I had many ideas for this blog entry and it was difficult to seize upon one topic. I was initially excited to try to jump on a recent trend of the last several weeks and name my top five running shoes of all time. It appears that around the holidays, or maybe this is entirely coincidence, various bloggers decide to make lists of their favorite running shoes. I started thinking about this and realized that my attitude towards running shoes has changed a lot as I have gotten older. When I was in high school, I remember being excited about perusing the pages of Runner’s World for the latest shoe releases and religiously (and it was a religion) reading the annual “shoe issue.” Back then, the idea of buying and wearing the same running shoe model twice was unthinkable. Now, however, if I find something I like, I dread the inevitable update. I recently had to scour eBay for a pair of Nike Lunaracers when I realized that Nike was again updating. Why must they mess with a great pair of shoes? Nike tried this with the Lunaracers once before and there was so much outcry that they had to re-release them in their original form. You are now probably aware that the Lunaracers would make my top five list, although I seldom race in it – too heavy and cushy. It’s a great shoe to rotate into the mix when I feel like I need some additional cushioning on a long run or when my legs feel beat. Running shoes are definitely on the agenda for some future blog entries. I have some specific ideas about what makes a good shoe. I am also increasingly alarmed about the cost of running shoes and I am willing to call companies out when I see shoes that try to justify outlandish prices based on ridiculous technology.
Topics also on the horizon include the efficacy of compression sleeves. Do they work, or not? Short answer: I don’t know. I have, however, become completely dependent on CEP compression calf sleeves. I have convinced myself that they provided critical support when I was recovering from a tibia stress fracture and I continue to run in them, even when experts tell me that they are only useful during recovery after a run, because they “feel” like they are allowing me to go further, faster. This, of course, could just be due to the fact that I am getting in better shape, although I do seem to be less sore after my long runs. Who knows? I’ll do some research and report.
Next, I am planning on writing about pre race meals. Earlier this summer, when I finally went under 20 minutes for a 5K for the first time since high school, I managed to eat at Gene’s Fish Fry about two hours before the race. I consumed a fried fish sandwich (of course), French fries, and a large strawberry milkshake. I was not optimistic that this qualified as a responsible pre race meal. I ended up taking twenty seconds off my PR. Was it Gene’s, or would I have gotten under 19 minutes if I had not eaten like an idiot? I know much has been written on what to eat before a race, but I am interested in people’s specific pre race meal routines. I hope that in the near future we can get a useful and entertaining discussion underway regarding what to eat (and what not to eat…).
This brief mention of food brings me back to what I intended to discuss in today’s blog entry. Remember, that I earlier promised to report on the mustard gambit as a way of preventing leg cramps. After having agreed to use myself as a guinea pig, I didn’t actually plan to race again for over a month. This past Sunday was the first race in the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club Winter Series. I had the choice of 3 miles or 15 K. I went with 3 miles and that was probably a drawback in figuring out if mustard helps to prevent leg cramps. I have only once had cramps in a 5K race and these occurred at the very end in extremely hot and humid conditions. Cramps are usually not a problem for me in shorter races. Remember that one of the theories is that leg cramps can be caused by a deficiency in acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that stimulates muscles to work. Mustard contains acetic acid, which stimulates the body to produce more acetylcholine.
On Sunday, I woke up about three hours before the race and had a can of coconut water to help hydrate and then about an hour later consumed a banana, a slice of toasted cinnamon-raisin bread spread with Nutella (I couldn’t find the peanut butter, which led to a full-scale refrigerator cleaning later in the afternoon, including replacement of the fridge light!), several cups of coffee, and (wait for it) a spoon of mustard. I was planning to have a packet of mustard shortly before I ran, but I completely forgot – great scientific method. It was a good race. My main issue was being slightly underdressed. I need to remember that the thermometer on our back porch does not account for the wind on the SUNY-Albany campus where the races are held. I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt during the race and I really could have gone with long sleeves. I noticed about a mile into it that I was cold. Ideally, you shouldn’t notice clothing problems during a race. I also did a little bit of racing during the last mile, back and forth with a fellow runner, and managed to kick it into the downhill finish in 19:40 and 11th place overall. I took 15 seconds off last year’s time – always a good sign – but finished just out of the bread. The top two in each age group are awarded coupons for a free loaf of bread at a local bakery – awesome, but I finished third.
Anyway, I didn’t experience any leg cramps, but I didn’t really expect to. My next opportunity to try out the mustard (that just sounds weird) will be on January 13, 2013. I have the option to run a 10K, so I will have the mustard for breakfast and right before I race and then see what happens. The last time I experienced leg cramps was about four miles into a 10K, so this should provide a good test. I have to admit, however, that other variables have also been in flux. I didn’t run in the various Thanksgiving turkey trots because I was concentrating on increasing my mileage. Some steady training may also be increasing my leg strength and endurance, making me more resistant to cramps, perhaps. After Sunday’s race, I will again be going for more than a month without racing and I have taken Running Times’ latest recommendation to run your easy runs easier to heart. I am using the next month to do more mileage less intensely. Again, this could have an effect on my cramp resistance.
Stay tuned for my upcoming report on mustard therapy, pre race meals, compression socks, and running shoes. I also plan to write a blog entry on running goals for the upcoming year. Putting them out in public might provide some additional impetus to realize them.