Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Running and Friendship

The other night on my way home from a run I was thinking about friends and how I'm lucky to have so many of them.  I would say the majority of my friends are people I know from the running community.  I'm a pretty shy person (although most of you probably wouldn't realize it), so I didn't have many friends growing up.  And when I stopped to think about how many friends I have now, it was shocking.  Ever since I got into running, specifically trail and ultrarunning, my network of amazingly supportive friends has grown exponentially.  One running friend in particular, has influenced my life and the way I interact with people.  Debbie Webster might be one of the most positive, fun, loving individuals I've ever known.  From the day we met, she's always treated me like family.  And I'm not the only one who gets the special treatment.  She spreads the love around to everyone she meets!  Her personality is infectious, in a good way!  As a person who is prone to being sort of grinchy, i.e. not going out of my way to make friends, not being the type of the person to express my feelings and not being the type of person who hugs everybody, I think I've made some good strides (not all the way there) in degrinchifying myself.  I'm 100% into the hugs now, but I would say I need to make improvements in reaching out to people.  I owe a lot of what I've become over the past couple years to Debbie and all of my wonderful running friends who never cease to amaze me by the lengths they will go to support their fellow runners...or anyone!

Sarah Mueller, a friend who I was extremely honored to pace in her first 50-miler on Sunday, surprisingly captured the thoughts that had been running through my head over the past few days in her race report.  "I know our ultra-running goals seem silly and arbitrary to some (and maybe they are), but I also know that ultras give us a chance to practice being the best versions of ourselves, versions we hope show up in "real life," too. Versions that are OK with being humbled, know how to accept help, know how to give help selflessly, know how to go beyond our limits, and know how to encourage others to do the same."  I just wanted to let all you runners know that you're awesome and I'm so lucky to have you, and thank you for helping me be a better person!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Out of Retirement

Slippery Slope
Well, I've been out of the racing scene for a while...not that I ever really "raced".  I paid for food and shirts and hung out with friends, got a little running in too.  My last and longest race was back in April, the Free State 40 miler.  It wasn't my best race.  I felt sluggish and the mud on the course was brutal.  A few weeks before that, I ran what I consider to be the toughest race I've run so far.  The Rockin' K Marathon.  It's not the longest race I've done, but it's definitely the most difficult course I've run, even more so than the infamous Psycho Wyco.  It was a very slow race for me (6:30-something) and I struggled with tummy problems for most of it.

Crash and Burn
After those two races (which were bleh) and heading right on into finals, then sickness, the negatives just started piling up, and I worked myself into a running depression.  Realizing that I didn't have enough time to train for ultras while I was in grad school was a difficult pill to swallow.  It's hard to take steps back when you've only gone forward.  So I finally came to terms with what I had do -- run when I could until I finished grad school classes.

Silver Lining
When I received an e-mail from the Kansas Ultrarunners' Society, announcing that registration for this year's Rockin' K had opened, the wheels in the ol' noggin began turning.  Rockin' K is in April, meaning I would have 4 months after finishing class to train.  Sounded perfect to me!  So, after a nearly year-long hiatus, I will run my next race -- and hopefully show it who's boss this time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Running Buddy

My best running buddy happens to be my boyfriend, the Nickster.  I like running with him 'cause I like spending time with him, of course!  So it bums me out when we can't run together, like say...because he hurt his back.  I like running and I like Nick, and it's no fun when I can't have both together!  Ok, that's all I have for gross feeling-expression time.  :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rockin' the Trails

Ok, so I have a collection of lots of brightly colored, non-matching running clothes.  Why, you ask?  Because I buy whatever's on sale and that usually consists of hot pink and electric blue as you can see from the picture.  To complete the ensemble I've added my leopard print Moeben sleeves, given to me by my dear friend, Coleen Voeks.  Oh and we can't forget the backward headlamp (it wasn't dark yet) and neon yellow water bottle.  I didn't leave the house intending to look like a runner/hair band member, but I totally succeeded (plus I forgot to bring  a hairband)!  Rock on Trail Hawks!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What's Your Style?

I was recently inspired to try changing my running style after reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  There were parts of the book I liked, parts I didn't like, parts I was indifferent about.  My favorite parts were actually the ones that talked science.  The assertion toward the end of the book is that humans are physically designed to run.  It was a very convincing argument, although I'm not 100% convinced because it didn't address every question swimming around in my head, but I didn't intend for this to be about evolution, so I'll save my questions for another day.  What I'm really heading toward here is the physics of running in a loose-conceptual sort of way, not in a solving-equations sort of way.  The book asserts that today's mainstream running style is wrong and has lead to an increase in running related injuries over the past several decades.  I'll refrain from dropping statistics, because I'm always skeptical of them.  You can represent anything you want, any WAY you want, depending on how you collect or present statistical information.  So I'll just discuss the reasons I think this argument (and its solution) is valid based on my own engineering perspective.  The argument is that we should be running on the fronts of our feet not on our heels.  Here goes:

Think about trying to maintain your balance if you lift your toes off the ground and just use your heels.  This is unstable and will have you wobbling around.  Now what if you lift your heels off the ground and balance on the front of your feet.  Much more stable.  For flat surfaces, running on your heels doesn't make a huge difference in stability (i.e. you probably won't fall down).  The amount of time your heel actually spends on the ground is small and there are generally no disturbances that would affect your stability in this short amount of time.  However, if you run on an off-road trail where there is uneven terrain and obstacles such as rocks and roots, there are many opportunities for disturbing the stability of your heel-balancing act.

Shock Absorption
If you had to take a guess at which part of your foot would more effectively transmit shock to your knee would you say heel or toes?  Well your heel has a straight line of sight to your knee.  For your toes to do the same thing your foot would have to be vertical, which as far as I know, is only done in ballet?  Now think about what you would do if you were running barefoot, or maybe try it.  Your body wouldn't, in a million years think to run on the heels of its feet.  The reason we run on the heels of our feet in shoes is that there's a giant wedge under there that makes it unavoidable.  Then you might ask, well if there's a giant cushy wedge there, why should I worry?  Well, the giant cushy wedge absorbs SOME of the shock but not all of it.  When you run on the front of your feet you absorb shock with your leg muscles.  You want your legs to be like springs, not like hammers.

So the only thing left to talk about is experience.  I've tried it out for a few days now.  I bought some New Balance WR790's which have very thin soles for trail shoes.  Most importantly, they have a very low heel, which makes it easier to practice this style of running.  (You're gonna have a hard time running on the front of your feet with big heels unless you're going uphill.)

Observations So far

  • Less ankle rolling (stability)
  • Tired leg muscles (shock absorption)
  • Harder to maintain running style when tired.  Heels want to go down.
  • Takes time to build up speed and distance since you're using muscles more. (You're not gonna be a rockstar runner overnight.)