Friday, November 11, 2011

My First Minimalist Shoe (Brooks Pure Connect)

Today I purchased my first pair of minimalist running shoes.  They aren't a true zero drop shoe due to the 4mm of heal lift but that is a huge jump from what I have been running in.  I tried on and ran in a few different shoes and it came down to the Brooks Pure Connect and the New Balance Minimus.  The New Balance Minimus was truly a zero drop shoe with nothing other than a little rubber between me and the road and that is why I decided to start with the Brooks Pure Connect.  The shoe does has some cushion and I would call it a half way point between a traditional running shoe and a full on minimalist running shoe.  The Brooks Pure Connect is considered a minimalist shoe but again due to the 4mm heal lift and the cushion I would call it a flat.
The first thing I noticed was how the shoe allowed me to strike with my mid and front foot much more naturally than my old sneakers during my test run at the shoe store.  When I got home and let my wife take a look she liked them just because of the color.  They are VERY GREEN.  They also feel very fast. 

I went out for a quick 4.5 mile run to see how they felt.  If they killed me I could take them back and  I really hoped they wouldn't kill me.  The good news is that they didn't kill me.  I so far LOVE them.  I felt very natural and could feel my foot working more than I could in my other running shoes.

What I noticed most what that I was keeping a nice pace.  Actually a little faster than what I have been averaging lately but I wasn't working as hard.  At least that is how I felt and that is was my heart rate told me.  If I had pushed it harder I would have dropped a good 30 seconds per mile off my normal pace.  Needless to say I am far.

Tomorrow I am going for a trail run and really looking forward to testing these puppies out off road.  Here is a shot of the bottom of the shoe to give you an idea of how it works naturally with your foot.  The shoe allows for great flexibility all over and also gives your big toe some true wiggle room. 

As I log more miles in these shoes I will give another update.  Until then, train hard and safe.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Minimalist Running

About two months ago I was trying to find information that would help me minimize the amount of injuries I was getting due to running.  I looked over a number of articles that all told me that heel striking is bad and not the way we were meant to run.  The way I understand it is our heel works more like a kick stand when we are not moving and helps us stay on our feet.  When we are running we are meant to strike with our mid foot or on the ball of our foot with a nice straight back and slight forward lean at the ankles.  At first I wasn't sure about the validity behind what I was reading but I kept on finding more good data to support it.

After reading I went in search of some running videos to see how this looked so I could try to do it myself.  I found what I was looking for and I also found a bunch of videos that were linked to some of the articles I had been reading, which helped me get a visual of good and bad form.  I decided to put new technique to use when I was able to start running again because at the time I was still injured.

About a week later while at the airport on our way to California I picked up a book to keep me busy on the plan.  To my surprise the airport book store actually had "Born To Run" for sale.  I had heard a lot about the book but never took the time to read until that morning.  The book started out pretty slow.  The writer spent a lot of time talking about his running injuries and a trip to Mexico to find this crazy... well not crazy but awesome tribe of running people.  Once he finds them in the book gets good.  I don't want to talk a whole lot about the book just in case you haven't had a chance to read it and want to which I highly recommend.  What I will say is that the book touched on everything I read and more.

When I say it touched on more I mean it talked a lot about minimalist running and bare foot running.  Now...I am not going to rip off my shoes start running bare foot.  I did try it once on the road and I didn't like that to much because the road is rough and hard and my feet are not.  I know there is at least one guy in Rochester I see at some races running bare foot and he is really fast but it's just not for me.  I did try it in the grass and ran about a mile and I did like that and will continue to add it to my routine a few times each week as long as the ground isn't covered in snow.  All of the researchers and running coaches say this is good for your feet.  Running barefoot in the grass helps stranghten the muscles that our running shoes don't use.  By making your feet stronger you should have few foot related injuries.  Keep in mind that you shouldn't run out to your local park and bang out a 5 mile run in your bare feet.  Take it slow and work into it.

Anyway, when Rose and I went for our first run in California I tried to make a conscious effort not to land on my heel when we went for both of our runs in California.  Later the first day I didn't have any extra pain associated with my injury.  That was the first time since the early spring of this year I could say that.  I knew by the end of the trip I was on to something.  For the last month I have run almost every day.  At first I had to cut my mileage back some because this new technique was causing some calf pain but that didn't worry because me everything I had been reading said that this would happen.

What I have noticed is that my thighs don't get as tired on long runs, my pain is gone and my hip tightness is slowly going away.  I went for 7 mile run trail run last week and really focused on trying to feel smooth.  I didn't want to feel like I was bouncing down the trail but more like gliding down the trail.  By the fourth mile I was starting to feel it and over the last 3 miles of my run I dropped a minute of my average pace and only saw my heart rate rise a few beats per minute.  My legs felt great and by the end of my run I wanted to keep going but I had other things to do that day so I stopped and got in my car and drove home.  What I noticed is that I had shortened my stride and leaned forward a little bit.  I felt like my legs just reloaded when they hit the ground under me and kept me moving.  This got me thinking more about one other change I have been thinking about making.

I don't want to run on my bare feet but a number of companies make a "zero drop" or minimalist running shoe.  The shoes don't have the raised heels running shoes have had since the 70's.  The goal of the shoe is to make you run like you were meant to run by landing on your mid foot or ball of your foot because you won't have all of the heel cushion.  The shoe is also much more flexible and allows your foot to work like it was meant to work.  I have not yet been to the running store to try them out yet because I am not ready for new shoes and if I like them I will want to buy them right away.  I have done a lot of homework and I think I know what shoes I want to try out.  The Vibram Five Fingers look pretty cool but I know they won't work for me.  I have some pretty crazy looking toes.  My toes are ugly enough that my older brother Todd would tell me to keep my socks on until I was married and one of the first things my wife looked at on our little girl was her feet to make sure she didn't have my ugly toes.  Fortunately my daughter has nice normal looking feet.  I am interested in trying what Saucony, Brooks and Merrell have to offer and would love to hear from anyone who has already tried minimalist shoes.

As soon as I try the minimalist shoes I will write more about them.  Until then be safe and watch out for all of the people on the road who are not watching out for you.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Running in San Francisco

Recently my wife and I flew out to San Francisco for my nieces wedding. Our plan was to arrive and get a cab to the hotel, check in and go for a run. Things didn't go as planned.  We checked in and decided to take a quick look around the area by going for a quick walk and realized how hilly San Francisco really is. If we weren't walking up we were walking down and the hills are soooo steep! We walked for about four hours before we were done and my legs were completely spent. I totally understand why so many people in that city are in such good shape. Rose and I both noticed that most of the people we saw were in pretty good shape. That is so different from what we are accustomed to here in Upstate New York where far to many people are not in very good shape.

The next morning (Saturday) we got up early and searching around our room for our coffee pot but couldn't find it anywhere in plain site. Eventually we opened a small cabinet that housed a Keurig coffee machine. Jackpot! We didn't have drink the nasty hotel coffee we had been use to drinking.  It we had known we would have a Keurig we would have brought a bunch of our own coffee from home because they only gave us enough coffee for one cup per person.  Oh well...  We drank our coffee, slid on our shoes and took a look at our map and hit the road.

Our hotel was at the top of hill so you can walk out the door and set off in any direction and you are going down hill. WAY DOWN HILL! Well it isn't that bad. I don't think any of the climbs exceed a half mile but they are very steep.  We started down the hill you see in this picture.  The plan was to run down hill to the flatter areas of the city near the bay and get warmed up before we started the real work of going up.

Running is a great way to take in the sites in a place you haven't been before, as long as you know where you are going.  This was the first time Roseann and I have run to see the sights because she didn't start running until just before getting pregnant with our daughter and this is the first time we have really gone away since Isabelle was born.  We always got out and explored on vacation but we walked and I get bored walking.  As we ran around San Francisco Rose told me that she wished would could have ran when we were in Aruba and St. Marten because we could have seen so much more of the Islands we were on. 

We saw some pretty cool stuff on our Saturday run.  We ran out of the downtown area to the bay near the Bay Bridge and ran along the bay for about two miles.  That is were we saw most of the other joggers.  That made a lot of sense because it was really the only flat area with out any traffic lights to kill your rhythm, but we didn't care about all of that.  We wanted to take in some of the sights.  The plan after running along the bay was to hit Lombard Street and run up the Crooked Road.  It wasn't any harder than any other climb but if you are going to run up some hills in San Fran you should try to make it a point to run up something cool.  The street is all brick with beautiful flowers and flowering shrubs on both sides of the street from top to bottom or in our case, from bottom to top.  I got to the top of the hill while Rose was about half way up.  I was greeted by a mob of tourist who were part of a bus tour of the city taking pictures of the road and us running up.  For some strange reason they thought we were completely nuts!  I heard someone say that doesn't look like fun but he doesn't know what he is missing.  We got to see some of the things you must see if you come to San Fran but we also got to see some cool little areas of the city you miss on a tour bus and got a great workout that justified in my mind some of the food I ate later that night at my nieces wedding.

We got to bed late that night after eating and drinking to much.  This did put a little kink in my plans for our Sunday run.  I wanted to run to the other side of the city and go through Golden Gate Park and maybe run on the bridge but we got up to late so we went back down by the Bay Bridge.  We needed to get out and back to go to breakfast with Mom & Dad before starved.

We left the hotel and headed DOWN California Street again and came upon the Marines taking some pictures to promote Fleet Week. I forgot to mention that we in town the same time as Fleet Week.  I am not sure if this was for a calendar or just advertising but it was pretty cool and an unexpected site.  Our Sunday run was much easier than the run we did on Saturday.  We just ran along the bay and took a lot of pictures of Navy ships and other landmarks before heading back UP California Street to the hotel.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Finger Lakes Tri Review

So this past Sunday I Finished my second Finger Lakes Olympic Distance Triathlon. Going into the race I had very low expectations due to my lack of training. I had knee pain related to an IT Band issue that didn't clear up until August. Unfortunately the first run I put in post hip injury caused some other problems that I have tried to work through. Take it from me, the term "no pain no gain" should really be rethought. I vote to change it to "some pain equals negative gain. I tried to put in small runs all year when I felt better but that always set me back. In the future I will wait until I have felt better and then wait another week or so and then go for a run on the track first because I always push to hard on the road.

Back to the race. Rose, Bella and I left the house at 5:30 AM because I got so busy on Friday and forgot to pick up my race packet. This didn't turn out to be as big of a deal as I thought it might. I showed up on Sunday and spent an extra five minutes picking up my packet and then walked over to transition and got my area all set up. I wanted to make sure I didn't make the same mistake I made last year and forget to take my nutrition on the bike portion of the race so I put it in my shoe. Now that I was all set up I had time to mill around and chat with other athletes before the race or just bump into people I know and haven't seen for awhile. I found my good buddy Jim Bassanno and David, one of his three sons handing out race bells. Thanks Jim!  Now my almost 3 year old has 6 cow bells to ring at home!  I also saw Tim from the Y volunteering this year and not racing because of an injury. Thank you volunteers for pointing us in the right direction, handing us water and keeping cars from running us over at every intersection.  With out them the race could not happen

All things considered I am pretty happy with my swim time. I didn't really train and I was only a minute slower than last year.  I did feel a little bad for the first time racer getting ready for the swim next to me and the total and absolute look of terror I could see in his eyes.  I know a swim in the lake doesn't sound that bad but when you are doing it in a pack of about 70 men that will mix in with two other waves that went off before you that can be a little nerve racking.  Add fact that you are going to swim a half mile out into the lake with arms, elbows, legs and feet all around hitting and kicking you and the prospect of drowning I totally understand why I see people throw up before the swim. The worst part about the swim at this particular race is the run from the water to the transition area.  I am going to say that it is about a 500 meter run that doesn't offer a lot of grass or any type of soft surface for your cold wet bare feet.  We must run on s stone path and then across a paved parking lot to your bike.  It isn't the worst thing I have ever had to do but I don't look forward to it.

The bike course was changed up this year due to road construction and this turned out to be a good thing because the new course was a little easier.  I expected to have a terrible ride this year based on how I felt my last ride before the race.  To my surprise I had a pretty good ride.  It certainly wasn't what I am capable of but I averaged about 2 mph faster than I thought I would but still about 1 mph slower than what I could have done with out the injury.  I am also about 10 lbs heavier than I should be.  A tip from me to you is if you can't train for a triathlon than don't eat like you are training!  The only thing really notable about the bike course was the detour through FLCC to add some distance to the ride.  The FLCC portion of the ride offered up about four speed bumps.  Speed bumps are the last thing I expect to see on the road race course.  It wasn't the end of the world and I did get a laugh out of it.

The six mile run went much better than planned!!  I had zero hip pain and kept a faster pace than I though I thought I could averaging about 7:45 per mile.  The longest run I have been able to put in over the last 2 months has been 3-4 miles and I ran 6 miles only a handful of times earlier this year.  I love this run course because it is a 3 mile loop that you need to complete twice so you get a chance to see who you might know out there and see people you didn't expect to see.  I saw Chris Leonardi, Van Travis, Rich Voci and Mitch Ball.  That right there is one of the great things about this sport.  You always bump into people you don't expect to see and didn't know had the same sickness for the sport as you do.  I haven't seen Mitch in at least four years so that was pretty cool.  Last year I saw a friend I hadn't seen in about twelve years.  I worked with a kid named Dan back in 1998 that ended up joining the Navy, becoming a Seal and getting hurt in the line of duty.  Last year he came out of the water about a minute behind me even though one of his arms doesn't really work all that well because of a road side bomb that blew up his Hum V and then passed me about halfway through the bike course.  The Navy Seals are no joke!

It is a few days later and I am feeling really good.  I didn't really have any sore mussels after the race other than my hip but I knew that was going to hurt.  Even though I didn't really train and I didn't place in a race I know I can place in I still had a great time.  I am not sure if I am going to do any other races this year.  I might just take care of my hip but you never know.  There a few events I would really like to do that I haven't done before so I might race if some of my tri buddies do them.

I am out!  Train smart and safe!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bad News Good News

I will start with the bad news first. I went out for a ride a few months ago. I didn't plan on anything to long. Maybe 40 miles or so. The weather wasn't the best but that wasn't stopping me. A little rain never hurt anyone as long as you stay on both wheels and keep yourself off the deck. At about 30 miles I said to my self, self you are flying today! At mile 31 I said, self you have just BONKED. I thought it must be the nasty weather getting to me or the cocktails I drank last night, but I was wrong. It was my back wheel...again! I broke a spoke along the way and that caused wheel to bend a little and rub my breaks. That explained why I was feeling slow all of the sudden.

I wasn't excited about the spoke because it was my forth broken spoke and SRAM had already replaced two spokes and sent me a new wheel in the last year. I took the wheel into Park Ave Bike and called SRAM to let them know how I was feeling about my S40 wheel set. That is the bad news.
The good is that SRAM is a great company! With in 5 minutes of being on the phone the customer service tech decided to upgrade my wheel set and send me a new set of S60's! That is what I call great customer service. They could have done what most companies would have done and sent out a new spoke and put a band aid on my bullet wound, but they didn't do that and for that reason I put them at the top of my good list for going above and beyond for a little guy like me. I have been out on the new wheels for about a month and a half now and they are AWESOME.  Thank you SRAM!

I have put a number of good rides in on the wheels and I haven't heard any of the POPS and CRACKS I would hear while riding the old S40's, so I am hoping my days of breaking spokes are behind me.

This has been a terrible year for training.  I have been working 60-70 hour weeks and not getting out to do much of anything related to training.  I had an injury that kept me from running more than a few miles at a time since January.  I think the injury has finally healed up and I am back on the road running again.  I have also made some significant changes to my work so I expect to be training a lot more.

The Finger Lakes Tri is coming up in about 3 weeks.  I am hoping to train enough now that I am feeling better and have the time to train like I need to. 

Be safe and have fun out there!