Thursday, February 13, 2014

Update / Workout Wednesday

I've started seeing a chiropractor by name of Shoonman whose confidence that he can "fix" me was enough for me to commit to several sessions. His practice is unlike the other chiropractors I've met, and he seems to have identified some missing key elements in my gait. The short is: I don't run with my glutes. At all. Schoonman called it "muscular amnesia"; my glutes are asleep and my quads, hip flexers and hamstrings are overworking to compensate, and have become overly tight as a result. Anyway, we're doing a bit of Active Release Therapy (ART), some massage, and thus far no cracking.

I've been focusing on my form quite a bit lately... There have been some significant asymmetries in my stride which I had come to basically accept, until recently. Partly because of therapy and partly because I'm more focused on it, I've managed to improve my my foot strike and hip position. I feel smoother and more balanced. Consistently hitting core work for the past 2 months has probably also helped make a difference.

Anyway! I'm cleared to work out, and with Jones in 10 days it was definitely time to do something faster. I decided to hit the treadmill since it was dark. Warmed up 3 miles in 20:40. Instead of going straight into the workout I did a number of exercises I've been told to do both before and after running. Stretched, foam rolled, and then into a 6 mile hard progression run, increasing the tempo each mile, going: 5:30, 5:27, 5:24, 5:21, 5:18, 5:15 = 32:15. I felt great! I surprised myself with how strong I felt. HR topped out at 181 (my max recently is 194).

I'm pretty sure the treadmill is accurate, so the surprisingly speedy session could be attributed to a few things: 1) I'm fitter than I gave myself credit for 2) The changes in my form make me slightly more efficient, and 3) treadmill running does not factor in wind resistance Check the conversion table here. Regardless, it was a really solid session. Nice confidence boost for Jones.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Horse Hill 7k Snow Shoe Race Recap.

After nearly a week off from running and a few sessions of PT and yoga over the past week, I felt optimistic about getting a hard effort in and for it to be the "right" move. The Jones 10 miler is fast approaching and I have been feeling the pressure of needing a few hard efforts to prepare. I was also motivated to get on the snow since the impact of racing is less severe than on pavement, although probably more intense in some ways. Plus, snowshoeing is fun and new to me. Anyway, all of this added up to my appearance at the Horse Hill 7k SS race in Merrimack, NH.

The competitive turnout was as I feared: Nearly every fast and experienced Snowshoe racer in the region was there. I warmed up with Tilton, Dunham, JJ and maybe Putnam? We warmed up on roads and then I sort of walked around aimlessly near the registration table wondering where the heck the start line was. It eventually dawned on me that the start was within sight, about 4 runners wide and mostly made up of loose snow. I threw on the snowshoes and did a few strides but was otherwise completely unprepared for what would ensue on the race course.

The race started and I narrowly escaped a face-plant as both of my shoes slid out from under me as I tried to drive off the line. Clearly an amateur move as everybody else was off clean. I had to laugh at myself though and somehow I found myself in 3rd place behind Nacho Hernando and JJ. Newbould was directly behind me and, using reason, I knew it was only a matter of minutes before he would need to go by me. As my teammate I planned to let him pass when he indicated it was time.

We stayed in a tight formation along narrow single-track up the first tough incline. I was gasping for air and struggled to maintain good form, realizing all-at-once that this was a pretty serious course. I imagined a beautiful 60-second ensuing downhill which would allow me to recover, but none came. Instead there were myriad switchbacks so tight that I modeled JJ and used the trees to help shift momentum and stay balanced. By 1 mile in Newbould had bounded by me through the deep powder and Nacho and JJ had maybe a 5 second advantage.

Whether it was lack of fitness, lack of technical skills on the single track, or an absence of competitive mojo, my race took a pretty sour turn after the mile. I had reached it in 9 minutes according to GPS and was ready for a break. Visions of being chased down became reality as the switchbacks allowed me to see competitors charging from behind. The neon orange Dion singlet belonging to KT was in hot pursuit and I salvaged my race by deciding to make it tough for him to catch me. The lead 3 were soon out of sight except for the rare switchback which would reveal their advantage on me. I held no delusions of bridging that gap.

So... miles 2 and 3 came and went without much to note other than sheer exhaustion. Finally, there was a large 1/2 mile long hill whose top I dedicated as my finish line. I needed to get there ahead of Tilton if I wanted any chance of holding him off. The last bit of the race was mostly downhill and I figured I would be safe cruising home from the top. At each switchback I could see Tilton and one other making ground on me. My advantage was the ability to approximate the time gap whereas my pursuers couldn't anticipate which direction the course would take them next. Thankfully, I cleared the hill and cruised home in 34:37, 1:32 down on eventual winner, Nacho, and over a minute down on Newbould and JJ.

Snowshoe racing is a lot of fun. There is a no-frills, relaxed attitude about the sport as far as I can tell, and meanwhile the competition is made up of some of the toughest people I know. Each course has been entirely unique and the conditions of the snow play a role in how well I can compete. I want to  learn how to run more efficiently on the loose stuff. As long as there is snow on the ground, I intend to continue exploring this sport. I'm away in southern NJ this coming weekend, so hopefully I'll be able to race a qualifier eventually and keep the season going. Jones in 2 weeks!