10 September 2013

My Fringe Odyssey—An Update

The ATL is a great place to run—if you don't mind Hills, Heat, Humidity. Oh yeah, and Elevation (~1000 ft.). This post is about my own running experience here. It's probably more for me than you, so feel free to skip it. I feel a need to mark my milestones.

If you're interested in my running odyssey, you can catch up here. (Reading, of course, from the bottom up—it's a blog, after all.) Long story short: I ran a bit—recreationally—in my 20s as a graduate student, got involved in law and family and more or less quit. After moving to Atlanta in 2000, I tried to start up again but could manage no more than a mile or two without inflicting pain on my hips and knees that lasted for days afterward. I don't do pain well. In August, 2009, I saw Christopher MacDougall on the Daily Show, went out immediately and bought his book, Born to Run, and began teaching myself to run barefoot/minimalist style. I've now been running regularly for 4 years, and this post is an update on my progress.

Beginning around Thanksgiving in 2009, I began keeping a log of my training and race miles. Here are my totals as of today:

In 4 years, I've run a total of just over 1600 miles—400 miles/year on average—337 of which miles have been barefooted (just under a quarter of the total). The rest have been exclusively in Vibram Five Fingers or XeroShoes Sandals. I don't own a pair of traditional running shoes.

I have competed in 49 foot races for a total of 316 miles—one per month. Five of those races were half-marathons (13.1 miles), 16 were 10K (6.2 miles), 13 were 5K (3.1 miles), and a couple were 15K (9.3 miles)—all road races. The remainder were trail runs of varying lengths, from 3.1 miles to 9.3 miles. Only one did I not finish.

My Personal Bests in the standard distance road races are:

 5K  -    26:18
10K -    55:21
15K - 1:37:27
Half - 2:03:00

Not bad for an old guy—especially one didn't run track or cross country as a youngster and who hasn't been running his entire life. I'm not the fastest person out there, but by no means am I the slowest. I have to admit there's something fairly self-satisfying about a gray-haired old guy in a pair of flip flops or toe shoes passing a fit young athlete in his/her 30s, say, wearing a pair of fancy running shoes in the last couple miles of a middle distance race. I'm not gonna' lie. Racing gets my competitive juices, as well as my endorphins, flowing!

For the record, here are the mileage totals for each shoe: Vibram Bikila - 600 miles; Vibram Sprint - 270 miles; Vibram Trek (used exclusively for trail running) - 151 miles; XeroShoes Huarache - 190 miles. These figures do not include hiking miles or the miles I walk before and after each run.

Now I've just about talked myself into trying to fun a full Mary in December. That's 26.2 miles. It's an intimidating distance, and requires a serious training regimen—one which, unlike the shorter distances, includes dietary issues. I want to do it without hurting myself.

My marathon training will have several components, each of which requires constant attention:

•  Improving my barefoot technique—landing forefoot each step, inter alia
•  Monitoring my heart rate—keeping it in the aerobic range
•  Increasing my base mileage—on a weekly basis
•  Coaxing my aging body to achieve a new distance—16 is the most miles I've ever run
•  Staying injury-free—not a simple task, but essential for endurance training

•  As for technique, I constantly fiddle with it, monitoring each step. The mental focus of barefoot running is more intense than when running in cushiony, impact-softening running shoes. Some of my barefoot running friends call them foot coffins. Good technique effects each of the other components. There's much discussion and debate on the Web about how to run properly barefoot/minimalist style. My earlier posts in this series point to a number of these sites.

•  As for aerobic training, Dr. Phil Maffetone has devised a system for endurance training that involves staying below a prescribed, age-relative heart-rate. It increases aerobic fitness and does not tax the more impactful anaerobic functioning. His book, The Big Book of Endurance Training and Running, and website are invaluable in this respect. The key is that a runner can either train for speed or endurance, but not both at the same time. I'm training for the latter.

•  As a rule, base weekly mileage should increase by no more than ~10% per week over a 16-week marathon training schedule. This aspect of training should build leg strength and stamina, not sap it. And about three weeks before the race, the weekly mileage should taper.

•  LSD once a week is the most important aspect of marathon training. No, it's not what you think. That's the "Long Slow Distance" run, an easy run which pushes out farther each week—though every three weeks or so, it pays to back off and run a shorter distance to allow the body to adapt and rebuild its distance capacity. The LSDs should peak at somewhere between 20 and 23 miles three weeks before the race. If you can do that, the theory goes, you can run the marathon. The remainder of the training should be designed to maintain the shape and fitness you've achieved.

•  Technique plays a large part in staving off injury, as does mileage maintenance and rest and recuperation after training runs. Also, where muscle and soft tissue tightness comes into play, Trigger Point Therapy has proved to be a golden solution for me. The notion of 'referred pain' was completely new to me, but has borne out over the last few months since I've been learning how to do it. Foam rollers, the Stick, and a lacrosse ball have been invariably invaluable in my adventures with myofascial self-release.

The marathon I've chosen to run will be on a flat course at sea level in December. This means my training in the heat, hills, humidity, and elevation of the ATL will be magnified. I attempted to train for a marathon two summers ago, but did not make it to the end. I went too hard, too far, too fast and thought I'd hurt myself. What I didn't know then was how to release the tension in my muscles and other soft tissues—Achilles tendinopathy, e.g.—with Trigger Point Therapy.

I am still researching the nutritional issues I mentioned earlier and may or may not post my conclusions upon reaching such.

Edit: Sorry, somehow I deleted the latest version of this post. It might have something to do with Sasha walking across my keyboard while editing. I'm afraid I lost the Comments by Thunder and Big Bad Bald Bastard. My and my cat's apologies.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I ran the two miles for my high school, so I knew what the LSD was.

These days, I have occasional soreness in my right foot and mostly just walk a lot.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I run a tab!

Jim H. said...

Hey! Looks like I didn't lose your Comments. Good.

BBBB: Welcome to the WoW Wisblog Roll! (Right side of the page)

Thunder: Check out the Triggerpoint Therapy site & book. It might resolve your issues.

Randal Graves said...

Hills, heat, and humidity, methinks I'll stick to running from video game monsters.