Monday, March 29, 2010

Calf Strain

Day 6 of the calf strain. I am saying strain as I don't feel as though I hurt it too badly this time. The first time I did it I was out of action over 6 weeks. The second was at least a month or so. It has been a week and it feels much better now. I still can't run on it but I don't notice it while walking. Stopping the instant I felt pain was definitely the correct action to take. I iced it back at work off and on for about 2 hours. That probably helped too.
I started researching calf strains/tears and how to heal them quickly. Most advice says the standard: Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation. Some websites say to massage it other say not to massage it. Some people say to stretch others say not to stretch. One of the consistent suggestions is to start exercising it as soon as the pain is gone. They suggest calf raises, with the knees bent and the knees extended.
The strange thing with these calf strains that I get is that doing calf raises does not hurt (or barely causes any pain). I can do both seated and standing raises and all feels well. However, after running about 3 steps the pain in the calf is extreme. So I wonder if the exercising I am doing is actually getting to that part of the muscle. Does only running exercise that part of the calf? Does stretching really help or not? I can do a full stretch of the calf with no pain now, but again, when I run it hurts. When it comes down to it, I don't believe that anyone really knows how to stop calf tears and what the best actions are to heal them.
For me the best results have been to start running as soon as possible. I run (slowly) for a brief amount of time, then walk, run then walk. If the pain level elevates I stop. I keep doing this every other day or so until the pain just magically goes away one day. As suddenly as it appears it goes away too. Strange!
Have a great day.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The dreaded calf tear returns!

Well, maybe I over did it this past weekend. I ran the Milliken Earth Run 5K and felt great. I had my best time in a 5K ever. Sunday I got up and ran about 10 miles. I did not run fast I just ran at a nice easy pace not trying to overdo it. Later that day a friend called me and we played racquetball for over an hour. I was really beat by then. I did not do anything Monday in order to rest my legs up. My legs were definitely feeling a little overworked all day Monday. Today (Tuesday) all felt well. I decided to go for a short run in the Vibrams. I forgot my foot pod cadence sensor so I was kind of bummed that I could not measure my cadence. My plan was to jog about 2 miles then hit the track and try a couple of laps at high speed, then jog the mile back to work. The day is beautiful for running!

I started off at probably an 8 minute pace and all felt good. I was running in the grass (@ .6 miles out) and I felt a small very minimal pain in my left calf. I have never had any problem with my left calf so I thought nothing of it. The only tears I have ever had have always been my right calf. As I continued running the pain actually went away, possibly because I started on a mild down hill. However, as soon as I started going up hill I transitioned to the road and within five steps I had a vise grip type pain in my left calf. These tears are very frustrating because they give no warning. I was running perfectly fine one second and literally the next second I can’t run. Needless to say, I stopped immediately. I tried to stretch it some because it actually felt like a cramp (unfortunately I read later that trying to stretch the calf after a tear is a bad idea). I walked back to work. While walking I can barely feel the tear. It just feels a little tight with not much pain. Running is out of the question though.
The obvious question is did the Vibrams cause it? I say no. I had no problems after the Milliken 5K. I ran the 10 miles and did racquetball in my standard running shoes. After my last calf tear I was very diligent in doing seated and standing calf raises, and also doing straight and bent leg calf stretches. I had backed off some in the past few weeks because everything had been feeling good. I am just going to have to get back into the habit of really working on my calves again. They seem to be my weakest link lately. In the past two years I have had 3 tears. I am icing it now in hopes that I stopped running in time to reduce the severity of the tear. It is good timing because I am going on vacation next week and maybe I need to spend more time with the family then running. Sometimes on vacation I am tempted to do some long runs.
Biking here I come!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Trial run Thursday

The plan was to go out and run different paces and try to maintain a cadence of at least 85 foot strikes per minute (170 total for both feet) in the Vibram Five Fingers.

The first mile was a 7:10 pace. That is my quickest pace so far with the Vibram Five Fingers. My average cadence was 88. I felt good through the first mile. I ran the first mile on the pavement with no foot problems.

I then ran 1.76 miles at a 7:57 pace. My average cadence was 83. I definitely slowed up some on the cadence. Trying to maintain 85 or above takes some thought while you run. As I mentioned in a previous post, it seems that as I tire I tend to take longer strides and slow my cadence. Running in the Vibrams with a higher cadence and shorter strides seems to be gentler on my feet than running at the same pace but with a lower cadence and longer strides. I ran on both grass and pavement for this portion of the run.

I then ran a fast ¼ mile on the track. My time was 1:18 which is a 5:12 pace when averaged over one mile. That is also a personal record for me. My average cadence was 85. I have always read that you have to run fast in order to run fast. I believe that is true. I am going to incorporate more speed training into my work outs. I have found out that I really can’t sprint now. I am 46 years old and have never really been that quick of a sprinter. However, I definitely was faster back in my twenties than I am now. I need to also add some sprinting to my work out. I just want to make sure I don’t wipe out a hamstring. Typically the faster I run the more things hurt.

I was pooped out after my one time around the track, (that is pathetic when I think about it). So I did a slow jog back to work. The run was about .86 miles and I averaged a 9:15 pace and 77 cadence.

1. I believe that increasing my cadence will help me to increase my running speed.
2. Running at the higher cadence at the 7:10 pace seemed easier than running at the slower cadence at the same pace but with longer strides. This thought still needs some testing.
3. Higher cadence and shorter strides is easier on my feet when running in the Vibrams.
4. The Vibrams feel good to run in now that I am used to them. I believe my feet are toughening up. I hope the good trends continue!

So far my transition to the Vibrams has gone well. Let’s see how my race in them on Saturday goes. I would like to set a PR for that 5K. I ran it in a little over 23 minutes last year. I would like to be less than 22 minutes this year. I hope I don’t break something!

Have a great day!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trying out the Garmin foot pod for Cadence

I apologize for the lack of blogging. My training was hindered due to work and weather related issues.
On a positive note I did receive my foot cadence pod from Garmin. That is a neat little device. You can use it for running in doors when you can’t receive a GPS signal, the foot pod will estimate your running distance as well as giving you your cadence. You can also use it out doors just for the cadence and still use the more accurate GPS signal on your watch.
I made it out once last week in the Vibrams with foot pod. I went three miles straight with a brief stop to stretch and hit the track for a quick quarter mile. The highest cadence I got was 85 (per foot or 170 for both). During a normal jog it drops to about 70 or so. I am feeling better and better in the Vibrams. I am doing about ½ pavement and ½ grass running. I feel good and my heel tenderness has not hindered me, as a matter of fact the tenderness seems to be subsiding. The only issue that tends to be there in the background is my IT band on my left leg. To be honest my entire left leg is my down fall. My left foot tends to angle outward about 5 degrees or so and that leg has much less flexibility than my right leg. I probably have some sciatic nerve problems because that leg tends to ache from my back to my ankle. Especially when I have to drive for more than a few minutes my entire left leg just starts aching. Man I feel like a geriatric sometimes! Isn’t that what old people do? Talk about their ailments! By the time I hit 80 I will have so many things to complain about my grand kids will probably shoot me to put me out of my misery!
Back to running. I ran 9 miles Sunday in my Nike’s. Those are probably the best shoes I have had in a while. I can’t remember the names of them at the moment but they feel good. I felt great through 8 of the miles but on mile 9 I really slowed down. The last mile was mostly uphill against the wind. I know what you are thinking but I am not copping out, it really is mostly uphill. I am continuing to add to my long runs once per week. I want to start increasing my speed more too. I have been reading about doing more intensive training. I was reading today in a magazine about doing high intensity runs for 30 seconds, then cooling down for a minute or so and doing another high intensity run and repeat at least six times. I am going to incorporate those high intensity runs into my workout once per week.
My training goal is to do one long run, one tempo run, and one speed workout per week. On my off days I play racquetball. I know that playing racquetball is not the ideal way to “rest” my legs. I love playing racquetball but it really wears me out. My friends and I usually play for about an hour, either singles or cut throat, maybe even some doubles. By the end of that hour I can barely move. I am sure that racquetball adds to my increasing list of injuries. The funny thing about racquetball is it is so intense that you don’t realize you hurt something until later in the day.
Now that I have my Garmin foot pod I have been checking my running cadence. Last week due to the rain I had to hit the treadmill. I wore my Nike’s with the foot pod. I could maintain 85 foot strikes per minute on an 8 minute per mile pace. As I increased the speed I stayed at 85 until I got to a 7 minute mile. As I tired my cadence dropped off. I am imagining that as I tire my stride length increases to compensate for my reduction in cadence. Interesting enough I maintained the 85 cadence through most of the run through variations of speed from a 9 minute mile to a 6 minute mile. Just near the end of the run my cadence dropped off to about 78-80. I am also going to incorporate increasing my cadence into my routine.

If anyone is reading this out there please let me know your running cadence. Does it vary with speed or do you maintain 85 or so throughout the run? I can’t imagine running a 95 cadence.

March 20th is the Milliken Earth Run 5K. It will be my first race in the Vibrams. It is a cross country and I am really looking forward to it. I ran it in 23:08 last year. I would like to beat that this year. That may show me if these Vibrams are helping me out. Anyone else running the Milliken?
Have a great week!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tried some energy supplements on the Reedy River 10K!

I decided to test out some energy supplement during this race. Here is my diet before the run.

I awoke about 6:45 AM. I rolled out of bed and ambled to the kitchen and ate an orange. Between 7:30 and 8:00 I downed one bottle of Gatorade. I left for the race a little before 8 to make sure I got there with enough time to warm up before the 9 am gun time. At approximately 8:20 I ate a banana. About 20 minutes before the race I drank a bottle of ABB Ripped Force Ephedra free Energy Formula. I finished the bottle at about 8:50. I decided on that because I have consumed them before after racquetball and never had a problem with them as far as digestion goes. I also brought a GU Roctane for later in the run.

The weather was beautiful for the run on Saturday. Main Street downtown was filled with runners and by standers. After visiting the always exciting port-a-johns a couple of times I was ready to do the run. I did not feel jittery from the ABB Ripped Force however I had an enhanced feeling of well being. I did not want to overdo it today so I set my watch for 8:15 miles. Last year I started out too quick and was dead tired by mile 4. I just wanted to have a good fun run today.

Mile one went by very quickly. I was spot on the 8:15 per mile pace. By mile two I had sped up slightly but I was still near the 8:15 per mile pace. I felt very good and was not losing my wind so I sped up some more. I missed the markers for miles 3 and 4. I am not sure if I was day dreaming or something. I had my Garmin set on the workouts screen so the actual miles run setting was not on the screen. According to my watch I was .12 miles ahead of pace. I switched the watch screen to distance and noticed I was at 4.3 miles which surprised me greatly. I thought at best I was just passing 3 miles or so.

I felt very good at 4.3 miles and decided to suck down the GU Roctane that I brought along. This one has some caffeine in it. It took about 3 tenths of a mile to actually eat it all. I have a lot of hayfever and my nose is never very clear so I am a mouth breather. Trying to eat a gelatinous substance like the GU
Roctane and breath through your mouth at the same time is very difficult.

When I got to the McDaniel Hill I still felt good. I actually powered up the hill and it seemed like nothing today. I got to the turn off and still felt great so I sped up some more. I was a little apprehensive when I saw the final hill on East Broad Street before the finish line. I almost walked that hill last year. Again, I had great energy and powered up that hill at a good pace. As I rounded the corner I could see the finish line. I noticed the clock was just past 49 minutes. I really wanted to beat the 50 minute mark so I sprinted in the last bit through the finish. I had a gun time of 49:53.

I felt really good at the end. I only beat my time last year by 15 seconds. However, last year I was completely wasted at the end of the race, this year I felt full of energy. So the question is: am I in better shape this year or did those energy drinks and gel help out? Whether it was all in my brain or not I believe the supplements do improve my performance. Will I take them at each race, no. The energy supplements scare me a little. I don’t want my heart to freak out and quit on me! Using the ABB Ripped Force never made me feel nervous or jittery. I also did not fell overly energized. But I did have a very good run.

Another interesting side item is I met a runner using the Vibrams 5 Fingers! He said he loves them and will never run in anything else. He is probably in his mid 50s and looked in good physical shape. That gives me more incentive to run in them now!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Running in the snow today!

Here are my thoughts and ramblings concerning the Vibram Five Fingers and bare foot running.

At this time I am using the Vibrams as a training aid. My plan is to run the short distances in the Vibrams and run the long distances in my running shoes. Depending on how things go this may change as time and experience build.

My results so far have been good. The short runs have been getting better and better. I feel more comfortable running on both the road and the grass in the Vibrams. My Patellar tendon has felt much better lately. At this point I am not sure whether to attribute the reduction in pain to the barefoot running or not. I have not changed my other exercise routines. I did a run of 8 miles on Sunday and never even felt a twinge of pain from the patellar tendon. The only pain I have had lately is a slight tenderness in my right foot at the heel area. It is a non-distinct pain that does not feel like it is progressing to something more serious. My right foot has given me trouble for my entire running career so that is nothing new.

I have been reading more on increasing speed by increasing my cadence. At this point I am not sure what my normal cadence is. I cut and pasted this information concerning running cadence from
“Running cadence is the measure of how many foot strikes either the right or left foot makes in one minute, and it's one of two factors involved in your overall speed. There are only two ways to get faster on the run: take longer steps and/or take more of them. Interestingly enough, however, observational research has shown that a runner's cadence is the least variable of these and most elite runners maintain a cadence of 85-95 regardless of pace or distance of the event. What happens is that runners adjust stride length to gander speed, and the same quick turnover with a slightly longer stride results in a faster race.”
I have reviewed many running websites that discuss increasing running speed by increasing running cadence. That seems to be a common theme among those websites. This is good because according to the barefoot running websites I have researched, successful barefoot running is also associated with a higher running cadence. Apparently when you run with a high cadence you reduce the heel strikes and actually land more flat footed or actually on the balls of your feet. This allows your foot’s natural shock absorption system to activate. Or at least that is the theory!
I bought the Garmin foot pod this week to use in my cadence training. The foot pod is really for running on the treadmill or inside where you do not get the GPS signal. It sends the information to my Garmin 305. The foot pod is similar to a pedometer and estimates your actual mileage and pace by your stride length. However, I will be using the pod for the cadence function. I am really interested in determining my average cadence for a complete run. Hopefully by my next run the pod will be here (I ordered it from Amazon). I am going to compare my cadence in the Vibrams and my Nikes.

Final thoughts. I did a three mile run today in the snow. I did not wear the Vibrams; however, I did try to increase my speed some. During my “fast” slow run I thought of the perfect description of my running style “lumbering oaf”. Smooth graceful efficient fast running is not my style!
Have a great day!