Friday, January 31, 2014

2014 Sidehiller 4 mile Snowshoe Race

The 2014 Sidehiller Snowshoe Race was a chilly and windy start to my snowshoe season. I have only run about 50 miles or so since getting my ElliptiGO last July and only four of those miles were on snowshoes (which was my longest run in all that time). While my body still doesn't seem ready for any real running, I can't give up the fun of running on snowshoes. Last week I had my best week of running in that time (14 miles total), but a four mile treadmill run two nights before the race was one run too many. My hip was sore and tight the night before the race and it took about two hours of trying to ease up the discomfort before a frog stretch finally popped everything back in place.

This was the 10th edition of the race and Sidehiller is the longest running snowshoe race in New Hampshire, but it was the first time I ever participated as Center Sandwich, NH is a bit of a drive. Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn on the way up and ending up getting to the start with less than 1/2 hour to spare. It wasn't a leisurely drive trying to figure out how to get to the right place for the race without a GPS.

Strangely enough, you might remember the 1980s television show Newhart and the opening credits where they show a quaint Vermont town. Well, that town really wasn't in Vermont. The video is outtakes from the Movie "On Golden Pond" and the town is actually Center Sandwich, NH. It looks a whole lot more stress free than I felt getting to the start!

I am not in any sort of racing shape and my left hip can still get balky and while it feels OK when running, afterwards I am left with a limp and a day or two reprieve to let it calm down. I was hoping my ElliptiGO miles would carry me through the race, but I wasn't positive I could even finish.

The race ended up being a two lap affair on the fairgrounds and soon after the the start, I was already winded and second guessing my idea to race. Fortunately the course was basically flat. Within minutes of the start we had to run around a couple of buildings and it got backed up a bit. The race had two kinds of footing: a hard packed faster surface and some singletrack on some squishy snow where my left hip and leg would lose control of the snow and I had a hard time keeping my body straight. Due to my conditioning, I wasn't very fast, but my effort was intense. I was happy that I maintained good endurance throughout the race and finished. I am way back in the pack (results) these days, but I will take that over not even trying.

The race also was a qualifier for the Snowshoe National Championships in Bennington, Vermont on March 5. I am in an age group where many runners are injured, rehabbing an injury, retired, or sane. Somehow I managed to snag the fifth and final qualifier in the 55- 60 year old age group. I will have to get some better training in over the next month as that is a hilly 10k race, but I will be going to the National Championship race.

After the race, I was limping again. Later that night, I woke up with a real strong cramp in the muscles around my left back. I tried to get up, but it was really intense and I found myself knocked to the floor. I have never had any cramp so intense. It took almost an hour to settle it down, but in the morning I was OK and it did not return.

Fantastic photos of the race can he seen at:
Joe Viger Photography 
Scott Mason Photograpy
Far North Endurance

Race recap from Level Renner (or what happened up front) including video

Monday, January 20, 2014

Birthday ElliptiGO Miles

Well, I hit another age landmark and for the first time, I feel old: 55 years old that is. I decided to try a new tradition: ride my age in miles sometime during my birthday week. Because I live in New Hampshire, that is not easy to do outdoors this time of year, so I did it on my indoor trainer Friday night two days after my birthday. You know what? It wasn't that bad using my ElliptiGO.

Here is what I have learned about training indoors on the ElliptiGO. First, you need a trainer. I have the CycleOps Fluid 2 Indoor Bicycle Trainer with the CycleOps 20 and 24-Inch Wheel Adapterto adjust the trainer to its 20 inch rear wheel. I also have CycleOps Stackable Climbing Blockto hold the front wheel and keep it level. When I got this a couple months ago, I was set for indoor ElliptiGO cycling. Well I did have to remove a ceiling tile over my head so I wouldn't bump into it. This was a better way to exercise without taking the ElliptiGO out in the dark and cold of a New England winter, but I was somewhat bored and never lasted more than an hour on the trainer.

Over Christmas, I got a Garmin Edge 800 GPS-Enabled Cycling Computer to monitor my training on the roads. I got a refurbished (good as new) model from Amazon that included a heart-rate monitor, a cadence/speed monitor, and a set of maps. This unit is awesome as it tracks my progress on the roads, including elevation and temperature and then I can download it all to my computer. I joined up with Strava and now I can get inspired by belonging to two clubs: an ElliptiGO club and to the Acidotic racing team. It is fun to
Spoke magnet, sensor, and cadence sensor set up
follow other athletes and the motivation from the Garmin and Strava helped me get beyond hour long rides to a longest ride of 50K (31 miles). However, I will still just listening to music on the rides and it was hard to just stare at the wall. I also had to adjust my Garmin to match my training pace and speed. For the wheel circumference I finally set my wheel at 1300mm. I am told the circumference was really 1548mm for my wheel, but when it was automatically measured while on the road by GPS is came out to 1516mm. If I set the computer at those settings, I was going too fast, so I moved it lower because there is no wind resistance to battle indoors and now the speed matches my efforts.

The final thing I did for my long ride was to bring a small television downstairs and attach a Roku 2 Streaming Player to it. I intended to watch some old Ironman Triathlon Youtube videos, but they were stalling a bit, so I switched over to Netflix and got to watch almost two movies. It was fun to push myself for almost 4 hours to hit a silly mileage mark, but I liked going for it and next year I will be back for more.

And yes, these shoes glow in the dark!
I can also use the Garmin Edge for running if I want. I did carry it for my longest run in over 6 months two weeks ago. I did a four mile snowshoe run to see if I could get back into snowshoe racing despite not running much at all due to my hip. I felt great while running, but the next day, my hip was sore and I was limping a bit. I also got this GARMIN 010-10615-00 Quick-Release Mounting Kit to mount my Garmin on a watch strap. I think it will be kind of clunky, but it enables you to use the Garmin for running or other activities.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Move Like An Animal: Learn to Pandiculate: Free ebook through Monday

Have your muscles forgotten how to move? Somatics is a form of therapy based on the idea that muscles can suffer something called "sensory motor amnesia" in which certain muscles might have forgotten their role in movement or shut down through a "trauma reflex" due to injury, overuse, or pain. They no longer function properly to protect themselves from perceived pain. Somatics helps restore that function through gentle movement exercise as your muscles relearn how to move "without pain".

I have been extremely interested in Somatics and have written a bit about some help I have had over the past few years working with Martha Peterson's excellent book Move Without Pain, one of my favorite and most used books, and her videos. Running with an injured body over many years and pushing that running has led to many compensations and my muscles certainly don't work correctly anymore. Over the past three years, since my hip surgery, I have used a variety of methods to some success and then sometimes they don't seem to help, but it is a slow road to recovery. The good news is that over time, my muscles are getting better.

Somatic movement is built on something called "pandiculation" where you tighten the muscle first and then let it relax to its normal length It wakes your nervous system, so that the brain controls the movement.  It is what your cat or dog does that you call you sometimes call stretching, but it is not stretching like we stretch. They contract the opposing muscle and lengthen the muscle before relaxing it.

Last week, I saw an ebook called Move Like An Animal: Feel Comfortable, Be Flexible, Move Well for Life in 3 Simple Steps. and since it was only a buck, I purchased it. It went through the basics of a few key Somatics movements, but it got really in depth into them. I worked through the book one night and I felt much better right away and it has continued. The key thing I got out of the book that helped me with the pandiculations was to slow down more and not to push my movements. I tend to work like an athlete and want to push things. With Somatics, you do not do this.

I was going to recommend the ebook anyway, but found out that the ebook is now free through Monday, so if you are interested you can get it here: Move Like An Animal: Feel Comfortable, Be Flexible, Move Well for Life in 3 Simple Steps. It includes some video and has an audio link so you can do the exercises without having to refer to the book.

Here are a couple of other of the posts I have made on Somatics.

How Somatics Can Help Runners

Somatics: Pain Relief Through Movement

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The secret to running success or the cause of running injuries: hip structure?

I found a wonderful post on the differences and variety in hip structures that helps you visualize the unseen workings or at least the set up of how our femurs insert in the pelvis. Because we only see the outside of a person, we sometimes think that running is merely a muscular activity. If somethings is sore or tight, what do we do? We stretch. We forget that each person is created with their own skeleton and that not everyone's anatomy, joints, and bones look exactly the same. There is a tremendous amount of variety. I never liked that saying that running is 90% mental and 10% physical, or however it goes. Not everyone is created equally. No matter how hard we try, we all can't run like a world class runner. I realize that the hips aren't the only bones and joints that help determine how well we can run, but they sure are an important one! I have been fighting my left hip since long before I became a runner and that was 40 years ago. No stretching or other therapy have ever balanced out my hips. One works differently than the other and I have said all along that I think my hips are not symmetrical as I can feel the way the work. I have been told many things about my left hip: femoral anteversion, mild dysplasis, and of course I eventually had a torn labrum in that hip. I just picture the femur fitting differently in the socket than my right one and so it works diffently.

Check out this web page: THE BEST KEPT SECRET: WHY PEOPLE HAVE TO SQUAT DIFFERENTLY. It shows side-by-side comparisons of different hip structures. We are all not made the same. The page is written for showing how these different hip structures relate to different ways that people squat, but having seen tremendous differences in the strides of many runners, I think you can see how this applies to our sport as well. The comments are worth reading too!

Here are the latest images of my hip taken in the spring of 2013. I was standing straight for the images.

my problem left hip
my hips tilt for some reason

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to release your tight glute medius and minimus muscles

Despite taking a long time to get myself running again, my hip feels slightly better every week or so. I know I have pretty good mobility in the hip joint (after arthroscopic labral tear surgery almost three years ago) and I can exercise to my hearts content on my ElliptiGO, but every time I go for a run, the muscles around my hip tighten up (or as I say, they get angry) so I am in discomfort from the tension for days. I am finding I can stretch in positions I couldn't do even 6 months ago and foam roll or more precisely use an Orb Deep Tissue  Massage Ballto really target my muscles and this helps, but I am still left with tension especially in the glutes which rolling can aggravate and stretching doesn't seem to help.

Since getting my ElliptiGO seven months, I have tried to limit my running. For three or four months, I only ran once each month for 2 miles, but could feel my hip muscles tighten up the next day. My goal is to only run enough so I am pain-free the next day. The past two months I have run more on the treadmill.  I started with 10 minutes, eventually hit 20 minutes, and then a few 1/2 hour runs. I even did a 40 minute run and I felt great while running, but tightened up too much over the next few days to consider it a victory.

It is getting to be snowshoe season, and Sunday, I went out for my first snowshoe run of the season. The conditions were perfect, and instead of doing my planned two mile circuit, I did the loop a second time for a 4 mile 50 minute snowshoe run (the longest I have run in 7 months). I felt great and thoroughly enjoyed the run, however as soon as I stopped, my hip tightened up and I limped for a day and have been fighting the tight muscles around my for four days now. I am pretty sure it is not my hip joint that is getting sore, but the muscles around it tighten so it doesn't sit in the socket correctly.

I decided to look into how I was rolling my glute muscles and found a really good video that showed me how to target the muscles in a different way than I was doing. I used a hard rubber ball to roll these muscles for about 6 minutes as instructed and when I stopped and started to sit up, I heard a loud pop and felt an immediate release of tension. I could then walk around without the tightness of the last few days, so here is the video Theo Simon of Movement Therapy on how to Eliminate Hip Pain Using a Gluteus Medius & Minimus Release. As he says in the video, if the glute medius and minimus are tight and overworked, then the prime mover, the gluteus maximus cannot work properly.