Thursday, January 15, 2009

Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In

After almost two years of intrigue, my recent experience had finally convinced me to give up on the notion that Newton Running shoes might be the perfect running shoe for me. If you have no idea what I'm talking about (first of all . . . where've you been?!?!), read this first (and be sure to read the comments).

As you can see, the Ironman at Law Blog is read way up in the land of Newtonia (either that, or those pesky spies at Google tattled on me). I haven't been able to locate Newtonia on my little "recent visitors" map, but I think it's near Boulder. Anyway, one of the Newtonians left a comment this week explaining that it was possibly the user, not the shoes, that were the problem. ("It's not me, it's you!") Yesterday morning, I spoke with the Newtonian that left the comment. Let's call her . . . Tory (since that's her name). And I must say that the Newtonians are very nice people. I wish more companies would take the time to talk with their customers the way Tory took the time to talk to me.

Two things in particular surprised me about our conversation. First, I expected the Newtonians to believe that everyone should be running in their shoes. This is not the case. "Nothing is for everyone" was one of the first things Tory said. And while Tory and I may still have different opinions about the percentage of runners that "should" be wearing Newtons, the fact that she did not say 100% was a pleasant surprise to me. The way I understand it, Newtons are designed to get us to run the way we were designed to run. Traditional running shoes are designed to keep us from hurting ourselves when we decide to run in a way that we weren't necessarily designed to do. Whenever we try to outsmart our Creator, bad things tend to happen (see, e.g., processed cheese and high fructose corn syrup).

This is why I've wanted to try the shoes for so long. Even though I was a candidate for motion control shoes, the more I ran in them, the more I was injured. Several years ago, I finally gave up on them, corrected my running form, shortened my stride, increased my cadence (I run with a 90-95 cadence now), and am now running a lot more miles, a lot faster, with a lot less injuries. This is what Newton Running is trying to encourage.

Tory also explained how to adjust to the shoes in a way that is somewhat different (or perhaps just more detailed) than the information found on the Newton website. The website says, "A general rule would be to take it easy for several runs. Enjoy the new feeling and do runs of 2 to 4 miles until you have about 25 miles total. At this point you should be fully adjusted and ready to go farther and faster." I had read this prior to trying the shoes, but like most people, did not want to decrease my mileage to only running 2-4 miles at a time until I adjusted to the shoes. I therefore planned to do one or two short runs a week in them, and do the rest in my traditional running shoes. You know the rest of the story.

Tory explained what sounds like a better approach to me. She suggests starting each run by running in the Newtons for 10-15 minutes, then changing into your normal shoes to finish your workout. After a while, you are able to increase the amount of time in the Newtons until you are eventually running all of your miles in them.

Ok, that makes sense, but I was still not convinced. That sounds like A LOT of trouble. "What's the benefit?" I asked, "Are you saying that if I take the time to adjust to these shoes, that I will be faster?" Her answer was the second thing that surprised me about the conversation. She said, "No. I can't guarantee more speed. But what I can say is that because of the technology, you will not do as much damage during your runs and you will recover faster than in a traditional running shoe." I followed up with, "So you personally notice a significant difference in your recovery time now that you run in the Newtons?" Her answer, "Absolutely."

WOW! Now they have my attention! I'm drinking the Newtonian Kool-Aid (or in my case, the Grape Soda)!

Every endurance athlete spends lots of time and even more money trying to figure out ways to recover faster. Just look at all the products out there (both legal and illegal) that are designed to get you back to training faster. We probably spend more money on recovery shakes than any of the other foods in our pantries. We wear compression socks/pants/shirts that promote blood flow to our muscles while we sleep and ride in planes. If recovery is what you're selling, endurance athletes (triathletes especially) are buying!

But how confident are they? Well, after my marathon in February, Tory has offered to send me a pair to try. I will then update all (or both?) of you, my faithful readers, about my experience. You and I will find out together if they will completely ruin me, or if the benefits outweigh the inconvenience of "adjusting" to the shoes. So far, I'm not yet convinced. My recovery time for my first 6 miles in them was a little over two weeks. But as the saying goes, "It's the poor musician who blames his instrument." This time, I will play it the way they tell me.

So that's where the Newton Project stands. After swearing to never run in them again, Tory served me up a nice tall glass of grape flavored Recovery Drink. And I'm preparing to drink it down with a huge smile. I may someday run in a blissful state of Newtopia. Or I may once again end up with a purple tongue, a stomach ache, and begging Lindsay for forgiveness. But either way, I will tell you all about it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekend Update - Bad Timing on Out-And-Backs

Well, I think it's safe to say that my self-induced calf injury is a thing of the past. I only have a handful of weeks (5 to be exact) until the Austin Marathon, so I had no choice but to get a quality long run in this weekend. Saturday was my day. It was cold and the wind was blowing over 20 mph, but I bundled up and headed out the door, hoping for the best.

I had planned to do a 2 hour run, so I was going out an hour and then turning around. That works well if you run EXACTLY the same speed on the way out as you do on the way in. I, unfortunately, NEVER do that. So I'm forced with either running past my house at the end of the run, or running longer on the way out and risking making a the run longer than it was supposed to be. At the 53 minute mark, I had a choice to make. Turn left, down a familiar path, and run out of road in less than two minutes, meaning I would likely get home early. Or turn right, down a road I had never been down before and risk upsetting the Drama Queen that is my brain since I wouldn't know EXACTLY where to turn around (YES, I am OCD!). There is not much I hate more than getting home early during a workout. It's worse on the bike because I basically have to soft pedal around the neighborhood just to get the last two minutes in so that my power file says 4:00 instead of 3:58 (again, OCD). But it's just as bad on a run. To me, my driveway is like a finish line. And I don't like to run past it!

So I took the road less traveled and turned to the right. DQ immediately freaked out ("What are we doing!!?? This isn't the right way!!). But, I somehow survived, and by the time the hour was up, I could see a big turn in the road. I was feeling REALLY good at that point, so I decided to keep going and turn around at the big turn. I turned around in 1:02, and then realized why I had felt so good. I had been running slightly downhill for the past nine minutes. Oh yeah, and remember that 20+ mph wind? Well, that was helping me run down that hill. All of a sudden, I was running much slower, and DQ was trying to convince me to just walk. So much for the road less traveled!

As it turned out, the wind was in my face for most of the trip home. I ran just under 17 miles, and I finished in 2:07. I.e., 7 minutes longer than I planned on running. That's practically a mile further. And it was SO WORTH IT!! Because I didn't have to run anymore once I got home. Unless you are a runner (and possibly OCD), don't even try to understand this way of thinking.

Sunday - Another two hour workout, but this time, 90 minutes of it was on the bike with the last thirty minutes being a run. Sunday was not as cold and the wind was practically gone, so the bike ride was uneventful. Then I had a 30 minute run. The first hard transition run of the season is always fun. And by fun, I mean ridiculously difficult. I felt like I was carrying a 50 pound pack on my back. I turned around after two miles (14:30) because I figured I would slow down on the way home. Most of the last mile back to the house is uphill, and my legs were pretty much toast at that point. But I wasn't about to give up with less than a mile left to finish the weekend! So I pushed on. I topped the hill, and knew I was only two minutes from home.

Two more minutes, and my weekend is over! Two more minutes, and I can EAT. Two more minutes, and I can take a hot shower!! I rounded the corner and headed towards my driveway finish line. I joyously glanced at my watch and realized . . . I made it home a minute too early.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I went to the kitchen in my office to clean out my giant Denver coffee mug so that I could enjoy a delicious afternoon Americano, and I saw this:

You can't read the note in the picture, but it says: Official "Clean out the pantry, I've Made a New Year's Resolution" ledge.

Apparently someone has made (at least) the following New Year's Resolutions: (1) No more little powdered donuts (or "donettes" according to the clever packaging); (2) No more iced biscotti; and (3) No more throwing away food. So they left it on the counter for all to enjoy.

And enjoy they did! There were only two little powdered "donettes" left when I saw the sign. So I left the orange. I'm not giving up on citrus fruits this year. I just wanted to offer the latecomers a healthier option than an iced biscotti and two "donettes". Mainly, I just want to see if the orange would last the day. If it does, I will take home and eat it. If not, then I have provided someone an orange that might have otherwise fallen to the "temptation" of a little powdered "donette." Win. Win.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Grape Soda, Isaac Newton, and Confession

Hello. My name is Barry. And I have an advertising problem.

It's true. I sometimes buy products I know are not right for me simply because the advertising is pure marketing GENIUS.

Take, for example, the time that I was pumping gas and there was a grape soda ad on the gas pump. It was a picture of an open ice chest, full of ice and cans of sweet delicious grape soda. At that moment, I decided that nothing would taste better than a grape soda, and I HAD TO HAVE ONE. Luckily, I was at a gas station, and therefore went directly into the store and purchased one. It only took one drink for me to decide I had been duped. But not willing to admit my mistake, and not one to throw away something I just paid for, I stubbornly finished the grape soda . . . which left me with a stomach ache, a purple tongue, and a sugar high fructose corn syrup high. Now every time I see an advertisement and suggest that whatever is being advertised looks cool, my wife will sarcastically say, "MMMMMMM, grape soda!"

My latest fall to the lure of advertising came a couple of weeks ago. After lots of marketing at Ironman events and in magazines, I decided that the Newton Running shoes looked like they could be just the thing to make me a super fast runner. Craig Alexander runs in them, and he just won in Kona, so they MUST be good, right!? I asked Lindsay about them, and she quickly said they were not right for me. Now, I know that she knows more about running shoes than I. And I know that she knows my running style better than I. And I know that she knows what is and is not the right thing for me to do/wear/have/try/eat/drink/etc. in training than I. But come on, Craig Alexander wears them!! And their website is really cool!! So the Saturday after Christmas, I ran in a pair of Newtons. And they felt GREAT!!!

. . . for about 3 miles. Then my calves started getting tight. And my ankles got tired. And my arches started hurting. In the span of about a quarter mile, I went from "Wow these are GREAT!" to "HOLY CRAP! What have I done!?" I only "ran" 6 miles that day. My only thought at that point was "Lindsay is going to kill me!" I couldn't wait to see what type of torturous intervals she would put me through to teach me not to blow her off again. No problem. Lindsay's out of town for the holidays. I can recover from this before she gets back. No more running in the Newtons until I have the time to adjust to them. Eight weeks out from a marathon is not that time!

The following Monday, I could barely walk because of the pain in my lower legs. Every single muscle from about mid-calf to the tips of my toes was screaming at me every time I took a step. Tuesday was a little better, so I laced up my normal running shoes and headed out the door. I made it 1.6 miles. Turned around. And walked home.

I felt fine on the bike, so I went on several long bike rides the rest of the week. Then Saturday, a full week after my little experiment, I went out for a long run. It was the most painful 12 miles of my life (it was supposed to be 16!).

I'm feeling better now after having confessed my sins to Lindsay, and running easy, massage, and stretching yesterday. Today is MUCH better. I actually think I will recover in time to get in a solid 2 hour run this weekend. We'll see. First, Lindsay prescribed the "someday you will listen to me" intervals for tomorrow morning. They are going to be tough on my sore, tired legs. Better take a Fuel Belt with me! Those look really cool! And Craig Alexander uses them! Sweet.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year; New Look

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you are all off to a great start. I got the year rolling with a solid three hour ride this morning with the group from Rockwall Cycling. That's always a great ride, so if you live in the area, come out and join us!

I've changed up the blog a little to start the new year. Mainly, you'll notice the color is different. I have found the white background easier to read, so I'm switching it up. Let me know if you like it or not. Speaking of letting me know, I want to make this something useful instead of just a way for friends to keep up with me. But the only way for me to know what anyone out there wants to hear about is for you to leave comments at the end of posts. So if you like what you read, don't like what you read, want me to talk about something, want me to stop talking about something, etc., leave a comment. Otherwise, it's just me keeping a journal. Which I'm fine with, but like I said, I would prefer to make this useful for someone besides just me.

Happy New Year, again. And give me your thoughts!

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