Sunday, January 7, 2018

Heel Strike. It's not just for discipline anymore!

Heel Strike. It's not just for discipline anymore!

I'm resurrecting my blog to discuss an issue using a serious approach. This is not the norm for my writing style(I have style?). In fact, the majority of my readers (like 4 people?) have come to know me as sarcastic and satirical(as well as poorly skilled). That being said, I am going to try my best to discuss something real, and if I'm lucky, find a way to wiggle in some of my self proclaimed "humor". If I fail, this will be a typical blog(5 minutes you can never get back). Laugh at me, laugh with me, but just laugh, at least a little. Who knows, you may even learn something along the way.

So today I'd like to discuss mud wrestli, heel striking(and perhaps some random running crap I may find myself yapping about).....

Many of the running professionals blogs, books, and cave paintings tell you that that heel striking is worse for you than cigarettes rolled in bacon, but why? Do we ever ask them why? Usually not. We just trust them and work on forming that elusive mid foot strike. We just buy into what we have been told over and over without even wondering the why's.

It is my intention to demonstrate to you today, that I am actually a skilled writer(albeit poorly skilled) as well as why the heel strike isn't actually the problem. Your stride is!

Pssst: This one may be a little long(Mike? Overly wordy? Go figure). Stay with me. it's worth it!

So when we see an unskilled runner running, it often looks something like this....

Of course, if you happen to be at a local "beer run" it may look a bit more like this...

Ok, so what's the problem? Well with the second image, the problem is simply that you're supposed to run, then drink. This runner has their priorities mixed up (or perhaps perfectly straight?). Now the first guy, not so much. This person's form is worse than, um, even mine but is the heel strike causing the issue? Let's find out.

It's time for some physics. Fortunately for you, I don't actually know much about physics, so the odds of this part being over your head aren't likely that great. Stick with me and it'll make sense (I hope).

Well as you can see, using my elite artistic skills, I've added a beautiful addition to the above photo. I call it a "line". Pretty slick, eh? It does actually serve a purpose. It's an arrow but I don't know how to make an arrow head on an angled line so just imagine it, ok? It's showing you the direction of impact forces applied to your leg as you land with it out in front of you while moving forward. They say that running applies 3 to 4 times your body weight when you strike. This means that if this is a 150 lb man(obviously, he isn't me, even if his feet are comically large like mine), the force traveling in the direction of the pseudoarrow is applying 450-600 lbs of pressure. You may notice that force is pushing directly against this persons leg thereby compressing his/her knee joint. This is bad. Knee joints hate to absorb hundreds of pounds of force. This guy looks fast but he's destroying his knees (which he actually doesn't appear to have)., I'm sure you noticed, but his heel was the first thing to touch the ground. That dreaded heel strike is ruining his knees. Or is it?

Now we will look at someone who has good running form (also(especially) not me).

Ready for another horrible red pseudoarrow?

Ok, you can probably see a couple of things here. First, and very importantly, this guy is running in the wrong direction. We will just have to deal with the fact. It's free clip art.  Secondly, his leading leg is landing under him instead of way out in front of him, thereby changing how the force is applied to his body. This is good form. The runner's knees aren't absorbing the shock of the strike because the direction of force is no longer compressing the leg.

So what fixed the problem? Was it stopping the heel strike that changed the whole situation? NOPE. It's where his foot made contact with the ground that caused it. When your foot lands out in front of you, force is applied to your knee. When it lands under you, the force is harmlessly disbursed behind you.

So essentially it's practically not possible to over stride while striking on your mid-foot. Over-striding almost always includes heel striking. We tell people to stop heel striking because it it's easier to tell them that and trick them into fixing their issue rather than to explain the actual issue. 

Let's take a look at our final stickrunner...

So he's heel striking, but he isn't over striding. Can you guess the direction of the force? Is it compressing the knee? Nope. So much for that devilish heel strike being the problem.

Here's something else to consider.....
Any time your foot is touching the ground in front of your body, it serves no purpose other than to slow you down. Running is done by the push off behind you. Your front foot landing on the ground is simply how you pull it back in and set it up to push off with. If it hits in front of you and compresses your front leg, it's actually slowing you down. Think about it.

So shall we take this a step further? Now that we know about the downsides of over striding, let's explore the upside of not doing it (Shouldn't our fondness of functional knees be gift enough? Let's be greedy)....

So you've done it(and maybe I'll even teach you how). You've stopped overstriding. Your knees are going to survive a little longer. Is that it? We haven't even gotten to the best part yet (again, aside from the whole knee saving thing). SPEEEEEEEEED! <drools>.

That's right. A proper stride makes you faster. Think about it. If your feet are spending less time out in front of you, and you've presumably not gained the innate ability to float longer, they are spending an increased amount of time under and behind you, setting up to, and pushing off. More pushing off = more win!

Ok, so, um, then how do I stop over-striding?

I'm glad I asked!! It's actually not all that hard, but may take a bit of practice. In fact, two of the biggest tricks, your mom taught you....

1) Stand up straight! You heard her. Posture is the easiest way to improve your running form. Stand up straight!! Nice and tall. It's actually a lot more difficult to over-stride when you do this. Give it a try. Put that wicked tight washboard abs core to work(If your washboard looks a bit more like a pillow, it's ok. Me too. This stuff still works)!

2) BABY STEPS! I bet you've heard that approach before? This time I want you to take it literally. Take smaller, quicker steps. It's hard to over-stride when you take baby steps. Get your google on and check out "Running Cadence". You'll see a lot of articles out there that talk about it and how to improve it. In fact, these steps I'm teaching you (or trying) right now improve your cadence.

And lastly, use visualization. Picture yourself pushing off with each step. Focus your attention on that aspect of your stride. Push, push, push, push. It's the only part of running that propels you. Everything else you do is merely setting your next leg up to push off.

Am I correct? Maybe? For my last trick, I want to show you a video for a couple of different reasons. I want you to look at Meb's stride. See where his feet land, see how efficiently he runs. Doesn't over-stride, and the vast majority of his feet's time is spent pushing off. Not floating in the air and certainly not reaching out in front of him. The other reason I show you a video of Meb? Because, MEB!! (Yep, I'm making you click for yourself)

Well there you have it. I've presented you the information from my research, personal testing, and studying of a running legend. It's up to you. Just remember, I'm not a professional runner nor a very good blogger so take it for what it's worth

Thursday, May 5, 2016

When the shit goes down - AKA Race report n'stuff

When the shit goes down, you better be ready.....  I've probably interpreted those lyrics a bit out of context from the original meaning but they are quite applicable as I delve into the rarely discussed dark side of running. Most people are afraid to talk about it and act like it doesn't happen, but I'll take a queue from my blogging hero (Beth Ridson) and embrace the hidden reality of it all and discuss this crap(yeah, I went there).

For years, my master bedroom's bathroom toilet has been broken (literally). The porcelain was cracked (most likely from my formerly gargantuan sized ass) rendering the Throne of Running Contemplation in disrepair. With the upcoming Kentucky Derby Festival Minimarathon, I felt it important to return my kingdom to its lost glory so I can prepare for my race with my post coffee, oatmeal and quinoa ritual in it's proper place, lest it manifest it's rage around mile 8 (Portolet. A shitty<OMG he did it again> alternative).

It was actually not that difficult a task. A friend explained how to change it out and it's fairly straight forward. I must admit the wax ring was a bit on the disgusting side once I learned it's actual use (I was rather appalled at the flavor when I initially thought it was a free donut).

In the end, the kingdom of HolyCrapThisGuyIsSlow has been returned to what it once was and here I sit upon my throne as I would later do, finally at peace, in preparation for my great race.

The Night Before - AKA Race Preparation:
* Pick up race packet: Check (ok, I actually did this Thursday but the list ended up a bit short)
* Eat dinner: Make sure and use the race as justification to consume way more carbs than you should.
* Take Girlfriend for Horse and Buggy Ride: Check
* Bottle our own bourbon: Because, well, BOURBON!!
* Get car slammed into: Make sure this is done at an hour you should already be home and in bed sleeping so you can invent new vulgarities as you wait for the police to arrive.


Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse Select

Ain't that a bitch?

Race Day:
So we're lined up in the chute. There are approximately eleventeen million people around us and we are 5 minutes from the gun. I commented (like an idiot) that Karri had the tag on the outside of her running shorts(Problem #1). She was not pleased with this knowledge (but not upset at me for the observation). Bathrooms? In 5 minutes? NOT. We are in the middle of a colossal croud.....

I don't know if everyone has a girlfriend with no inhibitions or I just hit the jackpot but I assure you she has a level of braveness that I don't aspire to achieve. Another way to say this might be that she dropped trou in front of anyone who wanted to watch and rectified the situation. SHE ROCKS!! Amazingly, nobody seemed to notice or care. Ahh runners.

Within a mile into the race, Karri discovered her new hydration belt (no, this was not her first time wearing it) was not tight enough (Problem #2). The designers of this particular belt decided to use an adjustment system that requires a combination of Origami, Thumb Wrestling and Brazilian Jujitsu, all rather difficult to perform while running. As she was attempting to remedy this, my FlipBelt bottle flew out the back of my belt(Problem #3), assaulting a fellow runner. I had to turn around, slalom back to it, and catch back up to Karri. I had to carry that thing another 4 miles until it was empty. (YAY) She hadn't had the greatest success in her quest to adjust her belt while running in my absence. I offered to stop while she did it but she wasn't having any of that(things are going wonderfully so far, eh?). She finally gave up. Naturally this happened only after the whole mess gave her a tension headache(problem #4) to stack on top of the back discomfort(Problem #5) a bouncy belt was causing.

...And then the rain came(Yeah, I love those "...and then" transitions. /shrug). it actually wasn't that bad so I wont increment the "problem number". In fact, I was feeling pretty overheated in the run and found the rain (beginning in mile 3 or 4) to be rather relaxing. Of course 7 or 8 miles later, my shirt sticking to my, well, pretty much everything, got a bit irritating(but due to gobs upon gobs of Body Glide, it was only emotionally irritating. As for the bouncy belt battalion, I wont comment if the rain caused any ill effects) .

So about mile 10, it was my turn. My feet just started throbbing, and throbbing, and throbbing(Problem #6). I considered stopping but that meant walking 3 miles in the rain which didn't sound so fun in 59 degrees. I decided to fight. Karri had also been fighting for the whole race but despite my repeated offers to walk some, she stubbornly pushed through. She's tougher than I am!

In the end, we crossed the finish line having never stopped to walk or rest and beat our 2:10 goal with a 2:08:03 and a 2:08:04. I'm not sure how she beat me but clearly she employed her feminine wiles to trick me into tanking at the finish line! <cackle>

I must say I was impressed that she ran the whole distance in discomfort without even once getting grumpy or grouchy with me,...... and I shall stick to that story for the duration of time in which I wish to remain in this relationship(Truth be told "Bitchiness factor" was a phrase of her own speaking so I'm probably not really in the doghouse).

And finally, for your entertainment, I perch upon my throne, overlooking my kingdom as I don my crown and scepter

Sunday, March 6, 2016

That time I was abducted  (Race Report)

It always starts the same way. A ridiculously bright light shining in around the window shades causing thick beams of light to project in every direction into your bedroom (fortunately your smoke machine is always there and running). A loud noise. The trailer shakes(I think the aliens find trailers by homing in on tornadoes). Of course this is always followed by an abduction and a rather unpleasant probing but it didn't happen that way for me....

I don't actually live in a trailer nor do I remember the abduction. I had to scientifically deduce that I was abducted. It's simply the only answer to my predicament and I can't even be sure it was aliens. All I know is someone or something has done surgery on me without my prior approval.

It all started last Saturday during the Anthem 5K race. I was running but it wasn't me. They were not my legs! My legs don't move the way they did. Mine move slower and more dorkily (Is that a word? It is now). These legs were turning over efficiently and smoothly. It was obvious mine had been stolen and replaced with a more efficient set(which kind of begs the question "why would someone want to get hold of slower legs?"). This was most likely the work of aliens because their are no scars and unless I was operated on in some new secret CIA surgical base, I can only assume this to be off-world technology.

So I've now been racing for exactly a year. The Anthem 5K 2015 was my first race ever. How far have we come in a year? Lets compare

Year     Finish Time     Pace
2015     31:28               10:06
2016     25:05               08:05

My goal for this race was actually a 26:25 finish with an 8:30 pace. I don't know where the extra energy came from. I had no idea I had the ability to run that fast (or that not slow because it really isn't fast. Just is for me). I was almost having difficulty breathing. This was most definitely a 100% effort. I just didn't know my max effort could yield those results. Dig it!!

Now I wouldn't count on me running a 6:04 pace next year but I suspect we will be quicker and I suppose I have the aliens to thank. Sure hope they didn't leave anything behind.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Yes, YES, Y E S ! ! ! Muhahahahahahahaha

It's a rare occasion when a mild mannered runner realizes the full potential of his super power and his journey culminates in the birth of a mad scientist. 

Flasks full of smoking green shit. Jacob's Ladders. Lots of fire. All the things a guy(who isn't operating on an entirely charged set of batteries) needs to have fun. Of course it didn't start out this way....

Early in my running career, I discovered that I do have some natural talent. I was instantly adept at getting injured. My knees are considerably less committed to running than I am and loved to show their control over my hobby(err Obsession? Addiction?). This meant a lot of time sitting at home staring out of the window as everyone else ran in the beautiful weather.

Did you pick up on that little part? "The beautiful weather"? It didn't take long to find this pattern. EVERY SINGLE TIME I get injured, the weather gets beautiful. Naturally Newtons Third of Law Motion takes over and my return to running means a meteorological event on a sucktastic scale. Not a very useful superpower for evil. Not bad if I were the good guy kind of superhero. Everyone would love me for the kick ass weather but running has made me dark and greedy. You aren't going to be so lucky, for this has all changed!

This week I broke the code! I've mastered my manipulation of the weather. I am suffering! I'm suffering from an unhealed IT Band injury. It has torn the marathon attempt from my grasp and filled me with rage. A rage so powerful I have found the clarity to control my influence over the weather. With this new influence I've taken my vengeance upon my fellow runners. I have forced snow and cold from my frost filled heart to plunge your city into the ice ages and shall hold the warmth of your pathetic little sun hostage until I have been freed by the grips that have taken hold on my IT Band 


Monday's do or die run sucked. IT Band went out at the 3 mile mark. That was the point of no return. Not enough time left to train for the marathon so I'm tapping out. Working on getting healed up and will run the triple crown and the half marathon. I'll give it another shot in '17!

Besides....Without risks, what joy would you find in reaching for the stretch goals anyway?

Friday, February 5, 2016

My future hangs in the balance!

Hangs in the balance. That's probably just a tad to the dramatic side of reality but the title has a very important history to it(Where important = ridiculous and irrelevant). I first heard it when I was a kid watching Star Trek and thought it sounded cool. I've waited some 30 years for an opportunity to use it, so get over it! <grin>

The truth is, I am in a bit of a situation. I may be forced into a decision about my training.

As always, I have to have a goal to keep pushing forward. After thinking things over(and possibly some gentle nudging by a couple of folks), I had decided to train for, and run(or slowly waddle compared to some of the folks I "run" with) the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon. Sounded like a great idea so why not?

The first 3 weeks of training were amazing. Training with like minded runners with a common goal. Meeting new people. Forging friendships. We also got to run while doing this all. WIN! 

Unfortunately (Or fortunately from the, self proclaimed interesting, blogging angle), things never continue to go my way.....

WTF is an IT Band?

I would have figured it's a bunch of nerds jamming out the Super Mario Brothers theme, on cheap, poorly tuned electric guitars. This, of course, is why it's unhealthy for me to try and figure out stuff on my own(Google FTW).

The IT band, is short for the Iliotibial* band. It's a piece of connective tissue that runs from the hip to the knee on the outside of the leg(more like near the outside. Most of us keep skin over them). It's purpose is to improve stability during dynamic movement.  Basically a big ass bungee cord that provides tension.

Then there's the other role it plays. Causing pain! It gets inflamed and causes crazy pain on the outside of the knee. Naturally I know this first hand because that's what happened the night after our long run at the end of week 4 (12 miles). That was last Saturday

It was actually bugging me a bit on the run but was tolerable. As the day progressed however, it got increasingly worse. I woke up Sunday in a ton of pain. I could hardly walk and had a wicked limp. This lasted right through Monday before it began to lighten up. By Wednesday I was walking again and as of tonight(Friday) I'm pain free. I can still feel things aren't right yet though.

I know how to rehab this and I'm doing everything possible to heal but time is the one aspect I can't control(I can barely afford a Kia. How the hell could I get a DeLorean?).

So where does this leave me? I need to run on Monday. I don't know if my leg will be ready to handle it. If it is, we are back in business. If it's not, I fear I will have to give up the dream of running the marathon this year. Another week off will set me too far behind in training to catch up safely. I'll need to switch to the half marathon. The performance of my leg on Monday solely holds the secret of what the near future will bring(Damn that's irritating).

In the meantime, I'm scratching my forearms having running withdrawals

...until Monday

*Iliotibial is an ancient Aztec word meaning "No f***ing way they'll be able to pronounce this one"

Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's not Break Dancing!

You ever see one of those movies where the super hero runs into a car, or more often, the always present tractor trailer hauling a tanker full of NoWayThisWillEndWellAzine? The super hero lands in the road and the truck hits them head on. The front end bows around their body as the rest of the truck compacts in on itself with a beautiful explosion to follow. Oh yeah, and the back end always pops way up in the air as this all happens. Nice CG!

This would have made for a fun time had I been a typical super hero. Unfortunately, my super powers fall more into the super hero class of say, Mystery men. So how exactly did this week descend into sucktastickness for Captain AlwaysInjured? Let's find out...

Wednesday: It all started Wednesday. We got a couple of inches of snow plus some beloved ice. Enough to cancel training that night and force me into a horrifying experience. You guessed it, The TREADMILL!! A device designed by people who enjoy painful, mind numbing things such as anesthesia-free elective surgery, drowning, and opera music. I finished my 4 miler but certainly not without practicing my skills at reciting a plethora of vulgarities under my breath,

Thursday: Run on your own day. 4 miles. This had to happen after work in the dark. Just one of those things that happens in the absence of sunlight. I decide to run from Fleet Feet. My plan was to complete the run we didn't do on Wednesday. The roads were essentially clear but black ice worried me. Very hard stuff to spot at night. I decided the safer choice would be to find some clear sidewalks to run on (yeah, right) so I headed for Bardstown road. Yeah, um, no. The sidewalks were covered with hard chunky packed snow, ice and salt residue. Great for an ice cream maker. Not so great for running. I survived and the run was going pretty well (At this point you're expecting me to say (Because I always seem to) "and then it happened". Unfortunately, I shall not not disappoint.) and then it happened...

The car was making a right onto Bardstown road and was stopped at the stop sign. He had been paused there for a bit and I was confident he had seen my eleventeen billion lumen headlamp beaming right into his windshield but as they say "When you assume, you get planted on the ice by 3000 pounds of steel" or something like that. I began to cross the side street, in the crosswalk, and he decided to jam on the gas and turn right. I had a slightly different experience than the previous super hero. He ran over my foot as I bounced off the right front fender.

I was pretty sure I didn't die and go to heaven because there was no quality bourbon and naked women. I was also fairly confident I didn't go the other direction because there was no cheap bourbon either. So I hopped to me feet to discover, amazingly, I'm essentially still in one piece, with everything important still connected and functioning(of the parts conveniently tested while standing in the middle of the road on a busy street, freezing several of those parts off). With that, I spoke to the driver for several minutes. He was very concerned and remorseful. Admitted he never looked right and he clearly felt miserable over this. I told him I was alright and was going to get back to running (My temp was dropping fast!). So back to running I went. Actually nailed my best split for the last mile. Got indoors, checked myself out and all looks fine, although now my hand is hurting.

Can you guess which foot he got?

Friday: Hooray for no sleep!!! My right hand/wrist is throbbing!!. Short work day and REST, REST, Watch The Martian(good movie), REST.

Saturday: Long run day, YES! Ok, well, um, it didn't end up a long run. As usual, something went wrong. At about mile 6 my IT band on the right leg gave up. Insane pain on the outside of the right knee and game over. Had to duck into a pet shop and do the shiver of shame (quite cold yesterday)while waiting for a ride to come get me. The running theory(pun intended)  is that the uneven surfaces I've run on this week have exacerbated my mild IT Band Syndrome that's only thus far, bugged me after my long runs.

Sunday: Um, no running today. The knee hath spoken. Just ITB Rehab exercises. At least the hand is much improved.

The bar for next week has been set pretty low. Not so great if you're a Limbo competitor, but not so bad for a runner. Good things maybe? <shrug>....

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Naked New Year and Global Warming

What better way to start the new year than with a naked run? I'm sorry if you're sad that I didn't announce it beforehand so you could watch. Private second showings are available to beautiful women with Ferraris. Just respond to me with your contact info and a picture of the Ferrari.

You may recall from reading a previous blog (why you would read one and keep reading, I've no clue) that running naked actually refers to running without the aid of modern electronics to feed you on the fly data. Truth be told, I didn't run entirely naked. I actually had my GPS watch on me, but simply refused to glance at it for the entire run(Still wanted the "After the fact" telemetry from my run). It was sort of like streaking but wearing plastic wrap over your junk. For all intents and purposes, you're still letting the boys fly

When the run was over, I looked at my watch and to my surprise, my pace was 9:30. I wanted to find out what my natural comfortable pace was and expected it to be a good bit slower than that. It is by no means fast but for a runner of just over a year who had a comfortable pace of 11:30 last January, I'll take it with a smile.

And with that, I'll leave you with my only New Years Resolution....... I resolve to always wear pants when I run from here on in (wait, what?).

Global Warming:
You hear about it all the time. It's destroying the planet and I can't help but wonder, is it us? 

We all know(those of us who run at least) that running causes certain internal functions to um, deviate from normal operation. Essentially the body goes into overdrive, with the engine running at peak performance which causes an increase in um, exhaust production. Sometimes this is a fairly steady exhaust pressure increase, while other times it's more of a backfire. It's something we all do, well, the guys at least. The women claim no knowledge of this situation(but science has proven that if they keep holding it in they will explode one day, probably). Are we the ones expelling the greenhouse gasses? Should we ban running? Hmmmmmm

*Dammit Leslie, I warned you!!

On a personal note, I've reached a point of indecision. Next Saturday I begin the Louisville Distance Project training with my local Fleet Feet.  I mostly chose to join this for social running, not so much the training. I had planned to run with the Half Marathoners with hopes of gaining benefit from the speed workouts for a nice PR at the KDF Half Marathon at the end of April. The problem is that group starts out at a very low mileage with a long run building on 4 miles. My weekly long run is up to 12. My thought process was to run with the Marathoners for the first few weeks until the Half group gets some distance on the Saturday run. I'm now torn as to what to do.....

  • Should I keep running with the marathoners and just change my registration from the half to the full? 
  • Is marathon training too intense of a program for me at this point?
  • Am I risking injury?
  • Should I stay with the original plan and be patient?
  • Should I just give up running and go back to trying to become a poker player? (Yeah, f**k that. Poker is way cool though)
Decisions, decisions.....

* Leslie is fictitious. No women runners exploded during the making of this blog.