Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Let's Talk About Form

I suffer from poor running form.

There's no sense in beating around the bush, let's just call it what it is:  A shuffle.  My usual running stride is a hip swivel from foot to foot, barely bending the knees.  It's downright ugly.  I've taken an interest lately in improving my form, to prevent injuries and get faster for "free".  I suspect the pelvic stress fracture I suffered several years ago was due to poor form while I was in the middle of a rather tough (for me) training cycle.

There are lots of benefits to improving form, including: fewer injuries, better running economy, improved speed, and you look downright sexy.

But don't take my word for it, here's a few words from Sage Canaday:

It should not come as a surprise to anybody, least of all me, that Sage Canaday's advice is spot on.  But it still came as a shock to me that once I began to do form drills and concentrating on maintaining good form on some of my runs, that running became nearly effortless.

For instance, on a recent training run, I ran the first 4 miles at my natural "easy" pace without thinking about how I was moving.  The next 4 miles, I concentrated on bending my knees and keeping light on my feet.  The result was astounding.  With only a slight increase in heart rate (2 bpm, which is negligible) I sped up by 30 seconds per mile!  One thing to keep in mind though, is that running with proper form uses different muscles than I'm used to, so I probably wouldn't be able to keep it up for anything longer than a 10k.  But it's definitely a start.  It's a little bit like starting from zero again, except that the gains will come really quick; the cardio is still there, it's just the muscles are being used in an unfamiliar way.

Your results will definitely vary, as no two people have the same (bad) stride.  In fact, I believe that my improvement just goes to show how much form matters, and it's something that nobody should ignore.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

2017 Kettle Moraine preview

Anybody following my blog for a while will noticed that I go to Kettle Moraine a lot.  That's because it's a great race with relatively few hills with lots of support.  I need the low elevation change because I live in Winnipeg, one of the flattest cities in the world.  The biggest hill here is an old garbage dump, and about 40 feet high.  The fact that Kettle is a Western States qualifier helps too.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm going back to Kettle this year.  Last year was a trainwreck for me.  A back injury a few weeks before the race derailed my Gnarly Bandit attempt, despite having more than enough fitness to get through the race (the jury is out if I would have been able to finish Black Hills).  The year before, I pulled off the race of my life and finished my first 100 miler.  I want to repeat that effort.

The year I finished, I started off very conservatively and slowly picked off other racers.  I want to repeat that performance.  If I can get to the Scuppernong (50k) Turnaround in 6:30, and get back to the Nordic Center (100k) before the sun goes down, approximately 14:30, then I should be in a great place to walk the rest of it in if shit hits the fan.  But I don't plan on doing that.  I want to go sub-24 hours.

I know the course.  I know which sections of trail to walk, and which sections to run.  I have my drop bags dialed.  There is no reason not to crush my personal-best 100 mile time.

If anybody else reading this is running Kettle Moraine this year, I can share the spreadsheets I use to prepare for the race.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Do I, or Don't I?

I glanced through my training log/plan the other day, and noticed that I have a training peak in late May with no race scheduled.  It's just a periodization peak that serves no purpose other than to drop my mileage soon after and give my body a bit of a break.  I figure it's a shame to waste that fitness and not race.

Unfortunately, there are no local races around the 28th of May.  There is, however, a race in Wisconsin on June 3 that I'm already familiar and in love with:  Kettle Moraine.  I'd have to cram the logistics in, and make sure I have the vacation time available from work if I did pull the trigger and run it.  It's a real long drive to the race.  About 12 hours.  So I'd have to take a day off on the 2nd and 5th just for driving.  And then there's the money.

There's also the added complication of Western States 100, a mere 3 weeks later.  I committed to crewing/pacing a friend running it for her first time.  If I don't end up pacing her because my legs are still shot, that's not the end of the world as there are other people making the road trip that could step up; I'll still go and crew.  But it's Western Freaking States...  If you have the chance to pace somebody, you take it!  I really don't want to jeopardize my chances to run some of the race, even if it is only as a pacer.

So here I am, sitting on the fence with a "do I, or don't I?"

Monday, March 20, 2017

2017 END-SURE 25k

What can I say about END-SURE?  I love this race.  I keep coming back.  Out of the 5 years it's been put on, I've shown up 4 times.  Once again, Tim the race director blew it out of the park.  It is a low-key event with a campfire at the finish line.  What more does one need?

The buckshot really adds to the ambience

My previous three finishes were all done at the 50k distance (with varying degrees of effort put in).  This year I was changing things up a bit.  Because I had an extended period of zero running due to a dislocated shoulder, I figured my endurance wasn't quite up to snuff.  On the other hand, I had been doing a fair amount of speedwork and figured the 25k should be doable.

I arrived at the start line a few hours early, in time to watch the 50k runners start from the west trailhead.
Three seconds to go!

The frontrunners.

Back of the pack.  My peeps.

I had a few hours before the 25k race started, so I hauled out my zero-gravity chair, cracked a beer, and worked on my tan in the sunny 2C weather.  Most people thought I was nuts, but there was one like-minded van nearby who shared my opinions on the proper way to stretch a cold muscle.  As I was gearing up, I realized that I had left my short-sleeved shirt at the hotel room.  So I'd just have to wear my long-sleeved tech shirt and hope I wouldn't get too cold.

Eventually the starting time came and we all lined up.  I'd never paced myself for a 25k race before, so I figured it was like a half marathon with just a bit more of a "I feel like hurling" feeling at the end.  So naturally, I took off like a rocket.  It didn't take long before I slowed the pace down to something more reasonable.

The course for the 25k this year was a modified out-and-back.  We started off doing a roughly 4-mile loop on the Oak Leaf trail, before returning to the start area and joining the North Country Trail on a 5.5-mile out-and-back.  The return to the start area meant I would have a place to dump my gear after I had warmed up.  It also meant I could get away with only carrying a single water bottle, as I could just switch out as I cruised through.

My plan mostly worked.  As I neared the start area, I dumped what remained of my water bottle over my head, and stripped off my gloves and buff.  "Wait a minute, where did my buff go?"  Uh oh, I lost my buff.  I wasn't prepared to turn around and look for a $10 piece of clothing.  I hoped that somebody would pick it up and return it to the starting line, but nobody did.  It will have to be my sacrifice to the trail gods.  35:08 for the first 4 miles, not shabby.

An open section of the NCT

We then started to run on the NCT on the out-and-back.  This was the section of trail that we had in common with the 50k.  On our way out, the 50k runners would be running toward us.  Due to the way the 50k course ran this year, there was a figure-8 added just before the 25k turn-around.  So when I came across a 50k runner I might have been seeing them on their first time through or their second time through.  When I was about a mile away from the turn-around point, I came across Mallory and Todd on their second time through the figure-8.  They were absolutely crushing the course.  A short while later, I came across Brad on his first time through the figure-8.  Also quite respectable.

At the turn-around, I dumped what remained of my water bottle over my head and refilled as quickly as I could.  Then I was off.  I figured I would take the "out" section a bit easier, and push hard on the "in" section.  It took me 54:08 to do the "out", so my goal was to get under that on the way back.  Up to that point, I hadn't walked a single step.  Not even on the (occasional) steep hill.  I wasn't prepared to start walking any hills, either.  Especially not if I wanted to beat my 54:08 on the way out.

Only one runner (and her dog) passed me on the way back, and I managed to pass a few runners who were fading hard.  My familiarity with the trail served me well, and I pretty much nailed which hill was the last one.  When I could see the road, I turned on the jets and cruised through the finish line in an unofficial time of 2:23:09.  I accomplished my goal on the "in" section, and ran it in 53:52.

Finish line!

Post-finish selfie
The rest of the day was spent lounging around drinking beer and chatting with the other runners.  Like I said earlier, really great low-key event.

Todd playing Candy Crush

Monday, March 13, 2017

Falcon Fatass part II

I'm putting on the Falcon Fatass again this year.  It was a smashing success last year (if I do say so myself), and have had some requests that I organize it again this year.

Keep August 12 open in your calendar if you want to hang out in the woods with a bunch of sweaty people.

The "official" web site is where I'll be adding links to the registration page in the coming weeks.  The route this year will mostly be the same, but with a few changes to reflect the ongoing evolution of the trail system at Falcon Ridge.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Blue Car

The Blue Car was a Dodge Omni 024 (  It was also the first family car I can remember having.  My sister and I loved that car.  We went everywhere in that car.  I can still remember how it feels to lean my head against the hard plastic and try to fall asleep in the back seat.  I also remember the thrill I got when I discovered what the "magic button" did (it was the release for the folding rear seats).

My nostalgia for that car is in spite of all of its mechanical problems.  Being a youngster just barely of school age, I didn't care for things like that.  All I knew was that it was our car.  It was perfectly normal to me to have to use blankets in the back seat to stay warm in the winter.

Until my dying day, I will remember family car rides where we drove downtown to see the Christmas lights the city strung up across Main St. and Portage Ave.  We would pass the ice scraper around to get rid of the frost our breath made on the windows.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Looking forward to 2017 END-SURE 25k

Just under two weeks left until my race "season" kicks off.  I'm putting that in quotation marks since this year I have far fewer goals than I did last year.

After last year's disaster that was my Gnarly Bandit attempt, I decided to ease back on the throttle.  This year I'd be going for quality rather than quantity.  At least, that's what the plan was.  After my grandfather passing away over Christmas, followed by a dislocated shoulder (along with a sprained wrist to add insult to injury), I wasn't in training mode.  As such, I'm heading into END-SURE severely under-trained.  Fortunately, it's a grassroots style race, and they gladly moved me from the 50k to the 25k.  So at the very least, I'll get a 25k race PB!

On the other hand, my fitness is coming back pretty quickly.  I've changed things up a bit, by cutting out the snacks.  Weight control is one of the easiest ways for me to get faster: I just have to not do something.  I've also introduced more quality runs into my schedule: Tuesday is tire drag day, and Thursday is intervals day.  I haven't had a long run past 11 miles since last year, so I know I've got a lot of room for improvement.  But things are looking up and I'm encouraged.  Just as long as I can keep a 10:30 pace at END-SURE, I'll be happy.