Monday, October 29, 2012

Long live the heel strike

Me and Deena seem to have more in common than I thought...

Looks like we BOTH heel strike.
Thanks for pointing that out Kate.

Maybe we really are meant to be BFF's.

I found it interesting how many people said that they heel strike recently in the commentary of this posting. These days there seems to be a major anti-heel striking movement where in the opinions of some, the offenders are guilty of a major crime where they need to be burned at the stake and stripped of their running privileges. With trends like the 0mm heel lift, minimalists shoes, and the craze to be a mid-foot or fore-foot striker, it seems like there aren't many people who are willing to openly come out and say...

"Hey, I heel strike...and you know what, I think it's okay"
So I'm saying it for those who feel like they can't. 

I'm not a doctor or foot specialist, I haven't studied biomechanics or read all of the mumbo-jumbo information out there supporting or objecting to the ideal natural running gait. But I have been running since I was 12 where I have seen a whole slew of overuse injuries and even done my own fair share of tinkering with my own gait, where in the end it always ends up the same for me...with the heel strike.

All I really have on my side is logic, and my logic tells me that while we all are made up of the same parts that doesn't necessarily mean that we all are going to function identical to one another.

What works for one person doesn't always work for another person, and who are we to tell our bodies how they are supposed to function?

I tried the whole mid-foot strike transition last year. Dropped the $175 on a pair of crazy orange Newtons that I was convinced would help my legs turnover quicker and guide me more towards that ideal mid-foot strike everyone raves on and on about. After months of slowly building up the distance and time spent in the shoes, I realized that the second I would stop thinking about how my foot was striking would be the exact moment that my legs would once again embrace the heel-strike just like an old friend that they hadn't seen in awhile and couldn't get enough of. It became mentally exhausting to go for even an easy run where my mind had to be fully engaged with what was going on at the feet the entire time, and almost every time I picked up the pace the mid-foot strike was completely gone. It made running too scientific and not fun for me, so I gave up my conquest to find that beautiful mid-foot strike and have instead decided to embrace my grace lacking heel strike.

My non-officially scientific opinion is this...

All of our bodies are biomechanically engineered differently, meaning that we all aren't going to operate the same. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. If you are naturally a mid-foot striker and it feels normal to you, than consider yourself blessed. I'm not now, nor will I most likely ever be, a mid-foot striker...and I no longer care if this makes my running look ugly. 

Ugly turnovers can move just as quick as graceful turnovers.
And sometimes even faster.

You can spew all the research at me you want, and reading this may make some runners cringe, but I say long live the heel strike.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Indian Summer

For a gal that seems to be missing Chicago like crazy right now,

the suburban Indian Summer that my mind had long forgotten about in my 10 year absence has been a lovely distraction. 

Running life post CM12 hasn't been anything too exciting. Recovery has been my #1 priority after my disordered and defeating year. Miles on trails covered in leaves that are a no-mans-land to everything but the wildlife that calls it home have a peaceful elegance. Even the coyotes and bucks don't do the justice of acknowledging human presence, where they go about their business as I pass by them within an arms reach as if I don't even exist.

You don't get that in Chicago.
And it scares the crap out of me every time.

My legs really haven't put in many sensational miles in the past few weeks, mainly I've been heading out the door with no expectations and just running. It's been lovely, slow, and just what I need. If anything, taking that week of post marathon was nothing more than an affirmation of how much my body loves movement and I'm not defined by my running.

I've ran for a lot of reasons in my life, some well warranted and some for the sake of having control. These days I feel like running more than ever is for the right reasons:

to stay healthy, body and soul.

I've had a lot of epic fails this year. Each one leaving different wounds than the last, some of which seem to still be healing. When I play back in my mind the events of my running life for the year, I almost want to put myself into the category of goal obsessed. Most of the year I found myself plugging away at my running goals, all the while neglecting some of the personal goals that I also set for myself. I let myself get carried away where I ended up putting myself into what could have become a very unsafe place, but somehow managed to stay on the safe side of the tracks hanging on by the skin of my teeth. 

It's all about perspective, and I think that a lot of humans (runners especially) have a skewed perspective on life, goals, and achievement where progress never seems to come fast enough. Nothing like botched year of racing to put my life and training into perspective testing me to make sure that I'm heading out the door for the right reasons. These days I'm running because I want to, not because I have another goal to chase down or another PR calling my name.

Sadly, I cannot remember the last time my legs felt as fresh and springy as they do now. Makes it that much easier to get out the door to hit up trails and do some creative speed work. These days I'm just testing the waters to see what type of speed the legs can pump out on rolling hills, into strong head winds, and on unfamiliar terrain all for the sake of fun.

Yesterday managed to somehow get in some pretty solid splits running into 20+ mph winds that left my legs more sore than running my last marathon.

Ladder 400/800/1600/800/400
Splits 1:19, 2:45, 5:55, 2:46, 1:19

Pretty sure that the only reason my legs were able to pump out these splits is because I've learned to brave the fear of resting post goal races and instead have decided to embrace it. 
More on that in a later posting.

To all those who gave feedback on my last posting, thank you. I like the conversation and discussion it created, whether you agreed with me or not. As I read back through that posting, I can see how it may sound like I'm an elitist @$$ who made a poor choice in some of the wording used to describe us non-professional athletes...but I'm not going to make any edits to it because I think it stirred up just the right amount of opinions and I stand by what I wrote. If you haven't joined the discussion yet, I would love to hear your opinion.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Drunk on marathon chatter

After the CM12 I decided it would be best to take the week off. 

NO running.
NO cross training.
NO yoga.
NO biking.

Just eating my weight in junk all week as I watch trashy TV that has turned my mind into goop.

If there is anything important to take away from this year, for me it is that rest cannot be overrated and sometimes you've got to loose a bit of the fitness you've worked so hard to gain to keep healthy long-term. Even though I didn't "race" the marathon and felt great afterwards, I still ran 26.2 miles on cement roads that my body isn't used to pounding it out on. 

Thank you marathonfoto

As I've spent most of the week on a marathon high embracing the miles I ran with my hubby, I have found it very difficult to enjoy what we just did together. While I am nothing short of amazed that my man went from barely being able to run pain free a year ago to finishing a marathon last week, that great memory has slowly been tampered with by others as the week has clipped on.

This moment comes in a close 2nd to our wedding.

Practically every conversation I've had with people this week has somehow involved a bit of marathon talk...

What was your finish time? 
When did D hit the wall? 
Where did you guys place? 
Is he going to try to qualify for Boston? Are you?
How did you fuel? 
What's next on the race schedule?
Whens the next marathon?
Why would you run it for fun and not race? And you started in wave 2?
You're taking a full week off after the race? Why?

By nature it seems like most runners are competitive narcissistic people. We boast about our accomplishments to one another where it sometimes feels like there will always be another runner in the background just waiting to trump what you just did and measure themselves up against you. If I had a nickle for every time this week where someone asked me about the marathon to only cut me off and tell me how awesome their race was either this year or in the past, I most likely wouldn't have to work until January.

Sometimes all the marathon chatter is just nauseating

Boston Qualifiers
New goals and another race medal

They are all awesome, and people should be proud of their achievements. But not every race NEEDS to be a PR and believe it or not, Boston is just another race that really isn't any more special than others.
(I'm sure there are plenty of people who disagree with me here, just how I feel)

In my personal opinion, the sport of running these days seems to brew a lot more egotistical egg-headed average athletes that are drunk on the stats their Garmin shoots out to them than there were 16 years ago when I started the sport without a watch or technical fabrics. We all at times seem to be a bit confused and tend to forget that the real athletes are already finished, recovered, showered, and on their way back home by the time most of us actually cross the finish line of a marathon.

I believe that D and I crossed the half way point when the clock for wave 1 of the CM12 was at 2:22.

I have NO shame in the fact that I just ran a marathon in 3:56:21, that I didn't race it, took a week off after it, have no commitments to ANY future races at this time, and no idea when I will run marathon #8 and go for that sub 3:05 finish.

Or that I'm a heel striker.
Which by some people's standards makes me an awful human being

Critique me if you wish, but this is the way my body wants to run.
That's the long and short of it because it is what it is.
And I'm not changing the way I run because it may bother you.
I love running and coaching because it has become so accessible to anyone and everyone, it just gets annoying to me when normal folks get confused thinking that they are Khalid Khannouchi when the majority of us are just mid packers with the dream of becoming front runners.

Myself included.

Besides, it's just running.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 Chicago Marathon

3 days post 2012 Chicago Marathon, my heart is still racing about the day.

This race was far different from any other race I've ever toed the line of in my life.
There was no expectation, no stress, no pressure. 

The only goal for the day was to lay the demons of my marathons past to rest and instead focus on being as supportive and encouraging as possible for my man during those 26.2 miles. This race wasn't about me and my quest to chase down that 3:05 marathon, instead this was his day and his journey back into endurance running after a 6 year hiatus. I was just along for the ride.

In our 28 years of life, D and I have known each other for over 15 of those years.

The first 3 of those years were as friends,
which was followed by 6 and a half years of dating,
then 18 months as an engaged couple,
and what has now been just over 5 years of marriage. 

Nearly every amazing or crappy life experience that either of us has ever had, the other one has stood lovingly on the side. Sometimes as an encourager and supporter, other times as the sense of logic making sure values and intentions are always pure and true to our character. Quiet when necessary and hot-mouthed when needed. We are a strong and solid team, that when divided is only half as strong.

Yet, we've never raced together.

Months ago when timing seemed right, I thought that marathon #7 would be THE marathon for me. My mind and body finally felt ready to tackle this behemoth of a race until things begun to slowly unravel early in the year that left me clinging by the skin of my teeth come June. By the time I caught myself it was too late, the damage had already been done and all I could do was take a brief time out from this whole racing game. 

Boston, Chicago, New York, London, Berlin...
They will ALWAYS be there just waiting for me.

But the man wanting to run the exact same marathon as me?
THAT may not always be there.

We are in the bottom left corner where I'm in a purple shirt waving my arms and the man is in black with orange shoelaces.

May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on

Training with your spouse isn't the rainbows and gumdrops we thought it was going to be. There were numerous times this summer where we argued about pace on the lakefront causing what I'm sure was an awkward sight for onlookers, got annoyed with the other one talking too much or saying stupid things on hot days, and some days when we both just wanted to run alone. But we both managed to hang in there and make it to the start line pumped and ready to go for D's big goal for the day.

I've never started as far back into a pack as we did on race day, so our pre race timing was nothing but off. We waited in line for the bathrooms for about 50 minutes, barely made it into our start corral before the gun, and were never able to meet up with our friends at the front of the corral like we planned. Honestly I had no idea what 45,000 runners at the start of a race looked like until this race...and it was a cluster $@*%. Have to give some major props to those of you who patiently do this every race without losing your mind.

By mile 2, D confidently proclaimed that this was going to be the day that he went sub 3:40. Our pace settled in comfortably to our race plan, and I was having the time of my life running the the streets of Chicago once again. At mile 3 is when we caught the first people from wave 1, which kind of pissed me off because they were already walking. For some reason this year the race organizers thought that it would be a good idea to start ALL of the charity runners at the back of wave 1, no matter what pace they were running (or in a lot of cases, walking). Weaving in and out of these racers in an already congested areas was rather annoying, and in my opinion very unsafe.

As soon as we headed up north to our old neighborhood, I somehow got myself back on cloud 9 reminiscing the 10 years of memories this city had on me. I felt completely comfortable in our pace and couldn't help but laugh to myself that of course this marathon would be the one where my body and mind felt amazing and the temps would be perfect because I wasn't going balls-to-the-walls racing it.

My favorite and cutest spectator
After hitting the half way point is when it first became clear to me that D and I were having two entirely different race experiences. Around mile 14 I saw my parents on the side of the street and temporarily jumped off the course to hug and thank them for coming out to support us. When I caught back up with D he was still moving at a great pace and looking strong, but mentioned that he was starting to feel the wear of the previous miles already. Keeping positive for him, I let him know that I was going to hold steady at his goal pace until he said otherwise.

His enthusiasm and smile begun to slowly fade after this where he no longer begun to appreciate or acknowledge my tension breaking actions or encouragement. But I kept at it anyways.

Mile 12 we stopped to use the restrooms.
Miles 21, 24, & 26 were walking points.
Watch was picking up extra distance where I tried to get the Garmin to catch up with the mile markers around 17.

By 19.5 he hit the wall. His quads were heavy, the tops of his feet were tight from running on the cement, and he had already sweat out most of his electrolytes. As he stopped to stretch his calf on the side of the road, I couldn't bring myself to look at his face because I knew I would weep like a baby for him. Knowing what he was feeling, having hit that wall in nearly every marathon that I'd ever run before myself, it was heartbreaking to watch. I had tried to prepare myself to be strong when he was wavering, but it was much harder than I thought.

Though I've never been through hell like that 
I've closed enough windows
To know you can never look back

Think we may have to splurge on this pic
And of course, there is that damn heel strike AGAIN

Physically I felt great, my legs felt like they could go at our selected pace for days. I never hit the wall and instead my energy and drive seemed to spike as the miles clipped on. But emotionally, I was having a hard time keeping it together. I knew how badly he wanted that sub 3:40 finish, and it was hard to watch it slip away from him. There was nothing I could do to make this any easier on him physically, which is all I wanted to do in that last 10k.

While my legs were screaming at me to race the hell out of those last 6 miles, his were telling him to pull back the reins a bit. It was strangely odd to be thinking one minute that my body was ready to try to go sub 20 minutes in that last 5k and the next terrified wondering what damage that distance is going to do to D at our current pace.

Think we may have to splurge on this pic too
As soon as the 800 meters to go sign was in our sight, D rallied himself back. Climbing the Roosevelt hill we were picking off people like it was no big deal. He grabbed my hand and we ran the last straight away side-by-side hand-and-hand. At that point, I could no longer hold back the tears from the events of the past 26 miles as we crossed the finish line holding hands and tears streaming down my cheeks. It was totally lame, but I was beyond proud of him and the journey the last 3:56:21 held for us.

There was no PR for either of us that day, but that fact holds little weight in my heart today.

I had the time of my life running at his side through the streets of Chitown where I once again found myself enjoying the marathon. There is no PR in the world that will ever compare to those 26.2 miles we ran together, and I wouldn't trade that experience for any other.

BUT...I will get out there and race this distance again sometime soon, and it will be awesome. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My new homegirl

There aren't many days in a persons life that can trump the moment you meet your idol.

Just another typical Friday for Chicago Runner Girl...hanging out with Deena Kastor

Yesterday was that day for me.

I am always amazed by how normal (some) elite athletes are. This crazy fast woman who holds the women's American record in the marathon at an incredible 2:19:36, is the only American woman to ever run sub 2:20. Yet, she still walks around expos wondering in and out of booths just like the rest of us like she is no big deal. Deena is an Asics sponsored athlete that even waited in line to pay for a pair of gloves that she could have otherwise gotten for free. 

This woman has been my running idol for the past 12 years where I noticed her immediately. Never thought I was one to be in awe of people, I mean I think we are pretty much all the same, but this woman had me more flustered than I have ever been in my life.

I started to sweat, my heart was racing, and I turned into that creepy fan that no one ever wants to become. 

By the time I was able to gather myself to meet this awesome lady, my mouth was incapable of formulating sentences and I had the most terrible case of word vomit my life has ever seen. I have no idea what I even said to her, but it more than likely made absolutely no sense. But she embraced me just as if we were old pals anyways.

And it. was. AWESOME.
Just what I needed.

Being truthful, all the marathon hype surrounding me lately has begun to wear me down a bit. The non-stop questioning about if I'm running this year or not which is always followed by "what's your goal" and "what's your PR" from people who aren't familiar with my situation has been exhausting. Trying to explain that there is no goal seems to be a foreign idea to a lot of runners.

Honestly, I want to race the marathon tomorrow but I can't. And that is no ones fault but my own for being a dumb-dumb and not taking time off when I should have earlier in the year. Tomorrow is going to be a bittersweet experience for me where a small piece of my heart is still bummed about having to take a pass on going for that PR. 

Talking to Deena yesterday about how she has been on the DL since the trials due to back pains where she has only been able to get back into her normal training routine recently was oddly comforting to me. There she is, all speedy and cool holding records and winning races as a professional athlete where she has had to shelf some of her goals as well to take care of herself. Not that I will ever be on the same level as her, but it is always comforting to know that elites have to take a time out every now and than too to take care of themselves.

Deena will once again have her day, and so will I.

On to marathon #7!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Am I really doing this...

There is always a point in time pre marathon when I have an odd moment of clarity where things finally start to click in my mind and I say to myself "am I really doing this?".

Today is that day.

Even while committing every weekend all summer long to hours and miles of running, registering 8 months ago for this race, and my inevitable doom now just a short 3 days didn't really seem to click in my mind until this morning. Still as I sit here I don't really know if my mind is fully grasping the idea of running 26.2 miles in less than 72 hours, but it's happening!

Truthfully, the marathon isn't really for me. We aren't very great friends, and it's become more of a love to hate kind of relationship. Yet, I continue to sign up while completely aware of the fact that my body has successfully made it through only 1 marathon healthy and together always thinking "this will be the one where I finally do it right". Still waiting on that...

Weird groin muscle cramps in 2011

mental freak out in 2010, 

It's good that I can find humor in this now
dibilitaing knee distress in 2008

grossly hot temps in 2007, 

Didn't even finish that one
way under trained in 2006,

That was D's last marathon
This pic sums up perfectly how the race went for him
thought I was Kenyan in 2005,
Those are some real jacked up splits where I don't know what I was thinking for the 1st half.
I was not in 3:15 shape but I sure as hell went out of the gate as if I was.

and then there is that 1st marathon...

I was a bandit (whoops...cats out of the bag now), I hadn't done any speed work building up for it, my mind had no conception of what running 26.2 miles would feel like, but it was the time of my life and I finished in 3:28 with NO post race soreness. It was a hoot.

And here I sit pumping myself up to be pace keeper and motivator for the hubby for marathon finish #7 that is just a blink away where again I'm wondering why I ever thought paying $150 to run 26.2 miles would be fun. Who pays to run a distance they hate? Apparently I do.

Honestly I think this marathon is just what I need. I have no stress about the day, no concern as to what my finish time will be, and feel like it's just going to be 26.2 miles of bonding with my man and the city I love. 

Several people have mentioned that they are going to be out there on the course cheering, but my mind can't really remember where everyone said they will be. If you're spectating, let me know where you'll be so I can look out for you!