Monday, June 27, 2016

Form, it’s what you make of it…

For the longest time in my running career I’ve had some hiccups in my form that I’ve dealt with.  I’ve had many coaches, friends, and other runners in a race mention my weird leg kick out on my right foot, pictured below.  I’ve also had many people in my life just kind of tell me that it is what it is, you can’t fight your body’s mechanics.  I’ve for the most part believed them but always wondered what it would be like to have better form like some of my friends, or professional runners I see on TV.  I always knew my leg kick out was a major loss of energy in an endurance sport where every bit of energy matters as you crank out races as long as 2 to 3 hours.  Also where I truly believe form gets overlooked is when it comes to injury prevention and how your body can handle the stresses of everyday use.  As runners it’s not usually about the 5k or 10 mile race we run, those are over in 15 to 60 minutes, it’s the hundreds of hours and thousands of miles we run all year long to get ready for these races.  And these are the times we are most likely to get ourselves hurt if we aren't properly running for all of those steps.

I had the luxury of partaking in a friend’s running form clinic in early March of this year and got a lot of good information from it.  My friend Tom Stott came by and gave a running workshop to some of us and I instantly found myself enamored with some new thoughts on form and running I had never thought about.  Things you read on the internet about forcing your foot to land in this exact spot, or doing these few exercises will fix all the problems with your form are everywhere but largely they are just band-aid fixes.  Tom spent the 1 hour with us not focusing on where your foot lands or what strengthening technique you can do but on the four pillars of running(Pull, Pull, Pull).  And that if you can get your body to not fight these pillars everything else will fall into place.  It was entirely new take on form that I hadn’t heard and I was buying in right from the start.  Tom was also one of the first people to tell me, that weird foot kick out you have, yeah we can fix it.  The next step for me was to take the plunge and really start applying myself to these lessons and a followup visit to get some one on one time.

The next step took a little longer than I hoped but about one month after my season had died down, I decided to visit the SportsPerformance Institute and visit Tom and get a one on one form session.  Something I had always wanted to do, but always had my doubts about it actually being able to help me.  That said, I can tell you in the one hour session I had with Tom, I was able to learn more about things to improve my form and techniques than I have in a lifetime of reading articles.  To go to someone who spends his entire life on this and with great recommendations from everyone, means they can provide you feedback that you can trust.  As runners we always think we know everything, and know more than someone else.  So when we have someone we can trust and it goes a long way for us to buy in. (Or maybe that’s just my arrogance who knows!).  If you ever wondered what you can gain from a running analysis I am here to tell you it’s a lot more than you think.  I was able to go through an injury risk assessment that helped point out a couple areas that no one ever thought to check in my life.  Areas I would have never even thought of.  When an issue was found where something seemed off, Tom would stop at nothing to help diagnosis what could be causing it and help me come up with techniques to improve it.  Like the hyper-mobility in my midfoot, a tightness I have always felt but just assumed its part of the aches of running.  Nope, something I can improve.  I also was able to get video with instant analysis of my form, pointing out some of the troubling areas so I can see firsthand.  My favorite part was after seeing the terrible form mistakes I make, we did some running drills and I was able to have another run and everything looked more positive.  In the end I was left with some personalized videos of all the exercises I should be performing on a weekly basis to improve myself.  It’s the kind of care you only get from someone who is truly passionate about his work. 

I was once a skeptic about what I might gain from a running analysis.  I mean I have been running 15 years, my form is fine enough and there is nothing I can do to change it now without causing harm.  I no longer believe any of those things, and fully believe that by focusing more on it I can continue to improve as a runner.  As always in running there are million things we can do to improve ourselves we just need to find the time to fit them all in.  I am a firm believer that finding time to fix form will go a long way and is something you need to take seriously.  It’s essentially free energy you are losing every step, and when we take 35,000-40,000 steps in a marathon that’s a lot of energy we are losing out on.  If you are looking for a professional to check out your form and truly stop at nothing to help you improve in an area we often overlook I can recommend no one better than Tom Stott at Sports Performance Institute.   

What have I been up to lately?  Mostly just training no races in a couple weeks now.  Ramping up the mileage as I contemplate running a marathon this fall or potentially having a marathon free year. “GASP” as some of my friends might say, a year without a marathon isn't a true year.  Racing will pick up with a couple 5k’s and 10k’s in the next few weeks and then a 50k later in July will be my first time attempting an Ultra!  Then who knows!?  Hope to see you out there.  Enjoy some pictures from my running analysis and as always if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why do I run?

At first response it’s usually the same answer for me, I want to keep improving my times and I want to push my body to its limits and see how far I can take it.  And while yes that is a part of why I run, I think in retrospect it’s not the bulk of the reason.  It’s not the reason I am out there every day running 6-8 miles or putting myself in tons of pain for a workout, or running through 100 degrees heat or below zero temperatures.  The reason that I love running and I do run is the friends and family I have made through it over the years. The running community is this magical group, where you can meet a random person one day and they will without even a  second thought support you and cheer your performances.  Not just in running but also in life.  Where you can meet someone on the roads and be able to strike up a conversation without any judgment.  Running has given so much to me over the years that I can’t ever begin to repay it back.  I continue to do my best to be out there supporting friends, offering advice and just being a positive member to the running community but there is so much more it's given me.  Additionally, running is also more than just logging miles, doing workouts, pushing the body to me.  It’s also this amazing sport where a group of people who might never meet all bond together and come closer because of it.  In Baltimore I was lucky enough to find my current team, the Falls Road Racing Team and they are a huge part of the reason why I continue to run today. 

It’s running and an amazing leader who bring us all together at the beginning but the team itself is about so much more than running.  Sure we train together, we sometimes talk about running ad nauseam and we go to races together.  But through that we become a family, where we spend time outside of running together.  Where we care about one another, not just about how each others training is going but how their life is going.  Where we meet up outside of running as a group and make memories.  And where we support each other in racing but also in every aspect of life.  I doubt without running I would have met any of these wonderful people who now make up a huge part of everything in my life.  But thanks to running, I am glad I have.  Don’t get me wrong, I suffer through a workout on the track to improve my fitness and run faster, but I am also suffering with my friends. Which makes it that much more enjoyable.  In the end I just think when it comes to the question why do you run, it’s important to have an answer that keeps you coming back and keeps you motivated.  For me, my running team and the pursuit of constant improvement is what gets me out the door every day and as long as I have that I will continue to love running.

Recent Running:
Since Pittsburgh I took about a week of downtime to recharge the battery and then I got right back into training.  I wanted to keep this fitness around and do some shorter races for the next couple of months before moving into Marathon training for the fall.  I ran a couple races in May and then this past weekend with some push from a friend decided to try out an aggressive weekend double, Baltimore 10 Miler on Saturday, Bel Air Town Run 5k on Sunday.

Baltimore 10 Miler - It was a hot and humid morning and I knew there would be some competition for me at this race but I wanted to get out and see what happens.  I knew Dave Berdan was the local favorite and I was just bib #4471 when it came to race coverage and contenders.  No worries I was ready to go.  One of the reasons I choose this race was 5 years ago it was my first race back to competitive running, I got 100th place and ran 1:10:59 and I wanted to see how far I’ve come in the past five years.  So the gun went off and I got out early with Berdan, and despite it being hot and humid came through the mile a little quick around 5:15, rolled into 2 miles around 10:38 when a Howard County runner, the eventual winner Eric came by and the pace quicken.  I quickly knew I was not going to be able to handle this and fell back a bit but tried to keep enough contact in case the humidity got to anyone.  As we hit Lake Montebello(mile 4/5), it was clear I was off the pace and not getting top 2 today so I settled into 3rd and wanted to not lose my podium place.  At around mile 6 there was a turn around so I was able to calculate I had a 50 second lead on 4th.  With a race tomorrow I began to let my foot off the pedal a little bit, clearly way too much.  Sometimes you can get too cute in racing, today was an example of that for me.  As we rolled through the hills before getting back into Druid Lake I was feeling confident attacking the final big climb.  As I hit the final water stop I did a quick look back and saw my lead had shrunk to about 20 seconds.  Panic set in as I feared I was going to get caught as we entered the tack-on loop around the park.  I put on a big surge around one of the turns and looked back again (ugh I need to stop doing that) and knew I had it.  Rolled into the finish line 3rd place overall to the announcers saying “In 3rd place #4471, hold on we have no clue who that is” and then they proceeded to butcher my last name.  57:16 and 3rd place on a hot morning, I’ll take it.  Got a pretty fun glass container and got to spend the morning with the woman’s winner Meg, trying to appear in the background of her various interviews.  

Bel Air Town Run – Sunday it was about the Bel Air Town Run.  This was my second time running the Bel Air Town Run, first being in 2014 when I got 18th and ran 17:38.  I spent most of Saturday doing everything possible to get my legs ready for the next day.  Got to the line and the gun went off and the pace went out real hot.  Down the first hill by the corner we were rolling 4:30 pace and the leader Tyler was pulling away.  So I let him go and a pack of 3 of us formed behind him and stayed that way until the mile, 4:48.  On a hot humid morning, after a 10 mile race probably not the best idea.  After the mile the pack broke down to 2 of us, and at about 1.75 miles second place finisher Chris pulled away and I decided to not go with him.  Probably the thing I am most upset about all weekend.  I convinced myself in the moment to let him go and I’d go after him at the last big hill around 2.5 miles.  I’ll need to be mentally tougher during a 5k in the future, the race is too short for mental lapses like this. I rolled through 2 miles in 10:11 and when we got to 2.5, I was about 10 seconds back but made no move.  Rolling down the final hill I could see him finish and ended up with another 3rd place finish with my fastest 5k 16:25 since college.  All in all if that’s the only thing I am upset with this weekend I can deal with it.  Watched our woman’s team go 1-2-3 so that’s fun and hung out afterwards and got another fun award and some money.  Overall a great racing weekend.

Up Next for Me:
My fall season is up in the air currently not sure what I will target as my peak race but I’m pretty sure I am targeting a Marathon.  As for the summer I’ll do some more local 5k’s, 10k’s and maybe a half sometime in September.

If you’d like to read more about me, I was given the great honor from the Baltimore Road Runners to be the Member of the Month for June 2016.  Get to know me better here

Lastly check out some fun pictures from the past couple weeks of racing.  And lastly I added an email section if you would like alerts for future blog posts!