Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekly training recap

Mon: Rest
Tues: 3.3@11 with Yuan and David ..my "running students"....HOT sun... D and I did striders, skipping, fastfeet, high knees to keep ourselves busy at that pace 8)
Wed: 3.3@10:10 + 30 min swim @3.5
Thur: 3.4@10:44 w/5x 25s hill sprints @ 5:20-6:30 pace + drills + strength training after
Fri: 30m bike + 15m rowing
Sat:5.0@9:35 (1 mile was at 8:10)  Ran to farmer's market (2.5 miles) and after 45 min ran home. Biker almost hit me and rode off so ran one mile FAST to shake it off. Grrrr...
Sun:8.8@9:00  Awesome run, felt really strong. 5 miles easy flat hiking later in the day

A great week. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

PT visit #2..domo arigato

Today was my 2nd visit to PT....another whirlwind of learning. 

The experience is best described like this:

You are a machine...and are broken. You don't really know why or how, but you know something isn't right. You have adjusted yourself to function, and function you have! ...but it isn't factory stock anymore...oh no.

For your entire existence the other robots have sometimes asked you why you are limping when you are just moving the way you always have. You reply it's how I was built. Sometimes they forget the answer and ask again a few months later 8/

The PT does a lot of subtle things you don't understand fully and shows you in a way you can finally perceive some of the broken-ness for the first time...what is not working right.

Then she does some less subtle things that are very odd....moving your parts to angles and combinations that you didn't think were really part of the user's manual...it does't hurt.... just very awkward and a little difficult to do. 

Again, we are shown the broken-ness...but...it's less now.  Hmm...there's more to do..


Essentially, it appears that I run without using my core at all... My legs and arms are bolted onto a big cylinder that doesn't move...it's all locked up.  I use my legs and hip flexors and that's about it...they have to work much harder as a result. She says this is not atypical at all..too much sitting it chairs,  but that doesn't make me feel too much better.

She drew upon Usain Bolt as the perfect example of core-based stride and suggested I look at a video of him in slow motion. Sigh. Maybe a good example, but a very high bar for the average Joe!

Then she really surprised me: she told me that when you get it right, and you running from your core, you'll feel very different as....she said it's described like floating feeling.  WTF? When did I not get this memo? I want to float too!

I googled for this:

running core pace +floating -point feeling

Here are some of the quotes I found on various blogs (the -point is to get rid of hits on floating point arithmetic polluting the search results):

"Finished sub 6:30 pace and it felt like I was floating"

“..and after that it just feels like floating. "

"..when I felt that “floating” feeling for the very first time during our run"

"..know I'll get that floating feeling that is harder to achieve running"

I can't say I've ever experienced this..sure I've had runs where I felt strong..but never "floating".

Have you ever experienced this?

Anyway, floating aside, my efficiency is probably very  poor..the good news (I guess) is that there's more speed to harvest in addition to preventing injury 8)

This PT stuff is by far the most unusual semi-medical experience I've ever had. I wish I had video to replay and absorb the farrago of information conveyed in the all-to-brief 45 minutes.

She gave me more homework...one of which was to try to be more aware of my pelvis and core during the day and when running. 

As I walked later I could feel that I was much less imbalanced than ever before...that little rolling limp was not nearly as pronounced. Still quite messed up mind you but less so. Without warning, a wave of emotion passed over me. I though to myself...I...I .. really can change this?!


I asked her about upping my mileage and she said the usual cautions apply ..e.g. listen to aches and pains, don't over-do, but otherwise go for it...no problemo.

Super! Hear that Jill?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday Haiku

do or not do 
no try is there
yoda says

[If you like this haiku, please go over to Lee at her blog RIGHT NOW and give her some words of advice and encouragement. She needs to get out there  and make running/exercise a solid part of her life!]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekly training recap and good heel striking.

Mon: Rest!
Tues: 3.2@10:30 easy +  2 2x20s running drills + weights
Wed: 3.2@10:05 (HR 110) + 20 min swim @ 3.5
Thur: 3.2@10:30  w/3 x 30s hill sprints (~7:30 pace), 2 2x20s running drills, 8 x strength training
Fri XT: 30m bike, 15m ellip, 15m/3.1km row (3 x 1m sprints to 15kph) , 5 min weights
Sat: 2.2@10:00
Sun: 8.8@9:30 (122 HR) 

Wednesday's run was interesting. It was my normal flat  loop for 3 miles,  but I noticed my HR was pretty low during the run. At the end the average was 110..normally it would be around 115. This is one of the lowest HRs for that pace I've seen in quite a while.

Jill had me only 20m of swimming this week....just as well after doing weights the day before. Swimming is a great exercise to double train with on the same day as running, IMHO.

I survived Thursdays trifecta of 3.2 miles running with hill sprints, running drills and strength training. I can tell I'm much stronger that last time I was trying this and my calf was fine this time.

Killer XT on Friday with my favorite of rowing last as usual and the hardest. When I started doing this I could only do about 2:45-3min/500m pace, now I can do <2:30. 

Saturday was optional running. I hoped to do all 4 on coaches plan  but only did 2.2 miles due to other commitments.

Sunday I took the extra 2 I didn't run Saturday and tacked it onto the 7 called for and did 9 ..heh heh. Is that legal Jill? That distance allowed me to finally get back to doing my favorite baylands trail loop from my house..YAY!  Here's the splits:

Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Avg Cadence
1 1.00 09:40 111 86
2 1.00 09:24 124 86
3 1.00 09:39 123 86
4 1.00 09:18 124 85
5 1.00 09:19 124 85
6 1.00 09:34 124 85
7 1.00 09:40 123 84
8 1.00 09:25 123 85
9 0.82 09:16 125 84

I kept the HR under my aerobic max (125) and even so saw my pace at a solid 9:30 average..with no fade. I felt great the entire time and wanted to put the hammer down several times but did not...my HR upper limit alert (set to 128 bpm) vibrating to tell me to STFD. 

I find when I think about future or past races, or I see people ahead of me going fast I often subconsciously speed up. If I spin out and daydream about other things besides running, I slow down. 

My aerobic pace breathing has changed in the last 2 months. I noticed a few weeks ago I've started doing 2:4 breathing (2 leg strikes on the inhale, 4 on the out). 3 years ago I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool 2:2 or 2:3 man.. I'm wondering if the swimming effected this? When you swim you do a lonnnng exhale and then a quick inhale......

Does anybody else notice their breathing cadence? I often listen to other runners to see what they are doing, especially in races.

Im doing the psoas muscle pressure stretches 2-4 times per day and it seems to be helping it be less tight.  The 'tweaky' feeling in my hamstrings (which the PT said is really just the nerve getting messed with because of other problems)  has been getting less and less noticeable since I have been doing these stretches. It's great I don't have to worry that it's a muscle thing...but it will be nice if it goes away completely.

I meet with her again on Tuesday for the next step.

If you recall I spoke about trying to drop some weight a while back. I've not had much success... until the last few weeks where I really buckled down..weight is down a couple of lbs but the bigger change is that I am obviously leaner (using the pinch method in various places) and this is because I have way more muscle than ever before. 

This is completely due to the strength and weight training coach Jill has me doing.  I'm actually very happy with the weeks spent not running and all the new things we've gotten into. It is fun to have bigger muscles 8). 

My % body fat is down a couple of % so far if I had to guess (recall it was ~18.6%). The bodyfat scale feature is worthless...goes all over the place. 


Here's a great post about when heel striking is just fine on one of my favorite fact/science oriented blog, runblogger.  Those of you that wonder if your heel striking will bite you down the road can read his post...makes a lot of sense (as all of his postings do).

Hope y'all had a great weekend! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Meet "Big Dog" running

Unlike Mabel (see previous post) this is "Big Dog". He's got 4 legs which makes it an easier balance problem than 2. 

Look how it manages through the woods and snow and even catches its balance on glare ice!

Imagine this thing chasing you through the woods with bad intentions....makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

MABEL: fastest robot with knees!

at a blinding 6.8 mph!

The thing to keep in mind is that this is the best we can do right now for 2 legged robot running.

While impressive, it just points out how much our own brains do ..this robot is running on a very simple flat course and still looks pretty clumsy. (Although better than any robot before no doubt).

It's also not having to worry about lateral stability because of the stabilizing rod. Adding that it will make things ever more complex.

Then, drag it out to some interesting, technical trail and get that to work.

They have a lot more programming to do  8)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Weekly training recap and MAF HR training

Mon: Rest
Tue: 3.3 miles@10:14 (run with my "swim coach" David)
Wed: 4.7 miles@10:02
Thur: 3.2 miles@10:12, weights + floor

Fri: easy 18min bike (115 HR) warmup, 30 min swim nonstop @ 4, much better with the flutter kick now. Fastest swim yet. Now working more on symmetric roll to the left so I can get to bilateral breathing someday (and also make it easier for my left arm)

Sat: 4.8@9:47 with 2x30s stride-outs (7:00 pace?) That was fun 8)
Sun: 8@9:34 

Cadences all @85-87. I can feel my running muscles coming back quickly...but I'm feeling guilty that I did so little cross training this week! That's a switch, eh?

Splits for the 8 mile sunday run:

Split Distance Avg Pace Avg HR Avg Cadence
 1 1.00 09:21 112 87
 2 1.00 09:31 124 87
 3 1.00 09:28 124 86
 4 1.00 09:34 125 86
 5 1.00 09:33 124 86
 6 1.00 09:33 125 86
 7 1.00 09:43 125 86
 8 1.00 09:49 126 85
 9 0.01 07:48 122 84

You'll notice I ran at an average 125 BPM heart rate. For me, this is what Dr. Phil Maffetone calls my "Maximum Aerobic Function" or "MAF HR", which is nominally 180 - 55 (age) = 125 for me. He's a firm believer in not running over this heart rate ..instead, he advocates letting your body improve pace at this heart rate. 

In this way you avoid the jazzing up of your endocrine system you get from hard running....his philosophy is to use races as your hard running and he doesn't believe in traditional peaking style training at all. He's coached one of the best Ironman winners of all time, as well as others, so he's had some success with these ideas.

I'm not sure I totally agree with all his principles but I do like the idea of measuring performance by  sustained pace I can do at a given HR.

Previously (being a geek) I invented for myself something called the "calibration run" , this testing was my way of measuring my conditioning level without having to race all-out. However, the calibration run is itself a hard run..not as bad as doing a race, but still a tough run. 

The MAF run by contrast is at totally sustainable pace. Here's what Dr. Maffetone says about this:

For a workout to be truly aerobic, you should be able to exercise the same way for many weeks and months with continued benefits. And, when you’re finished each workout, you should feel great—not tired or sore, and certainly not ready to collapse on your couch. Nor should you have cravings for sugar or other carbohydrates—your workout should program your body to burn more fat, not sugar. Burning too much sugar during a workout means it’s anaerobic, using up stored sugar (glycogen). It can even lower blood sugar. The result is that you crave sweets. 

This is a key to differentiating an aerobic exercise program from an anaerobic one. While even a hard weight-lifting session can produce some of these benefits short term, it does not in the long term. 

Eventually, even moderately anaerobic workouts soon can reduce fat burning and even lower the number of aerobic fibers your muscles contain. Scientists have demonstrated this fact. They have measured this decline. It’s not something based on anecdotal evidence. I have measured it too, in couch potatoes, aerobic dancers, walkers, and professional athletes.

I highlighted the red part because I think this cuts right to the problem a lot of marathoners have with crashing and burning: they do their long runs TOO FAST and never learn how to fully turn on fat burning. Instead, they become really good at running 20 miles at a fast pace 8/

If you are going to win at doing Ironman tris: you need a fast pace, but you need it to be totally aerobic..you are out there just too damn long to get away with anything else.

This, I believe, is why my year-of-8 marathons was so successful..I almost never trained at faster than MAF HR and I became able to do this 9:30-ish pace for hours and hours. I avoided injury for 322 days. (But doing the last trail marathon was probably too much considering my lack of trail running previously).  The marathons themselves became MAF HR runs that kept me in shape and didn't break me down because they weren't done too fast.

I do think to break 4 hours I'm need some fast running. But I think having a huge base of MAF HR speed running helps to get good endurance (i.e. fat burning). Not everybody enjoys HR based training of course, but once you know your paces you can stay aerobic that way. The HR based training can help measure small improvements in conditioning without teasing you to run faster and faster...and I really like that.

Anyway, this 8 miler shows me my conditioning is pretty good..a 9:30 m/m @ 125 with very little heart rate up-drift is good number.

The calf was just fine. It was sweet to run that far again...hopefully I'll be back to my favorite long runs in a few weeks!


I've been doing the two pressure stretches the PT showed me..the psoas one is working really well. When I get up, it's tight and it takes a minute or so to loosen it up. After my run on Saturday I found it was still loose..but after my Sunday run it was tight. I still can't sense it...I have to lay down and press on it to find out how it's doing. Hopefully I'll develop more of a feel for how I'm aligned without having to do that. 

The other stretch is not really working right...perhaps I'm doing it wrong...have to get her to show me again I guess 8/

I should mention that my PT said there was a lot of stuff I needed to do, ..it's not like two muscle stretches can fix a lifetime of being messed up....it's just that she didn't even want to start on anything else until I got the pelvis in a better place. I'm just happy to be moving things in the right direction!

Hope y'all had a great weekend! 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How to do deep cross-fit style squats...

I think squats are a great exercise if you can do them. I never considered myself able to do them very well and always though that they were dangerous for the knees.

Then in 2009, a former co-worker, Michele (he's from Italy), took up crossfit and proceeded to show me how they do squats...they are very different from what I was used to before and my knees didn't mind them at all... in fact it seemed to strengthen lots of muscles that stabilize things. 

I try to do 2 X 15-20 at least twice a week...you can do them anywhere. I often do them in the office in the middle of the day. 

Jill has me also doing 'goblet squats' where you hold a weight in front of you..these are easier in that you don't have to keep the forward center of gravity with muscle power (i.e. you cheat on that part) , but they are harder in that you are lifting more weight (e.g. 20lbs more). Both are good.

WARNING: these exercises can potentially permanently injure your back, knees and god-knows-what-else. Use your noggin' and don't attempt them unless you know your limits. Nelly can tell you it's a tricky business (I believe he's recovering from a knee injury brought on by doing squats).

The key points are:

1) do not lean forward (which is why I face a wall so I can't), you can hold your hands out to help a bit (but don't touch the wall)
2) go ALL the way down by arching your lower back and tucking/rolling your butt BACK and OUT (I really don't do this very well.. I tend to roll inward rather than back)
3) careful! don't over do it, especially if you haven't done them in a while
4) keep your shoes FLAT on the floor, feet at shoulder width.
5) harder: go barefoot (or zero drop shoe) and still keep feet flat on floor.
6) advanced: stay down at the bottom and try to go deeper by opening your hips a bit more.

[Update: Nelly adds these IMPORTANT pointers:

In addition to your instructions, don't let your knees go further forward than your toes, you should be able to see your toes at all times. That's why doing them in front of a mirror is probably a good idea.

Also, make sure your knees go straight in relation to your feet, don't let your knees roll inward at all. That was what I was doing wrong, my knees would roll inward somewhat when I was doing the squats, straining the meniscus on the inside of my left knee. ]

Here's a video of me showing you how I do it..not pretty but it works for me, I cracked a good sweat just doing these few: 

It's a great way to strengthen your legs and keep a full range of motion to boot. I find my knees and back have no problem with them...YMMV!

If you've ever been to Asia you'll know that people over there often rest in a squat position.

It also comes in handy when the toilet facilities are
somewhat, erm, primitive. (oblig feeble attempt at SUAR type humor ;)

Believe it or not, for them it's a very low energy position...for me, not so much! 8)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Finally, I see a PT

I had made an appointment to see a PT via my workplace when my calf pull episode flared up. 

Recall that I'm trying to address some structural problems that I've had for, well, my whole life, so that I can function better and hopefully for more years ;) 

I have been able to run, and run pretty well (for age 55), e.g. having run a 4:06 marathon last year at SF and then recently a 4:10 in Copenhagen. But, I am concerned that if i don't address my lifelong problems, they may create premature joint wear or other problems down the road.

What I've found is that it's not easy to get this kind of help....doctors are really good when you walk in with a broken bone or simple infection but they aren't really into debugging complex messy  bio-mechanical problems.

Recall that previously I had been referred by my normal Dr to a sports orthopedist...no PT recommendation from her...she wanted to send me to the real Dr first...  He said two things that helped a little bit:

1) Told me to wait longer after a calf pull than I was doing....I waited 5.5 weeks this time with no running, only cross training. This was a Very Good Suggestion...but I had already figured this out myself.

2) He took and X ray of my pelvis and confirmed nothing too horrible wrong but some tilt visible. Unclear why I'm so lopsided but at least I could see that I had plenty of cartilage left (so far).

He also gave me a prescription to see the 'hip guys' at my HMO..however they see nothing but people that need hip repair and resurfacing. Somehow, I think this would be a waste of time and potentially just scary. So I've giving it a pass for now...

And that's what he did...bye bye, good luck, haveaniceday 8/


Anyway Thursday I go into see a true PT. Here's her bio:

Lang is a graduate of the University of Connecticut. She previously worked in sports medicine, outpatient orthopedics and pediatric sports medicine.

Lang has taken continuing education courses on the pelvic girdle, functional manual therapy, spine assessment and treatment, Pilates, and running/gait assessment. She was certified as a kinesiotaping practitioner in 2004. In 2010, she completed her certification of functional manual therapy with the institute of physical art and passed with honors. She is also an ART (active release technique) practitioner.

Lang enjoys traveling and the outdoors, especially running, rock climbing, hiking and beach activities. Her athletic goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon.


I liked that bio....she's a runner too, always a good thing.

Basically she had me walk, do some one-legged squats and showed me with my hands on her hands how my hips and pelvis were positioned  ..she showed me that my legs are actually the same length, the difference is purely 'functional'..i.e. it's all from pelvic tilt not from the legs...it's pretty badly tilted (as I kinda already knew from the X-ray, although that was taking lying down which probably hides some of it).

On my back she brought my knee toward my chest and showed (by placing my hands in the right places) on my normal leg the progression of leg, then pelvis, then spine taking up the angle. However, on my right leg the pelvis didn't do anything...I went right from leg to spine taking the angle. This is really bad for the back...lots of stress is sent there that should have been addressed in the hips.

She gave me two deep pressure stretches to do..one for the psoas muscle and another for a teeny muscle in the seam between my leg and pelvis (forgot the name)..both are completely tight as drums and effed up.

 It was amazing that with only 15 minutes of pressure she was able to change my range of motion a huge amount and make my gait seem more normal...! I will also get my massage guys to do these stretches on me.

Previously I've tried to do stretches for the hip and just felt like they were going to pop my hip apart..I never seemed to get any better. She explained it's because the pelvis is what is tight and so all my stretching was just trying to pop the hip out and not stretching the muscles that were the problem..so don't do that, instead fix the pelvis to have the proper range of motion...hips are just fine.

The tendency toward right side calf pulls  is pretty well explained by the stuff I've been doing to compensate...if I solve the pelvis flexibility problem it should be fine too.

She says I'm not getting anywhere near the strength from my right leg as I am from my left (and my left is just fine) so if I can fix this problem I will be way better off..

Confirmed that running is ok...have to build up the miles and stress gradually again but no problem running. GOOD!  (I've already run 18 miles (slowish paces only) since Saturday ;)

She also explained that "tweaky feeling in my hamstring" that seemed to not be getting better very fast is actually a problem with the nerves being stretched out (muscles can be stretched to fit wonky frame, but nerves can't) ..so it's NOT a muscle pull, (i.e. I'm not hurting the muscle by running on it) , this feeling should be addressed by improving the range of pelvis motion.

(She also said the numbness I have in the outside of my right foot when biking hard for over an hour could also be due to the same thing)

After the 45 minutes I felt like I finally found somebody that knows what they are doing and for the first time that some of the things I've lived with might actually be changeable to some degree. Not something I expected.

 I'm seeing her once a week for 8 weeks ....we shall see how it all works out !

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Weekly training recap: back to running!

Mon: 30m weights, etc.., 30m ellip HR 120

Tues: 49:30 walk, 3.23miles @ 3.92mph

Wed: 15 m bike 125-130HR, 30m swim 3.5mph, 10m ellip, 10m row

Thur: 20m weights/floor ex, 30min bike

Fri: 30m swim@3.7 worked on feet pointed, knees not bent, 20m bike w/2x sprints to 150bpm, 10m ellip HR 130

Sat: Run 5.37 miles @9:46 pace HR 125, cadence 85

Sun: Run 2.25 miles @ 10:16 , HR 116, cadence 85

Yes, you got that right...back to running!  Also 7 full days of exercise this week (although Tuesday was just a power walk).

Boy, did the running feel good!.. so easy to get a great workout while looking at the sky, trees and everything outdoors. (ok, you get that on the bike too but not as carefree!). I feel like  my cardio held steady....mostly I notice the running-specific muscles are a bit deconditioned.

On the other hand, I have all sorts of other muscles that are way bigger from all the other workouts  I've been doing. In particular, the glutes, abs and hip adductor muscles are stronger  What I think are called the "lattissimus dorsi" have made an appearance for the first time in my life...I assume it's from the swimming (?)

As for my calf pull area , it seems healed..but I'll take it easy on the running paces for another week or two while I build up the miles again.

Annoyingly, I still have a soreness in some deep muscle in my right upper leg.(might be the gracilius muscle?)..it's gotten better some but it's still there. Doesn't seem to be associated with the running directly...I don't particularly notice it when running or walking.

Thursday, I get to see a (running specialized) PT person this week (FINALLY) and I'm looking forward to what she has to say about that as well as my R/L imbalance and what (if anything) I should do about it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A Nyad for the Oceans...

Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times
I've been meaning to post about Diana Nyad since I saw this article about her ( in the science section of the NY Times back in July) 

More about her anti-shark tech:


I think this lady is awesome.  Her last name, Nyad, has a meaning:

  • In Greek mythology, the Naiads or Naiades (Ναϊάδες from the Greek νάειν, "to flow," and νἃμα, "running water") were a type of nymph who presided over fountains, wells, springs, streams, and brooks.

Hence my post title 8)