Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Racing plans

My last race was the Sportsworld five mile classic. There's been a few races here that look good but most were in the first two weeks of moving here and I had rather more pressing things on my mind like, finding a job and unpacking boxes. And spending as little money as possible. Since then I have had time to reflect on what races I might compete in for the remainder of 2011. A marathon is the highest priority and I would like to secure a PB. Thereafter anything else is to help realise the marathon goal.
To date I have decided the target Martathon will be the Harrisburg Marathon on 13 November. This is a relatively small race with less than 1,000 participants in 2010. It has received favourable reviews on and it is quite cheap at $55. Compare that to the Baltimore running festival expecting $85 for the half marathon! It is also a very fast course and appears almost completely flat. The Harrisburg half marathon takes place on 11 September and would be a good opportunity to gauge both my fitness and the course. At the moment I have no other plans to run other races but would like to do so. Unfortunately, prohibitive race fees, like that for Baltimore prevent that. It also seems many races are charity organised with high fees to cover both race race organisation and raise funds, which is fair enough, but I have serious reservations about their ability or willingness to cater for the serious runner, especially the unemployed serious runner. The local running club scene and accompanying races appears quite weak but I continue to explore; I suppose it is one of the exciting things about living in a new place.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Druid Hill Park

The second Week of my Pfitzinger and Douglas up to seventy miles per week schedule went pretty well. However, Sunday morning's sixteen mile run with eight at projected marathon pace was changed to a long slow run. The build up to all this was a series of general runs at marathon pace plus 15 to 25 per cent and two short recovery runs.
I decided as Sunday's would be a long slow run in high temperatures I better introduce a new route. This would take me via the historic Mount Vernon district and into Druid Hill Park. The first two miles from Patterson Park to the inner harbour are primarily downhill, then the next two and a half miles though Mount Vernon are uphill to the park entrance. The hills do not end there. The park perimeter is entirely hills with very little flat sections; you are either going down or up steep hills. A benefit of the section of the park is the thick tree cover, especially on the west and north perimeter, very welcome when temperatures are over 90F/32C.

I had hoped to supply my own pictures of the run; however, losing the camera cable of my very old digital camera in the move, and continued unemployment preventing me buying a new camera means the two snaps below of Mount Vernon and Druid Hill Park, come respectively, courtesy of and wikipedia. The street in the centre of the first picture is North Eutaw steet runnng north to the Druid Hill Park entrance. It's a very nice street and reminds you of the European influence on America's older cities.

Mount Vernon

Druid Hill Park

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Trigger Point Grid Foam Roller

Moving continents and associated moving costs focusses the mind on what you really need and what can/should be thrown in the bin. Well, that's what happened to my foam roller. As it happens a foam roller is a crucial piece of my running kit and keeps me on the road. Foam rollers are cylinders or half cylinders of hard foam, over which you roll your muscles, allowing you to stretch muscles, stimulate Myofascial tissue release and encourage blood supply to the affected areas. I find this treatment especially effective at treating Iliotibial Band Syndrome and warding off the general effects of Delayed Onset of Muscular Soreness. As a bonus, any of the exercises you do using a foam roller are quite effective core exercises. A wide range of instructional videos are found on Youtube.

The roller I threw out was more than a year old and was not made of high density EVA and so was no longer providing the benefits once had.
Consequently I was five weeks without a foam roller and my running form was beginning to disintegrate. Additionally, my muscles were increasingly tightening and aches and pains were becoming more apparent. A few weeks ago I was standing in a queue for a considerable time and my quads had become so tight that bending at the knee to walk was a struggle for the first few steps.
Hence, the search for a new foam roller began. I settled on the Trigger Point Grid Foam Roller.

This roller differs from most other rollers in a number of respects.
1. It is hollow, which makes it good for travel, allowing you to fill the hollow tube with clothes.
2. The tube is made of high density plastic, rendering it much more durable.
3. As can be seen from the photo above the rubber surface covering the plastic tube has varying degrees of density to mimic a massage from fingertips, palms, and thumbs. The marketing guff refers to this as 'distrodensity'.

I consider this primarily marketing guff. However, the durability of this foam roller is very appealing and it has worked just as well as my previous roller.
One point of note however, it its relative shortness at 13 inches. If you're new to foam rolling you might find coordinating your body with the roller such that you don't fall off it is a little challenging at first but is something you should adapt to with time. Overall, I would give this a five star rating and while ten to fifteen dollars more expensive than other it will last much longer.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pros and cons of running with Uncle Sam

Since I have moved to the United States in search of work I have reflected on a few occasions on the pros and cons of running in my new hometown of Baltimore Maryland.


1. New town and potential routes to explore brining a much needed rejuvenation of motivation.
2. Lack of dogshit; yes, that's right, people here actually clean up after their animals and bring plastic bags with them to collect their beloved pet's deposits. Ireland and particularly Dubliners could learn from this!
3. Responsible dog owners. Dog owners here actually walk their dogs on a leash and will actually restrain the dog when it gets in your way or attempts to savage you! This was illustrated twice in the four weeks I have been here when a dog did indeed attempt to savage me! Meanwhile in Ireland dogs would roam free and the owner would barely acknowledge the consequences of not restraining their pet while it attempted to take a chunk from your calf!
4. Polite pedestrians. On many occasions in Dublin I would literally have to barge and push my way through pedestrians on footpaths who fail to acknowledge that maybe waking three or four abreast on a footpath and refusing to share the footpath is a little rude. Here however, they will momentarily slow down and step aside allowing you to pass, apologising for being in the way at all and let you pass.
5. Cyclists with brains. Rather like pedestrians, cyclists will observe the fundamentals of civilised behaviour and yield to pedestrians if they are on the footpath. Meanwhile in Dublin I at least once a week forced a cyclist off their bike on a footpath because I refused to tolerate their ignorance, eliciting more than a few verbal exchanges where I would tiresomely explain the etymological origin of FOOTpath and the differences between it and a cycle lane.
6. Drivers. Drivers here are certainly no angels and they seem especially fond of multi-tasking while they drive; their favourite extra-curricular activities while driving appear to be speaking on their phones and/or eating. However, I would say on the whole they are better than Dublin drivers; albeit not an especially challenging accomplishment. This however, is tempered by the knowledge that Maryland drivers were recently ranked amongst the worst drivers in the US.
7. Efficient washing machines. I am not expert on washing machines but they are far more economical here. To wash an entire load of stinky running gear I place the load in the washing machine for a ten minute cycle in cold/lukewarm water and hey presto it's done!

1. There is nothing even remotely approaching the Phoenix Park here in Baltimore. I was always conscious I was spoilt living within a mile of a park of the quality of Phoenix park and moving here has only confirmed that.
2. Baltimore is quite famous for its murder rate and crime, most famously depicted by The Wire and Homicide: life on the street. This became obvious to me when on one of my first runs I got a little lost at the end of the run and while I was only about a quarter of a mile from home was in a scene straight from The Wire! In short, there is little room for error when running in Baltimore and one wrong turn can take you somewhere a very white Irishman should never find himself; especially wearing clothes that make him look as intimidating as Napoleon Dynaminte!
3. The heat and humidity! Yesterday the temperature sensor topped at 104F/40C! What is even worse is the humidity and dewpoint. I now know more about the effects on humidity and dewpoint on running than I ever cared to know! The saturation of the air with moisture inhibiting sweat's ability to evaporate and maintain the body's temperature. This morning, even getting out before 7am, the four miles at half-marathon effort came out a little slower than marathon pace on the other side of the Atlantic.

On the whole I am enjoying running here and looking forward to getting back into full marathon training, which began with today's nine miles with four at half-marathon effort. I would have had some photos of the new hood to go with this post but I have not yet found my digital camera USB cord to transfer photos to the computer-one of the joys of moving, losing things in the packing/unpacking!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Saucony Kinvara review

When I moved to the Nike Lunaglide from the Asics 2100 series I did so to experience running in a lighter shoe that provides only enough support that you require. I really like Nike Lunaglides and would say that most of the marketing guff is actually largely accurate.
However, for at least six months now I have been considering moving to a much more minimalist approach and I have read quite alot about minimalist and barefoot running. My own conclusion is that you should move to as minimal an approach as is sensible for your own biomechanics and running goals, which can be anything from very supportive footwear to none at all. I considered Newtons, Vibram five fingers, Inov-8 and other shoes. Since this spring there has been a considerable expansion in the plethora of minimalist shoes, and based on reading others' reviews I went with Saucony's offering - the Kinvara.
The Kinvara's at 7.7ozs are very light. The heel to toe drop, the primary indicator of a shoe's minimalist profile, is four millimetres; this compares to a more conventional twelve to fifteen millimetres in most shoes.

The Kinvara, while being relatively minimalist, does retain generous cushioning. This provides those who wish to undertake a moderate move to minimalist running with reassurance and also provides you with the confidence that long runs are possible, even up to marathon distance. This is something I have not tested completely yet as I am still in post marathon reduced training, but I have done up to sixteen miles in them with no trouble.
The upper is very light and comfortable and is a light soft fabric mesh covered with a very thin plastic like covering.

I have read some reviews' concerns about the durability of the upper, but approaching 200 miles my uppers remain completely intact and I am hoping they remain that way for at least another 300 miles.

One area where the Kinvara does let you down a little is the undersole. While the centre of the forefoot and the heel are well protected, in an effort to make the shoe as light as possible the sole is only covered in parts by hard plastic and the remainder is not very durable exposed eva foam. This can caused premature wear, especially on the outside of each mid and forefoot section where most mid to forefoot runners' feet will initially land. You will however note in the picture one or two puncture wounds and a small pebbled lodged in the undersole.

The Kinvara is an excellent lightweight shoe that can both be a racing shoe and general trainer for many runners. However, a word of caution, for those not accustomed to forefoot running it is wise to transition slowly into the shoe and it is likely they will initially suffer some sore calf muscles until they adapt.