Sit-ups on the treadmill

I ran for 30 minutes on the weekend in my new shoes. My abs were killing me after 20 minutes. I ached in complete bliss for the final 10 minutes of that run. The new shoes are excellent, and they’re calling me to a higher level.

I’m joining Kristina in seeking membership in the 300 club. No, not “That 300 club”, I’m already a member of that one.

And on a completely unrelated note, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in thinking that black and white is sexy and just breathes fast lookingness.

Photo from gallery: Weblog Photos

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The new shoes

I need to be writing thesis and not blog.

Thesis makes me go crazy.

Blog lets me be a bit crazy.

Since Ironman I haven’t been running tired and sore very often. It’s been revolutionary! I’m definitely not as fast or as fit, but when running I feel like I’ve become a runner. It’s not such a crazy thing, perhaps even expected, that a year of focus on becoming a better runner turned me into a better runner.

But! – you say – you’re not as fit and not as fast, how are you more of a runner now than you were in 2009?

I feel like a runner. That’s enough, and if you’re going to measure it, then I’d contend that this’s all that matters. Let’s just cross my fingers that I still feel like a cyclist next spring. With a beautiful new chariot to ride around the countryside I can hardly imagine that being a problem and I’m not worried at all.

How can I tell I’m a runner? My shoes just aren’t quite right anymore. I’ve spent coming up on 5 years running in Asics GT 2110s, then 2120s and then 2130s an 2140s. Asics changed the name and charged me more money every few months along the way but because they were working for me I stuck with the motto, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. They didn’t really break, but since I’ve been running fresh and relaxed I’ve started to realize that they’re old fashioned. I’ve evolved to a higher life form over the course of the past year with my running, I’m more centered over my feet, I no longer brake against my momentum during my stride, and my leg carriage while still low and somewhat lousy compared to how I’d like it to look, is significantly higher and more efficient. I poured over a lot of research during the past couple weeks during bits and pieces of spare time and concluded that basically all of the research out there is a form of marketing. I suppose my research is a form of marketing too, it’s how we think. Someone can have a conniption about how thoroughly capitalism has ingrained itself in our social structure here, I’m not going to complain, I’m just going to observe. So, I decided that I’d listen to marketing that sounded like someone was thinking instead of deciding that I needed to find real bonified and impartial research. I’m not convinced you can buy shoes without being sold something. I’m pretty sure you can’t buy anything without being sold something for that matter.

This wasn’t meant to be philosphical, it just turned out that way. It was meant to be short because every sentence typed here isn’t being typed and added to the massive tome I’m scribing like a monk. Maybe if I build up a ton of momentum typing about shoes I can maintain that momentum in my fingers and crank out another chapter before I fall asleep tonight?

Ecco’s biom project sounded like people were thinking. I wanted to give them a shot, but I also wanted to let Jack Cook from Fast Trax help me to decide what he believed were important features of a shoe based on my running stride. I showed up, bag of shoes in hand, and we did some video and some running. We watched me run barefoot, in racing flats, in my normal trainers and then in three different styles of natural motion shoes. We did try the Biom shoes, and the same natural motion shoes that my friend Stefan started using mid-summer, substantial padding without the support.

We observed that the alignment through my heel and knee was the worst out of ALL the shoes sampled… in the Asics that I do the vast majority of my running in. We noted that as expected, running in Piranhas (racing flats) was very similar to barefoot and if anything it was assisting me in landing in more natural alignment compared with running barefoot. Perhaps it’s a confidence thing, running barefoot forces you to tread gingerly, and to an extent this is a good thing. It could be however, that the best tracking of your foot through a stride is achieved using something to boost your confidence. Confidence that isn’t there, nor is it ever going to be there despite how much running that you ever do barefoot that you’re certain you won’t step on a sharp rock, piece of glass or get jabbed by a stick. The best stride is a confident one, not a sissy one that’s nimbly picking it’s way along the road. The caveman analogy that says we’re best evolved to run barefoot has some things right. Human beings haven’t “exercised” though until very recently in our evolution. When the caveman is chasing his dinner he’s running with confidence in his stride even if he is barefoot. If I am racing, perhaps I can run with confidence and throw caution to the wind that I won’t step on a nail. In 95% of the other situations though when us humans are exercising we’re not using our running gait “as it was evolved to be used” and so the addition of a shoe, if it adds confidence to your stride could bring you close to running as nature intended.

OK, now it’s really philosophical. And you love it, keep reading.

So, the solution should be to get a closet full of racing flats, as many as you can get for as cheap as you can get? No. Running in racing flats all the time though will make your feet really tired. Jack admitted he’s tried this, it makes your feet sore and generally tired. No wonder, you’re slamming them on the ground with no help or relief. This is where the natural motion shoe fits in the equation. Let’s put a shoe around that natural stride to help it out with the things that it can’t do on its own, that being to (aside from staying warm in Edmonton’s winters) provide a platform that provides enough feedback that you know you’re running in your natural stride with good alignment, and to surround the foot in that position so the forces of doing all the running aren’t going to kill your feet. Cavemen couldn’t run on concrete, it wasn’t invented yet. But me, I have to run on that crap all the time.

Cease philosophy and give an objective review.

  • Biom B at slower speeds really felt like I had a lot of shoe underfoot. This is perhaps due to me being familiar to running on a super thin sole (Piranha) when running in a shoe that provided no support. As I sped up this shoe seemed to disappear from underfoot. It was possible to run with a flat footed stride in this shoe but it definitely encouraged a mid-footed stride. It definitely wasn’t rolling you forwards to try and run forefoot like a Newton. Heel-striking in this shoe was just not going to happen. As I sped up the treadmill the sensation of being on thick shoes disappeared, it wasn’t me getting used to it as the sensation returned as I slowed down.
  • Biom A at slower speeds and faster speeds never felt cumbersome or thick, it is a much thinner soled shoe to begin with. Running flat footed was really discouraged by this shoe in the same way that heel-striking in the B felt like it was just impossible. Yet, it did this without creating the sensation of being encouraged to run up onto my forefoot. As I sped up, the shoe seemed to be able to keep up, it’s performance was uniform all the way across almost all the speeds I use during training. I think I’ll still be sticking to flats for track work and short intervals though. There isn’t arch support in this or the Biom B but there is a stiff section of the midsole near your instep. It’s almost like your heel is on a bit of a shelf above the front of the shoe. This is not the shape of the interior of the shoe, it’s just the best way I think I can describe the sensation. When running the shoe encourages you to step over this part of the shoe onto your midfoot with each footstrike. It’s stiffness also encourages you to use the outside of your foot and not to land on the instep. In the Biom B it’s noticeable but totally tolerable to run with heavy weight of your feet right on that part of the shoe if you want, but you’re encouraged not to. The Biom A is a bit firmer (excuse the pun) in making that suggestion.
  • Saucony Kinvara – A significant amount of padding compared to the Biom A and B. I didn’t feel a lack of padding in Ecco’s so I wasn’t craving a cushy shoe when Jack suggested I try this one for a bit more padding, the padding “just was”. It seemed good, and I fell into the midfoot strike rather readily. Standing still this shoe felt like it had a ton of arch support, but as soon as I started running I realized this was a fake support. It wasn’t actually supporting the foot there it wasn’t actually providing any feedback during the footstrike as to whether or not I had my alignment right. It was giving the foot a nudge from the instep as well as another one from the outstep and gently suggesting you find a comfortable middle ground with your alignment. At slow speeds this all felt fantastic but as I sped up the shoe seemed to be deceiving me into a sense of helping me out and then underperforming. It might be a habit from running in motion control shoes, that when I want the shoe to help it usually does, but the Kinvara didn’t. My guess is that if you’ve got a good natural footstrike, this shoe is probably going to just feel good and it’s going to let you keep running well. If you’re in the process of letting your running stride evolve I think this could be a bit of a messy shoe, it feels like there’s a lot there but when push comes to shove there just isn’t much underfoot. Additionally I wasn’t a fan of the pressure on the outstep, I think that’s a personal preference though.

So, I left FastTrax with pair of the Biom As and while the price is high it was hardly a tough pill to swallow after nearly an hour of opportunity to try on the shoes, run in them and almost a full half hour of Jack’s attention in investigating via video some of these things. With Gordo’s comments about seeking the best mentors and consulting advice fresh in my mind I am quietly confident that this is a very good first step in a slightly new direction. If I can wear them out I’ll be back for an updated diagnosis with the video-cam and another pair at full retail price without complaining. A big plus is that these shoes are leather and polyurethane instead of some silly mesh which always seems to rip on my Asics, and EVA foam which gets crushed within a couple hundred kms of use. I’m guessing that the dollars per mile for this shoe might be nearly equivalent to most other shoes that I’d be in the market for.

Photo from gallery: Triathlon - 2010

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Diary of a self-coached athlete

The past couple weeks of training have been relatively successful. Successful in the sense that I am once again able to be completing workouts. Success has not been marked by extraordinary speed or fitness. That is most-certainly not there, Taking 5 weeks off of everything due to my trouble with the Achilles has been a bit of a rough go of things. Finding routine again though has been good and I’ve had a lot of joy in just getting back into the roll of things.

As I’m not pursuing Ironman in the imminent future, discussion with my coach has resulted in a situation where I’m the one planning all of my own workouts. Steven Lord will still be on-board for occasional discussions and feedback when I solicit it but for 2011 the thinking and planning is once again all mine. I’ll be posting a blog entry similar to this one (without this preamble in future) as an update of my progress in the previous 4 weeks and charting the plan for the next four weeks.

I’ll start with two weekly summaries of the previous two weeks. The focus has been on recovery and getting back into training safely and gradually. It meant that during the first week I only logged 10kms of running over 3 different runs. The second week I logged almost 33kms over the course of 6 running sessions. This was meant to be slightly higher as I had opted to allow myself to try and run up to 70 minutes duration on Saturday on my first run outside. I opted to be prudent and trimmed this run short as I could feel that my legs were getting quite fatigued and I logged only 9.5kms in 52 minutes.

2010-11-15 to 2010-11-21

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Hike 3 km 0:30:00 6 6 6 kph
Run 10.14 km 0:54:00 5:20 5:20 5:20 min per km
Swim 1500 m 0:40:00 2:40 2:40 2:40 min per 100 meters
Weights 0 mi 0:30:00 na na na no pace units
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 6 hrs 14min

2010-11-22 to 2010-11-28

Sport Total Distance Total Time Min Pace Ave Pace Max Pace Pace Units
Bike 90 km 3:00:00 30 30 30 kph
Run 32.75 km 2:55:00 6:15 5:21 4:45 min per km
Swim 3500 m 1:26:33 3:00 2:28 1:39 min per 100 meters
Weights 0 mi 1:05:00 na na na no pace units
Yoga 0 mi 0:40:00 na na na no pace units
Total Time 9 hrs 6min

During this period of time I’ve also done a few things worth noting here on the blog. I signed up to ski the 55km Birkebeiner with a 5.5kg pack like I did back in 2009. This was a very difficult challenge that last time I did it but overall it was a good time. You can read all about that adventure in the world of suffering [here]. To be completely honest, right now I’m in pretty poor shape skiing-wise, certainly no better than the last time I did it. So I’ll be putting in a bit more of a concerted effort in that regard as the race approaches to ensure that I’m not going to be knocking myself out by doing this, I still don’t think it will be easy (nor should it be easy, that’s the point. Borrowing from the theme of a recent post I’ll refer you to Rule #10). I’ve got some company along for the ride on this endeavor as at least Jan and Dave have also signed up for the ultra-long version and I’m sure Stefan, Emily and many others will be joining us for the faster versions of the race in mid-February.

I’m hoping to use XC skiing as a way to improve my aerobic fitness with relatively low impact demands, because doing that on the bike requires too much wall-staring while sitting on a turbo. The fitness has been dropped significantly during my time away with zero physical activity. This was no surprise, but because I want to be careful how I rebuild I’m going to use this form of low impact cross training to beef it up before I expect to be running 50 miles per week. This isn’t an abnormal strategy for me. The following picture is an interesting plot of how the three sports of swim/bike/run (green/blue/red) respectively have helped to total up to 100% of my fitness (y-axis) over the past few years (x-axis). It’s obvious from this chart that each winter there’s a significant amount of cross training that occurs to keep me from going crazy, and then as the cross-training fitness fades away the specificity of the other fitnesses for triathlon rises. The black vertical bar indicates the present time. Remember here that this has erased the information of my overall fitness by normalizing to 100%. You can see that I’ll be developing about 1/3 of my fitness outside of the sports of triathlon before really pouring focus into the run in a way that I never have before (red band gets THICK!). For interest sake I slapped in a bunch of big but totally achievable bike weeks following the marathon to show what would happen if I really focus on the bike during May, by early June I’m likely able to be a pretty focused cyclist again, but it will take almost a month to do it. Patience, patience, patience.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

I’ve also elected to use a Pfitzinger style training plan for my running in the lead-up to the marathon on May 1 (I’ve elected to race the BMO Vancouver Marathon) and so have back-calculated all the dates and plugged in the running sessions along the way with relatively reasonable hypotheses for the training duration and intensity of each. For my first marathon I followed a plan more closely based on the FURMAN FIRST strategy, but based on watching my response to training in the past year I am quite sure that I will respond better to a program with a different style. The Pfitzinger plan is composed of four mesocycles (parts) with different focus along the way and I’ve elected (at least right now – I may change my mind) to try and do the final three stages as close to the plan’s guide as is possible. I have however opted to use a slightly prolonged version of the endurance building phase that is based more closely to what has proven successful during the past year of my running than is set out by the running plan. I’m also very interested in continuing to track my MAF Heart Rate during training to monitor it’s progress as I believe this metric is an extremely important indicator of potential success at long course triathlon. I’ll be tracking this very specifically during the endurance building phases of preparation and then tracking it perhaps a bit less directly when I have to get into the later phases of the Pfitzinger plan. There is a lot of marathon pace running that will occur and if I select run courses intelligently I’ll be able to find myself some periods of good testing along the way during that training. It means training for the sake of testing in the endurance mesocycle and testing for the sake of training in the final three mesocycles. It means I won’t be doing the MAF tests in as controlled an environment and for a full 5 miles as I did this past year. My observation in retrospect is that, even if you try and be controlled, your data is going to be perturbed by all sorts of factors. I’m better off to be more frequently recording data regarding my MAF pace than to be relying on occasional testing metrics. I hope I have recorded my season-worst MAF result of 5:18/km or 8:32/mile during my first (rather short but I believe accurate) test last week since the running has been underway. It’s a far cry from the 4:04 or so I got to at my season’s best pace, but it leaves a lot of room for improvement which in some sense is satisfying. It proves that I am a human being, in discussion with swim coach Matt, this is actually a really healthy thing to learn when your fitness doesn’t immediately matter.

All in all the running program if completed as planned will result in me hitting a running fitness metric approximately 40% greater than I have ever achieved in my life before. I can do that without getting anywhere near the levels of training stress that I endured this past season (because I’m doing it with single-sport focus) so while I sounds like I’m really planning to stretch myself, I am pretty confident that I can do this while maintaining a lot better life-balance than some periods of 2010. My run-training stresses should not exceed what I have done in the past and my overall training stress balance will be significantly easier than this past year. The chart seen here indicates the plan if I am successful in hitting every workout along the way, and because the chronic load (red) is somewhat cumulative in nature, I know that due to the times I come up short in training and have to skip things that this is a best case scenario.

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts
click image for larger

Planned training for the next four weeks has been laid out: [in this .pdf file] if you’re interested in looking at it. Rather simply, I’m slowly building a long run on Saturdays, and the first of the runs came up short this past week so it might be the case that this plan is a bit ambitious, I reserve the right to lay off a bit with that progression and not make it up to 20kms before Christmas. Although, if I keep hitting frequency in a similar way to that which I have in the past two weeks (10 runs in 15 days) I think comfortably getting that long run out to 20kms is not going to be an issue. All my running is subject to a strict MAF cap with the exception of the Tuesday night club run where I am free to run as I feel. Cycling is twice weekly along with swimming, and I am hitting the gym twice weekly to work with light weights at 20 repetitions, two or three sets depending on the movement and emphasizing a full range of motion with preference for multi-joint and free weights. This is going well, and is designed to allow me to hit a few weeks of high strength focus in early January prior to the running volume starting to take off. Whether or not these strength gains can be maintained through much of the running focus is questionable but doing this feels like an appropriate response to establish confident and balanced muscles following a period of limping and being lazy.

The performance management chart metrics calculated for this period of time are as follows:

Photo from gallery: Performance Management Charts

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