Last night I listened to a friend, Vic Thasiah, make a call for the running community to be more actively engaged in conservation efforts for our public lands. His presentation took place at Topa Topa Brewing Company, and since I was holding a beer while listening, I missed taking notes! I wish I had because his talk was inspiring.
He shared that, from a national perspective, runners, as a group, are not as involved in preservation efforts as are hikers, kayakers, mountain bikers, and skiers. We as runners, are not organized around this important issue as are other groups. As I listened to the presentation, I wondered how many of us runners consciously appreciate the beautiful places we can go. Or do many of us think of running as “exercise” and something to “get done” while also experiencing the added benefit of a beautiful view?
As a pastor, I pray my gratitude for this beautifully created world in our weekly worship, while also praying that we would be good stewards of all that surrounds us. I find myself envisioning some of the places I’ve run as I pray. I’ve also tried to encourage our getting outside for worship with a monthly Hike Church. This has been met with limited success… but maybe that’s because I’m not doing a good enough job of inviting people.
The other day, while running on one of our paved, but in need of much work, bike trails, I wondered about the feasibility of runners and cyclists fundraising to fix the trails. That’s a good endeavor and I’d support it. But now, I’m also thinking that we, wherever we are, should involve ourselves in to caring for, and helping to preserve, and conserve our public lands.
In my area, that care can be exercised through The Ventura Land Trust. I might even use my upcoming Thanksgiving to Christmas Mile a Day Challenge as a fundraiser for this worthy organization. Meanwhile, how do you see the running community participating in care for our public open spaces?
Here is an example of multi-year progress. I joined a training program for my 2nd marathon. Although it was my 2nd, I can say that I was still very much a beginner. I remember reading the training plan and wondering how I was possibly going to run those 38-42 mile weeks. It seemed insurmountable, until I actually did it.
I thought about this because my taper week mileage was just under 36 running miles (it was supposed to be just under 38 but I had to cut Monday short). Amazingly, this felt like almost nothing. Of course that’s the taper…but I’m always amazed at the progress.
We fly to Boston on Thursday. Hit the race expo on Friday. Go to a Red Sox game on Saturday (Scott, Matt, & Megan will run a 5k too). Do some car site seeing on Sunday (not a lot of walking for me!). And then the race on Monday. Between today and Saturday I’ll run 25 miles for Taper Week 2. It’s hard to believe that race week is here!
Last week I bought a new pair of running shoes, Brooks Launch. I may wear these in the Boston Marathon. I may wear my Saucony Ride. I have about 5 weeks to decide which pair. Five weeks of alternating between these two pairs of shoes. Five weeks until Boston!
After I brought my new shoes home last week I looked at the wear patterns on my last two pairs of shoes and was pleasantly surprise. Why? Here’s the back story.
I wouldn’t call myself an injury prone runner. But I did deal with a pulled hamstring a couple years ago and through this I discovered that my right side is far weaker than my left. I’ve also had a nerve issue with my right foot that pre-dates my running. I remember going to the doctor for shooting pain and he just blew off my concerns and told me to put a metatarsal pad in my shoe.
I did for awhile, but the pain eventually went away. Then, when I started running some serious mileage the shooting pain returned…but only when I was breaking in new shoes. Once they had a few runs in them the pain went away.
Eventually though my right foot began to get sore even after the shoes were broken in. I started putting metatarsal pads in my shoes (since that was what the doctor said so many years ago). This worked for awhile. But then my right foot started to look a bit deformed…and it was starting to hurt. Of course this was the foot that would accidentally step on a rock while on a run, sending shooting pain. Or did I just not notice stepping on rocks with my other foot? Who knows.
Then, two things happened last summer.
First: I listen to the Final Surge podcast and they said they were gaining to be interviewing a podiatrist. Did anyone have any questions? I sent them as brief a backstory as I could along with the question of “what’s could the problem be?” They actually used my question, but because I’d written it so poorly, I didn’t actually get a clear answer. But I did get some helpful information. I even began listening to the podiatrist’s podcast as well, “Doc On the Run” by Dr. Christopher Segler. I’ve learned a lot about injuries and recovery.
Second: one of my co-workers told me that the chiropractor I referred her to was helping her with her plantar fasciitis. This chiropractor, Dr. Romeo Dimaano of Active Spine and Sports Care, successfully treated me for my previously pulled hamstring. I return to him occasionally for adjustments, but it had never occurred to me that he could help me with my foot.
So, off I went to see Dr. Romeo. I think he was a bit amazed at how stiff my foot was. I think I had so much accumulated inflammation that it was just one hard, painful, deformed, and ugly foot. He worked on it. Ouch! And worked on it. Ouch! And worked on it. After every treatment. “Does it feel better?” “Maybe a little was my reply.” I was also thinking that this injury was years in the making so it wasn’t going to go away overnight.
But just to be safe, he wanted me to see a podiatrist and also get an X-ray. I did and the podiatrist said that while my foot did not have any broken bones, it’s possible that I had a stress fracture that is now healed. He didn’t have much else to say, because by the time of my appointment, Dr. Romeo’s manipulations had started working. The swelling was down and there was little pain. The podiatrist suggested I put orthotics in my running shoes. I did, but I don’t want to keep using them.
So, I’ve continued to massage and exercise my feet. Since it’s probably no coincidence that the problem foot is on my right side and my weak leg is my right leg, I’ve embarked on (more) serious strength training. I’ve done lots of one legged work: squats, lunges (back leg elevated), bridges, jump rope, etc.
I think it paying off! So back to the shoes. The shoes that I wore in my Boston Qualifying Mountains 2 Beach Marathon (pre-treatment, and strength emphasis) are here. It’s obvious from the wear pattern in the toe that I was barely getting my foot off the ground. I surprised I was even running.
But look at the shoes that replaced those. These shoes have more miles on them and a much improved wear pattern on the toe. Yeah!
The lesson is to seek help more quickly. And if the first person you ask doesn’t really address your concerns, keep seeking help. Because the problem will not magically go away. I could add that there are some great podcasts out there for runners!
One last comment for the week. I talked to my coach about the training I missed from being sick and he’s optimistic. He said that if this were my first marathon, he’d be worried. But it’s not my first, it’s my eighth, and all that other marathon experience counts!
How balanced are you? Can you stand on one leg without wobbling for 30 seconds? What about on the other leg? Can you do it with your eyes closed? If you can do all this (and more) one legged balance stuff then good for you! If you’re a bit (or a lot) wobbly, join the club. My, “I’m just a bit out of balance” club.
In reading “Anatomy for Runners” (Jay Dicharry) I was reminded that balance is important. Doing one-legged balancing drills shows that even with all the work I’ve done to strengthen my body, I still have balance issues, favoring one side of my body over the other. This is a problem when running because it means that the favored side is usually doing more work. For me, that meant my left leg getting overworked in my last two marathons. So, as I strength train, I need to also work on strengthening the weaker.
Balance is not just a term for thinking of how strong each side of our body is or well we can stand on a single leg. Here are some other thoughts about balance.
1. Balance does not mean equal. A balanced diet does not mean that we eat equal amounts of everything. Rather, we eat adequate amounts of what we need. For me, this could get complicated so I’ve settled on a balanced diet is one that is largely free of processed foods (& added sugars) and is filled with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, some meat, and a bit of fat… and the occassional glass of wine or beer or other treat.
2. Balance does not mean everything is effort is the same. This is important to think about in terms of training paces. Easy runs are supposed to be easy and easy runs are supposed to be the majority of training runs. While the concept has not been hard for me to learn, I do sometimes struggle with actually doing it. It’s tempting to push that easy pace into a moderate pace while telling myself, “look how much better I’m getting!” For proper training balance those easy runs must be truly easy, and when they are, I’m ready for the hard workouts which makes them way more fun! Most seem to agree that a proper balance is 80% easy and 20% hard.
3. Balance means not doing the same thing over and over again. Do you know that our bodies are amazingly adaptive? They are. So much so that if we continue to do the same exercise over and over again, our bodies get used to that exercise. This is another reason for the 80/20 rule from above…or, don’t always run at the exact same pace, and don’t always do the exact same run…unless you are fine with where you are. The same applies when we’re strength training. Don’t do the exact same exercises each week. Mix it up. This doesn’t need to be complicated, for instance if you’re doing lunges (my plan usually calls for 2 seats of 10 on each leg), don’t always do the same lunges. There are lunges with weights, walking lunges, jumping lunges, forward, backward, and side lunges and so on. Mixing it up is more fun and your body will respond better.
4. Balance is important for life. Life is not all running, school, work, family, church, hobby or… I started running as a form of self-care. It was a way to step away from the stresses of my job as a pastor. It’s helped and the time running has helped me to thing through issues and even write sermons. I’ve found a good balance here.
What have you learned about balance in your own life?
Here’s my training log for last week:
Workouts: 1/14/2018 – 1/20/2018
Sunday, January 14, 2018 – Rest Day
7:00 AM Yoga
Monday, January 15, 2018
9:17 AM Easy Run – 6 Miles Easy
Completed: 6 mi ~ 59:57 (9:59 min/mi)
11:00 AM Strength & Mobility
Core & Strength Level 2
2 Sets of the following sequence with ~ 30-60 seconds rest between each exercise.
15 squats; 20 sec. plank; 10 push ups; 20 Crunches; 10 lunges on each leg; 20 sec. plank; 10 calf drops on each leg; 20 Sit-Ups
Workout Comments: First set of squats was with ball toss (16lb) and second was 1-legged holding a band for balance…one legged was very hard on my right leg
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
5:47 PM Run – Lactate Threshold
2 x 1.5 Mile Threshold Run
Planned: 7 mi
2 Miles Easy; 2 x 1.5 Miles @ Threshold Pace w / 3:00 rest; 2 Miles Easy
Completed: 7.17 mi ~ 1:12:08 (10:03 min/mi)
Thursday, January 18, 2018
9:00 PM Strength & Mobility
Core & Strength Level 2
2 Sets of the following sequence with ~ 30-60 seconds rest between each exercise.
15 squats; 20 sec. plank; 10 push ups; 20 Crunches; 10 lunges on each leg; 20 sec. plank; 10 calf drops on each leg; 20 Sit-Ups
Workout Comments: This was a very long day (13 hours) which thankfully is not normal. I followed the workout with some relaxation stretches to help me sleep.
Friday, January 19, 2018
7:19 AM 10 Mile Long Run
Planned: 10 mi Nice & Easy
Completed: 10 mi ~ 1:41:21 (10:08 min/mi)
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Trail Run? – See note below
My question: What about doing a five mile trail run (same as 1-12) before my hike church?
Coach’s response: You can do tomorrows 5 miler on Saturday before the hike if you would prefer. Not on both days though.
7:41 AM Run
Completed: 5 mi ~ 59:34 (11:54 min/mi)
Workout Comments: Today’s run felt really nice. It felt easier than it did the week before and when I compared heart rate the average was a lot lower than last week. For some reason though, my new watch thinks that my training was unproductive today (It’s been saying that for a week). It’s weird because I feel good…other than this annoying message I very much like my new watch.
Walk: 5.1 mi ~ 2:23:17 (28:04 min/mi)
This was “Hike Church.” Something new that we are trying and the reason my long run was on Friday. I ran the loop and then walked it with a small group.
Completed Cross Training: 30:00 Planned Run: 23.00 mi // Completed Run: 28.18 mi ~ 4:53:01 Completed Strength & Mobility: 50:00 Completed Walk: 5.10 mi ~ 2:23:17
Last Saturday (11/11) Megan and I ran the first loop of the 50k we’re running December 2nd. Thankfully there was a group training run the same day so we were out there with many people. Well actually, many people passed us throughout the morning.
This run was a week late (schedule wise) because I’ve been slow to recover from the marathon I ran October 22nd (Ventura Marathon Race Recap – How’d that untethering go?). I’m still not sure I’m totally recovered. AND… I was rear-ended a couple weeks ago…no major damage or injuries, but there has been lingering soreness that certainly doesn’t speed up recovery.
By now you know where I’m going with this. Saturday was way harder than it was supposed to be. After about 8 miles I was tired…very tired. And this was only halfway. I was also hungry… at mile 8 and on and off until I was very hungry as we approached mile 11. This is where we will encounter an aid station on race day, so I was planning to eat at that point. So, feeling ravenous, I ate a Superhero Muffin, from @runfasteatslow. It tasted wonderful, but then I had a horrible stomach ache from eating too much. By the way, I would never do something this dumb while running the roads.
Anyway I had to walk until enough was digested that I didn’t think I would vomit. While walking and feeling like crap I contemplated dropping out of Ray Miller…even thinking to check on their transfer policy (I did check and no bib transfers!).
Once the food entered my system I felt better running. It helped that the rest of the run was downhill at the point. While running the last 3 miles I had one little trip, but no falls! That was a running confidence booster (Quit when it’s hard? No Way!). I will be out there!
I talked to my coach about my struggles and he said I should eat every 20 minutes…50 calories only for 150 an hour. With easy road runs at a usual 10:00 pace, I usually do this when training on roads…calories in the form of liquid, gel, or block every 2 miles. But taking that every two miles plan on to the trails means that with an average 14:41 pace last Saturday I was way behind on calories. No wonder I felt awful.
Now that I’ve figured this out, I’m not as worried about race day… still a bit apprehensive, but not downright terrified. The race is now less than 3 weeks.
I confess I’m a running data addict. I like to look at the numbers produced by my Garmin both during and after a run. I used to equate fitness with speed, thus pushing myself to run just a bit faster, hitting a pace on my Garmin, regardless of feel, and then calling it “easy.”
After learning the importance of making easy runs truly easy, I switched from monitoring pace to monitoring heart rate. Keep it easy! This has worked to improve my running fitness, and to help me better run by effort. But I still check how I’m doing too often while running. The problem with being so wedded to the data is that we sometimes allow “the number” to dictate our performance.
In a race, this can be good and bad…depending on the data. A few examples:
While running my least enjoyable half marathon a couple years ago I struggled through the whole race…for a variety of reasons. The first of which was my Garmin telling me my “performance condition” was -4. This was deflating…my coach later said, “you need to turn that thing off!” I haven’t turned it off but I’ve since learned through experience that it will ALWAYS give a negative performance condition number when starting a run with a hill climb. Conversely you can get a very high positive number just by starting a run with a descent. Not helpful data.
For my third marathon, Surf City, I used a race predictor. This is a data screen that gives real time data to predict a finish time based upon current pace. I walk the water stations, so the prediction always readjusted during these walk breaks. At mile 18, the predicted finish while walking was just under 5 hours. My previous race was 5:04, so I was excited to see that I could walk the rest of the marathon and have a PR. In this case it was helpful. Race Recap – Surf City Marathon
I used the same race predictor in my fifth marathon, Carlsbad. This time my Garmin was so far off the course mileage that what I thought I was going to do and what I actually did was off by about 2 minutes. In the later miles this discouraged me so much that I had trouble finishing and missed my first attempt at a Boston qualifier by just over 4 minutes. My coach said, “you need to get rid of that data screen.”
In my sixth marathon I ditched the race predictor. But I did look at average pace and I knew what I needed for my Boston qualifier. I had a great run, but like everyone I had to dig deep for the end. I knew that if I could hold on I was “going to Boston.” In this case seeing the number on my Garmin helped. Mountains 2 Beach – Race Recap
So…all this to say that I’m going to try something new when I run my seventh marathon on Sunday. I’m going to put one data screen only on my Garmin. Distance. That’s it. I’m going to solely run by effort, by feel. It’s an experiment. I’m a bit afraid…that I’ll go too fast at the start, or go too slow at the start, or feel lost without my “average pace” data screen. I’ll report back on how it went.
Meanwhile, if you want to get started running, or find ways to be more disciplined in your running, let me know. I’d like to help.
Does this sound at all familiar? You’re on vacation. In the beautiful mountains. You don’t want to sit in your hotel room. You don’t really want to drive around all day. Because you’re now fit! You can easily do fun things, active things. So you decide a hike is in order.
But this is a strange place, to you that is, and you don’t know exactly where to hike. So you look online to find trails. And you do find trails…lots of trails (thank you AllTrails.com). These trails come with reviews and you read and read and read, to discover that the most common complaint on all the easy trails is “they’re crowded.”
You don’t want crowds so you decide on a moderate trail because moderate is just that, moderate. Meaning not hard! Of course, any trail called “Clayton Peak” can’t be too hard, right? It’s only 5.4 miles so easy peasy, right? Going for a hike is just active recovery the day after a half marathon that included a 4,000 ft elevation drop, right?
So off we went. To hike to Clayton Peak, which is located in the Brighton Ski Area of Big Copper Canyon, between Park City and Salt Lake City. Just like my run the day before, this was a hike with beautiful scenery. Unlike my run from the day before, it was not all downhill. Rather it was a nice little climb of 1,700 ft.
As we took off and began the climb, my tired legs were thankful to be going up and not down. Of course we’d have to descend eventually, but I convinced myself that my quads, shins, and calves would be nice and loose by then.
When we got close to the top we encountered a dirt road (fire road or maybe ski lift service road) and lost the trail. We assumed that the road was now the trail…and this was a correct assumption, except that we went right instead of left. Soon we found another single track trail and started climbing. But after a bit the trail seemed to disappear. So, I pulled out my phone to see where we were (the AllTrails app is cool in that it works with my phone’s GPS), and we had diverged from the trail when we took that right turn. I wish I had looked at it as we made the turn.
Anyway, we had to go back down. As we did so I discovered that my quads did not loosen up… they were TIRED and each step was a bit painful. But we made it down to the road and then went the other way, climbing again. A little way up the road in this direction I found the trail, this time confirming it on my phone. To get to the summit we’d only need to go another quarter mile.
But it was steep. I figured I could probably go up, but wasn’t too sure about coming back down. So I told Scott (husband) that I wasn’t going that last quarter mile. I’d wait for him if he wanted to finish. He chose to head down with me.
Our going back and forth at the top of the mountain increased our mileage a bit so that we then had a 3 mile descent. Oh, my poor tire legs! Even with the fatigue, the walk was enjoyable. I’ve discovered that when hiking, or running, the scenery is sometimes different on the return part of an out and back. This by the way, is a good reminder to look at things from more than one angle.
While descending I also started thinking about how much I was looking down at the trail. I’ve fallen three times in the last few months (well 2 falls were in the same run) and I’m trying to be careful so as not to do it again. I looked down so much, and I began to think about how I hoped this wouldn’t affect my running. I’m pretty sure the first instruction from the coach when I started going to track workouts was, “look up”. I’ve learned to look up when I run. So although I was hiking I was also thinking about my need to look down so much.
Unbelievably, while I was entertaining these thoughts, I tripped! I fell! Bam! Hitting my chin so hard that I gave myself a 2 day headache (thankfully it was not worse).
Scott heard me and returned to find me picking myself up. Thankfully I didn’t break anything. I rinsed the blood off my arm as I’d scraped that pretty well, and continued down the mountain.
So what happened? Am I suddenly becoming extremely clumsy? Maybe. I will have my eyes checked and I’ll ask my eye doctor if my particular contact lens prescription is causing an issue with depth perception.
But maybe I was just tired. Maybe I should have chosen the “easy” and short hike to do on tired legs. I’m actually pretty sure this is the case. I will confess that I over did it that day.
Maybe I’ll have to start counting days: “I’ve gone ___ this many days without falling while running (or hiking). I had a good run last night so I’m up to 1 day!