Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's all about the "Doped" Bike!

With all the recent news concerning Floyd Landis' admissions and allegatations concerning doping among professional bike racers, I am hoping that the sport goes further to clean up its act as well as see a wave of cyclists breaking the "code of omerta": Don’t tell, don’t ask, don’t even drop a hint. About Floyd Landis, its about time he told the truth. To Lance Armstrong, its about time the truth is revealed. To cycling, who knows if it will ever be truly clean as a sport. I know that there is no greater thrill in sports for me then watching the drama of the Tour de France and other cycling events and the seemingly "heroic" and extra human feats of professional bike racers. It is truly more interesting than watching marathons or track races. In a world where cheating is so common place and the rewards are huge for those who become athletic superstars, I am not sure exactly how they can level the playing field so that a clean athlete can compete with one who feels compelled to cheat.

In reading through news items and message boards over at, I have been given an eye-opening lesson into the world of professional bike racing and the thoughts of those close to and involved in the sport. But, one item over there really intrigued me: whether it be a joke, a character assasination against Fabian Cancellara, or a revealing window into the lengths of cheating in sports there is an Italian television show that produced a video showing an electric motorized racing bike and how it works. Then they go on to show "suspicious" actions by Cancellara preceeding incredible bursts of speed in this years Tour of Flanders and  Paris Roubaix. Hoax? bad joke? who knows? But I guess there is all sorts of speculation going on in the world of pro cycling. It may not just be the cyclists themselves who are doped! Sad, isn't it? Until fully proven otherwise, I tend to agree that Fabian Cancellara is one the the great cyclists of today and his moves in both of these races look no different than breakaway moves I have seen hundreds of times in other races.

Here is the forum thread at cycling news.
Did Cancellara Use Illegal Motor Power At The Classics?
Boardman warned the UCI of risks of bike doping
UCI denies reports of motorised doping

And then there is the strange case of Tom Boonen.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Shocking news: Trying out anti-minimalism

Long before Chris MacDougal wrote the "Born to Run" book, I was a minimalistic runner. I have always felt more comfortable in a lightweight pair of racing shoes than any trainer that I have tried. That has been true for my 35+ years of running. For quite a few years, I have been living out the philosophy of the "less shoe, the better." It seems to work for me. I always said that I like the lightweight shoes without all the doodads because they let my feet do what my feet want to do (which in reality is very strange things). So I have been running with lightweight racers (Asics HyperSpeeds) as my training shoes and Puma H Streets and K Streets as my racing and track shoes.

Despite the minimalistic shoes, my hips have remained imbalanced and unstable. However when I have tried training shoes, I have felt even worse. I have also forsaken traditional shoes and for over a year now, I have worn the Vivo Barefoot shoes at all other non-running times. They are extremely comfortable and also let my feet do "what they want to do." The problem that I have been thinking about is that even after all this minimalism, my hips are no better when running and my stability problems seem to be getting worse. A few weeks ago, I bought a more built up racing shoe, but it didn't seem to help my running and at times made it worse. It was more like running on a big sponge. I have improved my hips throught the Postural Restoration work this winter, but despite working on my hips and doing exercises all the time, once I start running things fall apart again. The previous three weeks have not been good. I get things balanced, go for a run and they fall apart for a couple of days, and if I try to run through it, things turn worse. I was back to having the problem where my whole left side was "stuck". Something was not right in my feet (I'd keep trying to mobilize the bones) and my hip. I was also back to the pressure under my kneecap that I get when things are out of alilgnment. My running was horrible as was my racing attempts. On Monday, I somehow got rid of the knee pressure and felt better alignment wise. I went up to race in Lowell Tuesday night for the 5K. I felt great despite for the 90 degree heat. When I started running though, I had no control of my legs and hips. Everything was going at wrong angles and it wasn't a fun run (results and I did win in my age-graded weight category). I went to the Gate City Striders workout the next evening in more 90 degree heat and did the 10 X 400m workout (81-86 secs). Again, my hips and alignment were throwing me all over the track and I was fighting my body to try to keep straight. Despite all the work I have been doing, I still can't run correctly! and there is nothing much left to find out there that I can try to improve things- or so I thought.

Then I saw Lori Thomson's newest video for running. I follow all her videos for runners, as she is a Postural Restoration therapist and  Postural Restoration work has improved my hips (no longer am I tight at the front of the hip) and if I don't run at all my hips feel better than in years, but I am a runner and I have to find the solution that keeps me running. The new video is called "Instability of the Feet in Runners" and it took me awhile to let the video sink in because of the "shoe" issue. First off, she talks about "calcaneal instability" or heel bone instability. Now this was interesting to me, because when I  got sent to a physical therapist this winter (who fortunately practiced "postural restoration") it was only because I asked my primary care doctor for a visit. I had pretty much given up on physical therapy due to previous attempts, but I wanted to ask a therapist about ankle mobility and issues with my heel not seeming to be lined up correctly. I was hoping I could just get a couple of questions answered and maybe learn a "trick" or two to fix things. I ended up getting 2 months of twice weekly Postural Restoration work with some traditional physical therapy techniques that helped my hips greatly, but with more running I seemed to be at an impasse. I was back to thinking the same question that plagued me for years, "Are my hips causing my problems or are my feet causing the problems?"

Instability of the Feet in Runners from Hruska Clinic on Vimeo.

In this video, Lori says that if your heel bone is unstable and not in the correct position for running, then your pelvis may not be in the correct position for running (she does say it can be the other way around too). She also then explains a major part of the postural restoration philosophy: most people have a forwardly rotated pelvis on the left side. That is me. My left shoulder and pelvis are way in front of my right pelvis and shoulder. She also shows how this affects the way the foot apporaches and lands on the ground.This also desribes  how my feet land and got me thinking that maybe this is why my stride is all over the place lately. My feet are landing at weird angles (and quite differently on both sides) and maybe as they hit the ground and try to roll, it send my legs in different directions and through different rotations.

Lori shows another exercise to learn how to shift into the left hip (my difficult move) and how to feel the bottom of the feet. This is all good stuff, but I wasn't willing to listen to the last part of the video, because this tells about how to choose a good running shoe. I thought I knew everything about shoes and minimalism was the way to go. Well, I thought it through and decided to give Lori's ideas a try. I printed out a list of PRI approved shoe options and headed over to Runner's Alley to see if they had any in stock and then to see how they might feel on my feet, but that was all. It was funny when I got there because there were a couple of other runners trying out Vibram 5 Fingers and Nike Free shoes as they were contemplating minimalism and there was I, a true minimalist believer, trying on what seemed to me to be boats!

I tried on about 5 pair of shoes. What I noticed in the brief moments in the shoes was how tight the heel counter was, how flat and solid the footboards were, and how I could get my big  toe down in all of the shoes (something I have been working on pre- postural restorartion and even during with my PT). They felt good for such beastly things. I think whenever I have tried training shoes in the past, I always gravitated towards more lightweight trainers that ended up being a bit soft and spongy with little foot control. This type of shoe often made my hips worse! I wasn't sure which one to try, so I ran just a bit on the treadmill with each pair. One pair left my left hip feeling unstable, one pair was a bit too tight in the heel, and one pair had my hip feeling real good on the treadmill. This was all so unscientific, but I decided to but the pair that left my hip feeling best. I bought real training shoes for the first time in years! I ended up with a pair of Brooks Defyance 3 shoes. I wasn't planning on running that day, as my left glute medius had been sore since the track workout the night before, but I felt good in the shoes and took them out for a run. It was interesting. Yes, they were big shoes, but they felt better than other trainers I had tried in the past. My feet felt very comfortable and I was getting a smooth transition from heel to toe (and I wasn't landing heel first as I thought would automatically happen). I ran Friday with not major problems again. The only thing is I am running slower than I normally would, but this could be because I am using different muscles. This morning I woke up and the first thing I thought was that I wanted to go for a morning run (I don't do morning runs- I hate morning runs- it usually takes all day to get my body to a place where I can even think about running) so off I went for a successfull morning run. I am still running slower, but my stride and the way my hips are hinging is feeling better. This is only three days in to my experiment, and it could be that I am feeling good for other reasons or the shoes may eventually throw my body off in other directions and create additional problems, but I am very intrigued with the results so far. I love my Vivo Barefoot shoes, but something else funny has happened. I wore the Brooks to school yesterday, because I liked the way my feet walked in them. I am also wearing them today. I feel much more stable wearing these things.  If this keeps up I will have to buy another pair: one for daily use and one for walking.

Does anyone know of a lost tribe of long distance running people that uses supportive running shoes to achieve thier mystical running abilities? If you do, let me know, because we may be able to turn the idea into a best-selling book. And I know that all my running friends who have laughed at my lightweiight running shoes through the years are probably getting a good chuckle from this post.

Here is a previous video where Lori explains PRI approved running shoe options.

Shoe Recommendations from Postural Restoration Institute on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Running With Style

Total mileage for this week was 43 miles. I did five 8 mile workouts and a 5k race. The previous two weeks I did between 30-40 miles. I won't call many of the workouts runs, rather let's just say that I "moved" that many miles. I have lost the improvements I had been making and my left hip is not working correctly. If I do get it working right then the next day or two it is vey sore and unstable and I can't make it move properly.

I did show up for the Tuesday night race down in Lowell. I got lost and arrived 15 minutes before the start so there was little warmup. The results show this top 3 finish in the 50-60 age group.


Since we are all friends and teammates and in the same age group, it looks like we had a nice group run together. Don't let the results fool you. This is how it really happened. I took off at the start (with just a few strides as a warm-up) and my hips were already not functioning right, but I figured I'd run hard anyway. I had a difficult time controling my stride, both legs were moving differentlly and at different angles, but my breathing and pace felt OK. For most of the first mile (I don't know where the markers are) I was in 7th place. It was getting harder and harder to control my form and I was getting very frustrated. Then all of a sudden I completely lost the plot on how to move and I quickly slowed and about 10 people swiftly went by. I was having a hard time running at all and was ready to stop and walk back to the start, but Brian had not passed me yet, so I figured I'd keep going. I felt like I was running at about a 22 minute 5K pace. After about a mile I started getting a little bit of control of my hips and for some reason Brian still had not passed me. I still felt awful but the finish was approaching and with about 1/4 mile to go Brian caught up and ran behind me a bit. I wasn't sure where the finish was and at one point Brian said it was about 100 yards away. I know 99 times out of 100 I could never outsprint the chiropractor, but I gave it a shot and took off for 15 yards but I had no speed and it was more than 100 yards to the finish. Brian just picked up the pace and easily put 8 seconds on me. I finished and then saw Mike, who I didn't even see before the start. I think Mike was just out of an easy run and ended up almost catching me. Anyhow, even though it was my best 5k of the year, it felt like the worst. The good news is, I have some speed and conditioning in my legs, if I can only get them working properly again, I should be running well. I think I did my first mile in sub 6 minutes. I just need to get the next two miles going at that pace.

I am not sure what I am going to to about my hips. I feel like stopping and walking home at various times on my recent runs. I think I am trying too many things to keep them working right. It is getting a bit frustrating. I need to get them fixed so I can train at a higher level and get the mileage in so I can start training for my marathon goal. I won't be able to do that until I get them working smoothly and without pain and imbalance. But that has been my story for a few years now!

Here is a list that has been generated by the Association of Road Racing Statisticians (I am sure it is far from complete) of runners with the longest time spans between sub 3 hour marathons.

Longest Time Spans Between First and Last Sub-X Marathons

36y 4d 15 Apr 1974 => 19 Apr 2010 Doug Kurtis (12 Mar 1952, USA)
35y175d 26 Oct 1974 => 19 Apr 2010 Kerry Green (05 Apr 1954, USA)
33y184d 23 Oct 1976 => 25 Apr 2010 Steve Smythe (18 Mar 1958, GBR)
33y162d 07 Nov 1976 => 19 Apr 2010 Reno Stirrat (19 Apr 1954, USA)
32y373d 19 Apr 1967 => 17 Apr 2000 Laurence Olsen (14 Nov 1946, USA)
32y143d 10 Sep 1977 => 31 Jan 2010 Terrence Stanley (05 Sep 1952, USA)
32y 92d 06 Dec 1959 => 07 Mar 1992 Barry Magee (06 Feb 1934, NZL)
31y278d 15 Jul 1978 => 19 Apr 2010 Gary Allen (29 Jan 1957, USA)
31y180d 21 Oct 1978 => 19 Apr 2010 Dennis Kurtis (01 Nov 1953, USA)
30y355d 05 May 1979 => 25 Apr 2010 Chris Finill (31 Dec 1958, ENG)
30y220d 29 Jul 1979 => 06 Mar 2010 Vladimir Kotov (21 Feb 1958,BLR)

That is a list of some quite accomplished runners (most are on the sub 3 hour marathon in 5 decades list). My first sub 3 hour marathon was on April 13, 1980 so if I can do another, I would be close to being on this list. I know I can do it if I can get my hips working properly, that is what is holding me back on my running, but it is also a very big problem. Of course, the longer I wait, the higher up on that list I can go! I am sure that there are hundreds of other people that have accomplished such a large time span between sub 3 hour marathons, but they are probably more ordinary runners like me, and haven't been found by the listmakers yet.

Here are some photos from an old Runner's World booklet (booklet 46- 1975)that I have called "Running With Style". These are examples of wonderful running form (which is why these were such great runners). See, the title of this post has nothing to do with me!

Frank Shorter

                   Kenny Moore (notice the barefeet)                   

Rick Wohlhuter

                                                            Pekka Vasale and Kip Keino

Bad form on these two Olympic Pentathletes

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Saggital, Frontal, and Transverse Planes of Motion

Here is the newest video from Lori Thomsen where she explains the three planes of motion and offers Postural Restoration exercises to improve functioning in each plane. Previous videos showed how to do a squat to work on bending or flexing forward in the saggital plane and how to shift side-to-side to improve movement in the frontal plane. All her videos can be found here. The new video adds the transverse plane with movements that rotate the trunk or move the shoulders and hips in and out. Lori shows a couple of activites for runners that utilize movements in all three planes. It should help with asymmetries in the body. I know when I went to a Postural Restoration therapist, I was told I had a tough time shifting into my left hip. The second activity she demonstrates is exactly like one I was taught. One difference is that I used an elastic band right above both knees to add resistance. I also wasn't taught the arm movements and side bend, so this video adds some new ideas for me.

Activities for The Transverse Plane from Hruska Clinic on Vimeo.

I have also been learning more on the three planes of motion through a DVD called Core Conversion from Gary Gray's Gray Insitute. I have used it twice so far this week. Here is the blurb about the DVD:

The Core Conversion workout is an efficient and effective way to train the body’s true “core” – the nose to the toes – in all three planes of motion, utilizing a strategic sequencing of lifts, lunges, squats, squat thrusts, and push-ups. This workout is the perfect blend of strength training, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance that trains the body to not only feel better, but to function better. The Core Conversion is a necessity to any workout program – either as a standalone or as a compliment – that can be tweaked accordingly for different ages and abilities in order to maximize and expand one’s functional threshold.

It is an interesting and informative DVD, although after going through the tutorial the workout seems a bit fast paced. That can lead to imperfect movements as you try to keep up. Maybe I will get faster as I get used to the workout. This video show Gary Gray showing an athlete an abdominal workout based on the three planes of motion. This is very similar to part of the Core Conversion DVD.

Here is a previous post I made on the three planes of motion.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What goes through your mind?

Last week was not a great week for training: Mon-0 miles, Tues 8 miles(fastest this year), Wed. 4 miles (had to walk back to the track from the Millyard in the middle of the workout-not feeling good) ,Thurs 0 miles, Fri. 8 miles, Sat. 8 miles. Total for the week 28 miles. After Saturday's race my hips were having alignment troubles and that was coupled with a lot of new and extra activities which seem to get my hips and back fighting back against new changes in alignment. I missed a few days with everything feeling horrible, but when I did get out the door, I had some of my fastest training runs of the year. Go figure.

Besides feeling lousy most of last week, my computer died and I lost my iPod shuffle. Everything was going wrong and falling apart. I had to buy a new computer and eventually found my iPod (after 35+ years of running, I need some music to keep me company) otherwise it can be difficult to get out the door. Once I found my iPod, I got to relisten to the "angry at the world" music of Titus Andronicus's "The Monitor" (good review here)

(see there is some running and steeplechase(?)action going on in the video)

I am not sure I would recommend this music to everyone, but it is a bit rowdy if you like that, and the lyrics can be insightful, demanding, yet crass. The album is somewhat of a Civil War concept album as much as an album about the divisions and desperation of modern life. Some songs start or end with quotes by Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Jefferson Davis, and William Lloyd Garrison. As such, it strives to make you think, but its bombastic pace and fury certainly make good fuel for an energetic run and I need some good musical fuel for my running. Of course, if enough wailing at the world, the economy, wars,and everything else in between including New Jersey, "The enemy is everywhere", "You will always be a loser", “It's still us against them and they're winning” and tweaks on Springsteen "Tramps like us, baby, we were born to die" gets you feeling a bit, well, hopeless, then end the run with songs from the new cd from The Alarm, called "Direct Action".

Here a 51 year Mike Peters (less than a month younger than me) shows the young guys that you can still rock with conviction into your 50's. "Direct Action" tells you to quit your moaning and "Make a Stand" against all the things that fuel Titus Andronicus's angst. As Mike sings the Willie Nile song "One Guitar", he is not the soldier left dying on the fields of battle of "The Monitor" but a soldier who sings,

"So if you get knocked down... you gotta take a stand
For all the outcast, dead last... who need a helping hand
You've got to raise your voice... raise it up loud
You've got to raise your voice... above the crowd

'Cause I’m a soldier marching in an army
I got no gun to shoot all I've got is ONE GUITAR"

So that is what I do when I run. I get the music going and while I concentrate on my form, my brain free associates with the music making connections all over the place as the music paces me. When I hear "You will always be a loser" I hear the sprint coach at my high school taking me aside one day and saying, "Jim, why do you keep running? You'll never be any good at it!" and I resolve myself to keep going. When I feel like giving up as I hear "Tramps like us, baby we were born to die" I think of running a 50 mile workout on the track one December night in college and getting close to 40 miles into it when someone hooks up a large stereo system on the infield (no iPods back then)so I can hear Springsteen sing, "Tramps like us, baby we were born to run" and I finish the thing. When I hear Mike Peters of The Alarm sing, I recall 25+ years of the music of The Alarm intertwining with my running and a Boston concert 10 years ago, when Mike sang a song dedicated to my young daughter, Emily. The same, now 15 year old, girl who sang along to "Direct Action" in the car yesterday and then asked, "Who is singing this?" And then I think of what "direct action" I need to take to keep up my own running gig. I think of all those doctors and therapists through the years who questioned why I keep running and who asked (or told) me to consider stopping! And I keep trying and learning new things as I bring my body back into balance.

I don't know what goes through anyone else's head while they run, but that is what happens in mine. During a one hour run, my brain can write a whole music review and running blog post in one, cover the time span from high school to my 50's, kill the negative thoughts and think with a positive resolve, and feel good and refreshed at the end when all is done. There is something very good about a one-hour run! I can't imagine what I would want to do in place of that.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Two 5K's: One Thumbs Up and One Thumbs Down

After having a really poor race at the Red's Shoe Barn 5 miler on Sunday, I ended up with at Tuesday night 5k in Lowell to try to redeem myself. Brain Bigelow invited me to head down and work on our 5k times in the Good Times Spring Series. I haven't done much racing in Lowell unless it involved a marathon (a few Bay State Marathons and the 1981 Lowell Oktoberfest Marathon) or the Mill City Relays. Even though I was just on a class field trip earlier in the week to the Lowell Mills, I still got lost on the way to the race and had no time to really warm up on a cold damp night.

Before the start of the race, it was announced that this week's version would be the Jack and Phil Remembrance Run in honor of Jack Kelleher and Phil Riley, two Good Times Series' regulars who passed away recently. Whovever finished in 160 something place would get an award in memory of Jack and the first senior runner would get an award on honor of Phil. Brian and I looked at each other and tried to figure out if we were seniors. It sounds so much older than just saying the 50 year old age group. Brian had been the first runner in this age group the previous week.

At the gun, I felt really good for a change and went out hard at the tail of the lead pack. I found it disconcerting to follow the course through the twists and turns and didn't want to trip or stumble over something in the road, but I remained upright. After about a 1/2 mile, I fell behind a group of about 4 runners, but after awhile I got ahead of them as I felt feisty and loose. I have no idea what the splits were or where the course went. I found it confusing, but after awhile it straightened out (around 2 miles) and I slowed a bit. The twists had knocked my hips around and I started losing my stride. I got it back the last mile and felt that I ran a strong race. The finish time was 19:46 and I finished 13th overall (results). I found out that I won my age group and won a 2009 yellow Boston Marathon jacket and a case of beer. I gave the beer to Brian since he would have won if I didn't show up and I don't drink. I enjoyed the race and will probably show up again to try to better my time. I left the race feeling pumped as I felt my running was strong and I could see lots of improvement coming.

Saturday, I showed up just in time again for another 5k. This time it was the 19th annual Derry Foothealth 5k, the third race in the New Hampshire Grand Prix. Just like the previous two GP races, my hips were off again. It was a pathetic struggle of a race and I couldn't move my legs properly (results). Maybe I should stop doing the Grand Prix races as my hips never want to cooperate. I ended up a minute slower than Tuesday and it felt 10 times as worse. I feel like quitting running when I can't get the hip muscles working right as it is uncomfortable to run and move. Fortunately, I can remember how good it felt to run the previous race and I have to just make sure to get more good days going and to find out what is triggering my hips to get so out of alignment (it may have been the many hours driving a car the previous three days).

Congratulations to Carl Hefflefinger, running his first time as a "senior" and finishing in 19:49. This was after a 30 mile bike ride to the race and then a ride back to his home! Tom Kolb also gets a nod for finishing the race and then jumping into the lake. I guess he does this every year for some strange reason that sounds both crazy and admirable.

I stayed up that night to watch the track meet in Stanford hoping to see Galen Rupp set an American record in the 10,000 meters. I watched a great race and an American record, but it was Chris Solinsky, in his debut 10,000m who set the record with a blazing last 800m and a time of 26:59.60. Simply Amazing!

See the race here:

More video here.

My race times are really making me feel old and it is not just that they call my age group the "seniors". This week I found a long lost log book of most of my runs from 1978-1980 (probably the best log book I have kept as I am not that good at keeping track of my running). The back cover had my first five marathons listed, so now I can start making a list and doing the detective work to find out how many marathons I have run. My first marathons were:

Dec. 3 1977 Dallas White Rock Marathon, Dallas, Texas 3:25:44
Nov. 25 1979 Philadelphia Marathon 3:03:57
April 13, 1980 Fox Valley Marathon Aurora, Illinois 2:54:38
May 17, 1980 Gill Dodds Marathon Wheaton, Illinois 2:50:07
Nov. 23 1980 Cape Cod Marathon 2:51:57

What I found interesting was how little running I did for some of those races. I run so much more now, but boy those times and my track times were so much faster for the little bit of effort I put in. For example, I ran that third marathon in the middle of April and had only done 264 miles from January up to the race. My long runs were two 10 milers and one 11 miler. Imagine getting away with that today! Of course that was 30 years ago and sadly deterioation certainly has set in!