Friday, November 25, 2011

A Couple Of Recent Runs

[Just came across this post from 11/9/2009]

I've had a few interesting run recently.  I thought I'd share some details of them and what I'd learned hoping it might be of some use to others.

10/24: Nike+ Human Race 10K.  Ran in KSOs with no socks.  Had a problem w/ nausea before, during, and after the race.  I'm pretty sure that this was due to really wanting to put in a good time.  My friends said afterward that I was "Running to win" (finished six minutes ahead of them).  Ran at a 7:41 pace [actual result was 7:40], which is much better than my previous best effort at this distance.  Tapered for a few days beforehand, and pushed it during the race.  Calves hurt after the race (good hurt), had a few minor abrasions from the KSOs, but nothing else.  Followed the "relax, relax" mantra during the race, which meant that the sticks and nuts that were on the course just really weren't an issue for my feet.  Stopped worrying about them after a little while and just let my feet deal with them.  Have to take a few days off after the race to let my calves recover.  Feet felt great.  Do a few three and five milers during the week.

11/1: Run with "The Runner". 8.6 miles, 4.6 road, 4 trail.  We all must have a friend like this (if you aren't yourself one of these people).  He's a real runner.  Puts in creditable performances in all his races, has been running for years, and almost never suffers running injuries.  In this case, he also read Born to Run this summer, and ditched his big sneakers for some racing flats.  Not worried about his form, because obviously what he's doing is working for him, except for his bunions.  He's not been interested in barefoot/Vibrams since he's sure he never heel strikes.

So we run, in the rain.  I'm wearing my Treks with injinji crew socks.  He's got the racing flats on.  I listen to his running, "thwap, thwap, thwap".  "Hey, you know you're heel-striking?" Thwapping stops, he's corrected his form. "I am not."  We have an discussion about how to tell if he's heel striking, to listen to the feet.  About half way up the big hill that makes up the meat of this run my calves start to ache. 

Thinking back on the many posts on this group, I think I've got a choice.  Take it easy, or push through and risk injury.  Well, I'm running with The Runner, for the first time since I started running in Vibrams.  There's no way I'm bailing... the only thing bothering me is the calves: Push on.  On the downhill stretch, I pass him in his racing flats and bomb down the slope.  Thank you, Vibram!  As we approach the end of the race, The Runner comments on how much quicker I'm running now.  Finish the run in pretty strong form.  This is my longest run in Vibrams.

Calves are hurting mightily that afternoon.  I go home and crash on the couch for a few hours and watch some TV.  I'm a little worried. Next morning, go for a slow three miler and then for a four-mile hike with the kids.  Calves aren't doing that badly, actually, they're improving with the exercise, but the right Achilles has taken to aching and throbbing.  Take a couple days off, then do a few more three milers.  Setting me up for the next run:

11/8: Trail run w/ 3 new runners I don't know.  Wearing the Treks with Injini mini socks. I invite The Runner along, since it always helps to have the fastest runner be one of your friends. :)  Achilles is still aching a bit, so I'm a little nervous about this. We all show up and chat for a few minutes.  One of the other guys says, "Look at his feet!"  They all ask about the Vibrams, they think I'm nuts.

The area we're running in is rocky in the way that only Connecticut is rocky.  If you think you live somewhere that's rocky, imagine this: take a mountain range higher than the Himalayas.  Crush it down to rubble over several Ice Ages, and then spread that rubble around with a thin topping of dirt and newly-fallen leaves.  Welcome to CT.  They can't believe that the Treks are going to be OK in the rubble...

Fortunately I've done most of my Vibram hiking and trail running in this area and in Baxter State Park in Maine, which may be the only spot on Earth that's rockier than CT, so I'm pretty confident.  Off we go!  Legs, feet, most importantly, that sore Achilles are all feeling just dandy, and more importantly, I'm having no trouble keeping up.

We continue for maybe 3 miles.  The only spots that are giving me trouble are the downhills, since the rocks are all covered with leaves, I'm taking it easy. But I'm catching back up on the flat bits (that wonderful feeling that you're being rushed along). We all stop, and the three guys I don't know look at me and comment that my feet must be killing me. Thanks to the relax, relax (and a little bit of EVA midsole), I can honestly say that they feel great. My feet seem to be finding their way to the ground through the leaves. They all shake their heads. At this point I take off the Injinjis, as they're binding between my toes.

Unfortunately shortly after this, the unthinkable happens: running down a fast, clean slope, at full speed, I stub my right pinky toe.

It nearly takes me off my feet, but I manage to get my feet back under me and recover. I'm convinced that if I'd been wearing sneakers I would have gone down hard here; my body was on auto-pilot and recovered. It felt like my feet flew back up to catch my falling body, sort of like Hermes, the Greek god with wings on his feet. The fellow behind me complimented my on the recovery, and asked if I'd sprained my ankle (he was running with an ankle-brace). I don't miss a step, but clearly the toe is a problem. So I keep going. After about another mile and a half, we stop to wait for the guy in the ankle brace, and the toe siezes up. I'm running, but limping, all the way back to the parking lot, about half a mile.  Afterward, the toe swells up (it looks like a grape the morning after) but all the rest of the aches and pains are gone. Calves, perfect; Achilles, perfect; feet, perfect. 6.2 miles, my longest trail run to date, over rocky, nasty terrain, and aside from a stubbed toe, I feel better at the end of the run than I did at the beginning.

The couple of days off was key, I think, between the days where I was pushing it. And your body does love the beating, so I guess that's in favor of "active recovery" days too, as I was feeling better at the end of the last run than I was before the first in the series.

But what's great, is that each run is more fun than the one before it. How long can this keep up?

BTW, the stubbed toe is the first injury I've had from minimalist running. I have been taking it easy, and not pushing runs, and I think it's been paying off.
[A few thoughts: I can't remember the last time my calves hurt.

Kicking rocks, or any other immovable object with your toes is a bad idea, and hurts. That said, it's one of the least significant injuries, I've now done it a number of times and never failed to finish the run. If you do it, as I learned above, don't stop running

I've not done another road 10k race since the Nike race.  It's a great distance, I really need to do another...

Oh yeah, the runs are still great. The newbie glow has worn off, though.]

P.S. That was more than a stubbed toe. It was quite broken. I wound up having to wear some New Balance MT100s in order to run on it: the rock plate in the shoe helped to stabilize the toe when running. Pretty amazing that you can break a toe and keep running, but I guess from an evolutionary perspective it's a good feature.