Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ACL Plan B in Place

After my normal run this morning, I ventured across the freeway to do a little trail exploring. I need to find a 2-hour run that's as far away as possible from the cluster that will be the Austin City Limits Music Festival this weekend. I found enough trails and a way to get there without having to cross the freeway. There are some trails that run to some tunnels under the freeway. They're dark, long and a little creepy but it's better than sucking all the exhaust from above.

It's hard to believe I haven't used this trail more often as it's super close to the house and is hardly used.

Just as I was finishing I stepped in a hole and I felt my ankle go sideways as I braced my fall crashing down on my hands. I think it'll be ok as there's hardly any swelling.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back to the Drawing Board

The orthotic experiment didn't exactly workout great. One of the cuts in the orthotic caused a blister during my last 13-mile run on Saturday. As Murphy's Law would have it, I was as far from my car as possible, crossing the Longhorn Dam (6.5 mile mark) when I felt a pinch on the arch of my foot. I knew immediately what was about to happen, but short of running barefoot on the gravel trail, there was little to do but suck it up and finish the run. It turned out to be a silver-dollar-sized blister.

If that wasn't enough, I still have the remnants of an upper respiratory infection and my Achilles tendons are still injured from thinking the Stairmaster was a good idea last week. Needless to say, I've scheduled a needed rest day for today.

It could've been worse. As my run took longer on Saturday, I was forced to ice down the legs on the outside of the Barton Springs Pool, in the unofficial dog park. As a couple of cold fronts have come through recently there was nobody except one golden retriever catching a stick int he water. With the lack of splashing and wading, more nature ventures into the area. Make that two water snakes, at least three-feet long, one alligator-snapping turtle, two red eared turtles and 15-20 baby blue gill that swam around my ankles.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn Has Finally Arrived

A note to summer, don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. Jeeeeeeeeez, second hottest summer on record for Austin. There were 68 days over 100 degrees. The record in 1925 was 69.

And how things have changed. Particulate matter at 2.8 this morning, cool and humidity at 67%. It was the perfect way to glide into an El Nino fall. Some have predicted El Nino will bring a wet fall and winter to Central Texas.

After checking the air quality and weather readings I dressed and opened the front door in my new shoes, anticipating a wonderful run only to be greeted with the smell of skunk. I paused at the front step in the dark to try and see if it was still around but couldn't tell. It took running to the next house and the smell was gone.

The first run of fall was just as I had dreamed it would be as I ran that afternoon in July with 100-plus-degrees beating down on my forehead. I haven't worn a shirt while running in months. Today, it was just chilly enough to wear one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

UPDATE - Learning More About Feet

Well the Dr. Scholl's advice was thrown out the window. Not entirely, but the part that stated my feet were identical was false. The arches are definitely different. They looked the same on the scanner but when I looked at them side-by-side, they are different height-wise.

Last night I sat in front of the TV watching Monday Night Football with a box full of various orthotic products, a pair of scissors and a roll of green duct tape. I vowed not to get up, except for running out the door to try the latest orthotic experiment, until I had found the perfect combination of orthotic footsy mix-mash that left my dogs feeling like they were resting in pillows.

I used this same thought as I shopped for a new pair of running shoes the other night. I said I was not leaving the store until I found the pair of shoes that made my feet feel like they were resting in pillows. It took an hour and a half and I'm sure the shoe clerks were really ticked with me stacking pair after pair next to the try-on-chair but hey, it's my money and it's my feet. I tried $39.00 shoes and $139 shoes. I tried Asics, Nike and New Balance. I tried trail, rode and trainers. I tried full running and minimalist running. I ended up with a pair of New Balance 431 ($39.00), which is similar to the pair of 413 I bought nine months ago.

I'll save you a step-by-step details of my trial and error and summarize. The left foot needed a gel arch support and extra heel padding. The right foot didn't need anything except for the gel insole. On the left foot I ended up taping the arch support in place as it has a tendency to move. I then cut the left gel insole so I wouldn't double layer, tucked it inside and then placed the heel support orthotic and took them for a spin.

Felt. Like. Running. On. Pillows.

My feet look ok but they are definitely different. But hey, I'm gellin!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Learning More About Feet

There's no escaping computer technology if you're a runner. Most notable of pervasive technologies is the iPod where you'll see people listening to their favorite tunes as they run their miles at the Lady Bird Lake Trail. GPS technology, Nike chips inserted into shoes, Times watches that track distance and heart rate monitors that monitor the effort being placed on the body all help the runner perform a little better.

Dr. Scholl's has now brought computer technology for walkers and runners to the neighborhood pharmacy or grocery store with a foot-scanning kiosk. In the past, a person needed someone knowledgeable about feet or running shoes to take a look at how they walked or ran. Even with video analysis and so-called experts, the shoe recommendation was many times inaccurate.

It's very rare that a person's body is perfectly symmetrical. If one foot is a little longer than the other it can change the way a person runs, and thus cause a problem somewhere else in the body, usually the knees or the hips. As one gets older, past injuries, muscle imbalances and plain old aging of the body make selecting proper footwear more difficult.

Nike, Asics, New Balance and other show manufacturers create various types of shoes to account for differences in stride mechanics and type of running surface. You will also see various orthotics, arch supports, heel supports, etc. that'll make your feet feel good or correct foot abnormalities. But up until now it was mostly trial and error with the selection of running shoes and the additional products. For many people it wasn't until after a visit with their podiatrist that they were educated about the nature of their feet and what shoe products they should purchase.

Dr. Scholl's is placing a mobile point-of-purchase foot scanner kiosks at thousands of locations around the country. You remove your shoes and stand on the scanner and allow 2,000 pressure sensors to identify where you place the most weight. There are several scans made and you'll be required to hold the provided handles while you lift the right and left foot individually off the scanner. It also measures foot length and arch type and then recommends a custom fit orthotic. The price of the custom orthotic was $49.99, which is a little steep for my budget, but 1/10th the price of true custom orthotics which can easily cost upwards of $400.

I had always thought I had high arches. I don't recall where I received that analysis nor can I recollect an expert or shoe salesman telling me I had high arches. The Dr. Scholl's scanner indicated I had low arches with high pressure put on the heels, as well as equal pressure between the feet. Given my plantar fasciitis last year and seeing the scan of the feet, I would say this was an accurate read. I'm not sure if I'll purchase a pair of the custom orthotics but I will log the information it gave me in order to make more informed running shoe and shoe product purchases in the future.

By the way, the scanner I used was in the pharmacy section of my neighborhood HEB.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pandora Carolyn Wonderland

Just created a Pandora radio station on Carolyn Wonderland and it's the best so far. So many talents like Saving Jane, now to see live and Carolyn at Stubbs, Oct. 18.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Can Run With Head Cold

I tried to run again yesterday in the rain with a head cold and managed to get eight miles in before calling it a day. It was like I had the Lady Bird Lake trail to myself. I saw another runner every half mile or so. My sinuses cleared and I felt great. This morning I worked out with my training group doing some intervals and then added a couple recovery miles to the end and have to say, my head cold is no worse and may be improving, just as it did for Dean Karnazes when he ran his 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.

Of course, running loosens up phlegm as well. Do I run when I have a cold? Yes, I do. Okay, go ahead and scold me--shame, shame--but I think the notion that you should avoid running when you're sick (unless a high fever is present) is an old wives' tale that's been perpetuated throughout the years without much validity.--Dean Karnazes

From Runner's World Magazine
Runners don't like to skip workouts--even when they're ill. Here's how to decide when you should take a sick day from training.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Great Day to Run

Central Texas is FINALLY experiencing a low pressure updraft weather event which is sucking the pollution right out of the ground-level environment. Current particulate matter pollution is 5.7 with Ozone at a level 10. Outstanding air for those outdoors.

I had the crud the last couple of days that's going around. Yesterday, my head was so clogged but I remembered Dean Karnazes mentioned in his book that he ran a couple of his early marathons with a head cold. That was 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. I figured if he could run a marathon I could get through six miles. It was incredible how I felt during the run. It was the best I felt during the day. I was able to release the sinus pressure easily. Plus, it was raining out so it felt great and kept me cool. So what they advise that runners can still run with head colds but not chest colds has proven true in this case.

Looks Like a Day of Obstacles

I went to the neighborhood pharmacy this morning to buy a package of Ricola throat drops. I went up and down scanning the section where cough and cold remedies are kept. Nada. Not a single throat drop to be found. Remember, guys don't ask directions. They will drive or walk for hours before they'll ask, but I had to get to work so I decided to cut the chase short. After asking the clerk, he walked me over to the candy section. Yes, right next to the Life Savers candy. That's just where I would have put them too! Pure genius. I wouldn't put any next to the cough syrup either, nor any at all in the cough/cold area. Who would look there? ;)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Runner's Knees

I came across this post today with Hal Higdon as the author. I'm a fan of his and used some of his program when I trained for my first marathon. I'm curious to find out where 55 miles came from and also why Hal, who ran more than 100 miles per week many years ago has now downsized his recommended weekly mileage? It may be that at his age that's all he feels like doing or he's not training for a marathon and doesn't need the additional mileage.

Are runners' knees worse off than non-runners'?
"The stress of impact causes the joint to adapt positively, thereby improving its overall health," writes Barker. "There is, however, a threshold that if surpassed exceeds the normal wear and tear a joint can endure."

Determining a level of safe exercise, however, puzzles researchers. One study quoted by Barker suggests 55 weekly miles as the point where joint breakdown begins, but only a small percentage of runners train that much, even when getting ready for a marathon.

Hal Higdon

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More From The Age of Irony

The other day, The New York Times published an article titled, Wiggling Their Toes at the Shoe Giants. The two paragraphs from the article below really nail the controversy brewing about barefoot running and point to the irony. How ironic, the same company that created heel running, then created a shoe to get away from it, based on how elite college athletes were training.

Things changed in the early 1970s, when Bill Bowerman, a track coach turned entrepreneur, created a cushioned running shoe that allowed runners to take longer strides and land on their heels, rather than a more natural mid- or forefoot strike. Mr. Bowerman and his business partner, Phil Knight, marketed the new shoes under the Nike brand, and the rest is history.

The big shoe companies are clearly paying attention to the trend. Nike was first to market with the Nike Free, a flexible shoe for “barefootlike running” with less padding than the company’s typical offerings. It was introduced in 2005 after Nike representatives discovered that a prominent track coach to whom they supplied shoes had his team train barefoot.

My take. I have a pair of Nike Free, a pair of Vibram FiveFinger and a pair of New Balance running shoes. They each have their place in my training. I'm not about to go on my ten-mile run or longer with the Vibram or the Free. When I did try even five miles in the Free it put too much force on my Achilles tendon. I've been adding more distance with the barefoot shoes but actually like them more for my speed workouts and pool workouts. Then I use the New Balance for my long run. The best of both worlds.

The Short Bus

Hail to the busdriver, busdriver, busdriver
Hail to the busdriver, busdriver woman.
She drinks and she cusses,
And smokes on the busses,
All hail the busdriver, busdriver, busdriver
All hail the busdriver, busdriver woman.

She parks 10 feet from my swimming,
which gets my head spinning,
All hail the busdriver, busdriver woman.

She keeps the bus running,
while makeup she's applying,
All hail the busdriver, busdriver woman.

So yes, on this level orange forecasted ozone day in the age of irony, the busdriver of the short bus of the organization concerned with pollution and encouraging more people to ride the bus on days such as this, clearly had no clue how she was negatively impacting my workout and health, the environment and how it made her organization look. She definitely belongs on the short bus.

We had this news item on our site yesterday, Harm Begins With a Few Cigarettes, a Little Smog. Levels of toxins in air don't have to be high to be hazardous.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pool Running Mentioned

Wow! From horses to high school track athletes to the rest of us.
Swimming provides the ideal medium to achieve, or maintain, a high level of fitness and conditioning without the dangers and potential injury that are inherent in track and ground workouts.

Here at Meadowview, our full size 10 feet deep indoor equine swimming pool provides both rehabilitation and conditioning to our client's horses. Before entering the pool the horses are rinsed and then lead down an extended entry ramp with a gradual descent.
From Runner's World comes 27 Ways to Run Better Every Day. They actually mention pool running as a cross-training option.

8. Join the "X" revolution. Despite the many proven benefits of cross-training, we still know too many runners who only run. C'mon, folks. We love running, too. We know all about the "specificity-of-training" rule, but we still skip the occasional running workout to get in some cross-training. Mainly strength training, bicycling, elliptical training, yoga, stairclimbing, pool running, rowing, and walking. Why? Not because we think these routines will make us faster in our next half-marathon, but because they make us fitter and less prone to injury.

Polluted Days...Do it early or do it on the treadmill

from the TCEQ email...


The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has issued a Level Orange Air Pollution Watch for the Austin area for Wednesday, September 2, 2009.

Atmospheric conditions are expected to be favorable for producing high levels of ozone air pollution in the Austin area on Wednesday. Ozone levels could reach the Level Orange "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" category.Orange "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups" category.

Elevated concentrations of ozone can act as a lung irritant. Individuals with chronic lung disease, such as asthma and emphysema, as well as the elderly and young children, are particularly sensitive to ozone and should attempt to avoid exposure. To avoid exposure, minimize exertion outdoors during the mid-day to early evening hours or stay indoors in an air-conditioned room during this time.

For more information on ozone:

Air Quality Index (AQI) Report
Air Quality Warnings Status
Map of Current ozone levels
Current hourly ozone data by site
Ozone Animations
Ozone forecast information
Monitoring site locations
American Lung Association
Environmental Protection Agency, Air Now

CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas