Thursday, June 30, 2011

Governor's Island 10k Recap

Ferry rides are a good way to start a race. Running this one was a last minute decision mostly based on being able to also volunteer for it. I'd heard good things about it - fast, flat course, gorgeous views - and I'd been jonesing for a race since Ragnar NY and the Brooklyn Half were like over a month ago.

A ferry full of runners is even better than the subway and the 360 view from Governor's Island was a treat. The course had so many turns I could never remember what was coming up next so I kept being surprised: the Verrazano! The city! NJ? Brooklyn!

It had a small race feel - only 758 participants - but with big guns behind it. A lot of people complain about big corporate races. As long as they don't stamp out the other races, I'm not only ok with them, but I like them since these races tend to be friendlier towards newbie runners. Also, since it was so small, it was easier to find others and I got to hang out for a little while with twitter dailymilers Linna, Mike, and Eva, in addition to the usual suspects - Michael and Steve.

There was a small festival area with a D.J./emcee. There were bike blended smoothies and a composting site.

Seriously. They were teaching the kids how to compost and the garbage bins differentiated between different kinds of recyclables, food waste, and actual garbage. Swoon!

There were no corrals so everyone went with the canine method; guess your own pace relative to those around you by checking each other's butts. It was all very friendly. I chatted with runners near me and found out for many of them it was their first time doing that distance. Some had done a 5k before, many had never done a race and everyone was very excited.

I was also nervous. The problem is that since the Brooklyn Half thanks to the barefoot bug I'd only been running one to two miles at a time. I knew I wasn't ready to run that much in my new no-shoe shoes, so I chose my racing flats.

I used to love them. They were light and fast compared to my other shoes. Unfortunately, my bright yellow Brooks Launch now felt big and clunky compared to what I've been running in lately. My feet felt wrong in them and it was hard to keep my form.

Though I generally prefer to run alone, I ended up tacking myself to a runner wearing vibrams and matching his form. He turned out to be the best running partner ever. I picked him up at around mile two and I think I was able to hold my form for the rest of the race. He was gracious about it and the miles flew by all the way to a 5min PR.

My favorite thing? First place finishers male and female got a real hand hewn axe instead of a trophy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Toe down

It happened while I was getting ready this morning. I dropped a very heavy mug on my toe and it went into technicolor mode. I jumped around and cursed and swore at the pain, but continued with my morning routine. But when I started to get dressed for my run I realized it was hurting to walk on it and I went into full twitterpanic.

I felt like such an idiot. I've been trying to be careful with my feet. I've been holding back and steadily building strength. My biggest fear with this transition into minimalist footwear is a stress fracture so of course I had to go and drop something heavy on my foot!

Fortunately some nice people on twitter reminded me to ice it. The advice was mixed between running and not running. Part of me wanted to run anyway. Yesterday's run was so amazing I was eager to get back out there. I'm also very stressed out and going for a run would have helped. But I know that if I'm angry and frustrated I'm more likely to want to push through. And pushing through pain today might do more damage.

I'm not good when I'm injured. Blood I can handle - pass me some tape and I'll butterfly stitch myself. Impact pain I can take - it was a week before I realized I'd fractured my eye socket. But give me something that feels like an injury even just a tiny bit and I start manically swinging from panic to despair. The world is going to end because my pinky toe is a little bruised.

No it's not. At least I know it's not, but I feel like it is and I need to keep myself in check. Heck, I have friends battling actual injuries who could give me a reality check. Still, inside I'm thrashing like a wounded animal. I feel like a cat I had. He used to howl in anguish like someone was pulling him apart limb for limb whenever he had to ride in a car in his carrier.

That's kind of how I feel right now.

It's probably just a little bruised and I should be able to run tonight. Amy says I don't need my pinky anyway even while running barefoot.

So if you see me howling on a corner, please tell me to knock it off and go for a run. And if you were wishing I'd run less, or at least run less on lonely trails (I'm looking at you, Evan) quit it! If something else falls on my feet I'm coming after you!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prospect Park Trails

After two weeks of alternating between holding steady and slowly increasing distance, my calves have finally started to adjust and I thought I was ready to jump to about three miles. So I laced up the minimus and decided to hit the trails. I biked to the park to conserve mileage so I could do as much of the distance as possible off road.

I parked by the Pavilion and headed East on the bridle path next to the main loop until an opening into the trails appeared. From then on, I just followed a trail until it ended or hit a road, then I backtracked until the last fork and kept going until the next end.

It was a little bit like running in a maze. I tried finding trails I'd explored last year but found them closed. I was worried I'd run out of trails too quickly but instead I found paths and arches I'd never seen.

Off-road Prospect Park seems to shift in shape as trees trick you into running in loops and making you go up and down until you feel you're in an area much bigger than the park. Also, it's so dense and quiet it's like you've left Brooklyn. Even though this was during the morning workout rush, I only saw a couple other runners on the trails. Both of them looked as giddy as I felt.

I might have to work on my self-portraiture skills if I'm going to keep this up. The shoes, the calves, the form were such a non-issue I was just having fun running and I was not looking forward to having to turn back. Since I'd decided to run for about thirty minutes I hadn't brought water with me.

The one fountain I found when a trail met the road failed me and I got lost and couldn't find my way out of the woods and back to where I had left my bike on time for my running cut-off. Instead of about three miles, I probably did about four and a half. I swear I didn't mean to!

When I came out of the woods I landed in off-leash central.

Which is exactly how I felt after this run.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vibram it again

Since nothing broke after my first run, I went ahead and held it steady. Sure, my calves were sore but not in a scary I'm going to break kind of sore but in a pleasant I'm getting stronger way. For my second run I decided to skip the injini socks. With them, the vibrams had felt a little tight and I wanted to know if it would be more comfortable to run without them. It was. But I also felt the ground more.

The night before I'd helped out a friend by acting as her makeup artist for an appearance on British morning TV show Lorraine. Breakfast TV, they call it. The only problem is that breakfast there is the middle of the night here. By the time we were done and in a car coming back to Brooklyn it was close to four am. I decided to come straight home, catch what sleep I could and deal with my bike later.

With the KSO's on my feet, I walked 1.5 miles, then ran the rest of the way to her place - about 1.2 miles more. Towards the end, I felt like sole on the balls of my feet were starting to get raw. I definitely missed the little extra protection the socks gave me.

By Grand Army Plaza there's this area where the ground is covered in these little tiles set out in a parquet formation. I'd barely been aware of it before. It's kind of pretty, I guess. Is it tile? Whatever it is, my feet hated it! All those little sharp edges attacked me, but they did help me speed up the pace.

Calves, achilles, the rest of the legs, all fine. Something I've noticed in these two weeks is that the only aches I've had have been soreness. No tightness (more on that later) and I haven't felt some niggling issues I'd been having (left hamstring, ITB). Granted, I'm running a lot less so it could just be all that rest I've been getting but it doesn't feel that way. I'm also not starting out with sore stiff joints and needing two miles to get my body going. I'm only doing a couple of ankle jumps and going.

My feet were fine. No blisters, no rawness; the skin was just a little sore. I put some moisturizer on and that was the end of that.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vibram running

My first stop looking for my new stride was finally daring to run in my vibrams. Though I love how they feel when hanging out, I'd heard such horror stories about achy calves and upset achilles tendons I'd been too scared to try. Particularly since I had a pretty serious achilles tendon injury in 2006. It was not an injury from running, but it's one of those old injuries that flare up every once in a while.

So. First run.

I thought I'd wear these toe socks. When you've got so little between your feet and the mean Brooklyn streets, every little bit of fiber counts. I'd heard you needed to start slow, so I decided to go for a mile. That's a short distance, right? So I went on a wonton soup run. I ran a few blocks north and did a short loop that ended at my favorite local Chinese restaurant.

The first few steps when I started running were terrifying. I was afraid I'd hit the pavement hard with my heel and it would crack. My heel, not the pavement.

Fortunately, it seems I'm not as much of a heel striker as I thought I was. I've been deliberately avoiding a heel strike for the past year or so but since I hadn't tested I wasn't sure whether I could keep it up.

Running in the vibrams felt a little skinny dipping. It's the same, but better. You feel everything more and it's exhilarating to the point of almost feeling naughty. It surprised me how much fun it was to feel the ground below me in such detail. Pavement unevenness was much more noticeable as were the changes in surface.

Also, my stride felt springier than I thought it would. In a way, I felt my run was lighter and kind of bouncier than usual. I left all gadgets behind and tried to focus on form. Stay on the forefoot. Make sure I lift my feet as if I'm stepping over logs. Calves going whoa!

Because I was doing such a short distance and was having so much fun I found myself going at what felt like a much faster pace.

Day after: nicely sore in the calves and glutes. The kind of pain you get from muscles you haven't used much, not the kind of pain that signals injury. I like that kind of I'm getting stronger pain. I might have to forget about ever fitting into knee high boots again.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Looking for my mini

I've had these Vibram KSO's for bout a year. They got to hang out a bit here and there, mostly indoors, and they got to travel to Colombia for some beach and hiking fun, but until I heard Chris McDougal and Eric Orton talk last Saturday at Bookcourt and participated in the Naked Run I hadn't dared to run in them

The transition from motion stability to neutral to minimail has been slow, but I've decided it's time to take a leap and I'm ditching my regular shoes.

While I found myself a pair of minimalists I went on a few runs in the vibrams. They were unexpectedly fun, but I think it will be a while before I'll be able to run a half marathon in them, if ever.

I'll blog about the transition, the Aha! moment, and my first few runs with the KSO's later, but for now I'm going to jump straight to the shoes.

I went to Jack Rabbit Brooklyn looking for a non five-fingers minimalists. I tried and discarded two. The Merrel Pace Glove felt great on, but felt awkward running. The New Balance Minimus Trail felt great on and off the treadmill, but there seemed too much of a gap at the heel.

Enter Zappos.

I ordered the Sauconi Hattori (above). Extremely light, but I could tell it wouldn't work for me. It has a some outer arch support protection. It was fine on my right foot, but my left one has suffered some abuse in the past which affected the fit. I've torn my plantar fascia. That sometimes makes my left foot chub and squish out to the side. With the Hattori, my foot spilled over that support and I could tell that would be a hot spot while running. If you look at it carefully, you can see a tiny skinny red arrow pointing to the spot. Clearly I need to work on my photo editing skills.

Otherwise the shoe felt amazing. Wish it had fit me better at the arch.

Next was the VivoBarefoot Neo by Terra Plana. The sizing is different and even though I used the chart, it was clownishly big. The shoes seemed very nice - flat, light, comfortable - but because of the size I had to return them without even trying them on a treadmill.

Running in my vibrams was going well, but I was too impatient to wait to return the VivoBarefoot to get new ones - and my wallet could not stand carrying too many shoes at a time while the returns went through. So I decided to hit some running stores on Friday. Will tell you about that next. For now I'll just leave you with a gratuitous picture of mud. The KSO's do very well in the mud. Everyone else's shoes were shucked off their feet while I got to keep my grippy ones. This was while hiking with my brother in the Parque Tairona last December.