Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Minimalism 101: Back to the Basics

Giving my body a bit of a reprieve has shifted my focus from racking up miles to making sure I have a solid foundation. I was attempting to "get by" and use devices like cushioning or a slightly raised heel to soften the pain of roads and downhills I've been experiencing. Two things wrong with this:

  • Those things don't work(for me) - Since injuring my knee a few years ago, any raised heel on flat ground, and 4mm on mountain trails, hurts my right knee. Though more options are released each season, functional shoes on a zero-drop platform are very outnumbered by higher-heeled shoes.
  • My "trail skills" are deteriorating - A couple years ago, I was much better at running technical downhills. Wearing thinly soled shoes made me more aware of the obstacles on the trail. I assumed that if my trail running chops declined, I would attempt my usual pace and fall on my head or something. Instead, I gradually slowed down and felt less confident.
One run in my Trail Gloves put things back into perspective. Instead of stepping on sharp rocks and roots, falling, crying, having to gnaw my foot off, going through a life-changing rehab process, becoming inspired to run in the paralympics, winning gold at the 2016 games, marrying a supermodel with great boobs, having 4 kids(3 of which I like), dying from eating bad tacos, and having my dead body bronzed in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Something entirely predictable happened. My cadence sped up, I watched where I was going, and my knee pain never flared up. Well I'll be damned. I should know this, since I've learned it before. I've shared my experiences with many others, and they've taken my word for it. Just goes to show that we have to keep opend minds, and strive to be students of the sport and our bodies.

I've gotten away from a purist/minimalist approach to running and headed toward an open-minded "do what works" approach, mostly after being passed by people in Hokas, Huaraches, and everything in between. As I encountered difficulties garnering speed on technical trails(more specifically rocky downhills), I tried to buy speed by bulking up my shoes. The problem with that logic was that I was faster a couple years ago running in thinner shoes. I was moving away from what previously produced a desirable result. Perhaps it was arrogance on my part, but I thought I had maximized my potential skills(not my fitness), and needed to find the right equipment to enhance it. Not so much.

I learned from my mistake, and plan on adding more barefoot and minimally shod running to my regimen. The most shoe I've worn as of late is the inov-8 f-lite 230. As much as this shoe is marketed as minimal, it still allows my form to get sloppy and hurt my knee within a couple miles. I don't mean to sound snobby and look down on anyone for wearing what they like; I'm talking about my own situation specifically. Minimalism is all the rage, but I wish I could wear racing flats. Most of them have a 6-8mm heel differential, in spite of weighing as little as 3oz. Breakin' mah balls.

Making sure I have a solid body to build on next year means less stressing high mileage, and more concern with strength, speed, and nutrition. The best part about this "new idea" is that my mileage will probably go unchanged. Whether I obsess about total weekly distance or not, it hovers between 60-90 miles during peak season.

...Totally unrelated: Blogging is weird. In order to write anything, you sort of need to operate under the assumption that someone will want to read it. I wouldn't want anyone to assume that I think I'm some sort of "temporarily embarassed" elite runner. I'm well aware of my average-ness, but hope someone gets something out of this thing. I've won a couple races, got a couple top 10 finishes, barely made cut-offs, and had the letters "DNF" scribbled next to my name. I've been a beginner at age 20, and run at a collegiate level(sort of). Experience is valuable, and we should all share ours.

9 comments:

  1. Hey, "temporarily embarassed" elite runner! I don't know you and I read the post. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks man! It's funny, I write away on this silly thing, then panic when someone I actually know in real life says "Hey, I read your blog."

      Delete
  2. Another unknown reader you don't know (random connection: Evan G. was a student of mine in another lifetime)waiting for your Kerouac inspired Leadville report....

    Guy C.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great, Guy! Thanks for the kind words. Small world, isn't it? Evan's certainly one of those friends that changed my outlook on life for the better.

      Delete
  3. I've gone through a bit of the same thing with my shoes and balky knee. Lately I've been doing some pretty gnarly trails in a pair of Unshoes Pah Tempe sandals instead of my usual Merrell MixMasters. I'm slightly slower, especially on rocky downhills, but my knee has been happier. I have a trail race this weekend though and may switch back to the Merrells so I can bomb the downhills. A little different from the usual thing where you switch to less shoe on race day, but it works for me.

    By the way I HATE huaraches with the toe strap, but LOVE the Pah Tempe's. These things rock, and cost half as much as a regular minimal shoe. They are also much more comfortable on downhills than huaraches as there is no toe strap digging in as your feet slide forward. They are also much easier to fit than most huarches - it has a single buckle slider which I haven't touched since my first run.

    Enough with the Unshoes infomercial. Keep up with the blogging. I read each one whether I weigh in with pithy comments or not. At it's best, your blogging reminds me of Dakota Jones' "Living the Dream". Your beard is definitely better though - I'm not sure if Dakota even shaves yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks David! I'll have to check out Dakota's blog, though I may never..."keep up with the Joneses"? Wow, that was bad. Apologies.

      Delete
    2. Also, I have the same "more on raceday" philosophy" now. I think would be difficult to go the other way when we're already running in next to nothhing.

      Delete
  4. i don't get it. is this blog about beer drinking or isn't it? are you drinking beer out of your shoes? no? then what is this talk about shoes?

    Beer,
    Pat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I drink beer until I don't make sense, then I sit with my computer and blog it up. What's so confusing?


      Delete