Gear

If you have looked around my blog at all, you will notice that there is a severe lack of posts on my running kit. And that is two-fold.

When I began running in middle school, there was no such thing as a Garmin. No GPS tracking to measure your mileage to the hundreth of a mile. (Ah but our poor training logs…) There were heart rate monitors, but they were expensive and gaudy. (We probably could have died running without knowing our heart rates.) And we had no clue how many calories we were burning. (Surprisingly we were not a bunch of porkers.) We ran in cotton t-shirts with gaudy designs and basketball shorts past our knees. (I think it was the wind drag that made us so fast when we got down to our singlets and short shorts.)

Somehow we made it through without our nipples chaffing off, getting lost, becoming obese, or over training, and we did it without all the gizmos, gadgets, junk and high tech clothing everyone is trying to convince you is a necessary part of running. We did it by learning to listen to our bodies, to know when we were going too fast or too far. I have kept this attitude as I have come back to running and this is why you will not find much about gear on here.

I use a $20 (they used to be $10) watch from Wal-mart that gets 30 splits. (I tried my wife’s Garmin once, but it said I ran a 4:35 in the middle of a six mile easy run. Wrong.) And while I have changed my attire a bit, (I like short shorts now…), I still go with minimal gear. It helps me stay in tune with what I am actually doing – running, not escaping.

“But what about shoes,” you say? Well, the reason I have not posted anything about shoes is because I have not gotten new shoes since I started this blog. “But that was back in September,” you say? Well, the current pair of Skoras I am in almost have 1000 miles, and unfortunately (only because I love them so) will need to be replaced soon. Consequently, you will be getting a shoe review in the semi-near future.  But as far as I am concerned, shoes are the only ‘real’ kit you need for running. The rest is just pomp. Focus on your shoes. Healthy feet means healthy running, and healthy running means faster running. (Coming into ultras I understand I might need to pick up a hydration pack or something of that nature, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.)

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My n=1 Treadmill Experiment

Thar be dee debil.

Thar be dee debil.

I have been having a bit of an issue with my left Achilles tendon lately and while it is annoying, it is only a grade one and is more an annoyance in the morning than anything else. All the same, it is important to me to figure out the issue at hand before it devolves into a grade two or an eventual grade four.

One of my main thoughts around this issue is that I have been running minimally with my SKORAs for sometime, and I would imagine that the ‘growing pain’ stage is through. I do not have perfect form, but I do not really suspect my form as the major issue at hand – if it was, I would have felt these issues earlier on in the past few years. The pain began to get noticeable shortly after winter started. What came with winter? Snow, slippery roads, and the use of the treadmill. As I have mentioned before, the treadmill is awful for form. It is a 100% unnatural way of running, but as has been alluded to here and elsewhere, there are times the treadmill is a necessary evil.

Since the week of September 14, I have been running around 55 and 60 miles with an average weekly pace between 6:50-7:10. I have been doing one long run (~6:55-7:10) and one tempo (~6:10-6:15) paced workout with durations of about 1.5-2 hours and 45-60 minutes, respectively. My typical training week consists of three days outside, a day on the treadmill, two outside, and another on the treadmill. I am going to change this to four days outside, one on the treadmill, one outside, and one more on the treadmill. (3/1/2/1 to 4/1/1/1). Ideally I would go to 5/2, but schedules do not allow for it.

I will be running 40+ miles on the first four days, 5.5 on the treadmill days and another 9-10 on the standalone outside day for just over 60 miles.

What I am hoping to find is that my AT soreness is less severe on day four of my weekly cycle and that after running on the treadmill, it will be sore in the morning. My mileage will be around the same, and I will not change the type of workouts I have been doing. Next week is the first week of the ‘new’ schedule so we’ll see what happens.

I know this is utterly and completely biased. I hate my treadmill and want every excuse to hate it, but none-the-less it should be interesting to see how things feel and if there is any noticeable difference.  Come on spring…

You Think You’re Cold?

It is cold in much of the United States, and being in Vermont, I feel I have the right to complain a bit about the frigid temperatures. That was until the Arrowhead 135 was brought to my attention. 135 miles in the coldest city in the coldest of the lower 48 states, in the dead of winter. Sounds exciting, right? As I type this, it is -7 with a real feel of -19. It was colder yesterday.

I have tried to do some hard workouts in 10 degrees and below and the cold temperatures make the effort almost impossible. Not only is your body fighting to burn calories and stay warm, but you are asking it to do some serious work. And my workouts were only ten miles, I cannot fathom running 135 miles in temperatures like that. No thank you.

More Grades?

2. Each Injury Progresses Through Four Grades

This is the second of Noakes’ Ten Laws of Running Injuries. It is fairly short and rather simple. It reminds us to listen to our bodies, and how to judge objectively what ails it.

If you have a child, or pay attention to the state of our (United States) education system, you know testing is the end-all-be-all. And with testing comes grades. Even first graders are receiving grades these days. No longer is little Johnny satisfactorily writing his ‘J’s’, but he is doing them on the ‘C’-level. Awesome.

I digress. Even in running there are grades, at least to some degree. Noakes breaks our injuries into four grades, each a little worse than the prior. These grades are important for a couple of reasons: they can help us talk to a doctor if you choose to go that route, and mainly, they help the individual ascertain the damage that is occurring when something hurts. These grades are for intrinsic injuries.

The first is Grade one and it is the most basic. It is “an injury that causes pain after exercise and is often only felt some hours after exercise has ceased” (Noakes 749). Those little knocks that seem to slow you down in the morning, or bother you a few hours after you have called it a day, those are grade one. A grade one is the simplest injury to deal with. and sometimes, they seem to go away on their own. (They do not really go away on their own, you have changed your form to compensate for the injury and in turn fixed what was wrong.)

A grade two injury actually occurs while you are exercising. Noakes says that it does not cause pain sufficient to stop or reduce the exercise, but it is enough to cause discomfort. This one is tricky as it can sometimes be difficult to decipher what is fatigue, and what is an injury. With patience you can learn, though it does take time. I am still learning.

Grade three takes the discomfort seen in grade two to another level and the pain is actually enough to hinder training and race performances.

Finally, grade four. This is the worst type of injury and is “so severe that it prevents any attempts at running” (Noakes 749). You do not want grade four. It is a doozey and can take long periods of time to heal.

These grades can help athletes determine their injury level and what actions they should take. It is important to listen and recognize when your injury is migrating from a grade one to a grade two as it is a sign that what you are doing is not working.

Aside from IT band issues and stress fractures, a grade one injury will not suddenly deteriorate into a grade four injury (Noakes 749). So have no fear your little knock will suddenly render you couch bound, get out there and keep going. Listen to the knock, what is it telling you? Pay attention to your injuries and if they start to get worse, start thinking about changing things up. It seems simple enough, but it takes discipline.

I’ve Been Streaking!!

Not in the “streaking through the quad sense,” but run-streaking. It is one of my yearly goals to streak as long as I can, but I will not sacrifice a race effort, or risk injury doing so. It is not that important. The injury part is important because the last time I streaked it ended with a popped calf because I kept pushing.

Yesterday, I tied my longest streak of 130 days, I know, it is not long. There are folks that have been doing this streaking thing for years. Some will tell you streaking is a bad thing – you need time off for your body to rest and recover, and while that might be true, I do not see much difference in an off day and a forcedly slow day of considerably lower miles.

For some, streaking is an excellent motivator. I am not sure the streak is motivating me, or if it is my upcoming races; either way, I have been running. My only hesitation with the streak is the crashing demotivation when the streak is over. Last time I stopped after 130 days, I had a heck of a time trying to get back into any kind of rhythm.

I know there are a fair number of people doing this Janathon thing, or whatever it is called, but who needs that? Set a simple goal of a mile or two a day, and go for it. Once the habit is formed, running becomes the standard, not the day off. Besides, it is a great way to build some base mileage and ultimately make you a better, healthier runner.

Who Hurt You?

1. Injuries Are Not an Act of God

This is the first of Noakes’ Ten Laws of Running Injuries. It is the longest, and contains a fair bit of information on form, and running stride. For me, it is the most important to think about when you pick up a knock.

By Noakes, and by logic, there are two types of injuries: extrinsic and intrinsic. Go ahead and churn those wheels for a minute and you will figure out what he means. Extrinsic injuries occur from external forces – an unruly tackle by some putz that should not be playing, a driver too busy horking a Big Mac, or maybe a deer.  Sometimes runners pick up extrinsic injuries, but they are seldom and the majority of injuries that runners pick up are, in fact, intrinsic, meaning that they come from some malady within. These maladies lie in our form.

Noakes claims that these intrinsic injuries can be traced to three factors: “genetic build; the environment in which training is performed, including the shoes that are worn; and the athletes training methods” (Noakes 742).

Noakes says that our genetic builds can have hereditary influences, and that due to these genetic variations, essentially all runners function differently. Further, he says “perfect mechanical function is exceedingly rare and is restricted to the handful of runners who run as far as they like in whatever shoes they might choose without ever being injured” (Noakes 742). Basically, if a runner has perfect mechanical function, shoes do not matter. Unfortunately, for those of us that do not have perfect mechanical function, we are out of luck as “these common biomechanical abnormalities cause running injuries by altering the biomechanics of the running stride” (Noakes 745). In essence, poor form means injury.

Read through a minimalist lens, Noakes is basically saying the vast majority of running based injuries can be attributed to deficiencies in form. When these deficiencies are fixed and our mechanical abnormalities marginalized, we can begin to run injury free – just look out for those flying deer.

There is also a ton of information in this short section that – I think – encourages the  minimalist route, but that is a discussion for another day altogether.

Fried

Or rather, frozen. I wanted to get an hour at marathon pace in sometime this week, and while I should have done it when temps were still above freezing, I did not. That left today during the day, or Friday night. Rather than try to do it at night, after dinner, in the bitter cold, I opted for today, in the bitter cold, because it is warmer when it is sunny…

I looked at the temperature around 12:00 and it was still 3 degrees. I thought for a minute about using the treadmill, but could not bring myself to do it. Five minutes for warm-up, maybe five for a cool-down, and an hour in-between? No thanks. So I waited until the heat of the day and went out at 2:00. (Heat of the day being 10 – Fahrenheit.)

I have run in much colder before, but something today fried me, hard. I hit my pace okay, actually went a little quick, but I called it quits early. And for the rest of the day, I have been walking around like a zombie-cicle. I do not know if it was a mental thing, or an actual physical thing. I blame it on the cold, maybe the layers, and the hills, but really it was one of the those fail moments when the lazy-brain wins. These wins are fewer and fewer, but they still happen. Come on spring time….

Treadmill Hate #5: “Oh, She’s a Gold Digger”

Reason #5: Cost Per Mile

Believe it or not the array of treadmills is vast – (who knew a belt and a motor could be so varied?) – and the prices are just as varied. Unless you are a hipster looking for a drying rack, you can expect to spend a fair bit of change on one of these former torture devices. (No joke, check out this link.) And let us be honest about this, unless you really are a runner, there is a pretty good chance your expensive treadmill is just going to turn into a drying wrack to compliment the weight bench, the spin bike, and the bowflex in your basement.

When the time finally came this year for us to throw down on our treadmill, I did a bit of shopping. I ran our last one into the ground with ease and I did not want to do that again. I asked around on some running forums and was directed to the Sole line. All the reviews say they make a good machine, in fact, the frame is advertised as being bullet proof – which does me no good, I live in Vermont. (And if I did live somewhere I needed a bullet proof treadmill, I think I would be stashing my cash in the mattress, tossing my running shoes over the wires and getting the hell out of town.) Soles are not cheap, nor are they the most expensive jobs out there, and they have a pretty good warranty.  But to be honest, I really wanted a wooden slat job from Woodway, but there was no way I could justify the cost.

We ended up dropping $1500 on our machine and it would have cost more to have the driver drop the 327 pound package off at our door, instead of the end of the driveway. But that is a story for another day…

The part that gets me about the cost of the treadmill, is that running should be cheap. I judge the cost of things by the mile – a $50 half marathon will win every time over a $25 5k any day. That means I would have to run 1500 miles on the treadmill for it to cost me $1 to run a mile. That is almost three-quarters of my mileage for 2013. That is insane. And there is no way I am running that mileage on a treadmill unless I am in a damn space craft. Since November, I have run near 140 miles on it. I might see 250 by spring time, a far cry from 1500 – that is $6 a mile. That means I have to keep this up for six years, and even then, it is still a dollar a mile which is more than I pay for my shoes. And none of this takes into account the cost of the electricity I use to run it.

Treadmill Hate #1: Barking Spiders
Treadmill Hate #2: Running in the Desert
Treadmill Hate #3: Boredom
Treadmill Hate #4: Poor Form