My New Achilles Support System

May 12, 2011 § 4 Comments

Notice anything different?

Yep, that’s right, I got new shoes.

Not only a new pair of shoes, but a new brand (New Balance), a new model (860s)  and a new type (stability).

When I saw Dr. Paul Langer, the Running Podiatrist, several weeks ago for chronically tender Achilles tendons, he prescribed three things to try first:

    • Heel Drops.  I was already doing a variation of these–stand on a stair, hang your heels off the edge, and lift up onto the toes.  Then slowly lower your heels down below the top of the stair you are standing on.  Dr. Langer, however, recommended a variation where you still lift with both legs but then lower yourself back down with just one leg.  The problem I’m having with these is that I’m not coordinated enough to switch from having two feet on the stair to only one with any sense of rhythm.  So not only am I failing to do them the way he recommended, I have also stopped doing them the way I was originally doing them.  Shame!
    • Using a pair of Orange Superfeet Insoles.  Took some searching to find a dealer with the orange ones but I found a pair within a week and have worn them on every run since then.  Not sure that I’ve seen a change but seems like they should do something.  Might not be able to tell from the picture but the insoles that came with my shoes (the top two) are an 1/8th inch  of light-weight foam.  Not good for much.  The orange insoles have a hard plastic piece that runs through the back two-thirds.

  • Switch to Stability Shoes.  I’ve run in Nike Pegasus for over 15 years–there were a couple pairs of Nike Icarus, a pair of Nike Zoom Extras (Cross Country spikes), a pair of Nike Zoom II racing flats, and a brand-forgotten pair that lasted a week.  But for the most part, I’ve worn Pegasus.  And for the most part, when I start a new pair I feel good but after some miles my Achilles get sore again.  I figured that it wasn’t the shoes’ fault since the pain subsides when I start wearing a new pair.  Dr. Langer decided that I slightly over-pronate and shoes try shoes that provide more stability than the Pegasus–gulp!  It was a bit traumatic to buy something totally new but I’m giving them a try.  I tried on the Asics 2160 which also felt good but the New Balance 860s that I bought had a bit more room in the toe-box and has a less aggressive heel counter.

I waited until after running Lake Minnetonka before trying out the new shoes in case I have trouble in them.   But I’ve had them out of the box and been running in them for the last two weeks.  I won’t know for a while what I really think but I have not noticed any dramatic change.  The first thing I noticed is that the heel seems loose–my heel feels like is going to come out at times, especially at the beginning of a run.  Perhaps a different lacing pattern will help.

I’m still in the feeling-out stage with my new companions–there is a lot of excitement and anticipation that maybe these will “solve all my problems” as the shoe dude said although I remain skeptical.  But at least I’m slowly working my way through Dr. Langer’s recommendations and things aren’t getting worse.

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Training Update

April 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

Just a quick update on my last two weeks of training.

Two weeks ago was supposed to be my last week of “Phase II” training. But because I struggled the week before, I decided to extend Phase II an extra week.

The third week of Phase II and the bonus fourth week of Phase II both went well. The hill workouts went well and I did 3 miles of tempo (the max I’m allowed) in the bonus week.

One thing I did those two weeks is drop my mileage the last couple weeks–I’ve made some of the easy days completing “off” days trying to give my Achilles some extra rest and they are feeling better.

I’ve now shifted to Phase III training, where the primary workout is Interval training, the secondary is Threshold (Tempo) and tertiary is Marathon Pace training.

I completed my first Interval workout on Monday with 5 x 400 in 1:40 (200 recovery in 1:40). I was a bit anxious over this workout because I haven’t hit the track in a couple of years and didn’t know how my old legs would respond. A bit surprisingly, the 400s came kinda easy–I ended averaging 1:33 with a range of 1:29-1:34. That was encouraging.

Tomorrow I’ll do another tempo workout–3 miles at 7:15 pace. And on Sunday, I’m running the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon . I’m hoping to run about 1:40 but am not overly concerned with my time–I’m using more as an exploratory opportunity than a target race.

That leads me into a topic that’s been rolling around in my mind for a while–the contents of my blog. I consider my blog a pretty boring read, it is mostly training reports. I don’t put a high priority on my blog–my work, family, running, and relaxing all are higher priorities. The blog occasionally gets some attention. When I do give it attention, the easiest and quickest thing to write about is the training.

But it is myopic view of my running and what it means to me. While I know what workout I am running each day and do concentrate on the hard parts, most of my running time is spent taking a mental break. My training schedule provides a structure for my overall runs but I kinda of do them on mental cruise control.

So there is a big disconnect between what I write about on my blog and what I think about while I run. I bring this up for a couple of reasons. First, I have been working on starting a podcast for a couple of months. I think that a podcast, especially one that I record as I run might better reflect my running and be more interesting. However, similar to the blog, I’m struggling to find time to create it (along with numerous technical problems). I’m not sure if I will ever actually get it going.

Secondly, I’ve been listening to some running podcasts and one, The Ruminative Runner, has struck a nerve. Just enjoy Norm’s perspective. We’ve exchanged a few emails and comments. In a recent episode Norm mentioned one of my comments and this blog, he also described my blog as being focused on training (poor paraphrasing) and that’s probably a good summary. But it isn’t really what I want my blog to be. I want it to be more qualitative than quantitative. I want it to be more revealing than rational, to be more right-brain than left.

So right now, I’m debating what to do with this blog. Maybe my limited writing time could be better utilized in some other way because right now, I don’t really like this blog.

The Week That Was 4/4/2011-4/10/2011

April 11, 2011 § 2 Comments

This was the second of three planned weeks of phase II of my half-marathon training for the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in June.  While I completed every work-out, I didn’t dominate them so I’m thinking that I may extend this phase a week.

Looking at this week, on Tuesday, I did a repetition/hill workout and did OK but not great.  I really struggled with my tempo run on Tuesday.  The ideal tempo workout would be 20 minutes at my tempo pace (currently 7:17) but I managed only to do one mile and then a second half mile.  Now, to be fair, this was my first tempo work since last fall so maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on myself but I really struggled with this workout.  My third work-out was a 10 mile long run which I actually over-ran–suppose to do 8:40s but ended up with a 8:28 average.

So overall, I had one bad workout, one so-so workout, and one good workout.  Looking at the schedule, though, Tempo work continues through the rest of the schedule so extending Phase II by a week would really just give me one more rep/hill workout so I’m not sure.  My left hip really bothered me during the disastrous Tempo run.

The good thing is, though, is since getting my Superfeet inserts, I’ve used only my oldest pair of Pegasus and really haven’t noticed an improvement–if anything, they have gotten sorer.  For my long run on Sunday, however, I wore a newer pair and today my Achilles tendons actually feel better than they did Sunday when I work up.  I’ve come up with the theory that new Pegasus provide enough motion-control for me but, as a cushioned shoe, they lose that control more rapidly than a true motion-control shoe.  And as they lose whatever control capabilities my Achilles take the brunt.

That would explain why I get short-term relief from new shoes but it doesn’t last long.  So hopefully switching to a true motion-control shoe will help–maybe I’ll make that more of a priority.  I still have a fresh pair of Pegasus with 0 miles on them that I was going to use before trying something new but maybe that will need to change.

And the Doctor says…

March 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve had a bit of soreness and tenderness in both Achilles tendons for years.  As I ramp up the mileage, up goes the discomfort.  Nothing that has hampered my running too much–mostly general soreness in the morning.

But now, with access to more runner-friendly doctors, I decided I might at well talk to someone with actual medical training about them.

Yesterday, I spent an hour getting poked & prodded, X-rayed, and examined by a podiatrist.  Found out I have restricted range of motion in my big toes and my arches have some tendency to collapse (my interpretation of doctor-speak).

The first round of treatment is simple: doing toe-raises, an off-the-shelf insert and switching to a stability running shoe.

He recommended a different method to doing toe-raises than I am use to.  Traditionally, I have done both the raising and lowering with both legs at once.  He instructed me to use both legs to raise up and then switching to one leg to slowly lower myself down.

The inserts and stability shoes are designed to provide more support for my arches.

Physical therapy and/or cross-friction massage are the next steps if the problems persist after a couple weeks.

The X-rays showed some minor heel-spurs and, after paying closer attention this morning, I realized that my heels are a bit sore too.  So add that to my watch-list.

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