Archive for November, 2010

Never Too Late to be Great – Report #4


CIM – 2 Weeks Out and Counting

Rod Waterlow with 2010 Olympic Torch

Rod Waterlow

 This series is about and by Rod Waterlow who has been invited as a senior elite athlete to compete at the California International Marathon (Sacramento) on December 5.  We are following Rod’s approach and process as he prepares for and runs this popular and still growing event.  For more background on Rod and the Race, see the first post in the series.

Have you ever run CIM?

No, this will be a new experience for me and I’m really looking forward to it. 


What are you doing to mentally prepare for a course you haven’t seen before?

Since deciding to run the CIM, I have talked to other runners who have run the race and I have a pretty good idea of what to expect.  Although the course profile makes it look as if the whole race is downhill, I have been told that the first ten miles is quite challenging and that I should prepare for a fast second half.  I’m always very wary of the word “undulating” – some “undules” are bigger than others!

CIM is now just over three weeks away – how is your training and are you ready for the taper?

I ran a slow 22 miles (35km) on Saturday and felt pretty good.  This will be my last long run before the CIM and I have to admit that the past few weeks have been quite tiring.  My total mileage this past week was 38 miles (61km), a little more than I had planned but not excessive.  I was a last-minute substitute in the Haney to Harrison relay [Ed. Note: 100km relay with 8 legs] a week ago and my normal running schedule was disrupted.  However, at this point in my training it’s not an issue, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being a member of a team in my first relay.  The remaining three weeks before the CIM will be less demanding as the weekly mileage decreases, but my Monday night speed training sessions with the clinic are still quite strenuous – hopefully, all this extra effort will pay off with a good result in Sacramento.

At the time of the present post, Rod had completed all but three weeks of preparation.  Because the editor has been travelling himself, the post is a bit tardy.  CIM is approaching fast and Rod is now into the taper phase.  We will be watching the countdown and then the outcome of the race itself.  From the reports to date, it sounds like Rod is well prepared for the challenge.  CIM is reputedly a fast marathon, but infrequently, the have been known to have a glitch or two with the weather.  If the weather and the training come together, CIM can give you a nice result.

Running Shoes – Wise Choices


There are plenty of expert reviews of running shoes.  Every conventional and online running magazine does one at least annually.  I am not an expert.  So, I have no intention of reviewing or rating any shoe.

What I am is a user of a good many pairs of shoes over almost too many years!  This post is meant more for the readers who may be nearer the start than the end of a running career/program and looking for basic guidelines.  Here are a few thoughts to consider when looking for the right shoe for your needs.

  1. Find a good retail store that employs staff that knows running and the products they sell.
    1. Make sure you tell your sales-person what you intend to do with the shoes you are buying such as distance covered, frequency and type of runs (for instance: recreational jogging, road racing, trails etc)
    2. If they want to, let them assess your feet and even your gait as you do something (walk, run).
    3. Ask to see all the brands and models that meet the needs identified.  (While I tend to stay with just one brand because they fit me so well, and many runners do the same, your needs may be very well met by more than one brand.)
  2. Avoid self-diagnosis of your special needs, especially when starting out.
    1. The correct shoe can solve problems
    2. The wrong shoe can create problems
  3. Avoid buying your shoes by price
    1. because they are on sale
    2. because they are expensive (so must be better)
    3. UNLESS, “your brand and model” happen to be on sale, in which case go for it!  (One time, many years ago, a bunch of us were using a particular shoe and the manufacturer decided to build a better mousetrap, so to speak.  The “new improved” model turned out only to be new.  It definitely wasn’t improved.  In any case, one member of our group found a wholesaler that had the “old” model and we bought at a very good price and in numbers.  One very serious runner among us bought eight (8) – count ’em – EIGHT pairs.)
  4. Avoid buying your shoes because the color coordinates nicely with your favorite jacket/shirt/shorts/tights…….  (Did I really have to say that?  Unfortunately, yes.  I have encountered a few people who have done just that!)
    1. Ed. Note:  Some manufacturers do seem to be making their various models in a range of colors.  I wear one brand and one model almost all the time for my basic running, but just realized that over a period of time I have purchased the same shoe in yellow, red and blue trim.  I must also admit that my yellow trimmed shoes match very nicely with my compression tights and I do like the look.  But, when the shoes wore out (as they all do) the red ones worked just as well, and so in their turn, did the blue ones.
    2. You may or may not have a choice of color at the time of any given purchase, as it is pretty costly for a specialty retailer to carry one model in three colors and a range of sizes.
  5. Unless you really know what you are doing or have a very informed and trusted advisor, you probably should avoid being an early adopter of the latest greatest shoe product.
    1. This isn’t to say that all new technology is just a fad; just that the average runner may not be particularly well served by using it.  Generally new technology comes at a premium price.
    2. The latest shoe will likely help less to improve your performance than some good old fashioned coaching based on your form and level of training.
    3. Once you are pushing your own personal limits, technology may give you just a little bit more in the way of improved performance.  I don’t want to talk about any given manufacturer or type of shoe, but there are a couple out there right now that require a different technique of running.
    4. If you decide to try one of these products, you must commit to not only the purchase, but quite possibly to learning the different technique required.  And, I should be clear in saying that over the years, new systems or materials or technique have made many a difference to running in general. The key here though is that some have and some haven’t.  I mean, where would be today without Bill Bowerman’s waffle-iron (well, his wife’s, actually)? That said, it likely won’t hurt you to wait and see if any particular product or system proves out.
  6. Money as motivator is a bit of an unfortunate reality.  Running can be a relatively inexpensive sport, especially if you decide to become a true bare-foot runner.  Even less expensive, if you do all your runs at some kind of nudist or naturist retreat, where you can run bare-foot right up to your forehead!  Of course, unless there is one of these places right next door, it may cost you to get there.  And, unless you live in a place with a very moderate climate, your running season could be quite short.
    1. Seriously though, to “just run” all you need is a proper pair of shoes, a shirt and shorts and off you go.  That is pretty inexpensive for what you gain from it.  However, as most of us know, it usually doesn’t stop there and this is where high finance comes into the picture.
    2. If you run often or a lot, most experts will advise you to use more than one pair of shoes.  Just like your body, the modern shoe is a bit of a “living, breathing” thing.  The high-tech materials that make up the business part of your shoes actually benefit from a “recovery” period.
    3. If you can afford it, you should try to keep a couple of pairs of shoes going at any given time.
    4. The simplest way is to get a new pair when your first pair is about half worn-out.  Then, just keep doing this as each pair takes its place in the rotation.
    5. Avoid using a pair of shoes for too long.  As good as today’s products are, after you have pounded them down a road for long enough, the materials begin to fail.  Changes may be so subtle or gradual that it is difficult to see the difference day to day.  I sometimes find it shocking when I buy a new pair of the same shoe to see how much I have crushed the heels of the old ones.
    6. How long is too long?  There is the question of the day.  Different people will wear shoes in different ways and at different rates.  In my own (well documented) case, I run with an old injury related to a ruptured disk in my spine.  I can run well enough to satisfy myself, but my left side is much weaker than my right.  My calf muscle has atrophied quite substantially since the corrective surgery more than 20 years ago, due to loss of nerve function, which actually happened prior to the surgery.  Without getting into all the gory details, I lurch to my left side.  I can’t really hold myself up, or “spring” off that leg, even though I have worked quite successfully with a trainer to improve the situation.  While much improved, it is pretty clear it will never be “right” again.  Why does this matter?  It is a somewhat extreme example of how different people wear shoes differently.  Because I come down so hard on my left foot, that shoe wears far more and faster in terms of crushing, and on top of that, at no time in my life has anyone ever mistaken me for someone who is underfed.  That is, I am a fairly skookum guy, which also puts some pressure on the shoe.
    7. So, that still doesn’t answer the question of how long, except to say it is somewhat individualized within a range.  In my own case, I start to notice sure signs that my shoes need replacing somewhere around 600km.
    8. Putting any number on it, means that you need to know what the number is and if you do have more than one pair of shoes on the go, then you really need some kind of running log to keep track.  That is another topic in itself, but is essential if you want to ensure that you don’t let a single pair of shoes stay around too long.
  7. Why put limits on how long you use your shoes?  Most people who have worn a pair of shoes too long can tell you the answer to that.  Worn out shoes can actually lead to injury.
    1. Such injury will not usually be sudden or catastrophic, but rather fall toward the “repetitive use” category.
    2. How or when such a thing might happen is really related to whether or not you wear your shoes evenly, or as in my case, in an unbalanced way.

So, there you have my two cents worth on shoes.  I hope it helps, especially anyone relatively new to the game of running, and/or reminds some of the more seasoned of the athletes out there of the things they already know but need to remember.

Never too Late to be Great – Report #3


CIM – 4 Weeks Out and CountingRod Waterlow with 2010 Olympic Torch

 This series is about and by Rod Waterlow who has been invited as a senior elite athlete to compete at the California International Marathon (Sacramento) on December 5.  We are following Rod’s approach and process as he prepares for and runs this popular and still growing event.  For more background on Rod and the Race, see the first post in the series.

What are you doing to prepare for CIM?

I’m a firm believer in the old maxim, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.  After over twenty-five years of running, my marathon training has settled into a fairly typical routine.  I like running with other people and I am currently involved with two different running clinics.  These provide me with the structure and support, both technical and social, which I need – I’ve never quite bought into the “loneliness of the long distance runner” image.  My schedule includes increasingly longer runs on the weekends, at about 30-45 second/mile slower than race pace, supplemented with two shorter but more intense runs during the week.  One change from the way I used to train is that one of my mid-week runs now includes speed training techniques (e.g., High paced 400 and 800 meter repeats) which I believe have help me to maintain my running times, which have remained fairly consistent over the past five years.

As a seasoned runner, how do you feel about high mileage training?

When I first started running in the mid 1980s there was a much greater emphasis on high mileage.  I remember being told that it was important to get the extra miles in, even if it was just one more three-mile run each week.  Some of my running buddies bought into this philosophy so much that they were running 70-75 miles per week.  The result was that, contrary to the conventional wisdom of the day, their marathon times were slower.  However, I think that this had more to do with their increased expectations of better times and the inevitable tendency to go out too fast.  In my own case my total mileage peaked at 52 mile in one week and I really didn’t feel any benefit – it just made me feel very tired!  In recent years, although I still keep track of my weekly mileage, the focus of my clinic training has been on quality miles, rather than how many miles I run each week.    At this stage in my running career, I seem to have found the right balance between not training too hard and still training hard enough to maintain good race results.  Currently, my total weekly mileage leading up to a marathon peaks at about 34 miles, and this seems to work for me.  I am sure that the speed training, which I started about five years ago, has helped me to maintain my performance level.  For example, my time in the 2006 Royal Victoria Marathon was my best in ten years.

Never Too Late To Be Great – Report #2


CIM – 5 Weeks Out and Counting

Rod Waterlow with 2010 Olympic Torch

Rod Waterlow

This series is about and by Rod Waterlow who has been invited as a senior elite athlete to compete at the California International Marathon (Sacramento) on December 5.  We are following Rod’s approach and process as he prepares for and runs this popular and still growing event.  For more background on Rod and the Race, see the first post in the series.

Which of your marathons were most memorable?

Obviously, running Boston in 1997 and New York 2008 were pretty special, particularly the latter because I got to be in Times Square on election night – what an experience!  But running a marathon is always a challenge – the 26.2 miles doesn’t get any shorter or easier the more you run them!  Every race is unique, not only because each course is different but because there are so many other variables, particularly the weather and how you are feeling on race day.  I will always remember my second marathon, twelve months after my first, because it started so well and ended so badly.  Both races were in Vancouver, but it was a different course.  Being unaware of the basic principle of “baby steps”, I was confident that with an additional year of training under my belt I could run a 3:10:00, eight minutes faster than my previous time.  In fact, I was right on pace for the first 20 miles when I started to feel a little strange.  Naturally, I had heard about the dreaded “wall” but I thought it was just part of the mythology of running a marathon.  But this was for real, like someone had thrown a switch and my body was shutting down.  Within minutes all my confidence had evaporated, my running was reduced to a shuffle and I was terrified that I would fall down and hit my head.  I collapsed at the finish line having taken a mere 50 seconds off my previous time!  This was certainly a memorable race, but it was also a great learning experience which taught me to place far less reliance on the time on wrist and far more on what my body is telling me – after all, it’s the only body I have and it has to last me a lifetime!