Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Downhills and Uphills: The Millenium Mile

I ran the Millennium Mile on Sunday with my family. There is not much to write about as it was my slowest time ever on the course. From the first steps I knew I would not have an easy time of it. My finish time reflects how stiff and awkward I felt. I have had a couple of minor sicknesses that have limited my running (plus five days without electricity!). I also have not kept up with my stretching and other work. I have had a few good days of running lately, but mostly I have had days where I can't get things back into balance. I had been stuck for the two days before the race with my left knee twisting in and that lower leg twisting out with a weird pronation. Before the race I tried all my strategies but I couldn't get anything to get my legs back in balance. So I ran the race on twisted legs and hips and it wasn't fun. Even though it was a downhill race, I felt like I was running uphill!

After the race I went back to checking things out again to find out what is wrong with my body. Is it the feet throwing off my hips or my hips throwing off my legs? I went back to some pages I had bookmarked on the sacroiliac joint. I was reading through one page and tried this easy movement on both hips.

This is what I did: While lying on my back, I pulled the right knee snuggly to my chest to rotate the pelvis up in front. I held tightly with my arms around my knee and then pushed my knee out against my arms to cause the pelvis to shift downward in back of the sacrum. I tried to feel my back flatten. I did it 3 times for 10 seconds on each side. That is all I did except that I also tried it in the sitting position.

The site I got this version from seems to imply that the opposite side sacrum may cause the damage that you feel on the out of alignment leg. I also realize that this information owes a lot to Richard DonTigny's site which I have previously seen and bookmarked. Here are his exercises. Maybe previously I have tried too many of them or my body wasn't in the right mood for them to work, or the stars and moon weren't aligned properly, or who know why things work and don't work on my body?

Soon after this adjustment my hips felt completely balanced and free again. I didn't have the uncomfortable feeling of my hips being off and muscles in the hip and back pulling. I could stand balanced on my left leg. My legs weren't bent out and were much more even. In other words I was feeling great again. I couldn't wait to go running the next day and had a easy and quick 8 mile run where I didn't have to constantly adjust my stride. I kept doing the movement here and there during the day and while I was playing Monopoly on the floor with my daughter I tried it again. All of a sudden there was a very loud "THWACK" in my left hip. I didn't feel a thing but everyone in the room sat up and asked, "What was that?" It seemed that my leg (femur) had popped into place or something as it sounded like a giant Lego piece being snapped into another. I didn't feel any different, but maybe something got repositioned. It is just another strange noise my leg has made this year.

My hip still felt fine all day today. I ran on the treadmill which is something I find hard to do as it usually points out very clearly the imbalances in my stride and I have to concentrate hard on positioning. Today I just flowed along with the treadmill. The run was easy. I have no clue when my body will break down again and when it does, I probably won't be able to get it back in the same way. However the dramatic change between the the feeling of imbalance and balance lets me think that I have to target the sacroiliac joints.

I can stretch my muscles through resistance stretching, mobilize my joints through Z-Health, work on my strength and core, stretch my fascia through The Ming Method, and do releases for the leg muscles, but none of those worked so quickly to resolve the imbalances as that one sacroiliac movement did. I remember too that it was another stretch for the sacrum area that put my hips in balance after the Applefest Half-Marathon!

Now if only I could redo that Millennium Mile!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Recover Those Old Runner's World Magazines

A couple of weeks ago a fellow runner gave me a box of old Runner's World magazines and booklets. Let me just say that Christmas came early as my Runner's World collection goes back to 1975 or so. These are black and white issues from the early 70's. Not only that but there were plenty of those old Runner's World booklets, year end yearbooks, and Olympic recap magazines. I had only bought a couple of the booklets when I was in high school and I have been kicking myself since. I have always wanted to read Ron Daws' "The Self Made Olympian" or any of the other biographies: Jack Foster, Frank Shorter, Dave Wottle, George Young, and Gerry Lindgren . Take a look at all that I have to read. I consider myself a lucky guy and thank the runner who wanted to give these away rather than throw them away!

Fortunately I have had time to read through a few of the books and flip through the magazines already. Unfortunately it was due to losing electricity for 5 days because of the ice storm. Here is a video of the damage around our house from all the branches and trees that fell.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Recover the Mill City Relays Championship Trophy

Sunday was the 25th annual running of the Mill City Relays. My running club, the Gate City Striders, took the win. The results are here. The team I ran on came in 26th. I got stuck with the long 9.5 mile leg. Here is a video I made playing around with Animoto, a very neat site I have been using with my students. I used pictures of Gate City runners taken by Steve Wolfe and Frank Georges. The song is called "Hit the Ground Running" by The Alarm.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

First Marathon: 1977 Dallas White Rock Marathon

It was 31 years ago today that I ran my first ever marathon. I had just finished up my freshman cross-country season at Wheaton College in Illinois when I was invited to go down to Dallas to run the White Rock Marathon. Wheaton College was interested in building a new Fitness Center at the college so some faculty members where going down to Dallas to visit Dr. Ken Cooper, the author of "Aerobics", and his fitness center. I decided to join the group to run the marathon and so soon after Thanksgiving break we piled into a couple of cars for the long ride. It was not a pleasant drive as we were crammed into a car and I had a case of bad food poisoning or something that made me live for those rest stops.

We first stopped in Oklahoma to visit a fitness center at Oral Roberts University. After arriving in Dallas we had a private tour with Ken Cooper of his facility. That night we had dinner at a pizza restaurant and Dr. George Sheehan walked in. He sat at our table and we enjoyed some conversations with him. The day before the race we went to seminars where we heard many guest speakers. This is probably where I first got interested in the science of running.

Mike Pollack from the Human Performance Lab gave a talk on elite runners. From my notes that I still have, he talked about scientific tests that had recently been done on the elite American runners. He talked about the muscle biopsies as well as maximum oxygen update tests. We learned that better performers had more slow twitch muscles. He gave an example of Frank Shorter having 80% slow twitch fibers. He said good runners had an average of 70% slow twitch fibers. However Don Kardong, who eventually placed 4th in an Olympic Marathon, had only 50% slow twitch fibers. When measuring the maximum oxygen uptake he said that 70 mls seemed to be what elite runners had. The highest that he measured was Steve Prefontaine with 84.5 . He said that there was no difference between the measures of lactic acid and blood pressure when comparing elite athletes with others. The one thing he mentioned was that efficiency is what "does it". An elite athlete was able to run efficiently as well as have less than 5% body fat. "Streamlined is better for competition". He did end by stating that many things make an athlete elite so, "don't put all your eggs in one basket."

I found an article from the IAAF from 2006 that talks about a 1976 study that including Michael Pollack's studies. It says this:
"Back in the 1970s, Dr. Michael Pollack and other physiologists, collaborated to study the top US distance runners of the era, such as 1972 Olympic champion Frank Shorter and Steve Prefontaine. The data gathered from these athletes, such as muscle biopsy samples and oxygen consumption data, provided a profile of the make up of top endurance athletes but also created almost as many questions as it answered. Foremost among them, perhaps, remains the issue of what is lumped into the term "running economy." It is sort of a catch all term used to record the fact that an athlete can run at a given speed at a given cost. Some runners can run at higher speeds seemingly because they have a greater ability to process oxygen. They have a higher VO2 max. Others, with lower VO2 readings, can run as fast or faster, presumably because they are more "efficient." But what makes them more efficient? What allows them to generate as much or more power and maintain their speed for as long or longer than other athletes? These are the mysteries that future studies may discover. These are the questions that may be answered by research into the "triggers" of athlete's physiological adaptations to the training they endure to reach the heights of athletic excellence."

It was very interesting to hear about the cutting edge research going on at that time. Dr. Sheehan gave a talk on overuse injuries and gave out the mantra to "know yourself" something I am still trying to figure out in this blog. Dr. Steve Subotnick talked about podiatry. Bill Morgan gave a talk on psychological considerations for running. I always remember him talking about runners who disassociate as they run; they think about other things. He said world class runners associate as they run. They constantly go over strategy, monitor their bodies, and focus on relaxation.

Then we had the marathon. December 3, 1977 was hot and sunny in Dallas, Texas. We drove out to the starting area around White Rock Lake. I had never run more than 16 miles in my life. We drove down from cold Chicago and were not ready for the heat. I also had a knee injury that was giving me pain. I don't remember too much of the race. I guess it was going well the first bit except my knee kept hurting and I wasn't sure if I could finish. Halfway through the race my knee stopped hurting and I have been fortunate to have good knees since that day as the pain never returned. I remember slowing a lot in the last few miles. I finished in 306th place with a time of 3:25:44. I learned two things. Number one: never wear a shirt with stitched on letters on the front during a marathon.Number two: always wear band-aids so you don't bleed. The shower after that race was very painful. The winners of the race where John Lodwick in 2:16:43 and Marianne Pugh in 2:56:55. Other notable finishers were Ron Tabb in 3rd place with a time of 2:22:01 and Penny DeMoss, of Runner's World fame, in 2:56:58.

I had bad running form even back then, but this was 10 miles further than I had
ever run!

Wheaton College runners (none of us were even good enough to be JV runners) were Dean Nervik (3:19:09 -I wasn't happy when he passed me), Dale Anderson (3:53:48), and Ron Vlieger and Tim Johnson (both in 4:18:39 and just seconds behind the legendary Walt Stack). Dr. Cliff Schimmels ran 3:58:56. I was only 18 years old and I was impressed that an older roundish man could even run that far. He was only 40 years old at the time but seemed ancient for a runner! Even though Wheaton College did not have a woman's cross-country team at the time we had a good female runner join us. Susie Sandstrom finished in 3:29:23 as the 12th overall woman and second in the under 19 years old age group by only 4 seconds.

Dale Anderson, Ron Vlieger (behind), Susie Sandstrom, Dean Nervick, me, Tim
Johnson (behind), Cliff Schimmels
Other notable finishers were George Sheehan who at 60 years old ran 3:17:19 and Alex Ratelle, who at 53 years old finished in 2:36:46 for 19th place overall. 909 runners participated in the marathon. Tony Sandoval won the accompanying half-marathon in 1:09:02. It was a long drive back to Illinois, but I was happy. After 4 1/2 years of running I had finally won something. Every finisher got a small trophy of a shoe on a piece of marble. I have run about 40 more marathons since that first one in Dallas. Wheaton College did build a fitness center, but it was completed after I graduated.