Sunday, May 29, 2011

Do I Need Fixing?

Don't ask my wife that question! [rim shot] But seriously folks. . . I should be a good runner. I'm 6'1" and about 165 pounds. I've always been pretty athletic and somewhat fast/quick. Other than a bout of adolescent foot pain (which I now think was plantar fasciitis) that knocked me out of one soccer season, I have never had any issues running. It was just part of something I did while playing sports.

When I started running, I had a (possibly somewhat flawed) theory that basically had 2 parts. Part 1: Running efficiently means your energy is going forward and not up and down or side to side. Part 2: To run as fast as possible, every muscle (at least the ones in your legs) must be "engaged" in trying to achieve maximum speed. While there is probably some truth to both of these, I have started to learn that running fast and efficiently is much different when you are talking about a mile (or even a few miles) and longer distances (for me 10k+). Running efficiently means using the right muscles and using them in a way that they will last the whole distance.

So that is the source of my latest running conundrum. My apparent flaw in Part 1 is that by getting my energy moving forward, I was running very upright (too upright by popular convention) with had a very long stride (over-reaching) which caused me to heel strike. This was all part of my "plan" to roll my feet to keep my head nice and steady (like when I was in marching band only faster). My problem with part 2 was that I was giving each stride a little extra push forward off of my toe (when I had the energy to do so). The result was almost constant calf soreness and, when I was running longer distances, "runner's knee". I just assumed the calf soreness was a sign that I was building up the strength I needed and the runners knee was unavoidable due to my age and the mileage needed to train for marathon distance. The calf soreness wasn't too bad and usually went away after the first few strides of my run.

Now I "know" a little better. I know that heel striking can place extra strain on my joints. Along with the rolling action I was thinking was making me more efficient, was most likely slowing me down due to the deceleration during the heel strike and the lack of recoil from my achilles tendons sapped more speed and caused me to use more energy. I "know" this. I have bought into these aspects of running science as sound scientific theory with good physics behind it.

So here is my question, how much do I "fix"? I have switched to a shoe with a more natural sole alignment and have been working on landing on my midfoot. This is something I can do without making drastic changes to my form. However, I still tend to run more with my hip flexors than my quads (picture someone on a NordicTrak) and when I do engage my quads I feel way too "bouncy" and even though I think I am faster and it seems to take less energy, I still don't like all of that up-and-down movement. There has to be an in-between right? There must be a way for me to run the way I am comfortable (both physically and philosophically) and still be running "right", right?

For now, I am going to just keep putting in the work, trying to stay injury free, and let the form work itself out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Am I a running Cliff Claven?

"Well ya see Nahmy...the Kenyans practically invented tempah trainin'. Ya know that's really why they run so fast. Some people say it's the bay-ah feet, but it's the tempah trainin'." Is that what I sound like when I talk about running? I know I have only been running for a few years and I'm not an exercise physiologist, but I have read a few books and many articles in the past few years. That combined with my personal (albeit limited) experience has led me to believe in a few running absolutes. The first of these is that everything I first thought I knew about running was absolutely wrong.

In my high school PE class, we ran a mile every day to this day I don't remember if my best was 5:30 or 6:30. I just remember that I ran with 2 little twin brothers who were on the cross country team. They were running easy but still the fastest in the class. I was 6'1" and about 135 pounds and even though I wasn't super active in high school, I had played soccer for years and was still pretty quick. Now, 20 years later with a best magic mile just under 7:00, I think it was 6:30 but I might still tell you 5:30.

Anyway, one of the track coaches told me I had a good stride. This was most likely not true. I had a long stride and an easy gait, but I was swinging my legs like I was on a NordicTrack, pushing off with my toes, and heel striking. Basically I had converted my marching band "glide step" to a running version. From a distance it probably did look good. I looked relaxed, my head was hardly moving up and down at all, and I was going relatively fast.

Jump forward 20 years. I have now somehow run a marathon. Then I start reading some things about form - some articles specifically about it and other blurbs here and there. Then I go to my favorite running store planning on replacing my shoes. We do the TM video thing and I talk about how I'm trying to land more on my midfoot (which I had been doing somewhat successfully for my last few runs). We hit he sidewalk outside for a little instruction from the staff and I realize that I was a clueless, mustacioed, Bostonian, postal worker sitting on a bar stool thinking I knew everything about running.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More iPhone Woes

I had a great run this morning - just how great I will never know thanks to the folks from RunKeeper. I am an Ubernerd so I am all about my pace. I read "Run Less, Run Faster" and bought into the science. I try to hit my target paces within a few seconds. Some days are better than others. Today was my first day of my FIRST training for my first 1/2 marathon. My target pace was 7:35. I did 12 400m intervals pretty damn close to that pace. I know they were actually more than 400m because I timed them on my watch to keep track of my splits which were all about 2:00 or an 8:00 pace (even though my body and my iPhone said it was more like 7:30). In fact I decided to kick a little on my last interval and put in a 7:01.

So what is the problem? Everything was fine when I finished my run. Most of my splits looked great with a couple of GPS farts that I have become used to. Skip forward a few hours and I'm trying to log my data on DailyMile and everything is all jumbled up. The first few splits are different (and slower) and then it flips so my recoveries were fast and my intervals were slow. Obviously it tried to "correct" itself for making my intervals too long by recalculating everything. I would father have it tell me how far/fast I actually went as opposed to how fast I would have gone if I was running around a track and ignoring the woman's voice saying "next interval".

The good news is, my average pace even with slow 90 sec recoveries was 8:51. My target race pace is 8:50. I guess that means I can alternate hauling ass and jogging for 13.1 and be right on my target pace!