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Entries in running (4)

Tuesday
Sep182012

Those injuries do drain.

Last week I was running and I felt so fatigued. I did an inventory of my muscles and there was no one to blame...my lungs ached, but my lungs always ache...I had the faint awareness of a burden on my back, between my shoulder blades. That's when I remembered that several days before I had injured my back while lifting the third five-gallon bucket to the mouth of my fishtank. I felt the crunching sound you hear when you get adjusted at the chiro and I felt it cracking--not good. But afterwards, I forgot about it because it didn't hurt. This was an excellent experiential reminder that injuries impact us even when we don't feel pain afterwards.

Five days after the injury I went to my chiro appointment and was adjusted. I forgot to tell the chiro about my back injury (again because I wasn't feeling pain) but he found it. It made the same sounds and had the same feeling as when I injured it. But now it was back in place and my energy has improved.

Saturday
Aug042012

Barefoot running & knee/leg problems

For four years I tried to start running only to be waylaid by shin splints. I would cease training to allow them to heal and then try again, only to continue the cycle. I bought better running shoes (which made a difference but did not solve my problems), massaged and needled (acupuncture) my legs and practiced various stretches and exercises. But each time I tried to start up again, I would succomb to the shin splints. I have also experienced a disturbing lack of control over my left foot when my leg muscles seized up, usually around the second mile. I was unable to lift my left foot voluntarily. It wasn't painful and if I slowed down I could run through it, but it couldn't be healthy.

A friend told me about the research that was being conducted at Harvard University on barefoot running. Careful scrutiny and measurement from video of people running reveal that people raised in cultures where shoes are not worn never heel strike. They land on either the balls of their feet or in the midfoot and then roll through their feet. They also never complain of knee and low back pain associated with their running. Apparently the heel strike is unnatural, caused by the improper alignment of the foot to the rest of the body while in supported shoes, and it sends an enormous force through the joints.

I started toe striking last year. It took conscious effort in the beginning but I quickly adapted. I'm still in my supported running shoes, but just changing my foot strike solved my leg issues permenantly--no more shin splints and no more lazy foot. I hope to transition further toward the unsupported slippers over the next year. Transition is imperative as changing one's foot strike requires use of different muscles and one can sustain significant injury without a slow, deliberate transition.

Thursday
Jul192012

The myth of sports drinks

A good friend of mine, Paul Ashman of Manic Salamander, brought this to my attention:

Sports drinks don't deliver. They have so little in the way of electrolytes in them and the most sporty thing about them is the neon artificial colors. Let's compare labels on the most famous sports drink, GatorAde, which has changed its moniker to G and G2, with V8 juice.

Here's what's in a 20 oz. bottle of G:  130 calories, 34g carbs (11%), sodium 270mg (11%), potassium 75mg (2%), sugar 34g and 0 protein, vit A, vit C, fiber, calcium or iron. 

A 12 oz. bottle of V8 contains: 70 calories, 15g carbs (5%), 630mg sodium (26%), 700mg potassium (20%), sugar 12 g, as well as 3g protein, 3g fiber, vit A (60% daily value), vit C (180%), calcium (6%), iron (6%).

V8 kicks ass and can actually replenish after exerting one's self in sports activities. V8 is a powerhouse of nutrition on the go.

Tuesday
Jun122012

"The Worst Ride Ever" or "What I Learned About Fun" 

Ok, I'm goal oriented. Not a little. A lot. I look ahead and achieve. It's served me well in many respects; I'm able to get shit done. But when combined with my sense of competitive spirit, it can get over the top and perhaps needs tempering.

I rode the MS150 this weekend with some friends. We were four, all veterans with the exception of moi. This was my first ride of this length (150 miles in two days). My longest ride to date had been about 60 miles in one day, 100 miles in two days. I should probably mention that my training for this event was only my running. I hadn't been on the bicycle, really, this season. It was great to get away for the weekend, go camping, and ride the trails. I love watching for wildlife and I was fortunate enough to see a grey fox (in a hotel parking lot in Duluth, of all places!) and, on the second morning, a pair of cranes flying very low. I rode slow (as much because of the wind as my desire to behold) and I really made a point to look at the view. I didn't want to just plow through and miss the experience of the gorgeous surroundings. I'm not without an appreciation of process, to be sure.

Race days are times to celebrate what you've done, test for where you're at and push a little more out of yourself as you pull from the energy of the pack. I have a rule for myself: I never stop (ie: walk) during a race (most of my races are running races). I'll slow down when I need to, but I must keep running. I always say, "I'm not stopping unless they take me off on a stretcher." I really want to get through. ; ).  The MS150 is a ride, not a race (it's not timed), but my stipulation remains--move on to the end.

The first day of the ride was difficult. I didn't have much with which to compare it; I was tired, but not overly. On the second day I was cycling. along. very. slowly. I had left at 5am, long before the rest of my team, because I knew I was slower and they'd catch up with me. The wind was tremendous. 30mph tremendous. The temperature would reach 92* later in the afternoon. I saw busload after busload of riders SAGging--getting a van ride to the next rest area or dropping out altogether. I was alarmed. These riders had the fancy, expensive bikes, they wore the fancy uniforms, they must have trained. If they were dropping out, how would I fare??

At the second rest stop I discovered the blessings of body butter (aka: "hoo-ha ride glide", "butt chamois" were the two brands I tried) and I found that life was worth living again. Thank you, chemistry.

My friends caught up with me at the (about) half-way point at the lunch rest stop. I lamented the fallen bicyclists, but also judged them. What the hell was happening to them to make them drop out?? My friend patiently listed a number of physical ailments that can befall a cyclist. But they should be able to anticipate them, prevent them, right? And then she said it: "And maybe they just decided it wasn't fun anymore." She said it like it was a valid excuse, but I knew that the finish line was waiting at the end. I think her comment fanned a flame of panic in me because I countered with, "I'm only dropping out in a body bag." Dramatic? Yes, well....

On we went. Midway through the second-to-the-last leg of the ride, my team stopped for a prearranged rest. A conversation took place out of range of my hearing and next I knew the decision had been made to SAG. O.M.G. Fifteen miles from the end! Fif. teen. miles. They pointed out that at the rate we were managing that's another two to three hours of riding (with stops). And they weren't having fun anymore. I definitely was tired and I most certainly was not going to do this alone. It was really hard work by now and I needed the team. They were right, it wasn't fun anymore. It was do-able, but at a cost.

I don't know, I feel like this is where I am expected to wrap it all up with a quip about how I changed my thinking and became a new person, but that wouldn't be genuine. I like that feeling of accomplishment. It pushes me on. It gets me through. It's important. Alas, 135 miles in two days against 30mph winds is an accomplishment. I overheard several long-time veterans of the ride say that this was "the worst ride ever" because of the winds and heat. I guess 135 miles is enough.

My friend's comment struck me, though. Fun hasn't been so salient to me for my sports. While I'm running or cycling I consciously monitor my physical well being--how am I feeling, how am I breathing, what muscles do I feel, etc.--and I do monitor my general mood and motivation. But there's another level of emotional responsiveness available to me when I have a running partner that I don't practice when I run alone (and most of the bicycling I've done has been alone). With a partner, if I get bored, I change the conversation or make jokes to keep it interesting; there's more playfulness.

When I am alone, I can get too introspective and zen-zoned. The challenge for me is to be more playful. Then I can add the question, "Am I having fun?" to my lexicon of emotional responsiveness. I'm not sure how to implement this, really, without someone else with whom to interact, but it will prove an interesting exercise.

By the way, the decision was right. One member of our team became a little ill after we stopped and had a bumpy van ride. Barring the predisposition to carsickness, she could have been far worse off had we continued on.