Saturday, November 19, 2016

Day 3,611: A nice run with Mizuno's Wave Hitogami

Stopping on N. Decatur during a 5-mile run to show off these new kicks.
"You'll feel the road," the Mizuno rep warned me as I selected the Wave Hitogami as the shoe I would get for road testing a bunch of different running shoes last week at the Atlanta Track Club's office.

I did my homework and these shoes and the Wave Ekiden were my top choices of the bunch, mainly because I've shifted to low-drop, lightweight shoes since training for the Marine Corps Marathon in 2014 and haven't looked back.

The Hitogamis didn't have that low of a drop (9 mm) but I felt it was worth a try. They came in the mail yesterday and I figured I would try them out on an easy 5-mile run to Emory's campus and back.

It didn't take too long to like what I felt on my feet. The shoes were light and offered good road protection for my midfoot strike and the heel. They had adequate protection against rocks in the road (something I never liked about my Saucony Kinvara 5s) and were not too light, as I've since concluded about the Nike Free RN Distance shoes that I've been training with.

Up and down hills, along concrete and asphalt, on grass, through turns and stops, I really liked what I felt. If only the shoe company's testers had asked me about this shoe!

I'll probably wear them in a 5K next to see how they perform at faster speeds.

Time: 7:40 a.m.
Temp: 55 degrees
Gear: T-shirt, short (Adams Realtor Run 5K), shorts, Mizuno Wave Hitogami.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

I survived the 30-day Protein Challenge

I first learned about Team BEEF in 2014 before I ran in the Marine Corps Marathon. Basically they were offering free entries to the race if you donned the cherry red shirt and made yourself available for media functions in your area.

I procrastinated turning in my application and by the time I tried to join, all of the slots were full. That's why I jumped at the chance when I saw the Georgia Beef Board had opportunities to join their team at the Peachtree Road Race Expo the next summer.

Basically the way it works is you participate in a conference call that talks about the benefits of eating beef and what the board does. Then you wear the shirt at a race and submit your race registration for reimbursement. They typically reimburse $100 per person each fiscal year. This program is funded by $1 for each head of cattle sold in the state.

This year they offered a new wrinkle ... 50 of their members could have their reimbursements increased to $300 yearly if they participated in the 30 Day Protein Challenge. It started in October but I'm just now getting around to writing about it because I wanted to find out if I successfully completed the challenge first.

The main goal of the challenge is to get you to adjust your diet to where you eat 25 to 30 grams of protein for three meals a day.

It's not as difficult as it sounds, especially when you realize that endurance runners need up to 1.6 grams per kilogram of protein a day or 75 to 120 grams for 165-pound runner, according to Runner's World.

What I liked is that it got me to keep a nutrition journal, something I've never done in my 30 years of running. The first week you recorded eating what you like and then over the next few weeks you transition to eating the required protein amount for two of the three meals a day. Then there are rest days sprinkled in to help you transition.

Near the end of the month you are eating 25-30 grams of protein for all three meals. It wasn't as hard as I thought it was, although near the end of the month I grew tired of all the different things I was eating for breakfast just to make the challenge.

I found that when I ate a lot of protein for a meal, I felt fuller and snacked less than when I didn't. I also learned about the great sources of protein in non-meat foods such as wheat bread. I thought I'd have the most difficulty the day before the Chicago Marathon but luckily Oct. 8 was just a day to begin exchanging foods abundant in protein with what I would regularly eat and marathon day was a rest day on the schedule.

It definitely was an interesting way to focus on nutrition as part of my running lifestyle.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The day I put a nearly 10-year running streak on the line, part II (Chicago Marathon recap)

My right shin, on MRI, and the $1,300 question: Can I run 26.2 miles on it?
To a certain extent, a man must merely believe in his luck.
    -Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

If you ever have a running injury, the one thing you should never do is look for advice on running forums.

"You should NEVER run with a stress fracture," a poster wrote in reply to someone who once asked the very question I was asking at the moment -- could I run the Chicago Marathon injured?

I'd told the sports medicine doctor that I didn't need to do the race but then as the days approached I kept coming back to doing the race. There were two things that made me wonder if it was at all possible.

The first was the radiologist's report. "Cortical thickening of the medial tibial diaphysis with adjacent periosseous edema, worrisome for stress reaction," it concluded.

Without knowing for sure, this sounded a little bit different from what I was told over the phone. (Of course, if you check around, there is some thought that there is no difference between a stress reaction and a stress fracture).

The second happened on Oct. 5, just four days before the marathon. My right foot finally gained meaningful turnover on a short run of 2.13 miles.

Two days later, we boarded a plane and flew to Chicago. On the flight, I thought about what I knew. Having missed roughly four weeks of long runs and workouts, my goal was to merely finish. At my best pace at the time, 11 minute miles translates into roughly a 4:44 marathon.

But this would be a big if. I decided to bring money and a credit card with me if I had to drop out. I'd brought the book "Meb for Mortals" with me and it was heartening to hear elite marathon runner Meb Keflezighi mention the times he'd dropped out of races because of injuries. People get injured and there would be no shame for trying and not being able to complete the course.

"This is the most relaxed you've been for a race," the wife told me as we ate Corner Bakery takeout in our upgraded room at the Palmer House Hilton the night before the race. I was relaxed, since I really didn't have anything to lose. I would try to run it and if I needed to slow down I would just do that.

The night before, I gathered up my marathon kit. I decided to wear the red shirt from the 10-10-10 Chicago Marathon, the day I came really close to breaking four hours on an Indian summer day but just could not do it. My side pouch held seven GU Tri-Berry gels, the flavor I've trained and raced with for 16 years.

It also held four small red and black plastic bottles designed to look suspiciously like shotgun shells. These were an untested technology for me (because they are expensive) and my ace in the hole if I managed to run the whole race.

I also threw in two boxes of yogurt raisins that I picked up from the CVS across from the Corner Bakery the night before the race.

In the morning, I made my way over to the Buckingham Fountain staging area and got myself ready for the race. I still was pretty relaxed but wanted to make sure I got to the first wave corrals on time (in 2010, they closed the corrals about 10 minutes before the race, causing people to argue with the volunteers who closed the gate. People were crying, literally, and others jumped the fence in defiance of the volunteers).

I put myself in the back of Corral D, which was the second to the last corral in the first wave. Ahead of me I could see pacer signs for 3:45 and 3:40.

An opera singer sang the National Anthem and while it was beautiful, it felt ghastly as the sound echoed off the downtown skyscrapers. Three geese flew in formation over the corral, just like two tilt-rotor Osprey did when I ran in the Marine Corps Marathon in 2014. And just like that, a few minutes later the race began.

I'd consumed my first GU gel and planned to eat the others at every other water station, which was about every 4 miles or so. I also planned to drink water/Gatorade at each station, having brought one of my special "race straws" for that purpose.

Basically, you take a straw from a fast food restaurant or eatery and cut it about five inches tall, just tall enough to stick out of a Dixie cup. That way you can quickly drink out of the cup without any of it splashing all over you. (I would intentionally drain a cup at aid stations on this race and flick up the straw with my mouth, letting the empty cup drop).

It was cool but by the first mile I'd taken off my Mizuno arm sleeves and tied them carefully in knots around the band of my waist pack. (Later in the race, when I really needed to, I called each knot by my children's names to cheer me on).

The first 5K really told the story of the day. Although I'd had a plan of what I should run, the skyscrapers wreaked havoc with my Garmin GPS signal and it was really not reliable at all for most of the race.

I'd planned to run carefully and planned to bail at the first instance of pain or distress. But nothing happened. I cruised through that first split in 26 minutes, at a pace I knew I was capable. I was running at 8:22/mile when for four weeks I couldn't muster anything better than 11 minutes.

Because my watch was acting funny, I tried to make sure I just ran evenly, even though the pack often left me behind. I crossed 10K at 51:30, for 8:13/mile, and then passed the 15K mark at 1:16:49, having sped up to 8:09/mile.

But I had no way of knowing this. My watch was constantly saying I was running 12 minute miles one second and then 7:30s another. So I tried to run by feel.

My goal at this point was to make sure I would pass the half marathon mark solidly. In 2010, this was the point where I felt myself slowing down past 4 hour pace.

20K came and I ran it in 1:42:41, setting a PR for me this day. (My half marathon PR is 1:42:40, but since there are so few timed splits for the 20K distance, this is why the shorter distance PR is nearly the same).

When the half marathon mark came at 1:48:25, I felt pretty good. I was running alongside some older guy with a shirt that identified him as "Fabio" and the crowd, every few minutes, would shout "Fabio!" Even though that wasn't me, it felt pretty good to run with him.

Even the 1:48 felt good, since I ran that split on Sept. 3 when I ran a simulated 30K at a PR pace of 2:34.

At this point they'd passed out some kind of Power Bar gel. I ate it and it was watery and really not what I was expecting. A mile or so later I tried to eat one of my boxes of yogurt raisins and it was hard to eat on the run without a lot of water.

Right at Mile 16 I felt my calves, both of them, start to really tighten up so I unleashed the first of my four "secret weapons."

These bottles are called "Hotshot," and they claim to be scientifically created to eliminate muscle cramps. I popped one of the bottles open and downed it. The cinnamon flavor burned my throat. (I'll review these things in another post).

I've never run a marathon without having calf cramps and in 2010 they were so severe that I had to stop just to stop them from hurting.

Shortly after I started to get tinges in my calf muscles. But they were not severe, although they heralded something else. My glycogen was gone and I was going to have a slow 10-mile run coming up. My 25K split was 2:09:22, for an 8:39/mile pace, signalling that I was slowing.

I kind of laughed when the calf tinges hit. This is what I wanted, right? So preoccupied with the thought that I'd developed a running injury so severe that I wouldn't get to do what I normally do and this was it -- run without abandon until the tank was empty.

So here it was. Have at it.

I started to have cramps at Mile 18 and downed my second HOTSHOT canister. I was down to two of these and really started to worry about what would happen if I ran out of these.  I stopped taking GU gels since they really would not be helping me at this point.

At 30K, I set another PR at 2:37:37, for a 9:06 pace. Things were getting pretty brutal. The day before I recalled how in 2010 I hobbled through the Chinatown gate after Mile 20 and really it now was going to be the same. But this time I had something that kept me from having to stop because of cramps.

Only now I had one more, destined to be used at Mile 22. (I lamented not bringing the entire six pack with me but I didn't think I'd use even one).

As we entered the southside and I'd passed 35K at 3:10:49 (10:42/mile pace), I'd calculated in my mind that I probably would finish in 4:02 or more. The slide was brutal and I reached 40K at 3:46:54, running at 11:37/mile. It was hard to run at this stretch, running so slow on the right side of the road but still being bumped by lots of runners (who probably also lost the ability to steer themselves through the crowd).

The sun was out and it felt brutally hot to be shuffling along. The 3:40 pace group passed me, and then the 3:45 pace group. Then the 3:50 pace group and the 3:55 pace group.

There was only a mile or so to go but something funny happened. At Mile 25, you could see the entire crowd of runners start to speed up. I did, too, and consumed my last HOTSHOT that I'd been saving since Mile 20, ignoring several calf cramps before this, for this situation.

I was surprised that my pace was starting to inch below 10-minute-miles. I knew that at this point it would be extremely close to breaking four hours. I'd somehow still remained ahead of the 4:00 pace group.

I crossed the short overpass that runners here call "Mount Roosevelt" because it is such an awful thing to have to climb up at the end of the race.

On the downhill to the finish, I caught a glimpse of a female runner wearing green slicing across the crowd. She was the only person in the crowd kicking to the finish.

At this point, I told myself that I bet her $100 that she couldn't outkick me and I started to follow her through the crowd, every other stride being shocked into place by my seizing right calf.

She crossed before me (never cashing in on the imaginary bet) but I finished in 3:59:30 (9:15/mile pace for the last split). I yelled out as I finished. It was not a PR but this was an outcome I could not have imagined. I'd missed so much training, wasn't confident that my leg would hold up, ran too fast and bonked 10 miles out and still broke four hours.

It was one of the most tactically gratifying races I've ever run in 30 years of racing -- come up with a plan in the last 5K of the race to run under 10-minute miles when I was only capable of running closer to 12-minute miles. Willing to put my nearly 10-year running streak on the line, I went home knowing I earned something on this day.

I am kind of back to square one. It reminds me of my early days running half marathons, in which sometimes I'd bonk and my calves would cramp up. It would be wonderful to run a complete race someday and with this there's so much I can work on.

When I got back home, I cancelled my follow-up with the sports medicine doctor. Several times I was tempted to type in the patient portal "3:59:30" but I let it go.

Time: 7:41 a.m.
Temp: 55 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Chicago Marathon '10), Mizuno arm sleeves, shorts, Brooks Pure Connect 3.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Day 3,602: Being a Mizuno shoe tester

Testing 11 pairs of shoes by running .2 mile with each of them turns into quite a workout.
 Today was my day to visit the Atlanta Track Club and provide feedback to Mizuno Running on different shoes. I'd thought they would all be Mizuno shoes but this was not the case. They were all different (major) brands, including a pair that I already own.

You basically run in them outside on the road (I ran each for .2 miles) and then come in and fill out a form that compares them to shoes you already own.

I tended to like pretty much all of the Brooks shoes I tried, although their max cushioned Beast was a little much. The Ghost and the Adrenaline really fit like my now-discontinued Brooks Pure Connects that I race in.

I also liked the Nike Lunar Glide and the fact that I tried it right after the Nike Free RN Distance (which I currently own) made me think that the latter shoe is too light of a shoe for me. I even felt speedy in the Nike Structure, even though I've always felt my feet are neutral enough to not need any stability.

The Adidas Ultra Boost was the most different shoe I've worn. It has a bootie that you have to stick your foot into and once you do, it is very cushioned on the heel, almost like you are wearing high heels. I wondered if this is some kind of trainer for a midfoot strike.

The Saucony Ride felt fast but I also noticed that my right heel tended to hurt in it just like when I run in my Zealot ISO 2s. I wonder if that has something to do with the fit with their new EVERUN cushioning materials.

I felt like the Asics Gel Kayano was the cheapest shoe that I tested in terms of materials. It felt like a very basic trainer. The only Mizuno shoe I tried, the popular Wave Rider, also felt like it was about a generation behind what Brooks and Saucony are using in their shoes.

In the end, you get to select any Mizuno shoe and they will send it to you. They don't currently carry any low drop shoes (maybe that's why they had us test low-drop shoes on the market like the Nike Free RN Distance) so I picked a pair of Mizuno Hitogamis (9 mm drop).

I ran most of these shoes at a good clip and it was one of the first times that I've run at a faster pace since my shin injury.

Time: 10 a.m.
Temp: 55 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long (Eastside Beltline 10K), shorts.
Asics Gel Nimbus

Mizuno Wave Rider

Brooks Adrenaline

Saucony Ride

Nike Free RN Distance

Nike Structure
Brooks Ghost

Brooks Beast
Adidas Ultra Boost

Asics Gel Kayano

Nike Lunar Glide, the only shoe I'll likely buy after testing.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Day 3,600: "Electing" to be out on the Silver Comet

DALLAS, Ga. -- I'd voted early about a week ago so when preschool was closed for Election Day, it was time to hit the trail.

It was the perfect way to do a 6-mile run in a double stroller. This part of the Silver Comet Trail is far enough away (we hit mile markers 28-30) that leaves covered several parts of the concrete path. It is both beautiful and remote -- the scenery reminds me of the hours and days that I've spent playing games like Fallout and Skyrim.

Unlike when we visited the well-patrolled section of the trail near Hiram almost three weeks ago, this section is unsupervised. However, during the two hours we were here, we saw 14 cyclists, seven each coming and going.

It was an extremely nice way to spend part of the day.

Time: 10:38 a.m.
Temp: 57 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, long (Intown Ten), shorts, Saucony Zealot ISO 2.