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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mid-Foot Transition

I'm a heel striker by nature. I've been heel striking for as long as I can remember. The worn out heel sections of my previous running shoes can attest to that. All my running shoes were mostly bought with lots of cushioning in mind seeing as how I have weak knees. In fact I land heavily on my heels and these heavily cushioned shoes helped reduce the impact considerably.

About 7-8 months ago, the thought of experimenting with minimalist shoes and mid-foot striking was playing heavily on my mind. As I got more technical in my runs, I found the heavily padded shoes that I owned like the Ghost 3 and the Litestrike Eva (though not as heavy as the Ghost) was weighing me down on my runs. Leg fatigue set in easily especially in the longer runs.

I was a little skeptical though. I didn't think my feet were suited for minimalist shoes. Let's face it, my legs are not as young as they were and minimalist didn't really offer much protection and besides I was a natural born heel striker. Tying to adapt and change my style and method of running at this late in the game was going to be daunting not to mention a little risky to the feet.

Nevertheless, I did some research on minimalist shoes and mid-foot striking and made a decision to buy the Brooks Green Silence. I fell in love with the shoe the moment I laid my eyes on it. I used it for a race, the BHP Orange run, I think, without even breaking it in (something I've never done before) and thankfully came away unscathed from that experience. Though it was virtually impossible to heel strike with that shoe, being a natural heel striker, I did on quite a few occasions land on my heel. 

But overall, I was landing more on my mid-foot than heel and it was a total new feeling to me. Now, for those of you who don't believe there is a real difference in heel striking and mid-footing, let me tell you there is. That run was one of the better runs that I did and I think that was when I was convinced that minimalist shoes and mid-footing were for me.

I started doing more research and trained myself to run mid-foot more often. It wasn't easy, mind you. I had to consciously concentrate and force myself to run mid-foot as I still tended to heel strike quite a bit. It took a while and slowly but surely it got to be a more natural form of running for me and I was mid-footing without having to think about it.

Around this time, I retired my 'heavy weights' and bought myself more minimalist and light weight trainers that enabled me to consistently achieve mid-foot striking. Judging by the wear in the circled sections below of my Brooks Launch, I must be mid-footing more naturally these days, in fact I think I'm landing more on the balls of my feet. There is hardly any wear on the heel sections of both my Launch (yes, I have two Launches), my Pure Connects and Green Silence (new heel wear, that is).

What I can bring from my transition of being a heel striker to a mid-foot striker is that my running posture has improved tremendously, I'm able to land much lighter on my feet, I'm able to toe off much easier and faster and it has helped with my performance quite a bit. Switching to total minimalist and light weight trainers has also reduced leg fatigue considerably.

But that doesn't mean I still don't heel strike. When I'm really, really tired in my runs, I tend to strike my heel and it takes a considerable amount of effort and concentration to force myself to mid-foot strike. I guess old habits die hard. But overall, I'm happy with the switch and can safely say that it was the right thing to do.

I could never go back to those much bulkier, heavier and more cushioned shoes even though I salivate looking at the Ghost 4! Right now, since my shoe ban has expired, I've got my eye set on the Saucony Progrid Kinvara 2, though I'm waiting to look at the Skechers GoRun on the wife's advise that it's coming to these shores soon.

I know, you're probably screaming, Skechers? But heck, Meb Keflezighi couldn't have been wrong when he won the recent Olympic Marathon trial in a Skechers now could he?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

All The Wiser ...

It feels like it was only yesterday that it was the first of January and I was running the Newton and now it's already 11 days into the New Year. Time sure flies these days. I don't even remember half the things I did for the last 11 days. It's been a busy time for me in the office, what with last minute rush projects that need to be completed before the coming CNY holidays.

It's also a good thing that I've taken a week's break from running. I'm not too happy about it but I really need a break from running to heal and repair all those injuries that's been keeping me company on my runs. I've been running with pain for far too long and it ain't a nice feeling.

I got my priorities all wrong, running wise that is and it's taken a long on, off, on again painful period to come to a realization that running should be fun and pain-free. Let's be realistic here, I ain't going to be winning any races and the only reason I run is cos I love the sport. I shouldn't be pushing myself so hard trying to better my times and put all kinds of pressure on me.

I'm not young and I shouldn't be trying to compete with all those young fellows out there who have youth on their side. This break I'm taking, though it's only for a week, has a two fold purpose. One is to give the legs a rest and some time to heal. The other reason is to put things in perspective and come back stronger and wiser for my runs. I intend to run for a very long time, way into my golden years and the only way to do that is to run wisely.

Heck, in five years or so, I'll be eligible to sign up for races in the Men's Senior Veteran Category! And the way time flies these days, it won't seem that long at all. I've got to start taking more care and be a lot more wiser during my training runs. No more trying to run a 5 minute plus pace every single training session. The mind is more than up to it but the old legs isn't that strong any more.

This break has also tested my discipline to the max. It's not easy sitting at home and watching the wife gear up for her run. It takes all of my resolve and will power not to lace up and join her but as Neoh always reminds me, resting is part of training too. I've even had to stop logging on to Daily Mile so I won't be tempted to run after reading all your running reports ... LOL!

So far though, the rest is having its desired effects. The legs, though it still has twitches here and there, is feeling so much fresher and I'm looking forward to running again this Sunday, when my self imposed rest break ends :D

I'm not running the Mizuno this weekend cos I find it a tad too expensive for a 10K event but here's wishing all of you who are running it all the best and have fun with that last incline (I think someone nicknamed it the Aiyoo hill last year) on the last KM just before the finish, it's as much of a bitch as the Ammah hill! LOL!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

MPIB 12K Run 2012

4.:30am : *alarm rings* Shut up! It's Sunday, I want to sleep!

4:35am : I must be insane to wake up so bloody early on a Sunday.

4:40am : Maybe a shower will wake me up.

5:15am : *while driving to race location* I should really get my head checked.

6.:45am : Tell me why I'm doing this again?

7:10am : Here we go, let's get it over and done with so I can go home and sleep.

Kilometer 2 : Ahhh, this is the life ...

Kilometer 5 : I love these hills. When's the next race already?

Kilometer 8 : What? We're almost finishing? But I'm enjoying this.

The finish line : Phew, that was fun! I can't wait for the next race!

And that pretty much sums up how every of my race mornings start ... hahaha! The worse part is the waking up, but once you start running, everything else is forgotten.

It was pretty much the same scenario as the above for this morning's MPIB run. Wasn't really intending to run this race initially but ran it as a show of support for Jamie who was one of the organizers and it turned out to be a pretty enjoyable race.

Got to the race a little bit early cos of the parking limitations in that location. The wife, who was sitting out this race accompanied me to be my pom-pom girl ... hahaha! We took a slow walk to the start line and was immediately greeted by an interesting Chinese number from the speakers. The crowd was already building up by then which made the atmosphere all the more exciting.

The race start was staggered with the women running first, partly due to the limited and narrow space at the start I would presume. But it did give the men legitimate reasons to be chasing women ... LOL!

Met up with Kah Yen before the start and we headed to the start line chatting all the way. I wouldn't have known it was race start if he didn't tell me cos I didn't hear a single gun, horn, whatever. My whole initial plan was to do a safe race and take care of the legs which wasn't fully healed.

Took off with a really slow pace, not that you could go any faster cos of the number of runners all clogged together during the start stretch. Besides, it was an uphill start and better to take things slow. It took a while before I could get into a steadier pace somewhere around the 2nd kilometer when there was more space to overtake.

Caught up with the tail end of the women runners just before hitting the first incline which I was all prepared for even though I didn't recce the route this time. Thanks to Kah Yen for the warning about the challenging inclines littered through the route.

My mantra for the day was 'if there is an up, there is a down' and it worked fine with me charging up the hills and resting on the downward stretches. Besides I didn't want to risk running downhill so fast cos they were kinda steep, one misstep and you'll end up badly bruised. That strategy worked pretty good so much so that I could do much faster on the flats.

By KM4, the legs were feeling great, no tugs of pain were apparent and I decided that I'd take on a bit more speed after the 6k mark. The hydration stations were spot on. That helped cos I could speed up a kilometer before the stations and know for certain I could quench my thirst. Unfortunately the hydration stations were a little undermanned as I had to wait for water to be poured in the cups at two of the stations. Not a big deal but could be better.

I was thoroughly enjoying the race with no pressure whatsoever since I had no targets to be met today. By KM5 I was beginning to recognize the route from previous races I ran here and that made the run so much easier as I knew what to expect at every corner. Picked up the pace in the second half of the race and was enjoying the race so much that I was waving at all those rich people's barking dogs at the Bukit Tunku section ... hahaha!

Saw Yim at the 10K mark and called out to him this time. The last race I was too shy to call out to him :P I was still pretty fresh by this time and decided to charge back to the finish line and came in with a decent time of 1:05:57, not my best 12K time (actually the route was more like 11.5K) but am pleased with the run for the simple reason my injuries didn't recur :D

I wonder if I should ask for payment for these modelling jobs ...
The race was overall a well organized one, except for the undermanned hydration stations. Kudos to the organizers for a job well done. That's what you get when you get runners to organize a race. The route was challenging but scenic and well shaded. The mix of difficult terrain with easy downhills balanced out the race nicely.

The cops were having a field day issuing summonses to people parked by the road shoulders which I thought was a tad bit unfair but then, some of these cars were really parked too haphazardly to the point of disrupting traffic. Remember to come early and get proper parking next time people. You don't want to run a beautiful race to only come back and find a summons waiting for you, right?

With the race over and done with, I'll be taking a week's break from running to completely rest and heal these overused legs. As much as I hate the idea of no runs for a week, I'd rather be running pain-free. For all of you who ran the MPIB this morning, good job and congrats to you guys.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Newton 25K Challenge 2012 Race Review

My first longest distanced race for the year and personally, it was a tad bit disappointing. The race itself was pretty fun. The route was every bit as challenging as it was made out to be. I'm glad to say that I ran up both Ammah and her daughters without stopping to catch my breath but that was basically the only highlight of my race.

The wife and me got to the race an hour before the 25K flag off. We took a couple of kilometers warm up around the area to work the 'tight early morning just got up from sleep' muscles and then I headed to the start line for my event.

I had a target pace in mind and intended to keep to it and the only worry I had was whether my thigh injury would manifest itself during the race. The race started on time and I took off at a slow trot until I could find clear traffic and got into rhythm.

Kept to my desired pace throughout the first 15K, took on the hills and slopes littered along the way without stopping, which was a feat in itself and was doing fine all the way up to the roundabout somewhere around the 15K mark. Felt a tug at the back of the thigh and red alerts came on.

'Not now', I muttered to the darn leg. 'I still have a ways to go', I pleaded with it. 'Just hang in there', I begged. 'It's only 10K to go', I assured it. I suppose it just wasn't meant to be cos the tugs got worse and the sharp pains I experience two weeks ago during my run came back. I had to stop and walk to ease the pain and then continue. But to no avail, it worked for a while and then the pain came back.

'Drats', I thought. There goes my race. The 'ease the pain' walk sessions started getting longer and I was losing time considerably. Not much I could do but to grit my teeth and push on as best as I can. I struggled along with the walk/run method all the way back. Neoh caught up with me around the 20K mark, all I could do was watch him disappear in the distance. Good job Neoh, you ran a beautiful race.

That was the longest 5 kilometers in my entire life! I limped across the finish in a time of 2:43:27 which was way off my usual pace. To say I'm disappointed, yes I am, but I'm happy that I managed to usher in the new year doing what I love doing, which is running :D There will be other races for me to make up for this disappointment.

Congrats to the wife for doing the 12K event and taking 8 minutes of her personal best :D Good job, babe. Soon, you'll be outrunning me ... hahaha! Oh and hearing them call out your name as you cross the finish line was pretty cool.

Happy New Year people.

Happy New Year 2012

Here's wishing everyone a Happy 2012 and may all your dreams and whatnots come true ... sounds cheesy, I know, but heck, I'm a cute doggy and that's what cute doggies say ... BOL!

Oh and remember, party all you want but go easy on the spirits, especially if you're driving!

To those running the Newton, you're insane I tell you but heck, insane is fun! All the best tomorrow.

PS. Hope the fireworks are kind to me. I'm terrified of fireworks. Have mercy on us cute little adorable doggies!