Tuesday, December 25, 2012

All time favorite shoe - Altra Provisions

Ok, I have only run once in them but I have never had a shoe that seemed to fit me so well and after 90 attempts I have had a few data points. The shoes I have fallen in love with are the Provisions from Altra, they were a Christmas present from my wife.

If you are not familiar with Altra, they are a newer shoe company and only make zero drop shoes. They are not the barebones minimalist which allow all sensations to come through (think Merrell Trail Gloves or Vibram FiveFinger) nor are they super cushioned and thick monstrosities (like Hokas) but they seem like the perfect blend of the two. I wanted the Provisions as they are the stability shoes from Altra and I was hoping that they would help support my sore foot. The way Altra adds stability is a really interesting method that seems to work amazingly well. In all my runs since Surf the Murph, I have had posterior tibilas tendon pain, It has ranged from intense to twinges especially as the pace or elevation increased and it seemed to depend on which shoes I was wearing. I had only recently figured out that some of my shoes caused more pain but on today's run, I had zero pain, not even a twinge. Their stability wedge is indeed just that a removable insert that is thicker on the insole and thiner towards the outsole, here is Altras' description:

Stability Wedge

The Altra stability wedge allows for maximum stability without pressing into the arch and weakening the foot. Unlike traditional stability systems that only provide stability underneath the arch, the full-length 4 mm varus, angled from the outside to the inside of the shoe, runs evenly from heel to toe and accounts for both early and late stage foot collapse. The stability wedge sits underneath the insole of the shoe and can be used in both shoes or a single shoe for those who have collapse on just one foot.

For a good understanind of it watch this youtube video -

What's this mean is when you buy the Provisions you get two removable inserts, the stability wedge and their normal insert which is included on most of their other shoes, here is their description of it:

Support Footbed

Providing some arch support, this 5 mm support footbed gives you the feeling of a more traditional insole. For those new to Zero Drop™ technology, this insole is a good place to start.
So Altra has provided me with a shoe that I can reconfigure either over time or for each run, for now I plan to run with both inserts and have maximum protection and then when I am pain free, I will remove the stability wedge and work to strengthen the foot. I have read that the Provisions without the stability wedge are basically the Altra Intuitions so by getting the Provisions I have gotten some additional flexibility for only $5 more, of course in this particular instance they were a gift. Finally when I really want to work on maximizing the development of my foot strength, I can remove the support footbed insole and simply use the shoe with no inserts whch they refer to as follows:

Strengthen Footbed

Allow your feet to build strength and support with 3 mm of flat insole. For those new to Zero Drop™ technology, this footbed should be broken into slowly. Transition to the strengthen footbed by first wearing it on shorter runs and gradually working up to your regular mileage. For those with stronger feet, transitioning to the strengthen footbed should be easier.

So with that all said, here are the the combinations possible along with the stack height:

Stack Height (total thickness of the shoe):
  • With Stability Wedge and Support Footbed: 25mm (medial heel)/ 25mm (medial forefoot).
  • With Support Footbed: 20mm (heel)/ 20mm (forefoot) 
  • Strengthen Configuration (no footbed): 15mm (heel)/ 15mm (forefoot).
Ok, maybe one run does not provide the definitive data set that would allow me to say these are the best shoes I have ever run in but at least its' a good start.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Interesting lesson

I copied this into a blog post a few months back and thought the perspective was good but of course I never did take the time to post it. Since I think I am starting to figure it out again and it seems appropriate for this time of year, I figured it was time. For those that don't know me, I am Christian and do believe in God, if you are not Christian, don't be offended but think about the concept. Like many concepts in the bible, there is a lot of age old wisdom.  Anyway this devotion came through just at the right time as work, running, life was getting pretty hectic, it's originally from Rick Warren's daily devotion

Buffer Your Schedule

In preparation for a decade of destiny, we've been talking about the need to be physically healthy - that God wants us to take care of our bodies. 
And I want to stress one more time that unrelenting stress harms our bodies. Why do we wait until our health plummets before we decide to create margin in our lives? The Bible teaches that your body needs downtime in order to heal and re-energize.

 Listen to why this is so important: when you're overloaded by activity, you can only think of yourself. You're in survival mode, just trying to make it through another day. And that limits your usefulness in ministry!

 When you have no downtime or margin in your life and God taps you on the shoulder, saying, "I'd like you to do this for me," your first response isn't joy. Your first response is, "Oh, no! Another thing to do! Sorry, God -- I'd like to do that, but I'm just too busy."

 We end up resenting the great opportunities God brings into our lives. But when we deliberately and specifically add downtime into our lives, we become available for God to use us as we head into this decade of destiny.

So when things get hectic, take the time to take care of yourself. You don't have to live on overload. You don't have to live in survival mode. Begin today to build a buffer around your schedule. Then enjoy the benefits of margin -- and see what God does next!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Running injury free, appreciate it

For those that are running injury free, appreciate it. You don't know how lucky you are.

I hope that this winter with some work I will rejoin those that can go for a run without having pain on each step. Whether I like it or not, I am not recovering from the foot injury from Surf the Murph nor the aggravated achilles and calf issues that have appeared as well.

I have re-written this post probably 10 times over the last 3 weeks and keep failing to post it as I really didn't want to face reality and I am just sick and tired of having to discuss running injuries but no matter what I have tried over the last five weeks it just ain't working so I need to do something about it.

The pain is on the inside of the foot, just past the ankle bone above the arch. With that in mind I did my internet diagnosis and am concerned that it may be an injury to my posterior tibial tendon, mainly because there isn't really anything else there. The pain seems at or near the attachment junction to the foot.

I am starting to figure out what aggravates it and what seems to protect it. Running on pavement or uneven surfaces seems to aggravate it although I have found the shoes matter and am starting to document that. As an example my Brooks Pure Grits seem to irritate it, they are nicely cushioned, probably the most cushioned shoes I own. I have found that taping the tendon as I discovered in this link and/or wearing my supportive shoes help, which makes sense based on my diagnosis. The achilles issue is in the other leg and it's different meaning two issues in one. When I run in my Inov-8's they irritate it right at heel cup and at other times it's tender at the calf-achilles junction which goes back to an old injury.

My plan is to document each pair of shoes that I have and see how I respond and maybe I will find the magic pair, and yes this means I might even pull a pair or two out of retirement  The other thing that is irritating and it may be nothing more than the way I run because of the other issues is that both of my calves are tight and seem to tighten up as I ran. The left calf is the one I tore after Superior and the tightness seems vaguely familiar to the way it felt during Superior, so I need to be careful.

Long and short of it, I really should find a Doctor or PT that I am comfortable with but my nature is to do it myself so I will try a few things over the next week and see if I am legitimately making progress and go from there.

One last thing, you should appreciate running pain free, I know I look forward to running that way soon but for the moment (even though I am frustrated about the injuries) I am still having fun too.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Best definition: Jogger vs Runner

This wonderful quote and accompanying image are from Gibson's Daily Running Quotes (http://www.facebook.com/Running.Quotes), which is a super popular place to find great quotes about all aspects of running (oops, and jogging).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

2013 Draft Race Schedule

As I am sitting watching my Bears, I thought about my running in 2012 and what I plan to do next year. All things considered 2012 should be a disappointment instead I am viewing it as a transition year and transitions take time.

For me though, 2013 needs to be the year that the transition is completed and I redeem myself as a marathoner and ultrarunner. I may not make much progress on my 50 state quest but after I get my myself back into marathon and ultra shape I will be totally ok delaying the state quest. Then again, if you look closely at my draft plan you will see a couple new states and who knows maybe I can sneak in a 3rd or 4th one ;-).

This winter will be about building the base and recommitting to running with a purpose, so I will have the margin I need. Should be a fun challenge and a goal worth working on.

Here's the first draft of a race schedule for next year.

Winter Carnival 1/2 marathon - Jan 26th - Something to do
? - Will need to find some short distance races
Get Lucky 1/2 marathon - Mar 16th - Build slowly, sure 
Zumbro 17, MN - Sat 4/13th - Start out slow and don't overdue the dstance early
Chippewa 50k, WI - Sat 4/27th - Need to finish it smiling, Redemption race 1
Ice Age 50k - Sat 5/11th - Would like to do it one year
Superior 50k - Sat 5/18th - Need ot choose one of these two events
Fargo Marathon - Sat 5/18th  - A fun event and my wife and daugher want to do the 1/2
Minneapolis Marathon - Sat 6/3 - Again, I will need to chose one of these two events
FANS 12 hr - Sat 6/3
Grandmas Marathon - Sat 6/22nd - 13th Grandmas in 2013, makes sense
Afton 50k - Sat 7/6th - Did the 25k last year, time to do the 50k again, Redemption race 2
Marquette 50k - Sat 8/17th - Would be nice to get Michigan done
Superior 50 - Sat 9/7th - Volunteer Friday, RaceSaturday as I need this one Redemption race 3
Twin Cities Marathon - 10/6th - If I do Grandmas, it makes sense to do another TCM
Wild Duluth 50k???
Surf the Murph 50k - Sat 10/26th - Final race for my redemption, Redemption race 4
Rails to Trails Marathon - Sun 11/2nd - Would be fun to do the marathon
Gobble Gait 8k - Thur 11/21st
Tecumseh Trail Marathon - Sat 12/7th - What a great way to finish the year, racing in Indy

Monday, November 5, 2012


As I have gotten older and tried to continue to do what I did when I was younger and injury free, I have slowly figured out that it's all about margin and how much do I have?

At Surf the Murph, I went into the race with no margin, I was undertrained, slightly injured, coming off a few weeks of stress from work and coming in with no confidence as all of my recent races had been failures. For the last 2 years I have not completed a marathon or ultra, this includes dropping from Chippewa (2012) with a re-injured ankle, dropping the year before from Potawatomi 50 (2011) after 40 miles with the same injured ankle and missing the cutoff at Superior 50 (2010) when I originally injured the ankle and calf.

At Murph, truth be told, I probably was at a negative margin as my longest run coming into it was around 20 miles and that was on relatively flat trails as when I tried to run hills I had issues. So how did I think I would complete Murph, pretty simple, my plan was to get through the first loop based on my training and then get through the second loop with my mind.

One thing that I have learned is you can't bluff your way through an ultra especially with injury issues. For me the race technically ended after 17 miles, my down fall started with the misstep during mile 4, the real cause though happened in the weeks and months proceeding the event as I wasn't strong enough, healthy enough or trained enough to get through it.

What am I going to do about? I can either change or repeat what I have been doing over the last 2 years which hasn't worked. What I have done over the last 2 years is run, I converted to minimalist running this past summer which has helped my ankle but I have had issues with my calf and achilles both of which relate back to other injuries. It has been said by others that "to repeat the same pattern and expect different results is an act of insanity", so for the last few years, I have been repeating the pattern of trying to run long distances with minimal training to try and compensate for my injuries, I believe that I tried different things but I haven't resolved getting my legs healthy so I can work on my weight and training.

So what I need to do is to work on improving my lower leg strength to eliminate my injuries,. Then I can increase my mileage to develop a deeper base and I could then focus on specific workouts for speed and strength. If I do that then I will lose the extra weight and last I need to some cross training to ensure that I get and stay balanced. Without a doubt if I do this, I will have increased my margin, ugh........all of this pretty much means it's time to figure out a new routine.

So as I contemplate the upcoming off-season, I think it's time to figure out the new plan and then follow it and if I do I will add some margin. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Surf the Murph 50k (Not) Race Summary

Surf the MurphAnother interesting day running an ultra and an absolutely beautiful day to run Surf the Murph, I went into this one a bit tentative about how I would hold up on the 2nd loop and instead dropped after 1 loop. Long story short, torqued my left foot around mile 4 and couldn't really run or walk normally after mile 6.

It happened right after I had gotten through the No.6 hills, I had just thought to myself that I feel great and I was going to have no troubles getting through at least the first loop. Then either a misstep or a hole, not really sure, I just know I torqued it and felt pain but I thought it would go away but it did not. So am I disappointed, yes and no, I am actually frustrated more than anything else as it has now been two years without a marathon or an ultra finish. It's a lot more fun to finish these things then to drop injured.

That said, I think by stopping after one loop I hopefully avoided any significant damage although my wife thought that stopping at the horse lot aid station would have been my best choice. It was funny, I was debating with myself around mile 8 if the foot was going to cause me to drop as the pain wasn't really going away, at the time I didn't think so, as I kept thinking it would calm down and I would soon be running without pain but it just kept getting worse. I knew I was compensating for it as the right achilles was starting to hurt as well. Nothing like stereo pain to keep you in balance.

One thing that may have contributed is that I chose to wear my New Balance 110's, they don't have a lot of support or cushion but they do have a rock plate and based on all of my runs coming into Murph, I thought they were my best option. Based on what happened though I may have made the wrong choice, my MT10's might have allowed me to feel the thing that torqued the foot before it did or I could have worn my Inov-8's as they wouldn't have allowed that much torque, of course they might have caused my ankle to roll which might have still caused issues. One good thing is that my ankle is still doing good so the minimalist running seems to have taken care of that issue

Another good thing that occurred today is by dropping I was able to make it to Como Park to watch my daughter compete in the MIAC XC championship meet. She had a great day, getting a 2 minute PR at the 6k distance. She is a freshman at Concordia-Moorhead and appears to be doing great there.

I also was happy to see a few friends at Murph, Mike and Mark who were running the 50, Kel, Rick, Steve and Elly who were all running the 50k, Londell running the horse lot aid station (nice change this year) and my old running buddy Wayne who I got to chat with at Londell's station, maybe we will eventually run together again, I even ran into John K. and we caught up on his summer of running. The only thing I feel bad about was at the finish. I was not a happy camper and I walked around the mat and walked over to the table and just told them I was dropping as I was mad and in pain and they told me that I could still get a 25k wooden medal and I said no thanks, it's not what I came for. Hopefully it didn't come across as too surly.

My thanks to Cindy and Les, Molly and all the other volunteers. They made some minor course changes this year that I think are keepers although this year they just added some extra pain. Great job, I love Surf the Murph and maybe next year it will go better.

What next, based on the the pain I had at Como and just walking around afterward, I will take a day or two off and then just wait and see.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Surf The Murph

I have gotten out of the habit of anticipating a race and doing things like worry about pre-race things, like the weather, pace, shoes, fueling, course, etc...

Surf the Murph
Surf the Murph has had a good run through the years when it comes to the weather so I looked at the long range forecast a couple weeks back and they said 63 and sunny, well so much for long range forecasting as we are now headed towards 43 and sunny. Just off by 20 degrees.

So with the weather looking like a non-factor, I thought about what pace should I run? So considering my training, weight, confidence, I am thinking that my race pace forecast is to finish in less than 10 hours. How did I get to 10 hours, well the last 2 years, I have run the 25k a bit injured and taken around 4 hours, this year I am closer to healthy than I can remember but I have struggled on my long runs with things like achilles pain, calf pain, bathroom issues, lack of fitness, etc.... So why 10, well it's real simple, outside of a bone protruding injury I intend to finish my first ultra in 2 years with no out for me based on self pity, injury, etc...

I will need to keep a good race day attitude and not worry about pace and time, here's why, let's say I want to finish in 7 to 7 1/2 hours (at least if it was a 50k vs 34 miles) and the first loop takes close to 4, mental fatigue then starts to enter the mind as I would be thinking there is no way I can do a negative split, so I lose it and quit at the 25k mark or I just tank and give up and become so self absorbed that I don't take 5 minutes and regroup and proceed to get it done.

Now by setting my goal to 10 hours, I will instead tell myself that you still have 6 hours so get out of your self pity remorse and finish it.  Now I do think I will beat 10 hours but then again, I have had a few things go wrong through the last 2 years. On that note, I should add one caveat, I am not sure that I will push through any pain, if my achilles/calf junction gets destroyed on the hills during the first loop, well that might do me in but I will give it my best.

So if you see me at STM, expect to see a smile and rest assured I am having a great time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Garmin blues

You know you are dependent on technology when it quits working and it really bums you out and irritates you. More on that later in this post.

Over the weekend I ran 9 miles on Saturday with the running club at church, actually 4 with the club and 5 before hand. Then on Sunday I wanted to get in 5 hours and say 20 to 22 miles but I stopped after 18 miles and 4 1/4 hrs. I think the 9 miles on mostly pavement took its toll and I was just inflicting pain on myself and decided that Surf the Murph will be easier if I am under-trained and walking fine versus under-trained and re-injured.

=Oh about the running club at church, well I had thought about forming one for years but those that know me, know that groups and I aren't a good combo and running with a group is even harder for me so I never got one going. Wayne knows that was an issue when we first started running together and unfortunately my work schedule has put an end to that at least for most Thursdays. Well, turns out that my wife started it with another person at church and volunteered me to help out. So every Saturday morning I am now part of a running group. My wife has yet to run with us as she had knee surgery two weeks ago, (for a torn meniscus), and is very anxiously looking forward to running in a few weeks. With regard to the group, I just set-up a blog site for the group, Runners of Hope, feel free to take a look at it or join us if you like. We are running on roads and bikepaths, no trails as of yet and our goal is to get folks ready to run the GobbleGait in Hastings on Thanksgiving. We had close to 20 folks that signed up and have had around 10 or showing up each weekend ranging from experienced runners to beginners.

Back to the technology, after my long run on Sunday I went to sync my Garmin and it wasn't recognized by my computer. I have synced it to the same computer for 2+ years with no issues. So I tried on Monday, no recognition, cleaned the contacts, no recognition, uninstalled and re-installed the software, no recognition, ran today, no recognition. My next idea is to try it on a different computer, if that doesn't work, then I could do the hard reset (nuke it back to factory settings) and lose all of my data.

As to my running, I will post about that in a few days.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Another update - Minimalist continues

I  saw this add for Altra shoes and really thought it captured why I run.

With regard to my running, over the last few weeks I have tried to wear my more traditional shoes thinking that I would need the extra support and cushion at Murphy and my achilles has really gotten sore, I noticed that it never seemed to bother me when I was wearing my minimalist shoes. I thought it might be my increasing mileage but last weekend I was in pain 4 miles in, this week I wore my minimalist shoes and didn't have any noteworthy pain. This weekend I decided to reassess my thinking on this.

You see deep down, I  wasn't 100% committed to minimalist shoes. Sure I had been wearing them almost exclusively since April but I hadn't mentally said I would never go back to traditional shoes. I started wearing them to strengthen my ankle and that has worked but to commit that I was ready to give up on support and cushioning, well I wasn't sure. The last few weekends though have changed that, I tried to run in my older conventional shoes (9 to 12 mil drop, support and cushioning) and it hasn't worked all of my long runs were basically a disaster.

On Saturday, I ran 3 miles in my New Balance MT10's on an asphalt bike path and then 3 more miles in Lebanon Hills. For the 3 miles on asphalt, I had no issue whatsoever and again confirmed that is easier to run in minimalist shoes on pavement versus trails. Smooth and hard surfaces give instant feedback. On Sunday I decided to get a long run in Lebanon Hills. I wanted to get in 18 to 19 miles and I got in just short of 18 so I was pleased, I ran out of time not energy. For my run on Sunday, I tried to hit every single hiking trail in the center section of the park, I missed two small sections and really enjoyed running on the trails with no purpose but to hit every trail. The weather was cool but very good for running, I had some achilles pain but it was manageable. Before the run, I decided to re-commit to my minimalist shoes so I wore my New Balance MT110's. They aren't a pure minimalist shoe but are in that class of shoe more than anything else, they are a 4 mil drop, lightweight shoe (7.7 oz) and fit similar to the MT10's but they have a thin rock plate in the forefoot which gives a little more margin, here is a review of the shoes that I pretty much agree with from Jason of Barefoot Running.

So with a couple of more weekends between now and Murphy, I will maintain my commitment to my minimalist shoes and see how it goes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Another Update - Achilles continues

Well, so much for a good plan. To catch everyone up, a couple weeks back I went on a long run, had achilles pain, switched shoes, pain seemed better so I speculated that more supportive shoes might help at least on longer runs.

I went for a long run a week later wearing the shoes I thought might help, well I had achilles pain after 4 miles. I was running in the western section (think more hills) of Lebanon Hills but gee, 4 miles, not good. I continued on for another 5 miles and since I knew I would be out of town, I decided that taking some time off would be in order.

This past weekend I tried again, I wore my Peregrines thinking that they might work. I chose to run the river bottoms thinking that I should focus on getting in time on my feet and by avoiding hills it might lesson the achilles issues. Well the location and shoes might have helped but I will never know as I aborted this run early too but for an entirely different reason. For the first time ever during running, I experienced cramping which led to an emergency stop. Suffice to say I know now why you keep TP in your Nathan. After the emergency stop, I tried to resume running, cramped a bit more and so I headed for the car, I also got to deal with some significant chafing, all in all not a fun run but an educational one.

So what now?

I will try again this weekend and am currently planning on heading back to the river bottoms as I still think avoiding hills is wise. I have 3 more weekends to get in some base mileage before Surf the Murph and I sure hope to take advantage of them, I just need to avoid aggravating things any more  My thinking is if I can just get to the low 20's for my longer runs then I will get through the day as I really want to finish an ultra this year. Last year I didn't finish any ultra distance race and with none thus far this year I don't really feel like much of an ultra runner.

Anyway, I sure hope next weekend works out better.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Quick Update - Achilles Tendonitis

After pulling the plug on pacing at Superior I figured I should loop back with an update.

I took a few days off and the achilles seemed to calm down so I tried to run long last weekend. It went ok, I decided to stop after 10 miles as I didn't want to push it and I had some twinges of pain but for the most part it went ok. I got in some mid-week runs and thought maybe all would be well.

So today I headed out to get in a longer run, my goal was to get in 16 miles and to keep the pressure off me and my achilles I decided to run the river bottoms. I also decided to just dial in a slow pace to keep pressure off (plus it was probably all I could do). I ran into John Taylor after about 4 miles and we talked for a few minutes about Superior and Hokas. I was running towards Simley House from the Cedar bridge, he was going the opposite way. I hadn't really decided exactly how I would get in 16 as it is only 12 miles to there and back. I debated heading down the Big River Trail to add in the extra 4 miles but wasn't sure so I turned around at Lucky's and headed back. I was still filling ok until about 10 miles and then sure enough the achilles started to hurt.

I had done some internet research on what could be the cause of achilles pain when running downhill and this is what it said "As you run downhill, the tendon stretches to allow the forefoot to go farther down the hill." Since I wasn't running downhill on this run I thought about what else the article had said (btw - the picture from the article is exactly where I have pain, except it's my right achilles) :

There are many causes for this type of tendonitis, but the most common causes are:
Achilles Tendon
  • Overuse: Doing too much too soon.

  • Tight leg muscles: Muscles that are tight and rigid will transfer a greater amount of force through the tendon and cause greater stress and chance of injury.

  • Pronation / Uneven surfaces: Feet rolling to the outside which places a lateral stress on the tendon. Runners that run consistently on the same side of the road may get this injury from the affects of road crowning (road slopes to the shoulders or side, making one leg work harder than the other over time).

  • Pronounced Heel Strike: Runners that land too far back on their heels can experience this injury. Check your shoe wear for signs.
I ruled out the last one as I don't have a pronounced heel strike but the other three were possibilities.

So back to today's run, did I abort after 12 and then regroup next week? No instead I decided to change shoes as it was occurring to me that maybe my problem is that I am overpronating too much in my minimalist shoes. I love running long as it gives me time to problem solve. I should correct something here, technically I have't been running long in my minimalist shoes but in my Peregrines, 295's and 110's none of which have much in the way of support. I was concerned to run in my minimalist shoes because of the lack of protection from rocks, maybe that was a mistake as I think my form is better when I run in them. When I got back to the Cedar bridge, I checked and sure enough I had my Inov-8 330's in the trunk. I had run all of 30 miles in them before I went to minimalist and I think they are my most supportive shoes, it's why I bought them. I put them on and decided to head out to the road, thinking maybe I could get in a few miles more and if I had pain, well simple enough to turn around and head to the car. I ran towards the power plant as I have never been down that road. As I ran, no achilles pain, granted I was on the road and I still wasn't pushing the pace but I think the shoes seemed to have helped. I was able to run past the power plant and turned around after 2 miles with no achilles pain, I was just getting too hot from being out on the open road. 

So on my next long run I think I will run in my 330's and see what happens.

Have a I given up on minimalist, absolutely not, but I have to be practical and it may take another few months to strengthen my feet and calves to where I can get away from needing some support and it's possible I may never be able to get away with it for long runs. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Plans, Plans and Plans.........

2012 has been a year where my initial plan started out fairly simple, work myself back in shape, run a few ultras and end the year healthy.

Well, that plan went off track at Chippewa where I had to face the reality that my previous injuries still required some work. So plan number 2 was to work my way back and focus on Surf the Murph especially once I saw the schedule conflicts for Superior and many other fall races. So after Chippewa, I went minimalist to allow my ankle to get a workout on every run. The truth is that has worked up to a point. I have worked to modify my style of running into the minimalist light stepping mid-footed strike and again up to a point it has worked well. Notice I keep saying up to a point. Well the point is that I think I lost a lot of fitness over the last 2 years and am slowly getting it back and that has led to a lot of slower efforts which I thought was related to the style change but alas now think it is just me being in pathetic shape.

I tried to modify my plan just a bit when my old friend Scott H. asked if I could pace him through the night at Superior. Well I really wanted to as my conflict for Superior was on Saturday and pacing Scott would be Friday night. Yes I had some tough logistics, pace Scott all night Friday, drive to Collegeville to watch my youngest daughters college XC meet and then drive to Hugo to watch my oldest daughter participate in the Warrior Dash.

Well, the logistics didn't do me in although I still had to convince my wife that pacing Scott was a good idea, ok maybe not good but maybe manageable. What did me in was my training or said even more accurately, me.

You see in order to pace Scott for 20 to 30 miles, I needed to be able to run 15 to 20 miles so over the last few weeks I worked on upping my long run mileage which was what I actually needed to do for my STM training as well so it all kind of made sense to me. So two weeks back I went around 12 miles, last weekend around 14 but I had issues which I blamed on my shoes. So this weekend I went out shooting for 16 and hobbled through 14 again. I went to Murphy vs Lebanon as I thought the hills at Murphy would be a good test. They were and I failed. My issues are pretty simple, left calf and right achilles/calf junction. The left calf makes sense, it is the one I tore 2 years ago and I have worked on getting it healthy, the right leg issues are new, well not new but at least 10+ years since I last had an issue with it. My ankle pain is pretty much gone which is great news but the achilles/calf thing is really bothersome. At Lebanon last weekend and at Murphy on Sunday, I had achilles/calf pain running downhill not uphill which really didn't and still doesn't make sense to me. Meaning if it was from the minimalist shoes and upping my mileage then by my way of thinking it would have caused issues going up hills not down them.

So on Sunday, I sent Scott an email letting him know that I couldn't pace him as going to Superior with a strained calf and a sore achilles/calf just seemed like a recipe for disaster. Add in that a pacer is not supposed to be the one in trouble and it was pretty much an easy decision even though I really wanted to try and help him out.

Ok, I can be stubborn so yesterday I decided to give it one more try and I went out to run 6 or 7 miles in Lebanon. The run went fairly well for about a 1/4 mile until the achilles/calf pain came. I walked a few steps and then I decided that if I stepped carefully I could proceed with less pain. It worked for 3 or so miles and then the pain was constant and sometimes sharp which forced me to walk. Even then I had to walk carefully. So maybe my decision was the right one and I needed to back off.

Then today I tried to run at Terrace Oaks, it would have been my 7th day in a row, a new modern record for me :-), so I had to make the attempt. I made it down the first hill, turned around and proceeded to walk back to the car. My pain wasn't imagined, it's real, so I am taking the day off.

Now about my plan, I still plan on running the 50k at Murphy and will focus my training at getting me there.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Minimalist Running update 3

Voyageurs National Park Map, Minnesota, United StatesLots of things going on, my youngest graduated high school, we had her grad party, my wife and I celebrated our 33rd anniversary, we went on a family vacation to Voyageurs National Park where we rented a houseboat. We started at Crane Lake and went over to Lake Kabetogama and up to Kettle Falls and then back. We saw lots of great sights and had a great time. My kind of vacation. But with regard to running, I am still a work in progress as a minimalist runner.

It has been interesting to see the difference in my aches and pains, last month I ran the Afton 25k. I ran, walked and chatted with Wayne and Kel. Fun to catch up. I wore my New Balance Minimus Trails which are my favorite of my minimalist shoes and didn't have any issues, my feet were sore at the end but heck I went 15.5 miles off a long run of 8 miles so I should have been sore.

So 16+ weeks into a minimalist conversion I am holding up mostly ok. I have figured out that I really have to focus on my turnover as when I get tired out, I tend to slow it down which can lead to breakdown in my form. When the cadence is around 180 the form is good and the pace is ok, not fast but close to normal. One thing that has been problematic is that I have more issues running on trails than roads in my minimalist shoes. It is so much easier to maintain form on roads over trails. The lack of cushioning or midsole thickness in my VFF's or Trail Gloves makes every sharp rock or root something to avoid. My Minimus Trails have a wee bit more thickness and are easier to run the trails in.

One other thing I had to deal with were the problems caused by playing softball, I had ankle pain when I tried to run the bases and was limping on it most of the season. Every time I tried to run the pain would hit by the third step and I would try have to throttle it back. I of course blamed my cleats versus my previous injury. I finally decided to simply run hard through the pain to see if it would loosen things up (my thinking was that it would be like breaking up my scar tissue). It did change things a bit as it has left me with a continually sore ankle. Last Sunday, I ran, make that hobbled through 11 miles down in the river bottoms. So what am I going to do, that's easy, I will try to get into 50k shape and if I can't, then this winter I know what I will have to do.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Minimalist Running - update 2

It's been 7 weeks since I started my total conversion to minimalist running and all is going well. My mileage is down by design to make sure that I don't overdue it and I am focusing on a fast turnover and form so I figured I should get my thoughts out to what I have learned. I am now almost an expert in mimalist shoes and have seen improvements in ankle and arch strength. I am pretty happy with the results and am about ready to start ramping up the mileage.

Merrell Trail Glove Barefoot Trail Running Shoes - Minimalist (For Men) in Black/Molton Lava - CloseoutsI now have 3 pair of what I call total minimalist shoes in my rotation as I purchased a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves from Sierra Trading for $55. Each of my minimalist shoes are different and give me a unique experience. My VFF's provide the best feel of the ground, with no extra cushioning. My Minimus Trails provide very good feel, more cushion (still not much) and a 4 mil drop. My Trail Gloves are right between, they have some cushion, a 0 mil drop and are just a little big which is what I was expecting. You see, I used the ShoeFiter app that they use at Running Warehouse to figure out my size. You can see below the estimate of how the Trail Gloves would fit in contrast against my Inov-8 295's and my Peregrines. Interesting tool (I should add it's accurate in this case), I especially like that it shows how tight or loose the shoe will fit from the heel to the toe.

Another pair of shoes still in my rotation are my Saucony Peregrines although I don't consider them a complete minimalist shoes but they were part of my transition (4 mil drop) that I started last year and I now view them as my super cushioned, supportive long distance training shoe.

One interesting thing to note with my conversion, when I first started the process I had consistent pain, no make that soreness in my right ankle (yes the Chippewa ankle) which I thought was actually good, funny thing though, that pain went away within the first few weeks but my left arch started feeling funny. Funny in a kind of good way, like I was working the muscles and tendons in the foot for the first time in years. I tore a tendon in my left foot in the fall of 99 which caused me to drop out of TCM and it shut down my running for 4 weeks, so I am thinking that my move to minimalist is actually helping strengthen a long time issue. I think that's kind of cool.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Minimalist Running Experiment Continues

Well it's been 3 1/2 weeks since Chippewa where I made the decision to run only in minimalist shoes and thus far all is going well. It's forcing my right ankle to work a bit which I think is good and I love the feeling of running in my Minimus's as well as my VFF's. I have been running pretty much in just these shoes but I have done a couple of runs in my Peregrines which now are starting to feel way too cushioned and supportive.

Vibram FiveFingers Kso Treksport Men's Shoes White Grey CharcoalMy longest run in my VFF's was on Sunday, I went 6 miles and felt great with no issues the next day, I did walk for a minute or so every mile and I even resisted going a few more miles which I really wanted to do. So what's the plan? Real simple, to continue to add in more and more minimalist runs, focusing on turnover and slowly pushing the speed. When I get the turnover right I am moving fairly quickly with a nice short mid-footed (basically a flat footed) step. I am avoiding over-striding to run faster instead just working on my foot turnover cadence.

One idea with minimalist running that finally just registered in my brain is that I will be buying fewer shoes. Since none of my minimalist shoes have any cushion to speak of I will wear them until they fall apart. My guess is 600 to 800 miles or more.

Part of my thinking in doing this was what I picked up on a running podcast called TrailRunner Nation. They had a guest on that I have really enjoyed, his name is the Sock Doc and he has been interviewed twice. I agree with his philosophy on not wearing orthotics and on not stretching. His premise is that if you need an orthotic you are masking a problem. With regard to stretching, he says if you need to, you have other problems going on, my kind of advice, of course if you read the article I should note that I have yet to follow his advice but I still agree with his thinking. So check out the Sock Doc's website and definitely take a look at his "Training Principles" posts, well worth a read. If you want an easy way to get his insight, take a look at the notes from the podcasts and more importantly, take a listen:

(Shoes - Orthotics)/Stretching Podcast
The Sock Doc - Aerobic vs Anaerobic Training

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Running in San Jose

For my work I have to occasionally go to San Jose and on my most recent trip I took the time to get in a run in a new area. Normally when I go to San Jose, I run the Guadalupe River trail, a flat, gravel and a few paved sections along the Guadalupe river, more of a creek, make that a drainage overflow but still not a bad place to get in a short run. It's flat, boring but close to where I usually stay so easy and the section I run is at least 5 to 6 miles so you can get in a decent run.

This time, I was at a different hotel so easy wasn't quite so easy. I decided to look for a different place to run and I discovered the Rancho San Antonio Park about 10 miles from my hotel. I made it to the park in a little over a 1/2 hour, they do have about 10x more traffic than us. The trail was part fire road and part single track. I only went 4 miles more for the ankle and the amount of time I had. It was uphill for the first 1 1/2 miles then down and back out. Next time I will explore farther into the park as the wildcat canyon loop is single track and it says 7.3 miles, I only was on it for a mile or so and would like to see all of it. I was surprised by the number of people on the wildcat canyon loop probably saw 10+ people. I am used to my runs in Lebanon where I see maybe 1 or 2 other runners although lately Lebanon seems to be getting a lot busier.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Running update

I went for a short run in my VFF's on Thursday, it was only a mile and the ankle wasn't right which means my decision to drop at Chippewa was correct and it confirmed my decision to go minimalist. I found that being close to the ground allowed me to be more aware of each step and it seemed like I was running with less pain. When I was ramping up my mileage for Chippewa I didn't run in my minimalist shoes very often as I thought they might cause me more issues with my ankle and calf. I now think that I was simply not wanting to face the reality that I was having issues as I wanted to be an ultra runner again. During the last two years I have been humbled by my DNF's, before the injuries I felt that I could will myself to finish almost anything, now I am not sure I will ever finish an ultra again. I do know that I need to be able to run with less pain on each step to give myself a good shot at success.

So, Friday I took the plunge and picked up a new pair of minimalist shoes from Run N Fun (Burnsville). I bought the New Balance Minimus Trail MT10 (see the specs below as copied from the Running Warehouse)

Weight: 7.1 oz (size 9)
Stack Height: Heel (15mm), Forefoot (11mm); non-removable insole
How It Fits (based on width D) Width D=Medium
  • Sizing: Standard running shoe length
  • Heel: Medium to narrow
  • Midfoot: Low to medium volume
  • Forefoot: Medium
  • Toe-Box height: Low
  • Arch Structure: Medium height

I went for a 3 mile run in them yesterday and what can I say other than I love them. They are so comfortable that I would like to wear them all the time, interesting that less cushion and support felt better. My ankle seemed fine during the run and I was happy to confirm that the MT20's have more protection than my VFF's as I was purposely stepping on rocks and roots and didn't feel any sharp edges but I could still feel them so the ankle didn't even think about rolling. I wanted to go longer than 3 miles but chose to keep the distance short until I am pain free as even though I have done some minimalist running, I know that my full immersion will stress other parts of my body so I plan to try to go shorter but faster after a few weeks of building a minimalist base. So for the next few weeks, I will be running only in my MT20's, my VFF's and my Saucony Peregrines. I am back doing the ankle strengthening workouts that I was given last year plus a few more that I found on-line and plan to continue to do them this year. When I am pain free and can run 20 miles in any of these shoes then I will be ready to race an ultra again.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Chippewa update

In my last post I was self absorbed about dropping and having to deal with the same injuries again and I was remiss to not post a little about the race and to say what a great event Chippewa is.

I love the course, a nice up and down running trail with a mostly easy to run on surface. The grass downhill at the start isn't something that I like but everything else is nice. The aid stations were good but to be honest I only filled up my water bottles at the self serve ones but I heard no complaints. I had planned to look for some food options at Helen's aid station the second time through but alas I never got there. The weather was very good for running, low 40's and no rain. The volunteers were good and seeing a bunch of friends was sure nice. Thank you everyone.

Here is my update, well, my left calf feels like I was hit by something and it's very, very tight when I walk or go up or down stairs. My right ankle is probably slightly swollen as it catches when I pivot on it which means sharp pain but if I don't walk, push off on it, turn or go up and down stairs, I am good. I am planning to give it a few days and won't plan on running until the tightness and pain are gone, which isn't something I am good at doing. The question is do I see someone or just wait it out and deal with it myself? I am really, really not in the mood to talk to anyone about it, especially a Doctor. That said, I would be remiss to not consider Einsteins definition of insanity:

Then again, last time I went to a Doctor :-)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chippewa DNF - plan b

Sometimes we make choices to do things we want to do even though there may be a risk or even if we may know that it's the wrong choice. Today my choices caught up to me. I went into Chippewa probably undertrained physically. I thought it was my base training that was my problem, my long runs or lack of enough of them but it was my ankle that revealed itself as still being a problem today. If I had been honest with myself I would have admitted it but I can be stubborn.

Now my ankle is strong enough to run 5, 10 and maybe 15 miles. I was feeling great today through most of the first half and had a 50k PR in my sights when it all kind of unraveled. I am not exactly sure when it off track but here is what I know, when I left the 2nd self serve aid station I stepped into a hole and hyper-extended my left leg. It hurt but I was more embarrassed than anything, as I started to run again I had knee pain but it seemed to go away. That said, after that, my right ankle went from occasional pain twinges as it dealt with uneven surface changes to more of a throbbing and my achilles was hurting as well. No big deal I thought and I continued to the turn around point.

I got in in around 3:35 which was right where I wanted to be. I talked to my wife and said all was going well and that I would see her at the next aid station. Looking back I think I may have been talking to myself as much as to her. As after I left the aid station I started getting nauseous, so I took a S-cap, I slowed down a bit but kept moving, the nausea continued so I retraced my eating and drinking and decided that I might have not eaten enough nor drank enough or was it just an electrolyte issue. I hate nausea, I hate it. I kept going and it seemed that the S-cap helped. So I kept going along but slower, after 45 minutes, I took another S-cap and sure enough as I started feeling better my ankle/achilles changed to more of right foot numbness reinforced with pain on each step.

So on I went, I was still doing math in my head and I thought I could get in easily with a PR and if I could loosen things up a really good one for me. That's an advantage of being slow and having not running too many 50k's, a PR is setting there waiting on me to just have a good day. I really wanted the PR, I really wanted to finish but the right foot issue was causing pain in the left foot and leg, so I had to make a race decision. Do I continue and probably get a PR but risk ending my running season in April or stop and drop from the race. I debated for a while and finally decided that I should drop. I lost 2011 to a decision to continue to run in 2010, repeating that again just wouldn't be wise.

So what does this mean?

My analysis during the run led me to conclude that is I was trying to do two things at once that weren't complementary. I was trying to ramp up my base mileage to do long distance events and strengthen my ankle to be able to bear the stress. If I was honest during my training the ankle had been bothersome, I got around it by avoiding uneven surfaces later into my runs. Add in reduced training time with the internal job change and the robotics mentoring and my effort today reflects all the things I did and didn't do.

Time to move to
  which is.......

I am probably going to abandon the Superior 50 for this year and instead will focus on strengthening the ankle by doing more minimalist running. My other choice would be to go for stability shoes and lock down the foot but I think that will ultimately make it weaker.

I will pick up some minimalist shoes to complement my VFF's and once I am walking pain free I will start to focus on speed and strength training for my ankle. I am thinking that 4 to 12 weeks may make a huge difference and after that I will for shoot for Moose Mountain with and an outside chance os still doing the Afton 50k, if either of those work out, then Wild Duluth and/or Surf the Murph 50k's maybe followed by Tecumseh Trail marathon down in Indiana.

The key for this year now is to get the ankle working well enough to handle longer distance running.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pictures and fueling lesson noted

I have been remiss about posting for the last few months, I have either thought about and not followed through or it's one of about 15 drafts yet posted, so this time I figured I would finish it out and actually post it, to keep from collecting any more :-).

I have been taking my cellphone and taking a few pictures on my last 5 or 6 long runs at Murphy, the River Bottoms and Lebanon and they have all been pretty as they transformed from ice to spring. This picture is from Saturday's long run, it's from the south side of Jensen Lake heading up a slight hill (clockwise direction).

This next one is of the bald eagle I saw in Lebanon Hills 3 weeks ago when I was crossing the old bridge heading back towards Jensen Lake. I have never seen an eagle before in Lebanon, it was cool to see one in the park. I tried to circle it so you can see it, sorry that my picture is not too good. I did try to loop around to get a better picture but it flew away.

Okay, now for the main reason for this post, nutrition.

I have been listening to the UltraRunnerPodcast and Trail Runner Nation podcasts and they have had Sunny Blende talking about nutrition, interviews with Dave Mackey, Dean Karnazes, Barefoot Ted and Krissy Moehl plus more. During the interview with Sunny Blende, she said you should take in between 200 to 300 calories an hour during an ultra. Why did this pop into my head, well on my long run on Saturday I was about 2 hours into my run when I started slowing down, by 2 1/2 hours I was back at my car thinking I might be not able to get in another 10 miles. I knew I needed to continue to get time on my feet even if it wasn't working well, so I grabbed another clif shot blok, some water, switched shoes (I can always blame my shoes) and headed back out.

It was about then that I did the math on my caloric intake: 1 package of clif shot blok - 200 calories, 2 perpetuem tablets - 66 calories, 1 1/2 liters of water with nuun tablets - 8 calories per bottle. All added up I had taken in 290 calories in 3 hours, duh I thought, maybe I am simply low on fuel. So I ate the second clif shot bloks, go figure but within in a few minutes I was running again feeling good, about a 1/2 hour I ate a clif shot gel that I had been carrying for 2 months, mocha, very good flavor. Again my energy level stayed up and I continued to run (I should add what I mean by run, I was only trying to run a 13 to 15 minute mile so for most it would be barely running but for me it was better than walking). An hour or so later I ate a granola bar and my energy level continued to fell good.

Calories consumed:
       ~3 hours - 290 calories (~97 calories/hr)
       ~2 hours - 486 calories (~242 calories/hr)

So I think on my next long run, I will try to fuel like the last 2 hours and see how things work out.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tough week on many fronts

What can I say, one post in March pretty much reflects where my head has been in March. I am still working my mileage up for Chippewa but today I decided I should give up running, it just isn't fun anymore. I ran Saturday and only ran 9 miles and they weren't fun, today I ran 9 miles and I felt better but why I am doing this?

Then I heard that Dakota County decided to sell Lebanon Hills to pay for financial overruns and I pretty much decided that today is the day where I am officially done. Without Lebanon, why would I run. I have run every trail in the park, I have watched the improvements in the shelters, trails and campground (even though some of them I have questioned) but it appears that this is the last year I can enjoy it.

So with that in mind I am switching things up and will be attempting to do the Superior 100 as since this will be last year I plan on running, I may as well attempt the race I have wanted to try but lacked the courage to sign-up for. Yes, I have been injured, poorly trained, lacking motivation, overweight but it is really courage that I lack. When I think about it, I have still have a few more days to sign-up for the Gnarly Bandit race series, why do just a single 100 this year, I should go for the series, I mean it's only a couple of 100 mile races and like three 100k races, I can do that especially since it's my final season.

With all of this in mind, I want to say thank you to all of those who have helped me through my running years and I am sorry that I am letting you down by retiring after this year but it is what I need to do. Oh yeah, one more thing, you should really look at the article from Dakota County on the sale of Lebanon Hills, it's hard to believe.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Another week bites the dust

I went into the week with some good intentions and well as of today no runs for the week. Why? Weather, work, a bit too much procrastination and then add in a colonoscopy.

For those not familiar with a colonoscopy it's an exam that lets a doctor closely look at the inside of the entire colon. The doctor is looking for polyps or signs of cancer. Polyps are small growths that over time can become cancer. In my particular case it was my fourth such procedure over the last 15+ years and marked the first time that they removed a polyp, I had my first colonoscopy in my late 30's after my mother died of colon cancer, she was 58. Anyone over 50 should have this procedure done as it might be life saving. For those of us who have had an immediate family member diagnosed with the disease they recommend starting earlier.

From the American Cancer website here are a few tidbits:
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the US, with about 141,210 new cases and 49,380 deaths expected in 2011. About 72% of cases arise in the colon and about 28% in the rectum. Incidence and death rates for colorectal cancer increase with age. Overall, 90% of new cases and 94% of deaths occur in individuals 50 and older. 

The incidence rate of colorectal cancer is more than 15 times higher in adults 50 years and older than in those 20 to 49 years. Physical inactivity One of the most consistently reported relationships between colon cancer risk and behavior is the protective effect of physical.

Based on these findings, as well as the numerous other health benefits of regular physical activity, the American Cancer Society recommends engaging in at least moderate activity for 30 minutes or more on 5 or more days per week. Forty-five to 60 minutes of intentional physical activity is preferable. Epidemiologic studies find that: 
  • High levels of physical activity decrease the risk of colon cancer among men and women by possibly as much as 50%. 
  • According to most studies, the more physical activity in which people engage, the lower their risk of colon cancer. In men and women, both recreational and occupational physical activity decrease risk. 
  • Sedentary people who become active later in life may also reduce their risk. 
  • Even moderate physical activities, such as brisk walking or stair climbing, are associated with lower risk of colon cancer. 
 So tomorrow and Sunday I will get in my runs and then next week I will continue to get in my runs.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Training plans

Here is the schedule I have been looking at and I am now in need to really begin working to catch up to it for Chippewa:

Week Of Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Miles
02/20/12 10 0 2 4 6 0 14 8 34
02/27/12 9 0 4 4 6 0 16 10 40
03/05/12 8 0 4 6 6 0 18 10 44
03/12/12 7 0 4 6 8 0 20 10 48
03/19/12 6 0 4 8 6 0 10 8 36
03/26/12 5 0 4 8 8 0 22 10 52
04/02/12 4 0 4 10 8 0 22 10 54
04/09/12 3 0 4 10 8 0 24 10 56
04/16/12 2 0 4 10 6 0 10 8 38
04/23/12 1 4 3 2 0 0 50K ultra 0 40

If I was on track, I need to run 14 miles for my long run and I would have run 12 miles during the work week and 8 miles on the other weekend day. My reality is 4 miles during the week, 3 miles yesterday and I do plan to go for 14 today,  so not completely off track nor am I where I should be.

On yesterday's run I was thinking about my other races for the year and how I am planning on Afton and Superior. How I want to finish it Superior and the work I need to accomplish between now and then to be able to do so. I thought about the training I would be doing so Afton popped in my head and it dawned on me that I volunteered last year and dropped out the previous 2 years, all because of injuries and when I entered Superior 2 years ago, I was also a little bit injured and proceeded to add to my injuries. So for this year my goal is to get to the starting line of all of my races healthy and trained.
So it begins today by getting in a long run of ~14 miles without doing any harm. Then next week I work to get back on plan and stay there all the way Chippewa.


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