Run Doodle Run

The long road to 26.2


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I thought new shoes were supposed to be fun??

Remember in middle school when buying gym shoes was so easy?

Step 1) Walk in to the sporting goods store
Step 2) Find the coolest/best looking/whatever floats-your-13-year-old-boat shoes
Step 3) Whine until your parents break down and buy them in your size

Easy, right?

Yeah, I wish it was still that easy.

There is so much conflicting information out there about what kind of shoe you should be in or avoid. Some people swear that all pronation should be controlled, while other say only extreme pronation should be controlled. There are lots of well-meaning articles out there touting the dogma of pronation control, and this has been the accepted practice for a long time now. New(er) research says that you should just buy the shoe that’s the most comfortable to you, regardless of what it’s specs are. Then there’s the minimalism vs. maximalism debate (not to mention the myriad options on the spectrum in between). Then there’s the colors. I know “they” say color shouldn’t matter, but I’m sorry, it does. Clashing is lame, no matter how fast your mile. #sorrynotsorry

And that’s not even taking into consideration the people who argue that people shouldn’t even run in shoes!

Geeze, that’s exhausting…

Admittedly, I have long been of the mindset that even though your feet may over-/under-pronate, most people don’t “fix” that in their daily lives. Your body adapts to whatever your quirky gait may be by adjusting accordingly throughout your life. If I don’t “fix” it in my daily shoes, what impact will “fixing” it have on my natural mechanics and what might the unintended consequences be? Basically – if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Of course, as soon as persistent injury – or even a single injury that can’t be assigned to a particular, acute event – enters the picture, it’s time to re-evaluate.

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For the last three years, I’ve been running in the Brooks PureCadence line – a 4mm drop shoe with moderate cushioning and a smidge of stability. I ran in the 1st gen and 3rd gen. I have loved these shoes since day one. Truly. They served me well through so many races and were wonderful through the half marathon distance.

I don't have a problem.

I don’t have a problem.

However, when I decided to take on the marathon, I considered switching it up for two reasons: a) more cushioning for the greater distances, and b) a higher drop to help my persistently achey achilles.

Given my past experience with finding new shoes, I was pretty nervous to go through the ordeal process again.

Several weeks ago I met with a physical therapist (who is now my new PT), who recommended trying out an 8mm or 12mm drop to help my achilles, when I came hobbling in to her eval clinic. I first tried the Saucony Guide. They didn’t feel awful, but they didn’t feel great. And they irritated old shin splints which had been behaving for the last year.

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So I took them back and exchanged them for the Mizuno Wave Inspires. (They clearly didn’t leave much of an impression on me – I had to go look back at my receipts to remember which pair came second!) They were nice shoes, but the rise on the shoe was really high and irritated my ankle bone.

Sooooo I exchanged them for the Asics Gel Kayano. This is a well-known powerhouse shoe that tons of people have had success with. It must be good – it’s in its 21st iteration. Third time’s the charm, right?? It’s a 13mm drop and super, super cushy. Honestly, they felt like slippers when I tried them on. I took them out for a hilly long run, but had to switch out of them halfway through – although they made my achilles feel amazing, they were causing some serious pain in my left forefoot on the uphills and flats. The pain got so bad that I switched back into my PureCadences halfway through the run, willingly sacrificing my achilles’ comfort for my forefoot’s comfort.

After this experience, I think I figured out what the problem was – too high of a heel-to-toe drop, along with too-cushy of a shoe, seems to cause the excruciating forefoot pain. So back to the (oh-so-amazing and accommodating) running store I went, for option #4. Brooks Ravenna. Cushioned but not squishy. Slightly lower 10mm drop. Supportive with a noticeable arch. I took them out for a spin on the track and they felt okay, so I decided to run my 18 miler in them. The arch support was higher than I’m used to, though, and that caused foot and leg discomfort for the first several miles, and then around mile 7 the forefoot pain came back and didn’t go away for the remainder of the 18 miles. Hoping that that was just because we were running on such a hard surface, I ran one more track workout in them, but no dice. Plus, they absolutely destroyed my feet! The 4th time was not the charm, either… *sad face*

I swear I'm not diseased...

I swear I’m not diseased…

I spoke to one of my coaches, who is also the manager of our running store, about all of the issues I’ve been experiencing and all of the shoes I have been through and she recommended the Saucony Zealot. It’s a lot like the PureCadence – lightweight with a minimal drop – but it has a cushier (but more adaptable) ride. It’s technically a neutral shoe, but has a flat, solid sole that doesn’t allow for a whole lot of motion. I took them out tonight and so far they feel good (*fingers crossed, knocking on wood*), but I’m not getting my hopes up just yet. Having been in the higher drop shoes for the last several weeks, my achilles is feeling better than it’s felt in a year (yay!!) and I’m nervous about returning to a lower-drop shoe. Plus, they are kind of squishy, which makes me nervous.

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So next time you’re due for new shoes and plan to go in to your LRS for a proper fitting (something which, despite all of my opinions, I still totally support), be an educated consumer. The fitter may be an expert on shoes, but you’re an expert on you. Only you know what works and what doesn’t work for you. Only you know what feels comfortable and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to question them or speak up if something just doesn’t feel right. And don’t be afraid to take full advantage of their return/exchange policy. Trying out shoes is part of the game – don’t feel guilty about putting mileage on shoes and then returning them. Running shoes are no small investment and can totally make or break the running experience. It’s so important to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth – and getting the best experience for your feet. You can’t #findyourstrong or #runhappy if your feet hurt. 🙂

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PT, Vol. 3

This morning I had my first meeting with my new physical therapist. I so love that they’re so much closer to home.

Today was primarily about them evaluating me and figuring out a house of action. My right hip is (yet again) being a lazy freeloader – and the crux of all of my problems. Even though I’ve been doing all of my old PT exercises continually, it’s just not stabilizing or strengthening up substantially. We’re going to work with a running specialist to see if we can’t figure out why.

She did another poke-and-prod exam and thinks what’s causing my tibia pain is actually the soft tissue that connects to – and pulls on – the tibia; majorly good news, but if left untreated, that kind of tension can cause a stress fracture.

We went over a few exercises that we’re going to work on and that I can incorporate into my workouts at home, and then I got to play on the Alter G! It was only for 15 minutes though, so boo 😦 Unlike the other location, they don’t have a tv in front of the Alter G, so if I’m ever allowed to do a long mid-week run on it, I may need to bring along a fully-loaded iPad… haha.

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After a little time with some ice, I headed on over to Charm City Run to get a new pair of shoes! Hey, if a trained medical expert tells me I need a new pair of shoes, who am I to argue? 😉

Based on the advice of one of the guys there last weekend, I’m giving the Saucony Guide 8s a try – they’re a bit more supportive than my current shoes (which today’s PT said might be worthwhile) and have a higher heel drop (which Saturday’s PT said might be worthwhile). I’ve had mixed luck with Saucony’s in the past (Omni’s were good but too supportive, Triumphs were super comfy, until I ran), but I’m holding out hope for these guys. I was cleared for running tomorrow, assuming I promise to a) not be stupid and b) listen to my body if it sends out any warning signals. Hopefully tomorrow’s 8-10 will both go well in general and with respect to the new shoes (it’s an out and back, so I can’t just switch shoes if things don’t workout).

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My afternoon was capped off with a car ride with my super sweet pups and a nice nap.

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What’s your weekend running looking like?
When was the last time you changed shoes? How did that transition go? 


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Long Weekend Wrap-up

What a gorgeous weekend!! I hope you all enjoyed your long 4th of July weekend as much as I did.

Friday a friend and I took the beast for a nice, long(ish) 5 mile walk. Sadly for her that’s just not nearly long enough, but it’s what we got done. It was actually a bit chilly when we got to the trail in the morning, but it considering how much it had rained the night before I really can’t complain.

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lazy, lazy cows relaxing in the long, long grass

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I just hung around the house for the remainder of the day. One of the best parts about living in a rural area like I do is that we don’t have to go anywhere for fireworks – our neighbors always bring amazing fireworks displays to our backyard, literally. On most July 4ths we can see at least 4 great displays from our property. This year, the house directly behind us had a party and a wonderful display right from their back yard which lasted every bit of 20 minutes and nearly looked professional.

Unfortunately due to WordPress restrictions I couldn’t load the video right into the post, but it’s up on youtube, so just click the link or click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBrC4LgdtaQ). 

Because of all of the fireworks in the neighborhood, I didn’t get to bed until after midnight on Friday, so I pushed my Saturday long run off a day. I intended to sleep in, but ended up waking up at 6:38 – just in time to see the Duke and Duchess officially open the Tour de France!! I love and hate the TdF – it’s a great competition and amazing scenery, but it’s so early and lasts forever so I feel like I lose had of my day. I know, I can get up and walk away. But that’s like leaving in the middle of the football game and catching the box score on your phone! Just not the same.

Momma, wake up! It's time for the Tour de France!

Momma, wake up! It’s time for the Tour de France!

This morning I slept in a bit but still got out for a nice run. This was my “off” weekend between races and half training, which begins next weekend, so I just planned an easy 4 miles. I got out a bit too late, though – my new favorite place was packed, so I had to find another location to launch from. With the holiday weekend and the gorgeous weather, the trail was much more crowded than normal, but it was a good crowded.

I told myself I couldn’t stop running until I got to my turn-around point (2 miles) .When I got to the turnaround I hadn’t quite hit 2 miles, so I ran two laps around the parking lot, and getting some odd looks from tubers, before heading back. At that point, I kept going without taking a break. I told myself I could stop when I got to the gnome hill. But when I got there, I was like “well the waterfall is only half a mile away… keep going until then.” When I got to the waterfall, I was like “but there’s only half a mile left in your run – why stop now??” So I ran all 4 miles non-stop (10:54, 10:59, 10:53, 10:22; avg pace of 10:47), which is still kind of a big deal for me. I’ve been shattering my physical barriers lately, but I still get hung up on the mental barriers from time to time. Knowing when I want to take a break versus when I need to take a break is a big hurdle I need to work on, especially in training for ATM.

Seeing as I missed much of this morning’s TdF stage, I’m catching up on the encore presentation this evening while drafting this and enjoying a glass of wine. A perfect way to end a wonderful weekend.

How was your 4th?? What amazing things did y’all do this weekend? Any great runs?


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Guess I got overly confident?

So perhaps I spoke to soon.

I guess technically I didn’t. I did make it through the spring without injury. But three days in to June I went and blew it.

Last night was track night. It was seriously hot and humid, so I was running my 4x800s on feel, not pace. My legs felt heavy and somewhat useless from the get go. I felt more like I was plodding than running, even though I was running at a pretty decent clip. It was so nasty that I walked half of each of my recovery laps, something which I haven’t yet had to do this training season.

On my third repeat I started noticing some discomfort in my left leg – took stock, slowed down, and kept going. On the fourth repeat, I got a sharp pain in my left tibia. Bone pain, not soft tissue pain. Three more steps – yep, still there. About 600m in to my last 800 I walked and abandoned my final recovery lap.

It’s just not worth it.

I’m taking the week off – no running, not even on national running day (sadface). No long run this week. Super bummed because I was looking forward to running in a new location.

My right Achilles was sore after last night’s run, which leads me to believe the left leg issues is at least partially related to my shoes. All of my running shoes are on their last legs right now. As a result, I decided to retire my second pair of original Brooks PureCadences.

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I have a new pair on order and they can’t get here fast enough. I’ll need to get a second pair soon as well, so I need to decide which way I’m going with that pair – a second pair of PureCadence? Or another cushier, more supportive shoe?

Why can’t I just run?


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Weekly Recap

Wow, is it seriously June already?? Where is this year going??

Last week was a mixed bag for running. Our group track session was cancelled due to thunderstorms and it just kinda threw off my entire week. I still had a pretty good week, though.

Typically I have a total rest day on Fridays, but last week the beast just desperately needed a walk – she was pacing around the house non-stop and was just getting antsy. Husband has been working again lately, which is great, but the beast isn’t getting walked as much a she’s used to. So I took her out on a toasty day, right in the middle of the day, hoping for maximum pup exhaustion. We ran about a mile or so of the 5.5 miles we covered, which she’s not used to (not to mention I’m not used to running holding a leash). It was the beginning to an absolutely gorgeous weekend.

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a teeny tiny snapper on the trail 🙂 he wasn’t much bigger than a silver dollar

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the beast attempting to point the teeny tiny snapper

Saturday was another perfect day, so I headed over to the reservoir for another hilly long run.  My goal was 4.5 miles for the day. I managed to run non-stop up the first hill, 1.6 miles, back down the other side to 2.5 miles only taking a small walk break at the top to catch my breath after cresting that hill. On the return trip I took two small walk breaks, but ran almost the last 2 miles non-stop, including cresting the hill and continuing without stopping. I was feeling amazing after that. When I got to 4.5 miles, I saw a trashcan a ways up and decided to keep running to that. I ended up finishing the day with 4.65 miles and an average pace of 11:26 per mile – 5 seconds per mile faster than my 4 miler last weekend 😀 woohoo!

Unfortunately, I did something on my run that has brought back some discomfort in the area of the soleus, where I’ve had posterior shin splints and tendinitis in the past. I’ve been heating and foam rolling/using the stick as well as icing it, hoping for the best.

I thought I was done with this crap...

I thought I was done with this crap…

Just a few weeks ago, runningshoesguru.com came out with a primmer on posterior tibialis pain and how to  stretch and strengthen it. The stretch he demonstrates is painfully simple, but no one I’ve spoken with over the years has known about it. The soleus, which is where most of the pain generally presents, is annoyingly difficult to stretch – but with a modified Achilles stretch, it’s possible to actually reach it in a way that hurts oh so good. If you’ve ever had any tightness or tenderness in this area, I highly recommend bookmarking this article.

Despite the rough-ish long run, I finished out May with over 58 miles! This was my first month over 50 miles AND the first time I’ve made it through the spring injury free. This gives me a great deal of hope moving into the summer, hope that I desperately need after last year.

This week was also big because I retired my first pair of Brooks PureCadence shoes, my signature pink running shoes. The last couple times I’ve run in this pair I’ve ended up with achey Achilles. Combined with the fact that I’ve had them for nearly two years, even though I’ve been rotating shoes, it was time to move on. I still have two more pair of these pink shoes, one of which is quickly coming up on retirement as well. I’m going to be getting a new pair of the PureCadences soon so I can begin rotating them in before I get deep into summer training.

Performing honorably in retirement, as a backup to my guard dog doorstop

Performing honorably in retirement, as a backup to my guard dog doorstop

Next week’s long run is going to be a nice, flat 5 miles, which that should help alleviate some of the discomfort. I think it was just the repeated stress from the downhills that aggravated  the area a bit. I need to learn to handle the downhills, so I’m glad I did it, regardless. I’m annoyed, but not concerned. The best part about having the Army Ten Miler as my fall target race is that once I get through the Dreaded Druid Hills at the end of this month, most of my training runs are going to be flat. I’ll miss the challenge of mandatory hill runs, but I think I’ll enjoy just running.


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The Pronation Debate

pro·na·tion

[proh-ney-shuhn] 

noun

1. rotation of the hand or forearm so that the surface of the palm is facing downward or toward the back (opposed to supination ).
2. a comparable motion of the foot consisting of abduction followed by eversion.
3. the position assumed as the result of this rotation.
4. any similar motion of the limbs or feet of animals.
(dictionary.com)

Pronation. It’s something all runners hear about, but as emerging research suggests, it’s something few runners – or physical therapists, or shoe fitters, or trainers, or anyone – fully understand.

I’ve written on this topic a number of times, usually in frustration alongside a bad shoe experience. I have long been of the belief that if my foot over-pronates on its own, and gets me through life without injury every single day, why do I suddenly want to change that simply because I am running? What other up-chain effects is that change in natural motion having on the rest of my body?

It seems like every time I go online lately, there’s a new study regarding pronation making the rounds. The most recent one, from Runblogger, highlights much of the same frustrations I have and discusses some of the newer research as well. If you have a chance, I strongly recommend giving this a read – if nothing else, I hope it at least begins a conversation among runners regarding the utility of using “pronation” (and its close cousin, arch height) as a knee-jerk primary means for determining which shoe to choose.

I have been told that I need everything from a neutral shoe to a motion control shoe. How’s that for a conclusive model of pronation control? I have found, however, through trial and error, including picking a pair of shoes on my own out of frustration, that for the distances I am running, I do best with a touch of stability. Too much stability? It feels like I’m walking on the outsides of my feet (remember when we were kids and used to do that to be silly? Fun then, not so fun when running 13.1 miles). Too little stability? Well, it turns out that my problems with too little stability aren’t at all related to my feet – that’s simply where the weakness manifests itself most visibly (because, let’s face it, that’s where all eyes are when watching runners, especially when watching runners trying on new shoes). No, my stability issue actually lies in the hips. It took a slow-mo analysis of my gait after a stress fracture to figure this out. But how many people actually go through a gait analysis like this? Sometimes it can be difficult to see, or feel, exactly where a weakness lies.

Shoes are too expensive to be ignorantly fitted, and PT isn’t a bargain, either!