I met Nate Sanel on a cold night in October, 2009. Nate had joined his friend Sherpa John Lacroix in his second attempt to run 125 miles across the state of New Hampshire for charity, and I and another local running friend had decided to join them for about 10 miles at about the halfway point of their trek. I still remember the night vividly – it was dark and quite cold, and I’m quite certain I saw a snowflake or two twinkle through the beam of my headlight. I recall running through downtown Concord and being harassed by a local not used to seeing guys in reflective gear and headlamps trotting down Main Street. One of the things that I remember most vividly though was the pain that Nate was dealing with. His shin was screaming at him, and he called it quits at the same rest stop that marked the end of the 10-mile leg that me and my buddy Jim had agreed to run with them. I could tell he was disappointed, but he knew this pain well, and he knew better than to push on.
Nate has gone on since that night to put up some pretty impressive race performances. He finished in 38th place at the Leadville 100 last year, 23rd in the Vermont 50, and 31st with a BQ at the very hilly Manchester City Marathon here in NH last Fall (a time of 3:15:10 – 15 minutes better than my own best on that killer course). Despite these great finishes, his shin problems never really cleared up.
Though Nate and I have only met in person a few times, we exchange emails frequently (and sometimes shoes!), and it turns out I had video of him from the Manchester race (which I recently sent him). Nate decided shortly after Manchester that something had to change – a professional triathlete friend suggested that he try flatter shoes and work on his footstrike, and he has conducted his own personal experiment with shoe and form change over the past six months in prep for a pretty audacious goal of running five 100 mile races/runs between now and October (starting with the Western States 100 next week). I helped a local chiropractor who treats runners conduct a gait analysis clinic for our local running club a few weeks back, and had the opportunity to film Nate again. He was running in an incredible pair of zero dropped Nike Frees with an impressive number of miles on them (Nate now hacks shoes in the style of Anton Krupicka), and his form was quite different. His shoes were a thing to behold – he had shaved as much of the sole off as he could without compromising the structural integrity of the shoe. It was work that any cobbler would be proud to call their own.
Rather than steal his thunder, I’ll let Nate tell his own story – you can read it in full here (with the gait videos that I shot): http://bikernate.blogspot.com/2011/06/taking-it-all-in-stride.html
Does this mean that Nate’s approach will work for you? Maybe, maybe not, we just don’t know yet who benefits best from making a switch. However, anecdotes like his are instructive, and we can all learn from each other’s successes (and failures).
Have you found going minimalist or working on form to help with shin pain? Share your story in the comments below.