Friday, April 30, 2010

ROTD 4/30/2010--long and tough

Today, dear reader, is a mystery to me. The Bermuda triangle of running. I ran the route below, which is just 2.8 miles longer than my previous long run. Those took 1:30 or so, this took nearly 3 hours. Obviously I was going slower, but it did not feel much slower. Strange. And really tough.
I can feel it now in my feet and legs. Seems I lost the focus on impact just behind my center of gravity. I actually lost focus on nearly everything, just trying to fit in a 3 hour run. Don't know why it was so hard. I did finish, however.

I think tomorrow will be a nice, easy, short jog. Say, 6 miles or so. Need the recovery.

Projected weekly summary:
Monday: 8.9 miles
Tuesday: 9.8 miles
Wednesday: 7.9 miles of hill repeats
Thursday:9.2 miles
Friday: 12.8
Saturday (projected): 6

Total: 54.6 miles this week. This promises to be the only week I can put in these kinds of miles, as Medicine Wards start next week, and I start on call. It will be ugly.

Happy Running!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Zoo!!

This is Logan's last month of pre-school for the year, so we are doing a few field trips and field day - fun end-of-the-year stuff.  Today we took the kids to the zoo in Waco.  Super fun!!  It's been quite a while since we'd been, and Myra never had.
Here is most of his class.  We missed Anna, as her baby sister was ill.
The kids were transfixed by the komodo dragon!  I think it sort of freaked Myra out.  I've never seen one this active!
After the reptiles, there was this cool Asian-ish themed play area.  These plates are chimes that ring when the kids jumped on them.  So cool!!
Logan "rode" a pony,
and practiced his rope swinging.
The lion was unimpressed...
We wandered around looking at all the cool animals (and making appropriate animal noises - so funny!!), then broke for lunch at the park in the zoo.
Myra liked climbing in the snake.
Logan liked climbing ON the snake.
and the balance beam.  That gymnastics stuff is really sinking in!
We had a great time!  Both kids crashed out in the car on the way home.  They needed the sleep after a busy day at the zoo!!

ROTD 4/29/2010--exploration, nice places

Dear reader, today continues the search for the perfect run. Long, some hills, few cars, nice views. I think it's coming together. The neighboorhood just north of Midway is surprisingly nice: large, older homes, great trees, immaculate yards.

I am proposing the following run for tomorrow. It's only 2.8 miles longer than my current runs, so it shouldn't be too much of a bump. That will be my long run for the week; Saturday we are taking the kids to the airshow, and I don't want to be blasted for that.

I'll have to take something more than the amount of water I currently carry; one bottle will be insufficient. I also have no time goals--I don't want a focus on time to distract me from pain-free running. Yesterday my plantar fascia acted up. Today (knock on wood) I haven't had much, if any, problems.
There were only a few parts in today's 9.2 miles where I felt that my form came apart. I am still in the stage where it's ok to stop and take a breather and reset--not the win-at-all-costs go-go-go mentality that dominated my triathlon years. I like my current mindset better.
Happy Running!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ROTD 4/28/2010--Hill repeats and vampire bites

Today, dear reader, was a rather difficult workout: hill repeats. One I probably won't repeat soon, as it really bothers my left foot. But I digress. Map/elevation below (click to enlarge, full details here):

The loop at the park is almost exactly 1 mile, and it is fairly steep to my eyes. However, it only represents 118 feet of elevation gain, packed into 0.4 miles, an average of 295 feet of gain per mile--which ain't much. Feels like it, though. I was able to do the loops in about 11 minutes, which is just a minute off my normal pace, so it wasn't too bad.
HOWEVER, this really killed my left foot. I have a chronic case of plantar fascitis, which is the vampire bite of running--it never really seems to go away, and it can be so painful you can't really walk. Today really flared it. So I won't be doing hill repeats for a while, as this injury is what kept me from running for 2 years.
The ChiRunning website has some tips, which I intend to incorporate. Can't let this running streak be broken by a silly injury.
Happy Running!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ROTD 4/27/2010--use the Force

Today, dear reader, I ran a route familiar to me (full details here). This route is almost exactly 10 miles long:

I continue in my quest for a relaxing route to run, and am nearly there. However, today is not the day for exploration with its inherent uncertainties about duration of run or time of arrival--as I had to go to work today. Bleh.

There are two forces in play when running. The first is gravity, which of course pulls your center of gravity straight downwards. The second is the force of the road pushing up against you.

The Force of gravity is of course what we all have to overcome to stand upright. However, this force can also be used to propel you. If you hold an erect posture, and engage in a slight forward lean, then the difference between your center of gravity and the site of foot impact translates into a forward propulsion--that is, you are falling. Properly harnessed, this results in free forward motion, with no muscular energy expended at all.

The force of the road is rarely helpful, and in fact can be quite damaging. This is the force that produces injuries if your technique is not sufficient to learn how to cooperate with the force of the road coming at you. This is primarily done by ensuring that the foot lands at least underneath, and preferably behind, your center of gravity.

Proper running form requires that your feet strike the ground behind you. This is more difficult than it sounds, as your body rightfully interprets this as a fall and bends you in such a way as to avoid it. I was able to do this today as well, and I can tell an enormous difference today vs yesterday.

Happy Running!

Monday, April 26, 2010

ROTD 4/26/2010--Return to Exploration

One of the niftiest things about running, dear reader, is the chance to explore. I don't live in an area much amenable to true exploration, as I suspect every nook and cranny of Temple, Tx is well known. However, it's fun to try out new routes. (click to enlarge, full details here). This run took almost exactly 90 minutes.

Admittedly, it's not running the Salt Lake Basin. One of the reasons I applied there for fellowship is because the mountains are my "cantante" (singers, for all of you who have not applied yourself to the Twilight saga). Please compare the pic of the Lake Mary trail in the Wasatch Mountains below to the route above (photo by Todd Keith) and it becomes immediately clear why I would prefer to run someplace else:


But beggars and choosers, and whatnot. I am looking for a good long run, with decent shoulders and a nice, flatish surface (alternatively, traffic low enough that I can run in the middle of the road). Miles 1-5 of the above route were great, but Midway Road (miles 5-7 above) would not represent what I am looking for. There are too many spots where the sides are either too tilted, or covered in brush and I have to run in a car lane (with heavy traffic).

That said, I did manage to run today with minimal effort. Seems that the time I spent with Heggie's book did wonders for how well I can perceive what I am doing. I have gone a long way to fixing my right leg's alignment problems. Today's 9 miles felt relatively good, and I clearly could have gone another 4 or 5 miles without problems.

Happy running!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sorry, no running.

Because I don't.  I sew.

But I do have cute kids.
who actually play together.  Nicely even.  It was a good day...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

ROTD 4/24/2010 and cravings

Today, dear reader, I actually ran. Not nearly what I wanted to, but something like this (click to enlarge):

Full details here.

I also had to sneak it around a thunderstorm or two this morning. Real heavy rain, but just for 30-45 minutes or so.

The focus today was on keeping my vertical alignment properly engaged, which is not as easy as it sounds. For further details of why this is important, please see the simplified running video (and a thanks to reader David, who directed me thusly).

I also must mention the cravings of the last 48 hours or so. Long time readers (here, about 2 weeks) know that I am interested in addiction neurobiology (see here and here) and specifically the addiction of food. Mostly because I am addicted to food.

Hi, My name is Mitch, and I'm a junkie. I'm quite serious about this. Most people look at me and laugh. I have never found it funny.

Two days ago Katie baked a small batch of these:

No picture can capture just how yummie Katie's cookies are.

I was having a bad day--feeling worn out, hadn't run that morning, everything hurting, kids didn't let us sleep. All of these weaken my already low resistance. I gave myself permission to "just have 1 or 2".

To an addict, or anyone with any compulsive behavior, there is no such thing as "just 1 or 2." You have let your guard down, and until you manage to reset, you are firmly in the grip of your compulsion.

This is what my compulsive self has me do when I lose control: I ate 3 cookies worth of uncooked dough. Then I had 7 or 8 cookies that night. I then had 5 slices of bread with peanut butter and lots of honey, two bowls of Fruit Loops, and some of the kid's candy. The next morning I was still craving hyper-palatable foods and ate another bowl of Fruit Loops, 4 more cookies, 4 more slices of bread with peanut butter and honey, 2 more with butter and honey, two large pieces of cheese, the remains of all the pasta in the fridge, 1 package of lunch meat, a chocolate brownie Cliff bar, and then when we went out that night, two large scoops of ice cream.

Felt a bit like these guys:

There might have been more. I lose count because once this takes hold, I eat without realizing it, and only in retrospect grasp how much has gone down the pie hole.

Fortunately, I did run today. Oddly enough, running is what resets my cravings back to something approaching normal. Today (as of 1 pm) I have had: one Cliff bar, 1 salad with chicken, and a banana. Very different than the above, don't you think?

Running for me is more than just a way to let stress out, fight bad moods, get in shape, and spend some time in nature. It resets my cravings, and helps me be human.

Happy (and healthy) running!

Friday, April 23, 2010

ROTD with associated thoughts

Lest you think me inhuman, dear reader, I refer you to the course of today, which took me 1 hr 18 minutes (Click for larger view):

That's right, 2.5 miles in 78 minutes. Not only did I walk today, but 'twas a slow walk.

For "inhuman" I refer you to the blog of one Anton Krupicka, who ran 189 miles (with 36,800 feet of climbing) last week in preparation for an assortment of ultramarathons he intends to win.

Green Peak, as seen from Bear Peak, Boulder, Colorado (from Krupicka's blog). If I lived in a place like this, perhaps I'd drop 180 miles a week on the mountains as well.

So upon reflection on yesterday's post, I asked myself: "Self, why are you really running? Are you trying to win a race, or finish it?"

The response: just finish; perhaps later (like 5-10 years later) I'd like to compete in age-group races.

Thus the ChiRunning book mentioned yesterday comes out the clear winner. The focus on efficiency is clearly more practial as I am trying to train for a marathon.

So, I returned to said book, and read through again. Somehow, the previous 3 times I have read it, I missed lesson 1, part 1:

"Point everything the direction you want to go."

In this he means to point your knees and feet in the same direction, like the hands on a clock at noon:

My right foot and right knee, however, are set to about 12:55, and have been for as long as I can remember. This extends to my hips as well, they are turned about 15-20 degrees to the right (left hip forwards). So yesterday I determined that I would work hard to correct this.

Problem is, a habit of 20+ years is unlikely to be undone in an afternoon, or morning. I was unable to run while focusing on it. So I walked.

Didn't help that I have a bruise on my left foot, and my right knee is very unhappy with the new state of affairs. Plus the kids still have not grasped the concept of "sleeping through the night" and have offered ample proof of this over the last few days. Wiped out, I am.

HOWEVER, I have until October to get my form and fitness in shape. No worries.

Happy walking!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

ROTD 4/22/2010--hung-over sloth/glomeruli

Today I clearly felt the effects of the fast runs from yesterday. Pace today felt like hung-over sloth pace. However, I did manage to put in a few miles, most of which are captured below (click on picture for higher resolution view):

Between mile 3 and 4, I detoured by the Lyons water park, where there is a trail I though belonged to a golf course. Not so--but a winding trail reminiscent of a kidney's glomerulus. I estimate that adds about 1 mile to the course, but it's not visible on the satellite photos so I can't be sure. Probably about 9 miles overall.

Full details available here.

Today I focused on how my feet hit the pavement, mostly because on the awful section on 93rd where the street is so tilted it makes the feet hurt. I think I made some progress in terms of how that happens. I also tried to lean a bit more, but that fell apart rather quickly.

I have also attempted to discern between two very different types of running techniques, what advantage each might hold, and if they can be melded to provide the advantages of both. Seems so far that the knees-first, ChiRunning method has advantages in terms of efficiency--I used it almost exclusively today, as I felt rotten. Heggie's Feldenkrais method seems to have the advantage in terms of pure speed--but a high price to pay in terms of effort.

efficiency versus speedy

Seems I need to stretch both envelopes: speed for ChiRunning, and effort for Feldenkrais' method.

Happy running!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

ROTD, 4/21/2010

So today was a very different kind of run, not the long, exploratory type seen yesterday. The course today is a loop I with which I am very familiar:

Today's loop

This is, of course, a single lap around my block. Gmaps pedometer states that it's 0.3296 miles, which for all intents is 1/3 of a mile (there's 19.5 feet of difference between the two, for the purist; but also a slight elevation change, so it's probably a wash).

Today was a combination of technique work and speedwork. The point of these runs is to become comfortable at higher speeds. This is done mostly by spending time at these higher speeds and looking for ways to make it easier/smoother/more efficient. By definition, your cardiovascular fitness is not sufficient to hold these speeds for very long, thus, short repeats are the rule.

I have no idea how far I went today, as I did not keep count of the number of laps. Some were relatively quick: 2:09, or 6:27 pace; others were done for pure technique and no time was taken, but was probably in the 11:00 pace range. The majority were about 6:45 pace. This is substantially different from my run of yesterday, which was about 10 minute pace.

I intend to return to the long run tomorrow. This month is the only month I have time to put in these long explorer runs before I hit the general Medicine wards, which will substantially decrease my available time.

Learning points for today, which may interest only me:

Re-emphasize keeping core alignment--run with back stretched, not collapsed backwards. This dramatically decreases perceived exertion at any speed.

Mix of hip swivel and knees-first movement somewhat difficult to do. Will need to experiment with Chi-running style, allowing the ground to produce the rotation. Felt often I was working at cross purposes, with legs coming forwards while hips going backwards. Did several laps focused on having hips, legs, and shoulders in proper places (ie forwards, forwards, and backwards) instead of losing the connection at the hips.

Focus on keeping right knee/foot in alignment, as that knee flexes inwards. Need to increase mobility in right foot, focused on using outer head of hamstrings to recover right leg as this puts knee joint in proper alignment.

Happy running!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Run of the Day, 4/20/2010

Odd that the VA doesn't block blog sites.

So I've been running a bit more lately, and trying some new routes. This morning was especially pleasant, running through some nice peaceful farmland and some very loud yip dogs. With my typical 1 mile warm up loop, today's run was just shy of 10 miles, and took about 1 hour and 35 minutes.

Higher detail, with calorie count, elevation, etc available here.

Of course, I've still got a long way to go with running technique. Today was a learning experience (as most days are) and I found that I still have trouble connecting a shoulders-first twist to the twist of my lower body, and therefore to push backwards as I run. This is important as there are only two ways to influence speed while running--push backwards (like scraping mud off your shoes) and lean forwards. Many running gurus advocate one or the other; I am trying to blend both, and to find out which situations may call for one over the other. I'm pretty good with the twist/pushoff, and still horrible with the lean.
The overall goal is to run a marathon; I have selected the Frankenthon to start with. It's relatively close, fits my schedule, and importantly is long enough away that I have the chance to trail properly for it.
Happy running!

Monday, April 19, 2010


Since Mitch had a few vacation days last weekend, we actually had 5 day stretch during which we could do something fun!  The weather forecasted was dismal, so instead of heading up to Inks Lake to camp, we decided to just do a couple of day trips.  Neither Mitch or Myra had been to the Mayborne Museum in Waco, so we headed up there on Friday (and got a membership, woo-hoo!).  It was so fun!!  Here's some pictorial evidence of the fun we had.
But wait!  Did we have a wardrobe change for those last two??  No, in fact we went BACK to Waco today. You see, we misplaced our camera, and some honest soul turned it in at the museum, so we had to go back to retrieve it.  The kids thought it was the coolest ever - two museum trips in the course of a weekend!  Good thing we got that membership...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Junkies, and Overeating, part 2

The focus of this post is how to overcome a food addiction, and by extension, a schema to overcome any addiction (since all addictions share a common neural mechanism).

You, dear reader, will recall that the types of food that drive addiction share the following basic characteristics:

1) they are some combination of sugar, fat, and salt; 2) eating them produces a "multisensory experience", and 3) they are strongly associated with positive emotional experiences.

This, however, is a poor description of what they do to your brain. The combination of the above induce a "cued response", much like Pavlov's famous slobbery dog. Food (the "unconditional stimulus" in psychology terms) paired with any neutral "conditioned" stimulus (such as the bell, a light, etc) elicit an initial unconditioned (natural) response: salivation. Eventually, the neutral "conditioned" stimulus triggers the (natural) response, and at that point salivation makes the transition from unconditioned (or natural) to conditioned ("unnatural", or learned) response.

One of Pavlov's dogs, Pavlov Museum, Ryazan, Russia

Hyper-palatable food, in this metaphor, takes the place of the conditioned stimuli, and overeating is the conditioned response. This is why hunger cues make no difference to the amount eaten; it's just stimulus/response.

"Intervention begins with the knowledge that we have a moment of choice--but only a moment--to recognize what is about to happen and do something else instead...It's only at the very beginning, when the invitation arises, that you have any control over it." (emphasis in original)

The End of Overeating book lists 5 methods to try and break this very strong conditioning.
1. Awareness
2. Competing Behavior
3. Competing Thoughts
4. Support
5. Emotional learning (very related to #3 above)

Specifically, you have unconscious, conditioned responses that do not require your intellectual input to act. You must be aware of your personal cues and vulnerabilities: parties, social situations, stress, fatigue, etc. Otherwise you find yourself 3/4 of the way through a box of donuts with no idea how you even started.

Competing behaviors:
Pre-plan a new physical response to your personal cues. In America's culture, there is no way to avoid the cues, so instead of going to a party and fighting the urge to wolf down all the cookies, pre-plan to head straight to the carrots. Practice (in front of a mirror, multiple times) a polite way of turning down an offer of cue foods. Set up rules such as "I don't eat anything that Scott & White provides" (my own personal favorite that led to an effortless 30 lb weight drop).

Competing thoughts/emotional learning:
Pre-plan thoughts to replace the cravings, and the emotions will follow. Instead of "just one bite won't hurt", review in your mind what happened the last time you took "just one bite"--it didn't stop at one, did it? You downed the entire pint of Ben & Jerry's. And felt sick to your stomach, and sick at your lack of self-control. The concept of "playing the movie to the end" is very useful, as the craving focuses entirely on short-term gain, ignoring long-term consequences. Consistent practice of this skill is what changes the cravings themselves. When the waiter at Chili's puts a huge plate of food in front of you, the conditioned response is not overeating, but instead disgust at the sickeningly large pile of food and anger at the entire overeating/gluttonous/slobbish culture of America that drives places like Chili's to serve us such a pile of pig slop.

Uhm, gross!

(Let's be clear here. I love America and would live no other place. However, I have lived other places. They label us as gluttonous, overeating slobs, not without a large measure of truth. America is not perfect.)

May be the most patriotic flag ever

Obviously, if you have someone around that helps you to recognize and avoid food cues, things are easier. However, this is the most likely aspect of change to backfire, as well-meaning friends and family (who do not suffer from the same cravings, and therefore do not viscerally understand the true addictive nature of food) encourage you to try "just a bite", or bake up something really scrumptous and leave a bunch of leftovers around.

Our next AA meeting will be held here...

A few points:
1. Overeating cravings, like cravings for cigarettes, are never fully overcome.
2. Diets (which deprive you and leave you feeling hungry) make the problem worse. Far better to schedule out food that satisfies (most of which has a high protein content).
3. Lapses are to be expected.

Anyway, there are lots more tips in the end of the book. I'm not about to summarized 150 pages in a single post. However, the above does give some framework for a beginning. Need more? Get the book!