There’s a bike lane running along Tompkins Avenue right at the end of the block, which is great for when I run with Nat to gym class every Saturday morning. While we often run on the sidewalk, the BOB stroller is quite wide so I feel both awkward and invasive trying to steer my bulky toddler chariot around pedestrians. (I mean, have you seen this thing? It’s like a three-wheel stroller SUV) I prefer to run in a bike lane against on-coming traffic.
We follow Tompkins for the first mile, then cross Flushing Ave., where Tomkins becomes Harrison, then make a right onto Union Avenue. We loose the bike-lane there, but Union is a wonderful example of some poor civic-planning (a very wide avenue that is always oddly empty of cars) so I continue against traffic on the shoulder of the road. At Broadway we go under the elevated J Train, where Nat always says “Train! Train tracks!” After another mile or so we go under the BQE, then hit McCarren Park. We skirt the park (and the hipsters of Williamsburg) making instead for the industrial waterfront of Greenpoint. West 12th takes us right to the wonderful two-lane bike path that runs along Kent, though both Kent and its bike plane end right as we join it, instead becoming Franklin and a normal one-lane path. A third of a mile of warehouses, piers, and river bank views of Manhattan, and we arrive at the Gym Park, itself housed in a re-appropriated warehouse. Today we were a few minutes early, so I turned the 3.25 mile run into an even 4.
The weather today was perfect — cold, but not freezing, a mix of blue sky and clouds, and the sidewalks and bike lanes were dry and (finally) clear of the remnants of ice and snow. As I’d agreed to keep Nat out all day so M could do work, I was hoping to get in my first long run since my 17 mile trek to school; unfortunately my left heel started complaining again on the way to Greenpoint, so I had to scrap that plan. After gym class we made our weekly stop by Cookie Road, then jogged back to the farmer’s market in McCarren park to get M’s weekly supply of Ronnybrook Yoghurt — Nat was out before we’d gone half a mile. I figured I would at least run the 4 miles to Atlantic Terminal so I could grab some more brewing ingredients from Brooklyn Brew Shop in The Flea, but my ankle was really starting to put up a fuss and I’m not one to argue overly long with my joints or tendons, so we got on the G Train at Metropolitan Ave and took it to Fulton instead.
After lunch and a bit of a rest, I was hoping my heel would be feeling better and we could run to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, but it still was very unhappy, so I just walked the two and a half miles instead. Luckily I had planned for possibly being outside and not running, so I had sweat pants and a hoodie to put over my running clothes (one of the advantages to a jogging stroller is a lot of storage space when you run). We were at the Museum for an hour and a half, and when we headed home at four, I gave my heel one last chance, and actually tried running on it differently.
See, in my recent obsession of barefoot running and biomechanically efficient running (Pose method, Chi Running, etc.), I’ve been switching up my gait, and while the end result is supposed to reduce injury dramatically, I think I may have been doing it too much too quickly. The standard running form in a modern running shoe is a long stride with a heel-strike; the problem with landing on your heel is that you loose a lot of momentum (you basically hit the breaks with every step) and you put all the stress on your knees. I’ve been working on a mid-foot strike, where your entire foot lands at once, not out in front of your body, but roughly under it. The reason one has to ease into barefoot running is that it uses your calves and Achilles tendon a lot, and while in the long-run that’s great, you have to give them time to strengthen. My heel first started hurting at the end of a week when I had done two, 4 mile speed-work sessions in my Vibrams, then run nine miles on a Sunday and 17 miles to work Tuesday. Since then, I’ve reduced my milage in the Vibrams, and that seemed to be helping, but I continued to work on my new running stride. Until today, I never connected it with my heel pain, but it would make sense that trying to run that way would be putting continued stress on my tendon, and while it could still be a long-term goal, until it heals I might want to lay off it.
So when we left the Children’s Museum I let myself fall back into my old, standard gait of landing on my heel more, and the discomfort I had been experiencing went away enough that we ran the mile back to our apartment. Now it’s back to trying to be consistent with ice a few times a day (I’m always terrible about remembering to ice) and heel-striking, at least for now. Sorry, Christopher McDougall — guess I’m not a Tarahumara yet.