Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Time to "Get Up" and Get Those Hips Working Again

Everything was going pretty good for my hips until last month when I "tweaked" a muscle in my back. I took time off from running, but when I started back my hips were all off again. Some days seemed a little better, but they kept getting worse. The past week it has been like last year all over again. I can feel how uncomfortable and imbalanced I am, and when I go for a run it has not been smooth going. I have forced myself out the door to run and although I have run 11 miles for each of the past two runs, they have been miserable. I am trying to force my body into balance, and I should know after many years of trying to do so, that I cannot do this while running. After my runs, I find it hard to move around and am moving like a senior citizen.

I have tried all the tricks in my book. Nothing has worked. I probably overdid a bunch of them, but I was hoping to just "pop" things back into place. I woke up stiff and still out of balance this morning and I got to thinking. I have tried everything that I thought was working earlier in the year, except for one thing that I had been doing religiously when things were going well. I took out my kettlebell and started doing the Turkish Get up again (previous post). Why had I negelected to get back to this exercise after I hurt my back?

Here is a great video of how to do the turkish getup that breaks it down into specific drills for each movement. It is presented by Anthony DiLuglio from the "Art of Strength” DVD workout series. Take a look at how mobile and strong the hips and shoulders have to be to accomplish the drill.

You can find even more basic kettlebell drills here at Anthony DiLuglio's "Kettlebell Training 101". There are other basic kettlebell drill here including an alternate video of the turkish getup where he takes another person through the routine seen in the Youtube video. He also has a few different videos on Amazon. However if you want to start learning how to use kettlebells, I really like the DVD from Sara Cheatham. I bought her DVD earlier in the year when she only had 100 copies. Now I see she has it for sale again. Not only is she a good kettlebell instructor, but she is also a top-notch Z-Health instructor and she includes some good Z-Health joint mobility drills on the DVD. You can find information here, or look for her Red Star Athletics blog to the left of this post.

After doing some turkish getups again this morning, I feel the balance shifting in my hips. Hopefully this is the ingredient that I have been missing. Upon reflection, I think the turkish getup takes my hips and shoulders (which have also been very tight and not in balance) through multiple planes of motion. Not only that, but the drill strengthens my hips and the connections to my shoulders as they rotate through the various positions and movements.

Speaking of movement through multiple ranges of motion, coach Jay Johnson put this video on his site recently. He has national class runner, Sarah Vaughn, demonstrate a post workout strength leg circuit routine and then the Athena drill. Like a lot of Jay's drills, found on his DVDs, they can be quite advanced, so I may try some of these drills, although I need to be cautious. These movements work the frontal plane, lateral movements, that are movements that are not stressed in running, so I may be somewhat challenged due to all my exercise is in a forward direction and does not involve side-to-side movements. This could be a weakness that affects my hips. This routine can also be downloaded right to your ipod from Jay's site, which is very helpful if you want to keep the drills accessible.

SV Leg Circuit, then Athena (uncut) from CoachJayJohnson on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Time to Take out the Bike and Go for a Ride

We have had nice warm weather for a change. Unfortunately my hips are way off again and I am struggling through my runs. So today I decided to take my bikes out and get them ready for the spring and summer. I then took my mountain bike out for a 10 mile trail ride to mix things up a bit. Riding bikes brings me back to being a kid more than any other activity.

These are old pictures of one my of my best days ever. I was in fourth grade and I had entered my dog, Midge, in my town's Kid's Kennel Ration dog show. Midge was a smart little dog and she won first place for best trick dog and second place for best costume.

Midge did three tricks. On command, Midge would roll over or jump though my hands shaped into a big "O". She also would sit up on her hind legs and after I put I doggie bone on her nose she would wait until I signalled and then flip it in the air and catch it. We made a cardboard box saddle to put on her and put a mock up of a knight riding her back for her costume. At the end of the dog show, they took the five best dogs, and chose a "Best of Show". Midge won and I got to go to Woolworths and choose any bike I would like as my prize. I chose a banana seated sting-ray beauty and all the neighborhood kids envied my cool bike.

I rode that bike everywhere. Back in those days, moms and dads didn't always provide transportation, so I took it to baseball games, with my glove clutched to the handlebars, or I would carry my trumpet case as I rode a few miles to go to my lessons and back. I rode with my friends endlessly around town and raced around the block. Of course, we made ramps to jump over, played bumper cars on our bikes, and popped wheelies every chance we got. If we were really bored we'd tie a rope to our bikes and pull each other on roller skates around the neighborhood. My dog would often accompany us on our many adventures.

Midge was a runner and a very fast dog! She would chase cars all the time. Sometimes she would keep up for a mile, through the neighborhoods of Falmouth, yipping at the back wheel of a car. She also liked to run with me, after I discovered the sport. I often took her on a three mile loop that I liked to repeat down to the beaches of Falmouth. The route included the last 1 1/2 miles of the famous Falmouth Road Race course. In the summer I might put her on a leash, but for the rest of the time she ran free.

I remember coming home for Christmas break from college and going for a couple of late night runs in the falling snow. She would start out with me, but then disappear, only to return home later. Her body was getting old, although she still had that running spirit. After returning to college, I later found out that my sister took her for a run and that Midge never returned, and was never seen again. Our guess is that she took one final run and then found a quiet place to die.

Midge is long gone and so is my sting-ray bike, but I still like to get out and cycle. When I get on my road bike, I feel like I am a triathlete-bike racer again. Those days are long gone, too. When I get out my mountain bike, however, I feel like a little kid, playing around in the woods and just having a good time. Of course, I don't have a dog to hang around with anymore. We did have a greyhound, who died a couple of years ago. I couldn't even get her to run around the block with me.

Here is an amazing video showing a biker doing amazing things that my friends and I never even dreamed about doing when we were kids (and that is a good thing!). This video is of Inspired Bicycles team rider Danny MacAskill and was filmed in Edinburgh. He does some simply fantastic stunts.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I Won Sixth Place at The Boston Marathon...

I just noticed that I finished in sixth place at the Boston Marathon....

...Prediction contest held last week at The Cassidy Feed (sort of a messy "Letsrun"ish main page with lots of interesting running news). Check it out.

Here are the top 10 results. They say full results will come later. I hope more than 10 people voted! Actually I would like to see my predictions again. There are some pretty good runners on that top ten list!

The Top 10 Results

1. Mike Morgan - 1,175 points
2. Brad Henz - 1,075 points
3. Mike Hensley - 1,000 points
4. Scott Ramberg - 1,000 points
5. Michael Kanning - 975 points
6. Jim Hansen - 950 points
7. Dennis Young - 900 points
8. Luke Vaughn - 825 points
9. Clint Wells - 825 points
10. Michael Chocky - 800 points

I think I won a Strands/Puma long sleeve tech t-shirt. Not bad for sitting around on my butt rather than running the marathon!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Boston Marathon Comments After Watching the Race

I noticed that on today's "Runners World Daily" there is a post about qualifying times at Boston. They refer to post I wrote last week called "Back When You Really Had to Qualify for Boston". There are a lot of interesting comments so far on the Runners World blog concerning whether the qualifying standards for Boston are too easy or too difficult. It is fun to be considered part of the conversation. I think the standards are just right. You have to be a competitive, committed, and serious runner to get the standard. I think the 2:50 standard that they had for a while in the later 70's and 80's was a bit too severe. It is not qualifying for Boston that keeps me out of Boston. It is more about being healthy and injury-free.

Here is an interesting article called, "The painful truth about trainers: Are running shoes a waste of money?" by Christopher McDougal, author of the soon to be released book "Born to Run". I agree as all the doodads put on modern day running shoes wreak havoc with body and stride. I like running in the most minimalistic racing shoes and I am not a POSE or Chi Runner. I have always felt better running in my racing shoes and I have put a lot of miles on my body. Here is another shorter article from the Boston Globe. I also have no intention to be a barefoot runner, but I enjoy and benefit from doing barefoot strides at the track.

At the Boston Marathon expo this year I tried on the Ecco Biome shoe. I didn't run in it and the uppers were very comfortable, yet I think there is too much technology mumbo jumbo in this shoe trying to get your foot to move "naturally". They are very expensive too! I also tried on the Vibram Five-Fingers shoe. They look so "stupid" and "silly", but I liked the feel of the bottoms. Again, I didn't run in them, but I felt like I was barefoot and wanted to get right up on my toes and move. Maybe someday I will get a pair to do strides with when I am not near some clean grass. Was that the worst Marathon Expo ever? or did I go at the wrong time? I didn't find anything that interested me and there were very few handouts. I like to pick up posters, trinkets, autographs, ect. to hand out to my students as "prizes" on Marathon day. I got absolutely nothing! I guess the companies are cutting back due to the economy. It was good that I spent no money however!

I was thrilled watching the Boston Marathon with my fourth grade class on television and doing marathon running activities throughout the day. Last week we watched the Disney movie on Haile Gebresalasie called "Endurance" and my class was very enthusisatic about the race. Some of them had even read the local paper in ithe morning and came to school telling me about Henri Renuad, the Nashua mill worker, who won the 1909 edition of the race in 97 degree heat.

I was also checking the progress of many friends along the race course as they ran Boston. It looked like most everyone took it out conservatively, picked up the pace throughout the race, but then lost time in the final miles due to the headwind. I was happy to see such great results from so many teammates and friends.

I enjoyed watching the mens's race and Ryan Hall's brave pacing from the start. I am glad he made it up to third pace. I had picked Merga to win the race and he did. The women's race was baffling. The pace was so sedentary for too long. The finish was fantastic though. It was too bad that Kara Goucher didn't have the kick after pushing the pace for so long in the last few miles.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Boston Marathon 1982: When Things Go Wrong!

I am looking forward to seeing how all my friends do at Boston tomorrow for the Marathon. I hope they don't have a day like my college running coach and I had back  in 1982.
It took me eight tries, but I finally qualified for first my Boston in a race in 1981 (you had to run a sub 2:50 marathon to qualify for Boston back then). That meant I was ready to fulfill a long time dream to run the Boston Marathon. I got myself in fantastic shape for the 1982 race, probably the best shape I have ever been in for a marathon (which meant I did long runs). I was living on the Cape and taking night school classes at Northeastern University in Boston to get a teaching certificate. I had just started student teaching in a fourth grade classroom in Duxbury, Ma. and I could not wait for the race. There was a major April snowstorm a couple of weeks before the race but by race day the weather became unbearably warm.

At the BAA Marathon Expo I found my former Wheaton College cross-country coach, Jim Whitnah, and stayed with some friends he knew in Somerville, MA. We drove out to the start to check out the course the day before the race and went out for some Italian food that evening. In the morning I dressed in my racing gear, but Whitnah decided to get dressed in Hopkinton. The day didn't seem bad at all and was nice and pleasant at first. Eventually Jim decided to get changed and realized he had left his racing shorts and singlet back in Somerville. What to do? The race was in less than an hour so we made a dash from the starting area to Hopkinton High School to see what he could find. I gave him an Air Florida shirt I was thinking of wearing (there was a promotion that might give you free airplane tickets if you wore the shirt). He cut it up a bit, but couldn't find any shorts! Eventually he found the largest and crustiest pair of cotton gym shorts with paint stains all over them. They came down almost to his knees and were huge and  baggy. These were the days when runners wore short shorts so of course he looked completely ridiculous. But that is what he would have to wear in the race.

We hightailed it back to the start and wished each other good luck. Jim would be starting in the seeded runners section with a number in the 50s. I would not! I don't remember much about the first half of the race. I was taking it all in. I remember going through Wellesley and  feeling real good, although I am sure I was getting hot at that point. I was shooting for a 2:42 marathon and I was under pace at that point. I remember it getting warm, hot, and then very hot. The sun was glaring down on the streets. I don't remember Heartbreak Hill, but I do remember after it. I was getting incredibly hot, thirsty, and lethargic. I started stopping and drinking every cup of fluid and eating every orange handed to me for miles. Nothing helped. It felt like my brain was melting. It got incredibly hard to run as I was feeling dizzy, lightheaded, and prickly, but I HAD to finish. I waited so long to do my first Boston that I was not going to drop out, so I had to keep walking and looking for handouts of water. I remember the incredible noise running through the buildings near the finish on Hereford Street and eventually finishing. I recall going underneath a building (a garage) and slumping down while trying to get some energy back into my body. I was not in good shape at all. Eventually I could walk again and that was that, except I desperately wanted to know who had won the race.

If you know your Boston History, this race was the greatest marathon of all time (in my opinion as Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley had their incredible dual in the sun). Knowing how hot it was that day in the glaring sun, those two runners ran such a "killer" race (and it did seem to kill the running careers of both of these two great athletes).

My finishing time was embarrassing, but I finished, as I ran 3:23:58 for 3933rd place. I eventually found Jim Whitnah and he had dropped out on a bridge somewhere in the middle of the race. I am not sure if it was because of the heat, an injury, or the ridiculousness of his running costume. I would love to see a picture of him running in the top 100 dressed like he was.

I chowed down at a McDonald's (what I considered fine cuisine at the time) and drank everything I could. Still when I got home I was eight pounds lighter that I had been before the race!

Five days after that Boston I ran a five mile race in Hyannis and finished in 3rd place in 26:36 for a PR after being passed for the lead by two guys in the last 1/2 mile (one of them a sub 2:30 marathoner) so I recovered well and was still in good shape. The next week I was playing in a softball game and slid into first base. The base was really a sack of sand. I broke a few bones in my ankle and foot.

Twenty years later I decided to run a marathon to commemorate my first Boston. I still was not allowed to take a personal day by my school district to run Boston, so I could not do the big race, but a day before Boston there was the Fred's Marathon in Worcester. I did not train and had only done a few hundred miles in the months before. I ran a 16 miler two weeks before the race and a 20 miler the week before. I started the day by listening to a BBC feed online of the London Marathon (this was the anticipated dual between Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrsalassie that was instead won by Khalid Khannouchi). After listening to the finish I headed out for the race. The day was hot, but a bit shady on the multi-loop course. I came in fourth which really was not impressive if you consider my time. I finished in 3:23:58. I realized a couple of weeks later that almost 20 years to the day after my first Boston Marathon I had run another marathon in the EXACT same time! How cool is that?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Back When You Had to Really Qualify for Boston

Jeff Milliman may have finished first, but he did not "win" this marathon!
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a worthy goal for many dedicated runners. Some people never are fast enough to get a coveted number. However think about the qualifying times back a few years ago. There was a point where you had to break 2:50 if you wanted a spot on the starting line in Hopkinton.

I first decided I would one day run the Boston Marathon when I was in third grade. My parents wouldn't take me to the start to let me run, so Amby Burfoot won instead. Running my first Boston Marathon was not going to be an easy task. I ran my first Marathon in 1977 but it took seven more tries before I broke the 2:50 barrier. I got a few low 2:50's in and even a 2:50:07 (I did slow down after running into a parked car with one mile to go and then took a wrong turn with less than 50 yards to go in that one). It wasn't until April 26, 1981 that I finally broke the 2:50 barrier.

It was at the first Annual Lake County Heart Fund Marathon in Illinois. I was in college and my cross-country coach, Jim Whitnah, and I traveled to run the race. I remember it as a point-to-point course with a steady headwind at many points along the course. I ended up in 19th place out of over 1000 marathoners. My time was 2:48:36 so I was happy that I finally qualified and would get to run in Boston the next year. The bottom of my feet were burning up the last few miles from the new Nike Mariah racing shoes I had bought just a day or two before. These were the first racing shoes with Nike Air inserts and they were just being brought to the market. They were great shoes but they always got too hot on the bottom of my feet during a marathon. I ran about 8 miles to buy them from the garage of a shoe salesman named Dick Pond. He now has a big shoe store named after him. Coach Whitnah came in 3rd place overall in about 2:32. However like in another marathon I had competed in, choosing a winner in this race was a bit controversial (or at least it presented a dilemma for the race organizers).

The first person to cross the finish line was Jeff Milliman from the Div. 3 running powerhouse North Central College. It seems that Jeff who had the previous fall won the Div. 3 Cross Country National Championships (my teammate Dan Henderson had won a year earlier) had decided to run the race as a training run with teammate Dan Skarda. Skarda stopped running at the 13 mile mark where Milliman took the lead. Unfortunately both runners had never officially entered the race. Milliman crossed the line first in 2:22:59. He was not declared the winner. The official winner finished 30 seconds later. He was Ray Hintz and he who "officially" won the race in 2:23:29.

Jeff Milliman is underneath the S and T at the start. Jim Whitnah is in the grey shirt underneath the R at the start, I am next to him in the dark shirt with lettering.

Update: 6/15/2010 I found some new articles on this race

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ole! Is Ryan Hall Ready for Boston?

Check out this video of Ryan Hall training at altitude. He ran an 8 mile workout last week with a 4:18 first mile and completed the run in 38:05. Not too shabby! Let's hope he has a great run at Boston.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter 10K

Sunday I participated in the Nashua Soup Kitchen 10K. I was hoping to do the Great Bay 1/2 Marathon but the online entry wouldn't work for me. I had only run 3 times in the 2 weeks prior to the race due to the problem with my back muscle and it was probably not a good idea to slog through 15 miles on Thursday when my hips were out of alignment so I wasn't feeling fit or balanced for racing. I choose the 10K over the 5K race because I could run a slower pace. I felt running a 1/2 marathon would have been even better as I have more distance in my legs than speed now.

It was a nice running day (except for the wind) but my hips remained uncomfortable and out of alignment. I can't seem to get them back to where they were just a short time ago. But I figured it would be better to run out of whack than not at all.

The race started going north on Main Street and into the wind. My stride was very unbalanced and I went out slow but I was in in fourth place right off the bat. We ran into a head wind and then Library Hill so it was not that fun. Eventually Chris Bougopoulos and Brian Coates caught up and I had some running mates. Heading down into Swart Terrace (2 miles) I started to lose contact with Brian and the guy who went out in 3rd, Chris Stone. Chris B. had already taken off. But then there was a downhill and I caught right back up. On the uphill Brian started taking off and eventually I went ahead of Chris S. in front of Greeley Park. It was very uncomfortable running as I couldn't get my stride right. Twice my left leg gave way and I stumbled forward.

At the turnaround I started to feel better as the wind was behind me and it was more downhill. When we hit the pathway through Greeley Park my legs kept getting confused with the slight changes in terrain and direction. Then I heard someone catching up to me. Along came a runner chanting, throwing his arms up in the air to egg himself on, and with iPod blasting music. I looked and it was a younger guy with a hat, and big muscular tatooed arms, but a nice running stride. He sprinted past me. I slowly reeled him in. He'd see me again and start sprinting. This happened a few times and I realized this was not a running companion, but someone ready to battle. He was still calling out encouragement to himself every so often. I just let him go.

Coming out of Greeley Park I could still see Brian C. up ahead by about 20-30 seconds and wondered if this guy would catch Brian on the downhills to the finish. When we hit Main Street, after merging with the 5K runners, I found we had to run on the sidewalk. I had to weave around slower runners jogging with headphones or in groups. Eventually I moved over to the road to try to keep away from them. I started to notice that Brian was coming back to me and I kept running hard. I didn't think I could catch him but I kept trying. Somehow I kept getting closer. At the final turn to the finish I was about 15 yards behind. I still wasn't sure I could catch him but then all of a sudden I was 5 yards behind. I had a choice that I rarely have in a race: slow down a bit and just surprise him at the finish line or keep pressing and go by with less than 50 yards to go and force a sprint (which I knew I would lose). I decided just to keep running hard. I really had no reason to finish ahead of him. I got to within a couple of steps and he turned around and saw me and took off (very fast)! So much for that. He put 3 seconds on me.

It was a nice course but a little too windy. I don't like my time but I do realize I am not in racing shape. I did win my age group and should get a medal. The 10K medals weren't ready for the race. They said they looked nice. It was fun catching up to Brian when I was thinking it would be impossible. He usually catches me at the end of races. Thomas Wholey was the young runner with the fast 2nd half. He is a Nashua fireman in his 20's and although he said he did the Chicago Marathon, he is still a "rookie with talent" runner. I invited him to join the Striders and come to track workouts. Hopefully he can join us and learn to train and race. He said he has been training by running 3 milers on the treadmill.

Probably the best thing about the race is that I saw former Gate City runner Kevin Gagnon. He was doing his first race since 1999. I used to enjoy training and racing with him and he was an excellent runner (low 2:50 marathon in Chicago). Serious back problems forced him to retire his running shoes but he said that doing hot room yoga is really helping him. I hope Kevin can keep on the comeback trail.

Here are the results and I have listed the top ten finishers:

1 Dan Moriarty 40 M Nashua NH 37:11
2 Tim Burke 45 M Tyngsboro MA 38:45
3 Chris Bougopoulos 35 M Nashua NH 39:24
4 Thomas Wholey 26 M Nashua NH 41:27
5 Brian Coates 39 M Amherst NH 41:36
6 Jim Hansen 50 M Nashua NH 41:39
7 Chris Stone 26 M Bradford MA 42:52
8 Paul Hughes 54 M Chelmsford MA 42:54
9 Lori Lambert 44 F Nashua NH 43:28
10 Christian Rodriguez 37 M Hollis NH 43:31

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Change in Direction and "Never Get Hurt" Drills

I set a goal that if I could run a 15 miler this week (after missing a week of running) that I would do the Great Bay 1/2 Marathon on Sunday. Thursday turned out to be the day. The weather was perfect so off I went on my run. My hips have been misaligned since I hurt my back. I am not sure if it is the tightness that is still in my back throwing things off or if I just lost the good balance I had because I can't yet do the exercises I was doing previously. I struggled through the run but I still ran 15 miles.

When I went to the Great Bay website to enter on Thursday night it would not let me register (even though the page said that registration was open until Friday morning). I tried again Friday morning but it still said my credit cards were invalid. They are not. I wrote an email to the race director but never heard back. I guess that is a good sign that I should do something else this weekend. If all goes well I will do the Nashua Soup Kitchen Run for Food & Shelter. It's right down the road and runs by my school and many of my student's neighborhoods. And when did they add a 10K to this race? It has always just been a 5k race, now you can do either distance. Choosing which to do will be an interesting decision. I guess it depends on how far I run today.

Here is a good looking set of exercises from Runner's World that are supposed to help you to "Never Get Hurt". They are very well presented and include a few new ones for me to try. You are advised to do them three times a week and they only take 20 minutes. My only thought is that if that girl demonstrating the videos wears those Nike Shox shoes out running, I can guarantee that she will be injured much earlier than she could ever imagine.

You can watch the whole "Never Get Hurt" series in sequence here. I have embedded each exercise seperately below. There are good explanations for doing each drill as well as a reason why each exercise is important.