So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad* Training Specialist. Runner. Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) Certified Official, Category 2. RRCA Representative, Florida (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Let's Talk Christmas...In July

How many of you received a pair of running shoes as a holiday present?  A quick show of hands, if you please.
How many of you can tell me when you bought your last pair of running shoes; once again a show of hands?
Those of you who raised your hands for the first question or couldn't raise your hand to answer the second...it's high time for us to take a trip to your local running emporium.  Let's take a stroll through the accessory section; look at some items which you can use to trick out your kicks...
First, how about a nice pair of replacement insoles?  There's a variety and range from the most simple replacement sockliner (more-or-less the technical term for what passes for original equipment) to borderline semi-custom orthotics for the biomechanically less-than-gifted.  Doing a lot of long distance runs?  There's an insole just for you, too.  Personally, I love the silicone rubber ones because they last a long, long time.
Ooh...what are these here?  Elastic laces?  One of the last pairs of triathlon-specific running shoes I bought (outside of the fact they were louder than a Friday night in the French Quarter) came with an optional pair of elastics.  While distance runners don't necessarily feel the need for speed...when it comes to lacing 'em up (not unless you're like me and constantly running behind for the Sunday morning meet-up) the elastic shoelaces are a wonder, especially if you have feet that tend to swell after 60 or 90 minutes of running.  No more ache in the instep or need to re-tie the shoe to lessen the pressure.  And you don't have to worry about your shoelaces coming untied or flapping about during a big race.
You got something that looks like it will work, huh?  Let's go up to the check-out counter.
Stop.  For the love of Pre, stop.  I cannot believe you would do this to yourself.  You still need a pair of shoes.
I've met many a runner who have decided to be penny-wise and pound-foolish; deciding to stick a forty-dollar pair of insoles into a shoe that's had six months or 500 miles of use.  In a way, that's like putting new tires on a car with a wheel alignment issue.  Just because the outer sole - most often good, firm rubber - may not look worn, but the midsole is what takes the brunt of the banging when we run.  Nearly every runner I've talked to who has complained of soreness in the ankles, knees or lower back usually has stayed in a (favorite) pair of running shoes longer than the effective lifespan.  Once the shoes have been changed out the problem subsides.
We have EVA, ethylene vinyl acetate, to thank for shock absorption.  That spongy stuff comes in a variety of firmness and lasts for a fairly long time, but it doesn't last forever.  The difference between the "give" when you push your finger into the midsole of a brand new running shoe (after you remove the sockliner/insole) and one that's had a couple of hundred miles put on it is noticeable.  Even a pair which has been out for longer than six months (one where the rubber doesn't have that mild vinegar smell) is closer to the end of its effective lifespan than the former.
A runner who still feels a sentimental attachment to a pair of shoes can stand to wash their shoe, put a new insole in them and keep them around, but the shoe is best for emergency use; walking or mowing lawns.  Better yet, consider being a little less sentimental about that pair of running shoes; donate them to one of the many charitable groups which pass good, workable shoes along to persons in need.  You can call it re-gifting, if you so like.  Personally I'm not opposed to that form of re-gifting.
Christmas...in July.  And those accessories are still a good idea.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We Make The Path...By Walking

Social media can be our best friend and our worst adversary, depending on our state of mind and the motives of the people with whom we choose to interact.

Keep those last few words in mind, if you will, from 'with whom.'

This week I originally planned to talk about the (relative) benefits of walking when compared to running.  It's one of those topics that I don't think I've considered (much) as a coach of runners, much less as a "self-coached runner."  Physician, author and ultra-runner Timothy Noakes dedicates two solid and introspective pages to it in the "Developiing a Training Base" chapter of his seminal work Lore of Running.

For those who have not purchased or accessed the book (one of those "if you were stuck in a place with only x number of books at your disposal" tomes) that is less than a "blip on the radar screen" in the grand scheme of the entire (800-page) work.

Runners don't like to talk much about walking because, Noakes writes, walking is what runners do when they can no longer run or have "failed" during their race performance.  The American ultra-runner/writer (and founding member of the Road Runners Club of America, if memory serves me correctly) Tom Osler first recommended walks as part of run training; it's (the disciples of?) former Olympic 10,000-meter runner-turned-running author Jeff Galloway who brought the walk interval to the mainstream running consciousness.  As I age I am less likely to deride Galloway for the democratization of running, save for the (highly-mistaken) assertion that every person can do a marathon.

As in the words of a good friend:  Just because you can doesn't mean that you should.

Not to mention the fact Galloway's statement humans were not meant to run long distances flies in the face of evolutionary biologist (and barefoot running heretic?) Daniel Lieberman's postulations in the pages of Christopher McDougall's barefoot running manifesto Born To Run.

This is starting to sound like one of those "the adversary of my adversary is my ally" realpolitik arguments.

But back to walking.  Which is how I spent my Sunday morning.  A rest day, mind you, but one where I felt someone (since my loving bride was out of town) needed to be out at the group run/jog/walk/traipse/shuffle/skip/amble/ramble...you get the picture without all the "slashing," I take it.  Just in case there was a walker.

So I did a solitary five miles out on the same course my companions would run, taking time to listen to the birds, squirrels and automobiles passing.  It was a nice change, relatively speaking.

Most every person understands that running and walking are not the same biomechanically, calorically, or cardiovascularly.  A 160-pound guy who runs a mile burns about 20 percent more calories than if he were to walk a mile, which might have something to do with the biomechanics of springing off the legs rather than extending from one leg to the other.  Or the effort taken to cool the body, perhaps.  A five-mile jaunt run rather than walked, then, adds an additional 100 calories "to the good" of our hypothetical 160-pounder.

But the varying biomechanics between long-distance walking and running might not be such a bad thing.   While running beats the beejeezus (there's a technical term which needs to enter the physiological realm) out of people, in most cases walking - unless it's done in extreme terrain - is less-likely to do the damage that running does.

Top this with the slower pace, which means the ability to observe, listen and ponder the myriad of sensations surrounding one's self...should one decide to not shove headphones into their ears...and the relative loss in single-occasion training benefit (negligible) might be compensated for by spiritual and emotional rejuvenation.  Of course, the proviso is that this activity be done in a solitary manner.  I've done more than my share of (longer) walks where by the end of the course we had ALL of the world's problems solved...but forgot to write down the solutions.

Nuts.

Monday, June 2, 2014

(Hide-) Bound to Get Past The Plateau

All right. I'll admit it. I am a creature of habit.

Were I to suddenly become the target of surveillance, for any particular reason, the person or persons assigned to snoop on me would quickly become...well...bored.

They would quickly learn what my closest friends and my wife have described as "the Tao of Bowen."  The "Tao of Bowen," as described by the first observer, an old friend/roommate, was - not surprisingly - completely the opposite of the Army infantryman's credo: 'Why run when you can walk, why walk when you can stand, why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down.'

I stick to a few, well-planned workouts which I know have good effect.  It takes a lot of prodding before I try a different long run course on the weekend, or during the week.  My rest days (at this time) are at a regular interval; my cross-training and my strength workouts are on specific days of the week.  And, worst of all, I still try to control as many of the variables as possible.

I don't think it's necessarily a sign of an unhealthy mind; it's not a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder or any form of abnormal psychology.  I know some of it comes from a perceived lack of control over some things when I was younger, but there's some of it which comes from the analytical side of me, the side which desires to maintain balance and harmony, regardless of cost.

Why does this need exist?  Perhaps it has something to do with what the existentialist author, philosopher, and journalist Albert Camus was reported to have said (according to Dean Karnazes) "We are at home in our games because it is the only place we know just what we are supposed to do."

Co-workers have gently kidded me about my memory for little details, a'la Dustin Hoffman's "Rain Man."  When I watched the movie it was a little disturbing to see Hoffman's Raymond react to the slightest variance in the daily routine.  Oh, my...how many times have I sat in a (truly useless) meeting staring at the clock, saying to myself, 'I've got to get to the gym in 15 minutes so I can get the run in,' then be delayed by 15-to-20 minutes, get to the gym and have my run turn out to be total...junk.  My head wasn't in it because I was frustrated by the delay.  Or...I get to the gym, it's a pace interval workout on the treadmill, and all of the televisions are set to a particular television channel I cannot stand.

So there are days, sometimes weeks or even months, where you feel like all you're doing is whacking your head against a wall on a daily basis.  Frustrating is not even the beginning of how it feels to me when I reach a particular plateau.  There are at least two paths to take when you find your head is the part of your body which hurts the most - figuratively - from such wall-bashing.

In the past I've considered a variation in my training: rather than run, for example, a little under five miles - two sets of twenty minutes at eight-minute-per-mile pace, perhaps I'll intersperse five one-minute walk recoveries and go for 45 minutes.  If I have a good day with eight minutes of running, one minute walking, then I'll add another minute of running...slowly increase the total distance, etc., etc.

Lately, though, there's only so many times you can tack on an additional five minutes.  It's not wrong, either, to stay at one place for a while and either work it until you succeed (yes, just like the old adage).  You can also consider backing off to a point where you were making it through the workouts without too much difficulty...stay there for up to three weeks, and then charge the wall one more time.

Either way, you're bound to get past the plateau.  I'm not certain which means is "prettier."