Monday, May 24, 2010

Memphis in May....Mixed Contradictions

I don't typically like to write race reports specifically because I don't think people really are interested in what I ate for breakfest what my pre race brick was like etc, but I do try to share interesting race experiences. Whether it is soemthing funny that happened, or some kind of ugly blow up, or anything that I might learn and can pass on to others ...there is usually something that comes out of a race weekend that is worth passing on.

Memphis in May is an all time favorite race, but say good bye to good old Millington, Casper Lake, Plantation Oaks, the flat bike and hilly run through northern Memphis. They announced that next year Memphis in May will be in some other town which is actually in Mississippi and will be sponsored by Harrah's casinos and will be held at a new location to make it bigger and better! Wow, end of a legendary race...a race I did as a begginner just trying to break 2:30...and one where I went fastest ever and won AG several times. I wonder if they will still do the time trial start? I guess all things progress and change.

This years race was a mixture of high points and low points. All starting with our hotel. Usually we stay at the lovely Plantation Oaks, tradition! It is close to the race venue and all 15 Multisportmadness friends that were racing were there, but our room when we checked in smelled like someone had just partied all night. Between spilled alcohol smell combined with smoke stench we lasted 15 min before my eyes were watering and lungs were closing. Usually I can suck it up and deal with it but this was past that point. It smelled like it was a hell of a party. We ended up in this fancy Hilton in Memphis.! 30min away but clean, plush and new!

At 77.7 deg. they allowed wetsuits! LOL! So I did wear mine and while got a little toasty wasn't the worst warm wetsuit swim I've done, and I set a swim PR on that course, which cracks me up because I manage to swim 2 maybe 3 x a week these days. Crazy..and I get my fastest swim ever there. I guess experience comes in handy some times. I did find Jordan's feet (1 of the former MSM kids) for a short ways around the first turn which gave me a boost!

During the first 12-15 miles or so of the bike I didn't feel I had 100% of my legs. I had that lovely burn which didn't go away until about mile 15. But despite this I just kept pushing despite the burn hoping eventually they would come around. I did eventually find all parts of my legs and managed to pick it up more. I love that right hand turn on the big smooth highway back to transtion. My bike split was close to my PR that I did back when I was 34!

My run started off ok, but got ugly pretty quick. Hello heat and humidity..where have you been! But really the worst part more than the heat was the weight of my legs. I felt like I was running up and down the hills with the weighted sled my trainer Mark has me pull through the grass! Seriously. Did he show up and secretly attach it to me. The run there is hilly and its hard to get a rhythm going. And I had none. I trudged along, never able to get it going.

Here is the crazy part of it all, I was 2 min faster than I have been in the past 2 years there, with a faster swim and close to fastest bike for me. It was my second fastest Memphis time ....even with an trudge of a bad run. But despite that I placed the worst ever there at 7th in AG. ICK. Go figure! There were some very fast chicks in W40-44 this year. Congrats to them! The winning time in the AG was right there with the top OA times! 2:09 I think? Who says old ladies can't go fast!

So lessons learned:
> I was a bit tanked the weekend before Memphis. I had trashed myself. Feeling a bit behind in training because of some lost time training being hurt, and feeling the pressure of a 70.3 coming on, so I crammed and paid for it. So I did rest a lot going into Memphis, and didn't start feelng normal until Friday, but I was coming around. Its good to know I can still push through when maybe not feeling 100%. And don't cram it doesn't work.

>You improve on your time, but wind up worse in your AG!

>90+ deg. is HOT; in case you forgot

>Old ladies can still go really fast!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Race Ready?

Its race week for me, and in just a couple days we'll be packing up and heading south to Memphis for my first real race this year. Typically I have done some other type of race event prior to lining up in Memphis just to get the kinks out. This spring has been super busy with kids in soccer and gymnastics that it became a challenge to find an event that worked in my life. I managed a local 5k, and a bike crit. The 5k was marked short and I ran a good race for what they had marked,.... but the bike crit was a blast. It was an all out ride for 40 min riding in a circle. I felt strong and kept up with some really fast girls, felt good cornering in a pack going crazy fast, but a sprint to the finish is key in a crit something I'm not used to doing in triathlon. They don't give you a time in crits, and a 5k that was off leaves you wondering a little where your fitness is!

On the far right getting out sprinted

I've had some great workouts and some total flops this spring, but that's normal. The total flops with trashed legs means at least I know I did some hard work somewhere....but why is it that the blow ups tend to stick in your mind more than the ones your rocked. I'm guilty of this and certainly I have many conversations with my athletes convincing them they haven't gone backwards in their training. A break through workout doesn't get erased the next week if you blow up. Admittedly I have to remind myself of this at times and my coach Thomo is great at this. Just because I might have fallen flat on my face in a workout dead tired doesn't mean the faster intervals a week ago have faded away.

I've done Memphis a million and 1 times and other than Wildflower it is just about my favorite race. Not sure why.... the lake is nothing spectacular and actually a little gross, the bike is flat and I love hills, and the run is usually hot and tough for those of us from the northern tundra to experience 85+ deg. in May. But for some reason I love it. Maybe its the road trip south to really warm weather when its still chilly here, or maybe its seeing Elvis in transition, or maybe its that the course is typically always the same and it is very familiar.

So this week I am resting up a little, dusting off the race wheels, taking the race number off the aero helmet that is still on from the last race which was.(...what was it? oh Chicago Tri!)... lacing up the EZ laces on my racing flats, digging out a race suit, and road tripping south to Memphis. And, yes I am psyched up to race finally!


So the question is are you ever really Race Ready. You can nail workouts, or pre-race events and test sets. You analyze graphs and charts and graphs to see your fitness progress power and pace averages go up etc, but does that ever tell you if your truly ready to race. Do those things tell you your head is in the right place and that you are focused, and that you've hydrated and eaten the right stuff to recover and allow for the training to adapt...and that you've tapered properly. Not always. You have to trust your fitness, your training, your experience...believe that you are ready and ....get after it.

1 of my clients did just that this week. Some ups and downs in training, and a big goal to qualify for Boston for the first time after several tries....and he did it with 5 min to spare!!! He was race ready!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Crazy Mama

I'm fairly sure my neighbors think I'm crazy. I'm not the typical suburban, subdivision mom. They see me come and go on my bike, or running at odd hours, or doing strange things like drills, skips and strides in the front of the house. Sometimes they see me jump off the trainer in garage and take off running fast as I can , only to come back and do it a few more times. Sometimes I show up to pick up Jack from school sweaty and in running clothes, or I roll up to the house covered in mud on my cross bike and stand out back spraying it off. They might occasionally see me working in the yard with my bike clothes still on. My co-workers see me heading out for runs at lunch (sometimes the only time for myself in a day), or sprinting out the door at the end of the day in a bike kit to make it to a group ride.

cyclocross is probably the craziest thing I do

Even though they see me do these crazy things, and I may not seem like the typical mom, I'm still the first to show up for spring concerts and sit there with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes watching him sing, jump up and down on the sidelines of a soccer field when he scores a goal, or send him to his room when he talks back.
I am hard core when it comes to homework and reading and am thrilled when he comes home with minus zero on tests. I am there to help him with his work, I just might be wearing sweaty workout clothes. I've had to learn a little about Pokemon and Bakugan battles, and listen to Miley Cyrus and Kidz Bop songs in the car. I can barely pick up Jack anymore, he is getting so big and becoming his own person.

(I used to be able to hold him up on skates)

Both he and my step-daughter Kaitlin are getting their own lives with sports, school and friends which keeps us on the go and making workouts a challenge at times.

But like any mom, you just want the best for them when it comes to those things and will go to crazy extremes sometimes so they can while still keeping some time to myself. It might mean getting up super early, for-going travel or too many huge races, or wearing workout clothes to the grocery store but its worth it. ( BTW, someone played a cruel joke on me from Peapod...sending me an email saying they will start delivery in our neighborhood!!! I was so psyched.....then several hours later they took it back and said it was a mistake :(

I might be a crazy mama, but I'd like to think that by doing so I am showing the kids how to be themselves, be active and disciplined and that they can achieve anything they want with hard work and discipline.

(nothing better than Ice Cream after soccer practice)

Happy Mother's Day to all the other Crazy Mama's out there!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Barefoot Running

I was running at Peck Farm the other day and coming at me from a distance was a fairly large person running in what looked like bathroom slippers, or maybe a flimsy pair of dressy flats. I thought to myself, wow...she wanted to get her run in but forgot her shoes. When I got closer I realized she was in fact wearing the Vibram 5 finger shoes! Then again last night, I was finishing up a run in our neighborhood when my neighbor stopped me and told me his son ran an entire marathon in these barefoot shoes. So, I decided it's finally time to write this blog on barefoot running which I have been thinking about for awhile.

I've been a physical therapist for 16 years, and treated countless overuse injuries from running. ITB syndrome, piriformis syndrome, achilles tendonitis, plantar fascities, stress fx's you name it. So most of what I'm going to say comes from my clinical experience in treating numerous athletes, some hard cold facts from continuing education on running and foot mechanics, and some of my own experience as an athlete.

Here are some of the positive facts of barefoot running:

1. decreased contact time with the ground
2. decreased flight time
3. less impact force which equals less stress to joints, tendons,and ligaments (this occurs due a pre-loading effect where muscles of the foot and ankle store elastic energy prior to hitting the ground which supports the joints at contact)
4. increases sensory input
5. increases running economy

In a perfect world all of the above equals faster running....and fewer injuries, and is enough to send people fed up with injury or wanting to get faster out the door barefoot. As a coach I work hard to get athletes to work on form and swimming biking and ...running. In all sports, the more efficient you are the faster you will be with less energy expended, and.....less injured because lousy form can lead to injury.

But, running barefoot does place a good deal of strain on the muscles and tendons of the foot ankle complex. The preloading effect really activates the gastroc/ soleus and deep leg musculature. If they are not adapted to being used repetitively as in running, they are going to get sore, tight and talk back to you. There is also the bottom of your foot which is used to the soft, cushiony protection of the latest fancy running shoe out there. There are nerves between bones there that can get really irritated and cause numbness if too much pressure is applied too often (not to mention skin irritation or abrasion to the foot)

Which leads into the thought on shoes. The big hot trend on barefoot running has gotten started from the "BORN TO RUN" book. There is a lot of discussion on how running shoes create injury and poor form, and the natives can run for days on end barefoot and never get injured. However, they grew up this way and have lived their life barefoot. Do I believe that many of the running shoes out there are over kill? Yes. They are big heavy and many do make it difficult to use good run technique. Sometimes there is so much cushion and support and control you can't help but heel strike, or ...the shoe over corrects the pronation. Pronation is not evil. Your foot is supposed to pronate some. I think that shoe fitters sometimes see a foot pronate a little....and then put people in a stability shoe when its really not needed. I pronate excessively. My entire foot is flat and collapses in. Years ago I used to wear orthotics to correct for this. But as I got into racing more competively and wearing racing flats without socks etc. I noticed I didn't really need them. I was also at the time working on my run form...going to a more midfoot strike, quicker cadence. I recall 1 summer walking around for months with calves that felt like I had softballs in them. But I no longer wear orthotics (and I tell you my feet are flat as a pancake), or heavy stability shoes. Now in addition to this I work a ton on strength and core which is a huge factor in being able to have the strength and support to do this and is a huge component to staying injury free.

So my 2 cents for what its worth:

Do I think barefoot running has its place? Yes. I've been known to take my shoes off before or after a track practice and do strides and drill barefoot in the grass. But I believe there has to be a training effect like anything to be able to do it.... such as doing core and strengthening exercises barefoot, activities around the house, yardwork, then maybe running drills and strides. This can help with run form, technique and efficiency. Small amounts of barefoot running can help you learn good run form.

Do I worry that the type A obsessive athlete/runner might just go out for a 10 mile run barefoot and wind up hurt? Yes. Not a smart move.

Do I think that you can get away with "less shoe"? yes. With form training, and gradual progression of getting used to less support and control you can improve your run form and efficiency. But it has to be done gradually and with caution.

Do I think that if someone is plugging along great without injury or issue they should change shoes/ or start running barefoot? No. The body is very adaptable and for some they have the right amount of strength alignment form that what they are running in works. If its working, don't mess it up.

Do I think that if an athlete is struggling with injury and considering barefoot running, or changing shoes they should see a professional who can point them in the right direction? ABSOLUTELY

In the end, the most common reason for running injuries is overuse and training error. As in... too much too soon, or too intense too soon. The body can adapt to the stress we put on it but, if you overload it too much it will not like it and you can wind up hurt or injured and not running.