Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Week in review 5/21 - 5/27

Mon 5/21 - Long work day, didn't get any running in, but boy was I drained!

Tues 5/22 - Travel day.  Spent all day in airports.  Worst flying experience ever, having over 5 delays on a single flight.

Wed 5/23 - Finally home.  Ran the typical Lejeune gravel tank trail out and back for 4.57 miles in 38 minutes.  8:21/mile average pace.  It was VERY hot outside, but it still felt good to have an easy run after two days off.

Thurs 5/24 - Same Lejeune gravel out and back.  Very hot again today.  Today is day two of taper week before the race next weekend.  4.5 miles in 40 minutes for a 8:51/mile pace.

Fri 5/25 - After realizing I have been getting a little lazy with speed work, I went out for a tempo run.  Ran first 3 miles @ 7:20/mi pace, followed by two miles @ 8:00 pace.  Hope that I can keep that pace for race day, but after being a little lazy with speed since the last race, I don't see that happening.

Sat 5/26 - Easy run around the home area for 5.12 miles in 43 minutes for a 8:28/mi pace.  Heat and humidity have been very draining this week.  But...such is the North Carolina summer.

Sun 5/27 - LSD on the Neusiok Trail.  Today was not quite as long, but a little slower than usual.  Totaled 9.17 miles in 1 hr 39 minutes for a 10:46/mi avg pace.  Some of that was faster, and some was slower.  It rained right before I got to the trail, and then promptly jumped up to near 90 degrees outside, basically turning the forest into a giant sauna.  I had planned on going longer, but this was one run that I feel like was a better idea to cut it short than to risk injury.

Weekly totals:

Miles - 28.37 miles (not bad for a taper week)
Time - 4 hr 19 min
Pace - 8:21/mi avg

Coming up....

Well, race week is finally upon us.  Sunday 6/3 is the North Face Endurance Challenge Trail race in D.C., and I'm looking forward to it.  I don't think I'm going to run as fast as the last one, mainly because I have slacked off on the speed work.  To be honest, I've kind of slacked off on my pace in general over the past 6 weeks. 

As I looked over my training log (dailymile) from the past 6-8 weeks, I noticed my average pace has kind of slowed down, even if my weekly mileage has increased.  I thought about it for awhile, trying to figure out why I am slowing down (not much, probably 15-20 seconds per mile average), so I started going back to look at individual workouts.  I think I am currently being held back by the social aspect of running.  During the week, most of my runs are with friends, and a lot of conversation takes place during those runs.  The fact is, that while some of them may be faster than me over shorter distances (3 miles and less), I know that just through sheer numbers and time on two feet that I can push myself harder over distances of 5k and more, which is 99% of my runs.

By no means am I saying that I'm better than anyone else because of that.  I just know that by making 90% of my runs lately more social affairs, than training runs, I've caused myself to slow down.  So after this race, I need to re-focus my efforts, and increase the average intensity of my training.  Mileage is going to increase.  Intensity is going increase.  Speed, endurance, and fitness will increase also; not because it has to, but because I want it to be so.

I'm going to incorporate more structure into my training schedule.  I've not always been a big fan of structure, but I think in this case it's going to hold me more accountable.  Right now, part of the problem is the only "structured" part of my training is a long run on the weekend.  The rest of the week I just kind of wing it, and see what I can fit in.  That's going to change.  From now on, I'll make more time to train, as opposed to just fitting in what I can when I can.  Looking back at my logs from the last month, I feel lazy.  Not because of what I did, but because I realize how much more I could have done.  Starting next Monday, June 4th, that changes.

I'm going to incorporate two speed/strength runs a week from now on.  Whether it be intervals, tempo runs, hill work, track repeats, fartleks, whatever, I'll be doing it twice a week.  I'll change up every week what I'm doing for speed work to add a little variety, but I need to keep it up.  By the end of the summer, my goal is to drop my average training pace to sub-8:00, while increasing to a 55+ mile per week average.  Doing one without the other would be easy, but trying to do both is tougher.  I'm not going to make those hard numbers to hold to, because I'll listen to my body first and foremost, but that's at least something to work towards.

As for the race this weekend, it is going to be whatever it is going to be.  I'm just going to go out and enjoy this one, even though it's probably not going to be a PR.  But, you can PR everything, so I'm not too worried about it.  I'll have fun, get to spend some good time with the family seeing some of the sights in D.C., and enjoy myself.  I need to push beyond 10k's at this point, so that will start happening after this race too.  I'm not going to say I won't do anymore shorter races like a 10k or 5k, but I'm not going to taper for them anymore.  I'll use them as training runs and just train right through them if any pop up that I'm interested in. 

Soon I'll review the Nathan HPL 020 Hydration vest that I got, after I get some more miles on it.  Initial impressions are good, as it seems very comfortable.  I think I'll also give my impressions of my New Balance MT10s and what issue I've had before with the shoe, and why I think it corrected itself. 

In the meantime, Keep Running!!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Gear Review - The Stick / Brooks Green Silence

I have purchased two new pieces of gear this week, a pair of shoes, and a massage tool.  Both, (so far), have worked fantastically.  I'll talk about the massage tool first.

The massage tool I bought, and have been pretty much using religiously the past 3 days is The Stick Roller Massager. 

I don't think that it needs a huge description, but here's the key points from REI's website:

Use The Stick® Original Roller massager before, during and after workouts to get rid of knots and soreness in your muscles.

  • Flexible center rod is surrounded by spindles that roll over your muscles; handles provide secure grip
  • Can be used to provide myofascial release and trigger point therapy
  • The Stick® Original Roller massager includes instructions with examples of exercise
I've been using The Stick for the past few days about four times a day, specifically on my right leg where I have been having the IT band and gastrocnemius muscle tightness, and I must say, I couldn't be happier. 

Basically, I've been using it when I wake up on my quads, hamstrings, IT band, and calves.  I do about twenty rolls of bearable pressure on each muscle group.  I also use it right before I run, right after, and right before bed.  It has done wonders to keep my muscles from tightening up.  They still get a little stiff, but not near as much as they did prior to using this tool. 

I have a foam roller at home, but I just find it's not very convenient to use (maybe I'm just lazy).  This is quick, easy, and at least for me, works great on relieving leg stress.  I like that I can control how much pressure I use on specific points, and I don't have to worry about balancing on top of the foam roller. 

I know my foam roller and lacrosse ball will still have their place in my tool set, but for right now, The Stick is my "go-to" tool for self muscle therapy.  I highly recommend it!

Shoe Review!!!!

So as I am sure you have read, up to this week, my higher mileage (cushioned) road shoes have been a pair of Saucony Kinvara 2s.  I loved those shoes, and they served me well through probably close to 300 miles over the past 8 months of running.  It was time to retire them, and I will say, that it's not so much because of excessive wear, because many of those miles were on a ship on a treadmill, but more because of fit.  The more miles I've put in, the more my forefoot has flattened out.  So while a size 11 Kinvara 2 fit me awesome 6 months ago, these days, it crushes my forefoot.  That being said, I had been putting more and more miles in my Merrell Road Gloves. 

The Merrells are great, and by no means are they being taken out of the rotation, but I just know that sometimes when I'm putting in the miles on the pavement, I like something with a little bit of heel, and a little bit of cushion.  Like I've said in previous posts, I'm not a full-time barefoot style runner.  I do, however, see the benefit of using barefoot style (anatomically shaped, zero heel-toe differential) shoes as another great training tool to build a good running base.

So I was on the search for another cushioned, minimalistic, road shoe.  I suppose lately I've been on a Brooks kick, as I love their Pure Grit and Cascadia 7.  I tried the Brooks Pure Flow, Pure Connect, and Pure Cadence.  I just couldn't, as much as I wanted to, be happy with the fit on my foot.  The Pure Grit fits my foot great, but none of the other "Pure" line of shoes seemed to do the same. 

While at a local sporting goods store, I came across the Brooks Green Silence.  I liked the look (I do like "loud" colored running shoes, I think they make me run faster!), and having read several online reviews of them in the past, they seemed to fair rather well. 

Here's the description from the Brooks website:

Category: Competition/Neutral
: 6.9 oz
: Universal
: Strobel
Launch Date
: February 1, 2010

One of Brooks More Minimal Shoes:

• Midsole Height: Heel (18 mm), Forefoot (10 mm)
• Outsole Height: Heel (3 mm), Forefoot (3 mm)
• Heel-to-Toe Offset: 8 mm

• Tooling Height: Heel (21 mm), Forefoot (13 mm)

Green Features:
• BioMoGo, the world's first-ever biodegradable midsole for running shoes
• 75% of the shoe’s materials are post-consumer recycled
• Biodegradable insole and collar foams
• Laces, gillies, and reinforced webbing are 100% post-consumer recycled
• Water-based adhesives are used throughout
• All dyes and colorants are non-toxic
• Packaging is 100% post-consumer recycled

Heel-Toe Offset : 6.5 - 8.0 mm 

I've logged about 11 miles in these shoes so far, and I must say, I'm liking them.  They do have a more noticeable heel than what I usually run in on the road, but I wouldn't say that it interferes with my foot strike.  I can definitely tell my strike is slightly more mid-foot than forefoot, but that's probably not a bad thing.  

I know the specs say 6.9 oz (mens size 9), but they feel much lighter than that.  They really just feel fast.  I suppose they are racing flats (technically), so that's probably a good thing.  While most places to classify them as a racing shoe, I would see no problem logging some serious mileage in these, especially if you are used to a minimal style shoe.  If you are coming from a heavier trainer (i.e. Brooks Adrenaline, Brooks Beast, anything Asics, etc), these would definitely be something you would probably want to ease into as far as mileage is concerned.  But, coming from usually road running in something like a Kinvara, or a Road Glove, these present me no problems.  

One thing to note, I did have to go a full size up in these shoes.  That puts me in a size 12.  Running small seems to be the norm with all the other reviews I've read, most noting they needed to go 1/2 to full size larger.  Even still, going up one full size gives my plenty of room in the shoes, and the fact that the tongue of the shoe is only attached on one side, allow me to cinch them down a little more if I need it.  I like that, simply because sometimes I like to wear thicker socks, and this gives me a little room to expand without cramping my feet.

The BioMoGo midsole on the shoes is great.  Sure it has the fact that it biodegrades 50x faster than normal midsoles (along with the entire shoe being made from 75% recycled material), making this a "green" shoe, but that's not of near as much concern to me.  I suppose knowing that I'm running on someone's old plastic bottles might make me sleep slightly better at night (but probably not).  All I know, is that it's the perfect amount of cushion for my foot.  It's firm, not plush, but not hard.  It seems to absorb shock fairly well.  

There was one point after about two miles in them this morning, that I felt what I thought was going to be a hotspot developing on the ball of my foot.  I stopped, tightened up the laces a little more, and kept on going.  The hotspot went away, so I won't blame the shoe for that, I'll chalk that one up to user error.  

I'll report more as I log some more miles in them, and they get broken in.  In the meantime, Keep Running!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Weekly thoughts...5/13/12

I suppose I had a "decent" week this past week.  I didn't have any bad runs, just lower volume than I would have liked.  Been on the go quite a bit lately, with both Monday and today traveling and not really allowing any solid time to beat feet.  I ended up with 31 miles this week, which would have been awesome about 6 months ago.  Now I just feel like I should be doing more.  I really feel like 50 is my magic number right now, but more than anything lately it's just been finding the time to get in the miles.

This week is going to be busy with work, as will much of the next, but depending on how my schedule turns out being (find out tomorrow), I'm going to try and get in 40+ this week.  I might have to pull some two-a-days, but it wouldn't be the first time, and I usually feel better after doing two 5 milers in a day than trying to bust out consecutive 10 mile days.  We'll see what happens, and hopefully I'll be able to get the numbers in.

I'll definitely go for broke this week, and lighten up next week to start tapering.  The North Face Endurance Challenge Trail race in DC is in about 3 weeks, and before my last race I don't think I rested enough prior, and gassed out a little bit.  It wasn't exactly that I was tired after the distance last time, because I know I could have run much farther than the 10k race, it was more just maxed out on speed.  I have a good feeling that with a little better rest plan this time I can have a better race (10k distance again).  It may be a little optimistic to think that I can run a faster time than the last one, simply because I don't know what the course is, but I know I can definitely have a better effort.

Although, deep down inside, my personal goal for this one is to run sub 46 minutes.  Possible?  Definitely.  Likely?  We'll find out.

Either way, I think this will be my last 10k distance for a bit.  I need to start going farther on distance.  I know signing up for a longer race will definitely mentally push me to raise my weekly mileage.  I'm thinking my next one should be a 1/2 marathon distance, or maybe a 30k.  Mentally and physically I know right now I could finish a marathon distance, but I'm not sure I would be very happy with the effort or results.  I'm still going to push to hit up a 50k before the end of this year, or early next year, but I guess that all depends on where I'm at then (physical location, I still have nothing definite on where that is at this point).

In other news, I'm still fighting this semi-issue I have with my left leg.  Basically it's a tightness in the lateral and medial heads of the gastrocnemius.  It's fine once I start running and it loosens up after a couple miles, but a couple hours after the run is over, it's tight again.  I've tried foam rolling, heat, massage, pretty much everything, and nothing seems to be helping.  That paired with the off-and-on pain I'm still getting on my outer knee at the IT band junction, and it gets quite annoying, though not debilitating.  I guess I should go see a doctor about it, but my lack of faith in military medicine has precluded me from doing so.  Eventually I'll convince myself to do it.

Up next...gear review.

So while I am a firm believer in the minimalist running idea, I've never claimed to be a barefoot guy.  I do own a pair of Vibram KSOs, that do see occasional running use, but more for foot strengthening than regular training.  I'm a believer in more that you should use the least amount of shoe that your body allows you to do comfortably.  My primary road shoes are Merrell Road Gloves, and Saucony Kinvara 2s when I need a little more cushion.  For trail, I run in Merrell Trail Gloves, and Brooks Pure Grit's, and now also my latest addition to the stable.

I recently bought a pair of Brooks Cascadia 7s.  Now most people would say they are about the farthest thing you can get from a "minimalist" shoe, and I would agree.  But, sometimes when running on a little tougher trails, I welcome the extra protection.  In that instance, the Cascadia 7 fits the bill.

It's definitely more shoe than anything else I have.  Weighing in at 12.2oz (size 9), and with a 10mm heel/toe differential, they are a substantial shoe.  It still has a very breathable upper, allowing plenty of ventilation for the recent 13 mile trail run I did in them.  There is a good amount of midsole cushioning, and solid underfoot protection, which was great running through the heavily rooted sections of the Neusiok Trail.  Note: I did remove the insole and ran without them in, giving a good amount more of room in the toe box, and it was still very comfortable.

Though there is a 10mm differential, I didn't find it hard at all to maintain my midfoot strike on the trail, as I checked it often.  I'm a firm believer that if you train yourself in more minimal footwear to have proper form, that you can carry that over to pretty much any shoe.  In at least my case, this has proved to be the case.

So far, the Cascadia 7s get my vote for a great trail shoe with good protection.  If I was running gnarly trails all the time, I could easily see this as my go-to shoe all the time.  But, since right now, I spend more time on the pavement and gravel fire roads, it's a little more shoe than I would want on a daily basis.  That being said, it has definitely earned it's place in my rotation for longer distance trail runs.

Next I'm searching for the perfect (for me) running hydration pack.  My two handheld bottles just aren't enough water for my longer runs in the North Carolina heat, and the runs are just going to keep getting longer. 

Searching around right now is leading me to the following as my top 3 thus far:

1. Gregory Miwok 18 w/Hydration bladder

2. Nathan HPL 020

3. Salomon XT Skin Pro 3

We'll see how those are once I actually get the chance to check them out in person...REI, here I come!

In the meantime, Keep Running!