Sunday, March 30, 2014

Recover your Face: Dollar Shave Club vs. Gillette Fusion vs. Dorco

Yeah, I know this is not really running related, but I have been using Gillette razors for years. I had been using the Gillette Fusion system for years and had been happy with it except that the blades are so expensive! For months I had been seeing ads for the Dollar Shave Club. My son has been using their services and had recommended them to me, but I wasn't too sure about switching and signing up for a monthly subscription program. It would however, save me money, so I was intrigued.

Finally, I decided to look a bit more closer into the trying Dollar Shave Club and decided to read some reviews. I came upon this Lifehacker post about the Dollar Shave Club. The Dollar Shave Club is essentially selling you a monthly subscription service and it is quite successful at it, but the exact same razors and blades that they sell can be bought for a lot cheaper than through their club. The blades and razors they do sell are from a company called Dorco (not the greatest name I admit). You can also buy these Dorco razors at Amazon. They sell a Dorco six Blade Razor with Trimmer, a Dorco Four Blade Razor, and a Dorco Three Razor Blade . So rather than get monthly deliveries, you can buy the razors in bulk for about 1/3 the price of the Dollar Shave Club prices, which are again cheaper than Gillette prices. It sounded like a good deal to me, so I ordered the 6 blade model from Amazon, not sure of what to expect of the quality. After using them awhile now, I have replaced my Gillette with the Dorco. It feels and works just as well and I get the same amount of time between blade changes. Why not save a bunch of money?

To keep this post somewhat running related,you may have noticed that nowadays some male runners/triathletes shave their legs. I don't, but I did a long time ago. If you go back to the mid 1980s, that was another thing I was in way on before it became (somewhat) acceptable.  I admit to doing this while racing Ironman distance triathlons between 1983-1987. Here I am racing the Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon in 1987 with freshly shaved legs. And to top if off, I ran the full marathon leg in a Speedo!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Science of Marathon Running

A bunch of cool adaptations in the human body allow us to run miles in a marathon. Check out this video that explains it all.

The science involved in marathon running. (from It's Okay To Be Smart and +PBS Digital Studios)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Injury-Free Running: How to Build Strength, Improve Form, and Treat/Prevent Injuries by Thomas Michaud

I recently picked up the book, Injury-Free Running: How to Build Strength, Improve Form, and Treat/Prevent Injuriesby Dr. Thomas Michaud and I have enjoyed glancing through it. It looks like a good book for understanding the injury process and rehabilitation. Dr. Michaud also drew the detailing drawings throughout the book. I would recommend this book to someone who wants to delve deeper into the biomechanics of running and solve running related injuries. No, I have not read it all, nor tried his remedies as presented in the book, but I found he addressed some issues that I have such as femoral anteversion, that I rarely seen written about in other running injury books and I look forward to delving deeper into it.

I will also say that three years ago and a few months after I had hip surgery for a labral tear, that I visited Dr. Michaud in his Newton, Ma office. I have visited a great many professionals in my quest to recover my stride and get back to the business of running pain-free. Of all the people that I have met, Dr. Michaud was definitely the most enthusiastic. He spent the the time measuring all sorts of angles on my body and seemed thrilled to be finding all the things that he did (read my blog post So Not Born to Run here). My visit was really a one-shot deal. I never went back and I didn't receive some miracle cure like I had been desperately hoping for. I was only given a few exercises to try and they didn't do much for me when I had so many things going on throughout my body that needed fixing at that time. Since that meeting, I have slowly cleared up a lot of the pain/discomfort issues I had and really the only thing I can't do is run pain free (or be pain-free post run). I am still slowly working on things on my own and I have not seen even any type of specialist since November. I am doing little long term experiments and finding out what works for me over time and I feel like each week I am slowly progressing a fragment more toward being a runner again. I can basically stretch my hip in all directions without problems and I don't think my hip joint is the problem. I started using my orthotics again over a month ago and they seem to help as well as I have started slowly with a small heel lift back in my right shoe. I am also doing some stretches and strength work to better balance my body and learning how to get my hips forward.

From my perspective and I few other people I know who have worked with him, Dr. Michaud is a student of the sport and the science of running. He really loves his work. I think he is someone who can bring his research and understanding and present what he has learned to others. I have heard about all the world class runners that make it a point to visit him from all corners of the world. I like the reflections he makes in the books as he talks about athletes like Rob Decastella and Tegla Loroupe that he worked with. I wish I had been an athlete of that level who could have received more direct treatment from him, but I was unable to be a full-time patient. Maybe this book will give me a few extra tidbits of knowledge as I continue my slow drive to being a runner again.

One interesting thing about this book is that there are plenty of yellow highlights throughout the book for the main points that the author is trying to make. I have never seen this done before, but I guess it makes sense fr when you are browsing the book.

You can preview a 65 page PDF of the book here. Check out his drawings!

Dr. Tom Michauds recent article on "Are We Really Born To Run?" This is pretty funny, because the post I made after meeting Dr. Michaud was titled "So Not Born to Run."

Other articles on by Dr. Michaud can be found here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

2014 Granite State Snowshoe Championships

Wow, it was the last snowshoe race of the year and I am glad it is over and thrilled with what I was able to accomplish. The Granite State Snowshoe Championships held at Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire ended up being the most difficult of the 6 snowshoe races I ran this winter and the fifth Saturday in a row that I had a race. The course was designed to be more difficult than the USA National Championships held last week in Vermont and it didn't disappoint.

Saturday was another perfect day for racing and at the start of the 10K course I felt pretty good. Without really trying, I found myself a few minutes into the race easily running with much faster athletes. I was almost feeling like a runner again and it must be due to dropping about 12 pounds in the previous three weeks as it certainly is not my training. Again, I am only training by riding my ElliptiGO indoors on a bike trainer with the only actual running being the weekly snowshoe race.

After a few minutes on the course, we started going up some hills. I felt good on the uphills despite the challenge of running on them. I also realized I was ahead of many racers that I had not beaten all year. Of course, my goal this year was just to have fun and not worry about competition, but all of a sudden I was dreaming of being competitive.

I was keeping my pace on the uphills, but all uphills lead to downhills and twisty turn-filled downhills are not my forte with my bad hip. I do not have the stability and mobility or even the hip strength to charge down a hill. About halfway into the race, I started stopping to let racers go by me, so they could surf the downhills at a faster pace then mine. When we hit the very steep uphills, I tended to catch back up to most of the racers who had passed me.

Then we started getting steeper downhills and I had to slow way down. I was tripping a lot (about 5 times in the race) and when you trip on a downhill, you can hit the ground pretty hard (or a tree or a rock and you could possibly fall down a 30 foot cliff-like drop that you are racing across). I was embarrassed to have to really dig in on these sections in a bid to slow to a pace my hip could handle. When I let other racers by, they seemed to be enjoying rocketing down the hills and they were quickly out of view. I felt like a Volkswagen racing Ferraris. The two biggest uphills were on the second half of the course and were unlike anything I have seen in yet snowshoe racing. On one steep incline I took a step forward, but lurched back and actually lost a couple of steps. Of course at the end of the two big uphills, there would be some screaming downs, and I lost so much time just trying to stay on my feet. In the last half of the race, I lost at least 12 places and looking at the results, either they were speeding up or I was slowing down. It was that I was slowing down as I ran with fear in my eyes on some of the downhills.

When I finally hit the flat ground closer to the finish I was so beat up that I had I hard time chugging it in at a faster pace. I finished 2nd overall in the 50-59 age group in the final championship results mostly because the fast guys didn't' race enough times to get a final score. I started the season, not even sure if I could race one event. I ended up having a good time at the six races that I did and enjoyed being out and challenging myself with like-minded fitness enthusiasts. I also learned the the ElliptiGO can keep me in decent enough shape to compete at an acceptable level in a sport more grueling than running. After each race, it takes about 2 days to recover from limping on my bad hip. I am still limping three days after this race. I have no plans for any more running for awhile, but I have already started planning how to get my hip into better shape for next year's snowshoe season. I also need to let my ankles recover. Four races ago, at the Kingman Farm race, my ankles were bloody and gouged from my snowshoes hitting them. During each of the next snowshoe races, I beat them bloody again. I need to learn a protective strategy for my ankles. I also need to learn the secret to where to place my foot in the shoeshoe. I got new bindings for my Dion snowshoes before the race in Vermont, and they were easier to tighten and I think I have tightened them so much that my feet are far too forward (at least according to other racers). That may be another reason that I was tripping too much in the last two races!

Once again, snowshoe racers are pleased to see the photo galleries of some great photographers. Thanks Gianina, Joe, and Scott.

Gianina Lindsey "SnapAcidotic" Gallery here.
Joe Viger gallery here.
Scott Mason gallery here.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

2014 USA Dion National Snowshoe Championships

The 2014 USA Dion National Snowshoe Championships was a spectacular affair. I am so glad that I decided to attend this event to be part of the mix and to experience this first class race.  When they put snowshoe racing in the Winter Olympics it will need to be raced on a course like this one designed by Tim Van Orden and held in held in Bennington and Woodford Vermont at Prospect Mountain. They had a juniors race, a separate women's' and men's National Championship race, and a citizen's race along with other events.

My wife and I stayed in Bennington overnight before the Saturday race. It would be the first time that Sarah would see a snowshoe race. She is the one that got me my first pair of racing snowshoes (Tubbs 10K) over 15 years ago, even when there were no races in the area to participate in and then my Dion Snowshoes about 5 years ago. We made it to the Prospect Hill skiing hill for the morning race in single digit temperatures, but it was sunny and the wind was still, which would make perfect race conditions when matched up with the gorgeous blue sky. I met up with my Acidotic Racing teammates before the women's race at 10:00.

I had a great time cheering on the ladies including Acidotic teammate Amber Ferreira, who blew away the field for the win (women's results here). Exactly five years ago to the day, I outkicked Amber (then Cullen) in a local 5k race. I know I used to have a picture of the finish somewhere. Since that time she has become a much faster runner and a professional triathlete and I have become much slower and barely a runner. I took a video of the women's race. The start and finish were very spectator friendly with a few loops so you could see the racers before and after they raced up and down the mountain. It was a 10K race. The last runner I filmed is Patti Dillon (Lyons) the former American record holder in the marathon and one of America's greatest female distance runners.

I was so intent on filming Patti that I almost missed the start of the men's race. I quickly put on my snowshoes and sprinted to the starting line. I got into place just as the announcer said, "2,1,Go!" This was a large field of racers, but the first few loops took us around the start on a hard packed track. I felt good, but there were a ton of very fast athletes spreading out ahead of me. The sound of all the snowshoes crunching on the snow was amazing. I knew I would be near the back of the pack, but I was really there just to have fun and to test myself on the course. It would be my longest run since May by over a mile and I have done less than 100 miles of running since July. My training has been about 5-6 hours of indoor ElliptiGO riding each week for the past two months and then a snowshoe race to break things up most Saturdays.

After looping around a bit, the course turned into some sections of softer singletrack as racers continued to sort themselves out. I was still feeling good. I have lost a little over 10 pounds over the previous two weeks as I have drastically reduced my diet to small healthy food choices. When the course headed uphill, I found myself slowed by racers ahead of me who sometimes would walk. I didn't feel like walking, so I kept running in place behind them. When given an opportunity, I slowly was able to pass other racers. In fact, only one person passed me on the journey to the top of the mountain and the midway point of the race. It was at this time, I passed a guy in a yellow suit with "Australia" printed on his back. I only passed him because his snowshoe kept coming off, something he was unhappy, yet good-natured about. There was a section of downhill where I passed everyone I could see in front of me including the one guy who had passed me earlier. I think the racers behind me must have been nursing sore hips and knees like I was. I hit some more singletrack, and the Australia guy was behind me again. I had to be tentative here, but I didn't want to hold him up. I asked if he wanted to get ahead, but he said I was setting a fine pace. However, at the next section where there was a passing lane, I told him to go ahead. He went scampering in high gear, away from me. Oh to be young with good hips! He went bounding down the hill with speed and exuberance Eventually, the singletrack ended and I was dumped onto a wide groomed cross-country ski trail. The flags seemed to suggest that this was the way to go, but there were no course markings so I started doubting myself. There was no one I could see ahead of me and I kept looking behind me and saw no one there either. I was alone on the course and unsure if it was the course. On one steeper section, I turned around to look for someone and caught one snowshoe on the ground and I tripped and went down hard. Oomph! Still when I looked around I saw no one catching up. I eventually caught up to some cross-country skiers and they assured me that I was on the course. It seemed like I was on my own for about 15 minutes until I made it to the final downhill.

This downhill was steep and they had flags so you zig-zagged down the slope. It was fun to watch the ladies race down this section, but by the time I tried to race down it, the course was sloppy and difficult to navigate. I took it pretty easy down there not wanting to injure my hip. As I was going down, I finally saw another racer a few zigs and zags behind me. I did not want to get caught and he was going much fast than me, so I tried to pick it up once I hit the short loop on level ground before the finish line. My time was 1:14:03 over the 10K course and I finished 165th out of 213 (men's results here). Those really don't matter. Before the winter started, I wasn't even sure I would be able to do any snowshoe racing, but I have had a blast in all of the races this year. The ElliptiGO has kept me in good enough shape to run these races and even though I limp for two days after each race, I am thrilled to still be able to participate and to even be a part of the pinnacle of snowshoe racing this year,

I threw my small flipcam video recorder to my wife before the start and she was able to capture some video of the men's race.

The amazing and crazy thing about snowshoe racing is the number of wonderful photographers taking photos of the race. Here are a few of their photo albums. I look old and slow in my photos, but they take some breathtaking photos of the more athletic and speedy racers and the wonderful scenes throughout the course.

Joe Viger's album. Here is a photo of race winner Amber Ferreira on the way down the hill to the finish.

Scott Mason's album Photo of the lead men.

Here is a gallery or photos from Brian Teague who took this shot:

Gianina Lindsey's Snapacidotic gallery see Acidotic Racing team photo above