Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another piece of the puzzle?

The fall colors are about to get hammered by some big rains..that will be it for autumn.

It's been a month since I got back from our long trip: 7 weeks since the Berlin Marathon.
Although I didn't have any problems during the marathon or during the hiking around after I started running I pulled the damn thing again. 

This is probably the 6th time I have pulled one calf or another. 

A few weeks passed with me doing a lot of cross training and strength training (which I enjoy reasonably well)..the calf gradually got better. But, I was thinking during that time: "I need to figure how why this is happening ". 

Calf sleeves have helped, but they haven't solved the problem, stretching and strength training...ditto.  Clearly there were some form issues that were Not Right.

Not that it's all bad: over the years I have made a lot of progress in my form:  

  1. I'm using a much more rapid cadence (from 78-82 to 85-90) and amid-foot strike.
  2. I have worked through terrible AT issues, and some slight PF issues as well. 
  3. I learned how to keep my core strong and release my psoas muscle when it's locked up (which is rarely is now that I'm stronger).
  4. I also discovered how to deal with my leg length discrepancy with a small homemade foot lift. 

My last peaked marathon, my fastest to date at 3:54:54 (Eugene, Or) I had no big issues in training or during the race...that was awesome!

Anyway, after this pull I was still noodling over the problem of *why* the pulls?. Then one day before I was to go down to Pasadena for Thanksgiving looking through running books to read for the trip  I stumbled on the ChiRunning book. 

I like books. I like learning things from people that have already been there. Isn't that what makes us different than the animals ;) ? 

I downloaded the ebook and read it during the trip down....Bingo! 

I'm not a fan of the "Chi Energy" theory itself: from my point of view that's just a way of visualizing and explaining things...it's not required to believe in that to get the benefits of the form instructions. There's a lot of good thinking behind the form ideas and so I don't let that bias me.

There were several things that jumped out at me in that book..(in order of 

1) My lower legs are tense and working way to hard. In fact my glutes and upper legs are too tense as well. This is the bingo moment. In ChiRunning you are totally relaxed and not tense in the legs and glutes.

2)I was forward leaning too much. Result: stress on lower legs.

3) I have not been doing enough hip rotation to lengthen my stride during faster paced running...free energy lost!

4) I really don't keep my hips leveled all the time, like most people they are tilted back which is bad. I have the core muscles to do it now but I often let this slide...also resulting in stress on the legs.

Why didn't I read this book before? A couple of years ago I was looking at the Amazon reviews and some guy said "...all this book is y telling you is to lean forward from the ankles when you run". That I had already learned so I didn't think to read the book...what a stupid move on my part, but also  what a stupid thing for this guy to say.

If there is one thing I've learned over and over now, it's that form is critical to running healthy ...and fast.

I started working on adding these elements to my form..I've racked 20 miles for last week at various base paces. So far the calves are feeling better even though the running is more. It's an interesting feeling keeping my lower body loose and relaxed and cranking 9 m/m.  

Read the ChiRunning book..it's good information. As I said I don't care for the 'chi energy' model but you don't really need to use it, you just need to follow the focus lessons on your form. There is also a some chapters on diet etc that I don't really need (I think...hm). 

Official Tacoma training starts Jan 1! Need some good base training under my belt before then...for this peak I want to:

  1. Clean up my form as per the above..no injuries!
  2. Migrate back to the Kinvaras for the race by mixing them back in training.
  3. Hit race day down in the 16X lbs.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Where's Paul?

Haven't been blogging...I was just too busy after being away for so long. Where was I? Well, after the Berlin Marathon visit Toni and I went to Mauritius for 5 days, and then a 1 hour flight to Madagascar for a 2 week, mostly driving tour (two internal flights). 

Madagascar is almost at the other side of the earth from where I live near San Francisco. It's a lot of flying to get home!

Besides being too swamped with work, I was also pretty busy processing the photos and videos from that trip but finally that is done!

The memories of that trip are powerful. Madagascar is a very large island, isolated from other continents for many millions of years and so it has a biodiversity that is the highest on earth.  The photo above is of  "Baobob" trees...they are like something from outer space. 65% of the chameleons on the earth live there. Instead of baboons, chimps and monkeys you have many many species of lemurs.

There are a lot of national parks to protect the animals, but sadly, the Malagasy people are on average very poor and still practice slash-and-burn subsistance agriculture. And their population is growing very fast. This means there is always the danger the remaining forests will be lost someday...so it's a tense situation.

As a people I found the Malagasy friendly, happy and kind. They do everything in the countryside with difficult manual labor (but don't gripe about it) and you will not find very many fat people there at all.  

But, the medical care is terrible, the nutrition is probably bad and the cooking with charcoal indoors probably does a number on peoples lungs. As a result the average life expectancy for a man is ......exactly my age: 56. Um. 

If you are interested in lemurs, the "Big Red Island" and its people check out the "Best of Madagascar" album of our trip (250 photos culledo ut of 3000) over here


After the marathon while on the trip I didn't do any running..there just wasn't any time..of course we did get some walking/hiking in but really there wasn't much to keep me in good condition...there was a lot of sitting and driving.

So, I've been gradually returning to running and also strength training. I gained about 5-8 lbs from not doing enough exercise and eating too much (it was worth it...8)... but I'm only about halfway back to where I need to be now.

Next race up is the Tacoma marathon on May 5th....plenty of time to prepare! Looking forward to this race as it's the home of the Marathon Maniacs (race run by one of the founders) and they'll be a lot of them there for the 10th anniversary of the founding. 

I am considering revving up to try for a PR on this race..it's not a bad course..has one incline early in the race for a mile that gains about 180' but it has a 200' net downhill overall so It's a possibility.  Jill? You up for another round of coaching ;)? 

To those of you gearing up to run CIM (Paulette, Tricia, Amanda...??) Have a great race! I wish I was there. (I have considered driving up just to ring the cowbell and cheer ya'll on ..we'll see!)

So, if you are reading this far, ...I'm sorry I haven't been commenting on your blogs! I have been skimming them to try to keep up.. I just don't have as much time these days. I hope to get back to normal eventually.

Meanwhile...happy running!