Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I haven't gone on a wild, drug and alcohol fueled adventure in Las Vegas.  I am spending four days in quite possibly the worst city to try and get a good run in.  If you're staying on the strip, all that lays before you and your feet are concrete.  It is the worst surface imaginable to run on.  Plus in Vegas, there's navigating the pedestrians and the various crazed taxi drivers.

The point of this blog is to talk about concrete and avoiding it at all costs.  Asphalt is much easier on your joints than concrete.  In fact, Arthur Lydiard, the late great New Zealand coach, who invented the concept of long, slow distance, preferred that his athletes train on asphalt over grass or dirt trails.  Now that one may leave you scratching your head.  Here's Lydiard's reasoning, footing.

Lydiard wanted his runners on a smooth, reliable surface, especially if they were doing a tempo run.
Grass or dirt trails rarely offer reliable footing, unless you're running on a golf course.  Think about all of the crazy angles your feet end up at when running on a trail or on a cross country course.  It's hard on your muscles, tendons and joints.  Unless you train regularly on trails, running them on a whim will provide your body with a shock.

As for Las Vegas, I always head south off the strip and into the neighborhoods.  There are less people to deal with and a lot less traffic.  I actually found the University of Nevada Las Vegas track on my five mile run today and may make the 2 mile trek to it for a softer, safer, monotonous run on the tartan there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

As For These Shoes...

Forgive me my obsession about running shoes, but I saw these on Facebook Tuesday and I felt it important to tell the story behind these battered Adidas. These shoes carried an American to Olympic glory 50 years ago.

On October 14, 1964 in Tokyo, Japan, Billy Mills became the first and only American to win the Olympic gold medal at 10,000 meters.  Mills lived in my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas where he went to an Indian only high school called Haskell, after leaving his home on the Sioux reservation in South Dakota.  Haskell is now a four year college and is still a school for Native Americans.

Mills went to the University of Kansas where he enjoyed a great deal of success, but nothing that would foretell the Olympic gold that would come his way after he graduated college and joined the U.S. Marines.  Mills wasn't even considered the top American contenders at 10,000 meters in 1964.  A rambunctious high school boy from Spokane, Washington, Gerry Lindgren, despite his youth, was considered a medal contender.

Lindgren sprained his ankle a short time before the Olympic final.  Mills wasn't on anyones radar.  He was so poorly thought of when he went to the Adidas representative to get some shoes they turned him down.  Mills headed to the Puma representative who immediately agreed to give him shoes.

Back in 1964, when it came to running shoes, top track and field athletes had two choices, Adidas and Puma.  The German shoe companies were owned by brothers who hated each other and were equally bitter rivals when it came to snagging athletes to run in their shoes.  Asics, New Balance, Brooks, Mizuno and Saucony simply weren't players at the time and NIKE didn't even exist. 

When Adidas got wind that Mills would be wearing Puma they relented and gave him a pair of their shoes which he wore to victory.  During the medal ceremony Mills wore a pair of Puma's to acknowledge their help in getting him the shoes that he really wanted.

Those blue shoes bring back a lot of memories.  I owned a pair of blue Adidas Tokyo's through high school that looked a lot like those famous spikes of Billy Mills.  They were my favorite spikes to wear in cross country.  I wish I still had them.

I've been lucky enough to meet Billy Mills on a couple of occasions.  He's truly an inspiration.  Go to YouTube and watch his 10,000.  I dare you not to get goosebumps. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

What's In A Shoe?

A shoe can break or make a runner.  I found it out the hard way 24 years ago while training for a particularly hilly marathon.  I developed a nasty case of achilles tendonitis.  I tried a cortisone shot and within two weeks the searing pain was back.  It was then that I figured out the new Nike Skylon's were the cause.

I had run in Nike's, mainly the Pegasus, for the better part of the 1980's.  Nike really started tinkering with their shoes at the start of the 90's and quite honestly, many of their trainers are not very good anymore.  That injury sent me to the Asics GT 2000 series and that was my go to shoe for the better part of the next decade.

When I moved to Fort Myers in 2003, I immediately saw a return of plantar fasciatas which had bothered me about six years before when I was still running 50 plus miles a week.  That's when I found Mike Pemberton and thus a shoe love affair was born.  Mike put me in Mizuno's and boom, the plantar disappeared just like that.

That started a running conversation (excuse the pun) with Mike about running shoes and what different shoes do, both good and bad.  It took Mike more than three years to get me to run in Newtons.  That was a real change for this avowed hell striker.  But that move led me back to lighter trainers and an ongoing affinity for the Saucony Kinvara.

But enough about me, I want to write about what Mike and I see on a weekly basis from runner's, both experienced and inexperienced.  They walk into the store with a beloved shoe that look like it's been beaten to death, the runner  oftencomplaining about injuries.  Most of the time the problem is they have run in the same shoe for a year or even longer.  If you're running in the same shoe three to four times a week, you're going to get six months out of them at best.

The other mistake is the everyday runner, using the same shoe day in and day out.  They come in two or three months later wondering what's wrong with the shoe.  What they don't understand is they've put six plus months use of shoes into one pair.

Shoes need time to recover.  The EVA that the shoes are built on compress and a 24 hour break allows that EVA to return to its original shape.  The other thing about EVA is that it deteroiates over time.  It has about a one year life span and then it begins to lose all of its cushioning properties.  That's why it's a bad idea to hit the cut out tables at the big box stores because shoes many times are DOA.

What I'm getting to is that if you are running five times a week or more, you really need to run in two pairs of shoes.  I've been doing it since the late 70's.  I usually rotate between three shoes, the Kinvara, my Newton Kismets and the HOKA Clifton as a recovery shoe.  That's not unusual for a dedicated runner.  I know some runners that use three to four shoes, not to mention their racing flats.

The point is, different shoes do different things.  They work different muscle groups.  In fact, as I prepare to start increasing my long runs I'm going to have to think about investigating into a heavier training shoe that can withstand a 10 mile plus run. 

The shoes are an investment in myself.  Two pairs of running shoes will help stretch the life of both pair.  In the long run (excuse the pun), you'll get more miles for your buck if you double down on your purchases.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Red Line

Rolling along Monday evening on a four mile jaunt I looked down on the asphalt path that runs along 6 Mile Cypress.  I noticed some thoughtful soul had re-painted the half mile marks that show up along the five mile path that stretches from Daniels Parkway to Colonial Boulevard.  It reminded me of the importance of interval work when training for an important race, even for half marathons and marathons.  As I pondered the countless half mile and mile intervals I've run, something else occurred to me.  Running races ahead of a half marathon or marathon is equally important.

Preparatory races get your ready for your goal races.  It allows you to practice your strategy.  Running a few 5K's or 10K's before a longer race like a half marathon or marathon sharpens that edge.  Regardless of whether you plan on running a marathon under 3 hours, 4 hours, or 5 hours, a handful of races leading up to the big race is important.

This picture was taken about one month ahead of a marathon that I ran in Kansas City.  I'm leading an old training partner, Stephen Greer, over a bridge in Leawood, Kansas in a mid-September 10K race..  It told my coach that I was ready to run a marathon.  Because he wouldn't let me run intervals, (that's another story) I had to race to sharpen my speed.  Time and again it was a proven formula for the half marathons and marathons that I would follow.

You naturally run faster in a race.  The sheer force of the crowd of runners carry you along to speeds you normally can't hope to attain in a training run or during interval training.  I write about this as I see a group of hopeful men and women prepare with Coach Mike Pemberton for upcoming half marathons and marathons this winter.  You can log all the miles you want, but without some pace work, intervals, tempo runs and racing, those goal races won't be nearly as satisfying as you would like.

But that red line is a double edged sword.  Too much racing, too much speed work, will take an edge off of all of that work you've put in for that big race.  The red line can be your friend, but if you cross it one time too many, you can pay a heavy toll in injuries and illness.  Something to consider as we enter the road racing season.
 
 
 
 


Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Change of Direction

I haven't posted in quite some time because I've been a busy boy.  I am leaving television news, thus ending a career in television that started 40 years ago this month when Rich "Pureman" Bailey asked me to become his stat monkey at Cable 6.  It's been a hell of a ride ever since.

The seeds of change were planted more than three years ago when I had come back from Sacramento to Fort Myers in search of a new challenge.  I had talked off and on for years with Mike Pemberton, a running guru in Fort Myers who has operated a running shoe store for the most part of his 20 plus years here.  I first met him 11 years ago when I went to Mike with my plantar problem and he quickly resolved it.  I like to think of Mike as the shoe whisperer.  He's top notch at figuring out what you need on your feet.

Anyway, I asked Mike if I could throw in with him and sell shoes back in the winter of 2011.  I worked around the store, got to know his wife and his way of doing business.  He wasn't ready and I understood it. So, I was off to FOX 4 and a great group of people with the thought that I would have to survive in TV news until my far off retirement.

Then in May of this year, Mike and his delightful wife Candy asked me if I was ready to join in the fun that is Run Florida on McGregor.  Mike wanted to do what he loved best, coach and train.  The demands of running the store full-time was cutting into his passion.  It took a lot of talking and a lot of thought and a lot of support from the Czarina, but especially Mike and Candy and I decided that now was the time for change.

I have thought about getting into the running shoe game for more than a decade.  I had talked with Kansas City running impresario Garry Gribble about it.  I had been approached by others in KC about investing in a store.  It didn't seem right, especially opening up a store that would compete against a friend.  That's what makes working with Mike so welcoming.  I get to learn first hand from a seasoned pro and thankfully I have enough knowledge of what works and doesn't work to help others who want to run.

I'm still a journalist.  I always will be and this blog will serve as proof of that.  I hope to keep it running focused as it is now my profession.  I would ask that you check out our Facebook page and please like Run Florida on McGregor.  I'm excited.  I never thought I would grow up to be Al Bundy!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

10 Years After

August 12, 2004, I went to bed with a sense of dread.  How I slept, I don't know.  I have blogged before about Hurricane Charley.  Outside of the Hyatt Disaster in Kansas City, this was certainly the biggest local news story that I ever covered.  That Thursday night 10 years ago, I went to bed hoping Charley's forecast track kept it headed to Tampa.  My biggest contribution to our coverage would come that fateful Friday.  I told our News Director at WINK, John Emmert, that we needed to bring Mike Walcher and our satellite truck back from Tampa.  We agreed that Charlotte County would be the best place to set up shop.  Little did we know.

Hurricane Charley slammed into Southwest Florida the afternoon of Friday August 13, 2004 gouging a path across Sanibel and Captiva Islands before roaring up the Peace River bringing devastation to Pine Island, Cape Coral and much of Charlotte County.  Mike Walcher sat in the middle of it with his photographer and engineer Pat Senna watching the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office fall down around them.  I can only imagine the terror.

I know I was terrified for a time.  When it became clear that Charley was turning, about mid-morning that Friday, I feared the storm would bulldoze it's way over the heart of Lee County.  I was genuinely scared shitless.  The newsroom was gripped by fear.  WINK TV sat right next to the Caloosahatchee River so any storm surge could have left us several feet under water  Before we blocked the newsroom doors and sandbagged them, about an hour before Charley hit with its full fury, I went outside.  That somehow helped dispel my fear.

Once the storm hit my, anxiety level dropped tremendously. It was a big blow to be sure but it wasn't as frightening as it could have been. The worst of it had passed to our north. Mike Walcher and his photographer and Dan Bowens and his photographer experienced the worst of it as they were both located in Charlotte County. Both did wonderful work as did all of our other reporters out in the field who risked their lives to report on the storm... Trey Radel, Tim Wetzel, Melissa Keeney, Holly Wagner, Abigail Bleck, Candace Rotolo, and Judd Cribbs all stand out in my mind from that frantic day. We had a dedicated group of photographers like Darren Whitehead, Randy Hansen, Matt Lucht, Melissa Martz, Sean Peden, Tom Urban, Mike Levine, Andrew Miller and a couple of other guys whose names escape me. Even the sports guys, Brian Simon and Clayton Ferraro pitched in.

When the storm started to subside, it was a mad scramble.  Cell phone service was worse than spotty.  I don't think we had a true sense of how bad it was because by the time it was truly safe to venture out in Charlotte County, sunlight was fading.  I remember we had to abandon a live truck on U.S. 41 because it was simply to dangerous to drive it down the highway for fear of hitting power lines.  Looking back I know we were very, very lucky that no one was hurt.

On a personal level it was hell waiting for a phone call from my wife.  Phone lines were down.  She managed to get to our neighborhood grocery store, find a pay phone about an hour after it settled down.  Everywhere in our neighborhood there was damage.  We were very fortunate.  Charley claimed a couple of tree limbs but we didn't suffer the roof damage that many of our neighbors did.

As the night ground on, sometime after midnight and suggested to my boss that we had done all that we could do.  Power was out everywhere.  We were broadcasting on radio but it was so dangerous out that moving crews was risky and you couldn't see any damage in the dark.  So we went off the air for five hours to let our crews re-charge.  I went to a nearby hotel on a whim, knowing there would be no electricity, but I desperately wanted a bed, even if it was just for three hours.  Around 4 a.m. I heard the AC kick on and rested easily.

We went back at it at 5 a.m., fortunate to have the only helicopter in the market.  The video when it started coming in was indescribable.  It was difficult to recognize anything.  It looked like a tornado 10 miles wide had rolled up the Peace River through Charlotte County.  I was just too busy trying to stay on top of our crews, taking phone calls, juggling satellite shots and placating tired producers to really soak it all in.

I didn't get to go home until Sunday.  Emmert felt bad for me and let me go and see for myself that my wife and stepson were okay.  I didn't stay at home for another day.  Spending all day working in air conditioning and sleeping in a non-air conditioned house wasn't an option. 

Charley was followed by three more hurricanes in the span of six weeks.  We were lucky that Ivan skipped us altogether and slammed into Pensacola area.  Frances and Jeannie just scraped by Southwest Florida, but that's another story.

Charley took a massive toll on my health and the health of John Emmert.  I know that John made a couple of trips to the hospital due to the stress on his heart.  I was having issues with diverticulitis which was on exacerbated by the storms.  I kept getting sick after every storm.  Come December on a vacation getaway to New Orleans my stomach let go and I spent two weeks in the hospital there.

I hate hurricanes.  I pray that I never have to cover another one.  Too bad the newsroom that I work in now that is filled with green reporters don't feel the same way. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cross-s**t

I'm watching gym class on ESPN2, also called CrossFit.  It stands right up there with Tough Mudders and Spartan runs in my list of meaningless sports.  Except in this sport, it's painfully obvious that more than half of the competitors are loaded with steroids.

Since when did gym class become a sport?  And worse still, anyone engaged in this so-called sport is begging to get injured.  I can't imagine the toll it would take on anyone over the age of 40 who tries doing this. 

Seriously, if you want to get in shape and enjoy a well-rounded body, run, bike, swim and lift weights.  It's a simple formula.  I have a neighbor who just past the big 5-0 and he's lost a ton of weight and looks healthy by simply doing core weight training, watching what he eats and running three or four times a week.

What's worse is that any consideration of these CrossFit competitors being great athletes is laughable.  I would love to see a good collegiate decathlete like Curtis Beach give one of these Cross-Fit competitions a go.  Beach doesn't even rank in the world's top ten but he would blow away any of these guys.

The best thing that could happen to a CrossFitter would be an encounter with the late Ralph Wedd.  He was my PE teacher in the 9th grade at South Junior High.  I think Mr. Wedd would ruin any of these so-called CrossFit athletes in just one of his 50 minute PE classes.  These muscle-bound Venice Beach rejects would be crying for their mommies after the third round of calisthenics under Mr. Wedd's watchful eye.

Why is ESPN2 showing me this garbage when they could be televising the World Series of Poker?  Now that's a sport worth watching!