Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Danny Abshire author of Natural Running, I have some questions for you!

This has the potential to be a lengthy post. I will try to keep it short, but there are three parts to it. One, an accounting of where I am in my running or lack of running (not having updated that in about a month), some current thinking I have been doing, and most important of all, it will include some questions (at the bottom and in red type) that maybe just maybe I can get Danny Abshire (Runner's World article here) author of Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger, Healthier Running to review and answer.

I have yet to make that great recovery from the labral tear surgery on my left hip last summer. Sure, I got back to running within a month of the surgery and did an 8 miler within two months. I got some slower 5k racing in over the winter while doing the Freeze Your Buns race series and I got my mileage over 30 and then over 40 miles in a week back in February, but then I hit a standstill and I am not sure I am making the progress I want or should be making. I basically stopped the drive to get back to my former running self at the end of February, piddled around until I got a new PT person and stopped running per his suggestion prior to the Boston Marathon last April.

I decided to listen and slow down with the hopes of getting things right with this PT even if I am not sure if stopping was that great of an idea. As of now, I think I just wasted a bunch of time doing nothing. The PT focuses in on strengthening my hip. I could do that till the cows come home, but it hasn't changed my imbalances or mechanics in the way I expected and at times my muscles or nerves still hurt with no rhyme or reason. I think that with all the strengthening I have been doing that I would see a progression of things getting better and I don't see that happening. The PT does do some good hip mobilizations that I couldn't do on my own, but that only takes up about 5 minutes/week of my PT time. The rest is standard PT and I could do that at home.

Last week, after about 5 weeks completely off from running, I started up running on my own initiative again. I wanted to stick somewhat with the idea that Ian Adamson gave me at the Boston Marathon in April of running one minute the first day and add one minute each day after that. I didn't quite limit myself to that, as I ran around the block (about 1/2 mile) for 3 days and then started doing two loops for 4 days now. I will keep it at that and just add an extra lap every once and awhile. While it is good to run, boy do I feel out of shape. I am sure I could go 8 miles any day I if I wanted to and would find my breathing ease up along the way, but this small amount of running doesn't allow for getting warmed up or in a groove at all and I can't tell if anything has really changed with my running after all the PT and time away.

As I started to run and even before during the layoff, I still don't feel stable on my left side. I started thinking about my feet again. I always have that question. Is it my feet that cause the hip problem or my hip that caused the problems down to my feet? I saw this quote on a kettlebell message board last week from Mark Reifkind (His wife Tracy has some kettlebell swing DVDs. I used one last year to inspire myself to do 10000 swings in one month. Mark wrote:
"Gray Cook taks about how the foot has to be stable so the ankle can be mobile so the knee can be stable, ect. I now believe the TOES have to be mobile so the foot can be stable, ect."
My toes are stiff, not mobile, making my foot unstable and my ankle stiff. This is all opposite of the way it should be. My knee is not stable and to go further up the chain joint by joint, my hips are stiff when they should be mobile and my lower back is mobile (flexible) when I think it should be stiff. If I am seeing things properly, my toes are leading to a chain of opposite joint expectations and outcomes and possibly a precursor to all the problems I have been having. Could the toes be the culprit after all?

Along with my PT, I have been doing a lot of foot and toe mobilizations based on Somatic exercises the past month with a lot of inspiration and encouragement from Sue B. up in Canada. Despite doing all that, there is still something not normal about the way my left foot interacts with the ground. I have explored this in years past and never have gotten anywhere with my questions. Basically my big toe and big toe joint don't really touch the ground when I stand in my best position. My weight is balanced between the joint of my smallest toe and the joint of  my 2nd toe. If I want to get the first MTP joint on the ground, I have to pronate my foot down on the inside.Of course when I do this my knee caves in, my foot everts out and my hip rotates in. That is the running and moving posture that I hate! In the past I have tried posture control insoles for Morton's foot and self-made cutouts on my insoles to try to fix this. Of course this was all before my hip surgery, so I hoped that things might resolve all the way down the chain from my hip, but they haven't.

I had ditched my orthotics when I stopped running in April. My orthotics where primarily made for functional hallux limitus, so there is a cutout under the first MTP joint to preload my big toe for running. On reflection this just means my big toe has to drop down further to make contact with the ground, but maybe the arch is made to keep the foot level?

Last week, as I was thinking about all this again, I stood tip-toe on each foot. I noticed when I do that with my right foot, that this foot is stable and solid when flexed. On my bad left side, however I noticed that the 2nd toe joint is the joint that connects with the ground (like it is too big) and this gives my foot two options, roll to the outside to let the little toe joint touch the ground or roll to the side of the big toe joint. I would guess that means when I run, walk, or stand, my foot has to roll either left or right. It never goes straight ahead. I find it hard to believe that I was born with this, plus the tibial torsion on only that left side, as well as the femoral anteversion on that side too! Really? They have to be all connected in some way. Can I find that way and straighten things out?

I tried cutting out under 2nd toe joint on an old insole and used that for a couple of days this week. I have never seen anything like that before so I don't know if that is a good strategy or not. It didn't hurt anything, it just felt a little weird, but I didn't want to create a new problem, so I put the experiment away.

Then I started reading the book Natural Running by Danny Abshire and I got super excited just by reading the forward.  I saw this book at the Newton Running booth while I was at the Boston Marathon, but then spent time talking with Ian Adamson and forgot to go back and buy it, so I remembered it and ordered it from Amazon a couple of weeks ago.  Danny Abshire is one of the founders of Newton Running Shoes. I remember getting real excited about the Newton shoes when I first heard about them years ago. After reading about them, I knew I had to try them as soon as they allowed mail orders. I  am sure I was one of the first to order when their online ordering went live back then with their first model. The thing that excited me about these shoes were the pods on the forefeet of the shoe. I remember thinking even back then, that these shoes might solve the problem I had with the 1st MTP joint not hitting the ground. I thought the pod under the 2nd toe might depress more giving my big toe a chance to work. They didn't work that way for me. I used them only a few times and put them away. I now know I should have broke them in more slowly. I went our for 5-8 milers right off the bat with them and noticed I didn't have the strength to keep up on the  forefeet beyond the first few miles. Plus my left foot rolled to over to that big toe again still trying to get it to the ground, so they didn't work out as I had hoped.

This is what I read triathlete great Paula Newby-Fraser's forward to Natural Running: I read that she developed a problem in the middle of her string of Ironman race wins in the early 1990s. She thought it was the end of her career until she visited with Danny Abshire. Danny noticed something that no one else had before with Paula's feet. She had an unbalanced forefoot alignment. Danny made orthotics for her that got Paula back and winning in Hawaii just two months later. Reading later in the book, I found out what Paula's forefoot imbalance really was. The first metatarsal of her right foot was not touching the ground (sound familiar?) and and her feet faced or "toed out" (sounds like what others have called tibial torsion with my left foot). Danny built a light foot support for Paula to go under her first metatarsal and the rest is history. Now I know that all runners are built differently and that I am no Paula Newby-Fraser, but I was doing Ironman distance races before Paula ever did and anyone that knows my story, know that it was my five years of triathloning in the 1980s that started making my biomechanical problems interrupt my daily and athletic life.  According to Danny even a small bit of imbalance in the forefoot can cause problems for athletes. I decided to play again with my shoes and taped some moleskin under the first metatarsal of an old insole as described here except I did it all the way down from under the joint to the end of the toe. I dusted off my old Newton shoes and did my last two training miles like this. I don't know if it is good to do or not. My left foot felt more stable, but it is hard to tell over only a mile of running. I did notice that I used my left glute more (or at least it was sore) and the tight pain (or pinching) in my adductors had moved a bit further down so it wasn't as much of a pinch as a tight muscle.

Today I had physical therapy again and although my PT is good with the mobilizations, he is not too good at listening or responding to my questions and observations. He doesn't want me to think or talk about what I have read in a book. I don't dare tell him I have a blog and have been reading and writing about this stuff for years. I have learned to be quiet about my thoughts, but today I wanted to go over some of what I wrote here. He didn't really want to hear it, I guess because I wasn't trusting his judgment or expertise, but as I have learned from visiting so many specialists, none of them have yet seen the whole picture. He didn't quite "see" the toe thing, but basically said to let my foot and leg do what they wanted to. So I am supposed to stand, walk, and run and let my left foot pronate down to get the toe on the ground and let me knee knock in, and my hip rotate in. Even though when doing the exercises, I am to keep my knee and foot straight. Heck, this guy with similar problems as mine seems to have fixed them himself.

As I explained to him that didn't make sense. If I am to train to keep things straight, why let them do their own thing when in real life and not think about it? As I was doing a one legged reach: the opposite leg goes back as I bend forward and reach my hands forward, I again remarked that it is hard as my foot wants to roll to one or the other side. I can't keep it flat on floor. If I am exercising this way, trying to keep the knee straight, what is the benefit to let the knee collapse in at all other times? He put a thickness of towel under my big toe and said that it might be easier to do the exercise this way if I wanted to. Well, isn't that what I was asking about putting something under my big toe and joint while running? He didn't want to really get into it or discuss what I read and have been noting for years about my foot. I don't see why instability has to be the answer if there is a way to stabilize things.

So, I am curious about the custom forefoot orthotics that Danny Abshire makes at his running store called Active Imprints. I don't see much about them online, but if Danny is such a master of biomechanics, I would certainly love to know more. One thing that bugs me about the orthotics that I have is that my Podiatrist (who is world reknowned) has never watched me run in them. He has also never watched me run at all and he knows I am a runner. I don't know how he can be sure they are the best for me, when he has never seen the mechanics of my running!

So here are my questions for Danny Abshire that I would be thrilled if he (or someone else knowledgeable could answer).

1) Does a forefoot imbalance and instability (like Ironman champions Paula Newby-Fraser and Craig Alexander have and quite possibly Kirani James) present themselves in a similar fashion with most athletes? What would it look like when someone with an elevated 1st metatarsal runs? Paula also toes out. Is this commonly associated with problems with an elevated 1st MTP joint?

2) Have you seen other athletes with this problem who also seem to have developed the toed-out position (or tibial torsion), knock-knees, and an inwardly twisting femur (femoral anteversion). If so could the elevated big toe cause the other problems or be an effect of the other problems higher up the chain? Is the elevated big toe related to Morton's foot? I bought a book Why You Really Hurt: It All Starts in the Foot a couple of years ago that makes the case for this.

3) Can using a layer of moleskin (or do you use something more rigid) under the 1st metatarsal be a good way to try to fix the problem? or does the lift need to be done with a full foot orthotic? Would adding moleskin to another orthotic mess up the way the orthotic was intended to work. My orthotics have cut-outs under the 1st MTP joint for FHL. That seems to be the main purpose of the orthotic except for some rearfoot contol. That is a lot of stuff in my shoe just for cut-out under that joint.

4) Is the only place that makes these forefoot orthotics your store in Boulder, Colorado? Are there any Active Imprint trained orthotic makers in the Boston area? If not, are there any times when specialists bring their work to other locations, like during the Boston Marathon Expo or does someone have to live in the Boulder area to get these orthotics? If I can't get to Boulder, what could I try to do on my own?

5) Of course, I would be open to any suggestions and advice that you might have. I am continuing to read your book and will try the drills in there as well as keep with the limited amounts of running and the slow build up to mileage as Ian Adamson advised me at the Boston Marathon Expo.

Basically, I am frustrated that almost one year post surgery on my hip, I am not a regular runner. While my hip feels better and the surgery was a success, my body if still full of compensations and idiosyncrasies  that do not allow me to get out there and put in the mileage that lets me be and feel healthy. I really miss running, being fit, and feeling healthy. The last two years leave me feeling bloated and feeling at a great loss for not being the active and healthy person that I have been my whole life. I just want to be able to move through life without feeling like a worn out old man.

Monday, May 28, 2012

14 Minutes by Alberto Salazar: Book Review

"...a runner of any caliber almost never outlives the need to run. Once you get hooked-once the day comes when you suffer more by not running-you're stuck with it. Your daily runs become your solace and refuge, the place where you reflect, heal, and pray."  Alberto Salazar in "14 Minutes"

I finally finished Alberto Salazar's book 14 Minutes: A Running Legend's Life and Death and Life. I started it back a couple of months ago and didn't return to it until this weekend. Alberto is a running legend known for his awkward running style, dogged determination, and haughty stature holding a spot at the top as the greatest marathon runner alive in the early 1980s. He is also an enigmatic man, who seems a little difficult to figure out. It does seem, however, that Alberto has spent much time figuring out exactly who is his.

This book is a journey through the many threads and pathways of Alberto's life as a runner and person. The central part of the story is not really his outstanding running career, but rather the heart attack and subsequent 14 minutes of "death" before his heartbeat was fully restored. We learn about his demanding family life and his relationship with his father, who at one time was a confident of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara  before escaping Cuba. Alberto's strong Catholic faith comes through as well as his belief in miracles at a site in Yugoslavia called Megjugorje that turned a silver necklace to gold for his father years before  he claims the same miracle for himself on his own pilgrimage. We also learn about a boys drowning at a hometown pond that haunts the young Alberto. These images of death and struggle tempered with miracles and hardheadedness lead to two of the central running stories in the book: Alberto's collapse at the 1978 Falmouth Road Race that lead to a 108 degree temperature and the reading of last rights to Alberto and his epic Duel in the Sun at the 1982 Boston Marathon with Dick Beardsley. Alberto's introspection and the way he seems to compartmentalize all his experiences makes for an interesting, but not wholly inspired  reading.

Photo I took of an injured Salazar handing out awards at
the 1983 Falmouth Road Race.

Alberto does not seem impressed with himself or his own running and racing career, so as a fan of the sport you don't get a gee-whiz enthusiastic retelling of his stories. This is completely opposite of the feeling you get when you hear or read Dick Beardsley retell his impressions and experiences at the great Duel in the Sun. Maybe Alberto has a more mature view of his own importance and doesn't care to dwell on the past, but as a reader, I like hearing the breathless retellings and the minute details that seem to be lacking in this book. There is a cursory detailing of important races and key figures in Alberto's running career, but the stories are familiar if you grew up reading about and watching Alberto. Falmouth is here, the Boston and New York City Marathons, the Comrades Ultramarathon in South Africa, and a few other key races. We also learn about Alberto's career with Nike and his coaching of Galen Rupp and others in the Oregon Distance Project. In all, the book is a good overview with enough details and connections made with his heart condition and faith that the book successfully captures a "whole" picture of how Alberto Salazar sees himself and his life as a runner and coach. It is interesting how he learns from the mistakes of his own enthusiastic rush to the top of  the world's list of great runners of his time as opposed  to how he methodically deals with the "gift" of finding and coaching a young talent like Galen Rupp in his high school years through professional career in a much slower and more calculated approach to reach the top of the current world rankings. Although he took one path to reach the top, Salazar has certainly learned from his own mistakes when guiding others.

Related Posts:
Preview of 14 Minutes and videos of Salazar and Beardsley retelling the Duel in in the Sun race.
How I made Sports Illustrated and Salazar and the Duel in the Sun.
Salazar, Ritzenhein, and the perfect stride.
1977 Falmouth Road Race
1978 Falmouth Road Race
1982 Boston Marathon

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Listen to the Whispers

"As people age, a runner's stride almost becomes a caricature of what it once was. Chances are they have had some kind of injury at some point, or their body has changed or what they've done in their daily life has changed, and that's affected their gait, and they've never done anything about correcting it. They weren't aware of what they were doing in the first place, and they've never gone through the process of reeducating themselves to develop a better more sound technique."

I read this quote in the book Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger, Healthier Runningby Danny Abshire with Brian Metzler, which is the book that I am currently reading. The quote however originates  from a book by Malcolm Balk called Master the Art of Running. I have this book, which focuses on the Alexander Technique in order to improve your body awareness and posture while running. It is a well written book with beautiful full color photos of many of the world's great runners. Truthfully, I don't remember if I utilized or applied any of the techniques or drills in this edition of the book to my own running. I also have the original edition of the book simply called The Art of Running. I do recall using some of the ideas in the book for about a month with some success, although like most things I try, it would feel good for a few days and then fall apart. Now that I have had my hip surgery and am slowly starting up the running process, it may be a good idea to read through the ideas in the book after I finish Natural Running to see if my body will handle the changes easier. It might be easier to add the techniques at the low level of running that I am doing, rather than what I tried years ago with a bad hip on a high mileage diet.

Here is another saying from The Art of Running book,

If you listen to the whispers, you won't have to hear the screams.

Whatever you do, don't let your running stride become that caricature of what it once was. Take care that you are using good form and listen to those whispers before your body starts screaming!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Founder Exercise from Foundation Training

One exercise that I do nightly that I have  found to work my core is The Founder from the innovative book Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence by Dr. Eric Goodman and Peter Park. The core, according to the book is just not the front of the body, but rather the back. I have had the DVD that goes along with the book since January and it has a lot of information and routines. I haven't even watched the whole thing yet, as I am still doing the basic exercises. This is a very different and unusual strengthening routine. I really like it. I showed the book to a physical therapist last fall and she thought it looked like a very good program. You can get the DVD, book, or digital downloads at the Foundation Training website.
Foundation training shifts the focus from the front of your body to the back. By strengthening the full posterior chain and correcting poor movement patterns, you will maximize power, flexibility, and endurance and say goodbye to back pain.

 I saw this quote on the Foundation Facebook page today and thought it sums up The Founder quite well.
I used to think of the Founder as an exercise for strengthening the body. I now recognize this exercise as the pathway to awakening the otherwise dormant, primitive neural pathways of original human movement.
There is more to the Foundation program than The Founder, but that is all I have been concentrating on lately. When my muscles are stiff or getting out of alignment and in particular when  my left lower back feels tight, I do The Founder to great success.  If you want to try it or the other basic Foundation exercises, check out these videos.

Here is a video on how to do a perfect founder.

Here is an early video that shows The Founder and other Foundation exercises as demonstrated by Peter Park, Lance Armstrong's strength and conditioning coach, and Dr. Eric Goodman.

 If you can access this Facebook page, you can see a video of actor Jeff Bridges working on The Founder. You can get some tips on using the arms to work the back in this video.
This video shows some common mistakes when doing the Founder.


This video answers some question on Foundation training including neck position in the founder.


Here is an older video showing an early Foundation routine. They have changed things a bit since this video.

Here is the DVD and book trailer.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

1985 Centurion Cinelli Equipe

The1987 Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon 
I have had my Centurion Cinelli  Equipe road bike since 1985 when I bought it at the Internationl Bicycle Center in Boston. It had a list price of almost $1000 back then, but I bought it for $700. It is a solid and beautiful bike, built in Italy by Cinelli for the Centurion brand. I looked on eBay and the last price someone sold one for was double the price that I originally paid. Mine is not for sale as it is still my main road bike and I am not upgrading. I spent so many miles riding this bike through the years that it is like a best friend to me. I recently saw a post that gave more specifics for the bike at the Cinelli Only blog which also had an article from Bicycle Guide on the bike. that I use to have, but have somehow lost.

Cinelli Centurion Equipe pdf
Found at

Cinelli Only post on Cinelli Centurion Equipe
Cinelli Only post on Cinelli Centurion Equipe part 2
Cinelli Only post on Cinelli Centurion Equipe Part 3
Text of 1985 Bicycle Guide article on the Cinelli Centurion Equipe

I thought I would put up a few pictures that I can find of the bike through the years as the author of that blog post has asked for pictures of this Centurion model. The first bicycle I bought for racing triathlons in 1983 was a $300 Centurion Elite. That September, I competed in my third triathlon, which was the 1st Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon (a full Ironman distance triathlon). I used that bike the next year for more triathlons including the 2nd CCET, but bought the Centurion Cinelli Equipe for the 1985 season and used it in all future triathlons including my 3rd -5th CCET races from 1985-1987. I stopped doing triathlons at that time due to a "bad back", but spent the next couple of years racing my bike in local time trials, criteriums, and road races. Now that I had hip surgery last summer, I think my "bad back" was caused by a bad hip as I feel more comfortable on my bike then I ever did back when I was racing. It is fun to train again on my sturdy and quick Centurion Cinelli Equipe! I have only seen one other model of this bike. It was being raced by Donnie Lake, one of New England's top triathlete's in the 1980s.

1983 training ride stop at the Cape Cod Canal: Centurion Elite.

Everything looks original in this photo. This is the 1985  Bud Light United States Triathlon Series race in Boston.
The photo is minutes before the first of my two crashes on the rainy course. I still managed to
qualify for the National Triathlon Championship race at Hilton Head. Sadly no one informed me of this until after
the Championship race had been completed.

Bike racing at the Lee Motor Speedway in Lee, NH in 1989
The setup I have had for the past 10 years of so.

Here is something I did not know. A Centurion bicycle won the Ironman Triathlon in 1982 in Hawaii. Here is a photo of Linda Sweeney's Ironman winning bike as seen on twitter by Lucas Verzbicus. He says it was made from aluminum, but it is a steel framed bike.

Audio interview with Linda Sweeney:
 She only used two gears during the bike ride and had a basket on the front to keep her towel, her cassettes and her cassette player. White Punks on Dope was top of mind. From  reading the materials, Linda Sweeney thought the Ironman course in Hawaii was totally flat. Not quite. It’s hard to believe it has been 30 years since Sweeney won her first- and only- Ironman race.
From this article her boyfriend the Thom Hunt, former high school indoor mile record holder and American 10,000 meter record holder bought her the Centurion for $350. 

This is my wife's Centurion Lemans 12 road bike. She never got into cycling. She bought this bike on my recommendation around 1985. I made this mistake of taking her out for her first ride on a 25 mile route through the hills of Vermont. She was not happy and did not want to become a triathlete (I tried), thus this bike has been toted from garage to garage. It is still all original. We may not have it much longer as we have put it on Craigslist for $100, but it is another in the line of Centurion bicycles.

Pre: The Legend of Pre and Losing Pre

Here are two well done and recently uploaded videos of American track icon Steve Prefontaine. Many key players in Pre's life are shown in interviews.

I do recall where I was when I heard that Steve Prefontaine had been killed. I was in a 10th grade high school health class studying a silly book called, "I'm OK, You're OK." We found out the Pre was not OK. There were a couple cross-country/track teammates in the class and I recall the questionings and discussions of what had happened.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

1982 Falmouth Road Race Video

Alberto and Joan were the champions in 1982.
One of these days, I will get around to putting up my photos of the 1982 Falmouth Road Race, but with registration now open for the 2012 version of the race, I would like to point you to the 1982 Falmouth Road Race video. I have had this link from in my favorites for a few years. This comes from a CBS broadcast of the race and from Juan Martinez who has links to many race pictures and videos on his site. To see or download the race go here. To see the original letsrun thread go here (I am TDF on letsrun). You can see many of my other photos and memories from other years at Falmouth at these and other pages on my blog.

Other Falmouth Road Race Posts

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hoka One One Bondi B Shoe Review

It can be hard to write a shoe review when I am not really running at the moment, but here is my preliminary review of the unusual and unique shoe from Hoka One One called Bondi B  (pronounced Ho-kay Oh-nay Oh-nay which means "Time to Fly" in Maori, "Bondi" is named after Bondi Beach , so the correct pronunciation is bond-eye) . Before undergoing labral tear surgery for my left hip last summer, I ordered a pair of these shoes, after reading many reviews, thinking that the cushioning they provide might be very helpful on my return to running post surgery. I found a newish pair on eBay with only about 10 miles on them for about half-price to buy, so I did.

Sure enough they were over-sized and cushioned to the max, but I liked the looks of the grey and citrus colors and although my family snickered at the size of the shoes I didn't care. They looked nice. I did notice that when I put the shoes on, they felt hot and confining and I didn't like wearing them when I was just relaxing. I had bought my normal size 12, but most reviews say to buy them 1/2 size bigger. I liked running in  them and my orthotics fit and worked in the shoes just fine, but I did notice that my toes got scrunched together a bit and I would tend to get some blisters and abrasions as my runs got up to the 8 mile range. I realized the shoes were a little bit too tight for my liking. They weren't pressing in on my toes, but my toes couldn't really move around. They would not be comfortable or usable on longer runs (once my body fully comes around to doing distance again).

The Hoka insole wraps around your heel and orthotics.
Public disclosure: my left leg is weird. So this part of the review pertains more to the way my body functions and not to a function of the shoe. At first the Bondi B gave me a cushioned and comfortable stride. I especially liked the rocker sole that rolls the foot easily forward. That is one reason that I wanted to try the shoe. I am told I have something called functional hallux limitus where the first MPT joint will not bend when bearing weight. That means when I try to toe off, my toe stiffens up and my foot has to find another way to move around the joint. I found that with the rocker sole I had a very smooth and pleasant roll from mid-foot to toe off. My left foot also everts out to the side (tibial torsion) and suppinates on landing before trying to roll over in pronation.  I began getting the feeling that the over-sized cushioning and sole of the Biondi B was exaggerating this roll more and more and throwing my body and form off the more I ran. It is important to note that this only happens on my left side. My right foot and leg works perfectly fine in the Biondi B.

My impressions of the shoe was that it really does dampen the pounding your body takes when running. I never felt beat up after running in these and I only can imagine how great they would be on long runs. The size of the shoe may be overly large, but the weight was not. I have always liked doing my running and training in racing shoes and lightweight non-built up shoes; shoes we now call minimalistic. I hate running in trainers. The Bondi B did not feel like heavy-weight trainers at all. The problem I had with the shoes was that the model I bought was just too small for me and I was not sure my left foot was taking to them.

My Skechers GoRun compared to the Bondi B. 
So in the winter, I tried the SKECHERS GO Run shoes (I like trying out new ideas in shoes). The GoRuns also claim a rocker sole and were extremely lightweight. The uppers are one of the most comfortable (can't feel em) uppers I have ever run in. Unfortunately, orthotics don't really work in the Skecher GoRuns, and after over a year and one-half off from running (gaining weight and losing fitness) the Skechers were not the best choice as a training shoe. I did use them in the 5k races I did this winter and loved the feel of them, but any distance over that and my feet and body were not ready for them, so I put them away until I am ready to   race again.

Bondi B and the GoRun (both size 12)
I decided to try another shoe, the zero drop Altra Instinct. The first time I put them on, my feet liked the light roominess of the uppers. Whereas I would kick the Hokas off my feet whenever I was lying around, I actually felt completely comfortable lounging around in the Altras ( I know that running shoes are not for sitting around in, but hey that is what I am doing most days). When I started running in the Altras, however, something unusual happened. I got cuts right above the knuckles of my second toe joints. It seems that when I run the shoe bends on my foot at this spot and the extra material and stitching would press into my toe. I would come back from runs with very bloody socks and shoes. The Altras did this when I ran with my orthotics or without my orthotics. I liked everything about this shoe, but having a shoe cut up my toe is not acceptable.

Altra Instinct
I had a big decision to make about which shoe I would go with and I made a choice to try a larger size model of the Hoka One One Bondi. When looking around on the Hoka site, I made an interesting discovery. There is a town a few towns away that has a wonderful store that sells all sorts of interesting and minimalistic running shoes. I headed over to Townsend, Ma to find Evans on the Common. I would absolultely recommend this store to all my local running friends. They have a great collection of shoes that you can't find in most local stores and it is a real friendly store with a small town general store type feel. I would have liked to try on many of the shoes on the shelves, but I came to pick up a pair of Hokas. The Hokas do not come in a 12 1/2 size so I checked out the size 13 model. They were roomy, comfortable, and ridiculously expensive (retail price-not store markup). They also had a color pattern that I did not like as much as the grey model that I had.

My Bondi B's. I am not a fan of these colors.
Once I got them home, they really did look like clown shoes on my feet. They were just that much bigger than the 12s that I had and the color combinations made the size stand out even more. They also seem to be about 1/2 size bigger than I really need, but bigger is better than smaller. I did find them roomy enough that I don't need to kick them off when wearing them around the house. They are totally comfortable, but I don't feel like wearing this pair in public even with a pair of jeans as they feel that much more over-sized on my feet.

Comparing the colors of my two Bondi's.
I did use them running and they worked perfectly for me, giving me a nice rolling feel to my feet as I ran and if I can ever get my mileage back up again, I could imagine these shoes rolling my feet easily through 20 milers without any stress on my feet. While I was running with that nice rolling feel, I even started to think of this as being a shoe to take me on runs longer than marathon distance.

Unfortunately, the muscles in my body still haven't evened out post surgery and I had to drop my mileage and eventually sought out a new PT. He suggested that I stop running and I have done that for the past month. I am hoping to start again slowly this weekend. In the meantime, at the Boston Marathon Expo, I talked to the Altra people and bought another model,  the Altra Provision. I also decided to stop using my orthotics and started using the Provision as my daily shoe for work and walking around. I loved the feel for the first two weeks and then my finicky feet started to dislike the soft feeling of the shoe. I would come home from school and put on the Biondi's to walk around in and my feet felt more supported.

The Bondi B compared to the ultra thin Puma H Street shoes I used to wear.
 I still haven't figured out which shoe I like best, particularly for running. I don't know if the Provisions will cut into my toe. When I first wore them the stitching was irritating the top of my big toes. I feel my feet have to do more work in the Altras and my feet roll nicely in the Hokas. The big question for me is how my left foot will eventually respond to the Hokas. Will they cause greater suppination and an awkward roll on my messed up side or will PT strengthen and straighten out my foot. If my left foot worked properly, I would be totally convinced that the Hoka One One is the shoe for me. This minimalist runner would be going maximalist. The jury is still out, however, as to which shoe will let me run in the best way for my body.

Don't just take my word for it. Here is a recent review of the Bondi Bs by Marsall Ulrich, ultra runner,  adventure racer, and author of the book Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America.


Monday, May 7, 2012

This works: Flossing the Psoas with a Kettlebell and a Lacrosse Ball

Maybe you have tried to use a tennis, lacrosse, or massage ball to release a tight psoas muscle like this:

Kelley Starrett from Crossfit San Francisco and of the MWOD, Mobility Workout of the Day, has a much more simpler and effective way to do so and shows you how to work, or floss, the psoas (hip flexor) muscle using a kettlebell and a lacrosse ball. This is real gritty stuff that can help get rid of tightness of the psoas muscle which often, as in my case, leads to lower back pain. In the past, I had tried rolling the psoas muscle on tennis balls or other harder balls, as well as using the Thera Caneas demonstrated in the The Trigger Point Therapy Workbookto loosen or release the tight psoas muscle, but it is a hard one to reach and you have to be careful. By lying on your back as in this video, I find that I am able to relax and let the weight of the kettlebell slowly work on releasing that troublesome muscle.


Jonathon Fitzgordon, author of Psoas Release Party! has a page of video exercises for your psoas muscle. Here is an interesting take on the lunge.

Here is the Running Times Runner's Guide to the Psoas.
Here is a great article by Keats Snideman on Self-Assessment and Massage for the Hip Flexors which includes this video on using a ball to roll out the psoas.

Here is a video showing how to use the TP Trigger Point Productsto work on the psoas. As you can see, It is much easier to use the above approach with a kettlebell weighing down a lacrosse type ball to reach the psoas.

Finally, here is Martha Peterson's Somatics approach to release the psoas muscle. You can read about her approach here. Martha's book called Move Without Pain is an excellent source for understanding Somatics and introduces many somatic exercises with simple directions and explanations.

Meanwhile, if you have got this far, here is an update on my running. I am not. I haven't run for about a month when the physical therapist told me to stop. I am doing his exercises, but it is hard to see improvement as I need to run to see if it is working. He said it takes about 8 weeks for soft tissue to change. He said I can start up the running after the next visit on Friday. I am a little cynical that things haven't changed much due to the fact that I still get the same pains on different days and I am doing nothing to aggravate things. I think the muscles around my hip are waging a war on each other pushing and being pulled and certainly things are not in balance like I would expect. That is why, I was doing the kettlebell psoas release as I could feel that tightening up and pulling on my back and irritating my adductors and everything else that gets tight down the line. The kettlebell trick has worked for the past two days. Interestingly, at my last PT visit, the therapist asked if I have had my psoas worked on my an ART practitioner, but that is as far as he got with that conversation. I will follow up on Friday. I can wait to get started running, but somehow I feel like not running is just a punishment, and I will be no farther along when I start up again.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


This is a fantastic poster from an ad from the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

This video is easier to appreciate once you have seen the poster. The video was made in a single take and no CGI was used.

This video shows how Unstoppable was made.

MZ_Paralympics - Making Of from VAUGHAN HANNIGAN on Vimeo.

When you are unstoppable you will recover your stride!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Steeplechase Fails

The finish line is not the only place that a runner can take a dive. The steeplechase can be a  full-body impact track event. It takes guts to run toward the heavy wooden barrier and catapult yourself off the top and continue running. The water jump makes the steeplechase even more fun. Unfortunately with the steeplechase, not everything goes as planned. This weekend Katy Andrews had the misfortune of misstepping into the barrier resulting in a complete drenching in the pit. Like a true champion, she shook it off and continued running with a slight smirk on her face as she continued on with the race.
(article and photos here)

Here is another view including slow motion.

Katy is definitely not the first runner to experience problems with the water jump barrier.
Here is another classic steeplechase fail, with the additional ignominy of having another athlete land on top of you after having a full submersion in the water pit. Here is the story of collegiate steepler Jake Hojnacki's magnicient dousing as well as the story of his injury plagued Div. 3 running career. He ends with a nod to Katy Andrew's more recent spill with this great quote:
"I was a little upset. That got a lot more publicity than mine. I thought my fall was much better. She made Sports Center and stuff like that, but I guess guys want to see cute girls fall in face first." He added, "Hopefully we never reproduce with each other, because I feel like that child would be very clumsy and a lot of bad things would happen to that kid."

Ioran Etchechury of Brazil trips and falls into the water during the Boys 2000m Steeplechase on day four of the Youth Olympics at Bishan Stadium on August 18, 2010 in Singapore. 

I remember watching this one live on my computer. It was not a funny at all.

During the IAAF Track & Field World Championships in Osaka, Japan, several runners collide into a barrier during the opening minutes of the men's 3000-meter steeplechase. Gunther Weidlinger of Austria tripped and fell head-first into the barrier and was not able to continue. This one is a tough one to watch, but do watch the American runner flip over the barrier to avoid hitting Gunther.

Sometimes the barrier can be a bit slick.

Trying to do some gymnastics while going over.

Trying to ride the barrier like its a horse.

Skip to 2:10 to see a pileup at the barrier.

First one and then another.