Thursday, January 31, 2013

I'm A Freak Of Nature!

"I bet I have the flattest feet you have ever seen." This is what I told Mike Rowles at Occupational Kinetics before he did a foot scan of my feet last week. After it was done...he agreed. I have no arch at all. None. Here's the proof:

It might be hard to tell what's going on here, so take a look at what a "normal" foot scan looks like:

As you can see with the balanced, symmetrical foot scan, the greatest amount of pressure is being put on the balls of the feet and the heels - with very little pressure in between.

So how did my feet get this way?
It all starts when you are an infant. As I look at my newborn sons feet, they are flat. This is because his arches won't develop until he starts to walk. Most people's arches develop throughout childhood, but sometimes they don't develop. This could be due to normal foot variation or if a child is in hard-soles shoes all the time, the muscles in the foot will not develop properly. Researches in India found that flat feet were far more prevalent among people who wore footwear before the age of six. Kids who ran around barefoot for most of their first six years had better developed arches. Among children who wore footwear in a regular basis, 8.2% suffered from flat feet (compared to 2.8% of barefoot kids). Will my children have flat feet? There's no way of knowing right now, but we will make sure that they always have soft-soled shoes and spend as much time barefoot as possible as they grow.

How do flat feet impact running?
According to several studies I found, people with flat feet have a greater chance of getting injured than people with normal-arched feet. So while that's not great news for me, I knew this already. I've heard that running with true flat feet like mine is akin to runing on Jell-O. Flat feet lead to over-pronation (foot rolling inward when it supports the weight). Overpronation causes the legs to collapse inward with each footstrike. This can lead to overuse injuries from the ankle all the way up the leg to the lower back.

What can I do about it?
Since the very first time that I went to a specialty running shoe store, I was told to wear "motion-control" or "stability" shoes. These shoes have a very firm mid-sole and a medial post (dark grey foam) to help keep the foot from rolling in. I've followed this advice, wearing very bulky running shoes for the last 15 years. Since I can't go back in time and see if my "condition" was inherited or was developed through wearing shoes early in life, all I can do at this point is try and improve my feet as they are today. Believe it or not, I can strengthen and improve my arches and give me feet more symmetry and balance. 

This starts by trying to do some drills and running without my supportive shoes. I started doing some of this last season, running a mile on the grass barefoot after most of my track workouts. Another thing I can do is spend as much time as possible barefoot. It's frowned upon at work, but about a year ago I did switch to dress shoes with no arch support. And if I'm at home, I'm barefoot. I'm basically trying to train the muscles in the bottom of my foot to work as designed.

There are also a few simple exercises that I can do to strengthen my feet. The easiest is to curl my toes under my foot. I do this while sitting at my desk, or at home using a towel. I pull the towel towards me with my toes. I also do toes spreads. This is simply fanning my toes out as wide as possible and hold for 10-15 seconds.

Will I ever be able to run long distances without some support in my shoes? I doubt it. But strengthening my arches can only improve my running form and help prevent injuries...which I'm obviously all for!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

So Much Information...So Little Time

With the addition of a Garmin 910XT watch and Quarq Power Meter, I now have a lot of swim and bike data that I've never had before. The only problem is that I haven't had time to dive into the data and see how it can help me improve. Since the power meter stuff is a lot more complicated, I'll just tell you about the new swim data for now.

The Garmin 910XT watch is it can be used to time your swim workouts, both in the pool and in the open water. Not only does it keep track of your distance, it counts strokes for you as well. By taking your total time per length of the pool (in seconds) and the number of strokes it takes you to swim that length, Garmin calculates your SWOLF (mash-up of the words Swim and Golf). So just like in golf, the lower your SWOLF score, the better. In open water, this same formula will be used per 100 meters swam to calculate your efficiency.

For the three swim workouts I've done with the watch, I've been scoring in the 31-33 range for short (50-200m) intervals and 36-40 during my longer (800m) sets. For example, during a recent workout where I did 3 x 800m repeats with 3 minutes rest, my scores were 39, 39 & 40. An average length (25m) was done in 27 seconds and I took 12 strokes (27+12 = 39). Looking at a 100m interval from this morning (see picture below), an average length was done in 23 seconds and I took 10 strokes (23+10 = 33). So I'm much more efficient when swimming faster, but there is no way I could hold this pace during a longer swim. 

During my 800 repeats I did notice that my total stroke count and time increased with each interval - 364 strokes (14:31), 368 (14:43) & 372 (15:07). So I was getting less efficient as I tired. The goal as I continue to train and increase my fitness is to have consistent SWOLF scores with each long interval.

I had some issues with the watch right out of the box and had to return it to Garmin for a new one, but now that I've been using the new one for almost two weeks...I love it! Awesome Christmas present from my awesome wife!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 Highlights

I toed the starting line a total of 17 times in 2012...more than any other year. This was a different approach than past years. Coming off of a long year training for Ironman in 2011, I decided to do lots of short races in 2012. When it was all said and done, here's what I competed in:

(6) Sprint Distance Triathlons
(5) Olympic Distance Triathlons
(5) Road Running Races
(1) Trail Running Race

I didn't have an "A" race for the year and while that's not necessarily a good way to plan out a season, it worked out ok. My training was pretty consistant all year...lots of speed work and low volume. My longest bike ride was around 30 miles and my longest run was the half-marathon I ran in April. The short races are fun because the recovery time is so much quicker. There were a few times where I races back-to-back weekends; no way I could have done that if I was racing 70.3 or 140.6 races. 

I finished on the podium in my Age Group 8 times and had 6 top ten Overall finishes. My best finish was 1st in my Age Group and 2nd Overall at the Tom Sawyer Sprint Triathlon in August. Thanks to all of these podium spots, I also qualified for the 2012 and 2013 Olympic Distance Age Group National Championships. While I would love to participate in this race, these out of town races are something that I can't do right now with two little ones at home and a third on the way. Maybe in a few years I'll try and qualify again.

There are a few memories from 2012 that will stick with me for years to come. There is the trip that the whole family made to Knoxville, TN for the Rev3 race down there. The drive down and back was a little tough with a 2 year old and a 1 year old, but once we got there, we had a blast! I'll also remember ripping some flesh off of my toe dismounting my bike at the Buckhead Border Challenge. My blood-stained shoe will serve as a reminder every time I put it on. I will also remember this year because it was my first year participating in the Bourbon Chase. This 200 mile team relay was lots of fun and I can't wait to do it again in 2013, and hopefully many years to come.

2012 Triathlon Race Results:

Shelbyville Triathlon Series (4 races) - 1st in Age Group / 2nd Overall for Series
Race #1 - 2nd in Age Group / 6th Overall
Race #2 - 2nd in Age Group / 6th Overall
Race #3 - 3rd in Age Group / 11th Overall
Race #4 - 4th in Age Group / 12th Overall
Rev3 Knoxville Triathlon – 14th in Age Group / 87th Overall
TriFest Triathlons (2 Races)1st in Age Group / 3rd Overall Combined
                Sprint – 2nd in Age Group / 9th Overall
Olympic – 3rd in Age Group / 12th Overall
Southern Indiana Triathlon – 4th in Age Group / 17th Overall
Buckhead Border Challenge Triathlon – 6th in Age Group / 28th Overall
Tom Sawyer Triathlon1st in Age Group / 2nd Overall
Landshark Triathlon – 2nd in Age Group / 9th Overall

All in all, it was a very successful year. I want to thank my wife Jessica for putting up with another full year of training and racing. Without such an understanding wife, I would never be able to participate in the hobby that I love so much!

A new year has started and with Jessica's blessing, I'm training for the big Daddy again...Ironman Louisville is in 226 days!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 Totals

At the end of each year, I like to look back over my training logs and see how many miles and hours I spent swimming, biking and running. So here are the numbers for 2012:

Swim - 133.78 miles (83 hours and 32 minutes)
2:08/100yd avg.

Bike - 1614.7 miles (81 hours and 53 minutes)
19.7 mph avg.

Run - 607.6 miles (80 hours and 2 minutes)
7:54 min/mile avg.

Pretty balanced, huh? At first I thought that this was wrong. There is no way that I spent more time in the pool than I did on the bike or on the road...but it's true! When I look at the numbers a little closer, I didn't spend more time swimming, I spent less time riding. I was on my bike 75 hours less in 2012 than I was in 2011. With my racing season consisting of only Sprint and Olympic distance races, I had no need for the long 80-100 mile rides that I did while training for Ironman in 2011.

That being said, I felt that my bike power and speed regressed this year. I wasn't really sure why, but now I have a pretty good idea. I've purchased a power meter and I'm looking forward to incorporating that into my bike training for 2013 and can't wait to make some big improvements!

Here are my historical trends from the last four years:

While volume is not the key to improvement, I can see from these charts that my time in the saddle took a major hit in 2012. It wasn't done on purpose, but I know that my longest ride all year was around 40 miles. I was doing lots of short (45-60 minute) workouts with sprint and hill intervals. This type of training wasn't easy, but I think time on the bike goes a long way and it was something that I need to increase in 2013!

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