February brings new Challenges

On Saturday, I went out early for a Long Run with my running partner Mike. At 6am, it was dark and chilly but there we were, on the Prairie Trail, heading out for an 8-mile run. I was hoping this would feel 'right' and let me know that I am still on track fitness-wise (even though I took that week off).

But before we even got started, Mike had found a woman's purse on the trail that had clearly been rummaged through. So we decided to call the police so that perhaps they could reunite the purse with its owner. Since the purse had keys and other contents strewn around the path, Mike was certain the owner would be worried. I thought the purse looked as if it was stolen (maybe a 'snatch and grab') so we agreed calling the police was worth the delay in our run. The police came, did their investigation, and we went on our way.

The path was nice and clear of any snow or ice, and the run started out very smoothly. Of course, we talked along the way, which is a good way of making sure we kept to a steady, easy pace. We both had our headlamps lighting our way as we ran, looking like two coal miners with running shoes. We went about 4 miles before it was light enough outside to turn off the headlamps.

On the way back, we saw a group of ducks swimming on a lake to our left. I made the comment that "Ducks were God's original triathletes: they swam, ran, and flew!" He took the photograph and we kept on moving. When we finished the run, we both remarked that running together was a good thing. We keep each other on task, strengthening our resolve to complete the run. It is good to have someone who understands how running makes you feel and shares the drive to improve and push yourself to do more. I am going to need that support this year!

Our final mileage was 8.7 miles! I was very pleased with that! My final mileage for the week came to 20.3 which was about where I wanted to be for the week.

On to new Challenges!

Today I started two new challenges. The first was signing up for the LifeTime 90-day Challenge, a weight loss challenge the club launched where you set a weight loss goal for the next 90 days. I signed up for a 15 pound weight loss goal, and did my initial "weigh-in" with my coach Meghan.

During the next 90 days, there are many free classes and programs you can take to help reach your goal. At the end of the program, there is a 5K race followed by awards given to those who lose the most weight.

I did this program last spring and had great results. I hope to be able to check out many of their exercise programs during the Challenge because they make many of them free to participants. It is a good chance to do things that you might not otherwise try due to cost or lack of opportunity. I am looking forward to the 2012 challenge!

The second thing I did today was to start an experiment with Natural Running by testing out a new pair of running shoes I ordered from Altra Running. They are called "The Instinct" and are a new breed of shoe marketed to be the step between a regular running shoe and a minimalist shoe.

The company was started by a couple of running shoe designers from Nike who started their own company. The shoe has cushioning similar to a regular shoe, but a minimalist heel to toe ratio (called a "zero drop" heel). Because male and female feet are different, they have different models for men and women to ensure the best possible fit. I first heard about the company during an interview about their shoes on The Marathon Show and since my current shoes are due for replacement in another 100 miles (4-5 weeks), I figured now would be a good time to check into a new pair.

The 'experts' say it takes 4 weeks or so to get your feet and calves accustomed to running in minimalist shoes because they encourage a mid-foot strike and engage your calves and arches more than regular running shoes do. Taking things too fast could lead to potential injury and I want to avoid that.

So today, I took my first step into the Natural Running world. To take things slowly, I decided to run 3x400m in them (with a 400m warm-up walk and 400m cool-down walk). That means 3/4 mile of running and 1/2 mile of walking in the new shoes.

The good news? They felt great! I had no problems running in them, partly because I am more of a midfoot striker (and I walk in socks whenever I am home). I ran at a 12:00/mm pace for 2x400m and at 10:30/mm for the third 400m. And I didn't experience any discomfort at all.

So I think I like these! I am going to wear them for one run each week, adding 1/4-1/2 mile each time until I can do a 5K in them. Then I will have a better idea if these will be a good fit for me, and if I should try them out on a Long Run. My main concern is that I am a heavier runner than most who go 'minimalist', so I will be paying close attention to how my feet handle it.

Not sure if I will want to run in these for a HM, but, we will see how this experiment goes. At worst, they can be my casual 'tennis shoe' if I choose not to make them a primary running shoe, right?

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