Monday, October 31, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
I ran track in high school, briefly, but with no ill consequences. I ran in college, sort of - I'd run to the gym with a friend of mine, lift weights, and walk back to the dorm. When I got more serious about dance, I mostly stopped. Not in a pointed way - I just didn't have a lot of desire for more aerobic exercise, after a full training load dancing. When I stopped dancing, I started riding my bike a lot again but didn't do anything with running for a while.
In August of 2008 (I know because the date's written on the side of my old shoes) I decided I was going to start running again. I was in Manhattan for another month or so before moving to Seattle full-time, and I'd already shipped my road bike. At that point, I'd been doing a slow, steady mileage build on the bike for months. My aerobic engine was pretty good. I was strong.
So I bought some new shoes and knocked out a couple of 3 mile runs at whatever pace. Whatever pace had me back at my apartment in well under a half hour. And, a few runs later, I was having bad enough ankle problems that I even had to skip a couple days of work. Some background here is important - I was working as a stagehand, and I'd done enough days on my feet on concrete that I was wearing work boots with fancy insoles. Basically, my ankles and arches were very well supported for almost every load-bearing minute of the day. This is not a great thing - in fact it's the basis of the whole minimalist running movement. And even for someone with strong ankles, going straight to relatively intense, relatively long runs like that is not indicated.
So aside from a few leg opener runs later in the fall, I gave it up.
I picked it up again in 2009 and 2010, with similar results. I went for a run with my brother in which he took me apart, all the while commenting that I was probably in better aerobic shape. I was making a lot of noise on the pavement, something neither of us thought could possibly be efficient. I tried to do some runs doing 5 minutes of running and 3 minutes of walking, and shelved the project when pain and a change in my schedule interfered. I did a couple runs in the winter of this year, and then stopped again for similar reasons. At least I didn't hurt myself badly enough to miss work that time, though.
I'm doing some things differently this time. I'm trying to emphasize form. I actually considered getting some of those goofy barefoot shoes, but after talking to a few people and a shoe salesman, I decided that would be going too far for where I am right now. Of course he'd love to sell me a pair in about six months, but it's not like he was risking a sale putting me in something else for now.
My old shoes are Saucony Hurricane 10s. They're practically the definition of what the barefoot running movement is reacting against. They have a huge cushion. There's a fair amount of heel-toe drop. The medial side of the midsole under the heel and arch is denser, to correct overpronation. The upper is heavily reinforced for the same reasons. There's a stiffener in the sole somewhere. My form can go to hell and I can keep running, sort of, in these things. The next step is an air cast. Of course, I still weigh 153 lb, and 3/4" of foam isn't going to make that go away, even if it makes me think I can pound on my feet harder. In addition, I'd managed to wear out the gel, so they weren't absorbing all that shock I was delivering. No wonder I hurt myself! I'm a little surprised that I wore them out, but I guess I started and stopped enough times, over a long enough period, to add up to however many hundred miles it takes.
The new shoes are Brooks Launches.
So that's one thing I'm doing differently - shoes that don't hide my lack of form from me.
The other thing I'm doing differently is that I'm trying to be disciplined about following a conservative training plan. I'm doing the Couch to 5k. I'm not crazy about the name - I haven't been sitting on the couch, thank you. But whatever. I think if I can keep my form together, I can run without hurting myself. When I get tired, my form starts going to hell, and I get hurt. This plan starts with workouts alternating running and walking. I only run for one minute at a time, with eight intervals in the week one workouts. I feel a little self-conscious about "running" workouts that are less than 50% running, but I've been doing them in my street clothes, which is a little less bad - at least I look like a goober running in street clothes for eight minutes, instead of a goober walking in running clothes for the other twenty-two or so. I just completed week 1, and I'll actually be repeating it next week, but I can complete these workouts with no lasting ill effects, which is a big improvement over the previous attempts. It's a nine-week program that finishes with actually running for half an hour at a time. For my goals, I may not try to run any more than that.
I guess I can re-evaluate the minimalist shoes thing if I start over with someone else. My girlfriend is going on one run a week with me, and I think some will feature hers. Part of the goal here is to start doing the parcourse exercises around Greenlake; that might be another time to re-look at minimalist shoes, since I'll have built-in breaks to prevent me from getting too tired and running with the crappy form that can make these things counterproductive for some people. Of course, when I start getting more heavily engaged in the 2012 cycling season, I may peter out again. I'm okay with that, if I get stronger and better-rounded as an athlete this Fall and winter - I'm trying to cross-train, not switch sports.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Cyclocross is not my favorite kind of racing. I've been promising myself and anyone who'll listen that I'm not going to be serious about it this year.
So of course I've made more preseason races and workouts than ever before this season. My mother and her boyfriend wanted to see me race, so I told them to make it a 'cross race. I started this morning's race more prepared than ever. Which still means not very, compared to some. Regardless, big thanks to Pete, Reeve, Emily, everyone else who showed up to work out, and anyone I didn't know was
helping organize the workouts.
The staging area was getting pretty crowded when I got there, so I lined up relatively far back. I pushed through a lot of riders when we started, and then positioned myself for the right-hander with the bank. But it turned out that our field was going all the way out to the grass climb/asphalt descent at the West end of the course. Whatever - I did that. I kept catching people, which is an unusual sensation for me. I managed to get places on asphalt straightaways. I managed to get places on turns on grass. I started wondering if I'd
actually hamstrung myself a little by starting further back than I should.
Then people started catching me. Some days, you hunt the rabbit. Some days you are the rabbit. Although, I actually passed most of those people again later. For the latter half of the race, I was catching some spots and losing some spots, so I probably just stayed put.
There was a sharp right-hander after the announce truck onto grass. It was narrow and banked. That was really fun. The left-hander from the asphalt over a couple of rollers was fun too. Nice.
I always try to put in one last dig and finish at my real max. Not my maximum sustainable for xxx minutes or anything like that. Just max. I've had a number of people tell me after races that once they saw me
get out of the saddle, they just gave up. It gets me 14th out of 20 instead of 15th but hey - it's a race. I started to today, then thought it was a little soon. Some other guy tore by before I decided I was close enough. He pulled an "Andrew" on me.
So I was catching people in a lot of turns, and catching people on asphalt. The singletrack wasn't long enough for me to catch anyone, necessarily, but I was narrowing gaps or opening them, I think. I
don't know my final place, but I do know it was somewhere in the middle. Other people had to be faster than me on something. I think if there was one thing I had a hard time with, it was straightaways and climbs on grass.
Guess I know what to work on for next time...
So I got 31 out of 64 finishers in that race. Not bad for something I don't see as my stronger discipline, and certainly better than any of my outings last year.
Here's me on the course.
Action Mom has always been my biggest supporter, so I wore her company jersey.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I had a really great race! The start was rough, but whatever. I put my bike about a third of the way back in the bike pile. It was a Lemans start, so we ran around a cone, picked our bikes up, and started racing. I was mostly just trying to stay in the team kit crowd, vs. the baggy shorts crowd - I didn't want to start too hard and blow up on one of the big climbs. Then I couldn't find my bike! Whoops. I actually still got started ahead of a fair number of people, but there was a ton of traffic for the first hour and a half or so. I'm having fun with Strava, and aside from one fifteen-minute period, it doesn't look like it really slowed me down. But I hate being in that much traffic, and was composing the Litany of Excuses - I can't see, the sun's in my eyes, my sunglasses are too dark, it's dark in the forest, there's someone's rear wheel in the way of me seeing the trail, there's sweat in my eyes, there's a stick in my rear wheel...
The last one actually had me worried, but the mechanic at Aid #1 trued it enough for the remaining 38 miles, and I got started again. Only lost a couple minutes, I think, and I didn't stop to refill water bottles, which I hadn't touched because I was trying not to crash my bike and get run over. Lots of people were in line at Aid #1, or just hanging out, and I didn't experience very much traffic from there on.
I set a new record on the climb up to Aid #2! I took just over ten minutes off my previous time. Certainly there are people faster on climbs than me. But they're something I take special pride in, so that makes me happy. I also caught a fair number of people. There was an extra 200' of climbing after aid #2. Surprise! (I was. Totally thought it was downhill to the turnaround from there.) I climbed it, I think I caught one or two more people, and then it turned into a really beautiful rolling descent. So I rolled and descended. Or something. Some flat singletrack, a tough fire road climb for a few miles, an aid station, then more, easier fire road climbing. I climbed pretty hard on the tough part, didn't think there was anything left afterwards, and so I ended up in the Pain Cave Pete (my teammate) had predicted on our Facebook page. My butt was numb and hurt. (Isn't it supposed to be one or the other?) My knee felt funny. My handlebars felt like they were in the wrong place. It wasn't steep enough. It was too steep. Etc.
Finally the intersection where the GL6 Super-D (the local advocacy group, Friends of Capitol Forest, promotes a race here every year. Greenline 6 is a trail that descends about 1700' in about 6 miles in this particular section.) descent starts showed up. Yay! That was totally fun. I got a new tire the other day, and I think it was channeling Kim. (The teammate I prerode portions of the course with. She's really fast in technical singletrack and on descents.) I even passed someone on the more
open, dusty section. I contemplated visiting Aid #1, decided I didn't need to, and blew by. Of course I immediately started wondering how much trail was left (about ten miles,) and how long it would take me. I thought it couldn't be that much, got some semi-useful information from a rider who was together enough to have something counting miles in a visible spot, and kept going. I was starting to get excited. I'd been hoping to beat last year's median time for Open Men - 6:15. But I passed Aid #1 at less than five hours, and started thinking, "there's no way there's an hour's worth of riding left." (Maybe not an hour. But 55 minutes or so.) So I crossed the line at 5:47:55.3. I make a habit, lately, of sprinting finishes. The finish was too far away along a paved road for that to be practical, so I channeled my inner triathlete, got way out on my bar ends, and spun as hard as I thought I still could. I still got out of the saddle at the finish line, but there wasn't a lot left. Anyway, that was good for one position higher. My two teammates who were competing were already done, and greeted me when I found my way back to the finish line.