Marathon panic

Maybe panic is too strong a word. I’ve been seriously doubting my ability to complete the distance (well, okay, not “complete” exactly, but complete it in what is, in my mind, an acceptable time, and preferably still being able to move my legs at the end).

Last night I was at our club speed workout (fantastic club that is RVRR) and I happened to be talking to someone about my concerns. He helped me think more positively about my ability. I’m pretty fit right now (I surprised myself this week with how fast I have run the last couple of days – particularly on the track last night).

Several things he talked about intrigued me. He told me about one of his best marathon performances and how he had run the first 16 miles or so fast and then his pace dropped for the next 10 miles – he fully believes that he would not have done better if he had started slower; his theory being that he was running at his most efficient pace for those first 16 miles and doing anything other than that quite possibly would have still resulted in a similar or worse slow down towards the end. Overall he came out with one of his best times for the marathon even with some walk breaks in the last few miles.

He encouraged me to try a 15 mile run at “my most efficient pace” – I’ve got to work that out but I suspect, based on my performance at the speed workout and my running history, would probably be around 7:30 to 8:00 per mile (I’m wondering if I’m being a little conservative considering my half marathons are typically in the 7:10 range).

Maybe there is something to this theory. This past weekend I struggled through 18 miles at slower than 9 minute miles – after 13 miles I didn’t think I would make it. I’ve done longer runs this year (okay, not for a couple of months) at paces closer to 8 or 8:30 per mile and not had the same problems.

This idea does seem to fit in with some of the theories out there (and yes, I am aware that what works for one person may not work for another) – this one for example – where the idea is to run “shorter” but more intense runs.

It seems that this might be worth a try coming off a hard run this past weekend. What if I can manage a 15 mile fast run this weekend and feel better than I did this past weekend? Perhaps that is what might work for me.

Have you tried a non-conventional marathon plan? Perhaps you’ve combined the two theories with several long-ish fast runs combined with one or two longer, slower runs?

Skora running shoe review (Base and Form)

Technically speaking this is only really a review of the Skora Running Base shoe – I do own the Form, and love that shoe, but I only wore them for one run before I decided that as my Vivobarefoot Evo II shoes I had been wearing as a casual shoe now had a hole in them, these would be my new casual shoe.

The Skora Form is fairly narrow when compared to other minimalist/barefoot style shoes so I think I have made the best use of them. They are also expensive but seem like they could last a while (I found a pair on a deal site – not sure I could bring myself to spend the full asking price on them). These are extremely comfortable shoes (I wear them without socks), probably the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned. I’ve had them since March so if they look a little worn that’s because I wear them all the time.

Skora Form

Skora Form

Skora Form

Skora Form

On to the Skora Base. I had no intention of buying these but I had read a review that indicated these had a wider toe box and were better for running than the Form. These come up on a deal site too, and because of my shoe shopping problem, I bought them.

Skora Base

Skora Base

Skora Base

Skora Base

Initially I went out on a couple of runs with the insoles still in place which puts you 13mm from the ground, and the shoes were noticeably heavier than my other shoes (I guess almost an ounce difference in weight can be noticeable when you’re down as low as these shoes go). Something just wasn’t right, mainly on my left foot. Someone actually commented that they look like they are quite narrow and maybe that was it. I don’t know why my left foot was particularly affected, but it really felt like my little toe was being pushed against the side of the shoe. The day after my second run – I ran about 7 miles that day – I noticed a small blister between my toes on my right foot (on my little toe). I didn’t notice any issues on that foot while running, and I can’t say for sure that’s what caused it, but it seems too much of a coincidence to ignore.

After that experience I took out the insole to give them another try (I really wanted to like them). This drops them down to 9mm which makes them more in line with the Merrell Trail Glove 2. Removing the insole certainly made them feel more comfortable to me and I didn’t seem to notice the push of my little toe against the side anywhere near as much (but more of this to follow, because although it didn’t seem as much, it still seems to be an issue). I decided to keep the first run in them short in case problems arose so at about 3 miles I took them off and ran the rest of the way home barefoot.

At this point I was quite excited – the comfort and feel over that distance was similar to the Trail Glove 2. The next day I wore them a bit longer – covering 5 miles in total including hill repeats. Still good.

I wanted to see how well they would do on a long run, so the next day I put them on with a plan to cover around 10 miles. Things went well and I was fairly happy with them – I did notice a very slight push of my little toe on my left foot against the side but it didn’t seem to be causing any problems at all and I ended up running just over 11 miles at about 8:15/mile pace. At this point I was starting to think this was great – I’d found another shoe I liked as much as the Trail Glove and it could end up being the shoe I use for the Philadelphia Marathon. I feel like there is a bit more protection on the bottom of these shoes than on the Trail Glove so thought it actually may be the better option for longer distances (although not necessarily a better option for that barefoot feel – despite the manufacturer’s specifications indicating they have very similar stack heights the Merrell’s certainly feel more like a barefoot shoe somehow).

After the 11 miles on Wednesday I took a day off and got up early to go for a 6 mile run. However, something didn’t feel right at all. A mile into the run I stopped to see if the shoe just needed adjusting – something was making my left foot really hurt. I decided to turn around but at that time bumped into a friend and decided to try to run a little more while chatting. It didn’t work, the pain was getting worse and I had to head home. Out of desperation I decided to take off the shoes and run home barefoot. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew I was having problems in the shoes so thought it was worth a try. Within a short while the pain was gone and I easily ran the remaining 1.5 miles home completely barefoot with no issues at all.

Now I’m not sure what to do – I really wanted to like these shoes, but I can’t help but think they were causing damage to my feet. Perhaps there’s something unique about my running form that just doesn’t fit with this design. Maybe after the Philadelphia Marathon I can try them again. Right now I can’t take the chance of injuring myself.

Skora Running do now make two other shoes for men – the Phase and the Core but based on my experience with the Base I can’t really justify trying them.


Yoga/Pilates for runners (or: why I will try not to miss Bodyflow again).

In the quest to increase running miles it can be difficult to fit in all the things you would like to do. This has been particularly true for me lately. With vacation, events, summer parties etc. I have been fairly good at making sure I continue to run but what I didn’t realize until this weekend is that it’s not just about the running.

When I started to increase my mileage this year it just so happened that a new gym opened up very close to home. I started regularly attending two classes – Bodyflow and Bodypump.

Since the end of June these classes slipped off my schedule somewhat (in the case of Bodypump it disappeared completely), but in that time I have had more and more problems with tight calf muscles which culminated in some issues following the River to Sea Relay (the next day I had planned to go to the Bodyflow class, but my muscles were so tight I was having trouble walking without feeling it, so decided against trying to do a class).

This weekend I was back on schedule and made it to both the Saturday morning and the Sunday morning classes. Early on Saturday I went out for my long run of the week hoping to get 16 miles in, but, as my calf muscles were still giving me some trouble, I ended up cutting it a bit short (okay, I still managed 14 but my calf muscles were not happy). I didn’t think I was going to be able to do much during the Bodyflow class so I set myself up at the back of the room (I didn’t think I would leave, but I did think I’d be sitting out a lot).

What actually happened surprised me – while I did struggle at times I did actually manage to keep it going for the whole class, with the added bonus that I felt great at the end. I noticed further improvements in how my legs felt after the Sunday class.

I’ll have to see how things go on tonight’s run but I’m pretty confident that I will feel better than I have in at least a couple of weeks as I don’t feel any residual tightness.

Bodyflow is a mixture of yoga, Pilates, and T’ai Chi. The benefits to runners include improvements in balance which leads to better running form; increased flexibility and strength which can reduce your risk of injury; the workout also strengthens your core which also helps to improve balance. There are some more details about the benefits of Pilates for runners here, and the benefits of yoga here.

It may be that you don’t have access to classes such as this, but a DVD/download called “Pilates for runners” was recommended to me, and I think I am going to invest in this for the times I can’t get to the gym.

I also mentioned Bodypump above and I intend to get back on track with those classes too, sooner rather than later. I believe these have also helped me this year with core strength, and upper body strength. The class is not about bulking up (you must pick weights you can handle for 5 minutes of repititions) and upper body strength is also something worthwhile improving for running efficiency  – see for example this article on how improved upper body strength can benefit runners.

Marathon without a plan

This summer hasn’t been kind to me in running terms. Earlier in the year I was able to hit my target of over 30 miles per week but a mix of life and races has meant that for the last couple of months my average has been only around 20 miles per week. That’s not enough with the Philadelphia Marathon coming up.

As I belong to a running club you often hear people talking about the training plan they are following or recommending plans that worked for them. I decided not to listen. Well, sort of.

It seemed obvious that my first step in getting to a marathon was to build up the distances on my longest run. I have worked on that for most of this year (although it’s been over 2 months since I did a run in the 20 mile range). This year I have managed 3 or 4 runs that were over 20 miles in length, including a longest run of 24 miles (and then I had to walk home 1 mile – I physically couldn’t run any further at that point. It was snowing and I wasn’t happy and I was freezing by the time I got home – in fact I wrote about it here). Now I feel I have some work to do to build up again, but at least I am already used to doing regular 13 to 16 mile long runs, and it’s comforting to know that I have done those longer distances a few times already this year.

My plan now is to build up my weekly mileage again – that’s it. I’ll be happy if I’m doing 35 to 40 miles per week (any more and I’ll barely see the kids so that’s probably my limit). I will continue to join the regular club speed workouts when I can (they happen every week but I can’t always get there), and I will vary speed, distance etc. on my other runs depending on how I feel at the time rather than having prescribed types of run. So, I should get a variety of runs in and I will try to run 5 times a week (although I know it will drop to 4 sometimes) and I will vary distances etc. week by week so I’m not always doing the same thing. Once my weekly mileage is up again consistently, I will try another 20+ mile run and depending on when I get to that point I will try to do a couple more before the big day.

Apparently there’s this thing called tapering. All I know about that is it’s all about easing off the miles etc. before the race. I know I’ll need to research when I should be starting to taper and that’s the part I will make sure I do correctly.

Apparently most training plans are, at least loosely, based on Lydiard’s method (there’s a lot out there if you search for it). This plan takes a phased approach with base aerobic conditioning, then hill/speed work, an anaerobic phase, sharpening, before tapering. I figure the first half of this year for me was the base phase and since then I’ve done more hill and speed work, so it seems like I am maybe on target with very roughly following this routine without even knowing it (I only started reading up on it today and still know very little about it really).

The way I see it, I doubt there are many amateur runners who have managed to stick 100% to any plan they’ve tried to follow. You have to adapt to how you feel, as well as for what you have time for. Could I perhaps run the marathon faster if I tried to follow a plan? Maybe, but my only goal for my first marathon is to get through it so if I can get my mileage and long runs right that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

 

What plans have you used? What has worked for you? How many miles per week do you think you need to run to give you the necessary training level for a marathon?

Sport Kilt Review (and more notes on running skirts for men)

Let me start by saying that I did not get a Sport Kilt (from http://sportkilt.com/) for running and I have not tried running in it. It doesn’t strike me as something I would necessarily want to run in as it is fairly heavy. Comfort-wise, ignoring the weight, I am sure it would be reasonable for running but I would also worry that the length and motion of running could cause some annoyance with the kilt hitting the back of my knees.

This past weekend, as outlined in my last blog post, I ran as part of a team in the River to Sea Relay. I had received my Sport Kilt the week before and this was to be my first outing in it.

I had decided it would be perfect for the day, despite the fact it wasn’t going to be as hot as it could have been. One of the major benefits was going to be that it could act as a cover to change my running clothes under between legs (and it was ideal for that).

The Sport Kilt wraps around your waist and fastens with velcro. From their website: We use a special 8oz yarn-dyed poly/viscose material that is machine washable, holds a pleat well, has a nice swing and drape, is non-itchy and great for sports in all of our tartan/plaid kilts.

I can confirm that it does hold the pleats well (I got the optional “sew-down” pleats which help them hold better, and I also agree that it is not at all itchy and generally feels great.

sportkilt

 

It was so great I just ordered another one. My plan is to wear these on hot days instead of shorts. Perfect.

As I said before though, I can’t see me running in them, but I should never say never. It may be ideal for cooler weather and less competitive runs so perhaps I will give it a try sometime. I would imagine in the heat with the addition of sweat (I sweat a lot), the already (comparatively) heavy material would just become burdensome.

I did meet someone at a race recently who was wearing a Sport Kilt and he seemed to enjoy running in it, so  it clearly works for some.

During the relay I spoke to some guys on another team who wondered if I was running in the kilt. I told them that no, I wasn’t, but I would be running in a women’s running skirt. They were intrigued so I talked to them about my reasoning. They seemed genuinely interested and seemed to suggest they might give it a try (perhaps for next year’s River to Sea, so not necessarily as a general piece of running clothing). They saw me again at the start of my first leg and asked to take a picture with me – I had no problem with that – they commented that it was shorter than they thought it would be.

As I now own a couple of running skirts from http://runningskirts.com/ I had started to wonder about cutting out the underwear portion to substitute with my own. While they were reasonably okay I thought they were a little tight in places. So, I took one and cut out the briefs. After the first run in these combined with a pair of Icebreaker Anatomica briefs I decided to do the same with all pairs (I have since discovered that runningskirts.com has some with nothing underneath – they call them triathlon skirts – I got the others on sale so I don’t feel too bad that I ended up cutting them up like this instead of buying the ones with nothing under). I think this will make the skirts much more flexible, allowing me to choose what is suitable underneath depending on a variety of factors – perhaps there will be a time I may choose to wear compression shorts underneath.

 

Early on in "The Beast" (before the hills) - this little guy followed us around a bit; he was a good pacer.

Early on in “The Beast” (before the hills) – this little guy followed us around a bit; he was a good pacer.

Please note that I purchased the Sport Kilt myself and have received nothing at all from sportkilt.com or any other party for writing this review. Similarly I have no association with runningskirts.com

As of August 16th I have decided to continue my thoughts on running in a skirt to a blog specific to that topic. The new blog can be found here (skirtedrunningman).