Sunday, January 27, 2013

Indoor Track and Treadmills

Yesterday was a big day in indoor track and field. High school junior, Mary Cain, broke the high school indoor mile record set 41 years ago by Debbie Heald. On the way, she also broke Lynn Jennings' 35 year old 1500m indoor record. Here is the flotrack video of this race. Mary Cain is coached by Alberto Salazar and at the Boston University track at just about the same time yesterday, another Salazar athlete, Galen Rupp, ran the fifth fastest indoor mile ever recorded. Here is the video of Galen's incredible mile. Earlier in the day, in Glasgow, Scotland, Duane Solomon set an American 600m indoor record.

My journey over the last two weeks has not been quite that spectacular and most of the running has been indoors and on a treadmill. If I get tired of the treadmill in the basement, I just head to the YMCA and use the treadmills there. Even if it is only on a treadmill, I am just happy to be moving.

I ran the second Freeze Your Buns race and in the two weeks since the first race, I got 2 seconds slower over the 5k distance.

Monday 1/14: 0 miles
Tuesday 1/15 : 3 miles treadmill
Wednesday 1/16: 5 miles treadmill
Thursday 1/17: 5 miles treadmill
Friday 1/18: 3 miles treadmill
Saturday 1/19: 0 miles
Sunday 1/20: 4 miles Freeze Your Buns race 2
Total for week: 20 miles:  2013 total miles 46 miles

Monday 1/21: 0 miles
Tuesday 1/22: 4 miles treadmill YMCA
Wednesday 1/23 3 miles treadmill
Thursday 1/24: 5 miles treadmill
Friday 1/25: 6 miles treadmill
Saturday 1/26: 4 miles treadmill
Sunday 1/26: 8 miles on the roads
Total for week: 30 miles 2013 total 76 miles

I did get some learning in though. I am writing it here, to keep track of it and for reference later. The week before the race I noticed that although I was running comfortably, my left foot was pointing more to the side again. Saturday night, I did some Somatic exercises for the first time in awhile straight off Martha Peterson's basic DVD. When lying flat on the floor, I noticed that my right side had an arch in the lower back, but my left side was lying flat. After doing the DVD, I was much more balanced with an arch on both sides. However when I woke up the next morning  for the Freeze Your Buns race and tried my warmup, my left hip flexor was incredibly tight. As I ran, I found it hard to flex that hip and my glute and adductor tightened up so I was limping again for over 24 hours. My thought is that my hip was compensating again and the Somatics pulled the hip forward where the hip flexor now pulled tight.

I also developed a sore left side (still have it one week later). At first it was the glutes and lower back, then it went up my left side to the left shoulder blade area and it pulls on my spinal cord. Something isn't happy or is readjusting. As I ran through this week on the treadmill, I seemed to have to find my balance again. With the tight hip flexor, I just slowed things down about 1 mph on the treadnill. On Thursday, I noticed that when I was running and checking my form in the mirror, that if I pushed out my left big toe just a little bit my stride appeared much straighter and the my toe pointed down rather than to the side.

I decided that it was time to break out the Correct Toes that I had tried for awhile last Spring to see if they could help keep that big toe in position Here is the Correct Toes website that explains how they work. Injinji even makes socks to go with the Correct Toes. I found that after wearing the Correct Toes just for an hour or so that my toes become much more flexible. They are incredibly stiff most of the time. I hadn't worn the devices since the Spring.

I had used them for about a month and even ran 8 miles a couple of times with them. They go great in my Altra shoes. When I did the Muscle Activation Technique (M.A.T.) in the fall, my toes were greatly strengthened and my toes were spread apart again. In fact, I think the work on my feet were the best part of all the M.A.T. work. I told Greg (the M.A.T. guy)  that he needed to start marketing his work to the minimalist crowd who need work on the strength of their feet. With all the muscles and tendons in the foot, M.A.T. was the quick way to get more than even what the Correct Toes offer and without waiting for months for it to work. I think I will keep wearing them here and there just to keep my toes flexible and in a stronger position.

Each evening this week, I have been working on a workout from the Foundation DVD that had been missing in my house since the Spring. I had been using the book Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence but had been sticking primarily with Founder exercise in the evenings. Now with the DVD I was able to explore more variations on the Founder as well as new movements. I had no problems with any of the movements until last night when I did a DVD extra on a simple lying hip twist like this:

When I woke up this morning, I had the same tight hip flexor-instablilty problem that I had last week the morning after doing the Somatic exercises The Somatics included this exact same stretch. I am thinking that this is not a good stretch for me. It pulls the inside hip in right at the point where I keep getting a pinching feeling and it is hard to lift and hold up my left leg due to it feeling very weak at that point. I struggled again all day with this, but I did get my 8 mile run in to make it to a 30 mile week.  I guess it is good that I can start seeing the cause and effects of certain movements. If another labral tear person reads this, do you have the same problem with this type of stretch?

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Last Mile

I once had a high school teacher/coach say to me (not my cross-country/track coach), "Jim, why do you keep running? You will never be any good at it." Here is a trailer for an upcoming feature length documentary called "The Last Mile" about running and why we do it. I wish I had a better answer for that coach at the time, but the nearly 40 years of enjoyment while running and racing has been my best reply.

The Last Mile from Red Tide Productions on Vimeo.

Red Tide Productions are shooting for an April release date

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lance Armstong's Vertigo

"Hello, Hello
I'm at a place called Vertigo (Donde esta?)
It's everything I wish I didn't know." (U2 Vertigo)

Watching Lance's confessions on Oprah was far from pleasant. Here is a man who went from the highest of highs in terms of public acclaim, to someone who is now feeling a little untidy about being found out as a cheater, liar, and world class bully. I don't think that Lance was entirely truthful either during his conversations with Oprah as he seems more determined to keep his money and influence, as well as his ability to race triathlon and running events again, than totally coming clean. I think he is hoping he gave the public what it wanted and that this will all soon go away so he can race in the Ironman triathlon someday It appears he won't admit to doping after 2005, because the statue of limitations is 8 years, and that might conveniently allow him to compete in sports sooner rather than later. There is a lot more  that Armstrong needs to say, and maybe Oprah is not the one to say it all too. Co-doper, Tyler Hamilton, says this in a Wall Street Journal article:
Hamilton had sounded like this, too, when he first began confronting the truth. Hamilton's own admission had been much smaller in scale, but in the early stages it was also painful, awkward, halting, often incomplete. Coyle, his co-author, said that when he first began talking to Hamilton for "The Secret Race," Hamilton's answers came so slowly he could transcribe every word and comma easily, by hand, with no abbreviations.

"When I first started telling the truth, it came out like water trickling out of a faucet," Hamilton said.That's what Hamilton recognized in Armstrong—the slow, brutal process of a man coming to terms with his deception. Coyle recognized it, too. "People underestimate how difficult it is to tell the truth when you have lived a secret life for a long time," Coyle said. He compared the process to digging out a "buried city in the sand."

"This isn't like a syringe in a toilet stall," Coyle said. "This is a life. With people and all these plotlines and secrets that are interlocked and nested together."
There is a part of me that sees that blood doping in professional cycling and using illegal drugs as just being part of the norm today: a hidden business, but business as usual. Many, if not most, of the top professional cyclists have been implicated in drug scandals. Many young professional cyclists have been faced with a terrible decision: to dope or not. Some of these cyclists gave in and achieved fame and money, while others walked away with not so much as a consolation prize, but with their integrity  intact. As the devil tempts Jesus, after fasting for 40 days in the Wilderness, he lays out the power and riches that can be His, if He only gives in to his temptations (from the U2 Song "Vertigo"):
All of this can be yours
All of this can be yours
All of this can be yours
Just give me what I want-and no-one gets hurt.
Lance made it to the top of the world, but it was all a lie. It must have seemed easy to Lance, Tyler, Floyd, and all the others to give in and attain what they wanted, thinking that no one would get hurt. A lie is not an easy secret to hold. These, once mighty men, have been humbled, but as Tyler infers, Lance is only at the beginning of the process. I am not even sure that is is the doping that has finally caught up with Lance. I am of the opinion that it is his selfish bullying character that people, deep down, are most angry and intolerant about. Maybe his apologies will go over well with the Oprah crowd, but I think of all the people he has hurt with his attitude  words, and lawsuits. That is the Lance Armstrong that needs the most attention. Being contrite for your doping is one thing, but changing and fixing that Lance will probably be a bigger task than winning 7 Tour de France bicycle races.

Kathy LeMond, wife of 3 time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, says that Lance is more embarrassed and not truly sorry in a Sports Illustrated article. Greg LeMond said of the interview to VeloNews:
"I didn't see the need for redemption, the remorse of someone who is truly sorry,” LeMond said. “It was the ideal way to see the real Armstrong. It shed a light on him and I think people could see he is not remorseful.”
Betsy Andreu was not as forgiving as Tyler Hamilton in thinking that Lance's confession is a first step towards healing. In another Sports Illustrated article before the televised airing, she said:
SI: Is Armstrong's confession incomplete, in your eyes, unless he owns up to saying the things you heard him say in the hospital room?
Andreu: He has one chance to tell the whole truth. If he does not tell the whole truth, then I think he has completely shot his chance at redemption and forgiveness. And he is going to forever imprisoned.
In the Oprah interview, Lance still played the wise guy, when talking about Betsy, saying that he never called her "fat". He also refused to "go there" when talking about Lance's confession to using drugs which Betsy and her husband Frankie overheard while Lance was getting treatment for his cancer. Betsy was one of the first and fiercest whistle-blowers when it came to Lance and his drug use.

Another person that Lance Armstrong tried to ruin professionally and financially was his former Bike Mechanic, Mike Armstrong. He told Sports Illustrated:
SI: Lance has been calling some associates ostensibly to apologize. Has he called you? 
Anderson: No he hasn't. I don't think he will. Again, it won't be genuine.
 Frankie Andreu probably said it best when talking about Lance's confessions to Bicycling magazine:
Lance has always had a lot of control, power, and influence. During the investigations he lost much of that control as he scrambled around trying to figure out what was happening. He lost his power and influence once the USADA report came out. As only Lance is capable of, I feel he is now back in control. Lance waited until all the governing bodies had made their decisions regarding his sanctions and then he chose his next step. He waited for some time to pass and picked the time, place, and forum to come out publicly with his admission. Now he holds more information than everyone put together and his risk of falling from grace is removed. If anyone had something on Lance Armstrong to keep him quiet it’s worthless now. Lance has control now because he can decide what, when, and how to reveal information regarding his racing days and the doping that took place. Ultimately he can decide who he takes down with him.

In my eyes that makes him just as dangerous as before.
According to Frankie, it seems that the whole confession is just another slick choreographed move by Lance. I guess time will tell if anything that Lance Armstrong says is truly genuine. The quotes and articles above came from some of the people most publicly hurt by Lance Armstong, so maybe they have a bone or two to pick with him. What about those closest to him?

According to an article by Selena Roberts, for Sports on Earth even Lance's own mother was worried about Lance's own lack of empathy towards others back in 1994. This was before his first Tour de France win. Linda Armstrong sat down with Greg and Kathy LeMond:
...searching for advice and an answer to a disturbing question: Why didn’t her son feel anything? “She was worried that Lance didn’t care about anything but himself,” Kathy LeMond recalled. “His own mother.”
 Of course the stories come from the LeMonds, who lost out on millions of dollars when Lance got Trek to dump his bike line, but a story they tell of a young cocky Lance, details that peculiar side of Lance:
The LeMonds wanted to help. They could see Lance was slipping away from reality and into a place absent of empathy. Also in 1994, the same day that Greg had dropped out of the Tour de France before the mountain stage, Lance had placed a call to Kathy at the LeMond’s home in Belgium with a taunting, kick-the-champ-to-the-curb request. “It was clear to him that Greg was finished and he said, ‘I’d like to rent your house,’” Kathy recalled, stunned because, at that raw point, Greg had not made a decision about his future. “I was like, what are you talking about? That’s how sick he is.”
You will hear plenty of people tell of all the good things that Lance did for cancer awareness with his Livestrong organization, and yes, I was one of the first people to buy a Livestrong bracelet when they first came out, but in the end, I don't thing the Lance Armstrong story is a story about cancer awareness, or cheating in cycling for that matter. I think, in the end, that his story is a story about a world class thug, and I hope for once, people finally get the strength to say say that they don't want to hear from this bully ever again until that part get fixed. Lance's ban from sports is ultimately about his   illegal drug use. Changes of criminal activity are due to his lying about it under oath. The truth about Lance Armstrong is that he is a bully and he went after people who spoke the truth.

I am not sure if banishment from sport is the proper response to Lance Armstrong's severe character flaws.  If he is ever allowed to compete in sanctioned events again, I would certainly be interested in what a "clean" Lance Armstrong could do in an Ironman triathlon even, even though I dislike the idea of him being in the spotlight again. I am somewhat skeptical that he should receive a lifetime ban from competition when his cohorts in crime received much less, but the proof of his true contriteness will come out over time. For all the riches and acclaim that Lance has achieved in his lifetime, he is humbled by the simple fact that he cannot do what the typical weekend warrior can do anytime they want and that is to be involved in a competition where you test yourself athletically against yourself and others to see how far you can push yourself under your own power. Lance Armstrong had his opportunity to do so, and he came up as a colossal failure.

"Lights go down
It's dark
The jungle in your head
Can't rule your heart."  (U2 "Vertigo")

...Or can it? In conclusion, I think that Lance is just talking with his head (what is best for Lance) and not with his heart. I believe that redemption is something that comes from the heart and involves a bit of kneeling before (asking forgiveness) and serving those (making things right) with the people you have hurt. I think we will know the day that Lance has fully been brought to his knees. It hasn't happened yet!

"Check mated
Oh yeah
Hours of fun..." (U2 Vertigo)

Meanwhile, I am sure we will be hearing lots from Lance and if you didn't get to see the interviews, don't worry, a movie will soon be coming out and I am sure we will also hear about a forthcoming book.

Meanwhile a former once promising American professional cyclist who raced in Europe before sustaining a horrific crash that left him in a coma and with a serious brain injury says that he raced in Europe and never took a performance enhancing drug. Never heard of Saul Raisin? Maybe you should head over to his Raisin Hope website or read his book Tour de Life. It is now on my list of books to read. Maybe we have the wrong cycling heroes? There are plenty of virtually unknown guys who tried to do it right!
On the afternoon of April 4, 2006 twenty-three year old pro cyclist Saul Raisin charged toward the finish line of a European tune-up race in preparation for his first Grand Tour, the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy). Meanwhile in Dalton, Georgia, Saul’s parents waited for the simple but comforting text message he always sent to let them know he’d finished the day’s stage safely: “OK.”
It never arrived.
Through urgent phone calls the Raisins learned their son had crashed, fallen into a coma, and would require emergency brain surgery. They rushed to Europe where they learned that Saul’s doctors didn’t expect him to survive. If he did make it he’d be paralyzed for life. In shock, the Raisins discussed their options, including donating their son’s organs. Then he began to wake.
Prior to his crash Saul was in the process of building an impressive racing resume. He’d won the Best Young Rider jersey at the Tour de Georgia, captured ninth place overall at the Tour of Germany, turned in the strongest American performance at the 2005 World Championships, and won a mountainous stage in the first race of 2006. Trainers were in awe of his early-season strength.
After the crash that strength paid huge dividends. Tour de Life is the story not merely of Saul Raisin’s miraculous return to life, but of the awe-inspiring resumption of his quest to win cycling’s most prestigious race, the Tour de France.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Beaver Brook Snowshoe Race

Last Sunday, I did my first race of the year. I was very happy to beat my 5k time from Thanksgiving at this year's first Freeze Your Buns race by a little over 2 minutes and was 14 seconds faster than the final Freeze Your Buns race from last year, so it is now my fastest post-surgery 5k time, but I still have a long way to go as I am still almost 4 1/2 minutes slower than my best time on the course set a few years ago. I am not sure I will ever go that fast again, but I am giving myself a couple of years till I am sure that I can't and will do everything I can to get 100% healthy again. I felt good in the race, but I am not used to breathing so hard and sustaining an effort right now.

This week, I was trying not to get sick like so many people around me. I was feeling a little off, but survived with limited running. Thursday, I went for a check-up with the physiatrist. I have done well since getting the trigger-point injections in my glutes, quads, and IT-band in December. She could not find any trigger-points this time except for a few in my hamstring, so I got three shots: two in the inner hamstring and one in the outer hamstring. Saturday, I was happy to test out my progress through snowshoe racing at the Beaver Brook Snowshoe race in Hollis, NH, actually I couldn't wait to get out there and race. I was just a little tentative about racing, particularly with going downhill, but my hip held up nicely where they did the surgery which is pretty good, because when running downhill with snowshoes your foot can slip downhill a bit every stride and I was not sure if my hip could handle that along with the demands of careening down some of the hills with the sharp corners around trees and obstacles. I still do have a lot of weakness around that hip and boy, snowshoe running is just the sport to test out how stable and strong your muscles are! Mine still have a long way to go! I was just happy to conquer the course, because I was never sure if I would be able to do this sport after getting the hip surgery and for now that is awesome and I am thrilled to be doing the things I love again. Of course, like usual I was limping after the race as my hip muscles tightened up.

All photos courtesy of Gianina Lindsey

This was my third time racing at Beaver Brook. My first snowshoe race was in 2009 at this race and I also raced in 2010 but those races were on a much flatter and straighter course. This year was more challenging. I know I am not in good shape, so I started out slow, and started picking off racers until a few minutes into the race when my left snowshoe came off. Oops!

It was warm enough for shorts, trailing Mike Wade 
 It took between 1 1/2- 2 minutes to get the thing back on my shoe. The course turned into mostly single track after that and I slowly passed about 20-30 people and was about to make another pass when it fell off again. There went another big chunk of time and I was back to chasing down and passing the same racers all over again. The good news is, I was passing racers throughout the race and only got repassed once, in the last 100 meters. The course was very beautiful and the snow was good for running on, besides the warm temperatures and melting snow. I had to be careful on the downhills until I was certain my hip would be strong, but never walked on the uphills and used those moments to pass people who had to walk. I only fell once when making a tight corner, but I was getting really beat by the end. If you want to test your fitness, there is nothing like a good snowshoe race through the hills
The end of a race is never pretty!

One racer, Timothy Lindsey, had a Go Pro camera on his head during the race. He tripped at the start, but got up and filmed some great video of what it is like to run in a snowshoe race. The race starts at the 2:30 mark. I love running with all the snow kicking up at the start during the wild rush off the line. You can see me at the 5:50 mark with the first of my two pit stops trying to get my snowshoe back on. You can also see Micheal Wade at the start unfortunately injuring his calf in his first steps and then having to walk back while I am fixing my snowshoe. I was just about to pass the camera guy when my snowshoe fell off a second time. I then had to work to pass him again, but those aren't on the film.
Race winner Jim Johnson
The race winners were Jim Johnson, with another snowshoe win despite an injured foot, and Carolyn Stocker who finished in 7th place overall. I would consider the best race to 
be that of 52 year old Jeff Litchfield who is coming off knee surgery from about the same time as my hip surgery, obviously he is doing much better than I am post surgery and he looked quite fit for a big guy (and running on snowshoes is not so easy for taller athletes). I say good for him as it is good to see a long time runner do so well. I recall running many track workouts with Jeff back in the early 1990's when he was a member of the Gate City Striders. The race was well run and the course was well marked which is not an easy job so thanks to Michael Amarello of 3C Race Productions for another well organized and fun race. Here is the website for the Granite State Snowshoe Series.

Jeff Litchfield at the start.

Last week:
Monday: 5 miles treadmill
Tuesday: 5 miles treadmill
Wednesday: 0 miles
Thursday: 8 miles treadmill at YMCA  (7:30 mile pace the whole way)
Friday: 0 miles
Saturday: 0 miles
Sunday: 4 miles Freeze Your Buns 1 5K 22:28
Total miles: 22 miles/ 2013-17 miles

This week:
Monday: 0 miles
Tuesday: 5 miles treadamill at YMCA (7:30) pace
Wednesday: 0 miles
Thursday: 0 miles trigger point injections in left hamstring
Friday: 0 miles
Saturday 4 miles Beaver Brook Snowshoe Race
Sunday: 0 miles
Total miles 9 miles/ 2013 total 26 miles