Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 21 - August 27

Weekly Totals ~ Time: 7:54:38 Distance: 44.81 mi. Vertical: 9,019 ft.
Weekly Averages ~ Time: 1:19:06 Distance: 7.47 mi. Vertical: 1,503 ft.

The original loosely defined goal this week was 50+ miles with 10,000 ft. of elevation gain, and then last week's decision to go a little harder than I usually do during a planned rest week came back to remind me why I've settled on a training pattern of three weeks of build and one week of rest: slight left calf strain. Nothing crazy, just enough to say, "You should've known." Yes, yes, I should have known, in fact, I did know, but mantras only seem to apply to everyone else. Long week short, I babied the calf and stayed away from any inclines of note from Wednesday on. Iced the tender area every night and stretched lightly as much as possible. By the end of the week the calf feels at about 90%, which means I'm not going to really test it until Tuesday at the earliest on the hills. I consider this week, although short of the initial goal, to be a success because if I kept with the same mileage a vertical ratios I would have been at the goal distance and elevation gain. 5 miles short and less than 1000 ft. is no big deal. The big deal is keeping myself in-check with how my body is reacting to the training. Wrote a sweet review on some sweet shoes earlier this week, so if you haven't checked it out do so: Hoka One One XT/Stinson Shoe Review

Sunday, August 21 ~ 'Round the House Run & Climbin' at Marymoor Park
Time: 0:30:56
Distance: 4.00 mi.
Vertical: 106 ft.

Recovery paced run to start the week off. An easy 4 miles. Rock-climbed during the PM hours and topped things off with cold brews on top of the climbing wall. Safety first, right?

Monday, August 22 ~ McClellan Butte
Time: 2:15:03
Distance: 10.04 mi.
Vertical: 3,832 ft.

Running 101: Always ensure you have your running shoes before you get in the car. Decided to just run the trail in my Saucony Hattori's. Uphill, not too bad, downhill, not too good. Regardless, 3800' of vertical, ran under, through, above the clouds. Came across fresh, still steaming, Cougar scat on the descent...always interesting heart rate spike. The trail, well, that is some steep shit.

Tuesday, August 23 ~ Red Town Trailhead (Cougar Mtn.) to Central Peak (Squak Mtn.)
Time: 2:26:16
Distance: 12.46 mi.
Vertical: 3,589 ft.

Mentally, today, paralleled the elevation profile of the run. Up - Down - Way Up - Way Down - Up - Down. My legs certainly felt yesterday's uphill and downhill in Saucony Hattori's nonetheless, but looking at the data, now, I'm quite surprised at the overall positive results. 3500' of vertical gain, faster pace than originally thought. My left lower calf is going to need a little more recovery attention, however. Very tender, mid-way through the run and, now, post run.

Wednesday, August 24 ~ Off Day/Injury Recovery Day (R.I.C.E)
Time: n/a
Distance: n/a
Vertical: n/a

Rest Ice Compression Elevation ~ The key to quickly healing injuries.

Thursday, August 25 ~ Coal Creek Trail & 'Round the Block Route
Run #1 Run #2
Time: 0:52:34 Time: 0:25:43
Distance: 5.21 mi.
Distance: 3.10 mi.
Vertical: 683 ft.Vertical: 81 ft.
Run #1
Calf feels better after a day of rest, yesterday, but it's not 100%. Took to an easy jog today on the softest trail I know. Limited the vertical, still managing 600 ft., though. I'll ice for a good 30 minutes, and maybe run another easy 5 miles tonight on the road sans hills after work. Maybe.
Run #2
Recovery Run. 2nd run of the day. On the road. In the recovery shoes (Hoka One One XT/Stinson). Felt great. With 30% less shock to the legs I didn't even feel the calf. Good sign. Ice, tonight. Re-evaluate tomorrow morning.

Friday, August 26 ~ Home to Red Town Trail to Coal Creek Trail to Home
Time: 1:24:03
Distance: 10.00 mi.
Vertical: 727 ft.
Base Run. On the road (Jack Kerouac reference). Felt great today, I miss the uphill trails, but did fit in at least 4 of the 10 on trail. Keeping a conservative and cautious eye on the calf. Hoka One One XT/Stinson's are the healing god of running shoes. Reduce the plantar flexion during the toe off and ease the stress on the calf. Perfect for a strain. Hoka One One XT/Stinson Shoe Review

Saturday, August 27 ~ Off Day
Time: n/a
Distance: n/a
Vertical: n/a

Rest Ice Compression Elevation ~ The key to quickly healing injuries. Standing at work all day is stress enough on a not so 100% calf.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hoka One One ~ XT/Stinson Shoe Review

A Recovery shoe by Hoka One One,
 coming to the USA this August
I've been testing out a shoe during the past couple of weeks from a company in France that's just beginning to make a name for itself in the United States, Hoka One One...preferably shortened to just Hoka. The buzz about this clown looking, moon appropriate shoe began, for me, with Karl Meltzer's "Human Express Run" 

The concept of the shoe itself was initially designed to handle the steepest downhill descents on the European Ultra-marathon circuit and incorporate the natural, or minimalistic, mindset. 

-Okay, by now, you've looked at the photo and just read the word minimalist and you're probably wondering if I took a picture of the wrong shoe or if the uphill running is starting to deprive me of braincells.- 

Well, the pain of the uphill is definitely addicting, but not detrimental; if anything it's empowering. And, yes, the picture to the right (above) is most certainly correct. With 40mm of foam between the foot and the ground Hoka's have 16mm of foam more than most running shoes and 36 mm more than the Vibram FiveFingers. So, why exactly am I making the claim that 40mm of foam is just as minimal as 4mm of foam? 

From a definitive standpoint, no, 40mm of foam is not more minimal than 4mm of foam, but the shoe industry isn't using minimal from a definitive standpoint, and not to be too pedantic, but William Safire would also have a problem with using 'minimal' the way it's being carelessly tossed around like the fishermen on Discovery Channel's 'Deadliest Catch'.

<tangent. skip if only interested in review>

Saucony Hattori (Left) and
Hoka One One Stinson (Right)
Minimalism, today, in the shoe industry is (at least in my opinion) defined by reducing the shoe's heel-to-toe drop, which has traditionally been about 12mm, to a heel-to-toe drop lower than 6mm. Just between us, by the way, Saucony is rumored to have announced that all of their shoes will be going to an 8mm or less drop. Most of today's traditional running shoes have a 24mm heel and a 12mm toe. (give-or-take 1mm to 2 mm.) The rather science-less studies done on the negative effects of this drop have concluded that the extra lift under the heel causes bad running form and can lead to an excessively injured runner that suffers chronically from an inflamed plantar fascia to sciatic nerve issues. Achilles tendon issues to patellofemoral pain syndromeIliotibial band syndrome to... Eventually the person can no longer function and the Rascal Scooter company goes into a massive marketing campaign to reign-in any potential competition, namely, the Segway. Which, and this may be/is a tasteless joke, the barefoot extremist to further their zeitgeist may claim the reason for Jimi Heselden's death by way of Segway was not his inability to control his dreams of flying, but may have been caused by too much heel-to-toe drop in his shoes, erroneously causing him to lean too far forward, lose control, and ride off of a life-ending cliff. -Just a joke Segway lovers, just a joke.-

Crude jokes aside, the science(less) claims that a reduced drop ensures better form is a bit of a fad, in my opinion. Form, whether good or bad, is a result of neuromuscular habits. If you want to become more efficient you have to consistently make an effort to improve. The shoes on your feet, won't change the alignment of your toes on impact for you. You have to make the conscience effort to invoke the change. The same goes for making a more full-foot foot strike aligned with your center of gravity (below your hips). If you don't practice, you're not going to have results.

Shoe minimalism isn't only about having less between your foot and the ground, the main driving force behind the 3rd iteration of the barefoot movement, is not only the ability to ride a social media wave that allows misconceptions, illegitimate information, and fad designs to run rampant through cyber-space and into anyone searching for information, but the sole intent (pun intended) is to allow the foot to function freely and utilize the bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the foot and lower leg. Minimalism, in the industry, is being marketed that the idea that after millions and millions of years of evolution the feet on bipedal organisms has been engineered for function, and that some how technology has made the engineered organism just a moving sculpture. And there's some truth to everything. Traditional shoes have the ability to mask, not cause, mask, poor form. Specifically, when a runner impacts on the heel of their foot the impact places a massive amount of stress on the heal and the Achilles tendon. If the shoe has a built up crumple/impact zone the runner will most likely continue with poor form. If it doesn't, the runner will instantly feel the results and force more comfortable form, due to pain, not coordination. I'm not a fan of being taught by potentially injuring pain. The bottom-line, if you really want to improve your efficiency, work on it every run. Here are some great sites to help: The Learn To Run Initiative, Good Form Running, it's all essentially the same, but if one training/coaching technique speaks to you more fluently use it.

<end tangent>

The Hoka's approach is to minimize muscle damage and fatigue and still allow the foot to function. Hoka achieves this by adding double the amount of shock absorbing foam, 40mm+, and by recessing the foot inside the shoe to allow a 0mm drop from heel-to-toe. My approach to running shoes, is fairly simple, if it fits and feels comfortable it'll work. I do, however, get a little more in-depth with the specific uses of specific shoes. I have several types of trail shoes, road shoes, track shoes, hill repeat shoes, interval shoes, race day shoes, track shoes, and shoes that I wear pre- and post-run. I'm fortunate enough to work in an industry that supports my lifestyle, so having a lot of shoes comes relatively cheaply. One thing missing from my arsenal: a true recovery shoe. A shoe that allows my feet and legs to relax, and not invoke more fatigue during a run. I've always had the mindset that to most appropriately get better at running you need to run. A Recovery run, for me, is the most important types of run to work on form, but often times recovery runs can only be between 2 mi. or 3 mi otherwise, you run (pun, ha.) the risk of inducing too much fatigue. 

After being introduced to the XT/Stinson (I think that's what Hoka will be calling it), I decided that it may fit the bill for a true recovery shoe: loads of cushioning, no alignment piece on the medial side, and durable enough to run road or trail. So, I've been running in it for the past two months strictly on my recovery days, or walking around in it post-run as I explore my new home in the Seattle-area.

The looks of the shoe combined with the extra 20mm+ of foam, 30mm+ in some cases, has an initial function of making you feel extremely high off the ground. I've now come to the conclusion, however, that although you do stand taller the feeling of being a lot higher off the ground is more of a placebo feeling than an actual noticeable feeling. The extra foam, does give you a shoe that will last between 800 and 1000 miles, easily. The shoe itself has been called clown shoes, moon-shoes, those Sketcher things (I cringe at the thought of that comparison), and anything else that invokes laughs. The upper is made from durable fabrics and the midsole is super soft. The lacing system is not the most giving, but I think if you punch a nail and widen the lace holes it would correct the stiffness. Your foot, inside the shoe, feels like it's in a shoe...if fit properly it feels fine. And although there's double the amount of foam, which about 30% softer than most shoes, the weight is non-existent: the shoe weighs a mere 10 oz. That's lighter than most running shoes on the market already: ASICS Kayano (12.6 oz), Brooks Adrenaline (11.3 oz), Mizuno Inspire (11.2 oz). And only 3 to 4 oz heavier than any Vibram FiveFinger.

As far as running in the shoe, it feels incredibly different for the first couple of runs. You have to really concentrate on running and not your feet, as odd as that may sound. The toe-off in the shoe is the biggest change. The ample cushioning stiffens the forefoot, but courtesy a voluptuous curved front end the shoe acts as a rocking chair more than a shoe with a pre-defined flex groove for plantar flexon to occur. The downhill capabilities of the shoe enable a much less muscle-fatiguing adventure, allowing faster descents on some fairly steep terrain, the flats and uphill, for me, were rather disappointing. I'm the type of runner that feeds off the feeling below my feet and the shoes greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The feel of the trail is essentially gone, which to some, maybe most, this is a huge compliment.

My own thoughts about the shoe are fairly short and simple, it's a shoe that has purpose, but just like anything else it's not an answer. I worry over the risk of too many people training exclusively in a shoe that dramatically reduces the body's ability to strengthen, by way of density, the tendons, ligaments, muscles, and bones used for locomotion. The reduction in impact fatigue is an A+ for recovery days when you're feeling the call of the run, but in the same light the reduction of micro-breaks to build a stronger body also means that if you switch back to a shoe, after months and months of training in the softer, more plush, ultra-shock absorbing shoe, you're going to find that your body has adapted to its new lifestyle. Therefore, I propose using the shoe strictly for the basis of recovery, running once or twice a week in it, but still maintaining your other runs in shoes with a little less give and little more stress on the legs. This approach will build strength to enable the long haul of running races and allow for continued pattern development (running form) with out inducing as much damage to the primary movers. As far as racing, by all means, have at it. Make sure, though, to put up some good faster paced runs first. The reduced muscle strain may prove to reduce overall fatigue late in a marathon. Anything less, distance wise, you're playing with miniscule numbers.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 14 - August 20

Weekly Totals ~ Time: 5:22:00 Distance: 24.38 mi. Vertical: 9,557 ft.
Weekly Averages ~ Time: 1:47:20 Distance: 8.13 mi. Vertical: 3,186 ft.

Recovery. This week has been a roller coaster of training confusion. In the past I have always taken my training in four week increments, three weeks of build and one week of rest. I think the overall goal is to stave off any hint of over-training. Sometimes it's to let the mind relax, and other times it's to let the body heal. But it's become apparent to me, this week, that recovery weeks are still hard work. I reduced my mileage substantially, however, my vertical went way up. Possibly, too far. I want, ideally, and only for now, to have this amount of vertical spread over 45+ miles, not 24 miles. And definitely over more than just three runs. I needed to get out there, though. I needed to enjoy the spectacularly gorgeous weather that we've been having. Sunny, 55 F - 65 F, and the slightest of winds. I took way too many pictures this week, and courtesy my photographing exuberance this week's post is full of pictures. I'll try to dial things back in the following weeks. It's tough to look at some of these pictures because they just seem 2-D. You don't hear the playful humming of distant birds, or the restless wind cascading through the tall evergreens that cover the mountain side like a carpet, or hear the sun rays violently reflecting off the snow. The pictures are beautiful, but they don't feel real when I look back on them. I think this is the draw of trail running, for me. Trail running is my chance to feel reality. And recovery week's should never limit the experience. My legs don't feel as recovered as I'd want them, but my mind feels refreshed.

Sunday, August 14 ~Marymoor Park ~ Rock-Climbing
Time: n/a
Distance: n/a
Vertical: n/a

Monday, August 15 ~ Off day. Bummer.
Time: n/a
Distance: n/a
Vertical: n/a

Not sure what happened, today. No running. Guess it's a recovery day.

Tuesday, August 16 ~ Ira Springs Tr. to Bandera Mtn.
Time: 1:35:16
Distance: 6.55 mi.
Vertical: 3,141 ft.

Recovery Week Run #1. It's going to be tough to keep my mileage, vertical, and time down, this week. I ran up the Ira Springs Tr. to Bandera Mtn. and the view from 5200' was amazing. 3100' of gain, in total, lots of hikers, and 1/4mi. of boulder scrambling. A good start to an easy week, I'd say.

Wednesday, August 17 ~ Pacific Crest Trail to Kendall Katwalk
Time: 2:22:04
Distance: 12.56 mi.
Vertical: 3,022 ft.

Recovery Week Run #2, Yes, I know...recovery week, right? Regardless, today, the run was picturesque, in fact, 60+ pictures worth, ha. 3000' of vertical gain, ran across the Katwalk (ridge with a 1200' drop) and back. This route is one of the most beautiful trails I've ever run.

Thursday, August 18
Time: n/a
Distance: n/a
Vertical: n/a

Friday, August 19
Time: 1:24:39
Distance: 5.26 mi.
Vertical: 3,394 ft.

Recovery Run #3. I'm really not embracing this week to rest. The weather is too beautiful. I planned to ascend to Mount Defiance by way of Mason Lake and then to Bandera, but a wrong turn and a tortures jog through overgrowth and all I walked away with is someone's lost Marmot hat, cut up legs and only one mountain ascent today. Decided to hike the descent and save the week, right?

Saturday, August 20 ~ Rest Day.
Time: n/a
Distance: n/a
Vertical: n/a