Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pulling Out the Stops: New Coach and Gait Analysis

So it was not my intention to go almost three weeks sans post, but a lot has happened and sitting down to write just kept failing to happen. Sorry to let my 'loyal readers' down! :)

The big thing is that I put my name in for the Chevron Houston Marathon this year. I have run this race in the past as an elite, however, I currently deserve and actually prefer some degree of anonymity for the upcoming year. This was both an exciting and admittedly a kind of scary step. Granted life goes on if things don't pan out; but I really, really want to feel successful at this distance again. As I tell my clients all the time, you have to put yourself out there and leave your comfort zone if you want to make changes and grow. And the first steps start today. I read something the other day quoting Galen Rupp as saying "there are no shortcuts in distance running". I have a long few months ahead of me and I am okay with that. 

After some deliberation and coaching myself for a couple years, I have decided to try something new: I recently have requested Coach Doug Storey with Bayou City Endurance Consulting's expertise in helping me achieve the goals I want to achieve. Accountability and being told "no" from time to time is what I seem to need to keep myself moving forward and not stalling out. I chose Doug for several reasons: first, I know him from working on the Woodlands Marathon Committee and he basically saved my butt the year I served as elite coordinator. So I know I can trust him. He also has coached several athletes to some very impressive times and seems to have a conservative, yet effective approach; something I really need.  

After politely letting him know what he was getting himself into (I said something initially like "do you want a project"?!) I am now done with my first coached week of training. And by 'training' I mean I am basically being taken apart and put back together. This is what I asked for and likely need to redirect the trajectory of my running.

And I'll admit, it's different. As I train for triathlons on the side, my mileage is initially low and to be slowly increased; you know, so I don't end up like the dog biting her tail like usual. While at first, I had the initial reaction every driven adult athlete seems to have at some juncture if they're honest: I thought I needed to do more. Then there's all the crosstraining- This summer I am doing a LOT of it and although I'm not putting in a lot of volume on land, the water time is up. For instance, today, I had to stand with my elbows on the pool deck for a minute to regroup-not for the faint of heart and don't let the fluffy buoyancy belt deceive!

Aside from changing the training, I went in for a comprehensive gait analysis yesterday at the Ironman Sports Medicine Institute here in The Woodlands. What an impressive facility! I hope to have some video of what they did next week, but for now, I'll briefly describe the process and give a little psychological spin on things just for fun:

After finishing appts. early yesterday, I met Allyson, a sports biomechanist with all kinds of fancy tech and cameras. I knew there would be considerable footage of me running in slow motion; something that fascinated and may have weirded me out a bit. With me was a drawstring bag of 4 different pairs of shoes (because I'm cautious to what works and a shoe geek!) with heel-toe drops ranging from 0-12mm. After the initial qualms of watching myself in slow-motion glory on film, I switched to the mindset of functionality-today was a small step in learning and improvement.

I warmed up on a separate treadmill for a couple miles (being mindful of how many Coach gave me that day:)) and then it was literally 'showtime'! The basic protocol was getting shots from both sides, and posterior to examine hip tilt, pronation/supination, and what my knee and footstrike is doing in both real time and slow motion. I basically ran intervals of 5 mins. or so of easy running. Given my history, I wanted to see if there was any discrepancies on my right side and if there was any way to address.

I started out in what has been my daily trainer for the past few weeks, the newly-released Saucony Ride 7, then worked my way down in structure of the shoe: Nike Air Pegasus 30, Saucony Kinvara 4, then finished up with the Zero-Drop Saucony Virrata (I think I'm beginning to sound like a Saucony saleswoman!).

After each 'take' was filmed, we went back over everything and reviewed the initial findings. I'll put these in bullet form for those interested. I would hope my legs and feet are not that interesting to you, but I digress;)

  • My left side is my good side. In each pair I showed a "soft knee" (slight bend upon landing), full extension on the push off, and a midfoot strike and natural, brief pronation on the landing (be jealous!).  Makes sense-as  High School soccer player I shot and passed with my left foot-when I start races, I always power off from the left. Hmmm...
  • My right side....well...It could be possessed by the devil. Ok, likely not, but it had some quirks. First was a slight overstride and heel strike. Yes, the dreaded 'h-word'! After viewing it, I could feel it. And in my Rides and Air Pegs, I could tell a difference. 
  • Hip drop: I did have some tilting from the back, affecting foot placement and overall stability. 
  • Shoes! Amazingly enough, my gait looked the best sporting the least amount of shoe, the Saucony Virrata. As soon as I started up I could feel things cleaning up and I had a happier stride. The one catch: they need to be lower mileage shoes. Across the board, however, I was given the green light for all pairs for various distances, with the Virratas for short and fast, and the Rides being the workhorse. Makes sense! 
  • I always thought I had decent form, and I walked out the door still feeling that way. Whew!
Glute strength-the thing each runner needs more of. While I do a fair amount of core work already and do squats a few times per week, it was recommended to add some exercises to correct some of the overstride and raise the hip a bit. Not much, just enough to keep from injuring myself so dang often.

The less work the lower region has to do, the better. I recall reading a recent Running Times article on form that the footstrike is simply the "end of the whip".  Regarding correcting the foot placement to end the braking motion and on pulling the right foot back a little; running a little more mindfully along with exercises was recommended.  I also  have a personal theory of how to attack this... and a lot of it may be psychological. I imagine coming off a rough patch these past couple months with tendon inflammation, I would be surprised if there was no subconscious guarding going on. Each injury runs the risk of buried trauma and overwhelm-not just because of the pain, but uncertainty, alienation, and everything else that an athlete experiences. The simplest way I can put it is that our unconscious can create a protective response post-injury, resulting in a compensation and guarding response. There are several ways to attach this, and the first step is awareness. Next comes trust...

 Each run needs to be build on trust-even if I literally have to tell my leg "it's ok now"; I'm actually serious. Also using simple imagery while I'm running on mechanics and while I prep to run I plan to incorporate. I will do this again and again, each time reprogramming little pathways, just like running drills. 

In short, improving your running is always an art and a science. This time I have others on my 'research team'! 

Hope to have the second part of this post soon. It was a different and interesting experience, and I do enjoy learning different things myself and the intricacies of the human body. 

*Note: this report is just my interpretation of the experience along with initial recommendations. Curious about your stride, check with your coach or sports med practitioner about doing so. 

Stay the course. 


L.A. Runner said...

All my fingers are crossed for Houston!!!! You know how much I love 26.2, and to see you go after that again makes my heart happy!

I'm also really excited to see where Doug leads you. You have done a heck of a job coaching yourself, but sometimes others see things in us that we can't see ourselves. And when they see that potential (or that downfall), they can help us overcome it. At least that was a big part of me hiring a coach. And yes, Doug has a nice record as a coach; no doubt in my mind you see success in meeting your goals.

And about the gait analysis… meh, I wouldn't put TOO much focus on that stuff. Take the knowledge and use it as a tool, but don't go trying to change too much. In my limited knowledge, experience, and education, if it's working for you, it's usually best to leave it be. Like a lot of people commented on FB, many successful runners have odd/strange/imbalanced gaits. And yes, we can all benefit from more glute strength. I will return to working on mine in the form of drills and strength training, but never try to "force" myself to run differently.

See you soon! Love ya!

Raina R. said...

I'm totally fascinated by gait analysis, but am starting to think there is very little i can do to actually change my gait, besides thinking about it. And I don't always feel like thinking about running when I am running...
It sounds like you took some useful information from the visit and I am thrilled to see you place your trust in a coach! Wishing you the best in training for 26.2!