Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stymied again

It's happened again.  I signed up for the Hyannis Marathon and am all excited to get training for it but there is just one issue; my foot has been giving me a problem for a couple of weeks.  The middle toe and ball of the foot under it have been experiencing pain, almost as if I had jammed it or stepped on something hard.  I have no idea why it is doing this but running definitely makes it worse.  So I took off three days over Christmas but that didn't fix it.  I have now taken another four days off but it still feels off.  I was supposed to do ten miles last Saturday and another 12 this weekend but my schedule is all thrown off now.  I haven't even done ten miles total in the past week!

The plan now is to wait until Saturday or Sunday to start running again and see how it feels.  A week should be plenty of rest time to for it to get better.  At least that's what I keep telling my foot.  Unfortunately it seems to have its own ideas.  Happy freakin' New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What to Do

What to do...

The eternal question.  I look out at the blogosphere and am greeted by throngs of people posting their year plans full of which races they will be running culminating in the big year-end challenge.  Seriously, how the hell do you plan so far out?  I can barely keep track of what day it is let alone schedule what I will be doing in October.  It's enough right now that I have a vague notion that there are some sorts of races happening between now and then but I honestly have no idea what they would be.

So in other words, it's time to get my act together and make a plan.

Alright, with that said I think I will take the first step for 2011.  I am going to sign up for the Hyannis marathon in February and I am going to run the hell out of it.  Well, maybe, I may actually just run the purgatory out of it but you get the idea.  Why not start with a marathon?  All the fun of a 10K with 20 extra miles added on!

I keep getting asked if I am going to run Derry and once again I find myself torn.  It sounds like a race I would like and I find myself gravitating towards it, but again I am wavering about it and seem to need a reason to do it. Part of my problem is that I have really scaled back the racing I plan on doing and just never put it on my radar.  Hmm, time is running out so I will have to think on this one.  Meanwhile, the waffling will continue unabated.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Disappointment

Saturday was the GNRC HOHOHO 5K and I had every intention of getting out there and lighting up the course with my new found speed.  Unfortunately, Life had other plans; Jen came down with a cold and a fever on Friday and by Saturday morning it wasn't much better.  I couldn't just abandon her so I let her sleep in and watched the kids instead of going to the race.  That sucked especially hard because it was going to be my last race of the year and I wanted to go out of 2010 with our own club race.  Sometimes these things just don't work out.  At least it was just a race, it wasn't like we had to miss our one big night out in town for the year at the gala charity ball where we would be spending the evening away from the kids having adult fun.  Oh yeah, we had to cancel that too.

Suck it Life.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Good Times

Vacation comes to a close.  Time to head back home and return to normal life.  As far as my training load goes it would not be a stretch to call it a heavy week.  Totals on the week are as follows: Sunday-Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; running: just shy of 30 miles. Biking 105 miles.  No injuries, no pain, no problems at all.  Good times I tell you.  I came down here expecting to bang out some good numbers and I didn't disappoint myself.

Today was our last full day here in LI and I awoke to a grey and cloudy day which was surprisingly a bit warm.  For the last day here I decided to mix it up a bit and do something I haven't done before: a brick.  So as a light rain began to fall I jumped on my bike and began to peddle my way to a 20 mile ride.  I felt bad getting her wet and sandy but she didn't let me down.

I arrived back at the house, stowed the bike and ran upstairs to get changed into my running shoes where I found my daughter had once again molested my computer and ripped off the last remaining ctrl key.  So please excuse the lack of copying and pasting.  Also, the shift key is now wonky so ignoring any capitilization mistakes. After a stern talking to aimed at her I was back on the road.  And my quads were tired.  But I soldiered on and soon the legs were warmed up and rearin' to go.  Mile after mile ticked off as I enjoyed my tour around historic Riverhead (ie; marveled at all of the closed store fronts) and back to the house.  It was a solid run with the last 1.5 miles run at a brisk pace, just because.  My first brick was a fun one, but short.  Total mileage was 21 miles on the bike, 8 running.  A good way to end a hard chargin' week.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

1st AG

Sometimes things work out and there is no rhyme or reason to it.  Today I ran the Mattituck-Cutchogue 5th Annual Turkey Trot 5K here on Long Island.  Jen and I decided to do this 5K just to get out and have some fun.    It was a cool day, but great running weather so I knew I could do well.  I was looking to do a sub-20 minute but wasn't sure if I could; after-all, I haven't really been training for speed.  The race began and I found that I was able to keep up with most of the lead pack which was encouraging.  I began to pass more and more people and before I knew it there was only a quarter mile left to go.  This is when I got a bit confused, I was able to break into a near sprint up the last hill and down the finish straight to pass a couple of runners.  My pace throughout the race had been quick so I wasn't sure why I had all of this energy left at the end.  I hadn't been looking at my watch for the last two miles so I was shocked when I read the clock at the finish, 19:06.  Where the hell had that come from?  That time was good enough for 13th place overall and a 1st in my age group.


Being able to put out that kind of run doesn't really make sense when looking at what I have been doing this week.  Sunday to Tuesday I logged 18 miles of running and 85 miles of biking.  Wednesday I took a day off but still, I haven't exactly been taking it easy this week. Going into the race I fully expected my legs to be tired given the miles I have been putting in, but they weren't.  At no point during the race did any of my muscles show signs of tiredness.  In fact, the whole race felt good.  How can it be that I have been pushing my limits all week and still am able to pull out a performance like this?  Conventional wisdom dictates that my legs should be tired or sore and that should have effected my performance and yet there I was cruising along and somewhat upset that I hadn't pushed myself further.


I guess there are just some times that we can't predict how we will do.  Maybe I was psychologically ready for a big race, maybe all the miles I did this week set me up for increased performance, maybe it's just that sometimes things just click in the right way.  I have no idea.  All I know is that I'm thankful this Thanksgiving that I could go out there and run better than I could have imagined.  That I could take home an AG win.  That I got to share the race with my wife.  And mostly, that I have the ability and talent to just get out there and run.


Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vacation

Vacation continues with only minor annoyances that come from sharing a house with four sub-5 year old kids. But at least they have inspired me to go long this week; 35 miles on the bike yesterday and two-and-a-half hour run this morning. Tomorrow I plan on a 40 mile bike and it has absolutely nothing to do with wanting to get away for several hours. Really, I swear.

The north fork of Long Island is a pretty decent place to run and bike. There are basically three main roads running East to West and a bunch that intersect them. This leads to some long stretches that I can hammer down which is a big change from Norfolk where it can be a challenge to find a nice long stretch. There's also beaches on both sides here which is always fun to see. All I need is the wind to die down and conditions will be nearly ideal.
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Light week

This past week was a self-imposed light week. The week before I began pushing myself more than normal. I started off with a 16 mile run, then a 40 mile bike and sprinkled in some hills and tempo run for good measure during the week. It was all capped off with a 12 miler and then I eased into a couple days off. Overall it was a gret week; the most intense so far but all systems felt good.

Thursday I gor out after work for a nice 7 miles and it was a first for me. I decided to run the entire thing without a light, relying only on my night vision. Smart idea? Probably not, but it was fun. The only sketchy parts was when I woud step to the side to avoid cars, then I came close to twisting an ankle a few times. So I stopped doing that.

During the run I had ample opportunity to further test what I like to call "Putt's Second Law of Running"; which states that "Vehicles approaching from opposite directions shall cross planes while passing the runner and do so at the most inopportune time?" Simply put, cars will pass you at the narrowest point in the road while going around a corner on the side of a ten thousand foot dropoff. Needless to say this law was confirmed many times during the run.

Now I am off to Long Island for a week of vacation. On the docket is running followed by biking, then some more running and maybe some turkey in there too. Hopefully the weather will hold because I plan on kicking it up a notch this week. I haven't had a vacation in a long time and what could be better than getting in a ton of running and biking? Maybe relaxing, but that is just so boring.
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Runputt Bikes?

It only took several months (5 to be precise) of searching, ordering, and waiting, but the day after BayState I finally picked up my new bike.  And here it is...

No, I'm just fucking with you, I really don't have a spare 9 grand to spend on a bike.  I got the DA's baby sister, the 2011 Felt B16!

She may not be as glamorous as the DA, but she is one sexy bitch.

And boy, can she ride!  The first thing I noticed when I took her out for her maiden ride was that this bike was built for speed.  Even though I was wobbling all over the road as I tried to get accustomed to the aero bars I was surprised at how easy it was to ride.  I was so used to pushing a heavy mountain bike along that it suddenly felt like there was any effort needed at all.  Weighing only 20 lbs made it easy to get up to speed fast and on one downhill I was shocked to find that I was pushing past 35mph!  Any faster and they'd be giving me a speeding ticket.

Naturally though, there are some things that are going to take a bit of getting used to.  Obviously my riding position has completely changed from an upright angle to a much more aero position and this will take a bit to get comfortable with.  I've also found going uphills takes a lot more effort; I'm not sure if it is just a perception issue but it seems to be harder to get up the big hills with this bike.  Maybe it is the change in position that accounts for it.  Another thing I'm not too happy with is that I've only put 70 miles on it and already I've thrown a chain and gotten a flat (thank God I had the foresight to buy a CO2 pump).  While technically both issue were my fault (too aggressive on the shifting and didn't see the debris in the road) it is annoying.  Other than those things the bike is a dream; although the new saddle position makes for some sore areas after 30 miles.

I'll be bringing it back to Landry's, where Andy did a great job fitting me, for some final tweaks soon and then it's back on the road before the snow hits.  So far I'm having fun on it and adapting well to the new riding style.  The one thing that I have definitely noticed about the bike is that it is in no way a touring bike; I hardly even notice what I am riding by since my focus is constantly sighted straight in front of me.  I could blow by Danny Glover fighting the Predator with backup support from President Obama and I wouldn't even notice.  I would not recommend this bike for slow rides in the countryside, it is all about speed.

For those of you tech geeks that care about this sort of thing, here are some measurements (sorry for the low quality pics).  Let me know if you think there is room for improvement, I'm sure there is.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Boston Registration

Although I wasn't involved this year in the spectacle which has become the registration for the Boston Marathon, it definitely got me to thinking.  Boston has always been the crown jewel of marathons because it was the only one that you had to earn a spot in; no lottery, no luck involved.  If you were good enough to qualify you were in.  Now that has changed.  By selling out in a day we are now presented with a situation in which a person could spend years training to achieve a BQ only to find themselves shut out on registration day.  Suddenly it is no longer good enough to be good enough to run; luck, and a high-speed internet connection, has entered into the mix.

B.A.A. Executive Director Guy Morse released a statement about the recent registration process in which he not-so-subtly hints that qualifying times will be getting tighter. Bad news for those of us who have had a specific time on our radar.  Are there other ways to make changes though?  Many people bemoan the inclusion of charity runners but as far as I can tell they are only a small portion of the field, maybe 3000 or so.  Some of those numbers could be taken back for qualifiers but I don't see that happening.  The other complaint I hear a lot is that the qualifying times for men and women are radically different and that it is much easier for women to qualify.  This makes sense since there is a 30 minute difference between qualifying times in the age groups, but is it really much easier for women to qualify?

There were 468,000 marathon finishing times recorded in the USA in 2009; here is a breakdown of the numbers (click to expand).
You can see that the difference in average times and qualifying times is pretty consistent.  The total average percent difference for men and women is only different by about .6% which is amazingly close.  This means that across all age groups both men and womens' qualifying times are an average 23% faster than the national average times for all runners.

If we drill into this more and break it down by age group we can get some further info.
Let's focus on the 35-39 age group.  There is a difference of 28:25 in the average times for male and female as opposed to the BQ spread of a half hour.  That one minute 35 seconds represents a 5.57% difference in allowed and actual times which seems to be a sizable discrepancy.  But if we then look solely at the differences between average times and BQ times we see that the difference shrinks to only 2.97%; showing that the assigned BQ times are very close to being the same percentage of the avg times for both men and women.  Statistically there is very little difference between the male and female numbers and so I could probably conclude that it actually isn't easier for women to qualify.

These numbers don't necessarily tell the whole story though.  For instance, the avg times include the nearly 42,000 people who finished over 6 hours.  Further breakdown would be needed in order to determine what age group these runners fall in to.  Obviously if a large portion of them fall into one age range this would skew the avg time much more than an age group with very few 6+ hour finishers.

Seeing the numbers it would appear that women do not have a statistical advantage over men in qualifying so there is no need to tighten the requirements on the women alone.  It will be interesting to see what he BAA does to try and mitigate the rush of registrations we saw this Monday.  Was it a self-perpetuating fluke fueled by unfounded rumor?  Or is this indicative of the marathons future?  Only time will tell but if this continues I fear it may become a harsh reality for those of us who may be good enough to qualify today to see our chances of qualifying become increasingly out of reach.

BayState II

Another BayState Marathon has come and gone.  Luckily this year the weather was significantly more pleasant than the cold rain we experienced last year.  I wasn't completely sure I was going to be able to run this time being that I had been out for so long.  Once I began training again it was a short 8 weeks until the marathon.  This was an aggressive training by any standard but especially so coming from considering that I would be starting with no base mileage at all.  Hell, even the Couch to 5K program takes 9 weeks.  The week before the race I finished my first and only 20-miler and it felt good so I was determined to run the full marathon.

And I'm glad I did because I had fun doing it.  Once again the lines at the bathrooms were crazy before the race so I spent a long time waiting there until I had to abandon that venture and rush to the start.  Because of the delay I had lost the rest of the group and I was on my own.  I tucked into the start somewhere in the middle and waited for the start.  Finally we were off and I figured I would run a bit faster than planned and try to catch up with everyone, assuming that they were actually in front of me.

The miles ticked off until around mile 5 I caught up with Michael and Tricia G.  I said hi to them but honestly, that pace was way to slow for me so I left them and was determined to catch Melissa and Tricia whom I was told were ahead.  Off I went, feeling great and having a good time until 6 miles later I found Melissa.  We ran together for a bit with me doing most of the talking until the bridge where I left her to catch up to Tricia who had been about 100 yards ahead of us.  Again, we ran together for a couple of miles but I could tell that she was struggling to keep pace so I did what any good teammate would do, I took off at a faster pace and left her behind.  Hey, it's a race!

From then forward there isn't much to report.  I set my pace and I maintained the pace.  Besides a couple of minor cramps at 19 and 25.7 (so close to the finish!) I had no difficulty finishing.  Sure I was tired but I kept expecting to hit the wall and it never came.  Besides the cramp, I felt as strong the last 5 miles as I did the middle 5 miles.  Furthermore, my foot was never an issue (although it has ached since) so this was a good test of how it was healing.  I used this marathon as an indicator of where I stand and what needs work and I am pleased with the results.  I still need to keep an eye on the foot for it is still clearly not 100% and I definitely need to work on strengthening my legs more but that will come in time.  Overall I am very happy with my 3:42:28 time, even though it is my slowest marathon, and was happy that I decided to run.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Taper Week

Here we are with less than a week to go before BayState, seems like a good place to start a taper.  Saturday I did a 20-miler that went well.  I got up nice and early and headed out the door and into the dark.  It was the first time in awhile that I have run in the cold, around 40 degrees, and it was a bit strange having a long sleeved shirt and gloves on.  The sky was clear and dark and I was all alone, the world around me existed only to the edge of where my headlamp would illuminate.

I reached the start of the woods that my route took me through and the trees closed in around me.  Falling acorns and branches seemed to become louder as they crashed to the ground and I found myself trying to peer into the dark forest surrounding me a bit too often.  Perhaps choosing to listen to a scary Doctor Who audiobook about a troll under a bridge was not my wisest choice for this run.  Then I thought about the possibility of running into some coyotes; that got me to quicken my pace a bit even though I dismissed the thought.  (Note: a pack of them ran by my house last night so this actually could have been a real scenario).

Soon the forest opened up to an open expanse and I had to stop at the bridge over the Charles.  The sun was rising over the conservation land and the clouds were alight with fiery colors.  Reds and oranges streaked across the sky, heralding the start of a new dawn.  A fine mist hung over the water and plants.  A crane took its first flight of the day.  It was quiet as I stood there by myself, taking it all in.  I switched off my headlamp; the dark forest had opened up onto a rich tableau of color and light.  It's moments like this that make it all worth it; scenes which can never be adequately described but will remain with me until the next time.  With a last look I turned and quietly resumed running.  It was already a good morning.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Marking Time

It's been awhile since I last posted; so what have I been up to?  Not much.  In mid-September I decided that it was time to test out the legs so I ran the CVS Downtown 5K.  This was the seventh year I have run this 5K so there was also a bit of nostalgic reasons for picking that race.  For the seventh year in a row the weather was fantastic and it was a great day all around.  I finished somewhere in the mid-20 minute range which is just what I expected.  But it wasn't easy, it took everything I had at the end to hold on so that means I need to do a lot more speed work to get beck to any type of race shape.

Other than that I have just been cruising along, literally and figuratively.  The highlights of my weeks have been the long runs on the weekend which have been going pretty well. Two weeks ago I went out with Jeff W. and we did 18.4 around Ponkapoag which was a great change of scenery.  Unfortunately this was followed up the next week with 2 hours 45 minutes on my treadmill due to torrential downpours.  Nothing quite so unsettling as stepping off of a treadmill after hours of running and feeling the room rush by you; I hate that feeling.

I have had virtually no interest in racing as of late.  BayState is two weeks away and the most excitement I can muster for it is an occasional "meh".  I'm three to four weeks off of what would be considered a normal marathon training schedule and 15 pounds overweight which shows just how serious I have approached this.  But it's not only the marathon that has me ambivalent, I haven't signed up a single race and wouldn't even be doing BayState if it hadn't been paid for months ago.  Nor have I even looked at a schedule of races to see if there is any I would consider doing; and the freakin' race calendar is literally 12 inches in front of my face hanging on the wall in front of me as I type this!  That should tell me something.

The one race I was actually looking forward to doing was the Halloween duathlon in Wrentham.  Two months  ago I paid for a new bike and have yet to receive it.  First it was supposed to arrive in early September.  Then it was delayed, then it shipped out last Monday, then on Friday it was on backorder, and etc.  It could be at the bottom of the ocean as far as I know right now.  Long story short, I won't be doing that race.

Where do I go from here?  I have no plan. I have no endgame. For now I am just running because that's what I do.  Damn, this post turned out more depressing then I intended.  Schade.

Friday, September 10, 2010

God is pissed!

I'm not sure which deity I pissed off or why but I'm pretty sure one of them is out to get me.

Monday was the Walpole 10K and I was seriously contemplating running it.  Last Saturday I had managed to get out and do eight miles so I had the distance behind me.  Monday morning I was still undecided but at the last moment I opted to pass on it.  My rationale was that I have been following a conservative rehab program so now was no the best time to jump into a race that I knew would get me to push my pace faster than I should.  Not only that, but my speed has gone to hell and I didn't want to embarrass myself.  But mostly the rehab part.

Instead of the race I gathered up my gear and headed out for a long run, somewhere in the ten mile range, at a nice comfortable pace.  The route I chose would take me through Noon Hill.  it's not the easiest route due to the hills but the low volume of traffic and being surrounded by trees for most of it makes for a peaceful time.  As I made my way through I passed some people out walking their dogs along the trails and then a thought came to me.  I could do some trail running too.

The trail head was just coming up so I stopped and consulted the map.  Lo and behold the trail did seem to come out near where I was headed anyway so why not do some off-roading!  Away I went barreling down the trail with only the vaguest notion of where it would come out; you see, the map didn't actually show what road the trail finished on, it just showed part of a road.  But I was having fun, even though the strange signage did send me down a side trail at one point accidentally.  No harm done though, it soon looped right back into the main path.

Back on the trail I was cruising down a hill and was just about to hit the bottom of it when suddenly, as I began bringing my right foot back forward from the end of a stride, I hit a root at full speed.  Luckily my toes were slightly angled up so there were no broken toes but that was the good news.  As I lurched forward from the sudden deceleration my left leg drove into the ground in front of me.  My knee was already bent so it was able to absorb the shock without any issues.  But as Newton has taught us, a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and my body continued its motion forward until it forcefully connected with my now motionless knee. The knee hit me squarely in the lower ribs and boy did it hurt.

"Walk it off", I kept repeating.  "Walk it off".

Luckily it wasn't severe enough to stop my run and I made it home some time later.

That was Monday.  It still hurts today.  I'm pretty sure nothing is broken but it really wouldn't be much different if it was.  Fortunately it only hurts when I lay on that side, when I am running, from coughing, sneezing, touching it, climbing stairs, walking, or breathing.

I don't know what I did to piss of a higher power but I'M SORRY!  Now please, leave me alone so I can get back to doing fun things.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spoke too soon

In my last post I spoke about the progress I was making and that I hoped I wouldn't jinx myself.  Well I did.  During today's run I developed some nasty blisters.

That'll teach me to be optimistic.

Progress

I don't want to jinx it, but I am making some progress.  The running is going well and while the ache in my foot continues, it has shown no sign of getting worse.  I haven't tried to do any speed-work or hills or anything other than straight-up running but I may start incorporating them back into my routine soon.  This weekend we went up to Maine so Saturday I went out and ran eight miles.  Most of it was slow but I was more interested in the length so the pace didn't bother me at all.  More importantly is that I finished fast and strong so the whole run was rather encouraging.  It's good to see my mileage getting back up there.

Sunday I decided to go for a bike ride to enjoy Maine's scenery.  I kitted up Sherman and set of in the wee hours for what I hoped was going to be an enjoyable trek.  Clearly I had completely forgotten that we were surrounded by mountain-sized hills.  This realization came crashing in on me very quickly as the ride became a succession of long painful climbs followed by a short burst of speed on the downhill and then quickly down-shifting for the next hill.  But this is how we get better.  Right?

Riding through the heart of Raymond I was given a brief respite as it was mostly flat because it was the top of the hill.  The elevation also allowed me to get my first cell signal of the weekend. Soon I came to the down side of the hill where I had the most fun of the ride; my speed topped out at almost 40 mph as I bombed down the road, hoping that a moose didn't decide to walk out into the open at that exact moment.

Alas, the fun couldn't last and it was back to the long slow climbs.  This continued for several miles, but at least it evened out a bit so it was a somewhat pleasant ride along a big lake.  I was enjoying the scenery and the nice, sunny day until I came up to the intersection of Rt 26 where I needed to...wait, Rt 26?  That wasn't on my route.  Dammit!  I missed my turn!  A consult with the map showed that I could take a road and cut back to where I wanted to be but this little detour added about 8 miles to the ride.  Super.

Off I went, trying not to get killed on the absolute worst road I have ever ridden on, until I was making my way back to the road that would get me back home.  I knew I was getting closer to my last turn, although I couldn't help but notice the very large and steep hill that was getting nearer and nearer.  Where the hell was the turn?  No freakin' way was I going to make it up that monster hill.  It had a radio tower on top of it!  For the first time though, luck was on my side.  The road I was looking for ran along the base of the hill.  Finally I was heading towards home and man was I tired.

My luck was short-lived; they had saved the best for last.  A couple miles down the road began the longest and steepest section of the entire route.  Looking up the hill I couldn't help but curse its very existence.  I rapidly down-shifted and kept doing so until I found myself in first. Yes, I actually had to use first gear.  The climb began and didn't stop until nearly two miles later when finally, tired, worn out, and increasingly frustrated with the entire state of Maine, I emerged at the peak. At this point the terrain took pity on me and it was mostly downhill from there. Arriving home at last I rapidly took off my shoes, threw off my shirt, and submerged myself in the lake.  Aaah.

You can just make out the mountain goats on that last peak

Friday, August 20, 2010

The slow recovery

The foot recovery has been going maddeningly slow.  I have managed to get back to my normal 4 mile loop around the Charles but I can only manage to do this for a day or two at a time before the foot starts to hurt again.  The flare-ups on top of my foot are expected, I didn't think that it was completely healed and past experience has shown me that ligament damage tends to take forever to really heal.  But what has me most worried is that after a couple days of running a pain starts in the ball of my foot behind the second toe.  This was the part of the injury that was really painful.  It had cleared up much quicker than the top of the foot and unfortunately it was pain-free by the time I got to see the doctor so it was pretty much dismissed.  Now that it comes back after some runs it has me nervous that things aren't as healed up as I thought.

This means that for every two days I run I have to take at least one day off just to get back to a "normal" state; normal being only a dull ache on the top of my foot and no pain in the ball.  Of course this means that  settling into a schedule is very difficult since I have to evaluate my condition after every run.  Highly annoying.

With that said: I think I may actually run a race this weekend.  The Butterfly 5K is Sunday and I have always enjoyed this net-downhill run.  It's for a good cause too so I might go ahead and have some fun with it.  Of course "running" the race this year does not mean I will be shooting to beat the 18:40 I ran at that race last year. Because of all of the reasons stated above I am looking forward to just being able to get out to a race and to run with other people.  I've missed the fun of racing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Meet Sherman

Sherman is my bike.  She has been getting me through this long period of injury and basically keeping me sane.  She was made by Trek and is green.

Wait, Sherman is a she?!  Yes.  I suppose that is an extension of the tradition of sailors referring to their boats as female, because after all, it wouldn't be right for these burly men to lovingly talk about their boats as if they were other men.  Then again these are the same people that considered manatees to be beautiful mermaids so it's all subjective at this point.

Anyways, here's Sherman.
Look at those sweet lines.
Now let's get to the point.  She's a Trek 820 mountain bike built at some point in the last decade right here in the good ol' U.S.of A.  That's right, this marvel of engineering is a home-grown beauty so you just know that it is a quality bike unlike the modern Asian bikes that dominate the market today.  Not only that but Sherman proudly declares this right there on the fork. These colors don't run but they will zip by your ass!
American baby!
One of the current trends in cycling is to opt for a compact crank as opposed to the traditional triple.  As you can see in the picture below, Sherman refuses to follow the latest fads and instead stays with the tried and true performance of the triple crank.  Many people argue that a compact out-performs the triple because of the savings in weight coupled with the fact that a compact provides 90% of the gear range that the triple has.  Wrong.  Three is always better than two.
My crank goes to 21
While we are looking at the crank, notice the pedals.  They are the only upgraded part of the bike because let's face it, a bike this awesome could never be improved. You may have also noted that she is equipped with Shimano Altus components.  According to Shimano the Altus group "provides a feeling of "easy control" that inspires confidence, especially among novice cyclists and younger riders." So smooth and easy to control that a kid could hop right on and ride yet sophisticated enough for the discerning cyclist.  It is literally impossible to get any better than that.


But no discussion concerning a bike would be complete without talking about the composition of the frame.  Aluminum? Carbon fiber?  Titanium?  Once again this is where Sherman really shines.  The scientists at Trek looked at all of the available options and declared that they were just not good enough.  A new material was needed to create this bike.  They labored long and hard into the night, stopping only for the occasional Hot Pocket snack break and by the end of the day they had created a technical marvel; Cro-Moly!  An alloy which has such incredible properties that the composition of it is a closely guarded secret to this day.  Is it aluminium? Steel?  Kryptonite?  Something found only on the moon of Endor?  Damned if I know!
Now with more Einsteinium!
So far Sherman has held up to all that I can throw at her without complaint, except for the occasional creak and groan. She was never designed for long distances but has held up admirably over the past few months.  Some day I will look back and remember with fondness the miles we covered together.  The heavy, solid feeling of the ride, the sudden jumping of the chain during a shift, the need to stop pedaling when shifting the front derailleur.  All these memories will stay with me if the day ever comes to move on to another.  Sherman is a good, solid bike which has kept me active, even if she does have a strange affinity for George C. Scott.



Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Let the rehab begin

Last night I went out and did two miles; my first time back out on the road.  The foot held up nicely and there was no pain at all.  Hopefully this is the beginning of the long journey back.  I am going to start up a running schedule and we will see how the foot holds up.  If all goes well I hope to be able to enjoy at least some of the warm weather.

Now while the foot felt good, the rest of me has gone to hell.  My form was crap and I am terribly out of shape, but it's a start.  One step at a time!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flock of Seagulls

And I ran. I ran finally today.

Seriously, I ran!  12 weeks since the 13 Relay I have finally run (excluding the ill-advised mile time-trial).  And the best part is that it didn't hurt.  Today was my second run; Tuesday I did 15 minutes on the treadmill and today I did 22 minutes.  Both times I experienced no discomfort in the Lisfranc region either during the run or the next day (we'll see if anything comes up tomorrow).  So that is pretty encouraging.  I have been really impatient to get back out there and so far this is a good start.

While I have been down I have filled my time by biking.  Unfortunately I have been forced to use my old warhorse of a mountain bike.  It has got me from point A to point B but damn, that thing is a beast to get up hills. But you gotta do what you gotta do.  Thankfully the biking has kept me from completely losing all fitness so now I am ready to get back out on the roads and start running again, as long as the foot progress continues to be good.

Fortunately I was only sidelined for four fifths of the summer.  No wait, not fortunately at all.  Damn I hate being injured.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mileage roundup

Total mileage for May and June: 1 mile
Pace: 6:33

At this rate I will be ready to run Baystate in October.

2027

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another year, another BQ lost

I finally got in to see the podiatrist today (after a 45 minute wait) about my foot. Naturally it was feeling great all day long with nary a twinge or wince, but that's beside the point. I told her about my running style, got a bad reaction from her when I mentioned barefoot running, and another when I told her I had done a mile last Thursday. On to the exam. After some pulling, stretching, and poking she was still perplexed. The foot was still visibly swollen and warm (six weeks later!) but it wasn't hurting today.

Then she asked "Did you hear a pop when it hurt?"

"Yeah. Didn't I say that?"  Her scowl was my answer. My bad.

Diagnosis: a tear (or something) between two of my bones in the middle of the foot. Remedy: wear boots for the next month.  Seriously. Hiking boots.  Every day. In July. Joy of joys.

But at least now I know. No Mt Washington. No July 4th race at Gilette Stadium. No Falmouth. Bye bye Boston qualifying. And this was totally my year.

Positive news though, biking isn't totally out. Kind of a grey area there. And she said I had great runners feet. Just the kind you want to run on. So I got that going for me.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Broken

That's right, I'm still not running.  I did the GNRC mile time trial last Thursday and even though I went real slow (6:33) my foot still ended up hurting for the next two days.  Turns out that I was worse off than I believed, I thought I was close to being able to run again.  Nope.

Since I haven't been able to do any running for the past six weeks I finally broke down and pulled out my old mountain bike.  I've been riding around on it for a couple of weeks and it feels good to get out and do something active.  Anything at this point.  Unfortunately, since I don't see the foot getting better any time soon, I have started to look around at new bikes.  Something fast and cool looking.  That way I can at least get some exercise and try to stay in shape for when my foot finally heals up.

I never thought that I would be looking forward to getting on a bike and going for long rides.  Next thing you know I'll take up swimming.  And then I'll have become a triathlete.

*shudder*

Friday, May 21, 2010

I'm Flying!

Even though I may still be down and out of the running scene because of this foot, that doesn't mean I can't keep cross-training.  And what better way to work those back and shoulder muscles than to do some indoor skydiving!  I was up in Nashua doing some testing on our shiny new Cisco Nexus 7010 switches; seen here.  Oh, so shiny. So expensive.
So my coworker, who just so happens to be a competitive skydiver, says that we should head over to Sky Venture after work and do some indoor diving.  Ok, I thought.  Sounds cool, I guess.  So after struggling all afternoon with VPC and LACP issues and getting nowhere we packed up and headed over to have some fun.

After getting the mandatory briefing on what the hell to do in there we suited up and they spun up the tunnel.  At this point I had no clue what I was doing.  I've never done anything like this so I had no idea what it would be like.  It looked easy, but I knew that it wasn't going to be.  And it wasn't.  I spent the first of several times in the wind tunnel (we traded 2 minutes in/out) just trying to figure out how to float without crashing into a wall.  My biggest fear was suddenly rocketing to the ceiling and being stuck.  Although the chances of that were next to none since the wind speed was controlled and there was no way to get to the top even if I wanted to.  That and my instructor Dereck never let me get too out of control.

My biggest problem was that I kept fighting it and straining to move the way I wanted to.  That just didn't work out so well.  But finally it all started to click.  I began to relax and let the air do the work.  I could move around the room on my own, I could control my actions (mostly) and best of all, I was actually flying!  See:


Woo hoo!  Once I got that part down it was totally kickass.  Unfortunately it all came to an end too soon and after a few jumps to the ceiling with the instructor leading it was time to go.  Definitely worth the time and I hope to get back again.  And as I said, it was a great workout for the shoulders and back judging from the soreness this morning.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Turning the corner

I think my foot has finally decided to turn the corner and get on with the healing.  Today I can finally walk with a semi-normal stride without too much pain.  I still can't flex it too much but at least the limping has subsided a bit. I've been waiting for signs that it was truly getting better and I think today is the first time that I have been encouraged by its progress.  It just seemed like this was taking forever to even marginally heal up.

Luckily I had no races planned but it is only two weeks until the Gilio 5K, the Run to Remember Half (which I had hoped to run again) and then Mt. Washington in June.  The first two I could sit out without too much angst but Mt Washington isn't the kind of race you feel good about bowing out of since it is so hard to get in to.  I really hope the foot heals for it since the worst pain comes from landing on the ball of the foot and flexing it forward.  Pretty much exactly what I would be doing for 7.6 miles.  Only time will tell at this point.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Finish

The relay is over. We did great. Came in about 4 minutes below our estimated pace and managed to pass a metric ton of teams. Kim blazed the bike trail and Jen ran crazy to the beach. Don had a tough leg after getting the handoff from Mel. It was warm and running 8.2 miles in the heat after limited sleep and crappy food will do that. Of course a tough leg to Don is running 8 minute pace, so honestly, not that bad.

Dan then took over and finished his last leg exactly on time, despite the weather. And then it was my turn.

The foot still killed and I took off looking like a wounded albatross. But I toughed it out and got into a groove by mile 1.5. By this point in the relay my right leg was totally exhausted because I had been using it so much to compensate. Needless to say my last leg was a bear. I managed to squeek out a 7.27 pace but the last mile was brutal.

Eventually I made it to the finish. The team was there and we crossed over the finish. It was over. 200+ miles was finally behind us. It was a great trip and I had a lot of fun. I wish my foot had been better since that really overshadowed everything I did over the weekend.  But even with that I had a great time.

Go time

About ten minutes until David gets here and Van 2 heads for the finish. Kim is ready to roll and anxious to start. The sun is out and it is going to be a hot one. Looking forward to my 5 miles in unprotected P-town at the height of the heat. Good times.

One to go

We wait at the last major exchange. One leg left for everyone. The sujn is shining. The birds chirping. I can walk again. Next stop, P-town!

Second exchange

Van 2 has completed the second exchange with Van 1 and we are off to rest. Dan Bair came shuffling out of the mist at 5AM and it was down to me to close out that leg. As I limped my way to the exchange they asked if I was going to be ok.

"I'll find out.  Only ten more miles to beer!"  Then Dan was on me and off I went.

And it hurt. Bad. My foot was sbooting pain with every step. This caused strain on my right calf because it was doing all the work. At 1.25 a girl with sparkly blue lights caught up to me and said she was impressed that I was running hurt. I had to or someone else would have to pick it up I told her.

Around 2.25 I was hitting my stride and began to pass people. A few here, a few there. Chopping them down and stacking them up, I was later told that Don exclaimed.

I was able to hold a 7 minujte pace. Not ideal but the foot was only mildly uncomfortable. I cruised into the exchange area as the sun began to rise and the birds began to sing. I was happy to habd it off to Michele and be done with that leg.

As I stepped away from the exchabge I could feel my foot bwgin to tingle. By the time I got to the van it was back to crippling pain. There seems to be a bit more swelling now and I can't walk again but that leg helped us as I passed 14 other runners. Steadily we are cruising up the ranks with almost 70 teams behind us. One more Van 2 leg to go.

Part deux

Somehow my last message was prematurely sent. That's what happens at 4AM.

So Mel tore up her leg and handed off to The Machine, aka Don. We had to fly off to the next exchange to beat him there as his leg was only 3.3 miles long. Well, it was actually 2.5. Dan was in the line for the porta-potty when we yelled at to move, Don was approaching. After passing 8 people Don handed off to Dan.

Next leg is mine. Will the foot withstand 5 miles?

Truth time and short legs

Jen cruised through her 9.5 mile (9.2 actual) leg in record time and handed off to Mel who cruised the 2.2 mile (2.0 actual) leg in only 15 minutes.

Jeff
Jeff@jputt.com

Otis

Just exited Otis Air Force base. Nice running there, flat and quiet with no traffic. Kim was way too fresh for her leg and the f-16 at the end was kickass.

Back on the road

Van 1 shaved off two more minutes and met us at exchange 18 just after 12:30AM. None of us really got any sleep so naturally we are ready to go.  Kim led us out and we piled in the van to chase.

The foot has quieted to an angry pain and not a die, die, die type of feeling.  I am walking slowly again so I hope to be able to man up and run my next leg.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Round two down

I brought home Van 2 to Exchange 12 to hand it off to Van 1. Barely. The foot still hurt. Although I suffered through it the injujry definitely slowed me. Miles 1 and 2 were around 6:20 pace which I was happy about. But the bum foot was affecting my running. It was taking more effort to maintain a pace. This led to a bad stitch by mile 2.5.

I tough it out to the end but was only able to pull a 6:40 pace. Significantly off my best. The foot hurt, badly. Currently it is wrapped up in the little ice we had left in the cooler. The outlook is grim and I am not looking forward to my next leg.

Off to rest

Sobering leg

Don took the bracelet from Mel after her grueling, but spot on pace, leg and took off to catch the competition. We piled back into van and set off to meet him halfway.

A couple miles down we came to an intersection where police were diverting us off the route. An ambulance and firetruck was on the scene and there was a runner on a gurney. There was blood, it was not good. As we turned I saw a car parked in the road, its widnshield was shattered and dented from top to bottom. It had been hit so hard there was a hole in it.

This was exactly what no one wanted to have happen. Brings it all home.

Ahead of pace

Kim came in about 6 minutes ahead of pace an Jen was only off by a minute so we are ahead of pace. Mel B is out on the course slogging through a tough leg and trying to cath the MV Islanders who were about ten seconds ahead at the exchange.

And the gang runs on.

First exchange

David handed off the baton to Kim at precisely 3:36PM, the exact estimated time, to begin Van 2's start. We are now at exchange area 7 anxiously awaiting Kim's arrival.

Let the games begin

The relay has begun. Originally slated for a 12pm start I cajoled them into letting us start at 11:30 instead. Michele led the team off and the relay was on.

We bid a fond farewell to van 1 and set out to Marshfield where we promptly stopped at Wendy's for lunch.  Then it was off to the exchange area where we are currently awaiting Maureen to hand off to our team. Only 2 hours more to wait!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sunny and warm with a chance of black clouds

Sometimes the bear gets you. Here it is, two days before my debut as a relay team captain. Our leg of the 13Relay begins at high noon on Saturday. 26 hours of fun and camraderie during what is looking like a gorgeous weekend, weather wise.

But here I am, virtually crippled. It can even be extremely painful just to walk. So now my weekend forecast is sunny, warm, and constant pain.

That bear got me good this time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

James Joyce Ramble

Sunday was the 27th annual running of the James Joyce Ramble 10K and my first.  I was excited to be able to get some literature in me while enjoying a run.  But I faced a dilemma that day, what shoes to wear.  You see I had recently purchased a pair of Vibram Bikilas and they were just itching to get out and go fast.  The problem was that I wasn't sure if I was ready for a 10K in them; up to then the longest I had gone was 4 miles.  The longest I had run since the New Bedford Half back in March was also only 4 miles.  Add in the not-so-perfect fit of the shoes and I had a tough decision to make.

Ultimately I went for it.  I figured that I could use the race as a good way to get back into speed work and to test out how the Bikilas function in the real world.  Maybe I would hold a 7-minute pace or something around there to make sure that my feet and calves didn't get too banged up, after all I have the relay this weekend.  Even though I explained this all to Jen she just laughed at me and told me I was dreaming, I could never hold my pace back.  And she was right.  Again.

The gong goes off, we all race forward, and the first mile marker ticks off 6:17 as I pass it.  Another brilliantly thought out plan laid to waste.  But the shoes felt good.  So did I.  No signs of any pain and I was hitting my form without having to think about it too much.  That was a good sign.

Halfway through the calves finally began to ache, I expected this and monitored them closely.  Strangely enough they never really got bad, they just stayed achey.  I took that as a good sign.  Finally at mile 5 the bottom of my right foot began to get sore, probably because at this point I was getting tired and my form was less than perfect and I was slapping my feet more than I should have been.  The pace had been kept at a pretty steady 6:30 so I was happy with myself up to now.  Another mile and I crossed the finish feeling tired but very impressed with my 40:25 time.  It wasn't until later that day that I found out that it was a new PR by about 80 seconds!  I hadn't even been trying to beat it.

The Bikilas worked out great.  They seem to be a good blend of minimalist and protection.  The pods on the soles and the light padding really helped when running through debris like small rocks and when I stepped on some even though I felt it there was no jarring pain or need to recoil from it.  The lack of support still forced me to concentrate on keeping a good form but because of the extra thickness in the sole they were a bit more forgiving when I made missteps than something like the KSO would have been.  But it is the weight of the shoes that is its best attribute.  I haven't put them on a scale and no manufacturers stats are available but I would be really surprised if they weighed more than 6 ounces a piece.

The only downside to them was how they fit me.  Because they are a bit loose middle to back they do slide around a bit on the downhills and around sharp corners.  But without the big heel in running shoes to have to deal with, on the downhills I found that I was able to fly down them and keep almost the same form as if running on flat ground.  I am still working on a good form for downhills but clearly the shoes worked out rather well and helped me get that PR.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Barefootin' it

I have been almost entirely running barefoot or with my Vibrams for a bit now.  My form has gotten better and I don't have to think about it as much.  It's not automatic yet and I find myself having to make corrections throughout the runs but it is getting there.


Vibram held its first barefoot clinic at City Sports this past Saturday as they unveiled their new shoe, the Bikila.  I partied in town the night before then rolled myself out of bed for the early morning clinic.  As luck would have it I got to run in the group led by Dr. Daniel Lieberman of the Harvard Human Evolutionary Biology Department, a veritable expert in how the foot works.  We headed out into the cold, wet morning and did a few laps around the Public Gardens.  I believe I was the only one in the group who actually ran barefoot, everyone else had on Vibrams, and I was particularly happy when Dr. Lieberman called my form perfect.  It's the little things in life.


After the run we went back to City Sports where I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Lieberman directly and learn all about the correct form, how the foot works, and what caused the pain on the top of my foot (it's a tendon, I had been landing way too far forward on my foot and spearing it into the ground).  Then there was a Q&A with him, Chris McDougall, author of  "Born To Run", Corrado Giambalvo, Vibram tester just ran a 3:32 Boston Marathon in the new Bikilas.


It was really great to be there hearing them talk about a subject they are all really passionate about.  What was so interesting was that they all had vastly different experiences and approaches to how to get started, where to run, etc. and yet there was never a "wrong" answer or way to do something.  The overwhelming attitude was to just have fun, don't listen to anyone else, do what you want to do and what feels good.  The entire experience was very positive and made me more committed to exploring my options as a barefoot runner.


Looking around the store during the clinic I was amazed at how many people had shown up, there had to be a hundred or more.  But eventually that amazement began to change; after all, here it was the weekend before the Boston Marathon and Boston was flooded with thousands and thousands of runners from all around the world, not to mention all the runners who live here, and here we were, a tiny fraction of that number gathered together in a small store to discuss the sport with some of the most versed in the field.  I keep hearing that barefoot running has become mainstream with some accusing it as a simple fad to sell Vibrams or books; but looking around that day I realized that it was the idea of barefoot running that had made the mainstream consciousness.  The art of it was still left to the small minority of us fringe runners that are actually practicing it.


And that makes it all the more cool.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Bikilas have landed

After months of speculation and rumor, word came down today that the City Sports on Boylston St was the first place on the planet to start selling the Vibram Bikila, the first Vibram designed specifically for running.  I squirmed around in my cube for the next hour and then ran out to see if it was true.  It was.


I decided not to go with the funky blue and yellow ones and instead got their last pair of size 42.  The size 41 were way too tight so I went with the bigger size.  Unfortunately the right one is slightly loose in the mid section but feels ok in the forefoot.  The left one feels good so far.

First impression is that the virtually seam-free liner is comfortable and should lead to significantly less blisters than other Vibram models.  As for ground feel, I do not get the same sensation of being virtually barefoot as I do with the KSOs.  The extra material between my foot and the ground is a noticeable change.  The KSOs feel very similar to being barefoot while the Bikilas have so far felt more like a very light shoe.

You can see the difference in the thickness of the soles

So far I have only been able to do some short jogs on the way back from the store so I will have to wait to comment on how they feel during runs.

It's kinda nice knowing that I am one of the very first person in the world to have a pair of these.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monticello and the Return

"Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing." Thomas Jefferson


Friday we made the great trek down to Virginia for a family function.  By that time I had officially not run for two weeks and I was getting real tired of it.  My foot continued to heal and was feeling much better.  The pain was still there but it was markedly improved.  After making some inquiries I learned of a trail that went wound its way through the woods right up to Monticello.  A perfect place to get back out and running.


I hit the trail early Saturday morning and quickly realized that it was all uphill; unexpected but manageable.  The entire length ran through the woods with only the occasional glimpses of the nearby road.  The soft gravel trail was broken up by wooden walkways and was relaxing to run along.  Eventually it came out to the Monticello visitor center which was to be my, unexpected, turnaround point.  The kind lady at the entrance to the next trail informed me that if I wanted to go the remaining .3 miles to the house I would have to buy a ticket.  Difficult to do since all I had was a t-shirt and shorts on.  So back down the mountain I ran.  I was so happy to be running again I even did the last mile barefoot.  Gravel does tend to hurt the feet after awhile though.


The only view I have ever had of Monticello

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Back up the mountain

For the second year in a row GNRC has been selected to participate in the annual Mount Washington Road Race!  We're heading back to the Promised Land!  Or at least the summit, I'm not sure I would call New Hampshire the "Promised Land".  Apparently I did not learn my lesson the first time so I am heading right back out there to rekindle that feeling that can only be described as "it hurts so bad!".  Good times on the mountain, good times.  The eagle-eyed amongst you will note that my profile picture is from last year's race.  I am almost smiling in that photo because I could finally see the summit and realized that the hill did, in fact, have to end.  Contrary to what I had been thinking for the previous five miles.

I'd been hoping to bust out the VFFs for the race but we will have to see.  It has been eleven days since I last ran in the hopes of fixing my foot problem for good.  There is still the occasional pain but it is markedly better due to my strict regiment of not running on it and loafing around.  God, I gotta get out and run soon or I'm going to go crazy.  The 80 degree weather isn't helping my morale any either.  But I think I shall start back up soon.  I have noticed that wearing tight shoes flares up the pain so I think it was a combination of too much too soon, and VFFs that are a bit snug.

So I have modified my plan, more barefoot and only use the VFFs for kicking around in (and at work!).  I was only able to go about a mile and a half on pavement with barefeet so it was a great way to limit my distance.  It would just get too painful on my soles for me to do any damage to my feet and legs.  Birthdayshoes.com seems to agree with this idea.  So back to basics and time to focus on quality.  Slow and steady wins the race; I found that one out on Mount Washington last year.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I screwed up

I got carried away and ran three days straight in my KSOs.  It just felt fun.  After the second day I started to feel some pain in the top of my left foot.  The third day I ignored it and went out again; that was a mistake.  Here I am three days later with a throbbing pain in the top of my left foot.  I keep telling myself that it is just an overuse injury, my feet weren't ready and I strained something.  A few more days and it will clear up nicely and I can get back on the roads.  Because it can't be anything serious, it just can't be.  I don't have the time or patience for a serious injury.  Therefore it has to be just a sprain or bruise or something.  So far though, it shows no sign of clearing.

This is just so frustrating because it is completely my own dumb fault.  It's one thing to slip on some ice or twist your ankle in a pothole but to just not pay attention to my own warning signs, that's just stupid.  So it looks like I have some unplanned forced downtime coming.  At least it will be raining for the next few days so that I don't feel too bad about it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

First Run in the KSOs

Previously I had mentioned that the size 42 Vibram KSOs didn't work out too great because they were a bit big.  So I got a pair of size 41.  There is one small difference:

 

Bam!  They've been camouflaged for increased urban stealth!

Putting them on I noticed right away that they were definitely a lot more snug, especially in the right foot.  The left feels great but the right feels a bit tight and possibly a bit short.  My toes are brushing against the top of the toe pockets and when I flex they are right up against them.  This concerned me but a few other owners I talked to said to give them time and they should loosen up.

Today I took them on their first run; a 2.25 mile jaunt around town.  Oh the joy! Oh the freedom! Oh the pain!  I have to keep myself in check or else I'm going to blow out a calf muscle.  The issues with the length of the shoes didn't seem to come in to play at all; I didn't notice any pain or discomfort in my toes.  I did start to feel some cramping in the pad of my right foot because the shoe is a bit tight, but I am hopeful that it is something that will work itself out as the shoe stretches.

Overall I was happy with their performance on the first run.  It certainly is going to take some time to get used to and I need to build up what I thought were some pretty strong calves so that I can cut free and really get out running.  These things are so light that it really does feel like there is nothing on my feet.  What a feeling.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Bedford Half-Marathon

First thing, I will get this out of the way; I hate the NB Half.  Not just because it has a killer hill right at mile 12 or that it exposes me to way too many parts of the city that I would prefer to keep a mystery or that it seems that they can't get the thing organized properly even though it has been run for 33 years.  No, I hate it for all the right reasons.  The finisher's refreshments consist of clam chowder and fish cakes.  The 10 Porta-potties for 2600 people.  The fact that I still suffer a little PTSD from seeing the blood run down my ankle into my shoe last year from the timing chip that was strapped to my leg.  The permanent scar said chip left.  Being in "beautiful" downtown New Bedford.

Ok, enough of that; here's how the race went.  After arriving early and getting our numbers, we headed back to the car where Michael and I took bets on whether anyone would park in the garage spot right next to us.  While many cars drove by, none parked.  I still don't know why.  I then spent the next twenty minutes in line for the Porta-potty while getting increasingly nervous about the impending start time.  Luckily they pushed the start out 15 minutes so the 300 people in line behind me had time to go.  I got down to the start and ended up in the corral with Maria.  We tried to talk while waiting but the amazingly loud speaker next to us overpowered much of our conversation.

Finally the race began and I was pleased to see that there was an actual timing mat that would record our start times instead of the system last year which only recorded the end time.  I got in to a groove early and settled down to a sub-7 pace.  I figured I would give a 1:30:00 a try and see if I could hold the pace.  A ninety minute half has always been a big goal in my mind so I was interested to see if I could do it.  My performance at the Foxboro 10-miler had been a positive one and with the weather looking really good I decided that this race would be just as good as any to give it a try.  Never mind that I had run a 5K the day before and done absolutely no training for this.

Just after mile one I came up on Dave Reavill and found out that Maureen was up ahead somewhere.  Soon enough I came upon her just before the first of the big hills.  With that I was not to see another GNRCer for the rest of the run.  I passed the time by keeping pace and chatting with other runners.  By mile eight I was starting to get tired.  I knew that I was running about the same pace as Foxboro but this was three miles longer so I hoped that I could keep it up.  Thankfully the wind off the water was light or that really could have derailed my plans.

Mile ten and I began to feel a bit better.  At one point I looked at my watch and noticed I was surprisingly doing a 6:11 pace so I reigned my eagerness back in and slowed down.  I was confident I would be able to do a 1:30 at this point as long as I could get up that last long hill.  More and more I realized that I was looking at my watch, checking my pace.  Clearly I was getting tired and was less confidant that I was keeping up.  Fortunately I was and it remained steady.

Mile twelve finally arrived and the hill stretched out in front of me.  This thing is so long that you can't even see the top from the bottom because it curves.  Just when you think you can see the top it keeps going.  I just dove into it and pushed forward without a care on pacing.  Halfway up my legs were getting wobbly.  I expected my calves to be tired but now the top of my ankles were starting to show signs of fatigue.  Yipes.  Still I forged on!  Up, up, up the damn hill until finally I had arrived at the top.  Struggling to get my pace back I turned right and saw the final turn to the finish.  "3-sixty-something" the guy on the corner called out my place in the race as I ran past.  Not a bad performance, just keep it together for the finish.

Last turn and there was the Start sign.  Well, it was the finish sign as well but I don't understand why they have it backwards.  I kicked it down the final straight and crossed the line at 1:30:31, a PR by over three minutes.  If there hadn't been those hills I believe I could have done a sub-90 minute but I was really happy about that time nonetheless.  The only thing I may have done differently was to not wear a t-shirt under my singlet, the weather was just too nice.

After a respite on the curb I met up with Michael as he crossed the finish line.  We grabbed some water and headed off to the car to make a speedy exit from New Bedford.  Naturally I made the walk from the finish to the car barefoot because of the blisters I had on both feet.  Might as well keep that New Bedford tradition going.

St. Pat's 5k

Saturday I ran the St. Pat's 5k in downtown Providence.  The weather could not have been any better, sunny and 70.  While not great for running it was perfect for being outside and getting a sunburn.  The race starts right next to the State House and goes all the way down Smith St, turns around, and comes right back.  The turnout was about 3000 people so it was pretty packed.  Come race time I made my way to the front and got ready to go.

Off went the asthmatic air-horn and I tried to settle in to my pace.  Since I had a half-marathon to do the next day I planned on running strong, but not trying to chase any records, maybe a 6:15-6:20 pace.  Just before mile 1 I made a mental note that the Mexican place was selling tacos for $2 and then I noted that my mile split was a straight 6:00.  A bit fast, time to cool it down.  I felt a bit toasted but hung in there for an uneventful 2.1 more miles.

On the return trip I passed by Jen and gave her an encouraging high-five as she ran by me in the opposite direction on her way to challenge her own 5K PR.  Soon enough the finish line was in sight so I gave it a little kick and crossed the mat at 19:32.  Right where I had hoped to be.  After watching the rest of the gang cross the finish line we made our way over to the sponsor pub for some refreshing Guinness and to watch the parade.  Every race should end with beer and parades.  Or at least just the beer.

Too much racing and partying.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The VFFs are in!

After weeks of hunting I was finally able to find a pair of the Vibram Five Fingers.  At this point Vibram's site is the only place you can get them.  Here they are!


Black VFF KSO in size 42.

First thoughts: there is no cushioning on these things.  I knew that when I bought them but I really didn't grasp that there is NO cushioning on these things.  It really is like going barefoot but without the fear of stepping on something sharp.

The fit; well, here is where it gets complicated.  They fit ok.  My toes seem to go right up to where they should, just before the end of the pockets, but the heel is loose.  Walking around there is some movement 
which I am not too happy about.  Running in them barefoot has proven to be problematic because of the movement, the seams inside rub too much.  I threw on a pair of the Injini socks and they seem to help stop the shoes from moving but they make my right foot a bit cramped.  And besides, socks make it feel less like barefoot.  But with the socks it seems like I could do some running in them.

One strange issue of which I am apparently not the only one to have happen to.  The right shoe seems to have a strange flex point at the front-inside of the arch.  It doesn't happen with the left one at all which is just weird.  This flex causes some rubbing and has led to a blister.  Other people have mentioned the same thing.

I got to take them out today for a 20 minute run.  It was mostly a test of with socks, without socks, etc so it wasn't a true run.  Still, my calves were aching.  I thought I had been doing good with landing on my forefoot but less than a mile in my calves were burning.  Obviously I had changed my stride with the VFFs.  I think I was running as if barefoot but faster and with less fear since I had protection on my soles: this may account for it.  I'll see what the next run brings.  Hopefully they will stop feeling "weird" and I can get back to concentrating on the run and not the new things on my feet.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My feet are killing

I have been doing some tests the last few runs.  On Sunday I ran 13 miles, just because it was so nice out.  I chose to wear a conservative pair of trainers, my New Balance 769s, because that's what I always wear.  The run progressed nicely, I had been afraid that it wouldn't since I hadn't eaten in two days (a-whole-nother story) and I kept up a nice pace.  By mile ten I was getting a bit tired though and began to pay attention to how I was running.  I noticed that I was stomping my feet down much more than I had in the beginning and so I started thinking about why.  The obvious answer was that I tired..  You get tired and it gets harder to run with good form.  Nothing too shocking about that.

Or was that really the answer?  I decided on a plan.  I continued to run while concentrating on good form for the next few miles but I still noticed that I was slapping down my feet.  When I pulled into my street with a half mile left I stopped, took off my shoes, and began to run the final length home.  Suddenly the heavy feet were gone.  Even though I had been dragging the last couple of miles now I was bounding down the road.  My feet felt light as they flitted along the street with barely any signs of fatigue from the previous 12.5 miles.  They carried me home without any loss of pace and felt as fresh that last half mile as the first half mile.

What I think was going on was in fact that I was getting tired.  With the rising fatigue and the decline in good, strong form I believe that my feet were attempting to compensate and keep everything in balance.  With the heavy trainers with their thick padded soles on I think that my feet were slamming into the ground in an attempt to gain increased sensory feedback.  Feedback it needed to try and keep me in balance but which it wasn't getting because of the shoes.  Once I removed my shoes the feet fell into a naturally light rhythm because it no longer needed to try and pound through the shoes to get a sense of the road.  I have tested this on a few runs now and each time I take off my shoes I find that my feet feel so free and running is so easy.

So why are my feet killing?  Well I may have been overdoing it a tad.  The scratchy pavement and today's 1.25 mile barefoot run have left my soles a bit tender.  Time to take it down a bit and let them recover.  But can you really blame me for getting out there and having fun when the weather has been so great?  I didn't think so.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Adventures in Niketown

I'd heard good things about the Nike Frees (you know who you are) so I finally decided to check them out.  Off I went to City Sports to try a pair on.  First pair was a size 10.  They didn't even get half way on my foot before I knew they were too tight.  I was aware that Nike tends to run a bit narrow so it didn't faze me, I had asked him to bring me a 10.5 just in case.  I pulled on the 10.5 and walked around.  Hmm.  They seemed a bit tight but I wasn't sure.  So I bought them.

Back at the office I slipped them on and began to walk around in them.  Within minutes pain was shooting up my legs, these things were way too tight.  For some reason I have an uncanny ability to convince myself that those doubts I feel while trying on shoes are completely wrong and to think positive.  And then as soon as I get the shoes home I realize that my first instincts were totally correct and I should have listened to myself.  It's a perpetual cycle with me.  So back the shoes went.

But I figured, while I am here I'll try on the elevens.  Not only were they still too tight but they were now too long and a bit loose in the heel.  And yet I still managed to convince myself to buy them.  I will be paying them another visit today to return them and just give up on the whole endeavor.

This is what is so maddeningly frustrating to me, this search for shoes that fit and are comfortable.  They're usually too narrow but even when I can find any in a wider size then I usually have to deal with a loose heel or some other part that is uncomfortable.  At this point I want to just build my own shoe so at least I know the damn things would fit.  I hate the constant compromise with all the shoes I buy; this pair fits ok except for the heel in the right shoe or this pair is good but my toe rubs against the stitching, etc.  I am so envious of all the people that can just try on a pair, they feel good, and off they go.  It's at least a freakin' three week process every time I buy a new pair.

Oh, and when I tried on a pair of the Vibram Five Fingers I learned that I am one of the lucky 10% that also has Morton's Toe.  So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.  But not really.