Thursday, 31 March 2011

Review: Born to Run

I am sure most people that spend some time underway in the running blogosphere have heard of this book, If your interested in barefoot running or minimalist shoes then you can hardly have missed it.

Bassed on all the references, all the propoganda ive seen, the people claiming reading the book was a revelation, that it inspired them to go barefoot, the book wasnt really what i expected. For instance recently the dailymile blog had a barefoot week, and the announcement uses the image off the cover of the book. Then during the week we had posts with interviews with Micah True, and Chris McDonald. a post of running with the Rarramuri, the copper canyon Ultra... it could as easily been called Born to Run week.... However it demonstrates that this book seems to be intimately linked to barefoot running.

I expected the book to be all about barefoot running. It wasnt! In fact the only runner i recall being mentioned running barefoot was barefoot ted, and the book describes his feet as being significantly swollen and tender after the 80k ultra race. He is described using VFF's as well as huraches, Hardly an evangelical advertisement to go barefoot all the time.

I also expected the book to be all about this famous race in the copper canyons that had Scott Jurek line up against some local Raramurri champions. But the description of the race only fills the final few chapters, even the description of how the race was put together, and how they traveled there only made up a small part of the book.

So what was the book about then?

The book holds a large number of smaller annecdotal stories, ranging over a wide range of themes, usually linked to the people that played a part in the race, but also around the various main topics in the book. The stories are interesting in of themselves. But the underlying theme of the book for me is finding a more natural, a more hollistic style of running.

Its a recuring theme in the annecdotes, the pure joy of running for runnings sake. That running is a pure form of exercise that provides you with plenty of time to delve into your inner being. That the greatest distance runners seem to also be some of the more generous people.

There is the expected liturgy against the built up heel of modern jogging shoes. But almost no evangelising of barefoot running, VFF's, or Hurarchies. Although he does talk quite extensively about the light footed flowing style of the raramurri, caballa blanco, scott jurek, and many of the other great runners mentioned.

The book also talks quite extensively about diet, and how we should perhapes reconsider our western diats. I do think it tends to perhapes sensationalise the diat and the food of the Rarramuri. I dont believe we all need to switch to salad for breakfast and corn bassed starches. Luckily most of us are able to afford and arrange a much more varied and interesting diat than a subsitance farmer in the sierra madras.

There is also an underlying theme that we all are much more capable of achieving amazing feats than we would at first suspect. Be it the organiser of a racing team, some surfer kids that decide to take up running, an aussteiger that dreams of a race, the slow kid that loves to run.... almost all of the characters in the book have inspirations stories of achievement that we can all learn from.

I havent talked about the evolutionary argument that we are 'borm to run' that gives the book its title, because quite frankly, im not really convinced. I wont argue against the evidence presented in the book, that demonstrates the humans are one of the best endurance running animals on this planet. Im just not so sure tha running plays as great an evolutionary impetis to our development as the book suggests.

The book does have several things that really bothered my non-american sensibilites when reading it. In the book it seems that every second person is super attractive, that they are totally generous without faults, it portrays an idealistic image of the tarumara that doesnt really reflect reality. This 'Over the Top' style of portrayal is like a small stone in your running shoe, just a little too annoying to really enjoy things without reserve.

The book is well worth a read, i just wish i hadnt heard so much about it before hand, that i could read it without any prejudices.... Will it change me and my running, No I dont think so, but perhapes inderectly since i am being influenced in the decisions i make about my running from many different places that in turn may pay at least some of their inspiration to this book. Its certainly deserves its place on any runners well stocked bookshelf.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Barefoot Experiments

Anyone who's been underway in the running blogosphere in the last couple of years will know that barefoot running has been recieving a lot of interest lately. Personally i dont see it as a all powerfull panacea to correct all woes. But i do believe that it does have its place as a tool in the modern runners box of tricks.

I walk around in barefeet quite a lot, in fact you could say that I prefer barefeet around the house and in the garden. I have been doing form drills, and strides in barefeet prior to a run, when i had time and a suitable place. Occasionally i have done a little bit of a cool down run barefoot in a field, but id never really set out to do a barefoot run.

That was until recently, my kids have been showing an interest in running, and with a local fun run coming up have started to train for it. The distance they cover in a jog is only a couple of Kilometers, Initially i was just jogging along with them, but last week while running back through the small forest near our village i realised that if we ran in the forest on the packed earth trails there then i could run in barefeet.

So last week i went for my first ever 'barefoot run' that is the first time i set out to run the whole way in barefeet. I walked fromt he house to the edge of the forest, and then we ran about 2.5km through the forest together. Afterwards the soles of my feet were quite tender but not uncomfortably so, but i wouldnt want to have run any further. I didnt experience any calf soreness or achilies soreness as is so often reported when first doing barefoot running. perhapes my frequent barefoot state around home has helped here.

I had a second barefoot run this past weekend, we ran about the same distance, this time the soles of my feet didnt have anywhere the same level of tenderness that i felt the first time. On arriving back at the house our neighbours were outside, they were a little astounded that i ran in barefeet, even admonishing me that tommorow i would have a cold... i havent had a cold all winter this year, and ive run in rain, wind, sleet, snow, and below zero temperatures. A barefoot run in spring is hardly going to give me a cold. But its still a fairly widely held 'Folks wisdom' here that not wearing shoes will give you a cold...

The plan from here on is to run barefoot whenever i accompany my kids on their training runs, then in a few more months i may look at getting some minimalist shoes for my regular morning recuperation jogs. As for my 'regular training' i dont really want to sacrifice millage there to experiment either with barefeet or super minimalist shoes, however i will be trying to slowly transition to lighter and flatter shoes.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Reading Roundup

This weeks recap of what ive been reading and my thoughts on it.

First off i started with musings about the difference between a runner and a jogger. It started off with Stephens discription at his blog runlikeyoustoleit which if i understand correctly seem to bassed about your own internal perception bassed on how fast your running. I then went on to find another couple of descriptions at simplethoughts, I think peters own description bears a lot of merit, that a runner runs for runnings sake while a jogger has some ulterior motive like weight loss or fitness. Google will turn up a whole bunch of other descriptions including this one at runners world... ultimately i think the last one on their list is probably the best. "I am a runner because I say I am."

I stumbled over a post at Diary of a Rubbish Marathoner talking about running too fast during 'easy runs', id been thinking about what pace i was running at on my Aerobic Training Runs, even posted about the improvement ive seen, But it prompted me to look again at how fast i should be training at. Lydiard uses effort to regulate pace and prescribes a good effort.  This article at suggest about 20bpm below lactate threshold. I beleive the improvement Ive seen shows that my training pace is ok, but the second question here at ask the coach from the washington running report demonstrates clearly what is meant by going too fast during a LSR.

I also found myself reading a few articles about strength training, it all started with the article Everything you know about fitness is a lie in Mens Journal. From there i found my way to a really interesting article about the inefficiency of stability training at The Science of Running, before rounding it out with another article there about strength training for endurance athlettes. I have to admit ive tried doing core strength exercises on an instabile base, following video's at runners world. but not long enough to know if they bring anything. Ive since gone back to simple and according to Steve Magness of The Science of Running better exercises on a stabile base for my core strength workouts.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Aerobic Training

My approach to training for my first marathon in Vienna has been heavily influenced by the Lydiard Method but I havent been following a Lydiard program directly. When i first read up on the lydiard method It was shortly after Xmas so there wasnt time to implement a full program besdies i also felt that with a first marathon i didnt really need the race tunning and speed maximisation training that a track runner does. I figured that i would get the most 'bang for my buck' by concentrating on his Aerobic base building phase.

During the week I have tried to arange my training around a pattern of an easier or shorter run one day, followed by a longer run the next . On the weekends i would have a tempo or race pace run on saturday and either a race or a long slow Run on the Sunday. Whenever possible i have tried to run at what i call my Aerobic Training Effort.

For me i feel that this means my Heart rate sites at around 140bpm and i can maintain a breathing rate of 4 steps to inhale 4 to exhale. Ive since read that other ratios may be better, ill look into those after the marathon. This doesnt mean that i run with one eye on the HR monitor, rather i just run at the effort that feels right, and look at the garmin report when im done, some days it was a bit faster somedays a bit slower.

 Either way, i think the effects speak for themselves. The graph shows the average pace i was able to maintain during my Aerobic training runs in the middle 2 weeks of each month at various heart rates around my aerobic training effort.

I realise that the sample size at some of the bpm levels is pretty small. That the average pace at each bpm has a reasonable margin of error. But still the graph confirms what i know to be true myself bassed on the paces that im running during training.

This improvment has been achieved with little traditional speed work. I had 3 races 10k, 15k, and HM during this time, and once a week if i dont have a race i perform some sort of longer tempo intervals or a marathon pace run, but no traditional interval training. No speed work.

There is one thing i notice about the graph, but perhapes im being mislead by the effects of a small sample size, but it appears as though the trend for each month is flatening out.  I wonder if that then isnt the sign that training emphasis shouldnt slowly be shifted to strength and lactate threshold training as per Lydiards original programs.

My April will be consumed with tapering for Vienna and the inevitable Recovery afterwards, but i for one will be interested to see how the trend continues when i pick up my training again proper in may.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Reading Roundup

Well heres a recap of the blogs, articles, and other stuff that Ive been looking at this week.

First off the article by at Runblogger on brooks entering the minimalist shoe market perked my interest. All of my shoes to date have been from brooks and i have to say that on the whole ive been very happy with them. They seem to have a toe box that accomodates my mutant toes. Im planning to try and move to more minimalist shoes after i complete my first marathon in Vienna. So ill be looking foward to what Brooks has to offer.

I was also doing some research into Compression wear, in particular compression shorts. Ive already decided that i should invest in some compression sleeves for my calfs but was wondering if compression shorts might not be a good idea for Vieena. I found the following two articles quite good, Compression Shorts: Are They Worth the Hype? at No Meat Athlete, and How do Compression shorts work? at livestrong. Im was still undecided until i saw that next week a local discounter will have own brand compression shorts, and tops on special, at a price that cant be passed up.

I also watched a video series from a natural running symposium that i stumbled over on youtube.
The Natural Running Symposium took place in October of 2010 at the Maine Running Company. Danny Abshire from Newton Running, Kirsten Buchanan from Impact Sports Medicine and Jamie Raymond from Raymond Chiropractic joined John Rogers to talk about barefoot and natural running in front of a crowd of about 60 people.
The complete series including the Q&A can be found here. I found it quite interesting, In particular the differention between barefoot, minimalist and natural running. Personally i think i agree with Kirsten Buchanan that id say barefoot is natural running, and would rather call what newton evangelises as forefoot running. However i do think you can class all three as promoting a natural running style.

I was also interested to see that there have been changes to the Boston Qualifying Times, and registration process. Personally i dont have a problem with the changes to the times, just means im going to have to traing even harder to be one of the privilaged few that get to run Boston. I also see no problems with the stagered registration process, after all IMHO its a race for the best and most commited, not those with the best internet connection on registration day. Oh yeah, looks like runnign Boston has entered my head as a long term goal... or at least to BQ

Friday, 18 March 2011

My Previous Running History

Like most kids raised in New Zealand i led a pretty active life style. My school holidays were more often than not spent at my grandparents who lived on farm, my cousins lived next door, we were pretty much left to entertain ourselves. We played lots of sports and roamed all over the farm, mostly in bare feet. bare feet were ok, as long as we washed them before coming in the house,  but i was under strict instructions from nana to keep my hat on, especially when playing under the macrocarpa trees.

I first ran races as a kid at the local athletics club, but showed no real talent. My Robotic style  involved lots of effort but very little fluidity, It was however enough to win me the odd third place in a 100m dash but i dont ever recall enough of the good runners ever being sick so that i could actually win a race. First place was rewarded with a 'prize' from the clubs tuck shop. Never having won i had no incentive to train. besides i think my parents saw it more as an opportunity to get rid of us kids for a few hours one night a week rather than as a sporting endevour.

I did do a little long distance 'fun running' before going to highschool, a couple of 5k's a 10k. The teacher coaching us ( who was relatively young and caught up in htis new jopgging fad) said i had potential, since i was usually found running with the faster group. But on arriving in highschool i started playing basketball as my sport of choice, my weekends were spent hiking and camping.

Fast foward to my early 30's. I started a new job and they had a gym and physical trainer on campus for the staff. I started running in my lunch breaks as a way to meet people from outside of my department and because they actually frowned on people working through their lunches, a novel idea to me at that time. I built up my miles trained hard and completed my first Half Marathon in just under 2 hrs. I shaved 12 mins off that time a few months later running a half in the waitakeres. But then I got poached, a firm made me an offer i couldnt refuse, and my new duties (like working through my lunch break again), and lack of gym put an end to my running.

Since then I have had to chase my kids around a bit, and i tryed to lead an active lifestyle, bike tours or walks with the family on the weekends, but didnt do any specific sport. I was blessed by nature with a reasonably good metabolism, and although my weight slowly increased with age, i was usually able to eat and drink what i wanted without too much regard.

So thats it, no years running on a Highschool cross country team, No College track team, No extended history of distance running, at most i flirted with it a few times.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Review: dailymile

Having seen the dailymile widgets on a number of other blogs i decided to take a look at it and see how it compares to the tool that Ive been using for tracking my millage.

First off i was a little put off by the fact that i had to signup before i could find out anything particularly much from their website, my first visit a few weeks ago i couldnt be bothered, but this time i decided to give it a trial. Especially since my current tool hasnt got any widgets for this blog, or not that im aware of.

I like that i can use my facebook account to sign-in. Keeps things simpler for a forgetful old codger like me. An import of my workouts from my Garmin Connect account was also very easy. The training overviews are good and easily understandable, perhapes not quite as detailed as my current tool, but then again for details i go directly to my garmin connect account.

I found the challenges, and signed up directly for a couple of them, Ive found having a concrete goal to work towards that tracks my progress closely is a good way to keep me honest in my training. I also found the upcoming races under events, including Vieena.

I also now understand why i see the dailymile widgets on many blogs, the integration of their widget especially into blogger was a one click process.

I found that dailymile also supports gear tracking, in particular im interested in tracking how many miles i have on each pair of shoes, this is a simple process and occurs at the time you import a workout from garmin connect. Only issue i had was that the existing distance on the shoes when adding a new pair is in miles even though i have dailymile set to display in km... mean i had to hunt out a converter and convert the km's given by my other tool into miles first... not a biggie but a small annoyance.

I have also noticed that dailymile seems to be struggling with its success, Ive seen regular error screens indicating timeouts, or other errors as ive navigated around the site. usually a refresh fixes the problem.
So far im very impressed with daily mile, im still finding all the features and will extend this review a little more as i become more familiar with it.

UPDATE 30-Mar:

Ive been using dailymile for a couple of weeks now, after an initial first few days where i got to see the error screen a few times in the last week and a half i havent seen it at all.

another feature that i didnt notice at first was the groups, joining a group gives access to a group specific forum, so for instance the first time marathoners group i joined has lots of questions directly dealing with running your first marathon.

A big part of dailymile that i didnt mention in my intial post is the social side of it. dailymile may not have the most active forums, or the best training analysis tools, but what it does do is support social interaction very well. Your home page shows you a feed of all your friends activities, there are a number of encouragement 'badges' that you can give to people for their workout efforts, or you can just add a few words of encouragement in a comment.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Doing Doubles

Ive just started running Doubles, running twice in one day. In the mornings i haul myself out of bed, throw on my running shoes and head out the door for a gently jog, and follow it up with a very simple and brief core strength workout. In the evenings i do my actual training, where i focus on my current training goals.

This madness was brought on by my reading on the Lydiard Foundations Forum. Arthur Lydiard and the Lydiard Method is associated with building a strong Aerobic base, with Athletes clocking up 100 miles of Training per week during that phase. However he also prescribed supplementary jogging if you wanted to achieve your maximum.

My morning runs are currently around a 7.5km loop alongside a canal and river. I run no faster than what the Macmillian Running Caluculator tells me is a recovery pace, currently thats anything slower than about 5:40/km but I dont really worry about my pace at all as long as its not too fast, and just enjoy getting out in the fresh air before breakfast.

The last couple of weeks i did cut back on my 'real' training, taking an extra rest day, because i didnt want the extra running to push up my weekly millage by too much and cause an overtraining injury. Ive been phasing the morning jogs in slowly, This week is the first where i intend to jog each morning and run a regular evening training regime. Im interested to see how the legs hold up.