Today was also an ocean swim, but the real kicker was that not only was D. waiting for me to run after the swim, but it was with his coach from Triathletix, Ian Murray. Ian is a world-class coach, one of the best. When I came out of the water with my hip smarting from yesterday’s crash and D. yelled at me to hustle and get changed, I thought it was just because I was so slow out of the water. Turns out he had much more in store for me.
Two days ago I finally got to New Balance in Santa Monica and replaced the Sauconys that had been destroying my left heel. Before any run I’d have to slap an adhesive bandage to my heel to prevent a nasty blister, which at mile 2 would effectively kill my session. Also, if I didn’t put on the bandage right it would ruin my run. I got the Sauconys from Phidippides in Encino, the store that every runner swears by. Not me. I got fit by some old runner dude who watched me run and offered up some options. But ultimately the shoe he guided me towards never quite worked as well as my old New Balance shoes. I supinate, which means I crush the outside of my feet when I run. This is partly from a weak inner leg muscle group, as well as tight iliotibial (IT) bands and hamstrings. The New Balance is a “neutral” shoe, meaning it doesn’t have a built-up arch pushing the weight towards the outside of the foot. There’s more room for me to roll my foot inwards to relieve the strain from supination. A pronated or supinated foot can be corrected over time of proper stride, but after several years of marathon running and stretching I haven’t spent enough time in the gym to build up the right muscle groups. Therefore I still need a good shoe for the long miles.
New Balance in Santa Monica is owned by the same guy as Frontrunners in Brentwood, and they had my purchase history on file. It was easy to try on the new version of the shoe I ran three marathons in and it felt better right from the moment I put them on. Interestingly my foot has shrunk, probably from the body fat changes. I used to wear an 11, now I’m comfy in a 10.5.
Last night was rough on the bruised hip and I slept with an ice pack on my side to get to sleep. I didn’t know how it would affect my swim, and I was really suspect about the idea of running. Climbing stairs was murder, since it stresses the precise injury point on the hip. Still, I set the alarm for 5am and managed to get up two minutes before it went off. Walked the dogs, got everything together, and still arrived late for the ocean speed circuit.
After two flailing laps I considered bagging it. Though my hip was fine in the water, even with steady kicking, I thought I was low on gas. This would turn out to be all mental. The injury was sitting on my mind, and though my arm stung in the salt water and the hip was better during kicking I couldn’t shake the annoyance of the accident and the body ding. I felt stupid for having a silly accident, and one that didn’t really scrape me up badly. I have a welt on my side and hip pain, was that really enough to belly ache? I pulled it together and committed to the third lap in the ocean. Going back in the third time was good for me. It’s right at the Fuck It point that my body relaxes and my stroke improves. Swimming is about finding a sweet spot in body position that achieves buoyancy, reduces drag, and has powerful legs and arms all at once. I do better when I stop thinking about it. Of course, tomorrow in the pool with paddles, kickboard, and maybe swim fins will be all about thinking about it. But the idea is to train my muscle memory so I can get my head out of overthinking this stuff.
After I got out of the water, D. was waiting for me already dressed and waiting with another Tri Clubber who was going to run with us. I ran to my car and changed as fast as I could, and coming back to the beach was the surprise guest, Ian Murray. We started out and I said, “you may have to send me back in a box”. I was serious – I had no idea how it was going to go. Even a simple 4 mile run could hurt like a sumbitch if it’s above threshold. They set a good pace for the first two miles, solid and steady. According to two GPS devices we were either a 7:15 (minutes per mile) pace or 7:45 pace. (Normally I cruise between 8:30 and 9.) One of the guys with us said it felt like 7:45, since he had just done 20 at that pace a day or two before. 20 miles. At 7:45. Jaysus. That may not seem fast to some, but it’s lightspeed to me. However, the new shoes felt great. Totally supporting, comfy as can be. And I was feeling pretty good about hanging with the group. Halfway through at the pier, Ian pushed it a little faster – I could tell because my heart started to talk to my throat. He came up aside me as we left the Venice Pier and made some insightful comments on my stride, offering D. as an example of a good mid-foot landing and high heel kick. I land on my heel, which acts as a brake slowing my forward propulsion and sending shock up the shin and leg. A proper landing is midfoot, pushing off the toes, almost a circular cadence when it flows right. I made mental notes to track Ian and D’s stride as we went back through the Venice boardwalk. Which was hard because Ian started leading and calling out sprints between objects. At this point I was already breathing pretty heavy, but I shut off my brain and just pushed it as hard as I could, working to keep up without “blowing up” – the point at which my heart explodes in my chest and lactic acid seizes up my legs, arms, even my fingers. I didn’t get dropped until just about the final sprint, and even though D rocketed the finish I was only ten or fifteen seconds behind Ian and the other dude who ran 20 miles at 7:45. I wasn’t thinking about the hip, I was feeling like I’d been pushed harder to find something deeper. Finding that the gas pedal has more room before it reaches the floorboards. That when I push hard enough I can stop thinking about what I’m doing and feel my way into it.
Ian gave me more specific advice as we were cooling down and I will be using it this weekend to start changing my stride. He seems to think I can pick up 30 seconds on my pace just by making those changes. I’m excited to start running again, practicing my new kicks in my new kicks.