So It’s Your First Race…


Running your first race should be exhilarating, challenging, life-affirming and, of course, fun. I find races to be very emotional. There’s a type of excitement near start that I don’t find many other places. There’s more to this process than just showing up and running though. Thoughtful preparation pays off big-time for an optimal race experience.

Any new experience is guaranteed to come with some surprises. If you’ve trained hard and done everything in your power to ensure a successful race, then you don’t want anything to detract from all that effort. To minimize the chances of trouble, here’s a rundown of things you may want to think about as you prepare for the big race.

Getting to the race

Is your race out of town? If so, do you know how to get from your hotel to the race? How long will it take? If you’re racing at home, how long does it take to get from your house to the race? Set your alarm appropriately. (My suggestion: Set it a little earlier than you think you need to.)

Will you drive to the race, take public transportation, ride a bike or travel by foot?

If it’s a weekend or holiday, what’s the public transportation schedule? Are there street closures for the race? If so, what’s your route to the race?

Exactly where does the race start and finish?

Where do you want to meet your friends and family after the race?

How about bathrooms? Where are they? Early morning race jitters can demand multiple trips.

Sometimes the answers to these questions aren’t obvious.


You should aim for a good night of sleep two nights before your race. It’s very typical that you won’t sleep well the night before a race. You’ll have some jitters and if you’re away from home then your normal rhythms and habits will be altered. Don’t worry too much about it. You’ll be fine, but get good sleep 48 hours prior to your event.

Gear and clothing

Many races allow you to drop off warm-up gear and extra clothing. If that’s the case then where do you leave things and where do you pick them up?

If you’re traveling what do you need to pack? By race day, you should know what sorts of things are essential. The Road Runner’s Club of America gives the following checklist:

  • shoes
  • insoles or orthotics
  • socks
  • shorts
  • underwear
  • long sleeve shirt
  • short sleeve shirt
  • tights
  • jacket
  • gloves or mittens
  • headgear: winter hat, cap, visor, headband
  • watch
  • race number if picked up early
  • safety pins or race belt to which attach race number
  • course map
  • race instructions
  • change of clothes for afterwards
  • athletic tape
  • skin lube or powder
  • sunscreen
  • water bottle or hydration pack
  • sunglasses
  • towel
  • pre-race food/fluids
  • post-race food/fluids
  • wallet/money

Depending on the weather, you may or may not need things like a winter hat or gloves. If you’re racing in a Spring or Fall race, especially in places near mountains or the water, then the weather could change radically and quickly. Don’t assume the weather will be what you expect it to be. If you think you might need it, then pack it! It’s much better to have a piece of gear and not need it than to need it and not have it.

I like to start packing several days beforehand. I always seem to almost forget something. If I start packing early then it’s far less likely that I forget anything.

Finally, race day is not the day to try anything new. No new shoes. No new clothes. No new caps, glasses, socks, or anything else. As the RRCA stresses, “No new is good new.”



If you’re a morning runner then you have it figured out. What did you normally eat for breakfast while training? Stick with it. If it’s new, then don’t do it! You might pay for it with some nasty GI troubles.

If you’ve been running in the evenings and your race is in the morning, then it may take a little more thought. The pre-race meal varies widely from person to person. Generally, you want to eat anywhere from 1-2 hours prior to the race. You want to have enough time for the food to digest, but not so much time that you’re famished at race time.

My GI tract is fairly calm and I can tolerate a fairly wide range of pre-race meals. Other people are the polar opposite and they need to be very precise in the timing and content of pre-race food.

Fruit and yogurt, oatmeal, UCAN, or a smoothie are a few examples of things I like before a race. I’d avoid the steak & eggs trucker special if I were you.

Race nutrition

If your race is something like a 5k then food during the race isn’t much of an issue. It’s not long enough to demand much in the way of sustenance. Water’s probably the only thing you’ll want.

If your race is longer then you may need some calories during the race. Similar to breakfast and race gear choices, this should be determined in your training. Some things to consider:

Will you carry a hydration system and your own food? Will you carry a hydration pack or a hand bottle?

If you plan on eating/drinking from the aid stations, what foods and drinks to they provide? Have you used those products in your training? Recognize that consuming anything that you’re not accustomed to while running may cause you some digestive woes and grind your race to a potentially messy halt… or at least a walk.

Finally, your swag bag will likely contain various snack-type items such as gels, bars, electrolyte drink mix or something similar. If it’s unfamiliar to you then don’t eat it before or during the race. Save it for after.

If you remember nothing else regarding nutrition practices then remember this: No new is good new. (Have you heard that before?)

Running your race

Don’t start too fast.

Your first race! Adrenaline! Excitement! You’ve trained hard, you’re wide awake and you feel electric! Today’s the day for greatness! … And you start out too fast.

I am nearly certain that anyone who’s ever run a race has started out too fast. I have! Some time later that fast start has to be paid for with a slower pace. At worst, it can reduce you to a walk to the finish line.

(I think it’s not only inevitable but also essential that everyone experience a too-fast start at some point. It’s not fun but it’s a very valuable learning experience. It teaches humility and respect for proper pacing.)

No matter how good you feel, no matter how exceptional and strong you believe yourself to be, you won’t do your best if you launch out of the gate too fast. If you’ve been training with paced runs then you’ll know your race pace. Stick to it even it feels way too slow. If you haven’t used paces before then pay attention to how you feel. Pay attention to your breathing and effort. Remember that your hard effort needs to be spread over the entire distance of the race. If you’re feeling strong later in the race then that’s the time to pick it up a bit. Don’t do it at the start though.


Spring and Fall morning races may be cold at the start. It’s tempting to bundle up and feel toasty warm. The problem is that once you start running you’ll be hot as hell. If it’s a cold day then you should be a little chilly at the start. You should be a little uncomfortable. Generally, I find that if my hands and ears are warm then I’m comfortable. (Turns out cooling and heating of the hands can have powerful effects on performance. If the topic interests you then read this from Peak Performance )


This racing thing can be a lot of fun. If you do some planning then it can be a smooth experience. Experience is the best teacher. The more you race the easier the preparation becomes.

Running Technique: 3 Simple Cues


Running form is a frequently discussed topic among injured runners and runners looking to perform better. How should we run? Is there one ideal way to run? Should we run on the forefoot, mid-foot or heel? Does our core matter? What should our upper body do when we run?

There are many schools of thought in the running world and there doesn’t seem to be any ironclad consensus on any of these questions. If you’re running pain-free and you’re performing as well as you’d like then I don’t believe you should change your running form. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

If, on the other hand, you experience pain when you run or if you’re not as fast as you’d like to be then some technique changes may be in order.

Run tall.

A lot of us run in a hunched type of posture that resembles the way we sit (and sit and sit…) in our work chairs or in our cars. This hunched position may be problematic and may be contributing to running problems. To address this issue:

Imagine a chain is attached to the top of your skull. That chain pulls you up. It lengthens your spine and makes you tall. See if you can feel this long, tall spine as you run. As part of this process, keep your gaze up and out toward the horizon. Don’t stare at the ground directly in front of you. This tall posture should help with some of our other running form considerations.

Tight hip flexors may contribute to a hunched posture. The following stretch sequence may help.

Run light.

The impact of the foot hitting the ground is worth considering as it concerns injuries. Recent evidence suggests runners who hit the ground lightly are injured less than runners who hit the ground hard.

You may run with earphones and you may be unaware that you stomp and pound the ground with each footfall. So to run light, remove the earphones and pay attention to the sound you make.

Imagine you’re weightless. Your strides are feathery light, and energetic. You don’t pound the ground but rather you glide across gossamer.

Another way to run lightly comes through this skipping drill:

Use a short, quick gait.

One way to lighten the impact of running is to drop the foot very nearly under your hips. This should result in your shin being vertical or near-vertical. Look at the picture. Try running like #2. The skipping drill from above can help you feel that foot landing directly below your hips.

Runner #1 is pounding. Runner #2 is running lightly.

Want to run lightly? Run like #2.

Don’t concern yourself with whether or not you’re hitting on the heel, mid-foot or forefoot. Where the foot lands is more important than on what part of the foot hits first.

Quickening your cadence too much can be a problem. There is an obvious point at which gait can becomes too quick and inefficient. An excellent way to work on your cadence is to use a metronome. Kinetic Revolution has a great article that discusses research on cadence as well as how to introduce metronome running into your training. The article also links to a digital metronome that you can download.

Change takes work.

Running may seem like something we should all be able to do. In fact, most of us can execute some version of movement in which we rapidly put one foot in front of the other. Kids learn to run without detailed instruction and without much in the way of typical running injuries. Shouldn’t adults be able to do the same thing? Maybe or maybe not… If we hurt while running or if we think we’re too slow, then some sort of alteration to our running style may make sense.

Changing your gait takes some tinkering, some awareness and mindfulness. It won’t happen automatically. Physical therapist Rick Olderman helped me to change my running gait. He once said that “if it feels normal, then you’re doing it wrong.” He meant that in the early stages of changing how we move, it should feel weird and unnatural to us. Learning any new skill requires some struggle and awkwardness. If you practice frequently and work at it then things should improve at a reasonable rate.

Personally, I never listen to music while running. I pay attention to how I run, where my foot falls, how I move. I don’t want to fall back into bad habits.


I can’t guarantee that any of these changes will result in either a pain-free running experience or a podium finish in a race.Time with a physical therapist, podiatrist, chiropractor and/or a running coach may be what you need.  That said, these cues have helped my running as well as several of my clients’ running experience. I’ve also incorporated things like the short foot drill, ankle dorsiflexion work, and a wide variety of single-leg squats and lunges (here, here, here for instance) to improve my movement competence. Clearly, there are a lot of moving parts to consider when we run!

Achilles Tendonitis Progress


My Achilles pain was getting better and then it flared up again recently and it has stayed flared for a while. This has been an ugly aggravation as it was a serious regression. Now, I’m very happy to report that my Achilles tendon irritation seems to be fading away. I’ve done three short-distance run/walks with no pain. (Will it stay gone is the real question.) What has helped?

Time off

Initially I thought that simply changing the way I ran would allow me to side-step whatever healing process that needed to take place. I revisited several technique changes that helped me overcome a past bout of Achilles pain. I discovered that there was no magic fix. Minding my technique is a good idea but it seems my tissues still needed time to heal.

Heel lift

I put a 1/4 inch heel lift in my shoe. The idea is to give a little bit of slack to the sore tendon.

To this point, I made sure not to do much in the way of stretching the tendon. It’s often a mistake to think that if it’s sore, it must need stretching. In fact, the damage to the Achilles may have been brought on by it’s being stretched too much and/or too fast.

Eccentric strength work

I’m continuing the work I wrote about in the last blog post. Runner’ has a comprehensive guide to both Achilles pain rehab and prevention strategies. I won’t rehash it here.

Extensor hallucis brevis work

I think this has been a BIG ONE. I believe that part of my problem stems from my inability to adequately anchor to the ground the distal end of my first metatarsal, aka the ball of my big toe. How might that affect my Achilles tendon?

Too much of this may over-stress the Achilles and cause pain.

Too much of this may over-stress the Achilles and cause pain.

If I can’t secure that first met head to the ground then I have a weak foot tripod as the Gait Guys have described it.That means that my foot might pronate in an uncontrolled way which can result in something like the image to the right. Too much of that done too often and/or too fast could over-stress the Achilles causing damage and pain. To form a solid foot tripod, I need to be able to secure the center of my calcaneus (heel bone), first metatarsal head (ball of the big toe) and the fifth metatarsal head (ball of the little toe.)

(To be clear, I can’t say this is The Cause for anyone else’s Achilles problems. Someone else may be able to run with lots of pronation and feel fine.)

How did I know I had difficulty getting that met head to the ground? I’ve been videoed running and I could see this extended pronation occurring. I could feel it as I tried doing the exercise in the following video. This gets into what seems like some real minutiae. For me, it seems pretty important. Also, I don’t believe this movement is trained in the eccentric strength protocol I mentioned above.

Metronome running

I’ve read several discussions (here, herehere) on running cadence and loading rate as it pertains to injury risk. Essentially, by using a quicker cadence we should load the tissues of the foot for less time per foot fall thus resulting in less stress to those tissues. That’s exactly something I need.

I went back to using a metronome when I run so that I can make sure to keep a quick pace. I set the metronome from 170 to 180 bpm and matched my cadence to the beat. It’s definitely a quicker cadence than what I’m used to. Seems I’ve backslid some on minding my cadence. Going forward, I think it will be a good idea to periodically run with a metronome to ensure that I’m staying quick on my feet.


More Achilles Tendon-itis/-osis/-opathy (or Whatever It Is)


About three weeks ago I went for a run in the snow. Part way through I felt some irritation in my left Achilles tendon. Like anyone who loves/needs to exercise, I kept running and I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t too bad, that it would probably go away soon or maybe if I changed my stride slightly it would resolve during the run.

I was wrong! I really irritated the thing and had to walk about a mile. This was the latest flare-up of a years-long lingering issue. (I’ve discussed the Achilles here and here, as well as left heel pain/plantar fasciitis hereherehere, here, here and probably in some other places… You’d think for someone who’s considered this issue so much that I wouldn’t have it anymore.)

Prior to this Achilles flare-up, I’d had some of some old familiar heel pain. It wasn’t debilitating but it was a signal that something wasn’t as it should be. Again, I ignored it to a large degree and figured it would resolve. I should’ve paid closer attention to it. Essentially, it wasn’t a problem until it was a problem. Time to get back to work on this thing.

Tendon injury: A complex issue

Why do we get injured? How do our tissues (like tendons) become damaged? If we administer the right amount of stress and then recover we get a positive adaptation–we get stronger. In contrast, if we administer too much stress and we don’t recover then we get some type of injury. Thus too much stress delivered too often and/or too fast has been my problem. I need to increase my tissue tolerance to the forces of running.

A recent article from Alex Hutchinson is titled Pro Tips on Treating Tendon Injuries. This article covers a debate among members of the Canadian Association of Sports and Exercise Medicine in Ottawa. Several top sports physicians and therapists were asked: Which therapy should the squash player try next? (I’m not a squash player but I have the injury they discussed.) If you’re dealing with this issue it’s definitely worth a read. It discusses several methods: eccentric strengthening, nitroglycerin patch, dry needling, cortisone, and platelet-rich plasma.

There wasn’t 100% agreement on anything much, but Hutchinson’s concluding statement was this (emphasis is mine):

“So what should the poor squash player do? In the question period following the debate, most participants conceded that strengthening exercises are the path to long-term health. Depending on the specifics of your tendon injury, other techniques may provide relief to allow you to exercise, but they’re not permanent cures.”

Cures I like. I have no interest in simply treating symptoms. Thus I decided it was time to implement something with which I’d been familiar but which I knew wouldn’t be very exciting at all: the eccentric strength protocol.

Eccentric strengthening

First, what does “eccentric” mean?An eccentric contraction is one in which the muscle is contracted but it’s also lengthening. Think of doing a bicep curl. You know the part where you yield to gravity and lower the weight? That’s the eccentric portion of the movement. (In contrast, the concentric portion is where you overcome gravity and bring up the weight.) For this particular protocol, we want to fight against the lowering action and lower very slowly.

I found a very thorough resource for this project from Jeff Gaudette at It’s titled The Ultimate Runner’s Guide to Achilles Tendon Injuries: The Scientific Signs, Symptoms, and Research Backed Treatment Options for Achilles Tendonitis and Insertional Achilles Tendinopathy. (The title of this thing just screams ACTION!! doesn’t it?) You can download both the Injury Treatment PDF and the Injury Prevention PDF. As the title suggests, this is a thoroughly researched guide to dealing with tendon injuries. I appreciate very much that there is both a treatment and prevention strategy. I won’t go into the whole thing but here are the basics:

The strength protocol consists of two exercises: a straight-kneed and a bent-kneed
eccentric heel drop. The protocol calls for three sets of fifteen heel drops, both bent- kneed and straight-kneed, twice a day for twelve weeks.

Standing on a step with your ankles plantarflexed (at the top of a “calf raise”), shift all of
your weight onto the injured leg. Slowly use your calf muscles to lower your body down,
dropping your heel beneath your forefoot. Use your uninjured leg to return to the “up”
position. Do not use the injured side to get back to the “up” position! The exercise is
designed to cause some pain, and you are encouraged to continue doing it even with
moderate discomfort. You should stop if the pain is excruciating, however.

Once you are able to do the heel drops without any pain, progressively add weight using a backpack. If you are unlucky enough to have Achilles tendon problems on both sides,
use a step to help you get back to the “up” position, using your quads instead of your
calves to return up.

The eccentric exercises are thought to selectively damage the Achilles tendon, stripping
away the misaligned tendon fibers and allowing the body to lay down new fibers that
are closer in alignment to the healthy collagen in the tendon. This is why moderate pain
during the exercises is a good thing, and why adding weight over time is necessary to
progressively strengthen the tendon.

You do these exercises for 3 sets of 15 reps, twice daily. There are photos showing these exercises including a modification if you have what’s known as insertional Achilles tendonitis. Again, read the whole thing if you want the full rundown of this protocol.

More thoughts

Part of why I haven’t done this in the past is that it is slow and tedious! Three sets of 15 slow reps makes time crawl like some sort of crippled tortoise. It ain’t fun! Plus I’ve never cared much for doing calf work. That said, I need to fix this problem. This process seems to be the best way to go about it, so I’m on board.

Something else I realize is that if I’m prone to this injury and I want to avoid it then I need to do the preventive work. That means setting aside time throughout the week and during my workouts to do some of this stuff.

I’ve been doing this work for about the past three weeks and I am getting better. I’ve done a couple of short run/walks and I’m not in the clear just yet. The only option I see is to continue doing what I’m doing.


I just went on a run of a little over two miles and the Achilles feels fantastic. No pain! Felt like I could’ve run all day–which would’ve been stupid of me. This protocol is working for me right now.

Techniques to Help You Run Pain Free


I’ve used a few simple techniques to help a few of my clients with their running technique.  These ideas have also helped me overcome a long-term bout of heel and Achilles trouble.

My clients often hurt when they ran so if nothing else, I figured they needed to run differently somehow. There was no guarantee that what I would show them would solve their problems but clearly the way they were running wasn’t quite working.

The following are drills and cues that I’ve used.  Effective cueing can be challenging.  I have in my mind a movement a feeling and an experience that I’d like you to have.  I have to translate what I feel into English and transmit that message to you.  My words may hit the mark or you may have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about!

Hop up and down.

Hop up and down.  How do you land?  On your heels?  Most people land on their toes and to some degree their heels settle to the ground.  It happens naturally.  Your probably don’t need to think about it too much.  In this way, we effectively dissipate the impact forces and avoid too much jarring and banging into the ground.

Run in place.

Now run in place–quickly!  Again, how do you land?  I think most people land similar to the way described above.  It’s a light landing on the toes, not heels first.  This is pretty much one-footed hopping.

Where do your feet land?  Directly under your hips.  That’s about where we want the feet to land.  In contrast, what we don’t want is for your feet to fling out in front and slam into the ground.  To that point…

Quick Pace

Overstriding is a frequent issue in injured runners. By overstriding the foot lands out in front of the runner and he or she slams hard into the ground with every foot fall. This can cause lots of stress to various tissues and joints and it’s likely a cause of pain.

This is a good contrast in foot placement.  The guy in back is overstriding.

This is a good contrast in foot placement. The guy in back is overstriding.

By running at a quick(er) pace we facilitate the feet landing under us, not out in front.  We create shorter loading times of the bones and joints and thus reduce the stress that may be causing our pain.  It’s difficult to overstride with a quick cadence.

For a most runners this means consciously picking up the pace. This can feel awkward at first and may feel inefficient.  One way to start to adjust your cadence is by using a metronome when you run.  Start at your normal pace and sync the metronome to your pace.  From there you can up the beat and match your pace to the metronome.  This takes time and practice.  If it’s important then you’ll do it.

Again, this all may feel very strange–and it should.  After all, if our current chosen running technique is causing pain, then it stands to reason that a new and better running technique should feel weird.  As with any new skill, it won’t feel strange forever.

Lean forward from the ankles.

chi_postureLearning to lean from the ankles–not the hips!–is important.  By leaning from the ankles we sort of fall forward.  We keep the hips under us, not poked out behind.  When leaning from the ankles it’s difficult to overstride and slam the foot into the ground. Here’s a drill to learn how to lean from the ankles.

Run tall.  Keep eyes on the horizon.

The simple cue to “run tall” seems to work well for a lot of runners.  I’ll keep it simple and leave that phrase as is.

Keep your eyes on the horizon.  This works well to help keep you tall.  Your body tends to go where your eyes go.  If you stare at the ground then you’re likely to slump forward.  You won’t be running tall.  Learn to use your peripheral vision to see the ground. The guys below are running tall and gazing out.

These guys are RUNNING REALLY TALL!!  You should do it too!

These guys are RUNNING REALLY TALL!! You should try it!

Run lightly.  Quick pace.  Lean from the ankles.  Run tall. Eyes on the horizon.

Here’s a good graphic.

I’m not going to say a lot more other than I like the information presented here:



Finally, here’s a skipping drill that may help you get a feel for running tall, running lightly and not pounding your heel into the ground. My hope is that this drill will transfer to your actual running. Skipping involves an exaggerated running gait and you don’t actually want to bound and prance to an extreme degree.

Worth Reading: What Makes a Great Personal Trainer? Recovery, Pronation, Bringing Up Your Weak Spots


What makes a great trainer?

The Personal Training Development Center (PTDC) has a lot of useful, informative articles for personal trainers.  Are Personal Trainers Missing the Point is a recent piece with which I agree. The key observation is this:

“The ability to correctly coach exercises is slowly becoming a lost art in the training world, despite that it’s the most fundamental component of being a personal trainer/coach.”

The article advocates for trainers to teach the squat, deadlift, bench press, standing press and pull-up.  (I would ad the push-up to the list.) It’s also suggested that trainers learn to teach regressions and progressions of these exercises. These exercises are the essentials. They have been and still are the basic building blocks of effective exercise programs and they offer the most return on investment of a client’s training time. Read the article to learn three steps to becoming a better coach.

Running recovery

Alex Hutchinson writes for Runner’s World and the Running Times. He recently wrote an article called the Science of Recovery.  He briefly discusses six methods: antioxidants, jogging (as during a cool down), ice bath, massage, cryosauna and compression garments. Anyone who trains hard–runner or not–may find the article interesting.


Pete Larson at gives us Do You Pronate? A Shoe Fitting Tale. Here, he describes overhearing a conversation between a confused shoe store customer and the mis-informed employee who tries to educate her on pronation. Contrary to what many of us believe, pronation is not a dire evil problem to be avoided at all costs. Larson says it well:

 “The reality is that everybody pronates, and pronation is a completely normal movement… We might vary in how much we pronate, but asking someone if they pronate is like asking them if they breathe. I’d actually be much more concerned if the customer had revealed that no, she doesn’t pronate. At all. That would be worrisome.”

If you’re a runner then I highly suggest you learn about the realities of pronation.

Supplemental strength

I love strength training. I love all the subtleties and ins & outs of getting stronger. One area that I’m learning about is supplemental work (aka accessory work). This is weight training used to bring up one’s strength on other lifts (typically the squat, deadlift, bench press or standing press).  With supplemental work, we’re looking to find weak areas and make them stronger.
Dave Tate at EliteFTS is one of the foremost experts on all of this. Thus, his article Dave Tate’s Guide to Supplemental Strength is very much up my alley, and it should be up yours if you’re serious about getting stronger. He discusses several categories of exercises and how to incorporate them into a routine. Below, the term “builders” refers to exercises that build the power lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift):
  1. Always start with the builders. Do not start with the main lift.
    Examples: Floor press, box squat. Sets: 3-5. Reps: 3-5.
  2. Move to supplemental exercises — exercises that build the builders.
    Examples: 2-board press, safety-bar close-stance squat. Sets: 3. Reps: 5-8.
  3. Accessories — Either muscle-based (for size) or movement-based (for strength). Use supersets and tri-sets, as needed.
    Examples: DB presses, biceps curls. Sets: 3. Reps: 10-20.
  4. Rehab/Pre-hab — Whatever you need, nothing more or less. Examples:
    External rotation, face pulls. Sets: 2-3. Reps: 20-30.
This is just a little bit of the article. It’s very detailed. There may not be much here for recreational lifters but for coaches and those of us who have gotten a little deeper into our lifting, it’s a superb article.

3/13/14 Workout


The barbell/kettlebell class I like so much is Tuesday/Thursday mornings. My track workout is also on Tuesday and my tempo run is Thursday. It’s good to put a bunch of hard work on the hard days, and do easy stuff on easy days.

The class is a very tough class. I think it may be impacting my tempo runs, thus today I decided to forego the class and do the tempo run then lift later in the day. Here’s what the day looked like:

  • 7 am 2 mi. run: easy & slow with Diva the Dog.
    • I love running with my dog!! The vet listens to her low heart rate and calls her an athlete. I love that!
    • This was a warm-up for the tempo run.
  • Tempo run: 6 mi. at 8:26 pace.
    • This was rugged! It was supposed to be an 8:23 pace but such is life.
    • I’m not certain the class damages my tempo run.  The tempo run is just tough.
    • For the next tempo run, I plan to skip the class again, run the exact same route but this time I will fuel beforehand with Ucan. Curious to see if fueling with the slow-drip carbs will improve performance.
  • 3 pm: weights
    • This was late in the day for me to be lifting.
    • According to the 5/3/1 plan I’m following, this is a de-load day on deadlifts, so I decided to do power cleans in place of deads.  (You can’t clean as much as you can deadlift.)
    • power cleans: 175 lbs x 5 – 185 x 5 – (and because I read this article from Dan John) 205 x 3 x 2 sets. In reality, I got 2 sets of 2 and that third set… I only got one. It whopped my a$%…
    • 1-leg box jumps: 4 x 4 sets. Trying to create more 1-legged power for running.
    • pull-ups: 24 kg x 5 x 5.  I don’t do pull-ups regularly (I used to) and these were tough.
    • kettlebell snatches: 24 kg x 120 reps (60 each arm)
      • We typically do 200 reps in the class.
      • I have a nice big, hot blister on my left hand and an almost-healed blister on the right.
      • I taped my left hand and that didn’t quite help me enough.
      • I was smoked at this point and I’m a big girlie sissy thus, only 120 reps.
      • Oh well…
  • The big thing: Regarding the run, I’m quite interested to see what putting some carbs in the mix does for my run next week. I’m doing my best to be in ketosis. Lack of carbs may negatively impact these types of efforts–but my track workouts don’t seem to be suffering. There’s a question here that I’m very interested in answering. Next Thursday might reveal that answer…

The Final Victory Against My Heel Pain Part I: Addressing the Biomechanics


I’m really thrilled to be writing this post because it seems I’ve finally truly gotten rid of a chronic heel/Achilles/plantar fasciitis issue that has been with me for a long time. (I’ve said this before and I’ve been wrong, but for the record I’ve been running a lot and my heel hasn’t felt this good for this long in years.)

This thing has been with me for maybe three years. It’s never been enough to really knock me out. It didn’t derail me from my first marathon and subsequent 10-milers and half-marathons. However, several weeks ago I did a long trail run and it felt like a nail had been driven into my heel. I figured it was time to sort this out. The solution has been a mix of biomechanical and running technique adjustments, and a deeper understanding of pain science.

Before I met with anyone I put a green Superfeet insert into my shoes. I’m a minimalist shoe advocate.  I don’t want to rely on a crutch but I’m also very much willing to do whatever is appropriate to solve a problem. A lot of what I’ve read for addressing heel and Achilles problems suggests putting some sort of insert into a shoe. The idea here was to unload some of the muscles and structures that hold up the foot, including the Achilles. I’m still using the inserts on a lot of my runs but I rarely wear them at work and I do some of my runs with without the insert.

I next met with a couple of guys with a lot of great knowledge and experience. Mike Terborg and Nick Studholme were both very instrumental in my progress.  Mike is a performance and injury recovery specialist in Boulder and Nick runs Studholme Chiropractic. Mike is heavily influenced through John Hardy and the principles of FASTER Global which teaches a process of biomechanical reasoning. Nick studied under the innovative physical therapist Gary Gray. Both guys speak much the same language when it comes to movement and movement analysis.

They both have tremendous ability to explain what they see and communicate the changes they thought I should make. They both used a fantastic and powerful video program called Spark Motion which was created by Nick and a group of other guys. This was just an amazing way to record and analyze movement. Spark is a great tool that I need to look into.

The visit with Mike Terborg: Running adjustments

I first visited with Mike in Boulder a few weeks ago. We spent a couple of hours looking at how I moved. The major issue we found was prolonged eversion of my left foot. The foot stayed in contact with the ground for what seemed a long time. Mike explains his observations and thought process:

“Adhering to the Biopsychosocial or BPS model of pain (vs the Postural-Structural-Biomechanical model), we couldn’t say for sure what was causing the pain other than it could be a combination of things including but not limited to biomechanics. You had chronic pain of the plantar fascia, like to run, and wanted to be able to run more without aggravating this injury so we needed to look at your physiological skills and tendencies relative to gait. We cannot say for sure that eversion and dorsiflexion of the subtalar joint caused the injury (because these are natural motions of subtalar joint and thus normal motions for the PF to decelerate), but we can deduce that less loading of the plantar fascia (less dorsi/eversion) might be helpful in reducing the amount of stress on the PF during running. Our hope was that less stress/load during gait may allow you to run pain free for longer. In sum, we can say for sure that we crossed some type of stress threshold (bio, psycho and or social), so we wanted to ask your body what happened if we backed off on the biomechanical load to the pissed off tissue. 

“Your ranges and sequencing in the breakout evaluation all looked good, so we went straight to your running technique. Using Spark Motion for gait analysis, we deduced that it was possible for you to run in a way that reduced the stress to your PF and apparently that helped. The drills were all part of a progression to not only teach your body the skills and sequence of a more rapid gait but to train your ability to sustain that gait for longer periods of time (strength endurance of a skill). Nothing fancy, just following biomechanical reasoning to look for clues and strategies.” 

I really like Mike’s explanation of the process. He puts his explanation in a very honest way. In saying that we don’t know for certain why the pain is there, nor do we understand exactly how or why it might go away, he reflects the current cutting edge of pain science which reveals that pain is in many ways a baffling mystery.

He directed me to several exercise progressions of which here are three:

We changed my running gait along these lines:

  • Put less pressure through the heel into the ground. Let the heel touch the ground but only lightly.
  • Quicken the stride so the foot stays in contact with the ground for less time.
  • Swing the right leg through faster to facilitate less time on the ground of the left foot.
  • Run with a metronome set somewhere between 170-190 bpm.  This quickens the stride rate. Experiment.

The resulting new gait felt like I was some sort of prancing fool–La la la la laaaa!!!–dancing through the daisies.  Fortunately the video Mike shot of me indicated that in fact I just looked like I was running with a quicker step. (I could in fact go running in public this way.) Finally, Mike also suggested I visit with Nick so I did.

Analysis from Nick Studholme & fine tuning the lower leg

Nick put me through a muscle testing process and winnowed out some weak and unstable muscles in my lower leg. Specifically, big toe muscles known as flexor hallucis longus, and flexor hallucis brevis weren’t working up to par. The fibularis muscles (aka peroneals) were also a bit off line.

Taken together, when these muscles work they create and control plantar flexion and inversion of the foot as in the push-off of running or walking, and they create/control dorsiflexion and eversion of the foot as when the foot hits the ground.

Of great importance is the ability to anchor the big toe to the ground while the body passes over the foot. I was missing the mark. Nick taped my foot in a way to help facilitate this anchoring and he showed me several exercises to help me feel, create and control better big toe function while running. These exercises were similar in nature to what Mike showed me.

It’s several weeks later and what are the results? The heel and Achilles quickly started feeling better. I did a series of short interval type runs. The quicker pace (around 175-180 bpm) was challenging at first. I didn’t want to become exhausted while running and lose the technique, thus I only ran 1 or 2 minutes at a time. and walked in between. (Running with my dog tends to be a good way to break up the running with walking.)

Some discomfort remained for a couple of weeks in a stubborn way. It wasn’t terrible but it was hanging around like it was ready to pounce. I was worried that there was something we might be missing. This last bit of hanging-around heel trouble would be gone within 48 hrs after I reviewed the current ideas on pain and the brain. I’ll discuss that in the next post.



The Big Running Plan Begins


There’s a big event that I’ve had on my mind for years.  It’s the Gore-Tex Transrockies Run. This year’s gig is six days, 120 miles with 20,000 feet of elevation gain. I’m looking at running the 2015 race so I figure the mileage and such should be about the same. Go here for maps and descriptions of this year’s stages.

Preparation for the Transrockies run means a whole lotta running this year.  I need to do more trail races and another marathon, most likely a trail marathon. I’m running a lot (for me) right now. I’m up to about 30 miles per week. I’ve got a 5k this weekend and more races planned (more on that in a moment.) The very good news is that everything is feeling solid and strong, including my stubborn, chronic Achilles/heel trouble.

I’ve also consulted with Denver-area running coach Jay Johnson. I saw him speak at the NSCA Endurance Clinic a few months ago and I became very interested in picking his brain a bit. I’ll be communicating with him every month or so to fine tune my workouts and run plan. Speaking of which…

My first and only marathon (two years ago) was based on the FIRST Run Less, Run Faster plan.  This plan has only three run days per week: a track workout, tempo run, and a distance run.  Two days a week were devoted to a cross-training workout on a bike or rower.  I also ran the Ft. Collins Half-Marathon and Park-to-Park 10-Miler based on this plan. It’s a minimalist running plan. It’s very useful if there’s limited training time available. This plan got me through several races but I want to know if a different type of plan will increase my performance. I’m curious if more running will make me a better runner.

The Transrockies run is a lot of running for several days in a row, thus with the SAID Principle in mind, it makes sense to me that I should train in as close a fashion to the race as possible. This time around, I’m going the maximalist route with the Hansons Marathon Method.  (I also need to get the Hansons Half-Marathon Method.)

Something to consider with this high-volume plan is the opportunity to practice running. That is, with all the miles and the recovery runs, I get the chance to refine my running skills. Running is a skill just like playing a horn or driving a golf ball. Running improvements don’t come just from the obvious increases in fitness that come from speed work, tempo runs and tough long runs. Matt Fitzgerald discusses this idea in a Running Times article called Rethinking Junk Miles:

You see, running is a bit like juggling. It is a motor skill that requires communication between your brain and your muscles. A great juggler has developed highly refined communication between his brain and muscles during the act of juggling, which enables him to juggle three plates with one hand while blindfolded. A well-trained runner has developed super-efficient communication between her brain and muscles during the act of running, allowing her to run at a high, sustained speed with a remarkably low rate of energy expenditure. Sure, the improvements that a runner makes in neuromuscular coordination are less visible than those made by a juggler, but they are no less real.

For both the juggler and the runner, it is time spent simply practicing the relevant action that improves communication between the brain and the muscles. It’s not a matter of testing physiological limits, but of developing a skill through repetition. Thus, the juggler who juggles an hour a day will improve faster than the juggler who juggles five minutes a day, even if the former practices in a dozen separate five-minute sessions and therefore never gets tired. And the same is true for the runner.

 (BTW, Russian kettlebell and strength expert Pavel Tsatsouline discusses the exact same principle but with regard to strength training.)

The Hansons Plan has me running often in a fatigued state. The longest run I do though is 16 miles. Most marathon plans feature a 20 mile run. So why only 16 as a longest run? This 16-miler will take place after several days of running. I’ll have a tempo run then an 8 or 6 mile run the day before the 16-miler. The idea as they say in the Hansons book is that I’ll be training to run the last 16 miles of the marathon. Sounds interesting and plausible to me. That goes along with something Coach Johnson suggested. He said that at some point, in preparation for the Transrockies Run, that every other week I should run back-to-back long trail runs. Again, this goes to the idea of training specificity. I imagine I’ll do that next year.

Here’s a list of races and potential races I plan to run this year:

  • 3/2/14 – That Dam 5k – Denver: I need to run a 5k so I can derive my training paces for the marathon plan.
  • 4/6/14 – XTERRA Cheyenne Mt. Trail Run 12km – CO Springs: Don’t know anything about this race but I’m looking fwd to it.
  • 5/4/14 – Ft. Collins Marathon 13.1: Ran this one last year and had a great time.  Went out a tiny bit too fast though.  Hope to better my time of 1:47.
  • 6/7/14(maybe) – Boulder Sunrise Duathlon 3.1 mile run / 17.3 mile bike / 3.1 mile run – Boulder: My wife is doing this triathlon. I don’t swim well enough to do a tri but I’ve done some duathlons and this might be fun and a change of pace.
  • Summer – 5k: Coach Jay Johnson suggested I train for and race a 5k. He said putting in that speed work would be useful for a Fall marathon.
  • 8/23/14 (maybe) – Continental Divide Trail Race 15.5 mi. – Steamboat: Ran this one a couple of years ago and it was brutal but beautiful and a very laid-back kinda thing.  Wouldn’t mind taking it on again in a better pair of shoes. Not sure if this one fits into the overall race plan.
  • 9/20/14 – Aspen Golden Leaf Trail Half-Marathon – Aspen: This race got a great write-up in some running magazine (Runner’s World?  Competitor?) recently. We’ve never been to Aspen. Sounds interesting. Should be good preparation for the marathon.
  • 11/8/14 – Moab Trail Marathon: This is my main race. We’ve never been to Moab and this is a great reason to go.

That’s my plan right now. I’m very excited about this! I’m feeling great right now. I really love the process of getting to these races. I love the anticipation and the training. We’ll see what happens.

NSCA Endurance Clinic Summary: Day 3


David Barr: Nutritional Supplements & Ergogenic Aids

  • NSCA CSCS, USA Track & Field, Precision Nutrition Certified, participated in research with NASA
  • High Return On Investment Supplements
    • Caffeine
      • blocks adenosine which results in
      • less fatigue and
      • lower feeling of exertion during activity
      • concerns include GI distress and diuresis (exessive urination)
    • Carbs
      • type: glucose, fructose, maltodextrin
      • timing: during exercise
      • beneficial in events lasting >2.5 hrs
      • dosing by duration: 60g/hr for 2-3 hrs, 30g/hr if <2 hrs
    • Fish oil
      • effects
        • increased muscle anabolism
        • may enhance recovery
      • Don’t look at total Omega 3s
        • You want EPA = 180 and
        • DHA = 120
      • If eating a high-fat diet (me) then up the Omega 3s.
      • potential synergy with Vitamin E
    • Protein (He seems to be a big protein guy.)
      • Don’t use during exercise (but what about Accelerade?  No good?  Didn’t get a chance to ask.)
      • Consume up to 2 g per kg of body weight or 1 g per lb.
      • Whey post workout: 20-25 g is the limit
    • Nutrient timing:
      • Protein pulse feeding
        • multiple protein feedings per day of 20-30 g
        • ups protein storage
        • Seems the effect of this is separate from the training effects from the workout.
      • Take about 40 g of casein before sleep to help blunt catabolism
      • Carb timing:
      • If you need rapid glycogen replenishment then consume carbs soon.
      • If you have 24 hrs before the next workout then it’s not an issue.
      • Protein and the workout
        • If you’ve eaten soon before a workout then don’t worry.
        • If you haven’t eaten in a while then eat protein pre-workout.
    • Keys to hydration
      • specific prescription better than ad libitum or drinking at will.
      • (Dr. Tim Noakes disagrees and I side with Noakes.)
      • flavor enhances consumption
      • cold increases palatability
      • drink early/often
    • Building the optimal endurance drink
      • 200 ml water/15 minutes
      • sodium: 450 mg/L
      • Carbs: 8-10%, 90 g/hr: glucose and fructose
      • Protein (potentially): 7%
      • You must “train the gut” or use this stuff while training in order to condition the digestive system to put up with it.
    • Antioxidants
      • mitigate free radical damage and aid recovery
      • Don’t take directly after workouts.
      • May be a case for taking antioxidants during activity
    • Lactate
      • Lactate is used as energy.
      • Doesn’t cause burn/fatigue
      • Cytomax makes some sort of drink w/lactate in it.
    • Buffers
      • bicarbonate
        • 300 mg/kg
        • potential GI trouble
      • Beta alanine
      • Theoretically: use both for a systemic effect
    • Nitrates
      • may help power output
      • may mitigate effects of altitude
      • Improved time trial performance in cyclists
    • Immunity
      • CHO
      • Vit C
      • Vit D
      • Zinc
    • Common deficiencies
      • Vit D
        • No toxicity
        • 6000-10,000 IU/day
      • Iron: Test for it.
      • Magnesium
    • Experimental considerations
      • hyperhydration
      • “train low” (carbs): unclear if this benefits performance
      • echinacea: increases EPO
      • ketones: novel energy source
    • Future prospects
      • cobalt chloride
      • guanidinopropionic acid
    • Other resources

Tim CrowleyProgram Design: Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

  • CSCS, NASM-PES, USA Cycling Elite Level Coach, 2008 US Olympic Triathlon Coaching Staff, USAT Elite Coach of the Year and Development Coach of the Year, Owner TC2 Coaching, Head Strength Coach at Montverde Academy
  • Huge need for endurance strength & conditioning coach
  • “Great swimmers are great athletes that swim fast and great athletes are strong.” – Richard Shoulberg, Germantown Academy
  • Program Goals
    • Reduce injury incidence
    • Reduce injury severity
    • Increase athletic performance
    • Improve athleticism
  • If you can read/learn 1 hr per day then you’re way ahead of the crowd.
  • Try stuff out before we give it to athletes: workouts, tools, food
  • Book: Endurance Training Science & Practice, Mujika
  • He covered various research evidence showing that strength training aids runners, cyclists and other endurance athletes
    • Reasons strength training works for endurance athletes:
      • conversion of type IIX fibers into fatigue resistant type IIA fibers
      • improves strength (like money in the bank)
      • rapid force production
      • improved neuromuscular function
      • tendon stiffness (essential for running)
      • improved max speed for fast starts or finishes
    • Common myths
      • Heavy weights make you big
      • Weight training hurts young athletes
      • Endurance athletes need light weight/high reps
      • Heavy weight training reduces ROM
      • Lifting equals bodybuilding
      • Squats hurt knees
      • Only for use in off-season
      • Endurance training will build strength
    • Important considerations
      • Strength work often isn’t to improve the engines of endurance (legs for running for example) but rather to address weaknesses, increase overall athleticism, and avoid injury
      • As pressure mounts on an athlete, find ways to coach less and simply get them to perform at their ability.
      • Time:
        • an obstacle for endurance athletes
        • goal is 30-40 min 2x per week
        • Try high-intensity/low-volume workout to increase muscle activation prior to a track workout
      • Energy
        • finite amount of energy for training
        • can’t interrupt endurance sport training
        • DOMS can be a problem
        • physical effects of high-vs low-volume
        • psychological effects
      • Reciprocal Inhibition
        • Reduced neural drive to opposing muscles
        • Areas of concern
          • scapula/thoracic spine
          • hip flexors/glutes
          • hip adductors/glute medius
          • anterior core/low back
      • Pattern Overload
        • Endurance sports are cyclical
        • high incidence of overuse injury
        • lots of “itises”
      • Force Couplings
        • Key body regions for multisport athletes
          • internal vs. external shoulder rotators
          • hips in saggital plane (flexors vs. extensors)
          • hips in frontal plane (glute medius and quadratus lumborum)
        • Eliminate power leaks
        • Improve movement economy = free speed
      • Masters athletes
        • strength development/maintenance is vital to success
        • loss of power declines faster than strength
        • mobility is crucial
        • compensation patterns
        • slower recovery from injuries
      • Program design
        • foam rolling/movement prep
        • mobility
        • corrective exercise
        • strength
        • keep it simple
        • less is more
        • quality over quantity
        • develop power
      • Self-myofacial release (SMR)
        • foam rollers
        • tennis/LAX balls
        • golf balls
        • the Stick
      • Mobility
        • May be the most important component in the beginning
        • a must for masters athletes
        • Vital concerns:
          • hip mobility
          • thoracic spine
          • ankles
          • 1-leg squat
          • split squat every workout
          • His ACL injury rate is almost 0.
      • Overuse injuries
        • Be proactive
        • shoulders
        • low back
        • glutes/glute medius
        • lower leg/ankle
      • His go-to exercises
        • inverted/TRX rowing
        • anterior core
        • core dynamic stabilization
        • single-leg squatting (priority goes to 1-leg over 2-leg work)
        • glute/hamstring and glutes
        • trap bar deadlifts
        • ankle band walking
        • eccentric calf raises
      • Mobility and Stability
        • Mobility is the combination of muscle flexibility, joint ROM, and the body segment’s freedom of movement
        • 2 types of stability
          • static 1-leg stance
          • dynamic core stabilization during athletic movement
        • Example: Hips are stiff so lumbar spine becomes too mobile/unstable and injury is incurred.
      • 10 exercises to include
        • Cook hip lift

      • Hip flexor stretch
        •  X Lat pull (couldn’t find a video)
        • Reverse cable fly

        • single-leg squat

        • single-leg deadlift

        • stability ball pushup or TRX pushup (unstable surface)

        • lawnmower row

        • cable and tubing lifts and chops (and other similar exercises)

      • single-leg heel raise
  • Resources

Nick Clayton, Power Training for Endurance Athletes

  • Objectives
    • Explain how training with explosive movements benefits endurance performance
    • Correctly perform variations of the Olympic lifts and plyometrics specific to performance in endurance activities
    • Lecture
    • Practical
      • dynamic warm-up
      • Olympic lift variations
      • Plyometrics
    • Why train for power?
      • Rate of force development
      • eccentric strength
    • Non-barbell Olympic lifting
      • Clean, snatch, jerk variations
        • kettlebells
        • dumbbells
        • medicine balls
      • Plyometrics: various 1 and 2 leg jumps, hops, skips
      • Nick said he would create videos of all the exercises and post them.  When/if they’re available I plan to post them here.
      • This was a fantastic session from warm-up to all exercises.
      • It was very much in line with the idea of creating athleticism.
      • These drills exposed a lot of weaknesses and lack of athleticism in a lot of the participants.
      • Exposing these weaknesses could be a huge opportunity to improve athletic performance.


This clinic was just excellent!  It far surpassed my high expectations and that’s a rare thing.  The combination of theoretical/academic/”sciencey-type” stuff, practical application of the science, and physical participation kept the whole thing extremely interesting.  I came away with my mind overflowing with ideas.

Several things are prominent in my mind right now:

  1. I was re-introduced to some of Gary Gray’s concepts.  I’ve returned to doing the 3D lunge matrix with much greater understanding of hip, spine and knee position, plus how to tweak the lunge matrix in all sorts of ways.  I’m doing it again and all my clients are doing it now.
  2. The concept of athleticism as a necessary foundation is a HUGE concept to me.  We tend to specialize too much.  We devote ourselves to endurance sports which go one direction (saggital plane) and we neglect 3D movement.  We avoid crawling, climbing, rolling, hopping, jumping and engaging in unpredictable movement situations.  Check out the people going into and out of Spinning classes and you’ll see a lot of broke-down people who can barely hobble.  They aren’t athletic.  And I have been one of those people–but not anymore! Every one of my workouts now has a dedicated 3D movement component, power component and I try to do something that I don’t typically do.  Athleticism deserves a blog post of its own.
  3. I’m going to contact Jay Johnson for some coaching.  He did such a fantastic job of distilling academic information into practical application.  I can only coach myself so far.  I need someone who’s been through the process both as a runner and a running coach.