Highway) Escambia Bay Bridge to the Blackwater Heritage Trail (long paved trail) and then back for a total of 75 miles.  This was my first ever double road flat so I was glad I brought along a second spare tube.  There were plenty of reasonably challenging rolling hills along much of this route as well so I ended up reasonably beat by my return.




Thursday


In the evening I rode an out and back 30 mile route to Pensacola Beach from the Pensacola mainland, crossing both the 3 mile Pensacola Bay bridge and the Pensacola Beach bridge.  This was by far the windiest day and I was absolutely decimated by the wind as I struggled to cross the 3 mile bridge at more than 11 mph.


On the way back, I then felt the true power of this wind over the 3 mile bridge.  Over the entire 3 mile bridge crossing I was able to sustain between 30 and 35 mph.  I felt plenty of fear as well as exhilaration as I tried to visualize how I would abandon my bike in the sea and swim to shore should I fly off the side of the bridge.  At this speed with gusts of wind pushing me forward this seemed like a real possibility to prepare for.  Regardless, it was amazing to push my big ring that hard and I briefly got an idea of what it must be like to be awesome (in the cycling sense).


For the week . . .


Racing: 1 5k for Katie


Running: 110 minutes with some walking mixed in . . . but who cares, I was running again!


Cycling: 220 miles


This was a great week for Katie and I as we both trained and ate well.  Also, with a little bit of running (finally) I felt a growing sense of confidence in my formerly injured foot.  I kept rolling my foot over a golf ball each morning and evening which really seemed to eliminate both any tightness and pain.  Had IU beaten Kentucky during our end of week visit to Atlanta it would have been a beyond perfect week.


Finally after we returned I took advantage of the Sunday weather and ran my first "real" run in months of 3 miles on the Bloomington Rail Trail with Katie.  I followed this up with almost 40 miles of cycling including some tough climbing on TC Steele road, and still came home with no foot pain.