Monday, December 12, 2011

Yeah, well, hey.

So here in a dusty corner of a shabby closet of a neglected ramshackle home on the interwebs sits my poor neglected running blog.  Perhaps it's time to clear a few cobwebs.  Since my last post I:

  • ran a half marathon in a blazing PR, when all I wanted to do was just finish;
  • injured my achilles by trying to go a bit too minimal too fast
  • did a lot of things that involved food, some of which were eating;
  • gained a bunch of weight back (ugh)
  • started training for the Goofy Challenge this next January and 
  • set a new high for weekly miles (including 40 miles run over the span of 3 days).  
I'm actually feeling pretty good despite the crazy running week and the time off.  In 26 days I will line up for a half marathon.  In 27 days I will line up for a marathon.  Somewhere the patron saint of idiots is paying special attention to me.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Still recovering

from that nasty calf strain I had.  And I think I jumped into training too fast, although I didn't have much of a choice, what with a half marathon around the corner.

I've lost more speed than I wanted to as well, so I might just take it easy this time around.  Race in 2 weeks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Gait Analysis

In my never-ending quest to spend more money in the pursuit of running, one of the things that I've had my eyes on for some time is a gait analysis.  Not the sort of thing that is done at a running store, mind you, but a real one, with videos and professionals and everything.

Luckily for me, there's a place nearby that does just this sort of thing.  I had the full test done last Friday - both a lactate test and a gait analysis.  The lactate test - while a great thing - involved too much poking of fingers and taking of blood for me to care to recount at this time.  While all of this finger poking and blood taking was going on, the biomechanicist was taking video of me running.  After a full 5 minutes of analyzing the video, this is what she had to say.  Keep in mind the only thing she knew about me before hand was that I was just coming off of a calf strain.

- Her immediate first question:  "You've just spent a lot of time switching from a heel strike to a midfoot strike, haven't you?"  Apparently it was obvious from my stride.

- The reason why it was obvious:  my foot strike has gone too far in the opposite direction.  Essentially I am planting my toes first, which is putting some crazy tension on my gastrocs...which is why I had a calf strain in the first place.  So big change number one is to move back towards the middle of my foot - striking with the entire foot at the same time, not just the balls of my feet.

- The news is not all bad:  my strength work in my hips, my work on cadence, stride length, etc. has all paid off.  There are some other flaws that were obviously but for the most part I have a mechanically efficient stride (save the issue above). 

- Most interesting part of the discussion:  I asked about pronation. For the first year or so after I started running, I couldn't figure out what shoes to use.  Different people at different stores told me all sorts of stuff, and I've been through all sorts of shoes.  She said that I do pronate just a bit, but that I have a natural bowed structure to my lower legs and if I go into stability or motion control shoes I'll have IT problems.  Which is precisely what happened two years ago. 

I'm working on making the slight tweaks to my form now - I've got six weeks until my next race, which doesn't give me much time. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I haven't posted in a while

because I haven't run in a while.  Calf has still be healing up.  Instead, I've been doing a lot of cycling, swimming, and learning photoshop (the latter is only important inasmuch as I can use it to visually change my finish times).

I ran a couple of miles this week and am going to try to do 3 more tomorrow.  After that it's the long climb back up to serious mileage.

Yes, swimming, cycling and running is a formula for a triathlon.  I have a half ironman in October.  I'm worried about the swimming only.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sometimes you just have a bad race

And I did on Saturday.  At mile 9 my myriad injuries made it very obvious that I was either going to take it easy, or I was likely going to spend the next six months trying to rehab a torn achilles and a ruptured calf.  Not surprising, considering that two weeks ago I didn't think I was going to even go to Utah for the race and five days ago I didn't even think I was going to line up.

I ended up finishing in 4:57, which is more than an hour slower than my last race.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed - I trained harder than ever and am - on paper - faster than I've ever been.  But I'm proud of finishing in spite of all the reasons I shouldn't have.  And I have a new appreciation for all of the 5 hour marathon people.

I am especially proud of my brother, however.  He ran his first marathon (we ran together for the first 9 miles until I told him to go without me) and he finished in an amazing 3:32.  Couldn't have been more proud.

As for me, I'm going to take a month off of running and then start trying to train up for a half ironman in October.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Health issues

I've mentioned before that I've been struggling with shin splints a bit over the past few weeks.  I've been cycling and swimming to give myself some rest, and still feel like my training has not suffered much.

Last Saturday I was goofing off with my almost five year old son when something far worse happened.  I was aimlessly jogging along when I felt something give in my right calf.  I had an immediate spasm of pain and couldn't do anything more than hobble.

All of my symptoms have me with a pretty textbook calf strain.  Thankfully, it's not a full rupture or even a very serious strain.  A week later I'm confident that I'll make the starting line for the race next Saturday morning.  How far or fast I'll be able to run is anybody's guess, and I'm not sure I'll be able to finish.  But I'll line up at least.

I took complete rest over the past 7 days, and I plan to continue until Thursday morning.  Hopefully that will be enough.  Thankfully, this race has a natural bail-out point - my parent's house is at mile 2.5 or so on this route.  If I am having major issues by that point I can drop, and I think I'll know pretty quickly if I am having serious issues.  It's a bummer to go into the race with this much uncertainty, especially after having trained so hard.  Prior to my calf issue I was hoping to smash my PR.  Now I'm just hoping to finish.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The taper is here

Last Saturday was supposed to be my final 20 miler of this training cycle, but I've been still struggling a bit with my shin splints (or whatever they are) so I was very cautious.  I ended up running 13 and then biked another 30, which got me to the right amount of time and calorie burn anyway.  I have two actual 20 milers and an 18 under my belt as it is, so I'm thinking I'm okay.

I took yesterday off (still wary about the ankle) but today I headed down to the track at my local high school to do one last final hard workout.  One of the editors at Runner's World - Bart Yasso - came up with a workout that has come to be known as "Yasso 800s".  The idea is that you run 10x800m intervals, with your slowest interval's pace in minutes and seconds being a great predictor of your marathon ability in hours and seconds.  That is to say, if you can run all 10 800m intervals in 4 minutes (4:00) or less, you should in theory be able to run a marathon in 4 hours (4:00:00) or less.

It was a windy, hot and humid evening tonight, and I was feeling sluggish after eating a bunch of crap for lunch (I lied to a number of coworkers and told them that I was just doing it to start off my taper; the truth is that I can't pass up fajitas and cookies and birthday cake sometimes).  So not ideal for my intervals.  But I still managed to get in an awesome set - my slowest interval was done in 3:26.  That means that (in theory) I can run a 3:26 marathon.  That's a 7:51 mile pace the entire way, which is actually something I think I could do on a perfect day right now.

So that's a good mental boost going into the taper.  And the other set of good news is that my ankle/shin - the one I've been nursing along - is also feeling incredible.  I'm excited and ready for this race.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cycling, and other things

So as I mentioned before, I've been using this break from running (and a little bit of leftover bonus money!) to get into cycling.  Wow.  I had no idea it was this much fun or I would have done it a few years ago.  My new bike (named Lola, at the request of my life - I'm unsure if this is a Copacabana thing or a Kinks thing, but I'm assuming the former).  Cycling combines all the awesomeness of motorcycling and most of what I love about running.  Running will always be my first love, but it now has a mistress to deal with.

In other news, my Garmin 305 bit the dust this morning.  Dead.  Won't turn on at all, won't charge, no nothing.  I certainly got my use out of it (over 2000 miles of running and 100+ cycling).

I've always said that if it ever died I'd replace it same-day, so I did.  The newest Garmin model, the 610, is well reviewed and has a nifty touch screen, but it's impossible to find.  Everybody is backordered for 3-5 weeks, including online shops.  Or so I thought.  I called up Luke's Locker, a favorite local running store of mine, and it turns out they got six this morning.  Off my son and I went to buy it.  The employees at the store were openly jealous.  Here's hoping for at least another few thousand miles on this baby.

Love the sleek lines

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Things are healing up nicely

or at least it feels that way.  I ran a mile the other night on a treadmill - just enough to get warm.  Still some soreness there, but nothing worse than I've dealt with already.

In the meantime, I've spent a lot of time swimming.  And cycling.  I managed to talk my wife (thanks dear!) into not complaining too loudly about a new bike (actually, a bike, period, since I didn't have one until now).  It's a great workout and is filling in nicely as far as cardio is concerned.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Injured, part II

So it turns out I actually am injured.  Ran my second 20 miler in as many weeks yesterday, and ended up in a not good way.  The shin splints (a generic description of symptoms, not problems) is caused by a soleus strain, like I suspected.  And it's strained enough right now there's some visible bruising around the affected area.  Couple that with the general soreness of my left achilles area and it's time to take a break from running.

So swimming it is.  The good news is that I have plenty of time to rest before the marathon.  The better news is that I am in great shape and if I can keep my cardio up with swimming (and cycling, something I'm planning on starting as soon as I can sell my motorcycle) until June I should be in great shape.  I've got two 20 milers under my belt already.  Even if I don't get any more I should be able to turn in a pretty good time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Well, not really.  I'm currently suffering through shin splints (running related, and I'm pretty sure that I don't have a stress fracture) and hip pain (not running related; has to do with a genetic condition).  So I've taken the week off from running.  I'm doing a lot of swimming and cycling instead, both of which I really suck at.  I'll try to run a 20 on Saturday and then we'll go from there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I feel the need for Speed!

In October of 2009, when I was early into my first marathon training cycle, I decided to do a short race to get some experience with race day jitters.  I chose the Susan G. Komen 5k - a rather large race here in Houston that happened to start within walking distance of my office at the time, meaning I had an easy base from which to get changed, drop off stuff, etc.

It was my first race since high school - 15 years, give or take - and it's the race I started the three goal system (one crazy, one reasonable, one non-time).  My goals were completely unreasonable, but I didn't know it at the time because I'd never really done that exact distance as a training run.

I ended up having one of those days that only comes along once or twice a year and ran it in a 21:40.  It was a superhuman effort.  I didn't know it that day, but that time would become something unattainable over the next year.  I tried several times over the next year to break that time, but I never even managed to get under 22:00 and eventually gave up.  I focused on distance and ran two more marathons, leaving the shorter races to others.

This morning I didn't feel a whole lot like running, but that's pretty much how I feel every morning.  Still, something felt a bit off today and I ended up sleeping in.  Thankfully, today was only scheduled to be a simple 4 miler, so I still had the time to fit it in before heading to the office.  In a somewhat groggy state I stumbled out on to the lawn and let my Garmin try to find satellites.  It was a beautiful morning - blue clear skies, cool but not cold, breezy but not windy, refreshingly moist but definitely not humid.  A perfect morning, even.  So I decided to see what all of my training and extra miles and interval workouts and general effort has done for me over the last few months - I decided to try once more to break the 5k record.

I started out perfect - smooth stride, pace slightly slower than I wanted to run at first, consistent speed.  And I felt good.  I had on my loudest and angriest metal playlist and that fueled me right along.  Mile 1 and Mile 2 both came and went.  I got really tired and my legs started feeling heavy halfway through the third mile, but by that time I was sure I was going to beat my own record so I pushed through.

Ended up running it in 20:50.  That's not just beating a PR, that's obliterating it.

The biggest thing, though, is that I feel that this run is repeatable.  The October 2009 race was superhuman.  This race was just human - I can do this again.  I'm not saying I will be able to do it again on any given day - some days you feel better than others and I felt great this morning - but I do think I would be able to go sub 21 minutes on 7 out of 10 tries.

This also means that I have set a PR in all four of my major distances within the last four months.  That tells me my training is having a major effect.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Morning troubles

I hate running in the mornings.

Every morning I get up decide I'm not going to run.  Every morning (planned rest days excluded) I somehow make it out the door for just a few miles.  Every morning those few miles somehow turn into the workout I'd planned in the first place.  And every morning I come back feeling better.

I was reminded of this during my interval session yesterday.  I was feeling generally blah when I woke up and didn't feel like running at all.  So I told my wife I was going to go for a short 4 miler just to keep myself loose.  After the first two miles, I found myself cruising along right next to my interval spot and figured, what the heck, I'll run an interval or two.

And then I not only ended up doing the full interval workout, I did it faster than I've ever done it before.  And I felt great when I got home.

A journalist actually contacted me recently for a story he's doing about running the morning.  I have no idea if anything I say will appear in the publication, but if it does I'll link to it here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Springtime reflections

This morning - April 1 - was a beautiful morning for a run.  The run itself was and I'm not sure I want to talk about it any more than you want to hear the details.  So let's chat about last month instead.

Right now I'm in the middle of as intense a training schedule as I've ever been on, and the running numbers from march bear that out.  I ran harder and farther than I ever have.  Some numbers:

  • I ran 25 days last month.  The previous high was 23 in February, and the previous high before that was 20 in September of '09.
  • My total mileage was 169.48 miles.  The previous high (again, from September of '09) was 140.
  • I spent a little bit over 25 hours running last month.  That's right - over one full day.
  • My average speed was the fastest since May of 2010 - but I only ran 84 miles that month (I was just coming back from my IT injury).
  • I burned - just through running - 24,000 calories.  I think that's like the equivalent of six or seven large pepperoni pizzas.  I lost about 10 pounds too.
I can't say I came through the month completely unscathed.  I do have a bit of nagging soreness in my left calf sort of down low.  That's my bad ankle, and I think it's related to that.  It flared up early in the month, went away, and now is back (albeit milder and getting better) so I'm not concerned yet.  At least not until I look at my running schedule for this month, which has me over 200. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New stride effects

I've been working on/running with the new stride for a couple of months now, and while there are always things wrong that I want to fix, I'm generally happy with the injury prevention results.  Right now I'm running more than ever have by a good bit; over the last 30 days, I've run more than 150 miles.  This month has been my highest mileage month ever and I still have a few days to go.  Three of the last four weeks have been higher mileage weeks than anything I've done to now.  And it's not just distance - I'm doing plenty of speed work, running more days per week, and generally training more focused than any time during the last two years.

And no hint of injury.  Not even achy knees.

Part of that has to do with the fact that I've run a lot in the last two years of course, and the lighter weight (I'm hovering just south of 180 these days) is also helping.  But I haven't felt anywhere close to this good in the middle of training.

In other news, part of my run this morning was done with a group of friends.  I've never run with a bunch of people before (other than in races, which doesn't count) and it really made the rest of my run feel a lot shorter.  It also showed me that there's more than enough interested among my friends to at least attempt to start up a running club of sorts, which is something I've been thinking about lately.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My first half marathon

Despite the fact that I've run three marathons (and am now training for my fourth), I've never actually run a race at the half marathon distance.  My prior PR was actually my time at the halfway point of the WDW Marathon that I ran in January.

So I signed up for a small local half marathon that was held yesterday.  I had a number of factors going against me - wearing brand new shoes, warmer temperatures, first trail run, middle of training, etc.  Initially I was going to use this as a marathon simulation, but I started out a bit faster than I would during a normal marathon and decided to really race, holding back just a bit.

I had a great time - a half marathon is a great distance.  I probably ran this at about 90%, and finished with a 1:45:26, a respectable time that is also good news for my 3:40 goal for my next marathon.  A few thoughts:

- My average split was 8:03, but I ran the last mile in 7:30 after picking up the pace.  I had so much left that I did the last tenth at about 6:00.  And given how good I felt on today's run, I'm guessing that I have a 1:43:00 in me right now.

- It's surprising how many people start off too fast.  I was near the front this time.  At the end of the first mile, there were probably more than 100 people in front of me.  I finished in 48th place.  A lot of people faded at the end - another example of why it's so important to have your first mile be your slowest.

- The speedwork I've been doing is having an incredible effect on not just my overall speed but my general fitness.  To wit, this last week I ran a pretty wild tempo run on Monday, had my best ever interval workout on Wednesday, ran a great half marathon yesterday, and still felt pretty fresh and fast today.  (I cruised on Tuesday and took Thursday and Friday off).

- The new stride is also doing some amazing things.  I've never run this much in my life (34 miles in this "rest" week, 40 last week, 39 the week before) and so far only very, very minor aches.

- Small town races are awesome.  I love the big ones too, but showing up at a random city park in the early morning, watching the mist rise off the ground below the setting moon, flirting harmlessly with the older women asking me to take their picture - it makes these local races neat.

- At the end of the race, somebody asked me how it was.  I answered (truthfully) that it was short.  Felt like it was over before I even got started, which is to be expected, I guess, given what my normal race is.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A quick break from running

I want to take a quick break from running to talk about Japan.  I lived there for a cumulative several years (spanning at least four separate times) and the recent earthquake/tsunami/nuclear incident trifecta has me horrified.  I do speak and read Japanese (my undergrad degree is in it, actually), so I spend most mornings lately watching Japanese-language programming to get the latest news and stories.  I'm amazed at the resilience and willpower of the people.  It's not surprising, actually, given what I know about them collectively, but to watch it in action in such a terrible time inspires me quite a bit.  I pray for them and their recovery, or at least as much of a recovery as can be made after something so traumatic.  For those who wish to help, I'd suggest donations to the Red Cross as a likely place to start; they have had local offices in Japan for years and know the landscape.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rest week and half marathon time

This is my rest week coming up, so naturally I'm signed up for a local half marathon.  I've never raced this distance before (my PR on the left side came from my last full marathon).  Since it's a rest week, I think I'll take off an extra day and probably run the half marathon at no more than 90%.  Most likely I'll use it to simulate the first 13.1 miles of a real marathon.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday Indeed!

It's Fat Tuesday today.  On a whim, I had my body composition tested today.  Body composition tells you, with varying degrees of accuracy, how much body fat you have versus how much lean mass you have.  This is important for me because it tells me exactly how much weight I can lose safely.  For example, if I weigh 185 pounds and have 15 percent body fat, that means that my lean body mass - everything about me that isn't fat - is 157.25 pounds (185 x (1.00-.15).  Since I need some fat to survive - at least 4% for the human male - 164 is about as low as I should go with those numbers.  The real trick behind weight management is losing the fat while keeping the lean body mass the same.

And since body fat is nothing but dead weight when I am running, less is better as long as I am healthy.

There are several ways to measure body fat.  Skinfold calipers are the most common and are supposedly 98% accurate.  Devices that send small electric currents to measure density and stuff are less accurate but more convenient - I have one of these.  But the gold standard is hydrostatic testing, and that's what I had done today.

The process is simple and quick.  I walked into the doctor's office (a specialized sports medicine facility, likely not available in all cities) and changed into my swimsuit.  They weighed me dry and then I went into a pool and sat in a sling thing (while still in the water) that weighed me.  I blew out all of the air in my lungs, curled up into a little ball and completely submerged myself (and repeated twice).  They then compared my weight with the water displacement, ran some numbers, and gave me the results.



That did not make me happy on some levels (my electric current device had me as low as 14%) but on others it is good news.  It means that I can safely drop down to the mid 160s, which will make me that much faster.  I'm not overweight or obese at all - 19% isn't a bad number, per se - but for performance I want to drop some weight and this tells me I can.  It's going to take a couple of months though....

In other news....

I applied to be a wear tester with several of the major running shoe manufacturers last fall.  I finally got picked for a test.  I'm not allowed to reveal which company or which shoe, but Brand X is sending me Model Y shoe in the mail and I'm going to be wearing it for about the next month.  And then I send it back.  In the meantime, I submit my reviews on the shoe along the way.  I'm quite excited for this.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

America's Biggest Failing

The other day I uncharacteristically struck up a conversation with a random stranger at the deli counter in our local supermarket.  I'm generally antisocial, but this guy was a cheerful fellow.  Here in Houston we have more than our share of obese people and while obesity affects all classes, races, genders and ages.  However, the highest risk group here tends to be African-American middle-aged or older men who don't have any postsecondary education and who live in poorer neighborhoods.  The exact sort of demographic this gentlemen fell into, in other words.

But whatever one may say about his formal education, he was an intelligent and well spoken guy.  A couple of years ago his doctor told him (at 280 pounds) that he needed to lose some weight or face an early grave.  When we had our brief chat, he was at a healthy-looking 215.  He'd done little things to his diet - cut out fast food, otherwise not eat junk food, etc. - and was maintaining his weight by living the same principles.  What's more, his formerly obese son was now a track athlete with at least a shot at a college scholarship and his daughter was well on her way to dropping her weight as well.  A great feel-good story.

It got me a bit mad, though.  Why should a guy have to wait for a doctor's prompting at 45 to learn about how to run his own body?  Why, at 32, was I still completely unaware of how to properly determine what I eat?  Why are there scores of people in the country that don't understand how what they take in affects how they look and feel?

Nothing has made this more apparent than the questions of a coworker.  This guy is intelligent, has education equal to mine, and is concerned about his health.  Yet he doesn't know how diet works.  He stops by my office frequently to discuss, ask questions, and get a sense of what he should be eating to reach his goals.

People often think I can eat whatever I want - or even say that I am lucky to be so skinny (the latter didn't know me three years ago).  This is not true at all.  I'm very careful about what I eat and how much of it.  But it took me a lot of study before I figured it out.  Weight maintenance (which I like better than the term "weight loss") isn't all about knowledge, of course - willpower is needed as well - but it seems that very few people even have the knowledge, getting lost in a sea of advertising and buzzwords.  And that's just sad.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Race Report: ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run 10k

Today was race day - as part of a corporate team (sort of), I ran the ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run 10k.  It fits into my rest week nicely, and this is arguably the premier racing event in Houston after the marathon.  Large race - between the 10k and the 5k, about 14000 runners - and it's the opening event for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is a pretty big deal down here.

I always go into every race with three goals.  One is a "reach" goal - something it will take a fantastic effort and a good race to do.  One is a solid but difficult goal - something that will take a good effort and requires something more than a hard training run but is within reason for a normal day.  And the third is something that is not time based - maybe effort or form based.

By way of example, for the race this morning, my reach goal was to break 46:00, my solid goal was to set a PR, and my non-time goal was to keep my mental toughness over the last two miles.  More on how I did below.

But before that, I want to talk about the actual race itself - and I have a few significant criticisms.  Some elements of the logistics of this race are poor at best.  The shortage of porta-johns was nothing short of scandalous.  Runners are used to long lines to pee before races start - nerves usually have plumbing working more than usual - so it's not reasonable to expect to get right in before a race.  Lines several people deep are usual.  But not like today.  Had to have been about 20-30 people deep per porta-john.  I've run big races and small races and I've never seen it this bad.  Unacceptable.

Naturally, I took a quick warm-up jog and did my thing under an overpass.  I was not the only one.

The other complaint is not specific to this race but more for big races in general.  I'm a reasonably fast runner.  I'm not the fastest out there by any stretch, but I'm typically in the top 20-25% of any given race.  And I try to line up accordingly.  They had pace signs out at the starting line, as they typically do, and I was right where I was supposed to be.

So why in the world did I have to spend the first mile and a half weaving in and out of all kinds of runners - and walkers! - who had no business lining up in the same zip code as me.  I must have passed 1000 runners in the first mile alone.  My split looks pretty normal, but the amount of effort and energy to get that split was incredible.  I wasted a lot of energy with stops and starts and dodges and jumps.  It's pretty hard to run a 7:20 mile in a crowd of people doing 9:30.  I don't wish to stereotype, but it's most often women who do this, although there are plenty of men who do as well.  And it's never the old grizzled veterans who have run a billion races - they know better (and as often as not they're still pretty damn fast).

Slower runners, I love that you are out there running and racing.  Please continue to do so.  But it's just plain rude when you line up somewhere you don't belong.  It makes me seriously consider jumping up into places where I don't belong just to get ahead of you.  Neither of us are going to win this thing, so there's no reason why we should care if we are up near the front.

This second issue didn't necessarily cost my my reach goal, but it was a major factor.  I finished with a 46:56 (a PR by some 20 seconds) but I estimate the effort I had to expend over the first mile cost me at least 30 seconds.  There were a couple of other things that cost me as well.  The temperature the entire time was 70 degrees - about 25 degrees higher than optimal - and that definitely affected me.  And there is a nasty hill (actually an overpass/viaduct) that you have to go over at mile 2.5, and again at mile 4.5.  All told, in a smaller race with a flatter course on a cooler day - like the one I ran in last year - I think I could have made my reach goal.  But that's why it's a reach goal.

I was very proud of my effort over the last two miles, though.  The last two miles of any race are more about mental toughness than they are about anything physical.  I desperately wanted to slow up at about mile 4.5, and again at 5.5, but all the while I had a quote from Pre in my head:  "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest; I run to see who has the most guts."  Well known, sure, cliche, maybe, but definitely effective.

And two out of three for goals ain't bad.

Details of the race:

Other notes:

  • Raced in the Kinvaras, as they are the lightest shoe I own outside of the Vibram Five Fingers.  Great choice.  Light, quick, free.  No foot pain afterwards either.  At this point I could easily do a full marathon in them.
  • Calves were pretty sore afterwards - signs that there is still some strengthening of the calves that has to happen with the new stride.  Four hours later they aren't too bad.  Everything else feels fine.
  • Remember how I said I was somewhat skeptical of my latest metabolic test?  I ran 98% of this race above my anaerobic threshold, if the test is to be believed.  That's a long time to go anaerobic.
  • Felt my form break down over the last couple of miles, which is to be expected.  Still landed midfoot/forefoot, but my posture suffered a bit and my hips weren't underneath me as much as I would have liked.  I also started to let my knees and feet out of alignment with my direction of travel.
  • I didn't list this in factors weighing against my reach goal above, but I'm pretty sure this course was overly long.  Courses are measured on tangents around corners and generally have a little bit of extra distance added intentionally to ensure that they are the proper length.  So a 10k isn't exactly 10k - it's slightly longer in reality, and given that nobody runs exactly on the tangents, it's even longer still.  And I expect that.  However, my Garmin - which is wickedly accurate and consistent in measuring distance - read 6.30 miles (10k = 6.2 miles) for a difference of a tenth of a mile.  To put that in perspective, my last marathon - a race that is over four times longer - only had a difference of about .15 miles.  Even my largest run discrepancy (also during a marathon) was less than .3 miles.
  • Congratulations to my friend and former co-worker  Having never raced before, and apparently having never really run more than 5 miles at a time, he finished the 10k in a very respectable 55:09 (and he also lined up appropriately).  Good job, and hope to see you at future races.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

Results of the form change so far

With my 10k tomorrow, I wanted to check my form to see how the last six weeks have treated me.  So I dragged out the video camera and tripod and did a few easy strides this morning.  Recall this was me less than two months ago:

As was this:

This is me this morning:

Forgive the horrid tan line (these are my new racing shorts, which are shorter than my usual) and the hurried and sloppy editing.  I've got a freeze-frame here as well:

I could not be much happier with the results.  You can see a number of things from the freeze-frame above.  I'm landing slightly in front of my center of gravity on my midfoot with a slightly bent knee, shin pretty much vertical.  My posture is straight, hips under me, with a very slight forward lean.  Back leg is coming off of the ground with the heel highish (it gets higher as I run faster).  And if you look at the front/back section of the video, you'll see that my side-to-side motion is greatly reduced (although still there).  Overall, a major improvement.  I look like a runner and not a zombie trying to do the rumba down the street. 

I want to emphasize that I wasn't trying anything new or special or running in a way different than I usually do.  This is my current form.  Oh, I was thinking about some of the mental cues that I have developed for running, but I do that during my normal runs.  I daresay that the form gets sloppier as I run longer too.

And there are still things to work on.  I swing my arms too much and I have my wrists at a weird angle (I didn't realize this until watching the video).  I need to work on better hip extension.  I think I reach forward with my legs and "paw" back a little too much, and on some of the strides I think I'm landing just a touch in front of where I'd like.  I'm sure an expert like my brother-in-law could pick out a hundred other things to fix.  But I'm light years ahead of where I was six weeks ago.

Now let's see how this form does in an actual race.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


After my first marathon, I took a couple of months off from running to let my aching IT band heal up.  My first race after the layoff was a small local 10k, and it was run under less than ideal conditions. The previous night I was supposed to be camping with my family so I didn't expect to get much sleep.  It got worse when, at the camp, my daughter got sick and started throwing up. 

So we headed home, but, eschewing the intelligent idea of getting some extra sleep, I stayed up playing video games with some friends.  All night.  I still get teased about my 4:30 am sign-off of, "well, I've got to go run a race now - see you next weekend!"

The race turned out okay - I ran it in 47:19, which was a race personal best (not saying much, since I'd never raced that distance before).  I'd done a training run at that distance in 47:16 the year before, so it wasn't a real PR.

This year I have an opportunity for redemption.  I'm running this race on Saturday, and I'm hopeful I can do some serious damage to my PR.  My speed training has been going well lately, and if I have a good day I think I can break 46:00.

Race days are always about managing nerves.  I have to eat bland foods - typically banana and oatmeal - and even then I spend a fair amount of time in the porta-loo.  There's all sorts of nerves and adrenaline and other things.  It's not as bad for shorter races - the build up is shorter and I don't really train for them (since I'm usually in some stage of marathon training).  And if I have a bad 5k or 10k I can always regroup and try it again in a few weeks - not so with the marathon.  

As far as the actual racing goes, the biggest deal is to try to keep the pace consistent - except for the first mile and the last half mile.  The first mile should be my slowest (this is much harder than it sounds), and the last half is when I put the hammer down.  Other than that, it's about staying in a groove, keeping a constant speed, focusing on form, ignoring my lungs feeling like they are going to burst out of my chest.  

We'll see how this Saturday goes.  I love these big races.  It's like a giant party with a bit of running in between.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

So, I did my metabolic assessment

and the results are in.  My anaerobic threshold is at 164 - which is lower than last test - but I burn less calories and a higher percentage of fat at equivalent HR zones.  That's bad for losing weight (at least the first part) but good for people trying not to bonk during a marathon.  It's not clear to me if this is due to training or due to a more efficient stride, but I'll take it.

Also, my speed at the threshold this time was faster - I was doing an 8:30 pace with the treadmill jacked up to 8.0 incline, compared with 10:00 pace and 8.0 incline last time.  So that's also good news.

I am a bit skeptical of these numbers to tell you the truth, mostly because yesterday I ran at a HR above my threshold for 11 straight minutes.  That's a long time.  So I'm not convinced they are totally accurate.  However, as far as guidelines for HR monitoring when training, they are the best I'm going to get.  They do change over time, too, and with my increased speedwork these days I expect to have a different profile by marathon time.

In other news:
  • Found a great resource for helping kids to love running and to do it right.  The New York Road Runners have a magnificent series of videos with good form tips, activities and drills for kids of all ages (and the tips are helping me out too).  You can see them all at  I'm going to use these with my oldest daughter, who is really getting into running.
  • Runblogger linked to a great post about the crumbling pronation-based shoe classification system.  I'd be interested in reading the background research (this is really only a summary) but it matches with my experience.  Shoe store guy tells me I pronate, I get stability shoes, my IT band goes, I figure the shoes aren't supportive enough, I go to motion control shoes, I completely destroy my IT band in the marathon, I rehab and go with neutral shoes afterwards, no problems since.  You can read the summary here.  
  • This is race week - the 10k is on Saturday - so I'm taking an extra rest day.  I'm hoping to run a 46:30, and maybe even break 46 if I have a good race.  We'll see how it goes.  PR is 47:16, but that was a year and a half ago.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Metabolic and HR assessments

Just before I started my first round of marathon training back in August 2009, I had a metabolic/HR assessment done.  A company called New Leaf has some software that they market to various third parties that will give you a very accurate picture of what is happening during exercise, and my gym happens to have the software.

The test is pretty simple.  What you do is you put on this thing that looks sort of like this:

except minus the helmet and with a plastic tube sticking out.  This plastic tube is then attached to a machine  that monitors the composition of your exhaled gases.  Plus a heart rate monitor.  You then get on a treadmill and run at a reasonable pace while the tech raises the incline.  The software and tubes and machines somehow magically figure out how much fat versus how many carbs you're burning while you're running.  The tech raises the incline until you hit what is called the anaerobic threshold, where you start accumulating lactate in the blood (and at which point you're burning 100% carbs, as science would have it).  And then you stop and walk for a while to recover.

At the end, you get this nifty set of numbers that tell you what your five HR zones are.  This is important for training purposes.  Zone 1 is pretty much a nothing zone - I don't spend a lot of time here.  Zone 2 is a zone for teaching your body to fat burn - this is where I like to spend most of my time when I do long Saturday runs.  Zone 3 is a zone for endurance - most of my "junk miles" are spent here, and I also race at the very upper threshold of this zone.  Zone 4 can't be sustained for a long time - the anaerobic threshold corresponds to the boundary between Zone 3 and Zone 4 - and is where I train to get faster in interval training.  Zone 5 is flat out booking it and I might - might - get here in some of my harder interval work.

You also get a pretty accurate picture of how much fat you are burning at what HR level.  This is very helpful for controlling diet (because you get a clear picture of what your calorie needs are) and for trying not to bonk in marathons (if you can accurately estimate how much glycogen you can store, which is admittedly guesswork).

The thing is, all of these numbers change over time based on training.  So the test I took in August of 2009 was very different than the test I took in January 2010.  And that one will be far different than the one I will take tomorrow.  Which is why I bring this up in the first place.  I'll compare numbers tomorrow night, most likely, after I get my test results back.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This is my dog Hunter.

He is happy.  I know he may not look happy in this picture, but I promise that he is.  I know he is happy because he got to come with me on a run for the first time today.  

He was really excited for the first half mile or so, but after a few tugs on the leash he fell right beside me and was a fantastic running buddy for the rest of the run.  It was only three miles and at a pretty leisurely pace (for me - he was pretty beat at the end).  I think I've found a new training buddy, at least when I'm not going long or doing speedwork.

Friday, February 11, 2011


This is what I'm trying to do with my form.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Some days you have a tiring crazy workout in the morning only to find that you are chomping at the bit again in the afternoon. Today I have chewed through the bit entirely.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Running Zen

Yesterday I stumbled across a documentary about running marathons from several different perspectives called Spirit of the Marathon (website here, and it's available Netflix for streaming right now).  I think it's a pretty accurate snapshot of how I feel, for what it's worth, but that's not what prompted this post.  At one point in the movie, one of the more novice runners talks about getting addicted to times and splits and paces and new running gadgets and such - and then she somewhat skeptically mentions these weird hipster people who get their kicks out of running without a care.  Zen runners, I think she called them.

I'm as addicted to gadgets and paces and times as anybody - I almost refuse to run without my Garmin 305, for example - but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the concept of Zen Running.  That's what my Sundays are for.  On most days I have my Garmin, my iPhone (triple duty as a music device, a GPS tracker should the Garmin fail (it never has) and a panic button if I twist an ankle or something).  And a headlamp if it's early morning.  And a hydration belt if the run is over 6 miles.  And a bunch of gel packs if the run is over 10 miles.  And so on.

But one day a week I try to be different.  These days are are my Zen running days.  I still take the Garmin, but only so I can keep track of miles run for purposes of seeing how much life is left on my shoes, or making sure I don't run too many miles in a week.  After the fact, that is.  I don't pay attention to pace - I just run however I feel.  I don't try to push myself, but I don't try to slow down either.  I don't go long, but I don't cut things short either.  I let my mind wander to whatever it wants, which might be nothing.  I try to run in nature if I can - there's a very nice wooded park about a mile from my house that is a favorite.  I listen to the wind in the trees, the rhythm of my own breath, the soft (now) footfalls of my own shoes.

It's a wonderful mind clearing thing, and probably the most restful thing I do all week.  There is a certain joy in moving along in relative quiet, and a healing power in the pondering I do along the way.  It is the one moment when everything is right in the world, even though nothing is.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Bridgefest 5k and other things

I know the race countdown clock on the bottom right lists my next race as the ConocoPhillips 10k. That's only partially true. For the second year in a row, my oldest daughter (age 9) wanted to run a local 5k race sponsored the YMCA. Last year was her first time running any sort of race and she wanted to break 45 minutes. And we did, just barely.

24 degrees on a February morning is what most of the rest of the country calls a mild winter. Here in Houston it's a sign of the apocalypse. And yet there was still a good crowd. This is a very local race, so there were only about 750-1000 people running it (tops - probably less) but everybody was excited and friendly and slightly quirky - just like you expect to find in this sort of race.

My daughter wanted to beat her time from last year, so we decided to try to do it in 40 minutes or better. That's not a very fast pace for me, so I ran it with a backpack (for putting my daughter's gear in when she warmed up and for carrying keys, wallets, etc.) and a camcorder in one hand.

We started off near the back (since there's nothing I hate more than slower people lining up at the front) and set off at pretty good pace. We kept it at about 13 minute miles, and that's counting the small walk breaks we took at each mile. The entire time we chatted it up, talking about running style, and how there are all sorts of people these races, slow and fast, and about life, and about how far we had left to go, and other things. A good ol' daddy-daughter date. I took some video too (still being edited).

At about a quarter mile to go, I left her to race off to the finish line. This was prearranged, and I did it for two reasons: I wanted to see how she would do on her own, and I wanted to take some video at the end. She did great on her own - she crossed the line running at probably about 8:30 miles. The video was not so greata - although I did get some great pictures of what my feet look like when I'm running at a sub 6:00 pace. Oh well.

She finished in 36:47 (unofficially), besting her goal by better than 3 minutes. And she was beaming. She wants me to put her on a training schedule so she can get better. We also got her a new pair of shoes (hers were completely worn out) and it turns out her feet are big enough to get adult shoes now.

She's also got great form naturally - she runs like I want to run, for the most part. She does swing her arms a bit much and she needs to up her cadence, but those are easy problems to fix with time. Her legs run like they are machines - smooth strides, good midfoot strikes, nice leg lift, good posture. I'd trade my form problems for hers in a heartbeat.

And speaking of form, I took a light 4 mile jog after the race and then filmed myself running at marathon pace (about an 8:12 pace) and a sub 5k pace (about 6:15 pace). I filmed from both the side and the front. Both times I tried to run without thinking about form. I'm quite happy with the results - in slow motion, the side shot shows exactly what I am trying to get. Good midfoot strikes, bent leg landings, lifting the leg off the ground, good posture. I could stand to bend my leg just a bit more and engage my core. But the improvement after three weeks is astounding.

The front profile isn't quite as good. I still have too much hip action, but I think I've figured it out. My shoes are showing more wear on the outside of the shoes like a supinator would show, but I'm clearly not a supinator - I've been having pronation action when I strike, striking the outside of the foot and rolling in more than I'd like. Based on the video, it looks like I'm running with my legs too narrow. I'm not quite running like I'm on a balance beam or anything, but I'm not exactly in athletic position when I land. I think - and I don't have anything to back this up yet - that my feet should land farther apart horizontally (that is, ignoring the forward movement). They don't go far enough now, and as a result I'm slightly swinging my feet outside of an ideal plane of travel when I bring them forward and I am landing on the outside of my arch and then rolling inwards. My next step will be to try to fix this.

Video to come after I'm done editing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Newtons and Nikes

So I'm sitting here looking at my shoe rack (it occupies a spot of honor, right next to my bed) and it's occurred to me that I have a lot of shoes. Maybe I should seek some help for my apparent shoe fetish.

The best way to get shoes, of course, is to get them for free. This works out pretty well, if you're one of those special famous runners who gets sponsored, or maybe a well-known internet running personality who gets asked to test shoes. But since I am neither, I'm reduced to hoping one of those running testing programs finally calls my name (I'm looking at you, Asics and Brooks!). And failing that, spending actual money.

The problem with getting shoes at sports expos like the one I went to last weekend is that you are much more likely to have to spend your own money than find Brooks or Asics banging down your inbox there. And if you want to get custom shoes with your own colors and embroidery, you'll be lucky to find them at all at any price.

Those hurdles notwithstanding, I got both a new pair of Newtons (at the expo) and a custom pair of Nike LunarGlide 2s (via mail). First impressions below.

Newton Distance Racer

Newton is a company out of Boulder that has a unique take on running shoes. I've seen several people run in the model I got (which I've seen by a couple of variations of the same name; on the website they call it the "Neutral Performance Racer") in some of my longer races. I was drawn to them by their overall theory of forefoot/midfoot strikes for running. Their site has several tutorials on what they consider optimal running form (which match up neatly with what I think).

At the Chevron Houston Marathon expo this last weekend, I decided to try on a pair. They felt amazing in some cursory jogs, so I bought these:

Please ignore all of the dirt on them - that's from an earlier run. The top is a really open mesh that doesn't have a lot of structure to it (although still way more than my Kinvaras). The heel - see the yellow - actually is completely EVA and has no outsole at all. They sell a similar model they call the "trainer" that has a full outsole under the theory that most people don't run correctly in the shoe and still heelstrike after they buy it, or at least so I am told. As I can't heelstrike anymore at all unless I really think about it, I opted for the lighter (and cheaper!) version.

This picture of the bottom should really show you the special Newton feature (again, ignore the dirt and also my hand).

Do you see those four bumps right under where the ball of the foot would go? Those actually stick down about half an inch from the bottom of the shoe and retract (albeit only with a good bit of force, such as the weight of an entire human body) and then expand out again during the stride. The theory is that you get more energy return with that action, and the actuators (as they are called) help you lever onto your forefoot. They describe the action as land (on your midfoot/forefoot), lever (rolling off of the actuators), lift (lifting your foot off of the ground rather than pushing off).

I've only been on one run with them so far (another tomorrow) but they are easy to run in with my new form. I don't have an opinion yet as to whether or not I am actually seeing greater energy return but I have had these babies through a full range of paces, all the way from casual jog to faster than 5k pace, and results are favorable.

Nike LunarGlide 2

I generally hate Nike shoes. I love their clothing (my running shorts and most of my tops are Nike) and like that they've taken the lead on minimalism in some respects (see, e.g., the Nike Free line). I also respect the Bill Bowerman/Phil Knight running history. But I've never had a thing for their shoes. Always seemed just a bit off - until I got a pair of LunarGlides last year. I ran the WDW marathon in them and they were magnificent. I am changing my stride up right now and trying to scale back on shoes, but I still want to have a pair of shoes around with a bit of cushioning and support for days when I feel like I need it.

The really neat thing that you can do (if you're willing to weight a month and pay a bit more) is get your shoes totally customized with NikeID. That's what I did this time. I did this with my race jersey a couple of years ago and was very happy with the results, so I customized some sheos this time.

Pink is a major part of my race day gear, so it should not surprise anybody who knows me well that I used it as a major element in my shoes:

I also had the tongues of the shoes embroidered with my PR from the WDW marathon just because I could. I like these shoes quite a bit because they have a much more gentle heel drop than most cushioned shoes (making these much easier to midfoot strike in) and they provide just a hint of stability without going overboard. The upper has some structure to it but not so much that you feel like you are wearing a running armored assault vehicle on your food. I don't think I'll buy another pair as I'm trying to move to less cushioning and more response, but that doesn't mean I think they are a bad shoe. This is the shoe for those days on which I feel like my feet are tired from the new stride and need a break while I build up strength for the new form.

Full reviews of the feel in the Kinvara and the Newtons to come after I've logged a few more miles in them. The Nikes I already trust.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Running in the rain... usually a lot of fun. Once you're wet, it's not like you're going to get any wetter.

Running in the rain, when "rain" equals "thunderstorm with microburst winds and 25 degree temperature drop cold front" is not fun.

So I did my interval workout at the gym. The workout itself was a bit lackluster - I had to cut it short because I was running out of time - but I did get a chance to take a peek at my new form from the front and side in mirrors. So far, so good - at the very least it's a major improvement. The muscle memory has now adapted too - I can only heel strike when I think about it.

In other news, two more first impression gear reviews coming up. I bought a pair of Newton Distance Racers over the weekend, and my customized Nike LunarGlide2s came in the mail yesterday. I've had at least one run in all three. I should be good for shoes for most of the year, assuming 300 miles per pair (I actually don't think the Kinvaras will last that long).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My least favorite four letter word, and how to use it

I hate the word diet. Can't stand it. It's a word people use when they hate themselves for getting fat to describe the next gimmick to help themselves feel better. It's a word that describes a temporary set of wacky rules and restrictions. It's about eating a bunch of special cookies, or eating nothing but steak, or spending big bucks on mail-order food. It's a word that evokes failure, both the failure to keep healthy (else why would you need one) and failure to get healthy when you're not (else why do we need so many variations).

Compare that usage with how we use the word diet in connection with animals. We use the word diet to describe what animals do eat; we use diet to describe what we don't.

The major reason I started running back in early 2009 was to help with weight loss. I had ballooned up to about 250 prior to that. Most of my friends wouldn't have guessed me that heavy, but my knees sure knew it. I started off with very little knowledge about nutrition, but I spent a lot of time studying, reading books, searching the interwebs, and educated myself about how my body works. In that way, running and eating are much the same to me; they are both about learning my body and how it works.

Once I'd lost my weight, I was looking at diet not as something I did to lose the weight but as a description of what I eat (or at least should eat). Diet at that point was a set of guiding permanent principles of how I should best eat to be healthy all the time, not a method for getting pseudo-healthy by getting thin.

Over the last few months, I have lost sight of those nutritional principles. I can blame the holidays, and vacation, and travel, and a host of other things, but in the end it doesn't matter. I've put on a few pounds - this last marathon was my heaviest - and it's time for them to go. But not by going on a diet, the four letter word. By returning to my diet - my nutritional principles.

The way I actually control my weight is by calorie tracking. And that's easy enough. More calories out than in and I lose weight. Simple math. But that has nothing to do with my diet - the description of what I eat.

I could lose weight by eating nothing but Twinkies, so long as the calorie math works. And I'd be thin. But I wouldn't be healthy.

I've spent the last two years reading everything I can get my hands on about diet and running (my wife jokes that I practice law and have a family on the side). I'm not claiming to be an expert or that what I do works for everybody (that's the "see your doctor" disclaimer), but these are the nutritional principles that guide my heating habits:
  1. Refined sugars are bad. Except when exercising.
  2. Whole grain carbs are better than not whole grain carbs.
  3. Fat is good, if you get it from the right place, but should be low otherwise.
  4. Highly processed foods have a bunch of gunk in them; natural foods are better.
  5. Optimal balance is about 60% carbs, 15% fat, 15% protein.
That's about it. My daily calorie intake is carefully monitored (I'm aware of the imprecise nature of this, and trust to the law of averages to keep me in check) and my nutrition as well. The end result is that I eat a lot of things like oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, fruit and vegetables. I try to limit my meat intake to once a day (I generally think we eat way too much meat) but I am fine with most sources as long as they are relatively low fat. Buffalo, chicken, lean beef and salmon are my favorites. I don't eat anything with refined sugar (table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sucrose) at all, except for Gatorade-type sports drinks and gels when I'm doing longer runs or races. I also don't do any artificial sweeteners like aspartame or sucralose. Or caffeine, except when I race (when I take it abundantly).

I should make sure that these are the general principles I live by. They're not the things I do no matter what. I do eat guacamole and chips, or maybe a bacon cheeseburger, or indulge in a cheese plate, but only occasionally. And as a result, when I do, I make sure it's tasty. No way I'm doing a hamburger from McDonald's - it'll be Five Guys or similar.

I have a lot of reasons for this philosophy that I might detail later. Much of it is related to evolutionary nutrition and the diet of our ancestors. It certainly works well for me (when I'm true to the principles) and I always feel great.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gear Review: Saucony Kinvara

One of the major problems that I've had in my quest to switch up my stride to a midfoot strike is shoes. To this point, I've run in nearly every sort of traditional running shoes you can think of. I've run in Saucony, Nike and Asics shoes. I've run in neutral, stability and (thanks to the faulty diagnosis of a well-meaning running store employee) even motion control shoes. Up until recently, I've never had the same make and model of shoe twice (the exception being the Nike LunarGlide, and only if you count the LunarGlide and the LunarGlide 2 as the same shoe - more on that particular shoe at a later time).

I've come to the conclusion that very few shoes are made for a midfoot strike. Except maybe Newton, and their shoes cost a ton. Heck, Runblogger has a series of posts and links that lead me to believe that modern shoes aren't really made for heel striking either. And while I love my VFF Bikilas, they aren't exactly the sort of thing I see myself doing any sort of long mileage on any time soon - and certainly not racing.

Enter the Saucony Kinvara. When it comes to "minimalist" shoes that are supposed to encourage barefoot-like running, only the Nike Free line and the Saucony Kinvara are widely known or used to my knowledge (although I should note that all major brands are reportedly bringing a minimalist model to market this year). And while Nike absolutely destroys Saucony when it comes to marketing (NSFWish):

a lot of people (including a couple of close friends of mine) have complained about the fit. And since the Saucony Kinvara won "Best Debut" from Runner's World last year, I decided to pick up a pair. The box from Running Warehouse (an excellent online retailer located at arrived at my office today, and this is my initial review.

First impression before I even open the package: these things are light. I actually weighed one shoe when I got home and it was 8.7 oz (size 11.5). That's compared to 14.4 oz for one of my older Asics Gel Landreth 6s (size 12).

Here's a picture of them right out of the box:

The entire upper is a thin nylon mesh over a mesh with larger holes, and that's about it. Look for a second at the orange mesh in the picture above. If you look closely, you'll see that there are four "ribs" of material running down from the laces at different angles. Ribs run down the other side as well in the same way. Those ribs are the entire structure, such as it is, of the upper. That's it. A couple of pieces of plastic or vinyl here or there, maybe, but nothing else.

Here's a shot of the bottom:

All the white spaces are actually just the EVA midsole. The black/orange is the actual outsole - it doesn't cover the entire shoe by any stretch. I think they have a design flaw here, btw (as do many others): they need to have the outsole bits on the very outer edges of the midfoot, as that's where a lot of midfoot strikers (including me) strike.

The biggest deal (and one of the major reasons I bought them) is the heel to toe difference in height. There's only a 4mm difference, which makes midfoot striking easier. My Landreths, which have a 10mm difference, have been difficult to midfoot strike in. This isn't the best picture, but you can see the difference if you really try:

Look especially at the drop from the heel to the forefoot. It's very small in comparison, as you can see. The only other shoe that I've run with that has a comparable lack of drop is the LunarGlide (which is why I'm getting another pair).

The fit is stellar on these too. Great arch feel (which is a common complaint I've heard about the competing Nike Free line). The heel, despite not being very structured at all, fits snuggly. The inside feels soft enough that I'd almost try wearing them without socks. The toe box is, of course, pretty open and free.

I took them on a short (1 mile) but fast (5k pace) run after I got home from work. There's definitely plenty of cushioning there and it's not like running in my VFFs at all. But it's much, much, MUCH easier to midfoot strike. And it's amazing how much lighter my stride feels. Taking corners at speed with that little support up top is something I'll have to get used to, but it's just a different feel. It's premature to say that I love these shoes...but I love these shoes.

More to come later as I rack up some miles.

By the way, I highly recommend Runblogger's entire blog for people interested in stride, form, shoe fit, biomechanics, etc.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My calves hurt today

I think there is going to be a muscle building phase with this new stride. Should be good for my 4 miles tomorrow.

In other news, changing my stride isn't the only thing that I'm planning on doing before my next marathon in June. I ran this last one at 210, and its the last one I'm going to do as a Clydesdale. I'm down to 197 now, and I'm going to get down to 175 or better (depends on what my body fat analysis tells me) before I'm done. I'm carefully tracking calories, nutrients, carb/fat/protein percentage, etc., as it's a dangerous and difficult thing to lose weight and train at the same time.

I'm also doing a bunch of strength training on my core and legs to try to improve my muscles (this is related to form).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kids, and why I hate them

My daughter had a basketball game this afternoon. We were running a little bit behind schedule so as soon as we pulled into the parking lot of the YMCA, I told her to hurry in without waiting for the other two kids and me. So off she ran.

With beautiful, picture-perfect form. In basketball shoes, no less. I was more than a little bit envious.

She was running naturally, without thinking about it, and her feet fell the right way, her arms swung well, her stride looked nice - all of it. At 9, she can do what I at 33 only wish I could do.

And with that as my gripe of the day, here's some of the myriad problems I saw in the videos posted previously:

- I hunch my shoulders
- I heel strike in a major way
- I swing my arms laterally
- I don't bend my knees
- I sit back in my stride
- I have this funky side to side hip action like I'm a boxer trying to duck and weave

On the bright side, I'm not as bad of an overstrider as I used to be, so at least that part of my supposedly "improved" stride is better.

Now that I've seen the video, I have a better idea of what I'm trying to do. Most of the problems above are a result of my posture as much as anything. I've actually implemented a brand-new stride over the last two runs. I stand up taller, straighter, with a slight forward lean. I land on the middle of my foot, concentrating on picking up the trail foot and bringing it through. I do run with my hands more in the style of Ryan Hall (as opposed to Meb - look at them side by side and you'll see the difference) and I don't move my arms at all; I let the movement of my legs make my arms move.

The new stride is much faster - running at a 6:30 pace feels smooth, which was never the case before - but it's going to take some work. I still need to engage my core/elevate my hips a bit more, and I have to get my hip abductors/adductors stronger. I've started doing some ab workouts and weightlifting to help. And my calves are on fire with muscle soreness today. It's almost like starting from scratch, so I have to be careful. My wife is planning on taping it soon so I can take a real video look at how I look and if I have other things I need to tweak, but based on my shadows on the ground when the sun was at my back today, I'm much smoother and better. And it feels silent.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nothin' Quite Like A Swingin' Gait!

When I was a kid, I stayed with my grandma for a weekend while my parents were out of town on vacation or having a baby or some such thing. I wasn't very old - maybe about 8 - but I remember this particular visit vividly. I remember it because my grandmother insisted that my brother and I come into her room and on her bed and - wait for it - watch a PBS documentary about Carnival down in Rio. This being the 80s and educational programming, they didn't exactly censor the thing. Now, my parents being of a puritanical sort at the time, had filtered a lot of the stuff that I was able to see, so the utter shock of sitting with my also puritanical (so I thought) grandmother and watching bouncing vibrant street-party boobies without so much of a hint of embarrassment or move to change the channel cause a big giant flashing neon "does not compute" sign to pop into my head.

I mention this because it is the the nearest comparison I have to my reaction when I saw the video from my latest marathon (Walt Disney World, btw, and it was awesome). Check out this video at the finish, and look for the guy in the custom tank on the left who crosses at about 3:59:57:

I don't know about you, but I can pick out about 10 things wrong with that running form without thinking. Bad posture, bad foot strike, too much lateral movement - dude looks like an out of place power walker more than an endurance runner. And he will be a power walker soon if he keeps up that stride.

That video is at the finish line, though, so maybe it's just fatigue. After all, who has great form at mile 26.2? That's a nice thought - let's check out the same guy, but this time at mile 11. Form shouldn't be an issue that early, right? Look for the guy just after Tinkerbell appears.

Well, I'll say this: at least the form is consistent. Consistently bad.

I'd poke a little bit more fun at that poor sap - maybe speculate this was his first time, maybe ask if he found his entry form in a box of cracker jacks, maybe muse that he got lost on the way home from a Latin dance class - except for one teeny tiny little detail.

That runner is me.

DOES NOT COMPUTE is flashing through my head. I've had some solid advice on form, I've tried to implement that advice, I've doled out some advice of my own, and I certainly know what good form is and looks like. How in the world can I look so bad?!?!?

Needless to say, if I want to continue to do this long term, I've got some fixing to do. I've done a bunch of research and have a specific plan - which I'll post (along with a more technical description of the problems I'm seeing) later. I'll chronicle the progress and experience here.

Hmm, so it's been over a year

since I last put anything here. Truth be told, I got busy, injured my IT, doubted I'd ever finish my first marathon, and forgot about this place for a time.

Since then, I've run not one but three marathons (two of them in under four hours), a host of smaller races, tried out a hundred different running products, and otherwise generally made myself into a real runner instead of some random guy with expensive shoes.

So it's time to claim this place back. I don't know how many people are interested, but I'm generally going to use this place to record training thoughts, gear reviews, links to articles and sites, etc. I have to redesign the place too, so be patient.