"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Running Scared

I woke up early the other morning - couldn't get back to sleep - so I decided to devote an hour to looking a bit more in depth at this North Face 100 race I've been entered in since December or so. No point in getting nitty gritty on details when the odds weren't looking good for me getting to the start line. Now, I'm up around 80% (booked a flight, even!), so I thought I'd have a cuppa, read a few old blog posts from previous racers, and watch the 2010 video.


So, I really need 100% proprioception in this foot. And I need to hone my up and down skills.

For our Wednesday night hill run last night, the main group did about 16k and I added a few bonus km by sheepdogging. I made a point of smashing the ups and downs hard and then just floating easily on the flats (I had a 20k tempo run planned for today). I kept having visions of myself doing a face-plant on the technical descents and standing up minus a few teeth. I wasn't sure if that was a good visualisation (helping to keep me alert) or a bad one (like the adage in mountain biking "Don't look where you don't want to go...like the cliff edge" I didn't want to create a self-fulfilling prophesy).

Fortunately, I run with such a great, fun group of trail runners. There's always a few good laughs to be had. And we've got some really fast guys, too. They take turns trying to kill me on the hills and goad me into running harder, with good-natured trail abuse. They're definitely doing their best to make sure I'm fit.

Today's tempo run was rather effortful, but to be expected after the last two days. Plus I think it was 31 degrees today. I thought it was autumn? Tomorrow I'll run an easy 10k, then hit the hills again for the weekend. I'm bringing weekend distances back a bit now, as I make it a point to develop my cheetah speed (yes, I know I'm hardly a cheetah, but visualisation and positive thinking are proven in sports, so I'll keep thinking cheetah thoughts).

Back to the push-ups, too. Lost some strength there, so I've gone from being able to do 28 in a row (last September's PB) to 20. Then I do another 10 x 2, with a fair amount of whinging on the floor between sets.

This weekend... I will finish the Bibbulmun 30 minute "doco" if I have to stop sleeping to do it! It's so close!

And maybe I'll look at that mandatory gear list for the race.

New tick bites this week: 1
Existing itching ones: 7

There better not be ticks in the Blue Mountains.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Lose a 10 Second 5k PB

Break Rules 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8 from previous list.

Really, I am hypothesising two causes for the 'average' result last night:

(1) Lack of fluidity in hips, due to not having my usual Monday massage or a chiro visit (felt like a newborn giraffe with my legs about to give out from under me at any moment).

(2) A small virus, elevating my heart rate, which meant that my effort was harder.

Or maybe I just didn't try hard enough.


Anyway, I am consoling myself with the fact that Rolf DNF'd. He's really good at laying down on the grass during track races. He's elevated it to an art form :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How to Get a 10 Second 5k PB

Okay, this might only work for 43 year old redheads who love motorcycles. So, if you're one of those, give it a try....

Tonight, I hit the track again for a 5,000 mtr race. It's time to put the pressure on the foot (punny, eh?). I have to do the speedwork for TNF100, if I'm going to be on the start line in 4 weeks. If the foot doesn't cope, I'll DNS the race and try aiming for Sri Chinmoy 24hr in June.

Somehow, still 3kg heavier than last year's competition weight, I set a 10
second PB in the race! It just hardly computes, unless all my new weight is muscle?? My PB was set last year at the WA State Masters championships (photo), when I ran 20.32.

So, what's the secret recipe?

(1) The night before, run a very fast 15km hill run in the dark
(2) Eat Indian food for dinner
(3) Go to physio in the morning
(4) Go to chiro in the arvo
(5) Take a shot of Beet It
(6) Take caffeine
(7) Put on favourite red Inov-8 f-lite 195s
(8) Remind yourself whilst racing that you drove an hour through peak traffic to get there and running this hard sucks and there's no way you're leaving without a PB.

I'm going to need to find a few more secrets, yet, to get down to 20 minutes.... Suggestions welcome :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Shoe Wrestle

I think the A4s have to cry uncle.

As I promised myself, I put the Saucony A4s back on Friday night and went for an enjoyable spin around the "bridges" in Perth - a 9k bitumen loop. Really scenic at night, which is why I waited til dark. It's quite deserted on the south side at night, too, so you can have delusions of being (almost) on a trail ;)

I immediately noticed a difference in how the A4s felt compared to the f-lites, but told myself to settle in for a bit, as my "hyper-focus" might have been distorting my perception. I learned this years ago when going to try on new shoes at a running store.... I would put on a new pair and feel like I was over-analysing everything "I think it digs in my arch" "I can feel the tongue" "I think the toe box is squishing my little toe"... I learned to stop and put my old shoes back on whilst trying on new shoes - then do the same hyper-fixating thing with the old (and loved) shoes.

Anyway, back to the river run.... Even after a few km, I still felt the difference. I had less 'connection' with the ground. My whole foot felt like it was riding on a plank. There was minimal proprioceptive feedback. There was cushioning; it wasn't a hard plank. But it seemed like my foot wasn't able to move naturally like it wanted in the shoe. Maybe the cushioning was deadening everything.

Arriving home, I put one of each shoe on. Goldilocks has found the one that is juuuuust right :) I think those extra couple mm of height/cushioning in the A4s and the extra rigidity in the shoe (it is less flexible) are dulling my 'foot' sense.

However, could I go this minimalist for a 24hr event?? I mean, a lot of people say you can't wear a racing flat more than a half marathon distance. I wear them in 24hr events. But could I go to f-lite for 24hrs? Tempting, seriously. We have barefoot Olympic marathon runners (e.g., Bikila), but do we have barefoot (and fast) ultra runners??

In the TNF100 betting pool, I'm up to 50/50, but still need a miracle performed on the foot. I'm putting the odds up 10% because (1) when I went to massage the last two times I didn't scream nearly half as much as before when he worked my feet. That must mean progress. And (2) because my foot did 53km +850 mtr in a 6 hr long run Sunday and it didn't get any worse. But three new tick bites. Grrrrrr! (None on my calves, though, thanks to Compressport calf guards - must wear quad ones now, too!)

On Thursday I'm going to see the physio and we're going to video
my gait to see if I'm doing what I think I am - running on the outside of my left foot, aggravating it further. And then we'll talk about the cost/benefit of the dreaded steroid injection again.

Lots of excuses for hill running this week, as I recce the PTS half marathon ("Half Truth"). We spent a few hours pruning bushes on the weekend to clear some overgrown trail. It's such a nice course. There are some great bits in that park that just haven't been maintained. It was nice to revive them!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

100k and Holding

I'm back to regular training volume, but my foot (the calcaneocuboid arthropathy) hasn't said it's as happy as the rest of me about the whole thing.

I'm hoping it just didn't like the speed work, because I'm fine to back off the speed work for another week. I continue to get brutally painful massage to both feet weekly (nothing has ever been so painful to massage) and run an ice bottle under my feet a few times per day (feels glorious).

Will I really be racing TNF100 in 6 weeks? If I had to put odds today, I'd be 40/60. I haven't bought the plane ticket yet. As it is today, I don't think my foot would cope with 100k of hard pounding, technical trail for 12+hrs. Even if I made myself finish in pain, I'd set myself back heaps. Which is truly not worth it.

Today's long run was a fun +900mtr over 33km at Wungong Gorge. Fun for me. Not so fun for two of our hearty band of four. Runners usually try to outdo each other in speed and in having the latest Garmin. Not in number of times vomiting or hours spent nauseous ;)

Last week's mid week running was mostly "easy" paced stuff, though Rolf and I smashed the hills on Wednesday night's run. I've been wearing a new pair of shoes on my midweek runs. The Inov-8 f-lite 195s. Rolf's had them for ages and loves 'em to bits. But I've been very happy with my Saucony A4 racing flats.

My first day with the f-lites I felt some knee pain and thought they seemed a bit harsh. I felt awkward. But thought I should give them another chance. In any good research an "n" of 1 has no weight. Now, I can't get myself to go
back to the Sauconys. I feel like my form is so much more midfoot in landing, my feet feel under me rather than in front, and my knees are bent more to cushion and spring as they're supposed to. Yesterday I checked my strides per minute a couple times and I was bang on 90 (a very good place to be).

But, the study won't be complete until I put the Saucony's back on and try them again.

In terms of specs, they weigh the same (191 vs 194 grams). The A4s have a 13 mm heel and 9 mm toe, for 4 mm drop, whereas the f-lites have a 10 mm heel and 7 mm toe, for a 3 mm drop. You wouldn't think 1 mm could change anything at all. But as Rolf pointed out, stand on the floor barefoot and then stick some sheets of paper under your heel. You actually feel the strain on your lower legs.

One thing I know I like for sure - the f-lites don't have silly "drainage" holes in the bottom. Those are just rock collectors and are incredibly annoying.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Science and Sesame Street

But before that, I just want to get word out to General Mills's Aussie cousin, Uncle Toby's Cheerios.

Canadians feed Cheerios to babies. What do Aussie babies eat? If it's Cheerios as well, then I'm going to have to think that there's a conspiracy between the dentists and our good uncle.

18% sugar?? That's not on. Anyone going to Canada again soon, can you pick us up some more Cheerios? Merci beaucoup!

Tonight I thought I'd take a few minutes to glance at the latest International Journal of Sports Medicine to see if there's anything new out there to get me the 41 minute 10k I want. Sadly, it won't be Actovegin. I'm actually probably the last to hear about this one, anyway, and all the best dopers will be sold out. My google searches revealed that it's been creating scandals within Olympics, Tour de France, and pro golf for a good decade. Yet, despite banning and unbanning it, no one seemed sure whether it really had ergogenic properties. So a team over at Cardiff said, Gee, why don't we do some research on it so we can actually know?

In the April 2012 issue, they report that they shot up 8 guys and had them hit the hand crank ergometer (ahhh, my favourite). Only a trivial effect was found between placebo and the calf blood (eeewww) and the conclusion was it's not ergogenic and did not improve "functional capacity."

I guess that's actually good news for me. First, I don't have to shoot calf blood up my arm (would that make me less of a vegetarian?). Second, I don't have to be jealous that the superstars have an edge I don't have because they fly over to see Dr. MatchboxDegree in Germany for a homoeopathic :)

But am I completely disadvantaged because I'm old? VO2Max goes down with age and there have been reports that skin blood flow and sweat rate decrease with age as well. So us middle agers might not be able to cool ourselves so well and thus be forced to slow down when racing. Does age really make me less tolerant to heat when running? Do I need to start racing in the Arctic to get my 10k time down?

According to 4 Brazilian and 1 Norwegian researchers: No. They got 7 middle-age and 7 young guys to run insanely fast in a room at 20 degrees and again at 40 degrees and poked them with a myriad of devices, including rectal thermometers (where do we get all these willing guinea pigs?). Although the middle aged athletes (all competitive runners) had a decreased sweat rate per sweat gland, they had more of them. So, it seems that not only do you start sprouting rogue hair in middle age, you get extra sweat glands as well.

Finally, I found an interesting study looking at "step frequency" when running and its connection to tibial stress fractures. Ten blokes ran on a forceplate at their preferred step rate and then at various other rates, according to a metronome beat. Forces were markedly lower with an average 15% increase in "step frequency." Yup, another study saying people over-stride. And that changing foot strike patterns is a good thing (shorter stride = midfoot land = knee flexion/shock absorption/spring = no stress fracture).

Great. But I still don't know how I'm going to get the 41min 10k, except by working bloody hard. And who wants to do that?

To end on a less serious note...remember Sesame Street?

One of these things is not like the others
One of these things just doesn't belong.
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song....