Saturday, June 18, 2011

Making Progress

Well, it's been a pretty good running week. Last week due to travel I missed as many days running (5), as I had in April and May combined. I guess the rest must have done some good because I dropped my 800M time on Wednesday to 2:37, put in an 18 miler Thursday, and after an easy 4 miler yesterday ran a sub-22 5K today.

To put some perspective on those workouts: two years ago I ran a 2:29 800M; on January 1 of this year I ran a 24:42 5K; and I don't think I have ever run an 18 mile training run, certainly not for more than 25 years (though I have run a couple of marathons in that stretch).

So, is barefoot running making me faster?

Knocking almost a minute a mile off my 5K time from January is a good sign. It's not an awesome improvement, but definitely heading in the right direction. I have run as fast as 19:01 in the last ten years, so 21:56 is not even a best-of-decade time for me.

During the last decade I have also bumped up against 2:20 for an 800M, so 2:37 isn't particularly thrilling for me either.

So my times aren't great. It's still early in the summer. We'll see where we are come Labor Day, as far as performance goes. As I start pushing myself for faster times this summer, the question then becomes...

Does barefoot running help me avoid injuries?

I have had some blowout injuries the last few years, and that is one of the reasons I really haven't tried to run fast for the last couple years. A hamstring that popped and turned black and blue, iliotibial tightness, innumerable calf strains. My speed is reaching the point where historically I have started encountering injuries. Another 5 seconds per lap in the 800, another 15 seconds per mile in the 5K: those will put me in the risky territory. And will I start getting stress fractures as my long runs approach marathon distance? Only time will tell.

To this point I am very pleased with how I feel. My lower legs, particularly, are more fit than they have ever been. The structure around my knees feels fantastic. My calves are strong and engaged the full length of the runs. And the best part is that I'm not dragging shoes around, because when I run barefoot every stride conditions my feet and calves and makes them stronger, but no matter how many miles you put in, no matter how hard you push, your shoes never get into better condition, never increase their stamina, and never increase their strength.

My times are improving. My weekly mileage is increasing. I have not gotten injured this year. We'll if I can keep those trends going.

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