Archive for August, 2012

August 13, 2012

A Running Public Service Announcement

Hello, Lover.

Apologies in advance if this gets a little long, but I think it’s a worthwhile topic and one I’ve never seen addressed anywhere…

A little over four years ago, I signed up for my first race, a half-marathon, and began the most recent running chapter in my life.  I’d loved running as a kid and joined the elementary school track team in 5th grade.  I continued  sprinting through junior high and high school, but by college I was focused on other pursuits.  With a slightly more flexible schedule in grad school I started dabbling in 3-milers again.  I signed up for the half marathon about a year after finishing my masters. The first thing I did was to download Hal Higdon’s beginner training plan and the second thing was to go to the running store to by “real” shoes. 

I had read about gait analysis and the importance of having shoes properly fitted in Runners’ World, but I remember being disappointed in the actual process.  From what I recall, I was told to roll up my pant legs and walk around the store in my stocking feet while the sales guy cocked his head slightly and squinted a little.  I was then told—wait for it—that I pronated slightly and should get a mid-range motion-control shoe.  (Note that this advice applies to 95% of all runners.)  I tried on several models and settled on my beloved NB 768’s.  As I ran more and raced more, I eventually ended up adding another pair and rotated between them.  I kept track of my mileage and dutifully replaced my shoes every 400 miles or so. As my form improved, I found that my shoes were lasting longer (also due to the rotation, no doubt), and I started to stretch it out to 600 miles before I retired them.  Then, last spring, I realized that my oldest shoes had almost 700 miles on them, but actually felt better than the newer ones.  This was not so long after the Born to Run frenzy as well, and I decided to see if they would make it to 800. Then 900. Then 1000.

Enter the marathon.  By then I was running in 3 pairs of 769’s, which had something like 700, 800, and 1000 miles on them, respectively, and they all kept feeling better and better.  I was pounding out 20-milers and Yasso’s by the dozen. About two months in, I started feeling an ache in my lower back, and shortly thereafter, the IT band pain started.  I tried everything, including new shoes, which only seemed to make things worse.  Back to the old 769’s. 


This is what 1,300 miles looks like.

I was still running in the 769’s (now at 900, 950, and 1300) last week, when I got a 25% off coupon for Roadrunner Sports.  I’d been putting off buying new shoes for ages, in part because I knew the stability structure of my current pairs was probably completely gone and I wasn’t looking forward to acclimating to a completely different feel.  Still, 25% off running shoes is not to be turned down, so I decided to actually go to the store rather than order online.  I described my predicament to the salesclerk, complete with the battered 1300-mile 769’s as props.  He suggested I have my gait re-analyzed, which sounded like a reasonable suggestion.   This time around, I actually ran on a treadmill in bare feet with a camera at tread-level recording my footfalls.  I can now report that I have quite a nice neutral mid-foot strike and what are apparently very high arches.  It seems that my stability shoes have, in fact, been rocking my foot precisely the wrong way.  (No surprise that the older they got, the better they felt.)

I left the store with a pair of NB 890’s with which I’m totally smitten.  They’re light and flexible and springy and oh so pretty!  After my first run in them, it became apparent that my old shoes had NO cushioning left and that I had been absorbing everything in my legs. A week in, I’ve had no issues with my calves tightening and the ache in my SI joint seems to be easing as well. 

I’m not totally sure what’s actually happened here.  It’s possible that I was put in the wrong shoes from Day 1 and that the motion control in the shoes contributed to the IT band injury.  What seems more likely to me is that the shoes were fine when I was starting out, but as my feet and legs got stronger I no longer needed the structure.  (I do think my arches have come up a bit since I started running.)  It’s also possible that wearing the old shoes until all the structure broke down actually forced me into a better stride (a la Born to Run).  In any case, this is where the PSA comes in: Get your stride re-checked every now and then. Most of the runners I know are constantly trying to improve their form, but we tend to forget to readjust the equipment accordingly.  And who doesn’t like new shoes?

August 5, 2012

A Milestone and a Fresh Start

I logged my 5,000th mile last week and I kept meaning to write a post about it, but the truth was, I just wasn’t that excited.  I’ve been kind of stuck in a rut lately and generally bored.  Having fought my way back after the IT band injury, I now find myself in the realm of no-longer-injured, but still nowhere near serious race-shape.  I’ve ramped up my weekly mileage a bit and started doing intervals and tempo runs again this past month, and on one level, that feels great.  The difficulty has been that I’m still dealing with a lot of soreness in my hips on top of the normal aches and pains that come with increasing mileage and speedwork.  Rather than feeling like a runner who is actively recovering from an injury, I now just feel like a mediocre runner.

I think I could probably deal with that better if I weren’t always tired and hungry. I’ve been mostly focused on slow runs and strength training for past few months, and to be sure, there have been a lot of benefits to my running as a result.  I’ve put on more muscle, gotten stronger, and I even seem to have improved my hill-running without actually having to run any.  I increased my protein intake by about 20% in that time, and since definitely want to continue the strength training, I will probably need to maintain something near that level.  I’m finding that the added speedwork demands more carbs, however, and I haven’t seemed to be able to hit a balance that’s working yet.  I’ve been thinking that given the muscle I’ve added, dropping a few pounds might help my speed going into race season.  I’ve been trying cutting protein and/or fat, and pretty much the only result has been general crankiness.

After some lack-luster experimentation over the past few weeks, I finally consulted my Paleo Guru friend this weekend.  He sensibly pointed out that the balance I’ve been eating seems to be generally working and, more importantly, is supporting my muscle recovery.  Getting leaner won’t necessarily result in getting faster, and may well just result in me being more tired.  In general, I tend to wake up starving, eat a sizable breakfast, and still not really feel properly full until after lunch.  I usually have a small snack before I run after work, and then eat a dinner to fill whatever nutritional holes I still have left at that point.  The Guru suggested focusing more on refueling from the workout I’d just finished rather than trying to front-load for the day ahead.  If I eat a bigger dinner I should be able to recover more efficiently and also won’t wake up so hungry (which would definitely improve my workday).  He also suggested switching my usual morning smoothie to directly after my workouts, which should replenish my glycogen stores much effectively without adding more carbs overall.  It totally makes sense and I’m looking forward to giving it a try over the next month or so.

I have McConnell’s 10K coming up in a few weeks, which I’m hoping will be a low-pressure event to test out my training and how my hip is responding.  If all goes well, I’d really like to find a half marathon to do this fall.  I have a feeling that getting my nutrition game plan sorted out may go a long way to improving my running overall, and I’m actually kind of excited.

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