It’s the Hips! – Part 2

My friend Linda, to whom I have offered coaching advice, told me the other day she was having hip pain, keeping her from running. She said her physical therapist evaluated it as weak glutes, which they are working to strengthen. This led to me rereading my August 11, 2015 blog post, It’s the Hips!, which offered no substantive advice on strengthening. So this post intends to do that. First point is to define the hips. And while this may be simplistic, from a runner’s perspective let’s consider the broad definition of hips as our core. John Davis in RunnerConnect defines “core” as all of the muscles of the lower trunk and pelvis: not just the abs and back, but also hip flexors, glutes, abductors, and adductors. He states further that these hip muscle groups are particularly important because they’re involved in a range of running injuries. When you look at the descriptions on the side of machines at the gym of what muscles are targeted, there’s often a range, with some primary, some secondary. That can be useful information but the real question is whether our overall strength training routine gets at the full range of core muscles. If we … Continue reading

To Race or Not To Race? That is the Question!

Is it a stretch to suggest this Shakespearian corollary applies to competitive runners? Most of us have at least some of our identity connected to this sport we love. Not seeing our friends at races and toeing the line attacks our sense of self.   George Sheehan probed this years ago in his first book Running and Being. However, to shift from the existential to the practical side of the question, we competitive runners find ourselves in this predicament, probably several times a year. We train to do well in peak races that have meaning for various reasons.   For me I look forward to doing well in the USATF-New England Grand Prix series and the BAA Distance Medley (5K, 10K, Half). I know the best runners will be at the Grand Prix races and I want my age-class competition to know I need to be reckoned with! At root, these rivalries are supportive and rewarding. Camaraderie develops because we have each made sacrifices over an extended time. And races are a celebration of that. The BAA races are all large (~10,000 runners) events drawing an international field and there’s a definite “buzz” being part of then. If you’ve followed my blog, … Continue reading

The 80/50 Principle

Richard Koch wrote a bestseller in 1999 entitled the 80/20 Principle. He refers to the Pareto Principle, which goes back to 1896 and cites numerous activities where 20% of inputs gives 80% of the result. Others have professed something akin to a 90/50 principle.   In comparison, a steep decline – 30% more effort for 10% return. Let’s look closer at 80%. What is special about that? If we think about various things we do, 80% is pretty good. Better than just getting by. A decent level of success.    I’ve been thinking about how this applies to running. I started with the question of “what is 80%?” I thought about a 10K race. Let’s consider a runner whose current “best,” (i.e., 100%) is 40:00. This is solid running – for a 50 year old man that’s a 75.1% age grade – or halfway between a national and regional class runner according to the WAVA (World Association of Veteran Athletes) tables. For a 50-year old woman this is 85.7%, more than halfway between national and world class.   In the 2017 BAA 10K, 40:00 would have placed in the top 2%. So 40:00 is a reasonable standard. Coincidentally, I consider 40:00 my current … Continue reading

Surprise #6 – Habits

Shoot from the glutes; lead with the hips; run tall! This post builds on posts on August 11, 2015 – It’s the Hips! and July 29, 2015 – Running Fast! This is the 6th post related to my February fall resulting in rib surgery to plate four of eight broken ribs. The last post on this was May 7 and a lot of water over the dam since then. By now, I had hoped to report a full recovery. The reset is now for mid-August. To recap, I took 12 weeks off from running.   I was hardly inactive during this time. After several weeks of walking, I worked back into StairMaster, deep-water running, and light weights.   I’ve now been running for 10 weeks, building up slowly in speed and distance beginning with weeks of 11, 14, 19, and 18 miles in May. In June the weeks were 24, 18, 24, and 26 miles.   The first two weeks in July have been 25 and 33 miles. Wise or not, I ran three races in June: two 10Ks and a 5 Miler. Not pretty, but these were target races and a test of my fitness. Previously I had bounced back rather quickly … Continue reading

The Performance Enigma

We turn the key and expect our cars to perform – without fail. Same with our TVs, toasters, bikes, and computers.   We board a plane 99.99999+% sure all will go well. With all these machines, it’s on or off, up or down, cut and dried, no in between. The acceptable performance level is 100%. But what about us humans – what’s an acceptable % if not 100%. Let’s talk baseball. A top hitter hits 30% and gets on base 40% of the time. A pitcher striking out 25% of batters faced is an all star. On a team level, some nights the Red Sox are invincible – Gold Gloves at every position, a Cy Young on the mound, and hits and runs mount throughout the game.   Other nights, they have butterfingers, pitchers serve up dingers like it’s batting practice, and the offense is nowhere to be found. They wouldn’t beat the Lowell Spinners, their Single A affiliate, much less another major league team. Same team, different nights. So how does this relate to running? First, we are not machines, even if we train methodically with an eye on gradual improvement and excellence. I practice and preach this – aiming for … Continue reading

Why We Run!

On Memorial Day weekend, I gave a talk at the pasta dinner preceding the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington on the topic of “Why We Run.” I was initially asked to speak on the beginning of VCM, which is now 29 years old and which I helped start, and why it has flourished. But I felt that should be framed by why any one runs, period, whether it be a 5K or a marathon. So I entitled my talk “Why We Run, Why Run VCM.” I did a lot of thinking about the first part and came up with five reasons: We Choose to Participate We Challenge Ourselves We Make Friends Good Health Reasons Beyond Ourselves  PARTICIPATION Running is a choice we make. We’re not alone! Running USA’s survey indicated there were 17 million road race finishers (not unique racers – one can count multiple times) in 2015. Of those 45% were 5Ks, 12% half marathons, and only 3% (or 500,000 finishers) in marathons. Interestingly, 57% of finishers were women, up from 25% in 1990, when there were just 4.7 million finishers. Lots of reasons for this increase, including technologies allowing for net times/quick results, a proliferation of local races, … Continue reading

Surprise #5 – Step-by-Step

I was cleared to run beginning May 1st – just short of 12 weeks post surgery. I had been planning for this re-entry for weeks and then it was here! I have now run four days, every other day, starting at 2 miles, then 2.5, then 3, and today 3.5 for a week’s total of 11 miles. Nothing fast or fancy but running nonetheless!   And all runs included running drills. To begin, I broke the two miles into half-mile segments, with about three minutes of walking, jogging, and stretching in between. Each day I increased the long segment half a mile. So today my final run was 2 miles. I’ll continue this approach for the next couple weeks until the total distance is a single run and I am up to about six miles. Then I’ll incorporate some faster pace and easy hills. By month end I look to be up to 20 miles a week. One step at a time! So, what have I learned and how might this help others coming back from a similar layoff? First, as much alternative exercise I have done, mainly fast walking, water running, and StairMaster, it was not running. And certain muscles … Continue reading

Walking the BAA 5K

I had decided a month ago to enter today’s BAA 5K. I had a number and it’s part of the Boston Marathon weekend celebration. It was nine weeks after rib surgery and I was not yet cleared to run. So I was prepared to walk it. I aimed for 45 minutes, a 14:20 pace. I had been mostly water running and StairMastering to maintain some aerobic fitness. A bit of walking – but no more than three miles at a crack. So two weeks before the race I went for a brisk six-mile walk. Averaged 14:53 and found the last mile really taxing. A 45-minute 5K was looking ominous. Then the week before the 5K I upped the tempo for 4 miles to a 14:00 pace. I started thinking 43 minutes might be in the cards. Two days later, I walked 5 miles with two one-mile intervals of 12:47 and 13:17, for the first time throwing in some light jogging along with walking.   Now I was thinking sub 40:00! Then two days before the race, I did two more mile splits with more jogging at 11:59 and 11:46. I was being cautious but testing the ribs. None of it hurt … Continue reading

Surprise #4 – Learnings

Recovering from an injury and/or surgery tests one’s patience. As runners, we’re eager to get back to running. We also tend to think we’re tougher and more resilient than most. And that our recovery should be way ahead of the curve. We count the days, maybe weeks, but certainly not months. At least this has been my mindset. The truth is we don’t know and can’t know how things will progress. Assuming we listen, our bodies tell us the real story as it plays out. It was eight weeks ago today I broke my ribs. It seems closer when I walk down the stairs and see the dent in the wall my suitcase made as the other side drove through my ribs.   I started PT after five weeks and of course felt what they gave me was elementary – I kept asking for harder exercises. After all, I’m a tough, resilient runner! But I learned they knew their stuff. I go weekly and each time they add new exercises I do daily. These often leave me a bit sore, which actually feels good. The symptoms have moderated considerably. The ambient pain is largely gone, though I trigger a reaction when … Continue reading

Ed Whitlock – Last Lap

Ed Whitlock died on March 12 at the age of 86.   In running circles Ed Whitlock was an icon, an enigma, and someone who defied the aging process. He set world records at various distances after turning 70. Five months before his death he ran a 3:56 marathon in Toronto. Physiological tests indicated the highest VO2 Max of anyone measured at his age and his muscle retention astounding. He was a rail at 110 pounds, carrying no extra baggage. I had dinner with Ed and Bill Dixon a few years back at the Stockadeathon. Ed was a pretty understated and unassuming guy. Had a twinkle in his eye and clearly enjoyed being around the races. He didn’t like to train and was known for his endless laps around a local cemetery. He didn’t listen to music – just ground it out. Maybe he experienced a runners high in the races – he certainly did not in training. Ed did nothing but run – no weights, stretching, or cross-training. Ed died from prostate cancer that had apparently spread to his bones. He didn’t say anything publically about it, which is why it caught most everyone by surprise. Surely Ed knew something was … Continue reading