training

Running Breakthroughs

Breakthrough

Over the past six years, I’ve experimented with and tweaked my running techniques. Most of the time, change has come incrementally. Sometimes, though, there have been significant breakthroughs.

Here are the three most important:

Barefoot

Running barefoot is the most significant thing I’ve done to change/improve my running, bar none.

My first barefoot run was in June of 2009. I’d been reading about barefoot running for a while, so decided that I’d give it a try. It felt better – much better – than I’d expected. So I just kept on going. My running changed completely because of that. I’m lighter, stronger, and quicker. Running barefoot means running with fewer injuries, so I’m able to train consistently. I feel whole and strong.

When footwear is a necessity (rough terrain, very long distances, or a combination of the two), I wear minimalist sandals. But I always get back to skin-to-ground as soon as I can.

LCHF

This comes a very close second to being barefoot.

Long story short… If you adopt a LCHF (low carb, high fat) lifestyle, and become keto-adapted, you’ve got the fuel you need (i.e., fat) in your body, and you don’t need anything else. In fact, it’s better to run this way, as it results in steady energy levels, with no insulin spikes, no bonking, and no hitting the wall.

The human body doesn’t need carbs at all. I’m much better off without them.

Cadence

Getting my cadence to the optimal turnover of 90 steps/minute (180 steps/minute if you count both feet) has made a huge difference in improving my running economy and enhancing my form. Barefoot running tends to have a higher cadence than when shod, so that’s been a help.

Once in a while, I use a metronome beat of 180 bpm on my iPod Shuffle to check my cadence and ensure that it’s where it should be.

My goal is to be able to hold a 180 bpm cadence over very long distances.

More?

There’ll doubtless be more breakthroughs. I think they’ll come in the course of doing distances over 100K and times over 12 hours.

Good Things

Bedrock Sandals Synclines

My Bedrock Syncline sandals arrived soon after I got home from the Elk/Beaver 50K ultra. I’ve been wearing them ever since. As I said in the review I posted previously, “The Synclines represent the evolutionary peak of minimalist sandals technology for me right now.”

They’re just plain good. They’re great on the roads, and they’re great on the trails. They’ve made my post-EB healing journey a pleasure rather than a chore, and they promise to deliver even more quality in the weeks and months to come.

Ditch those running shoes and get yourself some Synclines. You’ll thank me!

Kinetic Revolution 30 Day Challenge

James Dunne’s 30 day challenge has been a revelation. Each day of the free program offers a specific 10 to 15 minute set of targeted techniques, drills and exercises, with the promise that, if followed consistently, they will “transform your running” in the course of a month.

It’s working.

Today is day 10 of the challenge. It’s getting harder as the days go by, but in a good way. I know my muscles are being worked, and I can see results. My daily runs – whether long or short, fast or slow – are significantly improved in terms of form, pace, and feel. I’ve been lazy about my training for quite a while, content just to muddle along, so I’m pleased that I’ve finally hunkered down to do something worthwhile.

In fact, I’m so impressed with James’ training that I’m about to sign up for his six-week online course. I’m a Kinetic Revolution believer!

Music

As I noted in a previous post, I recently started listening to music again after an absence of many years. I don’t carry my iPod all the time, but I enjoy having music for many of my long runs. The playlist I listen to most often is a mix of blues and psychedelia. Think mid to late 1960s. Think Chicago and San Francisco. Think tracks like Crystal Blues, by the always wonderful Country Joe and the Fish. Have a listen:

Good things happen. Life is good!

No to Niagara

I’ve decided – reluctantly, but probably wisely – that I won’t attempt the Niagara 100K on June 14.

That’s a huge disappointment, of course, as I’ve really been looking forward to it. But my feet haven’t healed enough yet to do a 50K, never mind a 100. I lost almost all of the skin from the soles of my feet after running 40K of rough gravel at the Elk/Beaver 50K on May 10, and the new skin is too soft and too tender to run anything long. (Though I did manage almost 30K last Sunday, and am getting in between 6K and 18K on other days.)

Bummer, as we used to say back in the day.

I’ve learned, though, over that past few years, that it’s better to be sensible in cases like this. I’d rather DNS Niagara than try it and damage my feet any more. I’ll spend the next weeks running progressively longer distances, and I’ll pay careful attention to how things go.

Next up is Stage 3 of the ENDURrun International, a 30K trail race in Waterloo, Ontario, on August 12. Then I’ll run the Self-Transcendence 12 Hour on September 27, in Ottawa.

And no foolishness along the way. I promise.

Priorities

I’m running more than writing these days, as I prepare for the Niagara 100K, which takes place on June 14.

Not surprisingly, I’m beginning to develop major jitters for this one. For one thing, it’ll be my first attempt at the 100K distance. For another, my feet are still recovering from being completely shredded at the Elk/Beaver 50K on May 10 – and that’s meant I haven’t been able to put in the training distances I need to do for a 100K event.

Never mind. I’m still aiming for Niagara… and hoping that it’ll turn out well.

EB Update

It’s been two weeks since the Elk/Beaver 50K trail ultra, and my feet are finally beginning to heal.

They’re not long run-ready yet, by any means, but I’m making steady progress towards being able to do the Niagara 100K, which takes place only three weeks from today.

Right now, “healing” looks like this:

Healing

As you can see, my left foot is still a bit swollen, and I’m still wearing a band-aid to protect some tender skin. My right foot, though, is pretty much back to normal. And both are a whole better than they were two weeks ago:

Wounded

Since Elk/Beaver, I’ve managed a few road runs, a couple of treadmill runs, and a whole lot of walking. All of that’s been done in my new Bedrock Syncline sandals, which will be my footwear of choice for the Niagara ultra. This week, I’ll try to transition from the treadmill, which offers a somewhat cushioned runnng surface, to the roads, in anticipation of running Niagara.

Here’s hoping…

Keto-Adaptation

Keto-adaptation is the process of shifting your metabolism from relying mostly on glucose for fuel to relying mostly on fat-based sources of fuel. Not only does that enhance fat oxidation, it also allows your body to start producing enough ketones that they can be used as a significant source of fuel.

This can be an important learning for any endurance athlete, and is one that I’ve used with great success. I’ve been keto-adapted for some months now, and am able to run long distances (30K and up) in a fasted state, fueling only with water, and with no energy depletion, no bonking, and no post-run hunger. It will be my fueling strategy for the Elk/Beaver 50 trail ultra that I’ll run on May 10.

In this video, Dr. Jeff Volek, associate professor at the University of Connecticut and co-author (with Dr. Steven Phinney) of The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, offers one of the most comprehensive explanation of keto-adaptability I’ve come across. Highly recommended!