The best Run of my Life

I went for my regular run this morning, deciding on running it at race pace to test out a new pair of Newton Distance shoes I bought on Tuesday. It is a very lightweight, neutral shoe with only a 2mm heel drop. My current Saucony Ride 4s were pretty worn so it was time.

I started off with a 5-minute warm-up walk, then started my run. I ended the run with another cool-down walk and finished with 4.47 miles in the books. I felt pretty good so when I got home, I checked the watch to see what my pace was (I didn't look at my watch during the run; I wanted to go by 'feel').

Excluding the .67 mile of warm-up and cool-down, I ran 3.8 miles in 30:15 minutes! I don't even believe it! I had to double-check all the stats. I ran those 3.8 miles at a 7:57/mm pace! That's like 7.5mph! That pace would be a 5K PR of under 25 minutes! W00t!!

I have never run that fast for that long a distance EVER! It didn't feel like I was running any faster than I normally do, but it did feel more fluid and I was totally in the 'zone' with my breathing and stride (and my feet loved being in the shoes). Maybe it was the new shoes, or maybe Tinker Bell sprinkled some extra Pixie Dust on me. Either way, I was totally excited! In fact, the smile is still on my face.

Who knows if I will be able to repeat this in the future (hopefully). But for me, this was one of those 'running moments' where you just marvel at the experience and you know in your heart that you are a runner.

I also purchased a pair of Brooks PureCadence shoes (they have a 4mm heel drop) to wear for walking the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer because my Newtons are not really designed for walking. I wore these shoes for the first time on Wednesday on a 4.55 mile walk and found them to be very comfortable. Over the past three months, I've learned that I really prefer the minimal heel drop designs in shoes. Now all of my shoes have 0-4mm heel drops.

I still have the Altra Running Instincts (my zero drop shoes) which I love to wear. I have been wearing them for maintenance runs once a week, and most recently at a 5K race with my son last weekend (Race Report coming soon). I love them but I am not so sure I want to wear them for a Half or Full Marathon distance because they do not have tons of cushioning. I have yet to wear them on a Long Slow Run.

So for now, I have three pair of great shoes to wear for this year. Hopefully, I can switch between all three so that I don't have to buy new shoes again until September. The best solution would be to only do my Long Runs in the Newtons so that they will still be viable for the Chicago Marathon in October. They say, depending upon how efficiently you run, that Newtons can last up to 700 miles (which is good because they are more expensive than the average running shoe that might need replacing after 350 miles). We will see.

Natural Running Course

On Tuesday, I met with an RRCA-certified Running Coach and NASM-certified Personal Trainer to kick off a 7-session Natural Running program where you work with a trainer to learn to adapt to a 'natural running' (not barefoot!) form. Since getting the Instincts, I have moved to more of a midfoot strike and find that it works well for me. So I thought it would be a good idea to work with a professional to make sure I am making this transition the right way and not picking up or reinforcing any bad habits.

I spent about an hour with the coach. She did an assessment of my flexibility, core strength, balance, posture, etc. And then she did a full Gait Analysis, videotaping me from multiple viewpoints. It was very cool! She gave me a lot of good feedback at each step along the process, including watching the video together as she pointed out areas that we would work on together over the 7 sessions. At the end, we spent another 30 minutes talking about shoes, the whole minimalist thing, and then finally picking out the shoes I was going to use for the AVON Walk and my training leading up to the Chicago Marathon.

Well, it turns out that my running form is pretty good. I am a midfoot striker and my running posture is good. I need to lower my arms a bit and bring my elbows a little farther back as they swing. My feet pretty much land underneath my body which is good (I don't overstride or heel strike), but my right leg swings a bit outward as it comes forward and she would like to see it come straight out and not make that slight outward sway. And she says I do not 'bounce' (meaning I have very little 'up and down' motion) in my stride which is a good thing; it makes my running more efficient. So she was very comfortable suggesting the Newtons to me because my transition to natural running form is already well underway. Yay!

So I will meet with her for six more sessions, at the end of which she will do the entire assessment process again, including another full Gait Analysis. Then I get to see how (or if) I have improved and incorporated natural running techniques into my running. The sessions will include 30-minute outdoor runs with the coach as well as exercises and instructional sessions on important running stuff (like nutrition, equipment, hydration, stretching, etc). I am really looking forward to this. And the sessions will be done several weeks before my next Half Marathon, so I hope to be able to utilize what I learn to improve my race results!

I might be choosing her as my Marathon Coach for this year. She offers a program for RRCA members that looks really excellent (and is a bit cheaper than the program offered through LifeTime Fitness). I have until June to make my decision on that. It is good to have options when either one would likely be perfectly fine for my needs.

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