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