Friday, September 07, 2007

Paring Down

Today marked the last of my recovery days from the Labor Day race. While I had the option to start the back to back workouts for the weekend today, I decided to hold off until tomorrow (as originally planned) to keep from monkeying with my wife's running and social schedules too much.

I broke out a new and different pair of shoes for the run this morning, which is certainly earth-shattering news. After much hounding and criticism for my footwear choice for training from various Lydiardites and shoe minimalism fans, I'm slowly working my way out of my usual trainers (Brooks Adrenaline with a big, spongy Spenco insole and added metatarsal pad). I can't even remember when I started with the Adrenalines, though I think it had less to do with their stability and more to do with how they fit my strangely shaped feet. The spongy insoles were added back in '04, when I started having issues with my plantar fascia with a marathon just a month out. The advice I got at the time was to ice the area, wrap my arch with a compression bandage, and add arch support to my shoes. This combination worked, and while the ice and bandage eventually fell by the wayside, the insoles endured. For one thing, they last through four pairs of shoes, so I'm not constantly gluing metatarsal pads to the underside of stock insoles every 6 weeks or so.

Until now. 20 minutes spent with some uncooperative rubber cement led me to the duct tape, and with some combination of the two I officially have a new shoe in rotation: The Asics GEL-Stratus. It mimics the heel-height, heel to toe drop, and general profile of the Asics DS-Trainer I race in, though it's quite a bit more flexible and doesn't offer any stability. I've been trying to drop the heel-height in my training shoes to get the calf muscles and the achilles more involved, as they seem to take a pounding when I switch over to my racing shoes. I'm also trying to get away from 'stability' shoes in general, mostly because the gang at the shop is quite convinced I don't need added stability given my natural gait. I figure I'll work the shoes in slowly (every other or every third run), and see how the body reacts before hopefully using them on a regular basis. I'll also keep training in an older pair of my race shoes for speedier days.

This is all part of a general 'paring down' and refining effort I'm making as the marathon nears. Things like stride mechanics, efficiency, weight, and both general and race-day nutrition come to the fore with about a month to go. Also, I've been spending some time studying the "Headfirst Running" article by Matt Fitzgerald in the October issue of Running Times (sorry, it's not online so no link). I'm anxious to read his new book, Brain Training For Runners, which presents an interesting model of running performance and fatigue. Fitzgerald mentions that "the most widespread and costly stride error among non-elite runners is overstriding, or striking the ground heel first with leg extended in front of the body instead of flat-footed with the foot underneath the hips."

The "foot underneath the hips" part of that sentence reminds me of one of Mystery Coach's emails, where he mentioned the feeling of running "on your legs instead of with them", or something similar. One look at the chewed up heels on my usual trainers (which have an extra-spongy and elevated heel with the added insole) shows that I'm coming down hard on them, while a look at my racing shoes reveals almost no wear on the heels, but a more general wear pattern from the midsole and up on the forefoot. While the different paces I use with each shoe surely make some of the difference, it will be interesting to see how these new trainers and their lower heel height wear. The Stratus is also very flexible, so seeing how the foot reacts to this newfound freedom of motion will also be telling. No more lazy feet, I hope. While I'm not going all-out minimalist on you, I am trying to get my training stride to more closely resemble my racing form. I'll let you know how this goes.

As for the run, I covered 11 easy miles in fairly cool early morning rain. After countless days with temperatures in the 80's at 4am, I'm not complaining. The shoes felt good, and the stride did feel a little quicker. I tried to visualize starting the "paw-back" before the foot reached the ground, which hopefully leads me to spending less time on the ground with each footstrike. Easy to say.

Training: 11 miles, 1:15:36, 6:52 pace


Thomas said...

Just a day or two ago I read about some other runner recommending the Asics Stratus. You guys aren't on commission or something, are you?

With my shins being not entirely happy these days I'm a bit weary whenever I read the word "lightweight" when it comes to shoes.

Mike said...

Ahhh, they're only an ounce lighter than the Nimbus I remember you using. One thing I like is that I can buy three pairs of these for the price of two pairs of the Nimbus. I think Chad/Zeke/Simon is trying these too.

Chad in the Arizona Desert said...

I just read that article you mentioned as well. It seems to make a lot of sense to me, although I'm too chicken to try going barefoot. I'm always afraid that I'll find that one piece of beer-bottle glass left behind on the field from the late night drunks. I'm interested to know how the transition goes.

Jesse said...

Mike just FYI all asics trainers have the same heel to forefoot ratio of a 10 mm drop. Thats wayy better than other brands that have a 12 mm drop(your adrenlin's). This is the very reason I can only run in Asics. I was a huge fan of the DS trainer XI but found the XII to be complete crap as the arch was too pronounced. I was logging all my miles in the 11's till I couldn't find another pair. If the stratus doesn't work for you I urge you to try the 2120's. About the same weight as the stratus but with a DS trainer fit.

At any rate asics will help you with the midfoot running. Any other shoe forces a heel landing for me and I'm injured within a few runs.

Mike said...

That's funny Jesse. I've been hoarding my two pairs of DS Trainer XI's for that very reason. One pair is pretty tired and worn (I used them for the marathon in December and now I use them for speedwork), and the other pair has been held back for this marathon (and a few races like last Monday). I can't get down with the XII's either.

I actually liked the New Balance 826's, which surprised me. I haven't tried the 2120's, but I didn't feel enough arch support in the new Cumulus when I tried it.

Jesse said...

2120's are very similar to the DS trainer 11's. Well, little more shoe their but the fit is the same and the medial sole is placed the same spot so the arch is similar. It's only 1 oz heavier and still seems to have that lighter feel. I'm not trying to sell you on it or anything it's just the only replacment I could find for the DS 11's. Hey the 13's are due out in Jan, lets keep our fingers crossed.

Lots of loyal DS fans fell off the wagon when the 12's came out. The New Balance 902 seems to be the popular replacment if you get a chance to check that out.

Blaxabbath said...

The thing I like about this post is that you sound like you are being very orderly with about a month out. Not too much talk about emotions or feelings -- just the course of action ahead. This leaves no room for second guessing and seems to allow maximum focus on the task at hand.

Or maybe that's just how it seems and you are actually a wreck on the inside. I don't know.