Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Knee Trouble

Back in May, I ran a 1600 meter time trial at a local high school track, on very little mileage. My time was a paltry 6:42. I followed that up with a pretty much all-out 400m in 1:17.

On Monday of this week I decided it was time to do that workout again, just to see where I am in comparison. Granted, my mileage still isn't very high, but I've been running more frequently and more consistently the last couple of months.

After a warmup mile, I ran my 1600m in 6:26. Still slow, but a 16 second improvement over my earlier time. After an 800m recovery, I ran the same all-out 400m, this time in 1:16. Again, not impressive, but since I've mostly been running in Zone 2 (i.e. 10:00/mile), I can't complain.

What I CAN complain about, however, is the pain under my right knee cap. It's really aggravated. I haven't had knee trouble there for a few years, but I recognize the pain. It's a bit of Condromalacia Patella (Runner's Knee). It emits a warm, spongy, achy feeling that isn't pleasant at all.

It's important to note two things here. I wore new shoes during my fast running (Brooks Pure Cadence - a low drop shoe, at 4mm...which felt awesome, btw), and a couple of hours after my track workout, I did 74 bodyweight squats in a single set. I normally don't go over 50.

So, if my math is correct...fast running on new shoes + lots of squats on tired legs = angry knee.

Nobody to blame but myself for this one. It'll be another week of hardly any running, I'm afraid. I'm hoping for at least one more run this week. I'm sure that, with ice and ibuprofen, the knee will come around.

I guess I'll end on a positive note by saying that...my heel feels pretty good at the moment. So I've got that going for me...

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Do you like numbers? Statistical breakdowns? If so, you're going to LOVE this post. If not, put on some goggles and a nose plug, because your head is about to swim.

Unless you're new to this blog, you know the battle I've been having with my right heel for over two years now. I won't get into the causes or just what's going on with it (I've bludgeoned that horse already), but it has affected my running in a huge way, unfortunately.

Being a stats geek, I finally did a little numerical study on what types of shoes—and runs—may be aggravating my heel and Achilles the most.

I'm obviously not a statistician, but I had to do this study for my own peace of mind.

The conclusion? Hold onto your sweaty sidesplit running shorts...

First, let me say that I've been rating my heel pain during each run ever since my injury first hit me in late May of 2010. I use a 0-5 scale; zero meaning no hint of pain, five meaning excruciating pain (fortunately I've never recorded a five. A few fours, but never a five).

Since my recent acquisition of a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12's, I now have four active pairs of running shoes. I've run in the Adrenalines 6 times, so I ran the numbers on the 6 most recent runs in each pair of shoes:

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 - 28.8 mi - 9:45/mi avg - 1.33/run heel pain
Brooks Launch                 - 23.6 mi - 8:00/mi avg - 1.00/run heel pain
Brooks Defyance 3           - 25.2 mi - 10:11/mi avg - 1.00/run heel pain
Brooks Ghost 4               - 26.3 mi - 9:49/mi avg - 1.25/run heel pain

Conclusion? I'm not sure there's a big enough spread in average heel pain to draw much of a conclusion.

Since I've worn three pair of shoes in my training for several more runs than the Adrenalines, I ran the full numbers on them (part of 2011 and all of 2012 so far):

Brooks Launch                 - 55.3 mi   - 8:10/mi avg - 0.45/run heel pain
Brooks Defyance 3           - 170.7 mi - 9:17/mi avg - 0.73/run heel pain
Brooks Ghost 4               - 85.1 mi   - 9:31/mi avg - 0.71/run heel pain

Hmm. It looks like the overall heel pain is lower if I go back far enough. What surprised me was the fact that the lightest, least supportive shoe (Launch) has given me the least amount of heel pain, at least based on this sample.

Since there wasn't enough data variance to say, "Aha! I'll just stop wearing THAT shoe," I decided to track the types of runs I've done (all of 2011+2012 to-date):

Easy        - 118 runs - 0.69/run heel pain
Tempo     - 13 runs   - 0.85/run heel pain 
Interval   - 21 runs   - 0.76/run heel pain
Race       - 9 runs     - 0.33/run heel pain
5+ mi.    - 9 runs     - 1.22/run heel pain

Anything shocking and/or definitive here? What's shocking to me is that racing doesn't seem to hurt my heel! At least not the short 5k races I've been doing. So I think I've solved the problem here. I'll limit all of my running to races only. Thanks for playing along at home.

;-) Seriously, I'm assuming that race-day adrenaline plays a part in that number. As a side note, all races were run while wearing the Launches.

What does stand out somewhat (based on an admittedly small sample) is what I already suspected. Long(ish) runs hurt the heel more than shorter runs. It does surprise me, though, that the tempo and interval running pain numbers aren't higher.

How about the higher pain entries? Fortunately, I haven't gone over a 3 since late 2010. Here's how my 3's and 2's look:

3/5 - 6 runs - 100% easy runs
2/5 - 15 runs - 9 easy, 4 interval, 2 tempo

Well, that didn't help much, did it? It's interesting that all of my 3's were during easy runs.

Now...for the disclaimer that may make these numbers less relevant than they already may be. I don't track the heel pain I may feel the evening after a run, on an off day, or the day or two after a race. The numbers ONLY reflect how my heel feels during each run. I also didn't run the numbers on back-to-back (or more) runs, but there honestly haven't been many of them the past couple of years.

Also, let me throw this out there. The heel pain numbers may be a tad subjective to begin with. If I had an otherwise excellent run, but had some heel pain, that number may have been a tad lower in my mind. On the flip side, if the run was horrible, but the heel didn't feel too bad, I may have bumped the pain number up unintentionally. I don't think I let any bias affect my numbers, but I can't promise that.

How will these results affect my running? I plan to nix the over 5 mile runs for the time being. I'm also ready, after 10 weeks of it, to give the Zone 2 heart rate training a rest. I'd like to include a tempo and an interval day every week in an attempt to boost my speed just a little. I think I may also wear my Brooks Launches a bit more than I have been ;-)

Okay, you can de-glaze your eyes and stop yawning...

Thursday, July 19, 2012


For the first time in nearly two years, I managed to run for over one hour yesterday. I'm still not 100% health-wise (still feeling a little fatigued and have some chest congestion), but I had a very strong urge to see if I could run for an hour.

It went very well. At the slow pace I was running (9:51/mile), endurance wasn't an issue. In fact, I felt like I was just getting warmed up at about 5 miles. I covered a 10k exactly. I think I could have extended the run by another 2 or 3 miles, easily.

Afterward, as is my standard routine, I iced my right knee and right foot & heel. I then wore compression socks for the remainder of the day.

One day later, my foot feels fine. Due to my work schedule (and because my chest is still congested), I'll rest today and run again tomorrow (Friday). I hope to sneak in a quick weights workout today, though.

I'm excited to have broken the hour mark and hope to continue building my distances, both in my individual runs and in weekly mileage.

I need to be careful, though, and continue listening very closely to my body.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Random Thoughts

To start the week, I thought I'd jot down several running-related topics that have been rattling around my brain lately.

• I think I'll wear my new Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12's for every run this week. That should give me a pretty good idea if the additional support will have an effect on how my foot feels. I ran 19.4 miles last week (sadly, the most since August of 2010), and I'm feeling some soreness in my heel, my ankle and the arch of my foot (a hint of plantar fasciitis, me thinks). As always, I'll report back.

• Is the 2-hour marathon this generation's version of the 4-minute mile? Before Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier in the mile in May of 1954, it seemed unlikely that it could happen. Once he accomplished the feat, the floodgates opened and several runners duplicated it. I'm no prophet, but my guess is that the 2-hour barrier in the marathon will be broken within the next 5 years and, once it is, several (Kenyans?) will follow suit.

• Who else is excited for this year's Olympics? I watched more of the Olympic Trials recently than I ever had in years past. I think it'll be an exciting one, and here's hoping that the American distance runners (finally) raise some eyebrows among the always stiff international competition. To do that, they'll have to run some smart, tactical — and gutsy — races. That said, I'd bet cash money that the Kenyans will sweep the medals in the Men's Marathon. Well, an Ethiopian could sneak in there, too. I hope I'm wrong, but they're obviously in a class by themselves.

• Along those lines, I'm thinking of posting a short series, profiling Olympic distance runners that had an impact on me when I was just getting into running in the early '80s. There were several that I followed. Even if nobody else is interested, it'll be fun for me to rekindle those memories.

• I've had the privilege to do some "professional" writing recently. I just completed my third article for Northwest Runner magazine (due out this fall). This was a fun one, about the do's and don'ts of dealing with injuries (that was a real stretch for me ;-)). I also illustrated the article with some pretty humorous drawings. If you're local, keep an eye out for it. I'll try to post it here on the blog as well.

Outdoors NW magazine also commissioned an article (and accompanying illustration work) for their winter running issue. I'll be writing about — you guessed it — winter running. I'm looking to do more writing and, if appropriate, accompany the articles with illustrations. If you're a magazine or newspaper editor and you're interested in my running-related prose & illustration work, email me!

• It looks like I'm done "racing" until mid-September. I put "racing" in quotes because I'm nowhere near race shape. Still, I'm enjoying my 5k circuit this year, even though I can't race to my potential. Having been "coming back" from injury for over two years now, I'm taking the concept of "baby steps" to an entirely new level. For now, the Zone 2 heart rate training will continue, along with one quick-ish run per week (either in the form of a race or short speed work). At least it's running. I am, however, planning on running one or two 10k's later this year. I want to first get my long run beyond that distance, along with getting my weekly mileage consistently above 20.

Have a great week, my friends, and Run Happy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Just How Many Feet Do You Have?"

By Popular Demand*, I now present my current RUNNING SHOE ROTATION:

[click to enlarge]
 The back row, none of them having yet been worn, are mostly in-the-wings backups. The two new pair of Launches (my favorite shoes) were purchased when I found out that the model will be discontinued in 2013. I'm currently unable to utilize the Brooks Cascadia 5's, since I can't run hills (the C 5's are a trail shoe and, as is the nature of most local trails, they tend to be hilly.) The two pair on the far right (Pure Cadence and Adrenaline GTS 12) just arrived today. The Adrenalines will immediately go into my regular rotation (based on my recent gait analysis). The Pure Cadence will likely be worn only during races and/or speedwork (when I can actually DO regular speedwork!)

The front row are my current rotation. The Pure Flow, sadly, have only accumulated 6 miles. Too low of a heel-toe drop for my Achilles and heel to handle right now (may be the same story with the Pure Cadence, too). The Defyance 3's and the Ghost 4's are my workhorses. I've been wearing the Defyance series for over 3 years. The Ghosts, just this year. Initially, I wasn't sure I liked them, but now I may like how they feel more than the D-3's.

If I added my retired running shoes, I'd have to back the camera up even more. Some of them I wear just to kick around in, some for yard work, and some I intend to donate.

Once I put a few miles on the Adrenalines (and possibly the Pure Cadence), I'll give them a short review.

* 'Popular Demand' is a bit misleading. The only 'demand' in play here is the one from my wife that I CEASE AND DESIST any further acquisition of running shoes.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Run of the Mill 5k...and, More New Shoes!

Yesterday morning, I ran the Run of the Mill 5k, in Mill Creek, WA. I ran this race for the first time in 2010 but skipped last year's version due to my never-ending injury situation.

It was a beautiful morning, with temperatures hovering somewhere between 'just right' and 'a tad too warm.' I've been fighting a head and chest cold for over a week. It recently turned into a bit of bronchitis, so I wasn't going to go all out in this one. I started slowly (partially out of necessity, due to the crowd), then ran each mile faster than the previous. My splits were:

(6:19 pace for last .13)

Official time: 23:15.

Overall: 175 of 1321
Age group (40-49): 19 of 111
Men: 140 of 581

Obviously nothing to crow about, but given how I felt, I was pleased with the result; especially with a pretty quick final mile.

The overall winner, Jordan McNamara, won it in a time of 14:13 (a new course record). He's the real deal, having finished 7th in the Men's 1500m final at the Olympic Trials in Eugene recently.

A nice addition to the many booths set up for the race was the Brooks Cavalcade of Curiosities double-decker bus. Being a Brooks ID member myself, I (of course) had to pay them a visit. Although I've been a runner since the late '70s, I somehow had never had my gait professionally analyzed. Brooks was offering that service for free on the top level of their bus, so up I went. I know I'm a bit of a pronator, so this wasn't ground-breaking for me, but it was interesting to see the video, as well as a photo breakdown of just how much I do pronate.

As a result, I was recommended three models of Brooks shoes that I've never worn (of course!) The Adrenalin GTS 12, the Ravenna, and the Trance II.
I ordered a pair of Adrenalins, as well as the Pure Cadence (semi-minimal shoe with a bit of support). My wife was thrilled, to say the least. More shoes to add to my pile ;-)

I'll report back after I've put a few miles on each pair.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sickness, and Heart Rate Training Update

Getting sick is never fun, but getting sick during summer is at an entirely different level of 'un-fun.' I've spent the last week and a half fighting a bad head & chest cold, which has transmografied (a medical term) into a bit of bronchitis. Ugh. Last week, I ran through it. This week, I ran Monday, then skipped two days; partially due to the cold, partially due to spending two very long days remodeling my office. I'm running a 5k race this weekend. Due the fact that I can't breathe well, I won't be up for killing myself during the race.

Regarding heart rate training...it's going well. I've been running all of my training runs at whatever pace is required to keep me at or under my zone 2 heart rate (roughly 115-125 bpm). Six weeks ago, I had to run at about 10:30/mile pace to accomplish that. Today, I ran 4 miles in the sun and heat...still with this cold...at an average of 119 bpm at a 10:00/mile pace. I've also started allowing myself one fast mile per week (unless I'm running a race). That mile comes sandwiched within a longer run, and can be run as four fast quarters, two fast half miles, or one continuous fast mile. But other than that, it's slow and steady. My hope is to work back up to 20-25 miles per week before I consider doing any other fast running.

Oh, and since I've ditched my orthotics (during my runs, anyway), my heel and achilles haven't been nearly as angry. I'll stick with that plan for the time being.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


This has nothing to do with running, but I needed to write this down somewhere.

We (my family and I) had a large lunch at a friend's wedding shower today, so our dinner ended up being a 'fend-for-yourself' affair.

I was on the verge of throwing in the towel on ideas and making a boring PB&J sandwich, when my wife told me there was some leftover rotisserie chicken, plus some fresh spinach. I decided to steam the spinach leaves, chop up some mushrooms and throw them in with the spinach, heat up the chicken, and dump it all together on a plate (seasoned with ground pepper).


As simple as this meal is, the combined flavors caused me to react in such a way that my wife was becoming jealous of my 'other woman,' hinting that I might be in need of a cold shower after the meal.

This will remain on my short list of meal choices. Unless you're averse to steamed spinach, give this a try and let me know what you think.

Aside from the taste, another cool thing is that there were no processed foods involved. Very clean, very low carb. Fresh spinach leaves, mushrooms, rotisserie chicken and ground pepper, and nothing else.

Well, except for the carrot cake for dessert...