Sunday, March 27, 2011

The "A.R.T." of staying injury free

One of my biggest concerns with running five hundred mile runs in five months is keeping my body injury free. I have suffered from chronic anterior tibialus tendinitis for the past few years.  It started with a stress fracture that was the result of attempting to run 124 miles across the state of NH in 2008.  At the time I blamed it on the relentless pounding that hours and hours of running on pavement does.  One Year later, after a successful year of racing injury free, I again ran into this problem when attempting for the second time to run across the state.

At the time I chalked it up to just being at the end of a long season of training and racing.  Or maybe it was the pavement again.  Each time I would run into it I would be forced to reduce my milage from  70-80 miles per week to about 30-35.  I would spend time on the elliptical or running very easy on the treadmill to recover.

Last year I decided to try for a marathon PR, rather than risk it again.  My coach changed my training to include much more speed work.  I was feeling really good until a couple weeks before the marathon when the tendinitis monster crept up on me again.

I got my PR (3:15:10) at the very hilly Manchester NH marathon and was right back in the recovery mode.  My ankle/shin were once again killing me.  During this time one of my employees, who just happens to be a wicked fast pro triathlete, said that my problem might be caused by heel striking.  I had been playing with more minimal shoes and modifying my running form to more of a mid/forefoot strike, but I could only do it so long before I would revert back to mild heel striking.

I decided to give it a better effort and began to really work on my form.  The work started in October and only recently can I honestly say that my form is now transformed.  One of the biggest part of modifying my form has been a switch to shoes that have at the most 4mm of difference between the heel and forefoot.  This prevents my heel from slamming into the ground before the rest of my foot, reducing the amount of stress on my ankle tendon.  Recently I did a 22 mile run in a pair of shoes that have a 7mm differential and my shin bothered me for days.

I realized that I need to do more than just watch my form.  At Amy's urging I made an appointment with Dr. Brett Coapeland.  Brett owns Performance Health in Concord, NH.  He specializes in A.R.T. (active release therapy).  It is very different than the PT that I have experienced in the past.  Brett finds the trouble area then holds it as he has you work against it which releases the tension in the muscle or tendon.  I did a little work with Brett before the marathon on my ridiculously tight hamstrings and it helped a lot.  We have now come up with a plan to work on the tendinitis before it turns into something worse.

My first appointment was this Thursday and after checking to make sure it really was the anterior tibialus that is the problem (it is) he did his ART and then he did something I didn't expect.  He put five acupuncture needles in my shin!  He told me that what he was doing is called dry needling.  It is used on areas of tension to release tension.  I couldn't even feel them being put in and all I had to do was sit with my shin relaxed for a little while.

I am really psyched to be working with Brett.  He really understands what I'm trying to do with my training and racing.  He also is a triathlete and he has even run the VT100!

To test his work I ran 31 miles yesterday and everything is feeling great.  Hopefully the combination of using low or zero drop shoes combined with mid foot running and Bretts care will keep me on my feet this year and not on the sidelines.

Here is this weeks training recap:

Monday - 7.1 Miles (1:00:15)Ran very easy for the first few miles before I loosened up. Nice slow easy run, feeling good.

Tuesday - 8 Miles (1:09:23). Ran very easy, felt good.

Wednesday - 9.62 Miles (1:20:01)Roads and Trails.  Cut the run short because I had to get to the auction.

Thursday Morning - 10 Minutes on Elliptical (warmup for workout)
Thursday Morning - 45 Minutes Strength Training

Thursday Afternoon - 14.1Miles (2:05:09)Felt great today. Took a fairly hilly route and just took it easy.

Friday - 14 Miles (2:00:28)Ran very hilly route, all roads.  Saw 2 big deer.

Saturday - 31 Miles (4:40:47)Ran 4.5 miles to Rons house, picked him up and did an eight mile loop.  A couple miles to the trailhead then 7 miles of snowy trails. The rest roads. I felt pretty tired for the first 10 or so, then I felt better. At the end I felt awesome. I had 28 on the schedule, but decided if I was that close to 30 thats what I should shoot for.  As I got close to the end I decided I might as well do a full 50k because I felt so good.

Sunday - 4.25 Miles (36:31)
Couldnt run this morning because we got up at 3am to fly to Florida.  Ran in the afternoon trying to figure out where the hell anything was.  It was 90 degrees out and I was very tight from yesterdays run.
88.1 Miles
12:52:34 Hours running
45 Min Strength training
10 Min Eliptical machine

Sunday, March 20, 2011

124 Miles of Pavement?

Logan UT, where "The Bear 100" is raced
This week I finally signed up for the fourth of my five hundred mile races.  "The Bear 100" in Logan UT looks to be a very tough challenge, but then again when is running 100 miles not a challenge?  The Bear has 22,000 ft of elevation gain/loss and has a maximum elevation of 9000 ft.  It is almost exactly one month after Leadville.  I was being lazy about signing up until I noticed on the site that there were only about 60 spots left!!  I can't believe how fast these races are filling up.  It is kind of cool seeing a lot more people realize that the marathon is not the pinnacle of running achievement.  Doing a 100 mile race is an incredible experience.

I still haven't figured out what the fifth event is going to be yet.  I say event, not race, because for the last few days a thought has been running through my mind.  I can't seem to shake it either.  I am thinking about giving it another go at running across the state.  In 2008 and 2009 I attempted it with my friend, Sherpa John Lacroix.  Both times he did it and both times I failed to finish it.  The first time I ended up with a stress fracture the second time my tendinitis was bad enough that I decided that I would end up with another stress fracture if I continued.  The route goes across NH at its widest point, from West to East.  It starts at the bridge in Brattleboro and finishes at Ordiorne State Park in Rye NH.  For me, the biggest problem is that it is all pavement.  I really hate running on pavement and coach Jack is not going to be happy to hear I'm thinking about doing it.

But there is a powerful draw for me to try it.  I always talk about how your dreams and goals don't have time limits on them.  If you have a strong passion to achieve something then failed attempts are just learning experiences.  They don't mean that you give up on the dream.  I also have never run more than 100 miles and I have always wanted to.  It would be a lot easier than traveling to yet another race.  I have a while to decide if that is what I want to do, but I'm leaning that way.

Me and Sherpa John in 2008 Running across NH

Here is a link to SJ's reports from 2008 and 2009.

Here is this weeks recap.

Monday AM - 7 Miles (1:01:52). 
For some reason I was slow to start this morning. First mile was 10m pace, second was 9m pace. Loosened up about 3 miles into it and felt ok. Ran on the roads with my Merrell's, no ankle pain at all. I think the ankle reacts more to the type of shoe and stride that I am using. It also could be speedwork vs. running easy. For now I know that running with a mid/fore foot strike doesn't seem to bother it. Heel striking does.

Tuesday AM - 8 Miles (1:08:13).  Also strength trained for 45 minutes.  Did full workout.
Nice run, easy.

Wednesday AM - 14 Miles (1:59:02)
First snow, then rain.  Ran on the snowmobile trails. Still had a great run even though I was soaked at the end.

Thursday - 7.25 Miles (58:23)
Hill intervals.  Did 1/2 mile repeats.  Broke through the permafrost on one of the downhills going at sub 6min pace and got slammed into the ground.  Lucky I didn't get hurt.

Friday - 14 Miles (1:54:52)
Snowmobile trails.  Even though my calves are sore, I felt awesome on this mornings run.

Saturday - 8 Miles (1:06:31)
Nice easy run on roads.

Sunday - 22 Miles (3:08:23)
Awesome run today. I felt excellent! Ran more roads than usual and was pretty hilly. 22 miles felt extremely easy today.

80.2 Miles
11:17:16Hours running
45 min strength training

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mash Potato Marathon

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know I have a coach for my running.  Jack Pilla is an incredible runner and his coaching has helped my results a lot.  He is helping prepare me for my 5 100's in 5 months.  I love the training schedules he sends me.  To an average coach it would look like a sick joke.  In a typical 16 week marathon training program there are 2 or 3 long runs at or a little over 20 miles in length.  If you look at my last few weeks mileage summaries you will see that I run at least on run a week over 20 miles.  So far this year I have run 9 of them. 

On this weeks schedule was 26 miles for today's long run.  I woke up excited as I have been running 80 mile weeks and I feel great.  I couldn't wait to get out and be on the trails all morning.  The weather looked great and I was wearing shorts for the third day in a row.  I packed up my gels and waist pack with one bottle, but some money in my shorts and headed out.  The snowmobile trails entrance is one mile from my house so I carried my Yacktrax and put them on when I got there.

After several days temps in the high 40's and the nights not getting cold, the trails were very soft.  After only two miles of trails I was beginning to question my route.  It is one of my favorite runs in the summer and it goes 13.1 miles one way where it comes out right at a little store.  I can get a bottle of Gatorade, bag of chips and take a quick break.  Then all I have to do is turn around and go home!  Today the trail was like running on mashed potatoes.  Even with my Yacktrax on I was sinking in with almost every step.  I concentrated on my stride and just worked on being efficient. 

Since October when I set my marathon PR I have been working on changing my stride to more of a mid/forefoot stride.  It seems like everybody in the world is doing this and there is good reason to do so.  Especially if you are running for endurance.  My main reason for changing is that heel striking was aggravating my tendinitis.  I found that when I ran on my forefoot it didn't hurt.  At first my calves took a beating.  They were sore all the time.  It has taken me 6 months to get to the point where I feel like it is natural and todays goal was to keep my form up even when I got tired.  It gave me something to focus on other than how hard the running was.  I was also happy to have my feel soaked for the entire run.  I am trying the Drymax socks because everybody says that they prevent blisters. Here is their new ad.  Take a good look at the picture of his feet from last year.  It is the worst blisters I have ever seen.  Looks more like a burn victim.  I was freaked out when I found out that was his feet after Western States.

The run today took me a little bit over 4 hours and my feet were perfect.  I really won't know until my feet are wet for over 6 hours or so.  That's when they typically start to become a problem.  Lets hope they work.  If I can do a full 100 without blisters it will make it so much more enjoyable.

Here is this weeks recap:

Monday AM - 7.6 Miles (58:33). 
Ran a little faster than I have been in the Hokas on the roads.  Pretty hilly route.

Tuesday AM - 7 Miles (1 Hour).  Also strength trained for 20 minutes.  Did full workout.
Easy treadmill run.

Wednesday AM - 12 Miles (1:42:00)
Some roads, mostly snowmobile trails.  Was supposed to run 14, but my cold got the best of me.  Plus I had to drive 3 hours to an auction right after my run and was antsy to get going.

Thursday - 9 Miles (1:13:58)
Notes say "I felt really good on today's run.yesterday my ankle hurt all day, so I decided to take it easy today. I did do one hill sprint, but for the most part just had an easy run on the trails."

Friday - 13 Miles (1:55:39)
Worked on going slow and concentrating on my form. Felt very good, no ankle pain when running.

Saturday - 8.25 Miles (1:07:14)
Second day in a row running in shorts.  Felt good.

Sunday - 26.1 Miles (4:06:13)
Mash Potato Marathon! What a tough workout. Only 2 miles of pavement the rest mushy snowmobile trails. I concentrated really hard on my form and feel great.

82.7 Miles
12:03:37 Hours running
20 min strength training

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shoe Fetish

My shoe closet

Since my cameras battery was dead I don't have a video this week.  Don't know if anybody cares, but it was getting to be a habit.  I'll most likely get back to that next week.  Instead, I've decided to write a little bit about my shoe problem.  My weekly recap is at the bottom as usual.

I have a shoe problem.  In the never ending quest to find the perfect shoe I have amassed quite a collection.  I still haven't figured out that such a thing probably doesn't exist, so I keep buying and trying new shoes hoping to find a shoe that can do the following.  I want a shoe to be cushioned, less than 4mm heel rise (preferably zero drop) flexible, lightweight, comfortable, drains well and doesn't cause any blisters over the course of 100 miles.  Recently I contacted a new company, Altra who has a very promising line of shoes that should be in stores soon.  The person who answered my emails is one of the founders, Brian Beckstead.  I asked him about his shoes and told him about my 5 in 5 (5 hundred mile races in 5 months) quest.  Not only is he a founder, but he is an ultrarunner who has successfully completed a few 100's, including the tough Wasatch.  He offered to sponsor me with their shoes and I'm super excited to try them to see if I can finally settle on one shoe.  Their shoes are all zero drop, but the have models that have similar cushioning to regular running shoes.  I should have a pair in a few weeks and I can't wait!

With that in mind, here is a quick preview of the shoes that I have used in just the past week, and why I was wearing that particular pair.

Merrell Trail Glove

These are the new Merrell Trail Gloves.  I was excited about the NB minimus until these came out.  They are the best zero drop minimal shoes I have ever used.  They have taken place of my Vibram Five Fingers because they have a similar feel but have tons of room for my toes to splay.  They also fit like a glove, have no internal seams and cinch up tight.  The fit and feel is amazing with these shoes.

Saucony Progrid Kinvarna

I use the Kinvarnas for running on pavement or the treadmill.  They have a 4mm heel rise and the souls have a nice spongy feeling.  The only downside to these shoes is that the toe box is very narrow.  I don't use the insoles in these shoes to get more toe room.

Hoka One-One

Of all my shoes, these are the ones that are radically different.  I bought a pair of the Hoka One-Ones because there are several ultra runners who are reporting massive PR's in 100 mile races using them.  The claim is that the gigantic (3 times the normal amount) of padding allows the runner to run with less fatigue.  They actually run like a minimalist shoe in that the heel is only 4mm above the forefoot and the toe is rockered.  If you run with a mid/forefoot stride you will instantly be able to run in these, but when you come to a downhill you can crash your heel into the ground as much as you want.  I really do feel a difference using these shoes on pavement.  My big problem with these shoes is the uppers.  They are riddled with gigantic seams and they are stiff and uncomfortable.  So much so that I am contemplating cutting the uppers off and attaching the souls to a pair of other shoes.  They just came out with a new model called the Bondi B that is supposed to have a much nicer upper.  The only problem is that these shoes cost a whopping $170!!  I'm not sure I feel like shelling out that kind of cash just to find out that they give me blisters.

New Balance MT101

The NB MT101's are a great compromise between a minimal shoe and one that has some protection.  They are very light weight, fit well, drain well and have better protection that you would think due to the full length rock plate.  I wish that the heel was lower and thats what prevents me from wearing them more.  I used them today on a 20 mile run on snowmobile trails the consistency of mashed potatoes and they were great.

Innov-8 Flite 230

When I first bought these shoes I almost returned them after the first run.  The toes are shaped kind of funny and stick out a lot.  They are wicked comfortable, have great cushioning (for a minimalist shoe) and look cool in the electric blue.  I just kept tripping in them so they sat in my closet.  Recently I decided to give them another try and for whatever reason they have become my regular long run shoe.  Maybe my toes have gotten longer (God forbid, they already look like fingers..).

As you can see from the opening picture I have a lot more shoes than just what I've gone over here, but this hopefully gives you an idea of just how much experimentation goes into figuring out equipment for running a 100 miler.  Granted, I'm a little nuttier than most.  A few months ago I was invited to participate in a focus group for New Balance.  They asked a few local Ultrarunners to come to the HQ with the shoes that they run in and tell them why.  I brought four pairs of shoes and thought I was going to be the dork with all the shoes.  It turned out that every single runner brought at least four pairs as well!  It was pretty funny and made me feel a little less neurotic.

Here is my weekly summary for this weeks running.

Weekly recap
Monday AM - 7 Miles (59:12). Easy 7 Miles on the treadmill

Tuesday AM - 8.1Miles (1:14:56).  Also strength trained for 45 minutes.  Did full workout.
Snowmobile trails.  Notes say: "Trails were tough this morning. Icy crust on top of some softer snow in places. Beautiful morning though. Starting to feel stiff, but loosens up after a mile or two".

Wednesday - 18.1 Miles (2:39:23)
Some roads, mostly snowmobile trails.  I thought my training schedule said 16 miles and I added an extra two.  Turns out I was only supposed to run 14.  Ran in my new Merrell Trail Gloves. 

Thursday - 7.2 Miles (59:08)
Hill intervals on the snowmobile trails.  Did 4 repeats.  Hard up, hard down then 1min rest.

Friday - 10 Miles (1:25:48)
Treadmill easy running at 8:30 pace. More watching "Weeds" on Netflix. My notes say "Very tired this morning so I gave myself a break and only did 10 instead if the 13."  Coach Jack emailed later and said no wonder I was tired, stop sneaking in the extra miles.

Saturday - 10.25 Miles (1:26:35)
Ran in the Hokas. A little weird, but were awesome on the downhills. I ran mostly roads, but hilly ones.  To bad the uppers are so stiff and have so many seams.  I ended up with a blood blister on the side of my foot. 

Sunday - 20 Miles (2:53:12)
Great run. I didn't feel like running this morning. I didn't sleep last night and have a little cold. Felt really run down when i woke up, but as soon as I got outside I felt great. Ran 4 miles of roads to get to an entirely new section of snowmobile trails. Ran 12 miles out on trails that were a combo of glare ice and mash potatoes. I didn't bring my traction devices and I was slipping and sliding with every step. Ran the last 4 miles home in 28 min flat and felt great considering that it is hilly. Another 80 mile week in the books and I feel pretty good.

80.6 Miles
11:38 Hours running
45 min strength training

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How one person can change your life.

Tomorrow at 3pm I will be giving a presentation as part of Jigsaw Consulting "March Forth" event.  The annual event was started last year as a way to get people thinking positive thoughts in a world of negativity.  There are 12 people speaking and I am the only non professional speaker there.  The name of my presentation is "It only takes one person to change your life" and I will be speaking about how Amy, my Dad and Ray Stover from DST computing have impacted my life.  I want to thank Debby Adair for asking me to speak and for her support.  It is an honor to be asked to be part of this event.

The event is free and is being held at the One Liberty Lane Conference and Business Center in Hampton NH.  For information on the event click here.  For direction to the conference center click here.

If anybody has any questions about the event make sure to email me.

p.s. Yes, I did finally cut my hair.