Thursday, October 27, 2011

Short and sweets for a clear head

Post marathon, mid-semester, pre-thesis defense, I just don't have time to do serious training right now. I'm now doing what I call short and sweets because they just feel great and keep my head clear. When my brother was having IT band issues and other aches and pains, my advice was long winded, but on the running side I told him he had to reduce his distance to runs that never reached the point where anything hurt.

Whether you're fighting an injury, seasonal reluctance, boredom or you just don't wanna run, my solution is simple: run really short distances. I went out for a 40min run today which was perfect, and qualifies as a short and sweet in my book. It clears my head, energizes and centers me for the day, and adds one more check mark to my loooong agenda. My brother had to get his runs under two miles so his legs wouldn't act up, but that's fine!

Unless you are training for something specific, distance and speed don't matter, fun does, the benefits do. Keep in mind why you are running. I'm running for self improvement, long term health, mental clarity, and to get myself into longer and longer races because I want to. Why are you out there? 

Or maybe more importantly, why aren't you? If it's because you think you're too slow or it's no fun, or the runs are too long; don't worry about speed, take the pressure and guilt out of the equation and it will be more fun, and shorten your runs. This is a form of exercise that can really benefit anyone and everyone and the benefits are most apparent when you find the way that keeps you smiling during it.

It's an excellent way to take 20min for yourself that can bring you some peace and help you get your head in the game for whatever you have to work on today. If your run is 15 minutes but those minutes give you some clarity and center you for the day, you have accomplished your goal!

Get out there and smile! It's a beautiful Autumn this year.
Good running and good living!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I just don't want to...Fall running, goals and the madness

Just a month ago there were people running everywhere. We were out in droves enjoying the last sunny warm days of Indian Summer before the inevitable. They're all gone! I've been out less, partly because I was having trouble with my legs tightening up after the marathon, and partly because of the rain and cold.

Time to set some goals. I've got mud race coming up, like this one and it's time to start getting ready for it.
The great thing about these races is that I need to do something in addition to running. I think part of the problem with my legs tightening during and after the marathon was that I didn't cross train. Now's the time.

Look, only a select few really want to be out running when it's rainy and cold. The race above was in hot sunny July and my next one is in cold dismal November. The point of the race for me is too get me back outside training. Not only that but I'm signed up with 6 or 7 other people. I don't have a huge dose of macho in me, but I've got enough to want to make sure I'm not crapping out in the middle of the pack. One of the most gratifying things about the marathon was that I was still jumping, laughing and whooping up the crowd at the end of it.

I plan on the same in November and in order to do so I'm going to have to be in fighting shape. I'm a notorious weather whiner and I have to do some work to get myself out there and motivated to train in the rain.

Number one motivator forever: GOALS!
Having a time and place set, having paid for it, having told other people, having signed other people up commits  you to be ready for the event. I signed up for a late season event for exactly this reason. I need outside pressure to get me out there.

Number two helpful motivator: VARIETY
I love running. That being said it's nice to mix it up with something like jumping into green ice water in the middle of November. I feed on insanity and this is really going to be great. The last scene before the finish in the above video is us running through a field of live electrical wires. If you're having trouble getting out to run it may be that the season's races are over, the other runners have packed it in for the year and you're out there alone. Time to switch it up and train for another goal. Example: I want to be able to lift my car over my head by Spring!

Number three point to keep in mind: KNOW THYSELF!
I'm always coming back to this, but you have to know what will get you going. Getting covered with mud, frozen and electrocuted might not do it for you. Is there something wrong with you or with me?! You need to figure out what will get you out there and do it. DO IT!

If you want to join us in November in Indiana for this lovely number we'd love to have you. Either way, keep moving, keep motivated, keep the gleam in your eye and the madness in your heart.

Good running and good living!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Barefoot, bareform, minimalist, oh my!

I trained this Summer with a mix of barefoot running and minimalist shoes. Some of this started with a workshop I did at a local running store where they took my shoes off and videod me running in shoes and without. Back when I was a personal trainer I used to have clients take their shoes off when I was doing a gait assessment, I'd have them run a bit and I always thought it was a shame people couldn't run without them all the time. Of course the truth is, the only reason I thought this was because I was missing something. Our bodies are actually very good at running without shoes, we just have to give them some time to realize the coffins are off for the first time.

I spent months researching barefooting, read 4 or 5 books on the subject and went from an 8 mile max long distance in 2010 to my first marathon in Oct 2011. I didn't run it barefoot but wore minimalist shoes which are designed to affect barefoot style running as little as possible. While I doubt there's a future where runners everywhere are barefoot on the streets of all the major cities, I want to make the point that the reason it seems to work is that there are major changes in your running form that are required to run this way. The amazing thing, is that your body will make many of these changes the second you take your shoes off. Peoples' form shifts almost immediately to one where they are landing flat on their feet, avoiding the dreaded heal strike, bending knees, landing more gently. It requires some serious work to refine your form but that's just the case with running anyway if you don't want long term injuries.

Here's me during my 6 miles today.

I've done up to twelve miles like this. There are lots of resources out there for figuring out how to start without tearing up your feet or getting injured. A slow careful transition is really really really important. The thing is, once transitioned many people find they really enjoy the sensation. It puts you in contact with the ground and keeps you engaged in the run, paying attention to your body. For me it has changed my relationship to running completely from dread to enjoyment. I wouldn't have run the marathon if I wasn't enjoying the training.

Like I said there are many places to go for scientific rationale on bareform but it basically boils down to this: Humans have been running for millions of years and wouldn't have survived a species without being good at it. Running shoes with cushy soles have been around since the 70's and while technology is fine, the shoe companies have screwed it up and are promoting injury rather than preventing it. I posted a short story on another running blog by barefoot Josh yesterday that I think makes the point very well.

When I was studying kinesiology one of my classes was a biomechanics course. In it we dissected a bunch of basic sports movements like vertical jump, throwing and running. In the throwing section we spent almost a full week talking about the forces and techniques involved. We broke the movement down into it's component parts, mapped all of the muscles that are working and how to maximize them, and applied basic physics to each section of the movement. The concluding statements by my prof were that doing x, y and z was the best way to get the fastest acceleration and therefore the fastest baseball pitch etc. Then he said that it was also guaranteed to destroy the rotator cuff muscles over time!! This among other things in that program ingrained in me the opinion that athletes are people who sacrifice their bodies for the sport and that in order to achieve the necessary performance will end up damaging themselves. That's how I thought of it at the time but now I see that as a misguided notion. Athletes should be able to achieve performance without destroying their bodies.

Bringing it back to running, puffy running shoes are supposed to allow you to run faster by elongating your stride. You would never land on your heal without that cushion, it would hurt. Take your shoes off and run half a block and you'll prove me right. The fluff heal was supposed to make people faster than they ever could be without it. The problem is that the fluff isn't absorbent enough to remove all of that shock, and your body isn't very good at running this way. The best way to mitigate the shock of running is to use your many jointed legs to run softly and without all of that impact.

You're always better off with less impact than more, and the best way to do that is not by increasing the amount of padding under your feet but by changing your form to decrease the impact you're creating. In terms of form tips this is a good place to start, and so is this.

Good Running and Good Living!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chicago Marathon 2011 Race Report, welcome to the awesome zone!

So...first marathon, first 26.3 mile distance, in my hometown, basically running through the history of the first 30 years of my life, with a couple of really great friends jumping in to keep me company, my family meeting me during the race to cheer me on...what more could a slob like me ask for. I didn't end up carrying my camera so unfortunately you'll mostly get pictures of me taken by my lovely wife,

starting with this one at 6am as she dropped me off downtown. I really only managed to sleep about 4 hours that night as my OCD had me checking the alarm clock every hour to make sure I had set it right, but I was excited, felt good and rested.

Downtown Chicago is a great place to be at 6am, if you don't have to work. That is to say, if you are running a marathon, or still up at 6am for any number of um, reasons that might have you staying up all night.

Well this time I was up to do a marathon so off I went to wander around Grant Park, getting ready for the race and chatting with other runners. The pre-race was really well organized, keeping the 40 odd thousand people corralled into the appropriate lanes and isles before the starting line.

 I got myself into the open corral and worked my way through the crowd toward the 9min/milers. It was exactly like being at a concert and trying to get closer to the stage, with everyone letting you through but a little bit peeved that you're moving toward the front. You're too far away to see the stage, so any time people start pushing forward and yelling you do the same, and then nothing happens and you stand around a bit longer. Then someone yells and everyone starts to push forward, and it turns out that you're going to be standing for a while chatting with your neighbor.

The Chicago marathon is such an awesome trip through the neighborhoods that I know so well. Eventually we were running through Lower Wacker, opening out on Columbus and over the river. My original plan for the run was to get warmed up in shoes and then take them off after a couple of bridges and run barefoot. The bridge on LaSalle was tough on the feet even in my minimalist shoes, but the crowds were absolutely mad and it really pumped us up. I was hustling, maybe a bit faster than I should have but it was such a rush.

I was really in the zone for the next few miles, trying to dial in my stride and get a good rhythm going and while I remember running by Lincoln Park, I didn't really get out of my own head until the North end of the race. I think it was the madness in Boy's Town that pulled me out. That's where the music got really loud and the crowd was insane. I had a great short chat with a fellow from Georgia, running in Luna Sandals, who was super positive and enjoying his run. I kind of woke up at this point and started paying attention to the people around me.

For a solo runner it was amazing to be surrounded by so many people. Even as the crowd thinned a bit and there was more space the streets were absolutely filled with runners and crowds. The music and the parties were going everywhere. I had an old friend jump in with me at mile 13 (yellow shirt). He ran with me for a few miles and was there at the point that the crowd had thinned out a bit so it was perfect.

I had another friend jump in at mile 15 or so (orange "Young" shirt) just at the point where I started to lose track of things like time and space. He's in this picture with our highschool gym shirt on. The three of us actually ran past our highschool singing our school song. This is me going in for the kiss as my wife takes the pic and my babies just peaking below. It was super nice to see them out there. Below is the pic of them with their best buddies and the kids of the lovely friends we stayed with.

I was still good but starting to feel the distance at this point. David was with me until mile 23 or so. I was having trouble keeping track of my salt pills and gu and getting a little incoherent and he helped me tremendously. We ran through the West Loop and later through Pilsen. This is a Mexican neighborhood and everybody was out playing loud music, dancing and hollering.

Later in the run I started hyping the crowd up to get people screaming. Dave and I had a long talk about my post about smiling during runs and encouraging other people. I spent a lot of time talking to people during the run, doing the old pat on the back you're doing a great job. I also really tried to fire up the crowd when they weren't already. They really responded when I made noise, smiled a lot and hollered so I made a habit of it for the rest of the run.

My wife told me later that in the crowd it was easy to get distracted and the runners firing up the crowd brought them back. I was a bringing back machine for the last 7 miles or so because it was amazing how the crowd went from quiet to roaring with a little encouragement. China Town was huge, they had dancing dragons and massive crowd turnout. It was after Chinatown that things got a little desolate. There weren't many people for a while there and my IT band started really tightening up at mile 24. I had to walk for a half mile for the first time in the race and stretch a bit. I took that half mile to recoup and then got back to running at mile 25 and held on until the end.

My original plan had been to take my shoes off around miles 8-10 but by that time I had such a great rhythm going, the last thing I wanted to do was change something or stop. I knew I'd probably have to put them back on at some point and the prospect of stopping for anything just wasn't what I needed at that time. My trail gloves served me perfectly as they always do so I was happy to keep them on.

The audience at the end was a little quiet so I did some hyping and jumping and smiled my ass off. The finish line was crowded with bleachers and I'm sure they were horse 4 hours in but they got going with some help. It really was an amazing time. I loved the neighborhoods and the enthusiasm of Chicago crowds.

 My family picked me up downtown, gave me my chocolate milk, and took me home for my guinness. I'm a bit sore today but not too bad and I'm trying to figure out how many more races I can fit in this year. The longest run I've done until this point was 22 miles and I think I still had something left at the end, so I'm looking for a 50k to finish my first racing season. Got any suggestions?
Care to join my team for the Tough Mudder in IN?

This really is huge for me. I started this season with the goal of running this race and now that it's behind me I'm finding that it just makes me want to set more goals. Thanks for everyones' encouragement, huge ups to Sandy and David for being out there with me, my wife D for all of the support including dragging our family all over the damn place so I can run these races. Lots of love to you Callahans for being the best friends ever and all the rest who have supported me in this. There's more to come!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Final thoughts.

Going to bed. Wake up at 5am. Excited and sleepy, can't wait for tomorrow, first marathon ever but more to come. Thanks for all the well wishes everyone!
Good running!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Marathon kit. What I'll be carrying, taking, using to survive!

Actually I run to thrive not survive but I do have some materials to keep me smiling. My plan is to take it pretty easy at first and try not to get swept up in the excitement of the start and push too hard. I'm going to give it a few miles to see where I'm at, make sure the bod is ready for the haul and then let loose. I'm shooting for having a good time rather than running a short time. It's my first marathon and I'm going to enjoy running through all of these neighborhoods from my childhood. I think I'm running past every school I've ever been to aside from two.

Here's the stuff list from the top left.

GoPro Hero HD camera and headmount
Hammer Endurolytes
Body Glide Anti-chafe balm
Nathan hip pack (I've got a hand carry bottle too)
Gu Brew, Chomps and gels 
Sun glasses (can't remember the brand right now)
A rolling pin
A soft ball
That hard to see, grey dri-fit hat given to me by Death's Door Spirits
Merrell Trail Gloves
Pearl Izumi running shorts
Addidas running shirt

GoPro is what we used on our last mud race. My brother had bought one and it was totally amazing so I bought one and I'm going to record a bunch of running time and post a video after. The head mount is awesome and doesn't chafe or bounce and the video quality is fantastic. It's even got a water proof case. It's what we filed these video on.

The Endurolytes are an awesome way to keep really hydrated on long runs. Drinking water alone won't do the job because you're losing so much salt in your sweat that you can't hydrate properly without some electrolytes. Many people like powders in water but I get much better results from drinking water and taking these pills every 20min or so. It's all about Osmosis.

Body Glide? Self explanatory I think. Count the number of times your thighs pass each other in an average day, add sweat and you're missing some skin. The one thing I forgot here is my nipple tape. I'll leave that to your imagination

Gu stuff is all about calories. I've got Brew for extra hydration these last couple of days before the race, Gels for sugar while running (one every half hour), Chomps for sugar plus caffeine (last third of the race). You can get your calories from a variety of sources but this is really the simplest way to go about it.

A rolling pin and soft ball are for fending off the other 39,999 people who might be getting in my way. I think I've talked about before. They're for working out the muscles in my legs and feet in the days before the run. These two things helped solve some almost injuries earlier in my training and I rely on them completely. Click on them to go to the website of the mad running genius who turned me on to this and saved my training, Scott Hadley.

It's going to be hot this weekend so hat and sunglasses. It's amazing how much energy you can save by not squinting for 3.5 hours. Focusing on what you're doing is essential. The shorts have a pocket in the back for easy access to caffeine.

All this stuff is about keeping the body in good form so the mind can focus on the task at hand. If your body is running low the mind becomes consumed with just keeping moving. In my experience the best thing you can do to keep yourself from losing it is make sure your body is taken care of. If the bod has all of the sugar and hydration it needs you don't have to consume your mental energy fighting that battle.
Less battle = more :)  and that's what I'm shooting for.

Thanks for reading and wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shoe review, Merrell Sonic Gloves

I've been running in Merrel Trail Gloves on and off since Spring. They're the kind of shoe that draws love or hate reactions. I returned them twice before I settled on keeping them and I'm glad I did. They were Merrell's first foray into minimal shoes and now their second release is out, the Sonic Glove.

As far as I can tell this love hate thing is a product of the mid foot construction of the shoe. These shoes are designed to fit tightly around the arch but to be completely open in the front allowing your forefoot to spread in a very natural way. To me this feels right. I lace the front of the shoe as loosely as I can to give my flappy duck feet room. Many people say this makes the shoe feel like it is two different shoes at once.

Sonic gloves:

The sonic glove is almost exactly the same shoe. The changes they've made are to the upper and not to the sole. Being a minimalist shoe, the sole is "zero drop', meaning that there is no elevation at the heal. The sole is completely flat. This allows you to maintain the form you would have if you were barefoot, and your foot to do the same.

If you can see in the picture below, the trail glove has a mesh upper. It is very open and perfect for Summer. It was breathable and incredibly light. The sonic glove is more solid above as they were looking to winterize the shoe a bit. I ran in it Sat and Sun, and wore it all day yesterday at work. They feel much warmer which is a big thing for me in this weather. I hate cold feet.

The upper on the SG is water resistant (not proof) so the dewy grass doesn't get my feet wet in the morning, but I'm not jumping in any puddles. They are just as light and feel almost identical but a bit more substantial. I started to get a blister on the back of my heal yesterday (no socks) and I think this is because that upper is a bit more rigid so they will need some more breaking-in than the trail gloves did.

Trail gloves:

Over-all I like Merrell's minimalist shoes a lot. I ran a couple weeks ago barefoot on a cold day and was really uncomfortable on Michigan's rough blacktop with cold feet. Since then I've been running in the trail gloves almost exclusively and now I have something warmer to work with. It's too late for me to break these in for the marathon on Sun but hopefully Chicago will grace us with a beautiful warm Fall day.

Another really excellent benefit to minimalist shoes that was pointed out to me is the fact that without all of that built up foam, there is nothing to break down in the shoe. The thing that makes your average running shoe useless after a while is the foam getting beaten down until it no longer provides that cushion you were getting at the beginning. These shoes never provide that. All of the cushioning and shock absorption comes from your excellent gait. You know, the one you've been working on for months in order to make sure you aren't hurting yourself when you take off those big cushy shoes?

That's the last point I'd like to make I guess. These shoes are minimal. In order to run in them you have to have an idea of what minimalist form is. Merrell has done an excellent job of bringing staff on to educate people on this. There are a rash of injuries in the running world from people reading inspiring books and going out to run around barefoot. This transition should take months to accomplish and should be done quite carefully. If you are not careful you will end up with stress fractures and over use injuries. SLOW TRANSITION. 

I love these as running shoes but also how they feel as kicking around shoes, and that's actually the best place to start. If you're thinking about making a transition away from regular running shoes, this might be a good time to pick up a pair like this and wear them casually to get a feel for the minimalist sole.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tapering and what to do with all of this nervous energy

Today I packed up my entire family and made them come with me on a run. Everyone was riding bikes. I ran barefoot to a local running store and bought a pair of Merrel Sonic Gloves. I love the Trail glove and figure I'll need something for wetter colder weather. It was good hard work for me as my boy got sick of peddling and went on strike, refusing to move unless I pushed him. So I did some donkey work on a lovely Fall day, enjoyed an awesome time with my family, and breathed that cool fresh air.

My taper is on and I'm not supposed to be running any long runs. After all of the work I've put in to keep myself on track for training it's almost as much work to convince myself not to go out and push another 2 hour run to make sure I'm not losing it. I wonder if I'll feel the same way after next Sun (Oct 9th is the marathon). I'm trying to stretch, do a lot of rolling pin work on tight muscles, drink a lot of water, eat lots of good food and generally keep the mind in killer fit focus. My plan is to run the first 6-8 miles or so pretty relaxed, let everyone pass me, smile a lot, encourage people, and then let loose the maniac, run my legs to bloody stumps and crawl over the finish line screaming! maybe...

I've been working on this guy's body work. I was turned onto it by Jason Robillard who is a great resource himself and a great aggregator of good info.

Since I can't run much I've been putting together my playlist for the marathon next week. Music is extremely important to me. I spend a lot of time looking for new music and can really spend entire days just looking for new exciting music scenes from all over the world. Somehow it doesn't really play much of a role in my running as I like to listen to podcasts but here is a selection of new stuff going into the marathon playlist.

I love these guys. The singer is somehow like Jack Black plus David Bowie and the music is like a beautiful 80s under-aged club dance mix. This is turning into one of those songs I listen to 1000 times until it drives me crazy.

Next up, a band I heard on Sound Opinions, the best music podcast ever. I think this kind of music is called post-something or other, but the fast beat is great for the feet. My favorite part starts at 3:30 (end zebra psychedelia begin Xmas trees and silly puppets).

TV on the Radio hardly needs an introduction but this is a sweet song and I love how they take like a minute and a half to finish their build at the beginning of the song. You get a few minutes in and still feel like the song is about to start. I had to link to it as their label blocks embedding. Thumbs down!

All right one more. I got these guys from an old friend's label. Thanks T! Again, post-something or phsychedelic rock revival, I don't know. Good solid rockers.

Wait last one. My playlist is like 1000 songs (I run so slow I'll need it) but can't forget to throw some old timey electronica.

What do you listen to? Are you a loud fast drive me forward music type or a smooth relaxing smile your fact type? Let me know below.

Good Running!