So at 44½ years old I decided to give myself an unconventional birthday present and do my first triathlon. The goal was to focus on getting in the best shape of my life by my 45th birthday (July 3rd). Since getting licensed in Florida in 1991, I have been one of the physicians in the medical tents at many triathlons over the years. I was always in awe over the triathletes and always wanted to do one but there was just one thing holding me back – Running.
I hated running. Now don’t get me wrong, I use to love to race my friends or hit a baseball and run around the bases. But running at any length was just not my thing. I’d get knee pain, hip pain and sometimes foot and ankle pain. I loved to bike and loved to swim, but running, just not for me.
In November of 2009 I was leading a group of 50 people through a 21-day nutrition detox & weight loss program and decided to kick my own detox and weight loss up a few notches and give running another chance. After a couple weeks on the detox program I was running (and quite happily) without any pain. But, being a sports physician, I knew it was just a matter of time. I’ve seen it in all my patients who were runners, eventually the miles and miles of pounding on their joints just take their toll. There’s a local orthopedic surgeon that loves runners because he said eventually, they’ll need either meniscus surgery or a total knee replacement. With that in mind, I began searching the internet for any new technologies that would help me run and train at a higher capacity and reduce the inevitable knee, hip or foot/ankle pain.
After a few days I stumbled onto a couple articles about a sneaker company that was only a few years old, called Spira Footwear. They created a technology called the “wavespring”. Spira’s wavesprings were in the heel and forefoot of their sneakers and the wavesprings give some tremendous benefit. The wavesprings reduce impact by 20%. This I thought was pretty substantial. If I could reduce the impact of my foot hitting the ground step after step, mile after mile, this would be a great way to help reduce the impact of running on my knees and hips – exactly what I was looking for. As an added benefit, testing performed at Michigan State University in 2001 showed that 87% - 96% of the energy is returned from the WaveSpring®. Ultimately, the Spira sneaker could reduce the impact forces on my body and return some energy back into my stride reducing the overall stress of my training. I had to try them.
I sent an email to the company and to my surprise, I got a return email from Andy Krafsur, Spira’s CEO. I told him about my little challenge to myself and my concerns with running & prolonged run training on my joints. I ended up getting 2 pairs: The Spira Del Sol and the Spira Competition. I started my training in March and was running 2-3 days per week, swimming two days per week and biking 2 days per week. One day I was stacking a running workout right after my cycling workout (what triathletes call a “brick” workout). I was a little casual during this time and would let my training succumb to my work and personal life”. But during the 3rd week of May I started kicking my training up a few notches. I began training at 5am so I can fit everything in, my workouts, my work and still have time to do my normal every day family stuff.
The training continued to intensify as the July 18th triathlon date got closer. With a 6 day per week training schedule, not one bit of knee, ankle, foot, hip or back pain. I was thrilled that I could keep up this level of intensity and not be plagued by those aches and pains from the past. I continued to up the intensity. My distances all increased in the swim, the bike and the run. My Saturday brick workouts were getting easier and my running after the bike transition more natural.
So finally the weekend was here. It was one heck of a weekend. As if the triathlon wasn’t enough, I was also attending a nutrition seminar about 60 minutes north in Del Rey, FL. Nee dless to say, I had a lot on my mind. I had been training in my Spira Del Sols throughout and then with 8 days out, I started with the Spira Competitions sneakers. I couldn’t believe how light these things were. When I 1st picked up the box, I truly doubted there was anything in the box it was so light. I did 3 runs on the sneakers as I tapered down that last week. I felt extremely comfortable in the Spira competition and decided to use them in the triathlon.
The day of the triathlon arrives and I woke up at 4:30am without an alarm. My bags and bike were already packed from the night before and I loaded the car up and hit the road. I stopped by my trainer Adam Cronin’s house at 5:15 and picked him up and off to Crandon Park we went. Arriving at 5:45am I went over and got my timing chip, then Adam took the large Sharpe and wrote my race numbers on my arms and legs. I took my bags and bike and entered the transition zone to set up my stuff and rack my bike. As I laid everything out, I took out my bright red Spira Competition sneakers and put them just off my towel. I put a couple puffs of baby powder in them and my cycling shoes, did a double check and then off to the beach where we start the race.
The walk to the beach at Crandon park is quite a distance. That meant more running for me from the swim transition into the bike. So 7am rolls around and the different waves start the race. Eventually the 44-49 wave comes around and we line up along the beach. The horn blows and it’s a mad rush into the water. Having trained 90% in a pool, the extra buoyancy of the salt water was a nice bonus. I got into my rhythm and to my surprise I actually passed a bunch of people on the swim. Keeping my eyes on the buoys I made it to the ¼ mile mark and began my exit. I ran out of the water and jogged to the transition area. Luckily it had rained earlier that morning so there were some puddles just before the transition. I ran through the puddles and it washed all the beach sand off my feet. I found my bike, strapped on my helmet, put on my socks and my pre-powdered cycling shoes and took off with my bike. The bike went smooth, the ride on Key Biscayne is absolutely beautiful as your just surrounded with blue bay and ocean water throughout the 1- mile ride. The ride was spectacular but uneventful. The only thing on my mind was the run. I re-entered Crandon Park and transitioned off my bike jogged with the bike back to the rack, off with the helmet and cycling shoes, on with my Spira Competition sneakers (pre-powdered of course), my running visor and my race belt and I ran out of the transition area.
Although I was extremely excited at this point to have made it though 2 of the 3 events, this was the one that weighed the most on my mind. I got into a rhythm and went for it. Step after step, stride after stride I ran. By this time it was started to get quite humid out. The run was nice though, running through the park, along the beach at one point then around the paved gigantic parking lots and all of a sudden I saw a sign that said ‘2’. I thought to myself, “where the heck did ‘1’ go? I ran right past it without even realizing. Suddenly, the run seemed a bit easier. I guess not seeing the 1 mile marker made me think I was still on mile 1. But now the excitement grew. I literally got a spring back in my step. The run course took us back toward the path along the beach where some friends were with their cameras. A short distance ahead I saw the 3-mile mark and I knew I was home free. I picked up the pace and heard the music playing at the finish line. At this point I didn’t even feel my feet, I just started running. I ran past the 3 mile marker and .1 mile to go, around the turn and crossed the finish line. I was handed a cold bottle of water and gulped it down. I felt incredible and knew I wanted more.
I have to say, after having done the swim and the bike, the run wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. My training, my nutrition and my spira sneakers got me across that finish line and I’m proud to say, I’m now a triathlete. Little did I know how addicting the entire triathlon thing is. Because as soon as I crossed the finish line, the last step of my first triathlon became my first step towards me 2nd triathlon.
Since completing my triathlon, several of my friends have been telling me their stories about the Spira shoes I recommended to them. One in particular is an incredible 65 year old man named Bill Hansen. Bill owns the largest catering company in Florida. He’s catered for 3 U.S. Presidents and the pope. He began running back in the late 1970’s and ran regularly until 2005 when he stopped due to constant knee pain. Bill has done triathlons and marathons and even after physical therapy, medications and surgery, he gave up running completely. I suggested he try a pair of spira sneakers with the wavespring technology. At the age 65 Bill is back on the road running again without any knee pain.
I can’t say enough about Spira’s sneakers. They work and made this non-runner into someone who actually enjoys and appreciates running. I feel like a kid again!
A special thanks go out to the following:
Adam Cronin of Soma Fitness & Performance in South Beach for setting up my weight training routine and mapping out my 6 month plan to the triathlon
Shiloh Harper of Soma fitness & Performance in South Beach who evaluated and tweaked my swimming biomechanics
Jaime Rojas who further tweaked my swimming.
Armando Cruz of Cruz Country Fitness who added valuable knowledge to my approach to the triathlon, transitions and to my running.
Andy Krafsur, DJ Vickers and the rest of the Spira Footwear team who helped to take the shock and fear out of running with their incredible running sh oe technology.
Here's a picture I took with another guy who was in on the big secret. He ran in the bright yellow Spira Elite running shoes -------->
Dr. Narson is a 2-term past president of the Florida Chiropractic Association’s Council on Sports Injuries, Physical Fitness & Rehabilitation and was honored as the recipient of the coveted Chiropractic Sports Physician of the Year Award in 1999-2000. He practices in Miami Beach, Florida at the Miami Beach Family & Sports Chiropractic Center; A Facility for Natural Sports Medicine. And now....He's a Triathlete too! Dr. Narson is available for lectures in the areas of sports medicine and nutrition