Monthly Archives: November 2011

Injury-Proof Running?


I have been pretty fortunate to not have many injuries from running in the past few years. From June to August I had a lower back spasm but I don’t know for sure that it was caused by running; I did a lot of things to aggravate it. But this past weekend, after running the 6 mile trail run, my ankle swelled. It didn’t swell until four hours after the race, which I thought was odd. I’m sure it had something to do with running through muddy creeks and jumping over trees. 🙂 Things my feet are not accustomed to. The ankle has felt better every day although I am not doing any of my normal walking or running activities. Tonight I am going to Zumba so we’ll see how it feels then.

Even though I have not had many injuries, I know there is a strong possibility that I will have more injuries and a New York Times Magazine article caught my attention. The Once and Future Way to Run written by Christopher McDougall has me thinking about my running stride and how my foot strikes the ground. The article talks a little about the history of running shoes and about the current barefoot or minimalist shoe running trend. But to be able to run barefoot or with minimalist shoes, one has to have the right technique. I have seen a few people running barefoot and some wearing what they call barefoot type running shoes. There is an obvious difference in their strides and it looks like they’re gliding and kind of prancing. In the article McDougall references running coach Alberto Salazar, who teaches the technique, and says it is injury-proof running. Alright, I’m listening, er, still reading; how do we do it?!

McDougall says a great way to learn the barefoot-style stride is to do 100-Up exercises (developed by W.G. George around 1908). There is a video along with the article that gives a demonstration of the 100-Up. The biggest no-no is landing on the heel, initial contact should be between the ground and the ball of your foot. I know that’s the way I should be running, but I don’t really know if I am hitting with my heel. Why? Because I have cushy shoes! The point of the minimalist shoes or going barefoot is that you know exactly where your foot hits the ground and can if you’re doing it right. That makes sense to me.

So, am I going to start running barefoot? Not likely. There are still ways to injure the feet on pavement even with the correct stride, plus I’m allergic to bees and wasps and I don’t want to risk getting stung. Will I ever run with minimalist shoes? Possibly, but first I am going to start doing the 100-Up exercises and see how it feels. McDougall says this running style feels effortless – why wouldn’t I want to give it a try?


Mudder Governor’s Run


Today was the four plus mile Governor’s Run; it’s a trail run with a two mile or 4+ mile run. I decided on the 4+ route because it didn’t seem worth it to do just 2 miles. The race took place at Scott County Park in Long Grove, IA, not far from where I grew up and where my parents still live, but we live a little over an hour away. After I arrived and was wandering around I overheard someone say that last year’s 2 mile route ended up being 3-4 miles and the 4+ mile route was 6-7. I have to admit, this worried me a bit. I have been training for a 4 mile race, not 7! For me, that is a big difference. I asked a few other people if they’d done the race before, so I could get some idea of what I was getting into and to decide if I should do the 2 mile route instead, but it was also their first time doing the race. Not helpful. Then I just told myself that I signed up for the 4+, so I was going to do it.

There were 700 runners – I think it may have been a record for them. 700 was a little much for the course we were to run – some parts of the trails were wide and groomed, other parts were narrow paths and we had to go single-file. Within the first mile there was a creek crossing and they had a Tarzan rope for people to use to get to the other side; one rope for all 700 of us (we eventually split off from the 2 mile route runners). I followed some other people through the brush and crossed on a log about four feet above the creek. I was so happy to not be wet that early in the run! What I didn’t know was that there were a lot more creek crossing without tarzan ropes. I think miles 3 and had the most crossings, maybe 4 where the only option was to run through in about ankle high water and then scramble up the slippery bank. People were really helpful in lending a hand, though. I could always tell a creek crossing was coming when I heard shrieks up ahead.
By far, the nuttiest thing we had to do was cross the creek in waist-high water. I tried to run out of it because I feared my shoes would get sucked into the mud and then I biffed it and fell onto the muddy bank. My hands and arms were covered and I had mud splashes all over! I am so thankful it wasn’t below 55 degrees because we would have all froze! I think it was around 60 degrees. Toward the end was one last creek crossing, this time with two Tarzan ropes. Some people just went ahead through the water but I wanted to try the rope; it was okay except my hands burned and then I noticed blood on my hands. Luckily I still had all my skin! After wiping them off with an antiseptic wipe when I got back to the car I realized it was just my pinky nail that had bled and my finger was sore. I think we ended up running around 6 miles, or, more accurately, we probably ran 4 of those because there was a lot of walking due to the single-file trails and people walking to go under over trees.

There was mud, there was water, there was even blood. Would I do it again? Absolutely! And I want to find people to join me. My ankle is quite sore this evening, too, which is a major bummer. It was fine until about four hours after the run and then it started hurting. I elevated and iced it then could hardly walk on it. Took three ibuprofen and am able to walk on it again, but it’s still really sore.

After doing the first mile in about 15 minutes, I knew this wasn’t a race for time, it was just for fun and for a challenge. I finished in about one hour and thirty-six minutes, but I really had no choice of my pace most of the time. Really, it wasn’t even a “race,” they didn’t keep track of our individual times. It was a fundraiser for a scholarship fund and it always feels good to contribute to a good cause.

Here is some off-road race advice:
– Be prepared to get wet! The race people warned that I would get muddy and should bring a change of clothes, but did not mention the water crossings. I am certain they did that on purpose. For some dumb reason I had my cell phone with me but managed to keep it in the zipped pocket of my lightweight sweatshirt which I tied around my waist. I had it around my neck for the water crossings! I used my iPod part of the way but it also ended up in the pocket to stay dry. Next time those will not join me.

– Take a change of clothes so you can warm up! And so you can sit in your car. Speaking of, have a trash bag in the car so you can sit while you take your shoes and pants off. Yes, I changed my pants in the parking lot (with compression short underwear on) because they locked the main bathrooms after the race started and just had port-o-potties. I’m sure they do this so the bathroom doesn’t get covered in mud. You will then need that trash bag to deposit your muddy wet clothes in.

– Next time I may wear gloves to prevent the rope burn and the injury to my pinkie nail.

– Wear old shoes. Mine are fairly new (I wore them because they’re waterproof, like, up to one inch. Not water proof of ankle deep.), but  I think I can get them clean. Some people actually had duct tape around their shoes and up on to their ankles. Now I know they were making certain not to lose any shoes in the mud.

– Be sure to take pictures of your muddy (and possibly bloody) self to show how much fun it was!