Thursday, October 30, 2014

In which my neighborhood is on fire, again.

So to be honest I am not much of a baseball follower, but it's hard to ignore it when your entire city & all your friends are pulsing with nervous energy & oozing team colors from every pore for weeks on end. Unlike in 2010, I was in fact aware that the World Series was going on this year (all my friends are either Giants or Rangers fans, so I just thought it was baseball as usual), and kinda-sorta half-heartedly kept an eye on the internet for the game scores when I could (because even if you don't really describe yourself as a fan, it's hard to be someone who likes sports and not pull for the team from the city where you live at least a *little* bit).

We were at karate the night of Game 7, but listened to part of the game on the drive over & then checked the score at 8:30 (by then it was over).

It also turns out it's hard to ignore sportsball championships when they tend to result in your neighborhood turning into a rough approximation of a war zone.

Don and I came home from karate around 10pm & ate leftovers rather than trying to get food in the Mission (which is what we usually do after class). At that point our house was already vibrating with the sounds of perhaps three helicopters more or less directly above it.

As always when the Giants win the World Series (lol), we girded our loins, grabbed our phones & cameras, & walked the two blocks from our noisy but relatively tame block to the bonfires-in-the-streets, swinging-from-lamp-posts, no-holds-barred insanity of Mission Street.

The thing about sports championships in SF (I assume it's similar in a few other cities) is that there's a sweet spot for going out & high-fiving strangers & dancing on top of your car with a team flag while your buddy lays on the horn (if that's your bag). Past World Series victories have not been on karate nights so we've been able to get out early & enjoy some of that. But inevitably, there comes a point in the evening where the crowd gets just a little too drunk, a little too raucous, things start to turn, and suddenly it's riot gear & setting fires & throwing broken bottles & knocking over Muni busses. Sadly, by the time we got to Mission Street around 10:30, it seemed that that time of night was growing nigh.

I have to say this was amongst the least safe I've felt living in San Francisco, and yet I kind of felt mesmerized by the insanity of it all & couldn't stop snapping pictures and possibly maybe getting a closer than I really should have to some situations. (I found out later there were at least two shootings within a four-block radius of my house.)

When we found ourselves gasping for air in the wake of a smoke cloud of police fire retardant & trapped in a mass of drunk people in Giants gear running frantically from the riot police / street sweeper (maybe both), the possibility of getting shivved by a broken bottle (or, more likely, getting knocked over on top of one) seemed a little too real and we made our way back home as quickly as we could.

I am all for sportsball & reasonable celebration, but this pretty
much how I feel about the whole aftermath situation.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mystery Suck-Run Theater + an actual kinda-sorta (ish?) long run

It's funny how individual patterns tend to emerge with runners. For example, I remember reading a while back about an elite marathon runner (can't remember who) who invariably had her worst workout of the season on the Tuesday before going on to have a fantastic "A" race on Sunday. She would feel awful, her stride would feel off, everything would feel super hard, she wouldn't hit her paces, the works. The first couple of times this happened she had a total freakout (as one might), but a few marathons into her career, she & her coach just accepted that this was a thing that happened, completely unrelated to anything they could control (sleep/nutrition/hydration/rest days/etc.), and that it didn't predict how Sunday's race would go. Eventually they were just like, "Well, it's Terrible Tuesday, let's get it over with & move on."

I noticed this happening this summer when I started running on most Wednesdays for the first time in a while. Generally in the past I haven't run on Mondays or Wednesdays because a) there isn't generally time before karate unless I leave work early, and b) it can be tough sometimes to do an honest run and then go do a solid, cadiovascularly-demanding martial arts workout as well. (I can do it, but the quality of my karate tends to not be as good, which as an instructor, I feel self-conscious about.)

Never miss a chance to throw down with your significant other. (I am wearing one glove because at that point we thought my finger might be broken.)

But I wanted to experiment with a six-days-per-week training schedule, so I decided to make the sacrifice while training for Santa Rosa & try to leave a little early on Wednesdays to get in a short, easy run before class.

And OH MY LORD those runs universally sucked. I think I maybe had one good one all summer. The rest of the time I felt exhausted and inevitably had to deal with some kind of not-that-insignificant pain. (It could be foot cramps, tight Achilles/calves, shin splints, back/shoulder pain, sore quads or hamstrings, etc., things that almost never happened on any other day of the week.) Sometimes it got better a couple miles in; sometimes it didn't. Sometimes I'd push through the entire assigned mileage; sometimes I'd claw & crawl my way to four slow, achey miles & call it quits.) Thursday would be better, Friday better still, & inevitably I'd have my best runs of the week on Saturday & Sunday. After taking Monday off, my Tuesday track workouts were generally fine-to-good, and then Wednesday we were back to the ninth circle of hell.

It was kind of liberating to just accept that it was a thing that happened. At least I could mentally prepare myself for it. But I always felt like there had to be some explanation. Like, maybe Sunday long run + Monday strength & karate + Tuesday track + Wednesday morning strength work was just the wrong combination, even though I took Monday off from running. Maybe I needed to sleep more on Tuesday nights. Eat better. Something. But I never did find that smoking gun.

I am not marathon training now (except in the largest-scale terms) and feel no need to run six days a week while I base-build, so in general I'm back to taking Monday & Wednesday off from running. Schedules get funky sometimes, though, and this week, it's just worked out that running on Sunday and Tuesday was not going to happen. So instead, I've worked a little more on other days, left early on Monday & Wednesday, & shoe-horned in my usual easy six miles before class. And honestly, until Wednesday, I had not thought once about those horrific ninth-circle-of-hell runs from this summer.

But holy hell. Precisely .1 miles out my door on Wednesday, I was already having my worst run in months.

My feet hurt. My Achilles tendons felt like they were going to snap. I felt utterly drained. Heart-rate wise, I've been mostly staying in the 140s on these easy runs, but even running in the 10:00-10:30 range, it felt so hard and my heart rate was up around 160.

Wednesdays!!!! I shake my fist at you.

Oh, you guys. It was so, so hard. When I hit one mile, I couldn't remember what my life had been like before I started that run. At that point I had already turned around and started heading back home. To do what, I didn't know. Quit? Maybe. Sit in the floor for a while? Not sure. But as I was running back (so slowly. So, soooo slowly), it hit me that the shoes were not helping. They felt too squishy, too sloppy, were obscuring the ground too much for me to get a good feel of it. And suddenly I desperately wanted nothing more than to get out of them & back into my good ol' Kinvara 5's.

Which is a little bizarre, because the shoes I was wearing are ones I've been running in all summer. I don't absolutely *LURV* everything about them, but they have their good points, particularly on days when my feet are feeling a bit sore from a lot of pounding. (In fact, I've had a review sitting in my 'drafts' folder, 99% done, for months now, which I should just freaking publish already so I don't have to look at it anymore.) It wasn't that I thought the entire problem was the shoes, but man, I just felt so sure they weren't helping and putting on the Kinvaras would feel so much better.

And, it did. Once home, I wiped my sweaty face off with a cold towel, switched my shoes, took a few deep breaths, & headed back out the door, just to see if there was any chance of getting anymore running done. I stayed close to home, and though I still didn't feel great at first, my feet and legs felt better, and gradually I settled in to a reasonably comfortable groove (though even the slightest incline still felt considerably more difficult than it should have). I finished my planned six miles, at a slightly lower pace & heart rate than I have been, in fact, so that was something. (But seriously, I would not have blamed myself nor anyone else for just throwing in the towel, with how absolutely awful I felt in the beginning.) On the other hand, there goes my theory about how this summer's Woeful Wednesdays were the fault of a long run on Sunday & a track session on Tuesday, since in the five days prior to this run I'd had four rest days & one easy six miler, on the heels of two pretty low mileage weeks.

So yeah. Running is weird & bodies are weird & they do weird stuff together, sometimes in patterns, for no good reason at all.

* * *

Originally I was kind of following an actual schedule, but like I mentioned, life has been wacky lately, so more and more I've kind of just been running *about* the number of miles on my schedule whenever I have time, because who knows when time I'd planned to spend running will suddenly disappear without advance notice. This week worked out better than my last two, thankfully, and in addition to shoe-horning in all the mid-week runs, I got my long run in as well.

Doing the low heart rate stuff makes long runs kind of confusing. Mentally, I don't usually think of a run as properly "long" until it's at least 14 or 15 miles. Because I'm running so much slower now, though, the time it takes me to run 12 miles is the same time in which I'd normally run about 15 miles I think, so it definitely feels long time-wise.

WEEK OF 10/20-10/26

Grand Total: 36 miles

    * 24 easy
    * 12 long
    * 3 x 45:00 strength workouts

Monday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 6 easy / p.m. karate

    Since I didn't get my Sunday long run in the day before, I started the week off with an extra run on what is usually my non-running day. I'm not sure why (since I was coming off of three days of basically complete rest), but halfway through this run, I started having some of the old familiar pain in my right leg. As usual, most of the pain was in my adductor and wrapping around my quad from my outer hip to my inner knee. It was very mild, but continued in to karate, to the point that I had to bow out of some of my basics because I could barely lift my right leg without a lot of pain. Thankfully, I spent maybe half an hour just working with students & not physically doing much, & that seemed to take care of things, because I was able to pull out a set of actually pretty awesome-feeling kata in the last half hour or so of class. Still, it makes me nervous any time I feel even the faintest hint of that upper right leg stuff.

Tuesday: Rest

    We spent the evening interviewing realtors again, which kind of precluded any running. Which was fine, actually, because for some reason my quads were TRASHED. Currently I'm blaming it on my first triple in god knows how many weeks/months.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 6 easy / p.m. karate

    GOD that run sucked. It got better, but it still sucked.

Thursday: 6 easy

    Much better than Wednesday, but for some reason the narrow toe box & snugness of the Kinvara 4's started bugging me on this run, almost to the point of causing my feet to cramp up. Maybe because I've been running in the wider 5's so much lately.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 6 easy

    A lovely, cool, breezy run. I tried out the Newtons that I've been wearing less and less and less over the last few months; eventually they were semi-okay, I guess, but much like with the K4's the day before, they felt kind of tight and crampy on my feet for the first few miles. They also felt really stiff, & honestly, every time I wear them, I see the point of the lugs less and less. (Honestly, it kind of makes me feel a little like I'm running in those clip-in cycling shoes.)

Saturday: Rest/football

    All my week day runs had worked out as planned and we had a football game in the middle of the day, so it seemed like it made sense to take Saturday off before Sunday's long run.

    When we left Stanford, it was warm and sunny. Twenty minutes later halfway back to the city, not so much. :-/ At this point, though, hey, we'll take any rain we can get.

    Honestly, for most of this day, I actually really felt like I wanted to go for a run, and almost did! I tweaked my right hamstring on Friday and it was still a bit sore, though, so I forced myself to channel all that enthusiasm into Sunday's long run.

Sunday: 12 long

    I did the first four miles of this run in a new pair of shoes, then switched into my trusty Kinvara 5's for the rest. This was my longest run both distance- and time-wise since Santa Rosa, and it felt great, so that's encouraging.

One more week of all super-easy miles, after which I'm planning to start doing some marathon pace / effort (?) runs on Tuesdays, which, given that I haven't seen a split faster than 9:40 in nearly two months, should be ummmmmmmmm interesting.

Friday, October 24, 2014

My Evening at UCSF's RunSafe Clinic

If you live in the Bay Area or in Boston, you may be familiar with the RunSafe program.

From the website:

RunSafe is a sports wellness program for runners that focuses on personalized health advice, injury prevention, and performance enhancement. The development of the program started in 2006, when sports medicine professionals at the University of California, San Francisco felt there was a need to provide a service to runners that focused on injury prevention to improve performance rather than treating injuries alone....Using a scientific approach, our experts' comprehensive, ongoing review of the sports medicine research helps build the foundation for the program.

Mission of RunSafe:

To improve health of individual runners and advance the science and medicine of running.

These include:

    1. Delivering advice on the best practices for training and health for runners of all levels.
    2. Educating runners in areas of injury prevention.
    3. Developing the RunSafe program as an evidence based standard in running assessment.
    4. Creating a database to further scientific study to learn about runner practices and issues.

The appointment is two hours long, wherein you get videotaped on a treadmill for ~10 minutes (after a warm-up period), go through a battery of strength & flexibility assessments, get evaluated by a foot-and-ankle specialist both barefoot & in all your different shoes, & consult with a sports dietition re: your diet/nutrition stuff. There are four runners who rotate through each of the four stations, and then at the end you watch all your videos together & the panel presents each you with an overall assessment & personalized recommendations in the different areas.

I have been meaning to do this for literally years. When I first found out about it I was working part-time as a consultant, paying my health insurance out of pocket, & trying to climb out of credit card debt, so as fantastic as it sounded, the $200 fee was more than I could justify. I told my mom about it and she offered to pay for it as a combined Christmas/birthday present, and I am not even kidding that a month later they raised the fee to $400.

Over the next couple of years my financial situation improved, but I still felt like $400 was a bit steep, even if I wasn't paying for all of it myself. This last year, though, they lowered the price to $300, but since I was in PT at The Human Performance Center with their main running guy anyway, it seemed like kind of a waste. (Also when you're trying to rehab an injury that put you on crutches did not seem like the best time to have people commenting on your form.)

On the other hand, my PT thought I might find it helpful to do at some point when I was healthy. So I got myself healthy again, and about halfway through my Santa Rosa training I went ahead and snagged myself a spot at the end of September, figuring that would give me enough time to recovery from whatever Santa Rosa brought my way. (Alas, it got rescheduled to Oct. 6 due to a glitch with the system, but what can you do. On a related note, if it is the day of your appointment and you have not gotten any emails from the RunSafe people besides a receipt, you probably should have double checked with them sooner. Oops.)

The clinic started with introductions, which included a PT professor & two of his grad students (who did the gait analysis), a clinical PT (who did the strength/alignment/flexibility testing), my sports medicine doctor (who did the foot/ankle/shoe analysis bit), and a sports dietition (who SURPRISE! did the diet/nutrition part).

Disclaimer: I did not want to be the douche snapping pictures of everything while people were trying to do their jobs, so instead I have google'd RunSafe & used a bunch of pictures off the internet to give you a sense of what it's like. Hope that helps. Sorry for not #keepingitreal. Bad blogger. But on the other hand, maybe less irritating to those around me.

My first stop was with the PT. I gave her my injury history & told her about my hip alignment problems, which she easily confirmed; other than that, she said my alignment looked good. With the number of hours (hundreds? thousands?) I have spent on PT tables or doing PT exercises or getting strength tested by PTs, I would have completely demoralized if I hadn't passed all the strength tests with flying colors (I did).

Flexibility-wise, she noted that my hip flexors are pretty tight (my response: "You should have seen them a year ago."), but I was surprised to hear her say that otherwise my flexibility was not bad. Which she clarified to mean: "You are not winning any yoga awards any time soon, but you are also not at risk for running injuries." (And that in fact, in some ways, being more flexible than normal actually puts runners at elevated risk for injury. SO E'RYBODY EASE UP ON TELLING ME TO DO MORE YOGA, A'IGHT?)

My second stop was with my doc, who had the advantage of knowing the intimate details of my entire injury history. He said my feet, ankles, and toes all looked great, that I had excellent range of motion everywhere (this stunned me; I have always thought of my ankles as kind of stiff), and that I had perfectly healthy, neutral arches. He had never seen me run before but based on the footprint test and the wear patterns on my shoes predicted that I would be a mid-to-forefoot striker and that (barring anything concerning in the gait analysis) if they were all comfortable there was no reason I couldn't wear any shoe I felt like. Lately I've been doing the first couple of miles of my easy runs in the PureDrifts to try to strengthen my feet, which he said was fine as long as I continued to increase my time in them gradually & didn't have any pain. (I've had to work up to two miles, BTW, and at that point I definitely feel it.) He did say I carried an awful lot of force on my second & third metatarsels & have significantly larger calluses there, which he'd be concerned about except I've never had any pain or discomfort there. (Much later, it occurred to me to wonder if this was due more to karate than than running. 13 years of scuffling around barefoot on wooden boards has left me with rather more impressive calluses than one generally gets from running.)

My third stop was the gait analysis, which involved getting reflective tape stuck to various joints & then two minutes of brisk walking & then ~10 minutes of easy running on the treadmill (which I did at my normal pace, as opposed to my recent low heart rate pace) while the PT & grad students videotaped & made notes from all angles. Before getting on the treadmill I chatted with the kinesiologist in charge about my issues with my right side, how I was pretty sure I still had an imbalance even though I constantly test strong on both sides. After I finished running, he had me stand on the edge of the treadmill & try doing a few more single-leg squats on both side. No problem on the left, but guess what I suddenly could not do on the right?

My last stop was the sports nutritionist, who was basically like, "As far as I can tell you're doing everything perfectly, except for the things you said you're not going to change." Those things being 1) having wine or beer with dinner most nights, & 2) having pizza or Indian food 2-3 times a week. (Not that I even remotely believe this to be the case, but let's be real--if that's the difference between a 3:36 marathon & a sub-3:30, then screw it; I'll live with the 3:36.) She said I could always get into the nitty gritty details of my individual situation with a standalone nutrition consult & maybe tweak things a little, but I already knew & was doing everything she would have told me in our 20 minute rotation.

After all four runners had been through all four stations, we hung out & chatted for a few minutes while they edited together all our gait analysis footage. Then the four of us & all the experts watched all four videos one at a time and laid out for us step-by-step what they look at, why, how each of us measured up, and what we could do to improve.

(This is where I feel the need to add a bit of a caveat--If you are someone who gets weird about being pubicly evaluated and compared to strangers in an area you're super invested in--like running--you might want to think long and hard about whether RunSafe is the right thing for you, or whether you'd be more comfortable doing a similar private, one-on-one type thing. I have very little experience watching other people run in slow motion, so I found it fascinating to watch people with different strengths and weaknesses than I have and hear what the experts had to say about each of us. But just be aware that it is one of those (metaphorically) standing-naked-in-front-of-strangers-while-they-point-out-every-flaw kind of situations, so if you know that's going to make you uncomfortable or argumentative, maybe do some work ahead of time to prepare yourself to be open to the feedback and gracefully accept what's said without making it weird for everyone.)

Before we started, they were very careful to be clear about something I've heard over and over again from various people who make their livings dealing with runners and their performance / injuries, and that's that when you get in to talking about what is "good" form and "bad" form, you are on very tricky ground. Rather than talking about isolated issues (**coughcoughfootstrikecoughcough**) being good or bad, it's more useful to talk about larger patterns of movement and to what extent they affect performance and injury. Form is, as they say, as form does. (Just look at Paula Radcliffe, the fastest female marathoner ever by a considerable margin. Her form ain't pretty, but it gets the job done.) A particular habit or pattern could be just fine in the case of one particular person, while in someone else, it could be a serious concern because of how it fits in with the rest of their movement patterns.

The other piece of "form is as form does" goes along with the age-old maxim of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." They don't recommend changing form issues just because they don't fit some ideal template; part of the point of RunSafe is to look at the entire picture, including how a runner's form fits in with their goals and history of injury/discomfort/etc. Some form issues are considered red flags because they're highly correlated with certain injuries, but if you've been running that way for 20 years and never had a hint of that particular injury, trying to "fix" it is actually more likely to cause injuries than just leaving it alone.

There's no way I'll remember everything they mentioned, but here are the high points in terms of what they look for:

From The Rear:

Footstrike. They said generally they get 75% heel strikers, 25% mid-foot strikers, and less than 1% true forefoot strikers. (Apparently everybody THINKS they're a mid/forefoot striker, but slo-mo video don't lie & most land on their heels.) Again, they were very clear that none of these patterns is particularly good/bad/right/wrong, but how you land does affect what else they look for and provide clues to understanding any discomfort/injuries. (For example, heel striking is a concern if you have constant knee/hip pain, and forefoot striking if you've had a bunch of Achilles/calf problems, but not everyone does.) Depending on what else you're doing, any of these strike patterns could be fine or it could be causing problems. Our group had one guy who was a heel striker, one guy who was a true forefoot striker, and then myself & the one other woman who were both sort of halfway between midfoot/forefoot, so statistically we were a bit unusual.

The best shot I could get of my foot strike from the back. Video screen shots are hard.

Pronation. Pronation is how much your foot rolls inward from the time it makes contact with the ground to when it's bearing your full weight. Thankfully, it seems like people are starting to get the message that pronation itself is completely normal & not something that needs to be eradicated with special shoes & inserts & what have you--just about all of us land slightly to the outsie of our foot, then roll in as we complete the stride. On the other hand, pronation that is too extreme can cause all kinds of overuse injuries, and when that's the case you have the option of 1) identifying the foot/leg weakness that's causing it & fixing it, 2) adding a little stability to your shoes in some way, or 3) a little of both. However, we learned that what is MORE associated with injury than degree of pronation is how fast you pronate. That is, where the line from your heel up along your Achilles tendon snaps very quickly from say a 45 degree angle when you first contact the ground to a 90 degree angle as more of your foot lands. (They had reflective tape on these two points to help make that line more visible.) In our group only the other woman had concerningly fast pronation.

You can see how the line of my Achilles tendon changes as I land. Apparently the speed at which my feet pronated was pretty normal.

(***Sidenote:*** I can hear you through the internet shouting, BUT DID THEY SAY ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT STABILITY SHOES??? BECAUSE I HAVE READ THINGS ABOUT THAT AND FORMED OPINIONS!!1!!! The answer to that is a qualified yes, but it's a big topic that kind of goes beyond the scope of this post, so maybe I will write more about that another day.)

Foot angle. This is how much your feet turn out or in. Feet that point straight ahead or that toe in somewhat tend to predict injury because they are associated with knees collapsing in (which usually indicate some sort of hip/core weakness). Apparently the group that suffers the lowest rates of injury are people who run with toes turned out 5-10 degrees (which means that if you're looking from the back, you should be able to see about two toes' width of the outside of the toe box). Our group were mostly normal in this regard, except for one guy who had one foot that could be turned out just a little more.

Note how, if I were barefoot, you could probably see maybe 2 outside toes' worth of my foot from the back when I land. This is one of the things my PT worked on with me after I had my stress fracture, so I'm pretty good at it now.

Stance. Basically this is how far apart your feet are landing from each other. Here, they look for a "knee window" of a few inches of space between the knees. When the stance is too narrow and the knee window begins to disappear, it usually indicates either that knees are collapsing inward (indicating hip/core weakness) or that the feet are crossing over the midline somewhat when they land (which can indicate an imbalance on one or both sides in terms of strength or recruitment of hip/glute muscles vs. adductors & lead to pain in the hips / IT band). In our group the two guys were fine, and both the other woman and I had the crossing-over pattern.

They said they only see the crossing-over pattern in about 15% of runners, so again, it was unusual to have two of us. Mine most likely indicates that I am recruiting more from my adductor & less from my glute med on the right side, which makes a lot of sense.

Cadence. Cadence (strides or steps per minute) predicts injury because lower cadences tend to be related to over-striding (which I'll say more about below). I think they just count it from the back because it's easier from that angle. This is something I've worked on a ton, so I was happy to hear that they had me right at 90-92 strides per minute (ie, 180-184 steps/minute), where they see the lowest rates of injury. The two other more experienced runners where in the low-to-mid 80s, and the one newer runner was in the low 70s. (They actually told him not to shoot for 90-92 just yet & instead try at first just to get up to 80. Apparently making too abrupt of a change in terms of cadence can cause more problems than it solves.)

Pelvic stability. For this, they look at the two dots of tape on your SI joints. Ideally the two stay even, and if one drops noticeably more than the other, it indicates some muscle weakness in the opposite side. I know my right side is weaker and/or recruits less well and that I've always had a drop on my left side, and sure it enough, it was plain as day in the video. Only one person in our group didn't have any drop on either side.

Pretty even when I land on the left leg. On the right side, not so much.

Again, this is one of those things where they were like, "We wouldn't be all that concerned about the difference except that you have recurring injuries on the right side, therefore = problem."

(Also, I just want to say how thrilled I was that apparently this/this is a thing of the past -- no hint of it anywhere in the video, & no mention by any of the experts, so progress!)

From The Side:

Footstrike again. Mostly this is just confirming what it looked like from the back.

This was kind of the clearest shot I could get of this.

Lightness/heaviness/force absorption. This is basically how heavy or lightly you land on your feet & absorb the impact from landing. Light runners absorbing well have very quiet footfalls while those taking a lot of impact up into their bones and joints land noticeably louder (which predicts injury). Myself and one of the guys were categorized as very light-landing, low-impact runners, the one newer runner was considered a heavier-lander, and the other woman was somewhere in the middle.

Overstriding. This refers to where your foot lands relative to your center of mass. If you can draw a straight line up from where your foot hits the ground to your center of mass, you are not overstriding, but if it's out in front at all, you are. Overstriding sometimes predicts injury because landing directly under your center of mass is the most efficient way to distribute & absorb the force of impact, whereas landing out in front of it tends to channel more force up the tibia and into the knees and hips. (Knee pain is a very very common symptom in more extreme overstriders.) All of us had some amount of overstriding.

If I was perfect, that yellow line would shoot right up from my ankle through the pink dot on my hip.

This is a more extreme example, closer to what the one newer runner was doing.

Again, whether overstriding is a problem depends on the rest of the picture. They point it out because it's frequently associated with knee, hip, & back pain because of not absorbing the force efficiently. (Usually the way you correct overstriding is to have people work on cadence; apparently telling them to shorten their strides creates all kinds of new problems). In the case of the two of us with high cadences, light landing, & no history of that type of pain, they weren't worried about it. They were most concerned about the one newer runner who was also a heel striker landing heavily and running with a low cadence

Hip extension. This is exactly what it sounds like--how much do you open the angle of your hip when you push back with your leg? None of us were great at this, and they said that almost everyone they see is bad at it, because we all have tight hip flexors from sitting down all day and not stretching them enough. (The professional athletes they work with, on the other hand, are almost always great at it because they spend so little time sitting & even when they're not training, they're walking around & not being sedentary.)

It's a little bit tricky to pause the video RIGHT at the point where I had the most extension, but I think this was pretty close.

This is something I've been told lots of times & done some work on, but clearly not enough. (I did finally get a real standing desk for work, so I'm hoping that will help some.) They said that to really make any real difference, you really do have to do the hip flexor stretches like 5x a day and make an effort to sit as little as possible. Also, apparently overstriding, low hip extension, and low cadence all seem to go hand-in-hand, ie, if you have one, you usually have the others, and working on one usually helps with the others.

Now THAT is some wicked hip extension.

The biggest takeaway for me was how a little bit of fatigue brings out the muscle imbalance that's still pretty undetectable via the usual PT tests. Most likely, the panel said, crossing over the midline when I run is also a result of not having the endurance on that side that I need (hence my adductor & quad pulling the leg inward). Their main recommendations had to do with my single leg squats. Specifically, a) upping the number of reps per set (I've been doing 2 x 30 on each leg lately instead of 2 x 20, and trying to gradually increase; they said sets of 100 was not an unreasonable goal), b) taking special care that I'm making my glute med do the work, rather than my quad (this is REALLY hard and takes lots of attention; sometimes it's like I can't even get the muscle to fire, period), and c) stopping every mile or two on my easy runs to do EVEN MORE squats on the right side only. (I've been noticing that this is actually a great cue to get the muscle firing when I run. It's always much, much better immediately after stopping for a set, but then gradually wears off. I'm staying at it.) Part of it is also plain old gait re-training: Just try not to run like that.

Bottom Line: Is It Worth It?

I wish I had a super straight-forward answer for your, but alas, my answer to that question is...It depends.

Personally I did not get much out of the PT station, the shoe/foot station (though I learned some interesting things there), or the nutrition station, but that really says more about me and my experiences than it does about the clinicians. For example, I've spent sooooo many hours in PT and had all the strength & flexibility tests so many times that I already know what all my issues there are & am already doing a lot of the things they recommended. I've never had foot or shoe problems (except for the one problem that I figured was related to my right hip, which they agreed it probably is); my doctor was like, "Basically you have great feet & you can run in pretty much whatever's comfortable," to which I was like, "Yeah, I know."

As far as the diet/nutrition stuff goes, imagine yourself sitting down to take an essay exam where the questions are 1) "Explain the basic dietary needs of a normal person (calories, nutrients, etc.) and the factors that affect them," and 2) "Explain how the dietary needs of an endurance athlete are different than that of a normal person (discuss both eating & race fueling), and why." If you feel like you can give solid, reasonably detailed answers to both of these questions, you probably won't learn anything new from the sports nutritionist. On the other hand, if that's not something you've spent hours reading & obsessing about, you might learn a lot.

Far and away the most valuable parts to me were 1) the last half hour or so where we watched all four of our videos & compared them & learned about what the research says about how different aspects of running form predict different types of injuries, and 2) getting some very specific insights and recommendations for my right hip/leg. Was that alone worth the $300? I'm not sure, but I also don't know of anywhere you can get just that for less money. (An individualized gait analysis by one or two people with who-knows-what kind of credentials, yes, but not an entire panel of experts contrasting and comparing four different people.)

So, if you're on the edge about whether or not to spend the money, you really do have to take into consideration what you do and don't already know about your own body and about diet/nutrition for endurance athletes and how much you care about getting the big picture about how form & injury work as opposed to just having someone look at your particular situation. And then of course there's the matter of what else you might need to do with $300. (Ie, four years ago, I needed to, like, buy food and pay my water bill and not default on my student loans.)

For brand new runners who want to be proactive about injury prevention, don't know a ton about it yet, and have the $300 to spend comfortably, I'd say yes, it's probably worth it. For more experienced runners who have had some injury or discomfort issues and haven't already spent thousands of dollars on PT and doctors, it also might be worth it and potentially save you some money in the long term. (If you doubt the possibility of this, we can look at my medical bills together.) Outside of those situations, it's kind of a judgement call in terms of how interesting you find this stuff & to what extent you have access to anything similar.

Monday, October 20, 2014

no but wine, music, & realtors are basically the same as running right?

This week was going pretty well until the weekend. Which is not to say the weekend was not awesome; just that I completely failed to think ahead & plan my running around the awesome, so 18 weekday miles + 17 weekend miles turned into 18 miles total & that was all she wrote.

At least the week day miles were good ones. I now have four weeks of base training down (er....sort of. Not sure these last two really count, but hey, you do what you can do), eight more to go. Right now I'm planning on two more weeks of all super easy running, & then beginning to add in some goal marathon pace miles (although early-on I suspect it may be more marathon effort than goal pace) on Tuesdays.

I will now recount for you the Things I Learned This (zero-mileage) Weekend.

  • Wine tasting in Napa is hard, even when you pre-plan. This is part of why we never go there & instead stick to Sonoma & Paso Robles. Yes, there are places you can drive right up to without an appointment, but most of them suck and/or are full of dumbass bachelorette parties in monogrammed sequin tank tops & penis hats (which...I suppose still technically sounds as sucking).

    One of the only normal-looking pictures we would take all day. We did not take it because we were super excited about taking pictures in the barrel room. We did it because the guy pouring assumed that we *obviously* wanted to take pictures in the barrel room & we did not want to hurt his feelings. (It seemed to make him really happy.)

  • Even at the good wineries where you have to make appointments, some jackasses will still do their tasting & then light up a ciggy twenty feet from where the rest of us are just starting. (Don, sarcastically, as we sniffed a lovely merlot: "Hmm...I get hints of smoke & some tobacco notes..." Me: "I mean I know it's French but it's not THAT French." Lovely woman doing our tasting: "Excuse me while I go regulate up in hurrr." Bitches, man.)
  • If you're making an appointment at a Napa winery & you don't want the wine n00b song/dance/tour/FiveDimensionalExperience, you should tell them in advance; otherwise they might spend an entire hour explaining to you how wine is made & what it means to be in a wine club & try to impress you with aspects of their winemaking & club that are entirely par for the course.

    Charter Oak. They also have some gorgeous art here.

    Good wine here but I could have done with less talking / more drinking.

    This is my "They-just-made-me-punch-down-the-fermentation-tanks-because-it's-authentic" look.

  • Go to The Terraces. You have to make an appointment. They are cool as hell there & won't care if you start taking punchy selfies because you haven't eaten in six hours. Oh, and the wine is excellent as well.

    We weren't even drunk. Just punchy as hell.

  • Remember that everything takes longer than it's supposed to at fancy appointment-only-Napa wineries & work this into your food planning ahead of time. Originally we'd planned to hit two wineries, stop for lunch, hit the second two, then head home around five, leaving me enough time in the evening to get my run in. As it was, we spent the day sprinting from one appointment after another, inevitably running late, so by the time we left our last stop, we were all desperate for food & just ended up having dinner in Napa.

    Dinner time. Still punchy.
  • Everything about buying a house is scary & complicated. We officially started interviewing realtors this week, & the Sunday meeting that I assumed would take maybe an hour actually took two. At that point it was only about an hour & a half until the piano fundraiser we were going to, which isn't even enough time for half a long run once you factor in shower / travel time.
  • There is this awesome organization in San Francisco called The Center for New Music, founded & run by a musician friend of Don's from college (and whose wife, coincidentally, is a teacher that I worked with a couple of times before I even knew she was connected to Don). You may remember that in a past life, I was a composer/singer/musician, so discovering this place was a huge treat.

    Less talking more piano.

  • Plan your eating plan your eating plan your eating. By the time we left the concert, we were starving again, & after stopping for food, we didn't get home until nine. Weekend running thwarted again.

When I have an imminent race I'm pretty darn good at mercilessly putting a fence around my running time, and God help the man/woman/child/natural disaster that tries to get in my way. I think what I'm finding now is that I've got to start being a little more ruthless in that way, even though I'm not *really* training for anything right now.

WEEK OF 10/13-10/19

    * 18 miles, all easy
    * 2 x 45:00 strength workouts

Monday: afternoon 5 easy / p.m. karate

    Normally Monday is my post-long run rest day, but since there was no long run on Sunday and the intensity of karate workouts has been less reliably lately depending on who is there, I decided to get a few easy miles in before class, just for the sake getting in SOME physical activity. And then, surprise! A pretty decent workout at karate as well.

Tuesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 7 easy

    I love you, fog. Our love is meant to be. I hear that Chicago song in my head every time you're near.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate

Thursday: a.m. massage / p.m. 6 easy

Friday: Rest

    Friday was one of those bizarre days where I flew to LA at 8:30am & then back 12 hours later, so not really much time for anything except work.

Saturday: Napa

Sunday: Realtors/concert/near-starvation

I SWEAR I AM ALMOST DONE WITH THE RUNSAFE POST. It's getting posted this week if it kills me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October Trails + other stuff

It's been literally years since I went on a proper trail run, so I was super excited to join Jen, Cathryn, & Jess on Jen's birthday trail run in Hayward. We've actually tried to get a trail run in together several times this year, but inevitably it seemed like every time a day worked for everyone else, I was out of town or had some other commitment. This fall has been weekend after weekend of traveling, football games, & weddings, so I was thrilled that this past Saturday worked out.

We met up at Jen's place Saturday morning, then carpooled over to the Ramage Peak trail head in Castro Valley.

Layla, Kristen, & Baby E also came along to hike

It took a few minutes for my Achilles tendons to warm up to the constant rolling hills and my ankles to get used to negotiating rocks and uneven terrain, but it wasn't too long before I settled in and was able to appreciate the scenery. The trail was gorgeous, a mix of picturesque autumnal woods, gently, rolling single-track through grassy fields, and stunning East Bay views.

Originally our goal was to run for about an hour out and an hour back, but about fifty minutes I rounded a corner and nearly smacked right into a big black cow standing in the path.

It turns out that getting taken by surprise by a cow is more disconcerting than you might think. I think I leapt back and shrieked "OH MY GOD THERE'S A COW" so fast that everyone else was pretty sure I was about to say 'cougar' (which we'd also been warned about).

Rather than try to convince the cow to move or go running past it for the sake of another mile or so, we turned back early for a grand total of ~6 miles.

Back at the trail head, we celebrated Jen's birthday with cupcakes, then headed off to brunch.

We figured EBMUD might appreciate our using imaginary candles, given the insane drought / fire season we're in the middle of.

A proper post-trail run breakfast :)

Because you have to be a bit careful about the footing and because some of the inclines were on the steep side, hitting the trails was a nice way to get in nearly two hours of easy running at the lower effort I've been trying to focus on.

WEEK OF 10/6-10/12

    * 20 miles, all easy
    * 3 x 45:00 strength workouts, plus a SHITE tonne of mid-run single-leg squats. (More on that when I get the RunSafe post together.)

Monday: a.m. strength work / p.m. RunSafe

Tuesday: 8 easy

    I think Tuesday will eventually be my longer goal marathon pace/effort day, so that is where Coaches Tom & Ashley started plugging in extra miles as I gradually increase my running. Still taking it super easy for now, so time-wise this was more like what a 10 miler would usually be for me, which made me feel extra productive.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate Big fat nuthin'

    I failed to get up on time & then karate was cancelled due to a lack of quorum, so Wednesday ended up being an unplanned rest day.

Thursday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 6 easy

    Again, with the failing to get up. But I ran! And you guys, I never been so happy to see the fog rolling in over Twin Peaks. Yes, it was super windy, and cold enough that I actually wore a long-sleeve shirt & didn't regret it, but I WILL TAKE IT after a week of going sports-bra-only and still feeling like I was going to melt into the pavement.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. football

    Because, football.

Saturday: 6 trails

Sunday: a.m. 11 long

    I was bummed to miss my long run this week, but we had a crazy amount of stuff to take care of before trekking out to Livermore for a friend's wedding that afternoon/evening & the only way I was going to get this one in was if I got up at 5 a.m., which was just not going to happen this week.

Goals for next week include breaking 30 miles for the week & a 2 hour+ long run. Oh, and getting the RunSafe post up.