Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Race week!

At last we are in race week!

A final tweak:

I have been dealing with an increasingly painful toe joint problem-  on the right foot, when the toes are dorsiflexed (pulled upwards) and the foot loaded, the second toe metatarsal-phalangial joint hurts a LOT.

I had the bright idea last week to stiffen the Hokas further with a steel insole to keep the toes from flexing.  With a bit of  help from my pal Al, I soon had a dxf drawing and last Saturday Fred Nelson cut it for me at on his CNC plasma cutting machine at his shop in Azusa.  It worked!  A bit heavy, but definite improvement.

Monday I visited the doc to make sure the darned toe wasn't broken  and to find out just what was going on with it.  The diagnosis:  No hint of a fracture or Morton's neuroma, just synovitis;  the prescription:  A carbon fiber insole to keep the toes from dorsiflexing!

I pulled out the steel insole and the doc had a good laugh, telling me that was old school, how they treated this problem before carbon fiber composites!

It works great and is much lighter than my steel prototype. Here is a photo of the generations:  Hoka far left; Plastic insole first try left, steel- middle, carbon fiber, right.

And I got a care package from my training partner Alex: What a guy!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

...And the last biggish run before the AC100

I  did my usual Sunday hike up/run down 20 miler on the Mt. Wilson Toll Road this morning.  I took it easy and completed the 20 mile circuit in 4:15, capping off an 81 mile week, week # 1 of a three week taper before the Aug. 1 AC100.  This coming week I will again focus on increased rest and only run 10 milers for 2-3 days.  I plan to hit Mt. Baden Powell for a 15 miler at altitude next weekend for a 50-60 mile week;  and then take a compete rest for race week.

I feel great with the exception of my screwed up right foot.  The increased rest this week has me feeling peppy at last and I am much stronger than I was in 2013 --if a bit slower.  In 2013 I was doing the Mt Wilson circuit routinely in 4 hours, this year I am consistently about 10-15 minutes slower, mainly on the uphill leg.  I think my power-walking hasn't fully recovered since the hip socket fracture.   On the other hand, increased core strength work (pull-ups, push ups, sit-ups) has me without any abdominal soreness which was a recurring theme in 2013.  The right foot -  second and third toe pain-  capsulitis or Morton's neuroma or whatever it is--seems to be manageable with the Hokas and a metatarsal pad helps as well.  We will see how it feels in two weeks.   I am a bit nervous about it and thunderstruck that such a problem could come on so suddenly  after trying the Brooks Pure Grit, and that it could be so persistent.   If 2013 was the year of calf and achilles issues, 2014 the year of major fracture, then 2015 looks like the year of feet fun.

Unlike yesterday, when I got caught unprepared in the thunderstorms, today I brought a pack with some warm gear and a rain shell as weather predictions indicated morning T-storms.  No storms-  and the run down was  hot, muggy and tropical.

I spent the afternoon putting together a kiddie pool for the little ones which we all enjoyed in the unbelievably muggy heat.  Just as were getting out and drying off, the skies turned purple and the winds picked up for some nice afternoon showers.  My young son and I baked cookies to celebrate the stormy weather.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Taper run on Mt Wilson

This is the first week of my three week taper for the Aug. 1 AC100 race.  Coming off three consecutive 100 mile weeks with back to back 30+/20 milers on the weekends, I was ready to taper.  During the last work week I took more rest than usual and still felt pretty tired through Thursday.  Today's run therefore was designed to push fitness without being too exhausting:  Mt Wilson via the Sam Merrill trail and Eaton Saddle, for 24 miles round trip.  My pal Alex and I completed the run with a 3:58 run time running relaxed.

The weather was fantastic:  Thunderstorms rolled through and we got thoroughly soaked several times as we ran through storm cells.  Heat training it wasn't but it sure was fun.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hoka One One Challenger ATR review ....and fixes

I will begin this review of the Hoka One One Challenger ATR with the clear acknowledgment that without these shoes I would probably not be able to run right now.  Thats a big deal for me since I just completed a training push of 3 sequential 100 mile weeks in preparation for the AC100 this coming Aug. 1.

As I have posted in recent weeks,  I have a foot injury on my right foot, that makes it excruciating to weight the foot with my second and third toes in a dorsi-flexed position (i.e. toes pulled up).  I don't have a diagnosis of this injury but it may be Morton's neuroma; there is numbness on the top of the second and third toes, but the key point is that it hurts like hell unless either I am walking barefoot or running in Hokas.   I do know that the injury came on while trying out a pair of Brooks to deal with a bruise on my LEFT foot;  I provisionally attribute the onset of the right foot injury to excessive toe spring in the Brook's design.

The Challenger, like all Hokas, has an extremely thick midsole which enables the outsole to be sloped up at the front and rear while preserving a relatively flat surface for the foot inside the shoe.  The side view photo of my size 11's shows this:  The shoes have 250 miles of them at this point.
This sloping allows the foot to roll through a foot strike without loosing energy-  Hoka calls this their "meta-rocker" technology, and I think this only makes sense for heel strikers.  But I am forefoot striker.

 The reason it matters to me is that the upslope in the forefoot allows me to run up hills (and down) without flexing my toes,.  Again, at the moment, flexing my toes is excruciating.  I love this feature of the Hokas and am grateful that Hoka made these shoes, with their 5mm drop, which has saved my racing season.


There are a few things about the shoe that I really do not like and have had to modify in order to wear the shoes.

For starters, the shoe is too narrow for me, but making matters MUCH worse  is the fact that the insole surface is surrounded by a rim of firm midsole rubber, which prevent the foot from "finding extra space" by stretching out the upper shoe fabric.   The top and bottom of the rim are highlighted with red arrows in the image below:
This became extremely painful due to bruising on the lateral side of my feet  within about 150 miles of running in the Challengers.  Exacerbating this is the fact that the outsoles on the Hokas slope down laterally on both the left and right shoes, and extend appreciably beyond the outline of one's feet:  The photo below of the right shoe shoes this clearly.
Since the outsole extends several millimeters beyond the outline of one's foot, and since the shoe is designed with the slant seen in the photo above that forces the lateral side of the feet to strike the ground first, the next result is that wearing the Hoka's unmodified is a bit like trying to run down the center of a drainage ditch!  It HURTS the side of your feet after a while! And its not great for the knees either!

The problem was worse on my left foot...which makes sense in hindsight:  My left foot has a high arch and tends to have a slight roll to the lateral/outside (varus angle).  Initially when I tried on the Hokas, my left foot felt like it was being forced to rotate inwards (like it was making me  a bit knock-kneed).

No matter, there is a fix:  The photo below shows that I trimmed the midsole rim on the lateral side of my Hokas to allow my feet to splay a bit.

I also trimmed nearly a centimeter off the lateral side of my left shoe, which had the worst lateral foot pain due to the Hoka-induced "varus deformity":
If the images of the modified shoe look like the cuts were made by a madman with a hunting knife, that is because they were made by me, with a hunting knife.  I might add that it  is a rather harrowing experience to take a hunting knife to a $130 pair of fairly new running shoes and I was a bit pissed off that I had to do it... But I have done it already on a second set of Hoka Challengers (size 11.5 this time).  I took the modified shoes out for a 30 miler last weekend, and then a 20 miler the next day and they were great.

I love these Hokas because they are keeping me running but the fact is that I cannot wear them without significant modifications -  and the modifications are dangerous and time-consuming to make.

Finally, after 250 miles my right toes have begun to hurt in the Hokas.  This is due to midsole compression at the ball of the foot.  The shoes are fine if I place a pad in the depression;  nevertheless I have bought a fresh pair of Hokas, a half size larger to ameliorate the narrowness of the shoes.  The toe pain is gone again in the new shoes.   250 miles in a $130 pair of shoes amounts to a higher cost per mile than driving my car, and that is NOT a great selling point.

My wish is that Hoka would:

  • Make a wider shoe to fit people that do not wear stylish pumps all day (my feet do NOT taper to the front nor do the feet of  anyone I know) 
  • Keep the base of the shoe no wider than the foot and for Pete's sake, eliminate the midsole rim that bruises the lateral sides of my feet.
  • Use a firmer midsole material:   at 250 miles is too little for  $130 pair of shoes to last, this is NOT a great selling point.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mt Wilson 20 miler, capping off a 96 mile week

Beautiful morning on Mt Wilson for a 20 miler to cap off a 96 mile week:
I did the hike up from Eaton Canyon as usual;  My pal Alex and his friend Jose, who will be pacing Alex in the upcoming AC100, caught  me about half way up having run from Eaton Canyon about 15 or 20 minutes after I started.  We hiked the remainder to Wilson summit, watered down, and then cranked the down hill.  My round trip for the 20 miles was 4:10.  Still a bit slow on the uphill but the downhill felt like powder skiing, it was fabulous.  Jose brought a couple gallons of ice cold papaya and pineapple which he served up at the end, with mexican seasoned salt-  chile pepper, lime, and sea salt.  Out of this world fantastic!

I find myself at the end of a 96 mile week feeling like I want to run more, what a gift.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Brown Mountain on the 4th

I led an outing this morning for my son's cubscout pack to march in  the Sierra Madre July 4th parade.   The kids had a great time.

After the event I took an afternoon run up the Mt Brown firewood, 13.3 miles round trip.  I ditched the legs on my Columbia pants and wore my lightest cotton dress shirt, to see if I would fair better in the heat than yesterday.  I felt great;  I expected the run to be a hot smoggy slog, instead it was a beautiful run.  Afterwords my family joined my brother and his family for an epic cookout.  Bratwurst is outstanding recovery food!

I took out the metatarsal pad on my left shoe insert on the run.  The big toe is fine in the Hokas and I don't need the pad anymore.

Tommorrow:  20 miles on Mt Wilson.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Metatarsal pads- for big-toe joint pain

It occurs to me that it might be useful to share what I have done / what I have learned about using metatarsal pads to address my left big-toe joint injury.

As described in my post last week, this pain is on the bottom of my left foot, at the bottom side of the big toe joint.

I ordered some commercial metatarsal pads from Pro-tec:
These are constructed from felt, foam, and rubber and come with sticky tape so that they can be applied to the bottom of a shoe insole.  The way these are supposed to be installed is to place the pad BEHIND the area of pain (i.e., place proximal to the metatarsal heads, i.e., closer to the ankle), not directly under the painful metatarsal head.  The idea being to support the metatarsals and alleviate pressure on the metatarsal head.  I think these are not really designed for the big toe, rather, for metatarsal pain in the second, third .. metatarsals.

Nevertheless I tried them.  The shape of these pads is not great for big toe pain as they do not fit quite right on the edge of the insole.  I tried one on my left insole in my Hokas last week but found it uncomfortable, too big and not correctly positioned.  Mid way through a run I stopped, took out the insole, removed the pad, and applied a wedge shaped piece of neoprene foam that I cut from a Dr. Scholl's work shoe insole.  (I had bought these to try because Dr. Scholl's  athletic shoe inserts all have rather obtrusive plastic arch supports.  The insoles were however too mushy to use for trail running).  Here is what these look like after harvesting material for construction of metatarsal pads-  top side is grey fabric coated, bottom side is black, what appears to be neoprene:
And below is what my big-toe joint pad looks like -- The blue sticky tape from the Protec insert would not come off the insole so I left it in place and applied the black neoprene wedge right on the tape.  This is about right to take the load off the big toe joint:
In my Inov-8s I just cut a wedge of neoprene and used duct-tape to attach it to the insole just behind the ball of my foot:
The wedge I chose for the Inov-8s is larger:   This pair of shoes is from last year and has appreciable midsole compression, so in effect I am using the neoprene in part to fill in the dimple where the ball of my foot compressed the midsole.  I am using these shoes to walk around only, not for running.

30 miles in humidity, a new record for sweat rate

I ran a long solo run today as I had the day off but my usual running pals had to work.  So I headed up the Sam Merrill trail to the Mt Lowe railway, on up to Mt Wilson via the Mueller tunnel, and then down  the toll road until the GPS read 15 miles;  turned around and went back.  I hit Mt Wilson summit twice for water.

This route has a lot of fire-road but little single track -  running solo this season I avoid remote technical single track.  The lesson of last year, that bones can and do break in falls, has been learned.

All together this little 30 miler had 6330 ft of climb and the run time all in was 6:20, excluding stops it was a bit under 6 hours.  Altogether it was a solid run except for the last few miles where I was feeling rather blown from dehydration.

Accuweather says the temperature peaked at 84F with 48% humidity.  I was soaked in my sweat for the whole run.  I drank altogether 12 bottles of fluids of various kinds, or about 16 pounds of fluid.
When I returned from the run my weight was 144lbs versus a starting weight of 154lbs.  This indicates that I sweat 26 pounds of fluids  today (urine output was minimal).  This equates to a bit over 2 liters per hour of sweat loss.  Holy cow!

I ran in the Hoka Challenger ATRs.  My feet are feeling great.  The right foot injury appears to be gone.  The left foot tenderness on the big-toe joint is about healed.  I've been using homemade metatarsal pads on the left foot liners both in my Hokas and in my  Inov-8s which I am walking around in during the week.

In the last few miles I used my emergency garbage bag on the run down from Echo mountain to pick up other peoples' garbage (I always carry one to be able to make an emergency poncho, but they come in handy for emergency garbage!)  I had the bag filled by the bottom with discarded water and sports drink bottles, baggies of dog poop (!), snot rags, and snack wrappers.  I wish that the cockroaches that leave their litter on trails  like this would simply go hike at the LA County dump instead of "my" front range mountain trails.  I do think there should be a special place in hell for those individuals that bag up their dog's poop and then leave it on the trail for someone else to pick up.  Last week I saw one of these goodie bags at the Eaton Saddle trailhead.  A hiker there opined that it was probably left by an outbound party and that it would be picked up when they returned.  It was still there today, 1 week later.