I’m An Ambassador

It seems that life is picking up. The slow pace of winter is gone, and it’s time to rush around and enjoy the warmth that summer brings. Or I’ve just put too much on my plate.  Either way, it goes something like this:

Over the last three or four months, I’ve been going through the process to become a SKORA Ambassador. I didn’t have a lot of hopes, but figured what the hell. Lo and behold, I’ve found out that I was accepted. Pretty sweet. Granted it doesn’t mean much for you all. Maybe some free shoe giveaways in the future, but nowt for now.

Tomorrow also marks the first time since November that I will be running a real race, and the last couple of weeks have been sub-par to say the least. I took some easy time, and felt better, but this past week we redid our bathroom and I managed to retweak my Achilles while carrying a bathtub up a ladder into a second story window – not cool. So for two weeks in a row now, my mileage has suffered. I know what you do the week or two before a race doesn’t make or break you, but it definitely plays with confidence. Couple that with tomorrow being my first race for TeamSKORA, and I’m feeling anything but sure about this.

Of course, here is the obligatory race kit picture. The maroon and orange Dead Skunk Racing singlet, and my SKORA Core – which while not as light as my Phase feel like they’ll be a pretty nice shoe to race in – and my bandanas. Typically I’ve gone with the brown, but my brother got the camo for Christmas, and it’s a tough decision…CBHM Kit

Running By Numbers

Running, like any other sport really, is measured by numbers. At first thought, it might seem that our numbers are simple – time and distance. But the reality is, there are a plethora of numbers that come into account for most when we think about our running. We don’t just log our time, but now we have watches that log each split – about every mile or so, we know our pace. Our watches tell us how fast our heart is beating. Not only do we know how far we’ve run by mile, but we can find out down to the thousandth how far we’ve run. We log our days by miles and time, and at the end of the week we have a nice little total. Our totals add up monthly and eventually yearly. And over time we’ll know just how many miles our legs have traveled; we’ll know how many days we’ve run; how much time we’ve spent on our feet traipsing around chasing fantasies and finding solace in ourselves.

For me, adding these numbers up – following my own progress – gives me motivation. I like to be able to look back and see that I’ve hit my weekly mileage  for 10 weeks, 20 weeks, a year. At the start of every week, I lay out a mileage goal of some sort for myself – my little carrot. This year I’ve also laid out some mileage goals for the year and am attempting to run-streak for the year, and maybe beyond. But all these numbers, all these little goals, can muddle the end point. The focus on staying healthy and running fast can get forgotten as I look to accumulate miles and time.

Since February I’ve been running with a bit of nagging Achilles issue – nothing too big, but stiffness in the morning, tenderness to touch, and discomfort to run. It wasn’t a gradual occurence, rather one of those trauma induced injuries you get from running at 4:00AM in single digits without properly warming up. I think a big fear of any athlete is to bugger the Achilles. A bad injury takes months to heal, and it never seems to heal to full strength.

Last week, after yet another early morning longish run and a day standing around corralling fourth graders, it became apparent that my Achilles was, in fact, not happy. It was time to evaluate. It didn’t go away on it’s own as I had wished it might. Nor did it really progress pain-wise. With a half marathon in a little over two weeks and the VT100 a little over two months away, I knew I had to do something.

All those numbers that were so important to me. My mileage goals for the week, the month, the year had to be tossed. My training plan was scratched. It was time to reevaluate and think long term. With my future in mind, and forsaking all the numbers that mean so much to me, I took a week easy. A whole week. It might not seem like much, but for the past seven months I’ve been building up for my first 100 mile race, and with two months to go, I would be logging less weekly mileage than I have in almost a year.

But then I did some realizing. I already knew it, but I needed to remind myself – the miles, the weeks, even the months, they don’t really matter. Sure, if your miles plummet for a long time so will your fitness, but what is seven days, fourteen days? If I had started my week on a Tuesday instead of a Sunday, my weekly mileage would be different, and what would it matter? I had been – and probably will continue again – to focus on the little things, the numbers that matter, but don’t. The numbers that will impact my final goal, but not more than a significant injury.

And so with great discipline, I took a week easy. I ran short four mile or less days. I didn’t fret over the pedestrian pace or the low mileage. I made myself ignore the finishing time on my watch. And while my log book looks a bit disappointing, my Achilles feels much better, and as I come back to real training, I’ve never felt more motivated to get out and hit it hard.

The Day My CORE Arrived

My birthday is mid-June (Flag Day to be exact), so growing up my presents were always spread out – Christmas in December and then six months later, my birthday. As I have gotten older, the excitement around Christmas has changed from focusing on myself to my children; unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my birthday. Instead of transferring excitement, it’s just sort of dissipated.

This year – while it isn’t quite my birthday yet – it seems that I have gotten something of a birthday present that’s given me quite a bit of excitement. The kind folks over at SKORA Running decided to mail me a pair of shoes to review – for free! To make the excitement even

Peek-a-Boo

Peek-a-Boo

greater, I wasn’t entirely sure of the shoes they would be sending my direction. I had suggested and hinted that I would really like to have a go at the CORE, but I have a tendency to lack clarity – ask my wife… While I had a pretty good suspicion that I would be receiving the CORE, I hadn’t a foggy as to the colorway.

They shipped the package and sent me the tracking number. It was FedEx, and I’m not sure if you’ve ever tracked a package shipped by FedEx, but it isn’t nearly as exciting as UPS. UPS is pretty good about sending out updates, not FedEx. All I knew was the package was shipped and, for what seemed like weeks, was stuck somewhere on a truck in the Bermuda Triangle. FedEx put an estimated delivery date of May 15th, so imagine my surprise when I came home from my run this morning and there on my doorstep was a nice little package about the size of a shoebox.

It really was like Christmas. I took the package inside and grabbed the butcher knife as quick as I could to rip into the box. I did my best not to look at the end of the shoebox that tells you the details of the shoe inside, and went straight to flopping the top open and admiring my brand new blue and fluorescent yellow CORE.

I only wear shoes to run, but I couldn’t help putting these guys on for the remainder of the day. I’m not sure what they do over at SKORA, but I’m pretty sure they have Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother on payroll. And while I haven’t had a chance to run in them yet, I have a feeling they will be amazing.

Sexy shoes...

Sexy shoes…

Due Diligence and Personal Responsibility

Perhaps you have heard, maybe you haven’t: there was a class action law suit filed against Vibram Five Fingers (you know the weird foot gloves people run in) for falsely advertising the health benefits of their shoes. You can find the article here: VFF Class Action.

I’m not one to support corporate American and shout praises for Monsanto, Nike, Ford and the like, but at the same time, a lawsuit like this drives me nuts. Yes big corporations need to be held accountable (I understand VFF is not a ‘big’ corporation, but they’ve made some decent cash). At the same time that corporations need to be held accountable, so do people. This lawsuit was over VFF making claims that their shoes would lead to fewer injuries, better posture, and stronger muscles. The lawyer leading the charge said that this is not the case when compared to running barefoot. I don’t know the exactness of the ads that were misleading or how misleading they were, but it sounds like there might have been a bit of mincing words.

I would assume that almost anyone knows that advertisements are meant to sell things. Sometimes they sell us things we need, sometimes they sell us things we don’t need, sometimes they sell us junk, sometimes it’s a quality product, the bottom line is that they convince us of our needs. That is what VFF did. Perhaps they used words that were misleading, but in my experience, it doesn’t seem like a flat out lie. It seems like the same generic claims of any other shoe company proclaiming their shoes will help you run faster or jump higher. How about adverts that use air brushed perfection to market a product? Are their claims any different? For me, their silent manipulation is more nefarious than the words.

In the end, VFF settled for $3.5 million rather than go to court, citing that they wanted to “avoid the expense and uncertainty of trial.” Of that $3.5, I’m sure a hefty sum went to the lawyers in charge. I’m also guessing that the Massachusetts justice system probably has some more pressing matters… Again, I know VFF were sort of in the wrong with their “lies,” but I think they could have won in court. I once heard, a good statistician can justify either side of an argument given the same numbers. But they settled and that’s that- but the fact that this even went to court and that there are even people who will put in for a claim is what really bothers me.

More often than not, running injuries are slow onset. Before we actually get injured we feel something coming and at that point we can either deal with it properly or improperly. When we deal with it improperly, it leads to injury. No one forced anyone to wear VFFs. No one forced them to keep wearing VFF when the onset first took. We can blame the shoe all we want, but is that really what caused the injury? How is this anyone’s fault but the person who put on the shoes? Who continued to run through injury without trouble shooting why? How many people failed to transition properly? Did anyone actually do any reading or research (other than Born to Run)?

For me it’s a sad moment for our already over-litigious society. Soon shoe boxes will come with warning labels advising purchasers to only run under a doctors supervision.  Or “Caution: shoe laces can become a choking hazard.”

And the real twist in all this BS? The excess funds that don’t get claimed and don’t end up lining the lawyers coffers go to the American Heart Association. An organization with a shoddy past that – depending on what diet science you follow – could be considered to be lying with their claims to a healthy heart.

As an addendum: “As is the case with many of these class-action lawsuits, a big chunk will go to the plaintiffs’ lawyers. They’re eligible to receive up to $937,500 in fees and reimbursement for up to $70,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.” Article here. That’s nearly 30% of the whole settlement.

Listen To Your Body*

I hesitate to write this post for fear of sounding like a pretentious-know-it-all-elite-runner-coach. I of course am none of those things, but that doesn’t stop me from having an opinion. And since this is essentially my soap box, I will proceed.

“Listen to your body.” It is good advice. If we didn’t listen to what our bodies were telling us, we’d end up running ourselves ragged, developing injuries, and eventually come crashing down as lumpy piles of human flesh. Lately, I have been hearing this phrase quite a lot, and it almost seems to be the new mantra in the self-help exercise world. I’ve seen it bandied about on facebook, twitter, blogs, even speaking to some other runners. Personally, I don’t mind the New Age, Hippy Granola, wannabe-Zen, catch-phrase, but I think it needs a little caveat, a but, an asterisk.

The problem is, that if all we did was listen, we wouldn’t get anywhere. Listening is great in that it alerts us to a potential problem; our job is to hash out the problem and react accordingly. Therein lies the real issue. Too often – I think anyway – people will pick up a knock or feel some tension or a sore muscle and take some time off, or ease up on their workouts. Our reactions tend to be way overkill. If every time we felt discomfort of some sort, we would stop. Our bodies don’t really like pain or hurt. Most first time marathoners vow to never run that far again. How many people would run ultra marathons if they just “listened to their bodies?” How about an obese person getting into a fitness program? I can’t imagine their bodies are happy with that feeling when they start.

Just because we feel something that might be out of place or uncomfortable does not mean we should stop – or even slow-up. Rather, I think we should push a little harder and see where it takes us. More often than not, those little nagging uncomfortable spots disappear; the sore muscles fade and we’ll be in the clear. When they don’t we can take it easy – but never stop. Eventually, over time, we learn to interpret what our body tells us, but it takes effort and a fair bit of pushing. A child will never learn to swim if they stay in the wading pool, likewise we will never learn to run to our full potential if we ease up when something ‘hurts.’ It takes time to learn your pain threshold and where that falls on the continuum of healthy pushing vs. overtraining.

There are no universal rules to learning your body and it’s messages. The only way is to push. So next time you listen to your body, and it’s telling you to stop – think seriously why it’s telling you to stop. Then go for a run.