Monday, March 9, 2020

Team Tortoise Part IV: Running Iterations

Team Tortoise -  Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

Source: Altra Running Shoes





This is the fourth article in a mini-blog series about walking, running, diet and of course, music. Like a streaming TV show, you may want to go back and quickly recap the series from the menu at the top, before proceeding with this latest installment.


In April 2018, I started this team tortoise blog series to motivate myself to achieve three goals.

My 3 BIG GOALS (with no timeline restraints attached)
  1. To slowly lose 30 pounds (from 215 to 185), and keep it steady at 185 for the foreseeable future.
  2. To run a 12 minute mile for 5 miles (12x5= 60 minutes), and keep that as my new pace and distance for the foreseeable future.
  3. To listen to new and old music while running to inspire my writing for Monday Monday Music. 
I knew Goal #1 would be the hardest for me as 185 was setting a high mark to get down to. As of this writing- having gotten down to 199, back up to 210, I'm currently settled at 205. My current short term goal is 200. Losing weight and keeping it off is just a damn hard thing to achieve. These last sentences are hard to write, but I stay persistent to accomplish this goal and (mostly) practice what I have written.

Goal #3 is basically a ringer as I knew it would be a no-fail proposition for myself. I do listen to music on most every run where I can simply lose myself and move into a meditation-like state that is active, thoughtful and peaceful. I truly believe music has saved my life and is an important part of my well-being. Music and running, individually or together are free therapy sessions in themselves.

Goal #2 is why this #IV blog is written, because I promised myself to write this article when I achieved- To run a 12 minute mile for 5 miles (12x5= 60 minutes), and keep that as my new pace and distance for the foreseeable future.
My greenbelt up and down trail run- elevation starting at 394 ft. up to 509 ft. during Mile 2



Goal #2 actually evolved into two distinct objectives using the greenbelt trail run by my house.

From my RunKeeper App,
I'll explain further down...
1. Run 5 miles in 60 minutes. I accomplished this a couple of months ago after finally getting through a number of calf pulling injury setbacks (originally sustained from a severe knee to ankle calf muscle tear injury ten years ago). Two things have sustained my success in this area - Compression Socks (Amazon), and a deep tissue massage by a professional masseuse at least once a month to prevent future muscle pulls and tears.

2. Run each of the five miles at a 12 minute mile or faster split time pace. This was the much harder objective, just accomplished by me this past week after almost two friggin' years!

 Okay Tortoise Yoda, how did you make your miracle breakthrough in just... TWO short years?- like you're now going to be some social media influencer or something...

An Old Dog with Some New Tricks Through Running Iterations

Iteration is the act of repeating a process, either to generate an unbounded sequence of outcomes, or with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. Each repetition of the process is also called an "iteration", and the results of one iteration are used as the starting point for the next iterationWikipedia

Iterations are not about repeating the same patterns and expecting to get different results. It's about planning-implementing-and evaluating your progress, and then getting back out there to make it better the next time. If I was going to improve my running as I approached my 65th birthday, I would need some reflection and research, specifically on my body mechanics. I would need to go way back to the beginning and think about when I started running regularly at 18 years of age.

We all grew up wearing Converse sneakers. I had the black high tops and also the white/beige low tops which I preferred for running during early adolescence. The model shown here is a Nike remake of the Chuck Taylor All Star shoe of the 1970's. This shoe is commonly referred as a "flat shoe" with a flat insole cushion and flat bottom sole.

The 1972 Nike Cortez
In 1972, Bill Bowerman created "The Cortez" and Nike was born. At some point in 1973-1974 I got a pair and loved them straight out. Again, look at the flat bottom design. A flat bottom shoe is designed as- Most runners should land close to midfoot with their foot parallel to the ground. From Altra Website

Striking at the midfoot is essential, it's where the heel is naturally cushioned from the blunt strike force to the ground, and is closer to how humans run without shoes.

Hoka One One Stinson Running Shoe
Think of running shoes prior to the 1980's as vinyl records, more of an authentic feel.

Most running shoes manufactured today have a widened cushioned curved heel designed to basically force the runner to strike heel first and then roll the foot forward. Sometime in 2018 or early 2019, I purchased my first pair of Hoka Stinson running shoes and thought my feet had landed in the clouds.


In actuality, the extensive cushioning and forced heel strike were creating a strong and painful case of plantar fasciitis in my right heel. By tricking my brain to not feel the ground, my heels were being driven straight into the ground absorbing the force of all my weight.

After relaying this latest injury to my ol' pal Paul Hobbs, he handed me a book that started a series of iterations to change my running technique back to the days of my youth. That book was, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. Thank you Paul!

Born to Run blew my mind and fixed perceptions! Chris McDougall basically opened my eyes as my body started to break down age-wise in my 40's through a long succession of buying expensive hi-tech heel striking running shoes. One might could call it, The Low Spark of the High Heeled Boys...

On the left side of my body: I've had constant lower back pain, meniscus knee surgery, and left foot plantar fasciitis surgery, not to mention my 2010 severe calf tear while... wait for it... dancing to Lady Gaga at my step daughter Abby's wedding party. As a musical side note- This past Monday, I took a treadmill heart stress test for my cardiologist (heart attack 2/17/02). When I told the three nurses administering the test how I injured my left calf, they all burst out in gut-belly laughter, and I think I made their day.

Altra Timp 1.5 - My favorite running shoe in memory,
not to mention the cool Seattle Seahawk color scheme
After reading Born to Run, I started researching running technique and finding shoes with a 'zero drop' design that promote a mid-foot strike while running. I found a shoe manufacturer, Altra that makes a wide (Birkenstock) type toe box for my 4EEEE wide feet. In the last 6 months of running, my right heel plantar fasciitis is slowly going away, I have no back pain, and have had only one minor left calf strain.

The following chart is from Altra again, hey maybe I am an influencer... without the pay.

Source, Altra: Improve Your Form

This chart is me in my back-to-the-future running form from the left- 1980's to my current right- striving to recapture the form of that 18 year old running at Waller Park in Santa Maria, CA. In blog Part I of this series, I called myself a Scottish Clydesdale. Now I think of myself as an old thoroughbred (maybe not quite put out to pasture)- a bit worn for wear but still ready to go at a slower pace with a balanced forward posture.

A Couple of Technology Tips

In this past couple of years, I've found a couple of cool product for runners that I highly recommend.

  • The free Smartphone Asics Runner's App - RunKeeper. (I originally used an app call RunTracker, but found the GPS to be rather inconsistent on the same 5 mile course and switched to RunKeeper.

    In the RunKeeper settings, I get audio feedback every 1/4 mile for: Distance, Average Pace, Average Speed, and most important, Split Speed. The Split Speed reading every 1/4 mile keeps me sharp and kicks my ass in gear. I hate to admit it, but this app works like a musical metronome to keep me in time. Here is the download page for iPhone and Android.

  • Bone Collection (Run Tie) Running Armband Phone Holder, Lightweight Sports Cell Phone Armband for iPhone and Android. I've tried a couple of brands that keep slipping down my arm once I start sweating, but this product has the best armband on the market and simply does not slip. It's $25 but well worth it!


Two More Books from Christopher McDougall


I highly recommend you read Born to Run as mentioned above, then proceed to his second book, Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance. If you love World War II stories, this is a real page turner mixed with Chris' runner spirit DNA for great storytelling.

Then read, Running with Sherman: the donkey with the heart of a hero, an absolutely heartwarming story of a rescue donkey to complete this runner's trilogy.

Christopher McDougall in addition to being a fantastic storyteller is also a wonderful person. I got a chance to see, listen and meet him at an October, 2019 book reading and overview backstory of Running with Sherman in San Diego.

me with Christopher McDougall at his
Running with Sherman book signing in San Diego.
He signed my copy - "To Doug and Team Tortoise, Run Wild!"

Now for the Playlist this week

Over the past couple of years, I've added a bunch of videos to my Born to Run Playlist created with mostly upbeat songs to keep you rocking on that walk or run. Enjoy my friends!



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