Kai Running Sandals

Kai Running Sandals

The book “Born To Run” by Christopher McDougall was the book that got me started on this whole barefoot running.  When the Vibram store opened in Rockwell, I drove there and got myself a pair of KSOs.  I started walking in those Vibrams, then started running and training in them, and then I used them in the Globe Run For Home 10K in April 2011.

But I still refer to it as “minimalist” shoes.  It still feels different from being actually barefoot.  Yes you can feel the hard pavement with all its cracks and creases and little pebbles and your feet feel nimble and you can wiggle your toes freely but it still feels like your feet are constricted with gloves.

I’ve always wondered about those  “huaraches” that were mentioned in McDougall’s book.  I’ve seen pictures of it throughout the web.  Then I found out that there is a locally-made version called Kai Running Sandals, hand-crafted in Cebu. Now I’m damn curious and enticed to order a pair.  It costs P500 for one pair plus P165 for shipping.  More details can be found in their Facebook page.


2012 Milo Marathon?

Now here’s a goal worth pursuing: to be able to qualify for the 36th Milo Marathon in 2012.

Since I have no intention of participating in any road race for the next couple of weeks, I thought it would be a good time to brush up on my photography.  I want to take a few photographs of a running event and discovered that the Milo Marathon is on July 31, 2011.  I figured that would be a good venue to capture some images of runners, race organizers, water stations, and field marshals. Perusing through the race information,  I learned that the qualifying time for the national finals is 4 hours.  Now that caught my eye.  At my current state, I am certain that  I can’t do a 4-hour marathon, but maybe next year I can.

This means that sometime from now until about June 2012 I should break 2 hours in the half-marathon!

Taking a break

Taking a break

I have decided to take a break from 21Ks.  In the space of two months, I completed  three 21Ks.  I’m taking a break not because I’m tired of it but because I am saving my energies and train to break 2:06 in the 21K.  Why 2:06? Because that translates to a pace of a 6 min/km, which is 10kph,   a 30-minute pace for 5K, or a 60-minute pace for 10K.   I don’t know if I can do it, but it’s best to always set a challenging goal.  It gives me focus.  It gives my training a purpose.   I have already sustained that pace in a 15k race so I figured that I should be able to sustain it for another 6 kilometers.

And I have signed up for 21K in the Adidas KOTR on October 23.   That is where, hopefully, I can achieve my goal.  I still plan to race from time to time but most probably in 10K or 15K distances.

Recovering after a 21K

It’s 24 hours after I ran a personal best in the 21K, and I am not suffering any of the post-race pains that I had suffered in the previous races.  There is a slight tingling in my thighs, but it seems more of muscle fatigue than the joint pains I described in an earlier post.  I am also not as exhausted and I was able to get through the day with just a few hours of nap time (in the previous 21K, I was knocked out for most of the day!).

So what explains the improvement? Here are a few possible reasons:

Vibram Five Fingers.  I am beginning to believe the hype surrounding that barefoot / minimalist running craze.  In my last 21K, the Yamaha Run For Heroes, I wore running shoes and, the day after the run, the hip pain was debilitating.  For the Rexona Run I wore the VFF Bikila LS,  the same shoes that I wore in the Mizuno Infinity Run, where I also did not experience any hip pain the day after.   I read somewhere that one cause of hip pain is poor running form and over-striding.  If there is one thing that minimalist shoes prevent, it’s over-striding!  You end up taking smaller but quicker shuffling steps because over-extending your legs could get painful.

Strength and flexibility exercises.  As I wrote earlier, I started doing a couple of exercises targeting the ili0tibial band, that thick band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the leg.  I also added some core strength exercises like crunches and “planking.”  No, not that silly fad but this kind of planking.

Post-run nutrition.  After the run, I took an energy gel, downed the Powerade sports drink that came with the loot bag, munched on  a protein bar on the way home, and then downed a protein-rich breakfast.  Running depletes the glycogen stores in the muscle, and many experts believe that you have a short-window after a run to replenish those stores.   “Ideally,” this health counselor/marathoner/triathelete wrote, “you should eat within 15 minutes after completing your workout. It’s in this short window that the enzymes responsible for making glycogen are most active and will most quickly replace the depleted glycogen stores.”

Rexona Run 2011: a performance review

The Rexona Run results are out, and I achieved another personal record.

I started slow, unmindful of the number of runners passing me. It’s a long race, and I have learned that it’s best to start slow and end fast. For the first two kilometers, men and women of all sorts of ages and body weight overtook me. Some of them I knew, based on their form and how their body fat jiggled, would not be able to sustain that pace. I held back my competitive drive and kept to my pace.

This was the first time I ran a race in MOA as I had frequently signed up for runs around the Bonifacio Global City area. Comparing to BGC, I enjoyed the run along Roxas Blvd. Run routes along BGC takes twists and turns; with the bulk of the kilometers along Roxas Blvd., the Rexona Run route was a much simpler route. And the final kilometers is along the same route you started with, so you already have a mental picture of how far you are from the finish line.

Versus my first 21k, I am definitely in better shape. I knew I was on the way to a new PR. My Runkeeper app was advising me of my run pace, which was a steady 6:34 per kilometer. At the final third of the race, I still had energy in my reserves. I finished strong in the last two kilometers.

Speaking of the Runkeeper app, the app was surprisingly accurate this time, probably because the route had less buildings and had less turns. I also had a backup device, a digital Timex wristwatch, in case the app dies on me.

My only frustration is that I didn’t break the 2:20 mark. I was 9 seconds short.

Anyway, here are the things I did right:

  • I kept myself well-hydrated
  • I ingested a sports gel about 30 minutes before the race, and a sports gel every hour while running
  • I kept a steady pace, holding back the urge to speed up
  • I wasn’t intimidated or disheartened by the number of people overtaking me

And what do I need to do to improve? I will need to log more training miles. A marathon is still far off. For now, my goal is to break 2:10.

How to get started in running

I used to run when I was a student.  That was more than two decades ago.  Since then I was doing some treadmill running, weight training, and some long-distance biking.  But nothing really serious.  It was something that I would do in my spare time.

Running was something that fascinated me.  It’s a simple sport.  All you really need to do is put one foot in front of the other.  All you really need is a pair of running shoes.  You don’t even need to get the most modern pair of shoes.   To get started in running, all you need to do is go outside and run.

But running isn’t easy.  I had a modest start. The first few meters were blissful.  But then all sorts of pains started to creep in.  My breathing laboured.   I felt light-headed.  My joints began to throb.  My hips hurt.  My shins hurt.  My ankles hurt.  My legs weighed like a ton.  After a few minutes, my strides turned to a shuffling gait and then devolved to a walk.

The trick to running is to keep at it.  It’s simplicity is what makes it a wonderful activity.  I believed that I just had to grin and bear it.  I just had to go on and pound the pavement.  As long as I kept at it, I knew that  the pain will disappear.  And, after about two weeks of running, the pain did disappear.

A 3-kilometer run then became a 5-kilometer run.  After a few months, 5K began to appear too short and I moved up to 10K.  After another few months, the 10K lost its challenge and I am now into 21K.

So if you want to get started on running, here’s my advice: just do it.  Don’t worry about running form or what shoes to use of what clothes to wear.  Don’t fret about training schedules.  Don’t worry about pace or time or distance.  Just go outside and take a run.


Azkals or a 21K run?

The Azkals!

I am an unabashed football fan.  But now here’s the dilemma.

The first leg of the Azkals – Kuwait game is on July 24, 1230 am.  The Rexona Run is July 24, 510 am.  Assuming that the Azkals game will end at 230 am, that gives me little time to get some sleep!

Maybe I’ll sleep the whole afternoon instead . . .

Is a medal really necessary?

In my last two runs—the Mizuno Run and the Yamaha Run—I wasn’t “awarded” any medals for finishing the 21K.  I heard a few runners bitch about the lack of medals in those runs.  Mizuno texted me a few days ago, advising me that I could pick up the medal in one of their outlets.

Where are the 21K finisher medals

Runrio did promise medals for 21K finishers but I have yet to receive any info where and when it will be delivered, if ever it will be delivered.

Finisher medals are no big thing for me.  I don’t join races to get medals. I don’t need a medal to prove that I finished the race.  Besides, do I have to prove that I finished a race?   I race for myself, not for other people.  I join because I want to test myself.  I have no illusions of winning a race.  And my badge of honor is my finish time.  And the things I want to know are: Did I achieve the goals I set out?  Did I beat my PR?  Did I do better than my last race?

Runkeeper vs Runmeter: which is more accurate?

I use the Runkeeper app  a lot.  It is extremely useful and almost indispensable. I use it to track my workouts, to advise me of my pace, to guide me if I will achieve my training goal.

But in the Yamaha Run For Heroes race, I discovered how pitifully imprecise the app is.  I don’t know if it is caused by the app itself, the limitations of the iPhone’s GPS chip, or the quality of the GPS signal in the area.  At first , the app was a few hundred meters ahead.  I would hear the kilometer mark through my headphones, only to see the corresponding kilometer sign up ahead.  I figured that the margin of error was still acceptable, but then, as I drudged along Buendia Avenue, the gap became even wider.  At the final third of the race, the app was almost a kilometer ahead.  It was telling me that I had already ran a distance of 16 kilometers when I just passed the 15 kilometer sign!

Check out this image:

Map generated by Runkeeper

It’s frustrating because I use Runkeeper to monitor and manage my pace.  If my goal is to finish the race in under 2:20, then I use Runkeeper to keep my pace somewhere around the 6:40 per kilometer.  I am particular about keeping tabs on my pace and to rein me in if I run too fast.

At first I considered switching to Runmeter.  According to their website, Runmeter uses some “Fuzzy Logic, based on apparent speed, distance, GPS accuracy.” Could this be just some empty sales pitch?  I used Runmeter in the Condura 16K race, and it was off by just 100 meters.

I checked the map that was generated by Runmeter.  GPS accuracy was incredibly accurate when I ran on the Skyway, where I had a clear view of the sky. I learned is that Buendia is notorious for screwing up GPS signals, probably because of the tall buildings.  And if you compare the map generated by Runkeeper with that of Runmeter, the variances are occurring in the same areas!

Map generated by Runmeter

Then I found this post coming from a Runmeter developer:

But one thing the iPhone does is use wi-fi and cell tower locations to more rapidly narrow in on the location on first use.  That’s great for a more fast lock, but since wi-fi and cell phone tower locations are so course, we need to avoid using any data derived from wi-fi or cell tower location.  And so, one thing that helps on the iPhone is to turn off wi-fi.

I can say fairly definitively that jostling does NOT affect accuracy. (Based on my two years of running with an iPhone, plus what I hear from customers.) But what DOES affect accuracy is how much “stuff” is between the iPhone and the sky, where “stuff” especially includes metal, but can also include trees, buildings, and  your body.  Running in Manhattan can lead to an inaccurate path being shown.  If you keep an iPhone with a backpack with a metal zipper, that can have an effect, too.

In short, when it comes to GPS accuracy, it matters little which app you use.  What you have to do is:

  • turn off wi-fi
  • turn off cellular data
  • keep as little stuff between the device and the sky

IT band syndrome and the foam roller

I noticed that, after a running the long run, I would experience a numbing pain at my right hip.  The ache was so sharp that I would lose sleep over it.  I would toss and turn, twisting my hips, trying to find the position that would alleviate the pain.   The pain, oddly enough, disappeared when I switched to barefoot-minimalist running with Vibrams.

Then, I decided to run the Yamaha Run For Heroes with running shoes.  I figured that using running shoes would enable me to run at a faster pace for longer distance.  The pain manifested again, this time at my left hip.   The pain was so debilitating that I couldn’t life my knee.  Getting inside the car was a chore.

After googling the net, I came across a number of articles about the iliotibial band, or ITB, which is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs down the outside of the leg, beginning at the hip and extends to the outer side of the shin bone just below the knee joint. The band functions in coordination with several of the thigh muscles to provide stability to the outside of the knee joint and to assist the hip muscles in abduction (outward movement) of the thigh.  Apparently, runners are notoriously weak in their hip and core muscles, particularly if strength training or participation in sports that involve side-to-side movement are lacking.

So what to do?

There are a number of stretching and strengthening exercises that target the ITB.    Coinciding with the advice of a relative who is also a physical therapist, one of these exercises involves a foam roller.  I have never heard of a foam roller before.  Fortunately the nearby Chris Sports carries foam rollers.  I discovered that a foam roller is a dense 6-inch thick cylinder about 12-inches or 36-inches in length.  I got myself the shorter version and took it to the office gym to gave it a try.

IT band stretch using a foam roller

I am not the most flexible person in the world, so getting into the position felt awkward.   But as the cylinder rolled underneath my thigh, I felt like I was getting a deep massage.  The familiar sensation of muscles stretching and loosening hit when the foam roller was halfway between my hip and knee.  The first “roll” was painful, like thumbs jabbing into the tendons, but after a few more attempts, the pain subsided and all but disappeared!

My PT relative advised me to do this exercise for about 15 minutes a day to loosen up my IT band.   I’m eager to see how it will affect my race time.