Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cureton MUGGED at RUR Party (Just Days Before His B-Day)

Rise Up Coffee's Cuban dictator Tim Cureton was officially "mugged" with a Rise Up Runner mug at the ceremonial festivities of the RUR end of the year house party.

2008 marked the formation of the Rise Up Runners. It also marked the gauntlet being thrown down for the Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge. Put those two condiments together and you wind up with a sandwich of a party for the end of the year RUR bash, held on December 6.

Most everyone took the night off from running (except two, who we'll get to later) and turned out to do some combination of drink, eat, hang out, and be recognized for a very few of their accomplishments for the year. We'll devote a post a little later to the final findings of the Tuckahoe 10, but all runners in attendance had successfully completed the challenge. Those in the house, taking home their commemorative T10 keepsake included: Stephen Bardsley, Katherine Binder, Lori Callahan, Landy Cook, Derek Hills, Mike Keene, Joel Shilliday, Dominic Szwaja, and James Woodring.

If you'd like to see the full gambit of photos taken by eminent photographer DDP JShill, have a look-see by clicking here. In the meantime, we'll point out just a couple...

Marathon Mama Lori C. took home the "Best Mud/Blood" Award of the Tuckahoe 10 Challenge, for her almost legendary spill into the "water hazard" early on the Creekside Cliff Trail.

Ultra Slug Grand Poo-Bah Derek Hills was the proud recipient of the "King Cobra" Award for longest distance run and longest distance raced for his Mountain Masochist 50 mile finish. This award is a 22 oz. King Cobra because you have to have something going through your veins to attempt a run like that ;) Strangely, the award somehow disappeared before the end of the evening...

And Dominic took home the soon-to-be coveted RUR "Most Outstanding" runner of the year award, by virtue of his coming out to run as a casual runner, declaring his intent to run a marathon, and throwing down a sub 3:30 time in his debut race.

As you'll see from the photos, we had a good time. It was a chance to get together, with spouses in some cases, with time to talk without worrying what pace we are moving at, and, well, just because.

Aside from running, which is the purpose for us all getting together at whatever hour and location, the camaraderie of this group has indeed been a gift. Heading to Delaware for the Triple Crown Trail Races, to Vermont for our 50-Mile Relay, or Rehoboth for the Seashore Marathon, I have enjoyed the time traveling, the time hanging out, eating, drinking, and celebrating post-race almost as much as the races themselves.

A couple forthcoming posts will include: a 2008 wrap-up for the Tuckahoe Challenge, top 10 RUR group runs and races, and a race/challenge preview for 2009. Also, the famed New Year's Day Stupidathon, coming soon to a hot-tub near you :)

One caveat for the RUR bash--there was an inherent promise, that there would be no running involved, so as not to confuse the party with a group run. The last of the RURs left Laurel Street at about 2 a.m., on foot, heading back across town. They covered the 2 - 2.5 miles in roughly 40 minutes, as indicated by a slightly incoherent e-mail that was sent at the trek's completion. That's roughly 20-minute miles. Thankfully, at that pace, we can say that the no running promise for the evening was kept ;)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Running Barefoot in Winter (Well sort of...)

As I continue my recovery from my knee injury, I am trying many new things. I am attempting to redevelop my technique by transitioning to more of a mid foot strike rather than heel striking which I generally have done for many years. I have explored a couple of books and videos, including Chi Running, the Pose Method, and Evolution Running.

There are many things these methods have in common as well as several important differences. One concept I am currently exploring is that the running shoes that most of us are used to are fairly heavy, overbuilt clunkers. They bring our feet up off the ground and have features that we hope protect our feet from impact, keep them from excessively pronating, and prevent injury by absorbing some of the harsh impact that running creates. This all sounds great, but if they work so well, why are so many of us hurting ourselves year after year? It could be that perhaps we'd have a whole lot more problems if we ran without shoes, but I don't know this. Clearly there are people who run barefoot and seem to do so effortlessly. Lots of kids run barefoot in the summer and don't seem to have shin splints, stress fractures, or sprained muscles. Perhaps they just aren't running far enough to develop these problems, but I think there is a better reason. By not relying on shoes, you are forced to develop a more gentle running style. Impact is minimized by the instinct of self-preservation.

Today I tried out a product called Vibram Five Fingers. The idea is that they are very minimalistic shoes that hug your feet and separate each toe from the others. I decided to give the Flow a try as these are a little bit insulated with neoprene to help with water activities or running in the cold. They are pretty odd looking, and in fact my wife thinks they are hideous. They are certainly er, ... unique. They feel more like slippers than shoes, and at first the separated toes feel a little odd. I also picked up a pair of toed socks that seem to match the shoes perfectly. Don't worry I stuck with matching black as I already look a bit like a freak with my tights and toe shoes. I need to work my way up to rainbow socks now don't I?

This morning, I went for a three mile out and back run to the high school via the bike path. I have noticed that I have two significant problems every time I run. First, my right calf always feels very tight despite stretching and seems to tighten more and more as each run progresses. Second, I have periodic knee pain where the meniscal tear occurred that reminds me to be very careful. So far, my runs have have felt OK, but it is a very fragile feeling I have compared to before the injury. I have been working on landing more on my mid foot by using many of the Chi Running principles, though I also am trying to make adjustments that seem to avoid pain in my meniscus.

With the Five Fingers shoes, I noticed several things. For starters, it is nearly impossible to heel strike with these things on. Your body just rejects that possibility outright due to the lack of cushioning. Mid foot striking seems the only possible way to land without seriously hurting your feet. As the run went along, I really liked how I could feel the ground under me. The Vibram sole definitely cushions the blow of pebbles, twigs and bumps on the pavement, but you still feel that they are there. In a word, I would describe it as feeling "connected" to the ground. I was drawn to the grass and made my own trail as much as I could because it was the softest surface, and it felt natural. But running on pavement was possible and indeed not bone-jarring. I just found myself naturally trying to land as softly as possible. I have a long way to go with my technique, but I feel like progress is possible. I think I may have felt more medial knee pain with the Five Fingers, but I am not entirely sure as I have felt that on runs in real shoes too.

So, a good first run. It felt close to being barefoot, and my feet weren't too cold though I wouldn't have made it more than another two miles before my toes would have been more numb. As it was, they were starting to get pretty cold towards the end.

Good road and trail feel
Natural feeling
Very light and sort of disappear underneath you when on the grass

Expensive way to feel more barefoot. Barefoot is way cheaper.
Kind of gimmicky
Fugly if you ask my wife

The biggest unknown: will they create or prevent injuries? I suspect that with proper attention to efficient and gentle running they could be protective. I don't think I would run every time in them but occasionally they might help with speedwork and improving running form and efficiency. Perhaps the best way to run is as if we are running barefoot while running with the protection of cushioned, more clunky shoes. That may be too great a challenge for our minds to overcome.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All Apologies

I’m not one to typically share my thoughts in writing, but the blog seems to be a part of the RUR thing, so I’ll put in my two cents. As for a race report, I don’t remember much about the marathon I ran in Rehoboth last week except that is was bloody cold, the last two miles were excruciatingly painful, and the post-race Dogfish Head never tasted so good. Mostly, I would like to just say a word (and make a little confession) about running in general.

Honestly, I never really understood runners. My 20’s were spent mountain biking and skiing at every opportunity. As a young and arrogant ski bum, my assumption was that these were some of the toughest and most extreme sports one could participate in. I hiked and skied many peaks, rode a 24 hr mountain bike race, and routinely pushed my physical limits. Running had always seemed too simple or dare I say, easy, to me (I know, blasphemy…take away his RUR mug). As is the case with things we have never tried, our assumptions about them can be completely wrong.

I started running with RUR in the early spring. Though this group could get just about anybody exited about running, I caught the running bug quickly and decided to give a marathon a try. How hard could it be, right? I quickly found out that running is. . .hard as hell. Running a marathon was one of the most physically difficult things I have ever done (the race itself as well as the months of training leading up to it).

As for the Rehoboth marathon, I was doing alright until mile 24, when my body starting failing. I felt like all the muscles in my legs were on the verge of cramping. I skipped the last 2 aid stations because I was sure my legs would seize up if I slowed down or changed pace. My left hip was throbbing, but I’d become used to that over the last few months of training. The real killer was my right knee which suddenly started feeling like a knife was being jabbed into the side with every stride. I was fairly convinced that I was doing some serious damage to my knee, but there was no way I was stopping 2 miles from the finish. I have since figured out that this was my IT band, which has still not heeled 1 week post race day. I can’t recall needing assistance walking down a flight of stairs after any day of skiing, hiking, or biking, but I did after this race. You might argue that I’m a little older now, but repetitively pounding your feet on pavement or trail for over 26 miles will never be easy.

I’m also finding the joy in running. It is a mentally versatile sport – by that I mean you can run with a head full of anger and finish feeling purged, get into a meditative rhythm and crank out mileage with nearly a care, or enjoy the social aspects of running with a group. Running with RUR is mostly the latter and I can’t image exercising with a better group of people. Forgive a generalization here, but it seems that runners have a lot less ego than I’ve found in other sport subcultures. It might just be this group of like-minded RUR people, but it seems like runners are generally congenial and friendly folk.

Well, that’s my confession and apology to all those runners out there whom I silently disrespected over the years – I’ve been humbled by this “simple” sport and have a whole new appreciation for long distance running.

Finally, some lessons from my first marathon experience:
Good ideas include Band-aids on sore nipples, spending more than $50 on running shoes, finding someone running your pace early in the race and partnering up, taking off your gloves at the aid stations to keep them dry (thanks for that one Lori), and pinching the cup in order to get more fluid in your mouth than on the front of your shirt (I would thank Lori for this one too, but she gave me this tip AFTER the race).

Bad ideas include trying to eat a Cliff bar when it is below freezing outside and attempting an unrehearsed wardrobe change half way through a race resulting in your shoes getting stuck in your tights (Thanks M. Keane for the rescue).


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Records at Tuckahoe

Though he has been running less this year than years past, our man Stephen Bardsley is still setting records, of a different kind, out on the Tuckahoe 10-Mile Challenge stomping grounds. Here's an update from Bardsley:

"I think last Sunday [sent on Nov. 17] I locked up the honors for the SLOWEST Tuck10 challenge. I took my den of Cub Scouts there, and did the entire loop as the Tuck10 is outlined. The time, a whopping 5 hours and 12 minutes. Great day, but my hips were actually killing me from walking for that long. I did not know what the river crossing would be like at "the log", so I actually wore shorts and the Brooks trail shoes I did JFK in, in case i had to carry any of the boys across. I went though the water, but the boys shimmied the log. That is my Joshua in the Terps sweatshirt. Thought you'd get a kick out of the pics, and story. Just for the record, I did a double Tuck10 loop 48 hours before the appendectomy. it was my last long training run for the B&A marathon that never happened."

Incredible stuff, Stephen--spreading the trail gospel to the young'ens. I'd have to give the nod that this would be the slowest challenge time, but the records theoretically continue: Joshua would have to be the youngest to complete the challenge (though we'll have to check James's ID ;); Stephen and Joshua would be the only father/son team to complete the challenge or parent/child for that matter. And I am guessing we could come up with other categories. Well done Bardsleys!