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team_runcoach_picAshley Grosse, Christine Kennedy, and Maggie Visser traveled to Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, December 8 to compete at the USATF Club Cross Country Championships.  As the representatives of runcoach’s newly formed elite squad, they contested the Women’s 40+ team championships over a muddy, hilly, 6K course.  Together, they took home the bronze medal as the nation’s third best team among masters athletes in Team runcoach’s debut.  Individually, Visser led the team in 7th among all age-groups, with Kennedy in 11th and Grosse 31st.  Kennedy, the 2011 USATF Masters Athlete of the Year, individually won the 55-59 age group, while posting the top age-graded time across the entire field.

 

This week, we caught up with Grosse, Kennedy, and Visser upon their return to training in the Bay Area.

 

 

rc: Can you share with our members a bit about how this team materialized so quickly into a competitive unit?

 

CK: I have raced for the last two years with Tom and he has been very instrumental in me achieving my goals.  I wanted to show that behind my success were Tom and his training, and get the word out that other people can achieve their goals in the same way.  Even though there were only three of us to start there were enough to score in the masters division.

 

AG:  We formed in the fall.  There weren’t a huge amount of opportunities for us to run together locally, so we thought it would be great for team building to go to club nationals.  We had all been working with Tom for a long time.  At nationals, three score, so we had the chance to really be an elite masters team.  It was a great way to gauge where we are at, although none of us necessarily specialize in cross country.

 

MV: Unfortunately, we had in mind to race the PA champs [the local, northern California championships], but sickness required us to regroup and focus on competing well at nationals.

 

 

rc:  How did race play out relative to expectations?

 

MV: We initially had a goal of winning, but that was more of a motivational thing for us.  I knew we would be competitive with the Impalas [a historically strong team].

 

AG:  We also knew Club Northwest would be a challenge because we saw them last year in Seattle [at the 2011 meet, where the three competed for a variety of other teams].

 

MV: The course was deceivingly deceptive.  Coming from San Francisco, we are used to running hills.  So running the course before, I figured this would be easy – the hills are minor!  However, the terrain was muddy and so uneven, it probably tired our bodies a little bit more.  After the three-mile mark to the finish, it was extraordinarily hard for me.  I did something I never do, and that is look back.  We finished and Christine was telling me, “Come on! Come on! Let’s go look for Ashley!” I couldn’t move!  It was really, really hard.

 

AG: I agree exactly with Maggie.  That last hill before you wind up for the finish - it was long and it was not pretty.  The course was really muddy in a lot of places.  Tom had us ready individually, and we were good enough to finish third.  Looking at the teams behind us, we did very well. We are very motivated to go to Bend [Oregon, location of the 2013 meet] and bring that club trophy back to runcoach!

 

CK:  Traveling together and sharing a hotel room…It was great to be in that environment:  hanging out, warming up together, and knowing we had a lot of competition, but we were just going to give our best.  Just feeding off each other…. because the team was so new and strong, we weren’t jealous of each other and my goal was to just stay up with Maggie.  We all just wanted to run well and bring it home for our training partners and the guys we see on the track every week.  They have really been a big part of this!

 

rc: What is in store for team runcoach in the spring?

 

AG:  One of the nice things was that when we were at the track on Monday, a lot of the other runcoach athletes were very congratulatory, and they were all excited and felt we were representing them as well.  That was a neat feeling.  We got behind this because we wanted to support Tom, who had supported us for so long.  We are totally behind him and his methods, and we are showing people how Tom has prepared us so well as masters athletes.  So far, we have talked about doing the masters half-marathon championships in Melbourne, Florida this February.   At the awards ceremony, we were approached by USATF officials about some exciting international opportunities.  That was very cool.  We are being ambitious about places to race, and we are looking forward to going to Bend next year.

 

MV: We definitely want to explore growth, because now if anyone is injured we won’t be able to score, or a marathon might interfere with cross country.  It is very empowering to run with the other women and to share those experiences, building on our success so far.  So, we look forward to growing.

 

CK: This is a huge step for runcoach to have a team, even it is only the three of us now.  We have reinforced to him [Tom] that we aren’t going away.  He set us out to do a job, and we came back successfully.  We plan to take cross country very seriously next year with a goal of taking first or second.  Now we all have goals and want the same thing.  We can plan now for the whole year – not each person giving individual schedules, but planning the team goals together.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Lunges

Written by Tom McGlynn December 06, 2012

Hamstring Balance

Written by Tom McGlynn December 06, 2012

Quad Stretch

Written by Tom McGlynn December 06, 2012

Toe Touch

Written by Tom McGlynn December 06, 2012

toxins-cause-exhaustionThink Sleep Doesn’t Matter?  Think Again!

 

Runners tend to enjoy challenges.  How else to explain things like 50 state marathoners and people running in the driving rain or the dark of night?  Many times the daily challenge is how to fit everything into 24 hours, run included (definitely), and sleep included (maybe…some at least).  Runners often rationalize the lack of sleep because it is the only way (often waking up early in the morning) that they can conquer this “24 hour challenge”.  But, does it really matter if you sleep enough?  You bet it does.

 

Dr. Michael Fredericson of Stanford University, long time team doctor for the track and cross country teams, as well as one of the most experienced medical researchers on running related injury patterns, maintains that when compared to time, money, and effort spent on things like vitamins, minerals, supplements “If you get a really good night’s sleep, it outweighs almost everything else.”  To consider why, he encouraged a look at several recent explorations of the effects of sleep on performance for several important points.

 


Running for your health might not erase the health risks from lack of sleep.

Drs. Stephan Esser and Rick Feeney in their recent article “ZZZs for Speed”  (Marathon and Beyond, March/April 2012), relate how studies show chronic sleep deprivation can increase the risk of high blood pressure, depression, certain cancers, and diabetes…just for starters.  It also increases an appetite-stimulating hormone, which might challenge the efforts to use running for weight loss.   Yikes!

 

Sleep has a demonstrable effect on your athletic performance.

We have all survived days or longer periods where we have been sleep impaired.  College or high school finals might come to mind.  However, if you are looking for a PR, extra sleep is more than a marginal concern.    Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic (along with famed sleep researcher William Dement), conducted a study on the Stanford Men’s Basketball team, where their performance on sprints, shooting accuracy and other measures were charted based on their levels of daily sleep.  Those who slept more during the course of the study found significant improvements in their time on sprints and their accuracy on shooting improved as much as 9%.  Imagine even just a 2-3%% improvement in athletic execution in your next goal race and a 4 hour marathoner gets to the finish line almost a half mile faster!

 

Don’t just take it from basketball players, though.  Esser and Feeney also cite studies that have found a cyclist getting twice as much sleep during a 4800 kilometer event could make the top 10, while spending much less time in the saddle than the other nine.  Another study found that one night without sleep caused an average of an 11% drop in time before exhaustion with a spread of 5-40% (in other words, some folks fell much further off than the average)!

 

Even if you can make it on less sleep, the running usually feels much harder.

Perceived exhaustion also spikes like crazy when sleep is elusive.  Most busy people can attest to this – when the 2pm meeting feels interminable or the key workout just feels more like “5k pace” than the “80% pace” written on the training plan.    David Martin’s oft cited study enforces that believe that even one night of reduced sleep not only decreases time to exhaustion, but time until perceived exhaustion.  Other literature cited by Esser and Feeney indicates that mental fatigue can greatly hinder the drive needed from our brains to require our musculoskeletal system to continue moving.  The limbs might still be able to keep moving with less sleep, but the brain is less inclined to require them to do so, and feel much less inclined more quickly.

 

Lack of sleep also results in the slowing of glucose metabolism, resulting in a lesser ability to draw needed sugars from the muscles during that next bout of exercise following the short night’s sleep.  Most of us in this fatigued situation then turn to some simple sugars to help flood the system and get what we need right now, even if it is not helpful energy for the long term.  You can guess where this leads in terms of diet…..

 

Sleep to recover from and prevent injuries….You can’t run if you can’t run

While your bones are constantly remodeling during the day, important amounts of this protective and ameliorative process take place during sleep.  In one 2008 study cited by Esser and Feeney, bone resorption was increased by 170% when sleep was increased among army recruits under a consistently challenging physical demand.  If stress fractures are a concern, sleep might be a particularly huge and important variable for you.

 

OK, OK, OK….I get it!  Now what should I do?

Most people need 6-8 hours to function regularly and healthily.  However, your individual needs may vary.  If you are using remedies (coffee, sugary foods, 5 Hour Energy, Red Bull) to alleviate sleepiness on most days, then it probably is appropriate to track your typical patterns for several days. Seek to improve upon your amount of sleep if even temporary adjustments result in an improvement on performance or perceived level of exertion.  Even if change is difficult to come by due to structural forces beyond your control, a healthy dose of mindfulness about nighttime habits might yield a more quality level of sleep during the shut-eye you do get.

 

Read Esser and Feeney’s entire article here.

 

Read a detailed summary about the Stanford Basketball Sleep Study here.

 

 



imgresWill Running on Cement Injure Me?

 

 

Many runners run in urban settings for years, logging mile after mile on cement and other hard surfaces without any apparent problems.  Other runners swear by the trail and believe it has prolonged a running career and mitigated many risks of injury.   Still others do the exact same thing, and still fight injury after injury.  Who is right?

 

Force = mass x acceleration

Conventional wisdom would indicate that the hard surfaces found in cement (your average city sidewalk), or asphalt (black top road surface) would increase the risk of injury for runners.  After all, the body creates 2-3x its actual weight in force just during the heel off phase while walking. This increases to 5-8x body weight during running due to the increase speed and the fact you are (for some of us, very briefly!) completely airborne before each foot lands.  Cement is about 10x harder than asphalt so it seems reasonable that cement would be an absolutely horrible surface on which to run.

 

If all your concerns related to problems that occurred due to force alone, then perhaps abstinence from cement would be a wise idea, and indeed, many runners opt for the street instead of the sidewalk, or go long ways out to find trails and grass surfaces.  However, many of the injuries runners suffer have a more complicated genesis.  Are your shoes appropriate for you?  Does your foot strike the ground efficiently?  Are you hips in alignment or do you have muscle imbalances and weaknesses that have left your joints and ligaments vulnerable to forces that your body has not been able to dissipate?  All of these factors come into play, and have been much more easily researched as injury culprits than the surface itself.

 

What is good for the bones might be tough on the ligaments

Likewise, the even, but forgiving surface of a golf fairway (when rarely available) might provide a luxuriously feeling run, as does a well- manicured forest trail.  But when does that desired effect dwindle when the trail become rocky and uneven, or muddy and slippery?  When the grass is long and mushy, or the bark trail too soft, such that you sink perceptibly on each step, or the blacktop road so cambered that you are running on a slant instead of a flat sidewalk next to you, do you receive the same benefit?

 

While these surfaces might provide relief from the abrupt forces of cement, they often demand a great deal more from stabilizing muscles and ligaments and present their own challenges to your goal of staying injury-free.  If tendonitis, muscle strains, or other soft tissue ailments are your kryptonite, you might risk more by continuing to run on these surfaces all the time and may benefit from a steadier ride on a hard surface.

 

Running is healthy for the spirit as well as the body

One of the reasons pavement and cement may get the blame for many maladies is the correlation with the environment where these surfaces are typically found.  Not many runners would prefer the start and stop of a sidewalk interrupted every hundred yards with a stoplight, complete with honking, speeding cars and loud noises, crowds, and the like.  The peaceful environment of a trail deep in the forest, around a lush and green grass field, or along the ridge of a slowly descending dirt path sounds much more reparative to the soul.  Studies show that the body is best prepared to run hard late in the afternoon, or early in the evening.  Potentially a study might show that those who run along peaceful dirt paths can extend their running careers later into middle age and beyond.  But just as not everyone has the luxury to knock off work or family obligations for a 60 minute run in the hills at 4pm, not everyone can get to an idyllic nature setting for their daily run, whenever it occurs.  For them, running along a busy street or the best bike path available most definitely is better than not running at all, and that may mean running on cement or non-ideal surfaces.

 

Look at the whole picture

Rather than automatically assume the risk of the surface one way or the other, a more thoughtful approach is in order.  Consider your problem areas, where injury trouble tends to start or flourish, and then work through each of the other variables:  shoes, foot striking pattern, known muscle weaknesses or misalignment issues, sleep, stress, nutrition, hydration, etc.  It may be that a change to soft surfaces may be in order, but the investigation may uncover other areas where change may eliminate the risk or problem, even if the ground under your feet remains the same.

 

 

 



Superman-Caped-Knee-High-SocksAdam and Micheline Kemist own On Your Mark, a running specialty and performance store.  A certified Pedorthist and Kinesio tape practitioner, Adam provides personalized biomechanical feedback and orthotic services along with retail services. In this edition of Ask the Practitioner, we talk to Adam about an often over-looked element of our everyday running - socks.

rc: We often spend a lot of time considering the right pair of shoes, but we wear socks just as much!  What are the main functions socks can provide (either well or poorly)?
 
AK: Socks are the item actually touching your skin so you want them to be working harder than your shoes at keeping your feet comfortable.  Technical running socks are designed to keep your feet comfortable and dry.  When this happens your feet will have less swelling, fewer hot spots and fewer blisters.

rc: As an avid runner and running retailer, what do you feel are some of the recent innovations and improvements for socks?

AK: Two of the best innovations are anatomically shaped socks.  This means some socks are made specifically left and right.  This puts the padding and durability in the high wear areas and softer materials in non-critical areas.  Another innovation in running socks is a high stitch count. Basic cotton socks are typically stitched at about 72spi (stitches per inch), but a good technical running sock will be at 174spi with some of the best at 210spi.

rc: If you aren't sure what kind of socks would be best for you, what are some tips for ways to find out?
 
AK: Try to buy your socks from a specialty store like On Your Mark in Los Altos, California. The staff will know how each of the socks are constructed and can guide you.  Look for socks by companies that only make technical socks like Balega and Feetures, or running shoe manufacturers that have branched out with socks like Asics and Brooks.  Choose a medium weight sock to start.  As you start to feel the difference, then branch out and try other brands and thicknesses.


runner_in_stormThere will likely come a time when weather will interfere with your running plans. Read on for a few quick tips on how to "weather" the storms with your goals intact.

Safety first, always.
Runners by nature are some of the most stubborn people around.  A lengthy daily running streak, an even number mileage total for the week, or the fear of recording a zero in the log all can be highly motivating factors.  When a huge weather event prevents even a minimal amount of activity, let the visceral disappointment of not following through on plans be a reminder of how joyful you will be to run another day when things are better.  The joy of the future is a wiser and better movtivator for safe behavior than a false feeling of invincibility when conditions are not safe.

Narrow your focus.
Ideally, you would have gotten in both your long run and your track workout.  Ideally, you would have done the tempo run on the usual path that now has a tree lying on it.  Well, things are not ideal, so shed the focus on what can't get done and zone in on what can be done.  If it is Tuesday and the weather is expected to improve by the end of the week, you might not be able to get everything in, but you can probably get one crucial component in.  Focus on doing a good job with that one challenge, and be encouraged that at least one important training element kept you moving the ball down the field.

Avoid running alone.
Slippery streets, snow drifts, gusty winds, power outtages leaving poorly lit paths - if the weather has moderated, but challenging climate elements linger, taking a companion on your run can help ensure both of your families that someone else can help if a problem arises. 

Overestimate your bottled water needs.
Everyone needs to hydrate, but if you are running while power remains out or in a dry winter environment, you will need more than the average person.  Stay ahead of the situation with a periodically replenished water supply in good times.  If supplies are limited during lingering storm conditions, budget liberally for your needs.

Keep a sense of humor and don't take yourself too seriously.
If you are safe, be glad.  If you have to take more than a preferred amount of time off during a storm, think of the early modern Olympians who would have to ride a boat across the ocean on their way to meets and would find their way to the medal stand anyhow.  Remember the Chilean miner.  Be glad you aren't earning your living by running if running is unwise. Plan on impatience, and as necessary, let your stir craziness serve as a source of humor for those with you.  Remember, your running is something that you do affirmatively for your health and well being, not something that is more essential than safety, food, and water. Always look forward to clearing skies- they will come eventually!



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