Sunday, June 28, 2009

Running injuries

In two days, I go visit my GP to check out my shins. I suspect my recent bout of shin splints are a result of tight calves and possible tendonitis. You don't lose 59 lbs and run over 565 miles in ll months without dinging yourself up every once and awhile. As most runners will attest, it's not if you get an injury, it's when you get an injury. Running is hard sport on the body, but those of us who love it can't imagine not running in some capacity. For my part, I've pulled my right quad, dinged both my knees, twisted both my ankles, and have danced on and off with shin splints and tight calves. The number of remedies and fixes are almost as numerous as the number of possible injuries. Of course, the general cure all invoked by most runners is "R.I.C.E." Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Then there are the list of orthotics and shoe improvements to allegedly cushion the body from the pounding that the body takes while running. Physical therapy and massage are also sometimes necessary as well as NSAIDS like motrin or aleve. Then there is the never-ending list of curative tapes, wraps, and supports to cover nearly every injury of which you can conceive.

For my part, I've found that RICE is pretty effective for most of my injuries. It requires that I hold back on my training, so I'm not a big fan. However if I want to continue running, these are the sacrifices that I have to make. For my shin splints, I've also used ice/cold baths to reduce inflammation. Just sitting in a tub of cold water for 20 minutes or longer usually does wonders for my legs. A hot bath is nice for tight muscles in that it helps me relax. I've also found a good sports massage will really loosen up my muscles. I'm trying to cut back on the NSAIDS, but I will take a motrin or two on occasion. I recently bought the Stick. Essentially it looks like a long skinny rolling pin that is used on your muscles. I don't think it is the miracle cure for all my troubles, but it does help massage my sore and tight muscles after run.

As my office weight loss contest is over, I'm also heading back to the YMCA to hit the weights. Throught cross-training, I'll build stronger muscles and joints so that they can tolerate the abuse from the running. In addition, I'm doing more warm-ups pre-run and more stretching post-run. My warm-ups are usually just shaking out my limps and some jumps to get my muscles ready to move. I like to stretch throughout the day as well as after my runs to relieve my tightness and strengthen my joints.

As I have probably achieved my weight goals, hopefully my combination of weight lifting and running will make me an effective runner, marathoner, and possibly an ultramarathoner. We'll see.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Changes to my form

Today was the 3rd race that I have run using my new running form, based around Chirunning, the Pose method, and "natural" running. I did well today, running my 5k in 23:38 mins. My splits were 7:27, 7:41 and 7:44 (and for those doing the math, .46 mins for the last 10th of a mile). A little slower than I would have liked, but it was hot today even for 7:00 AM start. Also the race wasn't chip timed, so the accuracy of that result may be suspect. Still the difference is not over 20 seconds, so my last PBR for the Girls on the Run 5k is still safe. I suspect that my lower finish time is a result of tiredness from over-training this week and my head not being focused on my time.

As for my running form changes, I have been pretty happy. I have been focusing on keeping my cadence around 87 strides per minute. The faster foot turnover means less chance of over-striding and hopefully less injuries. The easiest way to describe this running form is to say that your shoulders should be over your hips and your hips should be over your knees.

I'm trying to keep my knees and hips "quiet." To achieve this, I try to keep my hips/pelvis up right and in-line with my spine. To avoid tilting my hips, I stretch out my spine and everything lines up. I like to think about standing tall to straighten out my spine. As for building more speed, I have learned to lean forward at my ankles to generate more speed. This way I don't tilt my hips, so much as I lean my entire body into the direction that I'm running. As for my knees, I keep them loose and slightly bent to avoid unnecessary impact. I've learned that locking my knee when my foot lands is a good way to over-stride and heel-strike which leads to shin splints and vicious knee pain. Locking my knee on push-off results in a toe-push which could lead to a pulled muscle or tight calves and shin splints. I focus on pulling my heel straight up behind me like I'm a puppet on a string. To do this, I use my hamstring to pull my foot back. My footstrike is lighter and easier now that I hit on the balls of my feet/midfoot instead of my toes or heel. My upper body as I stated earlier is fairly upright from trying to keep my spine straight. I'm keeping my arms bent 90 degrees at the elbow, and I keep them from swinging wildly as I run. By keeping my arms tight, i.e. my arms don't swing farther out than my wrist or elbows from my rib cage, I'm able to conserve more energy and keep my cadence. My biggest weaknesses appear to be my breathing and letting my spine curve as I get tired. But it's getting there. I can't wait for my next race

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Oops and when do you run?

Apparently my memory was incorrect (hey, I'm an old guy. Cut me some slack.), and I actually finished with a time of 25:32 in my 5k and 49:29 in the 10k last Saturday. Oh well.

I ended up taking Sunday off, but I did manage to wake up early on Monday and bang out an easy 2.75 miles. After spending all day in Memphis, I also did some cross-training when I got home. The morning run was a little rough, since I was so sore from Sunday. It didn't help that I ate like a pig all weekend and felt as big as a house. However, I did feel more energized after my run. I'm not a huge fan of running early. Mornings are for sleeping and not much else in my book. My secretary swears by her morning runs. I can appreciate a morning run, in that watching the sun rise over the trees as you gut out another mile can be awe-inspiring. Plus most races start in the morning, so it's good to adjust your body to that type of schedule.

Given all that, I still prefer to run in the afternoon. While not ideal due to the heat, I have at least had all day to fuel up and hydrate before I bang out several miles. Not to mention, I will have used at least a portion of the day to stretch out my muscles a bit. In the mornings, I'm lucky to down a diet Sundrop and shake out my arms and legs. Also I tend to have more energy in the afternoon and banging out 8 miles (like I did today) seems easier despite the heat. I actually like to run in the heat. I figure if I can handle the heat in the afternoon and get in a decent run, then my body will be better prepared for harsh conditions later on. Plus I love a good sweaty, nasty workout. One where you reek of man scent, and the heat has turned your sweat into salt on your skin. I feel like a real badass after that kind of workout!

Night runs tend to be my least favorite. While it tends to be much cooler at night with less traffic, I hate that I don't get to really enjoy the scenery as I run. Also while traffic is lower at night, those driving at night tend to be traveling much faster than I would like. It also tends to leave me so wired by the time I get home that it takes me hours to wind down and go to bed.

As it stands, most of my weekday runs are in the afternoon. They are a great stress reliever after a long day of work. My long weekend runs I do early in the morning so that it leaves me with plenty of time to play with the kids. As for night runs, those only get worked in when I can't squeeze in a morning or afternoon run, and I absolutely must get a run in. Otherwise, I'll just chalk it up to a rest day.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wilma Rudolph 10k/5k Race Report - 2009

Saturday was a good day for me. I ran a 10k and a 5k in Clarksville, the Wilma Rudolph Road Race. I ran a PBR of 49:22 mins in the 10k and got 2nd place in my age group. In the 5k, I ran 25:22 mins and eked out 3rd place. This was the first time that I ever placed in any of the races that I ran. Even though my age division wasn't as stacked as the younger divisions, they are still accomplishments for which I'm proud. The day was a hot 95 degrees, but definitely do-able from the evidence of the firefighter who ran in his full gear plus oxygen tank in the 5k! He still finished around 30 mins! There's nothing like placing to fuel an addiction in this sport. The faster times are surely gratifying as is the healthy physique, but seeing your hard work rewarded is even more incentitive to hit the road again. After my races, I couldn't wait to tell my family and friends. I was so psyched that I probably could have run another 10 miles, at least until my body ran out of fuel/energy and I dropped like a wet stone to the ground. I did pay with a renewed case of shin splints the day after the race, but I'm recovering and should be ready for my 5k this weekend. Thank goodness for ice packs and ibuprofen. So on to my next race for more booty, riches and honor! That is if my legs hold up.

Monday, June 15, 2009

An epiphany

Okay, so I'm soaking in the tub (for the squeamish, don't focus too hard on that part of the story), reading "Born to Run." Using the backstory of the Tarahumara Mexican Indians, the author delves into the different philosophies of various ultramarathoners and why they run. This got me thinking, why do I run? Why do I subject myself to this on a nearly daily basis? At first, the answer was obvious: I wanted to lose weight and get healthier. But I did that already, so why keep pushing myself? Well, I don't want to go back to who I was. That's true, I don't want to be that semi-gelatinous form draped across the couch watching TV all night, beer in one hand and pie in the other (and if that's you, I'm not judging. I've been there, man...but you know, a walk probably wouldn't hurt. That's all I'm saying. I swear). But there are other ways to stay in shape, the eliptical, weight training, Buns of get the picture. So why running? What am I chasing?
Looking to my other hobbies, I think that comic books give me the clue for which I've been searching. I will never be as strong as the Hulk, fly like Superman, or even heal as fast as Wolverine, but maybe through running, I can find my own super-human. Isn't that why we like Batman? I mean other than the handsome, billionaire part, because everyone thinks that's cool. No, we like the idea that through hard training and determination, we can reach the pinnacle of our abilities and succeed. Even Captain America transformed his scrawny form to the ideal image of American strength and fortitude through rigorous training (and yes, a helping dose of mad scientist steroids, but I'm ignoring that little aspect of the mythology right now). Isn't the Flash cool, because maybe through an accident our slow jog can be transformed into lightspeed? Well, maybe it's just me. But that's my epiphany. That through running and by pushing myself faster and farther, I might find that extraordinary being who's been hiding under all those layers of fat all these years. Now will I be as fast as the Flash or as cool as Batman? Pfft. I'll be lucky to break 7:00 mins/mile in a 5k, but my own personal superhero doesn't have to be that larger than life. I doubt that I'll even reach Tarahumara levels of ability. But man, wouldn't it be cool if that fat guy who used to meld into the couch could run a 7:00 minute mile? I think so.

Back to work

Okay, today I had a long run of 8 miles that averaged out at about 9:04 mins/mile. My route was a 4 mile loop that covers part of the country music marathon route up Music Row and through Belmont and back again. I started out at about 8:40 mins/mile and I hit 8:30 mins/mile around my 4 mile, but after that I was really feeling the heat and humidity (around 85 degrees. Ugh). I could really feel the tightness in my calves (especially the right) as I worked my way back to my office. However, despite my less than average performance, I was pretty happy considering that I had taken so long off trying to rest and recover. While I was cooling down, my endorphins were really kicking in and my lack of oxygen (I'm still working on my breathing as I pace myself) left me feeling high and great! There is nothing like the exhaustion of a good run that really taxes the system and pushes you to your limit. Now I'm off to re-hydrate and grab a hot bath!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Anyone who knows me, knows that I do my research. As I have now become a "runner," I have read every magazine and article that I could find to make me a better and healthier runner. As with everything I do, I take what I like, adapt it for what I need and discard the rest. My newest discovery was Chirunning by Danny Dreyer. This book may have changed how I run forever. Dreyer takes elements of running and Tai Chi and tries to meld them into a simple to understand formula for runners. His method promises faster speeds, longer distances and injury-free runs. As I have said before, I used to consider myself a sprinter, and my running form reflected that mindset. I had a long, knees-high stride that demanded heavy street-pounding foot-strikes. My form and my over-training quickly led to a bad case of weak ankles and shin splints from the damage that my legs were taking. In Chirunning, I run more with my core, using less of my calves to move me. Instead my feet now naturally flow behind me instead of in front of me requiring less effort to move along. On the spiritual side, I will focus my chi/energy from my gut and visualize it in front of my body, pulling me along so I don't have to force my pace. I know this all sounds like some mumbo-jumbo flailing about, but it's the exact opposite. The form is fairly tight, but relaxed, allowing the body to move along with out too much pounding. Unfortunately for me, I still have a heavy footstrike which tends to leave my ankles a bit sore. I noticed while I ran today that I tended to keep my toes pulled back or otherwise tight as I ran, resulting in poor form and tightness in my feet and calves at times. My speed seems on track if not a little slow, but I have not gone too hard as to avoid injuries. My shin splints are almost non-existent now, so I hope to make a decent showing at my next couple of races. I don't know if I will be as fast as I was before, but as long as I stay right around 8:30 mins/mile, I won't be too sad. I'm even thinking of sneaking in a long run before work tomorrow, but the weather is supposed to be crappy. I guess we'll just have to see, but it's good to be running confidently again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Do not speak to me till after my workout

All right, I admit it. I am the worst, most evil person when I don't get to run. I become this super-snarky, mean old thing that will turn on a person at the drop of a dime. For example, I have not really run all week, nursing my leg and just taking it easy. I hadn't gotten in my workout today when my receptionist tried to pay me a compliment. Needless to say, I responded in typical Joel fashion with a very snarky, probably mean comment that need not be repeated here. While I appreciate the compliment and recognition of my hard work, I do not believe that I'm done reaching my goals. I can always lose 1 more pound or run 1 minute faster, at least that's what I believe in my head. While I'm proud of my accomplishments, I refuse to let myself become complacent by resting on my laurels. If I buy into all the compliments, then I'm just as likely to quit working out and running because I don't think that I have to do it anymore. I don't want to be the fat guy with my face in the empty pie tin anymore, and I won't be, barring a catastrophic injury.

Which leads to my workout today. Today was the day that I decided to really get back to my running form. I had intended to run only 3.5 miles to the pool we joined for the summer, but due to the rain, that plan got nixed. I was heading to the YMCA when I got sucked into a meeting which put me in a foul mood, which led me to making my receptionist cry or some such (maybe I just hurt her feelings). I finally made it to the YMCA after a light dinner with the family, and determined to make up for lost time, I worked up 7:30 mins/miles on the treadmill. I ended up running 7.6 miles in 60 mins at a pace of 7:54 mins/mile. My leg was burning, but the pain felt so good that I could not quit running or give up my pace. I may regret it tomorrow, but at least I'll be in a better mood.

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