Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My solicited opinion

Skora Running blog just solicited opinions on a barefoot running injury article.

I weighed in with the following, which I think sums up my opinions on running footwear pretty well:

This article seems to weigh on the side of anti-barefoot running by throwing around the word “epidemic” in an inflammatory and possibly inaccurate fashion. I agree that the “surge” of injuries claim lies on a shaky foundation. I’m not sure why proponents of either side of the argument feel so comfortable asserting such claims in the absence of sufficient evidence.
The unintentional thesis statement that jumped out of the article was “The more barefoot runners there are, the more injured barefoot runners there will be.” Barefoot running is a trend that is gaining popularity. More people are running (regardless of how) and more people are getting hurt. I am underwhelmed by this revelation.
That being said, I appreciate this article calling out the nonsensical arguments of the barefoot dogma, such as:
“It’s totally misleading to tell people that when they get injured running in shoes, it’s the shoe’s fault, and when they get injured running barefoot, it’s the athlete’s fault. It makes no sense. You’re going to have injuries either way. It’s running.”
Barefoot runners may guffaw at the final assertion of guaranteed injuries, but as someone who developed shin splints for the first time in my life after switching exclusively to Vibrams, I’m annoyed by the tendency to write-off mounting anecdotal evidence or to always blame injuries on the runner’s form.
Equally irritating is the false dichotomy created by barefoot dogma proponents and barefoot haters; that there are two ways to run and one is correct. Running for me is not a moral choice between two camps of thought. Can I be so bold as to point out that both sides stand to gain financially from convincing consumers that their doctrine is right and the other is wrong? Those peddling these ideas tend to fall under the following categories: podiatrists, PhDs, big shoe companies, start-up shoe companies, authors, gurus, etc. The blatant conflict of interest forces me to take this information with a hefty grain of salt and pay more attention to information coming from runners who have no strings (or laces) attached.
I think that an honest and objective runner will take a moderated approach and tend to stay out of this usually pointless back and forth between the sides. False pretenses are perpetuated by both sides of the “argument” and I can’t help but feel like I’m participating in an advertising campaign when I weigh in with either side.
Ultimately I don’t care how the scientific evidence pans out. I will continue barefoot/minimalist running because I enjoy it. I will also run with heretical cushioned moon boots from time to time. However, I will not pretend that running barefoot is a magical injury force field/fountain of youth/nirvana. Minimalist footwear and barefoot running are new, exciting options that allow runners to choose what suits them best for a given situation or a desired outcome.
Apologies in advance for the extended rant/gripe. I appreciate your steps toward an open dialogue by posting this article on your blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Preparing for my 1st Marathon

As the namesake of this blog suggests, one of my long-term goals is to run in the Boston Marathon. To date, I have not run a marathon. Come November, this will change and I will run in the Savannah Rock n' Roll Marathon. While I haven't run the full 26.2 miles, I have a fair number of shorter races under my belt, including 2 half marathons. These races have suggested to me that the whole enchilada is it's own beast and I will need to prepare more intentionally than I traditionally have for shorter distances. I've been able to get away with a lack of preparation/ignorance in short races, which because of their nature are quite forgiving to the novice. With this in mind, I've identified some running challenges that could become pitfalls in a longer race:

1-Shin Splints. After subscribing to the minimalist footwear dogma I got shin splints, which I had never experienced before. Turns out cushioning on shoes does serve a valuable purpose and is not solely (pun intended) to rob one of proprioception and cause atrophy of one's lower limbs. I pounded the pavement on some long runs in my Vibrams one too many times and paid the price. As I've laid off the long pavement runs, switched to mostly dirt trails in the Vibrams, and allowed myself recovery days, this problem has been tenuously kept at bay. The problem I now face is the all-pavement marathon I must train for. After doing some research, I decided to purchase Nike Free Run+ 2 for my long pavement runs. Reviews like this one of  the first iteration of the Free Run, coupled with trying on pairs in-store, to news that the 2nd version had more toe room brought me to the decision. I bought a slightly used pair on eBay and took them on their maiden voyage through the ghetto today. I was not disappointed. While they are far from a barefoot experience, they maintain portions of experience that I want-ie a fast, lightweight gait. As I hoped, the cushioning is adequate but not excessive. There are more runs to do in these new kicks and I will make a full review in the future.

2-Blisters-My feet are not pretty. I've grown accustomed to allowing large calluses and blisters to form one on top of the other and have basically just dealt with them rather than actively trying to prevent them. This is fine while doing short runs. Normally I'll start feeling hot spots somewhere around the 4 mile mark, regardless of the footwear I don. The problem here is that these hot spots evolve into acutely painful and crippling blisters on longer runs, which could seriously hinder my training and ultimate race in November. Barefoot prophets tell me that if I had the right barefoot form, I could run barefoot or shod for hours and come out with baby-soft immaculate tootsies. I think this is horse crap. If I did adopt the barefoot form suggested, with no pushing off; rather a light, centaur-esque prance, I could probably reduce blisters. But I would be slow and I don't enjoy running that way. I want to develop speed and endurance, and I want to like my running. Therefore I reject that idea and will find another way to deal with blisters. Reason tells me that my footwear choices have as much, if not more, to do with blisters as does the force with which I push of the ground. That being said, I develop blisters when my feet become saturated in sweat-4 miles or 30-40 minutes into a run. It's hot in Savannah and I've heard good things about Drymax Hot Weather Running Socks. So I'm giving them an extended trial and as of now, they are my race day choice as my feet have had less hot spots and really are much drier than with other socks. The shoes I wear are also a factor here, for now the Nike Frees seem to couple nicely with the Drymax socks.

3-Chaffage-This became an issue especially since moving to Georgia and running exclusively in humid conditions. Bag Balm has become my lubricant of choice for extended runs. It is viscous enough to stick around for the duration of a long race, it works, it's cheap, and if it's good enough for udders, it's good enough for me.

4-Cramps-I have very little experience with cramps, in fact, the only real problem I have had was during the last few miles of a half-marathon in February. My legs got rigid and my pace suffered terribly as a result. The great collective runner's mind tells me that cramps are a result of dehydration. So I need to drink more (apparently a lot more because I drank quite a bit during that race) and probably turn up the salt consumption so I don't sweat out everything I put in. As longer training runs test my hydration limits, I expect to have more experience in this area and develop a specific plan for race day.

5-Fatigue-This goes without saying, but there are two things I plan to do here. One is figuring out how many carbs I can put in without making myself sick. I'll probably be using gels on race day. Two is simply training adequately. I plan to do 2-4 short runs during the week and a long run (taper up to ~20 miles) every Saturday.

6-Side aches-I'm still figuring this out, as I often can't tell if these are going to occur or not. The less I can have in my stomach while running, the better off I tend to be. On race day I will eat breakfast ~2 hours before start time and play the cards I'm dealt after that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tybee Island Half Marathon 2011 Race Report

413/1220 overall
60/97 division

My lovely wife ran the 5K, which started before the half marathon. She pushed the kids in the jogging stroller whilst rain was coming down steadily. The start of my race was pretty soggy, but dried up by the end. I was pretty bummed last year when I didn't finish this race due to shin splints, which literally stopped me in my tracks. Getting past the 4 mile mark was a big confidence boost, as this is where things went downhill last year. I ran without socks on a last minute decision on account of the rain and my feet held up pretty well. I was on pace up to beat my 2005 half time, then about the last 4 miles of the race, I was reminded that endurance racing is much different than quick, shorter runs. My form started falling apart and I was just pushing to keep going. I started cramping quite a bit the last mile or so and I think this would have turned ugly in a longer race. Finishing felt great-I had my family cheering me on the last part of the race and waiting for me at the finish. I ran it in Vibrams, which I don't plan on doing again for any race longer than a 10K.

The road to Boston is looking pretty long right now. I made a large mental accomplishment getting through this half marathon, though. The next step is to build my endurance for the full marathon in November, while juggling church, family, and pharmacy residency responsibilities. I won't be wearing "minimalist footwear" for this race, unless we consider the Nike Free Run+ 2 "minimalist." I like the free movement of these shoes, they feel like slippers instead of rigid running shoes, but have some cushioning, which I hope will keep the shin splints at bay, since the race and much of my training will be on pavement. Still planning on doing a good chunk of my training off road in Vibrams to maintain form that won't annihilate my knees.

Note: In an effort to post more frequently, I will be doing less reveiwing for grammar, flow, etc. In other words this will be a low quality, high(er) quantity blog-a recipe for readership expansion. The End

Among the Dead

Back to blogging after a school-induced hiatus. A few developments since previous posts:

-I finished the Tybee Island Half Marathon in FiveFingers in under 2 hours, successfully removing a large simian from my dorsal region after a DNF 1 year prior. (race report to follow)

-Traveled to distant lands, ran on Indian burial grounds(explanation to follow), and stopped running regularly with ridiculous schoolin'

-We moved across town, leaving behind my beloved running grounds.

-Have discovered greener running pastures fertilized with former inhabitants of ye ole low country-Bonaventure Cemetery, one of my new favorite places to run.

-Planned out next year of races-see right side of b-log.

-Stopped tracking miles religiously, now only tracking miles in a secular fashion.