Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Back to Running (finally!)

A patient comes running into the doctor's office and yells. "Doctor, help me. I am shrinking.

The doctor in all of his busyness chirps back to the man, "I am sorry sir, but you are just going to have to be a "little patient"."

I have been trying to have lots of patience! Last week I had one run, an 8 miler on the treadmill. I had a tweak in my back a couple of days earlier after lifting a kettlebell off the floor awkwardly but that run went well. However later that night it started spasming up. I had a hard time moving, stretching, and turning with it because it kept locking up and going into spasms.

It got quite comical. I could barely get into my car. Bending down sent it into spasms, then once I got seated I couldn't get my head into the car. My head would not bend forward. I had to put my hand on top of my head and pull my noggin down in order to get it into the car (no big head jokes here!). Then I couldn't reach out to pull the door shut without putting my back into spasms again. I had to slide my foot out and try to pull the door shut with my toes. At school I would be brought to my knees if I reached the wrong way or sat up or down wrong. Turning over in bed was just painful.

Fortunately things have subsided and I ran 8 stiff miles today after a full week off. If it goes well tomorrow then I may enter the Great Bay 1/2 marathon on Sunday. The best thing about getting injured was that I didn't have to run either of the Eastern States races last Sunday as the weather looked horrible.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It is Spring, So Why I am on the Treadmill?

Monday night I lifted up a kettlebell without positioning myself correctly and something in my mid-upper back got tweaked a bit. Today I decided to run on the treadmill in case it hindered my running. Everything went fine except when I was starting the treadmill I was also fiddling with an iPod. I didn't realize that I got the treadmill speed up to 12 mph until my legs started going faster than I had planned. Fortunately, I got the speed down before I shot off the back. I actually felt real good on the treadmill and ended up doing 8 miles at a faster than normal pace. My back still is tweaked, however.

Now I am thinking about jumping in a race this weekend or next to see where I am at. I know I am not anywhere near to a racing speed and I will need a lot of races before I feel comfortable running fast. So I could do the Eastern States 20 miler or the "lesser of two evils" half-marathon (it has been a few years since I have done the 20 miler). I could also do the Great Bay 1/2 Marathon. Or I could do one of the Eastern States races this weekend and the Great Bay race next weekend. Or I could just train and save my money. I'll have to check out the upcoming weather and decide soon. What is nice is that I feel good enough running that thinking about racing is actually I choice I can make.

Here is an interesting video on marathoner Ryan Hall and Team World Vision. They are bringing clean water to people in Africa.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Good Week of Long Runs

Today was a decent running day. I had missed a run for the past two days so I was hoping to do another 15 miler. Even thought my left hip was a bit off, my muscles were good and loose. At about 13 miles I sort of changed direction to add a few more miles. I was feeling fine so I threw a new loop in and ended up going 21 miles. That was my longest run since struggling through Boston two years ago (after not running for the 15 days beforehand due to bronchitis). Boston did not go well that year. I felt fine the whole way today and only in the last mile did I start to feel any stiffness in my legs. I have had a good spell of 8 days since last Saturday: Sat. 15 miles/Sun. 12 miles/ Mon./off/Tues 15 miles/Wed. 8 miles./Thurs. off/ Fri. off/ Sat 21 miles. That would be 71 miles in 8 days. Not bad since I probably have been only running 20-30 miles per week since November.

Two days off was a good idea. Last Saturday I woke up with a cramp in my left calf. I was starting to feel the muscle tightening up on my runs. I felt nothing today. I am not sure why I feel so good. I know I have made dramatic improvements in my hips. I have lost about 10 pounds. I have been following the Warrior's Diet, but probably not as fully intended. I eat light and healthy during the day and eat a well balanced healthy meal at night. I have cut out tons of processed foods, sugars, and diet cokes. I eat a lot of fruits and veggies. I would guess that could make my muscles feel so much better if it cuts down on inflamation or something in the muscles and joint areas and feeds them good nutrition.

Today I ate an apple at noon, a Cliff bar an hour before my run (at 2:00), and drank three of four glasses of water. I did not bring anything to eat or drink as I ran (and brought no money either). I will have to do that soon as the weather warms up and I keep doing longer runs. On a normal day I may eat some nuts, fruit, or cheese mid-morning. Then at lunch I may have two or three pieces of fruit, nuts or cheese, and maybe something like broccoli. It doesn't sound that tasty but I am not craving the bad foods throughout the day as I used to do.

I did finally get to run again in the Nike Lunaracers today. The tongue was irritating the top of my left foot when I first wore them for 15 miles last Saturday. If I put them on now, the tongue still irritates it. I was going to cut it off but then the shoelaces would dig into my foot. So today I just moved the shoelaces up a notch and pinched the bottom of the tongue so it was pulled up away from the shoe. It may have looked funny but it worked like a charm. Other than that issue the Lunaracers seem to be excellent running shoes.

It also helps my running that this has been a horrible year at my school. A new principal is really making life miserable. She does not like me (or even talk to me), my creative approach to teaching, or the fact that I think that there is more than one style of learning in this world (not every student is a quiet little girl who enjoys doing paperwork all day-or practicing "state test" questions endlessly). I am being forced out of the school for even having a different opinion than hers. After 21 years at my school, it appears I will be gone next year. It can be tough being a guy teacher in a school full of women (here is a positive post I made on what it is like- but you can read between the lines if-you are interested). A good long run helps me deal with the ridiculousness of the situation. Ironically Wednesday night I will go to the Boys and Girls Club in Nashua to be honored with a Teacher-of-the-Year award and then I will have to find myself another school that will appreciate good teaching.

If you are brave (and smart) you might want to check out or try these warm-up skipping exercises as presented by Coach Jay Johnson on his blog. Here is his Running Times acticle explaining how to get ready for a race. The skipping routines remind me somewhat of what I have seen Haile Gebrsalaise and the Ethiopain runners perform before working out.

Warm-Up: Skipping Exercises from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Run Haile Run!

Last night I read Matt Fitzerald's post on meeting Haile Gebrsalasie and other Adidas athletes who were also gold medalists from the Osaka World Championships in 2008. Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie was joined by Tyson Gay, Jeremy Wariner, Allyson Felix, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Christine Ohuruogu and Blanka Vlasic at the world renowned Athletes' Performance Institute (API) in Los Angeles where the athletes gave insights into their running styles and discussed how they plan to successfully defend their world titles this year.

It was a great post comparing Haile Gebrsalasie to another charismatic athlete, Mohammed Ali. You can read his post here. You can read Matt's interview with this outstanding runner here.

I also found this video of the event including Haile's 4 minute/mile pacing on a treadmill and the throwing of his arms in the air. That is quite a stride that he has! Reading Matt's post will help you appreciate the video.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Puma L.I.F.T. Racer

L.I.F.T stands for “Lite Injected Foam Technology.” I don't know much about this shoe. Is is being marketed to runners? It is called a racer. Is it for fashion? It is called a sneaker. Will it be an adequate replacement for those who like running in the Puma H-street shoe? I haven't seen any reviews so I really don't know. It does look very lightweight. It's created from lightweight foam injected into a mold. The upper is stitched on rather than glued onto the shoe. It just became available last week. It will be interesting to find out if runners like this shoe.

This is the description that Amazon.com give of the shoe.

Amazon.com Product Description
You'll experience a lightweight "Fat Free" ride like you've never experienced before. The L.I.F.T Racer sneaker from PUMA has a breathable oval mesh upper with attractive microsuede trim detailing. It has an ergonomic design that will provide you with premium, nonstop comfort, while the multi-tractioned outsole will deliver top notch footing on most surfaces.

From the Manufacturer
PUMA is the global athletic brand that successfully fuses influences from sport, lifestyle and fashion. PUMA's unique industry perspective delivers the unexpected in sport-lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories, through technical innovation and revolutionary design. PUMA Running offers options for a marathon trainer or a casual jogger. The Running Collection intertwines innovative technology and superior comfort with smart style.

Product Description
The PUMA L.I.F.T. Racer SF brings innovation to the running range with a unique construction that epitomizes lightweight running. The upper is made of synthetic material for comfort. The midsole is constructed using an EVA injection process combined with an innovative design that allows the EVA cushioning to wrap around the entire upper. This gives the L.I.F.T. Racer its most important features: a lighter weight and lower profile. In addition to the EVA construction process, these shoes feature a microsuede trim detail and oval mesh for breathability. Ergonomically designed for short-distance running, yet versatile enough to be worn anywhere.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Younger Legs for Older Runners

Peter Magill is a very fast masters runner. In fact, he is one of the best in the US. He has a website called "Younger Legs for Older Runners". I was checking the site out a bit yesterday. I saw this post titled "Pete's Home Remedies: The Circle of Pain - lower back spasms, hamstring soreness, quad pain" it includes "EASY EXERCISES TO PREVENT, MANAGE, AND RELIEVE THE PAIN OF COMMON LOWER BACK TIGHTNESS, HAMSTRING SORENESS, AND QUADRICEPS PAIN". I found his quadricep pain remedy interesting. It is very simple: Run downhill quickly. He says to, "Either run downhill strides on a moderately steep slope (preferably grass, trail, or some other soft surface), or try a longer brisk downhill run." That is it.

I am not in pain. That is good news but I have bumped the mileage up and am still trying to keep my hips adjusted correctly. So I tried this "remedy" a bit today in the middle of my run. Now on Saturday I had run 15 miles and then I did 12 on Sunday. I took yesterday off and went out for today's run. I felt real sluggish after a couple of miles and thought I might have to walk at about 3 miles. I decided to run home and call it a day at 5 miles. However before I hit a turn to head home I started feeling a bit better so I decided to go 7 miles. Then on a downhill I just let my stride go and picked up the pace. Maybe I was starting to feel better after a slow start, or maybe the downhills helped me loosen up some but I started feeling quick and loose so I skipped the 7 mile route and kept going. I ended up running 15 miles and felt just fine the rest of the way.

Unfortunately I have not been able to wear the new Nike Lunaracers since the 15 miler on Saturday. The tongue or shoelaces were irritating the top of my left foot. It still hurts when I put shoes on. I almost cut the tongue off so I could run in them today, but they are new shoes so I will wait it out.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Running Down the Road Like Loose Electricity!

"Running down the road like loose electricity." This lyric from the song "Breathe" on U2's "No Line on the Horizon" was playing on my iPod as I did today's run. I just like the phrase. I don't know what "loose electricity" feels like but to me it is when the running is going good and you can just tune out the world, stretch your stride out, listen to an iPod, and dream ridiculous dreams about running fast and free. Another song from the same album has the line, "The right to be ridiculous is something I hold dear" from "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight".

This afternoon I laced on a new pair of running shoes and headed out the door. My legs felt pretty good so off I went and ended up running 15 miles. I am enjoying the long runs and the fact that I can do them more easily has me thinking that my running can go real well this year. My goal for years has been to run 75-100 miles per week during the summer months. I haven't been able to do that due to my back, hips, and legs always being out of alignment. I think I might be starting to get it right. If I can start building a base now, where 15 mile runs feel this easy, I can start adding up the miles so that I can get that summer of running in that I haven't been able to do. The other goal is to take off 20-25 pounds. Then if I can stay injury free, I can go after my ridiculous goals for the Falmouth Road Race and for the Applefest Half-Marathon.

I have a role model in another newly minted 50 year old runner, Mike Merra. Look at what he has done this past year. He has been bumping up his weeks to 70 mile weeks and now an 80 mile week. Lots of determination and dropping the weight will get you there. A couple of weeks ago I saw Mike running at the indoor track at Hampshire Hills. He looked loose and strong and had the stride of a much younger runner. Another 50 year old athlete doing all the things it takes is Scotty Graham. Look at what he is doing to keep his body running its best. All you younger runners pay attention because this is the work you too will be doing someday if you continue to love running and desire to do it well.

My new running shoes are Nike Lunaracers. I haven't replaced my daily running shoe since the Applefest Half-Marathon last fall when I bought a new pair of Asic Hyper-Speed 2's. They have lasted quite a while. I wasn't sure the Lunaracers would work for me. They are lightweight (boy- are they!) but they seem to have more of a sole that I am used to. I had to order them online. I ordered a 1/2 size larger than normal as I heard they fit tight. They came yesterday and fit my feet fine although I would like a little more room for my toes. They feel very cushiony, but when you run with them they feel flat and firm and with a pleasant spring to them. I had no problems running the 15 miles and was thinking about going more, but I was developing a bit of irritation on top of the middle toes of my left foot. I think these are going to be very good running shoes for me. Plus they are so vibrant that you feel like loose electricity running down the road!

If you want to see a truly wonderful running stride. Check out this Runnerspace.com video of High School freshman, Lukas Verzbicus, setting a new High School indoor 5000m track record Friday night. That is right, he set a high school record as a freshman (although he is about 1 year older than most freshmen). He is from Lithuania and moved to the US before becoming a runner. Don't expect to see him run Spring track however. He is going back to racing triathlons! By the way he ran 14:18 indoors. His long stride reminds me of my college teammate, Danny Henderson. Danny won the NCAA 5000m track championships in 1979 and 1980 in 14:17 and 13:55 as well as a first place Div. 3 cross country championship (and 2 days later 10th place in the NCAA Div. 1 championship). Danny eventually ran 13:23 for 5000m running for Athletics West. This kid has the same skinny leg long stride. He is running almost as fast as a collegiate champion at 16 years old! Very impressive!

Monday, March 9, 2009

I Ran a Marathon ( sort of )

It did take me two days, however! I ran 15 miles on Saturday and 12 more on Sunday. That is what warmer temperatures and wearing shorts can do for you! The 15 miler felt fantastic. My hips were aligned quite nicely and can I say that it felt that my legs were floating underneath my hips as they just glided along with no tension or imbalances. Believe me, it has been many years since I felt that loose and balanced so it is still a strange feeling for me: one that I have forgotten and never thought I could get back! I was not tired afterwards and had no residual effects. I didn't need to stretch, hit a foam roller, or try anything else afterwards. I should have done my hip work however. I went out for a run the following day and while I felt good and did more than I planned, I had a tightness in my hip. I ran the workout but it bothered me some. Still, being able to bump up the mileage without the side-effects leaves me feeling very positive about the work I can start to do.

Speaking of marathons! Here is one I did 25 years ago last month. It was my slowest marathon I had ever run at the time. I finished in 3:39:52 which was more than 50 minutes slower than my best time. However it was snowing during the last portion of the race. I was not in shape. I was doing it to get ready for Boston, but being that I was in my first year of teaching, I had not been doing much training at all. The story was not how slow I ran, or the weather. But the story was "Who won the Race?" or at least that was the question for all the Boston TV stations and newspapers.

The Silver Lake Dodge Marathon on February 20th, 1983 was the last of 17 annual marathons run in Wellesley, Ma. I did not realize how notoriously bad the organization of the race was when I entered. It was organized by a car dealership and the basement of the dealership was race day headquarters. What happened in this race? It seems race leader, Craig Fram (yes that Craig Fram-who is still extremely fast!) was passed by another runner in the last quarter mile. Bob Clifford, a sub 2:20 marathoner ended up winning by 15 seconds.

It seems race officials did not see Bob Clifford on the course, even though Boston Marathon race historian, Tom Derderian ran 23 miles of it with him and New England Runner magazine snapped a picture of Bob Clifford at the 10 mile mark for their coming inaugural issue.

Race organizers declared the two runners co-winners. Later. Clifford correctly realized this was not right and had to get a lawyer to get the race organizers to declare him the rightful winner. I remember the news reports going back and forth over the decisions of the race organizers (remember Rose Ruiz was still fresh on the minds of race organizers and Boston citizens).

With enough egg on their face as well as the word that this was just a poorly organized marathon, the future of this marathon was set. I believe it was the last of the Silver Lake Dodge Marathons. That means I ate one of the last bowls of soup given out( that was all you got for finishing the race!). You can read the article from Boston Running News here.

If you have children you may enjoy reading Carol Goodrow's "The Treasure of Health and Happiness." Carol is the person behind Kidsrunning.com (an offshoot of Runner' World). I review the book on my teacher's blog here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Resistance Stretching and Running Article

On the Innovative Body Solutions website there is a new article on resistance stretching. The article comes from Vogue magazine so unless you want to buy a copy of the magazine, you may want to read it there. It is authored by Elizabeth Weil, who wrote this article on Dara Torres for the New York Times and is the author of "Age is Just a Number" a new book on Olympic swimmer and Dara Torres. Of course it was Dara Torres' resistance stretching routine and success at the Olympics that brought a lot of publicity to resistance stretching.

Here is a link
to a previous post I made with links to many other posts on resistance stretching.

Elizabeth Weil mentions that she had been a runner for ten years starting in her teens. As she is approaching 40 years old, she decided she wanted to become a runner again and run as fast as she had when she was younger. She was fortunate to get stretched by Anne Tierney and Steve Sierra. Innovative Body Solutions is their site and they are also Dara Torres personal stretchers. In other words they are the best in the business.

In the article Tierney says, "We are troubleshooters. We'll look you over and figure out where your trouble spots are. It's usually a small chain of imbalances that are holding you back. Once we figure those out, everything will open up."

The two stretchers noticed that one of Elizabeth's hips was higher than the other and one muscle making up her quads was not properly firing and they proceeded to go through two hours of stretching all over her body so as to fix her imbalances. It is an interesting read particularly as it relates resistance stretching to running.

I did go to a resistance stretcher last fall and had some good runs afterwards that continued as I did resistance stretching on my own. However I have not been doing it for the past month. Why? I have been doing something similar in application but more directed at my own imbalances. I have been pushing my legs, from my hips, against resistance (although I am not moving the leg through the resistance). This is what is ultimately balancing out my hips to a level that I haven't had in 25 years. I think this is why parts of resistance stretching were working for me. I was starting to get at my stuck hips. Whether you call it resistance stretching, Muscle Energy Technique, leveraging, or whatever I don't care. What I care about is that something is definitely working.

I am still slowly going over the DVDs on The Malalignment Syndrome: diagnosis and treatment of common pelvic and back pain, I haven't used their tests to figure out what is imbalanced with my hips, but I have been directing the "pushing" I was already doing with the guidance and direction from the DVDs so that I have an idea of the why and how of what I have been doing. It is interesting to note that Dr. Wolf Schamberger who developed this technique is a former 2:20 marathoner who used this to fix his own imbalances.

Although it is my left hip that usually is the "sore hip" I think that my right hip is the hip with an upslip. That means that it is higher than my left hip (which explains why this is my short leg) and probably why my left leg takes more of the stress (and reacts with its own twisting) when I run. To correct this I bend the right leg at the knee and I push the right leg against the pressure of my arms. I don't push it as hard as I was doing on my own. Then for the left leg I pull the left knee towards my chest as I resist against the pressure with my arms. Both of these are exercises I had discovered on my own but now I know the how and why of doing them (and which leg to do them on). I also am starting a few exercises for the rotations of my hip (one is farther forward than the other). Is it working? I have already mentioned that I feel better than I have in 25 years when not running. As my hips come into a better balance all the aches and pains as well as tension in my muscles throughout my body from feet to upper back seem to be leaving. In basic terms, I feel loose and I am not spending my day trying to figure out how to get rid of the pains and imbalances that I normally feel. I also don't pay much attention to my body being out of balance as I feel more solid and steady in posture.

As for running? I took a test run yesterday at the Freeze Your Buns 5k race. I did this race to see if my hips would stiffen at a faster pace of running. I must say despite a slow time compared to previous years of racing, that this is the best I have felt in a race in years. Was it perfect? No, but I was so much more balanced that I am used to and I felt like I was running smoothly and with a proper running motion. I haven't felt that good in a long time! I just hope that the path I am on continues, because I would like to see how I can really do as a runner when I am not fighting my own body as I run.

The other thing I continue to do each day is the Turkish get ups with my kettlebells. This exercise is helping my hips strengthen and increases the mobility through the movement of my hips. The funny thing is I used to spend hours a day trying to figure out what was making my body so uncomfortable and trying to relieve the discomfort. I now am spending hardly any time at all, just a few things thoughout the day and I am good to go.

As for the race, I thought I was running hard (so I probably was) but I was disappointed at the time I saw at two miles. I did put on a long surge during the last mile and caught up to and passed the lead female runner, Amber Cullen. I made up about 10-15 seconds. Maybe she was having an off day, but I rarely catch people near the end of a race. It was very helpful to be pushing with her at the end because it got me under 20 minutes for the race. This is a much better time than my first 5ks last year.

Here are the result of the Freeze Your Buns race.

5K Results 2009-March-01
Name Town Age Sex Time
Ferreira, Danny Concord, NH 26 M 0:17:36
King, Andy Lowell, MA 33 M 0:17:42
Wade, Michael Nashua, NH 40 M 0:17:47
Indruk, Greg Nashua, NH 28 M 0:19:09
Hansen, Jim Nashua, NH 50 M 0:19:53
Cullen, Amber Concord, NH 26 F 0:19:54
Snow, Ken Merrimack, NH 53 M 0:20:11
Kane, Brian Merrimack, NH 47 M 0:20:29
Cullen, Gregory Westford, MA 56 M 0:20:33
Rouleau, Stephen Nashua, NH 30 M 0:21:00
Burnett, Jim Canaan, NH 59 M 0:21:31
Lee, Stephen Concord, NH 45 M 0:21:49
Poublon, Danielle Nashua, NH 10 F 0:25:58
Hiatt, Melissa N. Hampton, NH 11 F 0:26:50
Gallagher, James Merrimack, NH 42 M 0:26:51
Welts, Bob Hollis, NH 75 M 0:32:35
Adams, James Nashua, NH 35 M 0:33:13