Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Running form analysis - August 2014

I have shot another video to analyze my current running gait. Not that I would be unhappy with my current form (injury free for the past two years) but I am pretty sure there are always ways to improve and work on efficiency and speed.

I have received quite a feedback from Barefoot and Minimalist Runners group on Facebook.
It is a lot of useful information so I am listing it bellow:

I'll take a stab...One of the first things I notice is a significant crossover gait pattern, placing increased workload to the lateral/posterior hip (thinking glute medius). You either don't have enough strength or stability to control this force, and is shown with a contralateral (opposite) side hip drop and/or lateral shift. This is more pronounced when loading on the right leg. You seem to compensate for this also with a more pronounced arm swing on the left to help with balance through the right loading phase. A lot of other thoughts that are also very speculative as their could be several reasons structurally, stability or strength that could contribute. Interested in hearing others' thoughts.

Crossover gait.

In Michael Sandler's book he talks about upper body form a lot. I feel like that topic is often overlooked yet extremely important. I have focused, myself, on upper body form a lot with great results. One thing that jumps out to me is the way you are crossing your arms in front of your body. Try to make your arms move only forward and backward, parallel to the direction you are running. This will counter balance your legs and eliminate unnecessary work to stabilize the twisting motion you are creating. Also one arm is being held out more than the other. Make sure to check in with your form throughout the run. Keep your shoulders rolled back, core engaged, and hands up high.

I've definitely noticed that people's arms and hands mimic their legs and feet. I even spread my fingers every so often to help spread my toes.

I say - it's too much stress in the running form. Upper body totally fixed; it could be seen that impact goes from down to head. Perhaps it's because "on the camera" run, however there is crossover pattern (as already said) twisting torso and makes the run not nice and flowing. Just try first to flow-in on soft layers and then go to pawed road. But in a overall, a great effort - just relax a bit.

Thanks everyone for such a great feedback I can definitely see the crossover gait as well. The thing is I have been running barefoot for four years (around 750 miles a year), last two years with no issues, no injuries, no discomforts. Did 2 trail half marathons, three road half marathons with no problems, easy recovery. All of that skin to ground. I never experienced any IT band pains or strains. So I am bit puzzled over here. Perhaps my camera setup for this shot (using really extreme zoom lens) distorts the footage and some of what looks like crossing over is just an optical illusion. I have another video (2 months older) where I used moving camera and normal lens, should be showing my gait more clearly. Please check it out as well.

Daniel - looks good to me as usual! I hold my arms the same way. As a fellow barefoot runner and going on 5 years, I say don't change things to much. Your resume of barefoot running is similar to mine, and you are injury free!

Thanks Adam Gentile, that is encouraging to hear. I may stick to the old "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" then !

I have seen your videos over at BRS, and to me your form has always been consistent.

Thanks for posting this Daniel. It is always interesting seeing other people run. A few points come to mine. You're not hurting and you've run a lot. You must be doing something right. I love the Gait Guys, but I'm not sure it is a crossover gait. Your "cross-over" looks like it's happening primarily below the knee. The Gait Guys show it as a hip level dropping issue. Your upper body is not doing any sway. If I was to pick on one thing, I'd be curious about your right foot overpronating. I think you then have a hard time supinating your foot before push off. Tough to tell from video, but a guess is that you might be excessively externally rotating your hip on push off. This would cause your landing foot to come across the midline. Also curious what your posture looks like not running.

Many here mention The Gait Guys. Back in 2011 they actually took one of my running videos for their analysis. Back then they concluded "that the right foot is spun out", "the left arm seems to cross the body more than the right" and that I got ""most likely some pelvic asymmetry". They also mentioned a minor crossover. For anyone interested here is the article

Brad Kuchinka thank you for the feedback. As for my right foot overpronating, I am aware of that. The Gait Guys say my 'foot progression angle' is increased. "The increased right foot progression angle will often accelerate pronation and increase its degree." I am far from being perfect But trying to improve what I can. Thanks again !

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Timberline Mt Run

Oh, the lazy summer time.
Have not done a decent race in some time and feel like it is time to hit a road or trail again together with a nice bunch of similarly excited runners.
Oregon race calendar is a good place to start looking for such a venue.
And here we go:

"Featured in the August 2014 issue of Runner's World Magazine. This is one of the highest foot races in Oregon, covering 6.97 miles of trail, mountain slope, and just a bit of road. The entire course is above 5000 feet in altitude, with 3900 feet of total elevation change."

Timberline Trail Running Club

That immediately gets my attention.
The location, the elevation, the terrain.
It starts and ends at Timberline Lodge high on the slopes of Mount Hood. I know that area very well from my hiking/climbing adventures but I have never tried to run there.
It's got some nice features:
* Rocky and dusty trails low in the woods
* Barren volcanic landscape higher up
* Snow crossings even higher up
* Less oxygen
* Great views

And doing it barefoot will definitely stir things up a bit.

Sunday morning, August 10.
Waking up at 7 AM.
Juicing my morning fruits, packing stuff, getting excited, then nervous, then excited again.

The race starts at 10 but it is going to take me an hour and half to drive from Portland to Timberline Lodge. 
9:30 AM
Sun is scorching hot, it is already 72 F. There is about 100 runners at the start, most of them look pretty competitive. I definitely catch a couple of curious glances at my bare feet but no one comments (yet).
"He does not look like he forgot his shoes at home so he probably knows what he is doing" I get the impression from the serious looks around.
My goal is just to finish the run with no goals time wise so I am in no hurry and start slowly at the end of the pack.

Downhill comes fist. On just a mile and half we drop some 800 feet. Some old paved forest road, then gravel but mostly dry dusty rocky trail in the middle of a ski slope. I manage just fine, maintaining speed with others, so far so good.

Most of the race course looks like this

Next three miles ascending back to 6000 feet. A lot of switchbacks. Forested area provides much needed shadows to cool down. The pack of runners is still quite condensed, one following the other in one long zig-zaggy line.
I slowly start passing people uphill and first comments start pouring from behind:

"There is no ouch out there, the trail is really nice." I politely throw back hoping to sound convincing.

"Wow!" - a silent one

"Don't your feet hurt?" - another one at a water station.
"If they were hurting I would not be running here, believe me" I smile back.

Vegetation stops, we are above timberline running on a barren old broken lava landscape. Noon is coming, burning sun depleting my water reserves. Really glad I left my t-shirt in car, occasional light breeze cools me down.

The real scramble comes up. We gain the last 1000 feet over only 1 mile. Towards the top it is more of a power walking than running. Runners are much more scattered now, some stopping and resting. Snow patches start appearing. At one point we are passing under a ski lift with some skiers riding it up (Mount Hood has year round skiing). A bunch of snowboarders starts pointing at me:
"That guy is doing it barefoot !"
I show them two thumb up with a smile and get loud shouts of encouragement in reward.

Mile 5.5, the highest point at 6,960 feet. Running on old packed snow patches brings the much needed refreshment and cooling for the feet.

Meeting skiers along the race

Running over snow

Now I am flying down. Everyone in front of me seems to be running slow crashing heels hard into the ground. Just painful to watch. I quickly pass everyone in sight and just keep enjoying the crazy downhill ride alone.

Finally downhill

Running downhill on coarse glacial  till

Finishing in 1 hour 23 minutes.

After the race more people come over to chat a little.

"Man, what is you strategy for running downhill? You were just flying out there! My knees always hurt on steep downhills" one the guys I passed on the downhill section.

We chat a little, all I can tell him is running barefoot really makes the difference. All I do is just relax the whole body, bend knees a lot and let the gravity pull me down the mountain while maintaining really high cadence.

Another girl tells me she is a strong believer in running barefoot but her arches are too weak to actually do that.

No one calls me crazy, hardcore, bad-ass etc. (as I have been often called at other races)
In general people here today are much more open to the idea running without shoes actually makes sense.

I take it as a good sign, times are changing.

Feet after the race - no blisters, no cuts, no bruises

Race stats:

Distance  6.97 miles
Time  01:23
Total elevation change  3,900 feet
Max elevation  6,982 feet
Placed   5th in my AG

Elevation profile

Map of the course