Saturday, February 25, 2012

A little eccentric

Photo from:
Buried in the comment section of my last post was a snippet explaining why I developed a sore achilles when I started back to running a few weeks ago.  I decided to elevate the status of that comment since I now have more evidence that my shoes were likely the main culprit.  I also think there's an important lesson to document in this story--one that I hope I come back to the next time I try something new in the form of footwear.

Last summer, I posted about my plans to transition to a flatter (less heel-to-toe drop) and more minimal shoe.  I started with the Nike Free as my transition shoe.  I started having persistent calf muscle soreness and other foot problems, so I became nervous about going Free full time.  I then found the Saucony Kinvara and worked my way through three pairs of those.  However, I noticed that I was warping those within the first few runs.  No lie.  The entire sole at the front of the shoe would flatten out like a pancake within 30 miles of wear.  I then tried the New Balance Pure Connect and that's about the time I really started to slide into injury oblivion.  My calf muscles during this entire flatter/lighter shoe phase were on fire constantly.   I blamed the calf soreness on my hips being out of alignment.

I really, really, really wanted to wear flat, light shoes. Why?  Because it made so much sense!!!!  I thought my body would adjust to the changed footwear and that I would be left with stronger feet and lower legs as a result.  Let me be clear and state that I know I can't blame all of my injuries and soreness on my shoes.  I'm pretty sure I made some stupid decisions about my training that contributed mightily to my constant state of body pissed-offedness.

Starting this next round of training, I wanted to find a shoe I could stick with.   I read a review of the Saucony Cortana and it was describe as the Kinvara with a little more cushion.  Perfect!!!  I really loved the Kinvara but they just wore out way too fast.  I started wearing the Cortana once I started back up to running in late January.  Within two days, I had a sore right achilles.  Dr. Ball surmised it was related to the treatment he was doing at the time and advised me to do the eccentric heel drop exercises to make it go away.  I did the exercises, but the soreness sort of came and went.

On one of the days that it came back, I switched shoes to my old Mizuno Wave Riders, a beefy, high-heeled, neutral shoe, and like magic the soreness was gone.  I continued to run in the Mizunos and do the heel exercises and the soreness did not return.  Always the experimentalist, I decided to try out the Cortanas again to see what would happen, and, bam, the achilles was instantly sore again.  So, this was clear enough evidence for me.

Of course, I don't know whether it was truly the flatness of the shoe or some other feature.  However, I had clearly been having problems with my feet, shins and calf muscles since I started experimenting with minimalist shoes.  I wanted to be able to wear them so badly, that I ignored the evidence right under my toes.  I did this with an ill-fitting pair of Doc Martins back in the day too.  Lost toenails to those suckers, but oh how I wanted to fit in them!

I think this tale is a good one for people who, like me, want to take advantage of all the new choices in footwear and all of the anecdotal as well as some scientific information suggesting that a flatter and lighter shoe is the key to running without injury.  I think it's great to experiment with new gear, but there are risks we have to accept when doing that.  I was so sold on the idea that a more minimal shoe was right for me that I was blind to the evidence staring me in the face to the contrary.

I'm currently wearing the Mizuno WaveRider 15 and the Wave Precision 12.  While I can't say that these are the perfect shoes for me, they fit well and don't make me hurt.  The one slam dunk perfect shoe that I own is the Nike Lunaracer.  I have tried other shoes for racing, but these are the best I've found.  They seem to work for me in every distance from the 5k to the marathon.  I won't change those out.  Well, not until something really, really exciting comes along.  Like maybe the new Nike Flyknit.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Feeling the love

The blue streaks in my hair have finally faded to the point of being barely visible; my ice blue nail polish is nearly chipped away completely; and, my memories of running in pain are fading too.

As the memory of the Olympic Trials and all of the craziness that preceded it becomes more distant, I get asked a lot: what's next?  I have been very insistent in my response that nothing is next--at least for the foreseeable future.  I want time to enjoy running for the sake of running, and, in so doing, build a solid base.  That base includes a slow ramp up in mileage and a new strength training program.  I want to give my body time to adapt to both.

My running life is actually quite normal right now.  I am slowly increasing my mileage, 5 miles per week, and am running just about every day.  I'll complete 40 miles this week.  For the most part, the issues I had before the Trials are all but gone.  I had some soreness in my right achilles tendon pop up the day after I started back to running, but that has faded as my mileage has increased.  I have been doing eccentric heel drops on a daily basis to urge it along and that is definitely doing the trick.  

I started hip mobility exercises when I started running again.  I do a series of 8 exercises as a pre-run warm up.  It takes about 5-10 minutes and is designed to maintain/increase the range of motion in my hips.  Dr. Ball explained that I need to do this 3-4 times per week to maintain the range he helped me achieve during my last visit.  When I left his office, he told me I was good to go but I needed to work on my flexibility and my strength to keep injury at bay.

I mentioned in my last post that I started working with a strength coach.  I received my strength program from Tim and did the routines for the first time last week.  The exercises I'm doing now are designed to get my body primed for more intense workouts in the future.  I'm on a 4 week plan where I do about 12-15 exercises on Tuesdays and a different set of 12-15 exercises on Saturday.  The workouts progress over the 4 weeks and then Tim will decide what's next based on my running plans.

One of the breakthroughs for me was learning that I should be doing the strength work on my hard running days, though I don't have any hard running days right now.  I had always been told to strength train on my rest days.  Now I see that makes no sense.  Rest days are rest days.  If I'm taxing my body on a day that it's trying to repair itself, I'm shortchanging my body of the recovery it needs.  This was helpful for me to hear, especially since I stopped strength training over a year ago mostly because it left me feeling run down even though I was only doing it twice a week.

I haven't felt particularly sore with the strength workouts that I have done so far, and that's just fine.  Tim explained to me that we're in the "honeymoon phase" right now.  He needs to get a sense of how my body responds to the exercises and intensity.  So far so good.  I can see this will be a long and progressive process, and I can already tell it will be a very good thing for my running.

Next week, I'll progress to 45 miles/week of running and will be ready for two, six-week blocks of training that my coach says will make me very fit.  I'm starting to get the itch to do some workouts again.  Then, maybe I'll think about some racing.  I'm also anxious to begin the slow process of losing some of my post-marathon fluff.  I like to let my body fluff up a bit after a marathon because I firmly believe that staying at "racing weight" for an extended period of time is unhealthy.  It always comes off in good time as workout intensity and weekly mileage increase.  Right now, that's the last thing on my mind as I get ready for a yummy dinner with the Genius! 

Happy Valentine's Day!