Monday, May 2, 2016

Life is too short to run in bad shoes

Some people are clothes horses... I like running shoes.  Over the years, I have gotten slower and older.  Because of this, I think, I have become pickier on my running shoes.  I used to be able to run in any shoe and not notice much of a difference.  Now, I seem to notice everything.  Most notably, I can really tell the difference between a flexible shoe and one that is not as flexible.  Actually, the less flexible shoes make me feel as if I'm running on bricks.  Maybe it's the lack of elastic recoil that has gradually crept into my tendons and maybe it's the compression in my joint spaces and disk spaces.  Whatever the case, it's pretty noticeable, at least subjectively.  Case in point:  my current ASICS shoes. I have been using Newtons for the past several years, and they are pretty flexible, which I like. Overall, Newtons have become my favorite brand of shoe, and specifically, the lightweight training models.  However, I have alternated running shoes for a number of years; it was a practice I started when I was working at a running shoe store, and I have continued it.  The theory is that alternating shoes:  1)  helps the shoes last longer as the EVA (midsole) has a chance to recover; 2)  decreases injuries as it subtly changes your wear pattern and foot strike (as long as the two shoes are different).  I have not idea whether these are true, but I'm a creature of habit.

Because Newtons are unique in their characteristics, I have tried alternating them with a more conventional shoe.  I have tried various different shoes from different manufacturers with varying amounts of success.  Recently, I tried the ASICS Super J-33's and they were pretty good.  I decided to try the ASICS GT-1000 when the J-33's wore out.  Why?  Oh, something different and I'm cheap (I found the GT-1000's on sale).

Well, after having run in them for 100+ miles, I'm ready to condemn them to the lawnmower shoe pile.  I don't know that I have had one good run in them.  By good, I just mean one in which I don't feel like I'm plodding along.  Although I do plod now, I'm not ready to admit it.  And I know that running in the ASICS, I am usually 20-30 sec/mile slower in them than the Newtons.  And it's not a comfortable, spongy 20-30 sec/mile slower feeling.  More, it's a feeling that I'm slapping the ground in a brick that has been tied onto my feet.

So, I'm moving on from the GT-1000's.  I have squirreled away a pair of J-33's that I'm going to start alternating with my current Newtons.  They are definitely lighter and much more flexible than the GT-1000's, so I'm hoping that things will feel better, and that running on bricks will be a distant memory.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Don't get old!

I was young once.  Back when I was young, I could run without injuring myself.  And I could run faster.  But that was then, and this is now.  Now, I can barely get out of bed without doing something to my body.  I was JRA last week, not even going very fast, and started to feel some discomfort in my right calf.  It was nothing of any consequence, and I continued with my run.  By the time I finished my run, it was a bit tight.  I decided that discretion was the better part of valor and took a few days off from running.  I swam and lifted over the weekend, and my leg felt reasonably good, and my calf had loosened up.

I went for a run two days ago, again just out for a easy trot after work.  My right calf again started to tighten up.  By the time I finished, it was quite tight and sore.  I've decided to take a little time off of running, probably a week or so, to see if it will calm down.

It's pretty annoying, really.  Do a hard workout?  It's going to take a couple more days to recover than before.  Turn and try to reach out to grab something?  I might pull a muscle (or two).  Turn too quickly?  I might lose my balance and fall over.  And why are my arms shorter than before?  I can't see things in the distance, and I can't see things close up.

When I turned 30, I noticed that, almost to the day, it was taking me a day longer to recover from a hard workout or race.  When I turned 40, I noticed that it didn't take me any longer to recover from a race, but I was certainly slower.  And when I turned 50, I just became slow, no longer able to even move very fast at all.  When you read about training philosophy, invariably the one concept that comes out is that you want to avoid the ''gray zone,'' the zone that is too hard to be easy and too easy to be hard.  Well, I can tell you personally that the gray zone is pretty much where I find myself most days.  I'm working, but not hard enough (and certainly not fast enough), and it's definitely not easy.

I posed a question to my best friend recently.  He has been a runner for as long as I have, and we used to run together regularly.  Now, we both have slowed down.  My question was, "If we have been running for so long (30+ years), why is it not getting any easier?  You would think that, after 30+ years, we would have gotten the hang of this whole running thing."  Of course, he had no real answer for this, and just laughed at the futility of the pursuit.

A month or so ago, I was swimming a set of 100 IM's.  Somewhere in the midst of it, I realized that my 17 year-old son can swim a 200 nearly as fast as I can swim a 100.  When I told him that, his comment was, "Are you really that slow?  I think I can dog paddle that fast."  Ah, youth.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

It was a short season, Charlie Brown

If you notice, one of the most recent entries was about the first race of the season.  And this entry is about the last race of the season.  No, you didn't miss any in-between races... there weren't any.  My season consisted of a grand total of two sprint triathlons.  The only year that I had less races was the year that I broke my collarbone during the first race of the season.  The funny thing is that, while I missed the adrenaline rush that comes with a race and the camaraderie of seeing with and racing against friends, I didn't really miss much else.  I had a great summer, watching a lot of water polo and cheering on my boys, first in Southern California, and then in Hawaii.  I also had fun vacationing in those places, too.  But enough about that.  This entry is about Bonney Lake.

I have raced at Bonney Lake every year except 2011 when I was broken.  It is always fun, and I always appreciate Rory and Deanna Muller putting on a nice race.  I think back nearly 10 years when I first them at the 5-Mile Lake Triathlon.  Boy, have things changed! (for the better)

This year's Bonney Lake race was no exception.  I traveled to the race with Bruce and Terry.  Bruce was there to defend his title and go for a 4-peat, and Terry got shamed into racing by Karen.  It was a beautiful morning when we arrived, much different from last year when it was a rainstorm.  Getting things set up in the sunshine is always much easier than in the rain.  I saw Rory just after I picked up my race packet.  I apologized in advance that I would be leaving right after the race, so that I could watch David at the first water polo tournament of the year.  It's too bad that the race was a week later than usual, since Labor Day was a week later.  I'm sure David would have liked to race.  

Rory informed me that they had changed the run course from the previously hilly course to a pancake -flat course that ran alongside the lake's edge.  While I am not a masochist, I know that hilly courses favor me and I voiced my displeasure to him, jokingly of course.  Secretly, I knew that, given my lack of fitness, a flat course was just fine for me on this day. 
After getting my transition site in order, I went for a jog along the run course.  Yup, it was flat.  It was definitely more scenic than the previous run course, as it followed the lake for the most part.
I then jogged back and, went to watch the start of the Olympic distance race.  I walked out onto the dock and met up with Chris Blair, someone whom I have known and raced against for 15+ years.  He had won most of the previous Bonney Lake Olympic races, and I was surprised that he was not racing.  He told me that it was a lack of fitness that kept him off the start line this year; I laughed and told him that my lack of fitness wasn't going to keep me from racing, so it shouldn't have stopped him.  After heading back to Transition and getting my wetsuit on with help from Bruce, we both headed down to the start.  We met Karen, Lucas, and Lauren on the walk down, and I said hello to all of them, leaving Bruce to his family.  After warming up in the surprisingly cold and murky water, I made the decision to start on the far right, next to the dock.  I have always started on the far left for this race, figuring that I would be left alone and not get mauled, but this never seems to work.  As it gets nearer and nearer to the race start, people have always kept moving over further and further left, so I end up in the middle.  I decided to try something different, starting next to the dock.  I had visions of "riding the flume" at Wildflower.
I said good luck to Bruce, headed off towards the dock and waited.  The gun went off, and I started swimming.  Wheeeee!  While not quite riding the flume, I was able to swim without being in the washing machine.  It was a great swim, other than the fact that I wasn't in very good swim shape.  As I neared the turnaround, I saw the leaders making the turn.  This was a bit of a shock, because they are usually long gone, and I'm fighting for position at that point.  I made the turn and headed for home.  When I first started doing triathlons, I would oftentimes find a bit of clear water about 3/4 of the way back on some of the races.  Knowing my swimming proficiency, my initial thought was always, "Am I in last?  Is everyone in front of me?"  While this always turned out to be an irrational thought, it did always cross my mind.  This time, though, I saw a few people to the side of me, so I knew that I wasn't in last.  As I stepped up onto the boat ramp, I started to unzip my wetsuit, and realized that I could not feel my feet, and was a bit disoriented by the cold.  Prior to the race, we were told that the water was 68 degrees.  LIARS!  I have swam in 68 degree water, and this was not it.  Apparently, there was some shift related to a heavy rain we had during the week before the race.
As I ran through Transition and got to my rack, I noticed that there was only one bike gone from my rack.  Not too bad of a swim, I thought.  I not so quickly got out of my wetsuit. (I decided that one of my projects for the offseason will be to cut some length off of the legs of the wetsuit, as I have always had a difficult time getting my feet through the legs of the suit.)  I had set out my arm warmers, thinking that it might be a bit cool on the bike.  After futzing with them for a few seconds, I left them behind and headed out on my bike.   I heard an immediate SCREECH! coming from my front wheel.  Not knowing what the @*#& the sound was, I stopped, grabbed my front wheel, and spun it.  It spun freely without a sound, so I remounted and headed off.  The bike was uneventful, other than muttering under my breath that I wish that I had put on the arm warmers after all.   I jockeyed back and forth with a couple of racers throughout, trading places frequently.  Clearly, we were all about the same age and the same pace.  I kept thinking that, if I had been in better shape, I would have been able to drop them.  Then, I started thinking that I will need to train more during the winter than I have in the past few years.  As I finished the bike, I still could not feel my feet.  I also was a bit chilled on my upper body and hoped to find the sun during the run.
Again, I transitioned a bit slowly into my running shoes; my excuse this time was that my brain was a bit addled from the cold, my hands were cold, and I couldn't feel my feet.  I started off on a trot with a couple of other racers.  One of them was just off my heels and was breathing really hard.  After a half mile of the heavy breathing, I couldn't stand it any longer and put in a surge, so I could get rid of the heavy breather.  Bruce passed me headed the other direction a little around the mile mark.  I gave him a shout, but he was pretty focused on his race.  As I got to the turnaround, the volunteer shouted, "Sprint turnaround here... but you're doing the Olympic distance, right?"  My response:  "Oh, heck no!"  I got some laughter from the volunteers, and I gave them a quick smile.
Finally, with about 1/2 mile to go, my feet finally thawed out enough so that I could feel them.  It's a really strange feeling, running on numb feet.  You can feel the impact all the way up, and it's a bit more jarring because the proprioception is gone from the bottoms of your feet.  But you can't actually feel the impact of your feet hitting the ground.  It's as if you are running on the lower part of your legs.  As I saw the finish line, I had a hypoxic moment.  I looked at the finish line which was a right turn away... and missed the turn.  Doubling back, I made the turn and crossed the finish line (photo is of me just before making my last turn). 
I quickly packed up my stuff and headed out to watch David play water polo.  Afterwards, I found out that I had won my age group... kind of.  One of the top 3 was Keith Szot, who hammers me in every race and is in my age group.  Since he finished in the top 3, he was taken out of the age group awards, hence, my win.  At this point, I'll take wins any way I can get them.  And yes, Bruce won the race for the 4th straight time. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

To be(e) or not to be(e)... yep, to bee!

I was on my bike riding outside a couple of Sundays ago for the first time in (ahem) awhile. Needless to say, I could tell that I was not in very good riding shape.  I figured I'd just get out for 90 minutes or so to shake off the cobwebs.  Most of the ride was uneventful until about 6-7 miles left.  I was JRA minding my own business when:  "Owww!"  There was a sharp stinging sensation on my left lower thigh.  I initially thought that my shorts had snagged for some reason, but when the stinging persisted, I looked down and saw a little red spot.  I figured that I had been stung by a bee and continued home.  After a quick shower, we headed off to the Mariners' game.  Over the course of the game, my thigh continued to hurt and became more swollen and red.  I figured that I had just gotten a pretty good local reaction, although, since I don't usually get local reactions, I started to wonder if I was developing a cellulitis (skin infection).  When I awoke the next day, my leg was more swollen, red, and warm.  It wasn't too painful, though, so I just went on with my day, playing golf with Tracy, Richard, and Sue as planned.  By the end of 9 holes, it was worsening, and I realized that it probably was infected.   I ended up starting on antibiotics and it has improved a lot.

So, here I am 2 days before the second and, most likely, last race of my season.  My leg is not entirely back to normal, although it feels much better.  There is still some tightness in my lower thigh.  I don't feel completely normal, as I am still finishing up the antibiotics.  Should I race?  I elected not to race last weekend, as my leg was definitely not feeling great and the weather was supposed to be terrible.  As it turned out, that decision was the correct one, as the race (JBLM's Deuces Wild Triathlon) was cancelled partway through the race due to high winds and a tree falling in transition, injuring several people. 

While I am not 100%, I do think that I will race.  Why?  I've only raced one other time this year, but I'm not in very good shape.  And yet, I feel compelled to race, as a way of saying thank you and perhaps, good bye to my sponsors.  I also want to support the race (Bonney Lake's Labor of Love Triathlon) and the race director, BuDu Racing.

I think that this is the last season that I will be racing under the Hammer Nutrition and Rudy Project banners.  They have been incredibly great sponsors for me for (I think) the past 10 years.  Over the past several years, my racing and interest have both waned, due to a combination of change in life focus and increase in time commitments at home.  While I could still apply for sponsorship this fall, and probably continue with them, I don't feel that I am giving them the attention that they deserve, nor am I representing them as fully as I'd like. 

What's my goal for Saturday?  I hope to race well and finish with a smile on my face.  Is it my last race?  Probably not.  But if it is, I have enjoyed the competition and camaraderie with friends and fellow competitors.  And I thank Hammer Nutrition and Rudy Project for their support over the years.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I'm a shoe geek

While I don't have an Imelda Marcos infatuation with running shoes, I have enjoyed keeping up with all of the technological advances in shoes.  My first pair of "real" running shoes were New Balance 320's.  Back in the day, Runner's World designated them the #1 shoe.  I think I got them for $20 or something like that.  They were followed by Nike LDV's.  I tried to think of all the shoes that I've run in since then; it's a long list.*  Now, I'm running in Newton All-Weathers (although they've been discontinued, I bought an extra pair and squirrelled them away) and ASICS Gel-Super J33's.  Pretty fancy name for a pretty basic shoe.  I think, though, that I finally found a pair of shoes to alternate with Newtons.  When I worked at a running shoe store (Frank Shorter Fitness Wear) in college, I started alternating shoes, typically trying to find two different brands, or at least two different styles of shoe, so that I wouldn't get too "locked in" to a particular last.  And that's when I learned a lot about shoes.  One of the things I remember was running with a New Balance rep one morning and seeing that he had put a NB upper onto a Nike Terra Trainer midsole.  When asked about it, his response was that he wanted to see what the new midsole material, Phylon, felt like. 

Alternating shoes has mostly worked for quite some time.  Why do I say mostly?  When I started running in Newtons, I found that they felt better than any shoe that I had run in for a very long time.  They had great cushioning, but also had a very fast-feeling ride.  Newtons have been in the rotation since then, but trying to find the right alternative to Newtons has been tough.  Most recently, I ran in Saucony Mirages and then Kinvaras.  While they were light and had a low drop, something didn't feel quite right with them.  They were soft, but they always felt dead.  When I first started running in the J33's, I finally realized, after 30+ years of running, what my cushioning preference was.  While I like a cushioned shoe, I don't like a soft one.  What does that mean?  Basically, I like shoes that have a firmer, more responsive ride.  That's why I liked the Newtons.  And that's why I like the J33's.  I hope that ASICS doesn't change this shoe, because it works great for me:  the shape, the weight, and the feel are all great for me.  And while there are different Newton models, the ones that I wear all have the same feel to them.   The AW's feel similar, although a bit heavier, to the Motion and the Distance S. 

The J33's remind me of the original Gel-Lytes and DS Lytes that were my favorite shoes in the early 90's.  I thought those were the best shoes ever, bright colors nothwithstanding.  Unfortunately, each iteration of Gel-Lytes got heavier and then morphed into the DS Trainers, which also got heavier and heavier.  I'm glad ASICS went back to a simpler, flatter, and lower shoe.  While not built for everyone, they work for me and I will alternate them with the Newtons for the foreseeable future.

*as much in order as I can remember:  Brooks Vantage, New Balance 420, Saucony Jazz, Nike Internationalist, Epic, Equinox, Odyssey, Terra Trainer, ASICS Striker, X-caliber GT, GT2, Epirus, Nike Sock Trainer, Anodyne, ASICS Gel DS-Lyte, Gel Lyte I, II, and III, DS Trainers (in multiple editions), GT-2010, 2020, 2040, 2060, Brooks Adrenaline GTS (multiple editions), Cascadia, Nike Free 5.0 V1, 2, and 3, Vibram Five Finger Bikilas, K-Swiss Kwicky Blade Lite, Newton Motion, AW, Terra Momentus, Distance S, Saucony Mirage, Kinvara 3, ASICS Gel Super J33, and a bunch more whose names I can't remember.  My only regret is not having a pair of Nike Sock Racers!  And I'm glad that I didn't get sucked into the Nike V-series; even now I can remember how hideous they were.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Goodbye, my friend

I lost my best friend last night.  After having several good weeks, Stormy didn't greet me when I came home after David's swim meet last evening.  When I left in the morning, both Sancho and Storm were sitting at the door as if to say, "See you later."  When I returned home, Sancho came bounding to the door to greet me.  However, Storm didn't get up to meet me at the door, which is something that he has done nearly every day since we first got him.  I found him lying on the floor, looking up at me.  Of course, I knew immediately that the time had come.  The entire family gathered around to give him hugs, kisses, and to say goodbye. 

Try as he might to be brave, he couldn't go on any longer.  When Tracy first got home, he got up to greet her.  I even was able to coax him outside to do his business, which he dutifully did.  But then, instead of coming back in, he decided to lie down in the yard.  I carried him back in and sat down with his head in my lap. 

We took him to the vet, and he again bravely jumped out of the car and walked unsteadily to the front door.  I then carried him in.  I told Tracy that it seemed like he was trying to put on a brave front for everyone, trying to show that he was still the Alpha dog.  Except to me.  When I was there, he allowed himself to be taken care of by me.  The hardest thing to do was also the right thing to do.  We said goodbye to Stormy one last time, and then let him go to sleep.

RIP Stormy.  You will be missed by all, but especially by me.
 In his favorite spot with "his" blanket
And one last puppy picture

Monday, January 26, 2015

The cone of shame

Storm is at home.  He's nearly back to his old self, although he still has patches of bare skin, now being covered by a thin layer of hair as it grows back.  Because he had lost so much blood, he had IV's placed in both front legs, so these were shaved.  Then, to facilitate placing the limb leads for the monitor, another patch on both front and his left hind leg were shaved.  As Ryan commented, "He looks like a poodle."  (which, for a Portie, may be the greatest insult of all)  His belly was also shaved and his incision stapled closed.  Since dogs have a propensity for licking... everywhere... he was given an e-collar (aka Elizabethan collar; aka the cone of shame).  His first collar was too big and too soft.  I put it on and he promptly walked out of it. 

After he saw his PCV (that's my made-up abbreviation for primary care vet), Dr. Annie (who, I will say is not only a great vet, but a great runner, and even nicer person), he was given a hard cone to wear.  That seemed to work until he caught the edge of it on one of his staples as he, you guessed it, tried to lick the incision site, and pulled out a couple of the staples.  So, he then received a larger cone, and this seemed to solve all of the problems.  Well, except for the one where Storm now whacks his cone on everything:  door jamb, wall, back of my leg, back of my leg, back of my leg.  Yup, he's figured out that he can get attention by using the cone as a battering ram.  He has also managed to crack his cone when he and Sancho decided to chase each other down the hallway and he ran it into the door. 

So, where are we now?  As expected, his final path came back as metastatic hemangiosarcoma.  His expected lifespan is, at best, months.  We elected to decline chemotherapy, as it would figure to only prolong his life by a few months and is not curative.  So... we're trying mushrooms!  I looked up hemangiosarcoma and stumbled across the use of the turkey-tail mushroom (coriolus versicolor is the scientific name) in the treatment of hemangiosarcoma.  While the study was not great, I figured, "Why not? (at this point)." 

Right now, we're just enjoying having Storm around.  He's still energetic, especially at mealtimes, although he gets tired more quickly.  I have no doubt that at some point in the near future, he will have another bleed, which will be the terminal event.  While I am dreading that moment, I also am grateful that we were able to bring him home and that I can spend my evenings enjoying his company.  I'll be even happier when we can get rid of that cone, as I'm sure he will be, too.