Thursday, February 2, 2017

Time flies when you're having fun...

My first few years of running were spent chasing down races and events because I was having fun, and that is what I was supposed to do, right? I recently realized that I have more fun running on my own, or carefully selecting specific events that have more meaning. In addition, I have been doing a lot of cross training, mostly at UFC Gym and Purenergy Studio. Most recently, I discovered the online world of Zwift and I have been putting a lot of miles on my bike without even leaving my garage!

Here are a few race reports from 2016 that I wanted to share:

I finally had the pleasure of running a trail race that I have had my eyes on for a few years--the Radnor Hunt Steeplechase. The course for this race is mostly grass fields, with a few gravel driveway crossings here and there, but the fun part is that there are horse jumps throughout the course, and a few water pits thrown in for the fun of it. I was able to run the race barefoot and had no problems. I would probably consider this race and course to be one of the most barefoot-friendly courses I have ever run. I also found out later that I was not the only barefoot runner there! The other barefoot runner must have been ahead of me because a few of the volunteers made mention of the other runner to me as I passed them. I had not trained for speed, so I was really just running this race for fun. It was a blast hopping and vaulting over the horse jumps, and the water pits were interesting--turns out they are gravel lined. This race benefits a charity called Students Run Philly Style and I think about half of the participants in the race were from this group. It was so much fun watching them have a good time, and it was also fun cheering them on after I finished. At the end of this race, there was a beer garden sponsored by Victory, one of my favorite local breweries. I was able to enjoy a post-run beer and taco and then continue on with my day.

In August, I ran Zane's Run, which I have participated in almost every year since I found out about it (I only missed one year because I was traveling at the time.) I have a personal connection to this race, as the person who puts on this race was in my high school class. The race is an event to raise money for SMA awareness and to help support families affected by SMA. The course used to be at a local elementary school and I used to ride my bike to the race start (they also used to have a 5-mile option which I preferred), but now it is at the district middle school which is a bit further away so I have to drive to the start (and they got rid of the 5-mile option when they moved the race here.) The organizers of this run, and the people who come to cheer others on are so nice and it is just such a positive atmosphere, which makes for a very fun race. The course is nothing fancy--a dash down the high school driveway, a connector path to a development, and then it follows a few neighborhood streets, finally making a U-turn to allow runners to return the very same way they came from. It is a somewhat fast course, but there are some hills in the development that add a little challenge for the return. I set my 5K PR on this course, and I have run it barefoot in the past (my 5K PR was set while running barefoot on this course!) I mostly enjoy this race for the people and the atmosphere--not necessarily the course.

Finally, my third and final race of the year was the Winterthur Run Inspired 10K. This run was held at the Winterthur property in Delaware, and it was beautiful. The race was in October and was very scenic. The race benefited a charity called Operation Warm, providing brand-new coats to children in need. I still prefer trail races, but every once in a while, there is a paved run that catches my attention and this one did just that. They have a video of the course on the web site and that video was what sold me. Of course, I also registered early and got a good discount on the race and that never hurts either. Run Inspired is going to be making a donation to Operation Warm for every entrant of this race, so I have already made a difference for someone in need. I was able to run this race barefoot as well, and thankfully the pavement was smooth enough everywhere except for close to the start/finish line. Again, I was not here to set a PR, but to enjoy the scenery and support a charity.

Here is an update on my past injuries and shoe preferences:

I spent most of 2015 trying to figure out how to deal with silly problems like Achilles tendinitis. I went through a phase in early 2016 where I was trying out padded shoes to attempt to combat the pain. I figured out that while they helped the symptoms for a period of time, the extra padding was causing other problems and those problems started to aggravate my Achilles again, especially when running trails, so those shoes are now pretty much retired already (although I will still use the Asics Gel Nimbus for longer road runs.) I finally found a better solution in 2016 while working with a mayofacial release therapist--she helped me find a few specific stretches to counter a leg length imbalance. Whenever I notice the pain starting to reoccur, I start doing these stretches again and find noticeable relief pretty quickly. My acupuncture therapist made the recommendation about the mayofascial release.

Right now, my favorite shoes for running are my huaraches made by Xero Shoes. I am still throwing in a few barefoot miles here and there for the fun of it (although not so much now that it is Winter.) It took me a long time to tweak my huaraches for comfort, but the time was well spent. I modified my Amuri Cloud's by replacing the rubber heel strap cover with the updated nylon straps. These straps feel so much more comfortable and provide the support that locks my foot in place and prevents any front and back sliding that I was experiencing. I also took the time to personalize the laces while I was doing this so I finally have the red color that I always wanted. These huaraches are my go-to shoe for road running and light trail use. They do not have a lot of protection for rugged trails, but that does not always stop me from using them. I did pick up the latest Xero Amuri Z-Trail model for more rugged trail runs, but I have been having problems with them rubbing uncomfortably. They eventually broke, and I exchanged them for another pair of Amuri Cloud's. When the trails get rugged, I usually just increase my cadence and I seem to do just fine with the huaraches. My go-to shoes for the trails are still my Inov-8 Trailroc's (the 235's work great for short trail runs, and 245's for longer and more rugged trails.)

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