Foot Physics

pexels-photo-105776.jpegThe human foot is apparently one of the most misunderstood mechanisms in the running community, which is incredibly unfortunate.  For years, shoes have been viewed as tools to correct the bio-mechanical inefficiencies of your feet.  Stores will sell you shoes with “motion control” or “stability” or “neutral” characteristics.  All of which refers simply refers to the amount of limitation imposed by the shoe on your foot.  So, let’s think about this.  Two of the most important body parts for running are your left foot and your right foot.  Why would anyone want to limit their motion in any way?

According to the book, “Born to Run,” running shoes used to be very minimal until Phil Knight, creator of Nike, decided to add extra padding to the heel.  Knight’s hypothesis was that, with a padded heel, a runner could lengthen his stride, cover more ground with each step, and would effectively finish faster.  Whether this worked or not has been lost in the years and years of shoe companies interfering with our natural running form.  I won’t go off on how marketers design running shoes and running stores will sell you the idea of a shoe that can make you faster or better.  I will just say that if you want to fix your running form, take off your shoes.  Here’s how I used to run and how many of us picture a standard running form (if we were stick figures):Bad Form

If I was a shoe company and thought this was the way people ran, I too would see the foot as being in the way.  The point of contact above is the heel and the foot is used to pull the body over the knee so that the other heel can strike.

Now, I was compelled by the barefoot running craze.  I found out the hard way to ease into long distances in a minimalist shoe.  That, if you change your form to a more midfoot / forefoot strike, you should just start your training program over at the beginning.  I trained and completed three marathons in Vibram Five Fingers.  I also fractured three metatarsals along the way.  What I found is that behind the novelty of running barefoot or in minimalist shoes, there are real physics.  Take the picture above and try to run like that without shoes.  You will soon realize that the impact on your heel is painful.  You would feel the impact in your foot, your knee, and probably your hip and back, too.  With each successive stride, you will almost automatically adjust your form to have a much softer landing, in the middle or fore of your foot.  This will cause your stride to shorten, which will quicken your turnover, which will let you breathe better and relax.  Soon, you will notice your form looks more like this upon impact:Good Form

You will still swing your foot out in front of you and fully extend at the knee, but you will contact the ground on the back swing, where your foot is actually just behind your center of gravity.  Now, your foot doesn’t have to pull you over it, you are already over it, you just have to fall forward until your other foot swings out in front, then comes back to catch you.  This controlled fall is actually a much more efficient running form.   Now, since I don’t yet have the skills to animate my stick figures, let’s watch a real human person run.

You can see that the foot swings out and just as it starts to come back, the midfoot makes contact.  This allows for a smooth stride that is easy on the knees, hips, and back.   Notice I am not barefoot in the video.  I am wearing “zero drop” shoes.   Zero Drop, or zero difference between the heel stack height and the forefoot stack height, shoes keep the traditional heel pad out of your way so that your foot can swing out and back without interference.

So, do I endorse barefoot running?  No, I still think the world is too filthy to go it without some sole coverage.  But do I think our shoes should be re-examined?  Absolutely!  What do we want from our shoes?  Protection from rocks, glass, and gross stuff on the ground.  What don’t we want from our shoes?  How about limitation of motion?

Go back to those different types of shoes (Motion Control, Stability, and Neutral).  They all presuppose you are a heel striker.  Which type you need depends on how your foot rolls as you progress from heel strike to toe off.  If you roll along the inside of your foot, then you overpronate and you have flat arches.  The fix?  Plug up the arch and put a stiffer material under the inside of your foot.  This is called “Motion Control.”  In other words, take your weak foot and trap it in a cast.  It won’t bother you by trying to get stronger.  Let’s say your foot rolls inward, but you have a higher arch.  “Stability” shoes may work for you.  They aren’t quite as controlling of motion as motion control shoes are at controlling motion.  What if you roll outward on the outsides of your foot?  You may be “Neutral.”  You may not have a problem with your form.  Congratulations!

Okay, so the different types of shoes are well intended.  How you foot rolls from heel to toe does affect the torsional forces on your knees.  But, if you eliminate the heel to toe motion, you eliminate the need to control this upstream torque.  In fact, most running related injuries can be mitigated through attention to running form.

So, let’s look at the human foot.  Your arch serves a purpose.  In conjunction with your calf and knee, your leg is a lever, shock absorber, and wheel all in one.  Your calf is a spring and damper while your foot is a leaf spring.  They are connected by a pivot at the ankle.  Let’s see what we get if I asked my 3-year-old to draw this:

3yr

Okay, let me try….

shock spring

Wow, I thought the comparison might help.  Anyway, the foot is a spring, but only if you make contact away from the pivot point (ankle).  Otherwise, your spring and damper can’t even help.  Heel strikers may as well be double peg-leg pirates.  They get no benefit from the lower leg or foot mechanics and rely entirely too much on their hip flexors and hamstrings to do the work.

Hopefully, you get the point.  Don’t heel strike.  Focus on contact through the backswing of your stride.  And, if you are changing up your form, reduce your daily and weekly mileage, prepare for some lower leg soreness, and do not overdo it.  If you want my recommendations on shoes – find some with 4mm or less drop, and just enough protection from the terrain you run (rocks, glass, lava, etc).

Good luck.  This is one of the most important areas that you should “hack.”  Once I paid attention to my form, I stopped getting injured, and I broke through many plateaus in distance and speed.  Let me know about your experiences in barefoot, minimalist, heel striking, or pirate running in the comments below.

 legs-window-car-dirt-road-51397.jpeg

Running on Fat

In conjunction with my current marathon training plan, I will be upping my keto game.  For several years I have followed a fairly low carb high fat (LCHF) or ketogenic or modified Adkins regimen.  This lifestyle has helped me maintain a target body weight, completely restructure my training nutrition, and (I believe) improve other life aspects like immune system, skin complexion, and energy levels throughout the day.

Before making the transition, I had always focused on eating low-fat foods to keep from gaining weight and high carb foods for running fuel. I had no data to support this behavior. This was just common practice in the running community and in our society. (The same society with ever-increasing rates of obesity, heart disease, and pharmaceutical usage.)  I also believed that by simply training for my next marathon, I would achieve my weight loss goals.  This is all too common.  I would bet the majority of non-runners begin a training program in order to lose weight and get in shape.  But by race day, there’s a good chance that they may have actually gained weight.

So, I, like so many, would eat my pasta the night before long runs, consume gels every 45 minutes on runs, and chug sports drinks throughout the days to stay hydrated.  Also, as my mileage increased, so too would my appetite / capacity.  My meal portions seemed to grow and I would snack more throughout the day.  Hey, I was burning more calories running, right?  Well, sometimes not enough to offset all those gels and sports drinks.  In addition, I could never find the perfect combination of the right gels and / or sports drinks.  I probably tried them all.  Many would either give me a boost and crash effect, or upset stomach, or bloating, or nausea, or just general discomfort.  These issues did not present with every run or with every type / brand of fuel.  However the inconsistency was more concerning.  It meant that when I did experience GI issues, I also would also have mental issues to sort out.  It would really mess up my training, or worse, race performance.  My fueling strategy began dominating my training plan and my conditioning approach.  You aren’t supposed to spend months training for a marathon just to figure out what you will eat along the way.

My experiences led me to start to ask questions.  Was I not carbo-loading enough before my long runs? Was I not consuming enough during my runs?  How could the marathon boom of the 1980s have happened before all these highly specialized gels and sports drinks were available?  My dad ran some marathons in his day with just water.  Why doesn’t that work today?  What if there was another way?

Eventually, I found a book called “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” by Phinney and Volek.  That book and many after changed my training and my life.  Check out my book list to find other great resources on low carb living and training.  They do a much better job of explaining the science behind low carbohydrate or ketogenic eating.  Basically, your body can utilize glucose or fat generated ketones as a source of fuel.  Glucose is produced from the consumption of carbohydrates.  Ketones are produced from fats when the body can’t rely on glucose.  So that’s the difference, glucose is the first source your body tries to utilize for energy promotion.  Glucose is much easier to access but is less efficient and harder to store.  Fat is harder for the body to access, but is comparatively limitless.  You just have to train the body to utilize fat effectively.  A quick “keto explain” search on youtube will provide a much better understanding, as well.

The only way to train the body to utilize fat is to deplete your carb stores through exercise.  In the absence of gels or sports drinks, a traditional runner depletes all the available carb stores in the first two or three hours of aerobic activity.  Without replenishing those carbs, the body will switch into fat-burning mode.  However, without practice, the body is less effective while in fat-burning mode.  I believe the runners of today, with all the gels and quick carb fuels, rarely deplete their carb stores and therefore don’t train in the fat burning mode.  The only time I would get into the fat burning mode would be on race day, when I would push my body past its normal operating condition, but wouldn’t replenish my carb stores soon enough.  The runners of yesteryear would practice this cycle over and over again.  They would experience the shift in fuel source on most long runs and be able to practice in that fat burning mode.  They would become more efficient at utilizing fat and would be prepared for the switch on race day.

I could have just quit using the carb based fuels and gone old school.  That may have worked.  However, I wanted to test the concepts in the books and make a drastic change in my eating plan.  I wouldn’t call it a diet because I really wasn’t trying to lose weight and I didn’t view it as temporary.  These books also outlined the effects of insulin on fat storage which was very compelling, as well.

I decided to switch to a low carbohydrate high fat based lifestyle in July 2013.  There is an adjustment period and eating low carb is not without a commitment in order to utilize fat as your primary fuel.  If you consume too many grams of carbohydrates while in fat burning mode, your body could go into storage mode and not switch back to fat burning mode for a couple of days.  The books helped me understand that my fitness level and performance would suffer initially, like a few months, and then would rebound.  I think many people who try this give up too soon and claim this eating style is unsustainable.  The basic transition, based on my personal experience after dropping the carbs, went like this:

  • Sluggish, foggy, and irritable (3 days) – search “keto flu”
  • Gimme sugar, gimme sugar, gimme sugar (5 days)
  • Sudden and frequent bathroom stops required (10 days) as your body sheds water weight
  • Drop in body weight (~10 lbs), mainly water weight (the same 10 days)
  • Stopped getting hungry before standard meal times (after 2 weeks)
  • Reduction in the urge to snack (after 3 weeks)
  • Elimination of the afternoon slump (after 3 weeks)
  • Significant reduction in training fitness and endurance (1-2 months)
  • Return to baseline fitness and endurance (3-4 months after)
  • Gains in fitness and endurance (4-6 months after)
  • Reduction in soreness and inflammation (4-6 months after) thus improved recovery after workouts
  • Eventually, only need minimal water on long runs.  No breakfast, no gels, no sports drinks, no hassle
  • Stopped getting hungry; could eat when I wanted or not

As you can see, this took time.  I tried to recoup what I could of my marathon training to participate in a September race, which wasn’t great.  However, by November, I was able to compete in a 6-hour endurance race and won with 35 miles.  That’s right, I ran the longest distance in my life and all I consumed was some bacon before and some nuts and water during.  The old me would have fretted over having enough gels (10?) and ounces of fluid (72 – 90?) on hand.  I would have also gone through the over-caffeinated sugar rush and crash several times that day, which would have killed my focus on taking and keeping the lead.

Since becoming fat adapted, I have still had some bad performances, but I have also had some good ones.  I don’t think a low carb lifestyle is a magic bullet or a secret weapon.  I view it as a means to reduce another variable to deal with in training – what to eat during a workout or race – nothing.  Now, if I have a bad day, I know it is because I went out too hard or I didn’t train enough hills or I let my head get to me.  It won’t be because I had a stomach ache or I couldn’t drink enough at the aid stations.

One side effect I have experienced since making the change is weight loss.  I lost about 15 pounds and have kept it off with no real effort.  Also, it may be correlative, but I have been able to reduce my training significantly.  I have trained for marathons with one or two runs per week.  These aren’t personal bests, but still respectable finishes.  And I could still walk the next day.  Basically, once I hit that breakthrough where I noticed my performance returning, I was sold.  Even after some poor showings in races, I was convinced that my days of gels and sports drinks were done.  Much more than just being a better runner, I was resilient.  I could do a hard workout and feel little or no soreness the next day.  This meant I could make every workout count.  That’s what you want, right – purposeful workouts in your training plan?  I now have the ultimate flexibility and freedom in my training, which, for me, has been worth it.

If you are currently running on fat, have tried it in the past, or even if you don’t believe in it, please leave a comment.  I would love to hear from you or answer any questions.

18 Running Hacks for ’18

Here are some tips for the new year.  Please use the comments section to identify which ones you agree with, disagree with, or just want more information.  Many of these can be posts of their own.  Let me know some tips of your own!

  1. Break your runs up into chunks. If a workout or distance seems daunting or makes you anxious, split it up into manageable sub-tasks.  Just like any major undertaking, develop a plan with checkpoints along the way.  If a 20 mile run seems impossible, treat it like two 8 mile runs and an easy 4 miler – runs you could easily do on their own.
  2. Build a 2 song play-list for intervals – one song for hammering hard; the other for rest periods.  Put the list on repeat and be able to skip to the next track at the end of each interval.  If you are really hardcore, use a song you hate for the hard interval because the faster you run, the quicker you can change it.
  3. When charging up hills, take deep inhales, making them as long as you can, but quickly force your exhales.  A tip from Chi Running, this is supposed to make oxygen more readily available.  For me, it at least provides something on which to focus other than the top of the hill.
  4. Go faster.  If your mind begins to sabotage your run by inventing reasons to quit, pick up the pace.  At these times, you have a tendency to slow down and let your form collapse while trying to overcome your mind.  However, this can also be detrimental.  Do the opposite.  Smile, run tall, and even speed up.  Shake out your arms and reset your form.  This is a way to fake it until you make it.  You will have a hard time arguing with your mind, but you can rely on your legs and body to prove it wrong.
  5. Lower your hands.  If you are struggling, drop your hands just a bit.  In other words, if your arms are swinging with a 90 degree bend at the elbow, open it to 95 or 100 degrees for a while.  It will help you relax and it may just be enough change to refresh your whole form or mindset.
  6. Play a song on repeat.  If you run with music and notice a boost or flow during a certain song, put it on repeat until you don’t.  Milk it.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending an hour Miley Cyrus or One Direction.  Just accept it, you don’t have to tell anyone.  Also, note that one song that puts you in the zone one day may may just be annoying on another day.
  7. Use body glide and bandaids to prevent chub rub and bloody nipples.  You probably already know this from not doing this once.
  8. Lean forward from your ankles.  Running should be a controlled fall.  If you were to stand and fall forward, your first step would catch you, if you continued with that fall, the next step would catch you.  This process is running.  You shouldn’t have to push off, just lean forward, but not at the waist.
  9. After a long run lie on your back and elevate your legs straight up.  This basically flushes the blood out of your legs so it can be replaced when you stand up.  Danny Dreyer, Chi Running, equates it to an ice bath for preventing soreness.
  10. Keep a golf ball, lacrosse ball, or similar rubber massage ball at work to roll under each foot during the day.  This not only helps with tightness in the foot, but all the way up the leg into the hamstrings and glutes.  Use it sitting and standing.
  11. Keep a tennis ball around to sit on for targeted glute and hamstring work.
  12. If you have a desk job, stand up or walk during conference calls that don’t require typing or video.  Make a game out of it and play Buzzword Bingo – Do air squats or desk pushups anytime anyone says “synergy,” “bandwidth,” “dialogue,” “action item,” etc.
  13. Cramping – If you get cramps during exercise, you need more Potassium.  If you experience cramping after exercise (like at night), you need Magnesium.
  14. Periodically check your form along your runs – from head to toe, assess the following.  Head up, looking forward?  Shoulders down and back, not hunching?  Back straight, supporting head and shoulders?  Arms aren’t swinging across  the body, from side to side? Hips are forward, like being pulled from a belt?  Leg cadence is 2 or 3 steps per second?  Ankles are loose?  Feet are landing lightly, not heel striking, not shuffling?  Fixing one of the above should help all the others.
  15. Listen to podcasts or audio books on your long runs.  The long, slow distance run is great for immersing yourself in a long podcasts or audio book.  I like to match my podcasts to my estimated  finish times.  I also recommend you check the audio quality and are comfortable with the voice overs for long periods.  Someone that sounds like Gilbert Gottfried or Julia Child may not be too pleasant after 13 miles.
  16. Do not stretch before running.  Warm up by easing into your run or doing some dynamic movements like leg swings or squats.  Recent studies show that static stretches do more harm than good and can set you up for injury if done before exercise.
  17. Shake out your arms, shoulders, and neck on downhills.  Going down a hill is a great time to just drop your hands to your side and relax your shoulders and neck.  It just takes a few seconds, but can really help to reset your form and your mindset.
  18. Don’t fight downhills.  Let gravity do its thing and you just maintain control.  You may have to increase your turnover, but that is much better than braking as you descend (i.e. heel strike).  Most downhills are either before or after uphills so use them to recover or prepare.

Marathon Training Plan – My Quest for Boston

Background

I have always wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  A few years ago, I thought the qualification time for my age group was within reach.  That same year, the goal line was moved by five minutes.  Rather than stepping up my efforts, I effectively conceded.

Since then, I have continued to want to qualify, someday.  Today I am committing to actually train for a qualification time.  I am experienced enough to know that I can’t just hope for things to happen.  I must make things happen.  Running is a solo sport where you get out of it what you put into it.

As of today, I am a 38 year old male.  In order to run the 2019 Boston Marathon, I must complete a certified course in less than three hours and ten minutes in accordance with the men’s 35-39 year age group requirement.  To do that, I must be capable of running 26.2 miles at 7:14 pace per mile.  To do that, I need a focused training plan.  To do that, I need a plan for a plan.

Plan for a Plan

My baseline, or foundation from which I will start a training plan, is a long run of 12 miles and a 10k time of 46 minutes (7:24 pace).  This is fairly conservative since I could have gone farther or faster on either run.

So, not too bad, right?  I just need to get faster as I build up my endurance.  This is the fun of running.  The two are indirectly proportional in my experience.  I can go fast or I can go far, but I can’t go far fast.

To that end, I streamline my Marathon training into two major components – endurance work and speed work.  I am not a fan of weekly mileage goals or recovery runs.  These lead to junk miles which could hurt speed work or induce injury.  Each of my planned runs have a purpose.

Endurance

For this plan, I need to build my endurance methodically.  I typically add two miles to my weekly long run, but step back about 6 miles every third week.  In other words, my progression would be 14 miles, then 16 miles, then 10 miles before going to 18 miles, week over week.  The methodical part will be my focus on pace and successive workouts.  Since I have a base of 12 miles and some time in my schedule, I will do several weeks of 14 miles before actually starting the progression.  I need to focus on slow, but consistent pace.  Long slow runs do no good on race day if you always go out too hard and finish up too slow.  I need to hold back in the early miles to ensure I can maintain pace for the duration.

The pace for these long runs will initially be closer to 9:00 per mile but gradually come down closer to 8:00 per mile with time.  There is little risk to going too slow on the long run, unlike going too fast.  You want to target 60 to 90 seconds slower than your current race pace capability.  My race pace capability must improve over time if I expect to qualify for Boston.  Therefore, my long runs should get a little faster without requiring more effort.  The way to do this is with speed work during the week.

Speed

Speed work can take the form of tempo runs, intervals, hills, or sprints at the track.  For this plan, I need all of that, but my focus should be intervals and hills.  (I will likely do most speed work with my son(s) in a stroller, too.) Here, I should also determine my optimal pace and ensure that my workouts don’t increase in distance until I can maintain that optimal pace for each workout’s entirety.

Intervals have been my favorite form of speed work when training.  I have always liked Yasso 800s as a security blanket, but lately shorter intervals have been my weapon of choice.  From 100 meter sprints to quarter mile repeats, these shorter interval workouts have helped improve my race pace and aerobic threshold.  My plan will include a mix of shorter intervals, 800s, and tempo runs.  For quarter mile intervals, I rest for a minute and a half between reps.  For half mile intervals, I rest for three minutes.  I like to keep an eye how my heart rate is doing during these rest periods.  If I can’t get my heart rate down enough, I rest longer or stop altogether.

Framework

For this plan, I need to assess the available time I have for training.  I have tried plans in the past that required some type of work six days a week.  On those plans, running became a chore and I didn’t enjoy it so I didn’t make the time for each required workout.  I would either skip targeted workouts or just slog through some junk miles.

So let’s be realistic.  Given my schedule, I can make time for three runs a week.  I like a long run and one or two speed runs.  So my plan won’t require more than three runs a week.  Not only would this allow for flexibility within the week, but also leaves room for bonus runs or cross training.

Now, coincidentally, I will be running the Austin Marathon in February.  That means I have 21 weeks to expand my aerobic threshold to hold a 7:14 pace for 26.2 miles.

Here’s how I will do it.  We have already covered the long run progression, but this 21 week time frame will allow for 4 or 5 runs over 20 miles, unless I delay or slow the build up.  Exceeding 20 miles in training is not only necessary for your legs, feet, and stomach to experience, but also for your head.  You need to know what to expect in terms of your own self-doubt and rationalization in those high miles.  The voice that tells you how stupid this is or that you have done enough or that you are hurting yourself or that you just cannot go further will get louder and louder.  Part of training is to learn to ignore that voice or use it to achieve your goals.  Many training plans don’t require runs longer than 20 miles, but I prefer to go up to 24 miles just for the mental aspect.   Knowing my training included a 24 miler in bad conditions when I am at the race start also tells that voice that this is achievable.  Really, the key part of the long run is the time.  You need to be out there moving for over 4 hours.

When you put it all together, it looks like this:

WEEK
MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT
SUN
1
Rest
800 x 5
Rest
45 min tempo
Rest
12 m run
Active
2
Rest
800 x 5
Rest
4 m pace
Rest
14 m run
Active
3
Rest
400 x 12
Rest
45 min tempo
Rest
14 m run
Active
4
Rest
4 m run
Rest
4 m run
Rest
10 m run
Active
5
Rest
800 x 5
Rest
4 m pace
Rest
14 m run
Active
6
Rest
5 m run
Rest
5 m run
Rest
10 m run
Active
7
Rest
800 x 5
Rest
4 m pace
Rest
16 m run
Active
8
Rest
400 x 12
Rest
40 min tempo
Rest
18 m run
Active
9
Rest
5 m run
Rest
5 m run
Rest
12 m run
Active
10
Rest
800 x 6
Rest
5 m pace
Rest
19 m run
Active
11
Rest
400 x 14
Rest
45 min tempo
Rest
20 m run
Active
12
Rest
5 m run
Rest
5 m run
Rest
14 m run
Active
13
Rest
800 x 6
Rest
5 m pace
Rest
21 m run
Active
14
Rest
400 x 14
Rest
45 min tempo
Rest
22 m run
Active
15
Rest
5 m run
Rest
5 m run
Rest
16 m run
Active
16
Rest
800 x 6
Rest
5 m pace
Rest
22 m run
Active
17
Rest
400 x 14
Rest
45 min tempo
Rest
22 m run
Active
18
Rest
5 m run
Rest
5 m run
Rest
16 m run
Active
19
Rest
800 x 6
Rest
5 m pace
Rest
24 m run
Active
20
Rest
400 x 14
Rest
45 min tempo
Rest
22 m run
Active
21
Rest
4 m run
Rest
4 m run
Rest
14 m run
Active
22
Rest
Rest
4 m run
Rest
Rest
Rest
Marathon

So there you have it.  This is my plan for the next 5 months.  I will provide some progress updates along the way, but feel free to implement any or all aspects of this plan in your training.  Let me know how it goes in the comments below.

Gotta run…

Running Hack Gear List (aka What’s in My Bag)

*** Updated for the end of the year / winter***

What do you need to run?  Just a pair of shoes and shorts, right?  Well some would argue you need a lot more.  A few would even argue for less…

I am a gear junkie.  I love trying out new stuff and then trying the newer stuff.  In fact, before technology helped consolidate all my gadgetry, I would probably carry an extra 5 lbs of stuff (GPS unit, watch, mp3 player, headphones, heart rate monitor, hydration belt with 2 – 4 bottles, Gu packs).  I looked like Batman in a singlet.

Now, I am a bit more discriminating when it comes to gear.  Every ounce of stuff needs to have three ounces of value or I don’t need it.  Here is the stuff I currently use most often, but I am always looking for upgrades or replacements.  Let me know if you have opinions or experiences with this stuff or similar.  Share with other gear junkies, too!

Essentials

Shoes

  • Anything zero-drop (favorites are New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez, but they seem to be extinct; This guy doesn’t know what I am talking about)
  • Tesla BK31 (see my review here)
  • Current Training Shoe – Skechers GoMeb Speed 4 Racing Shoe (4mm drop, light, good on roads and gravel)

Sunglasses

  • Oakley Half Jackets (1.0) with Revant replacement lenses
  • Fun Fact: I have had these frames for over 12 years – replaced 5 sets of lenses and 2 sets of ear socks & nose pads; These aren’t perfect, but nothing else fits better!
  • I need recommendations for a smallish / narrow face that won’t slide down!

Seat Protection (Post Run)

  • UltraSport Waterproof SeatShield
  • I have had one of these for years and have washed it maybe twice.  It never stinks, won’t soak through, and dries quickly.

Accessories

Headphones

  • Plantronics BackBeat Fit
  • These have worked well so far.  They may not be the clearest for phone calls, but that can be the reason to get off the phone, whether you are running or not.

Watch

  • TomTom Spark Cardio + Music
  • It is still hard to find a GPS watch with MP3 capability.  The best was the Moto ACTV but it wasn’t water resistant and is now unsupported.  I think the Wearables fad has hurt us off-grid runners that do not carry phones.

Phone carrier

  • I am running more and more with a phone so  can listen to podcasts and have access to a map app.  I used to only carry a phone when running while on travel.
  • Good enough: Cheap belt
  • Upgrade option with more space:  Two Pocket Belt

Hydration System

  • Buddy Pouch H2O – This is all I need and only for runs over 15 miles.  There will be a future post to explain.
  • My newest gear: Triwonder Vest – This is great for carrying a water bottle or two, a phone, and other stuff.  Super cheap and very functional with no discomfort or bouncing

Sweatband

  • I recently replaced my terry cloth headbands with some from this century.  They work great to keep the sweat out of my eyes, but I haven’t found one that stands out as the best.  Here are a few to try:
  • Headband 1
  • Headband 2
  • Headband 3

Cold Weather (less than 50° F)

ID Bracelet

Stroller

Running Hack Book Club

Here is a list of books from which I have learned something I consider valuable to running.  These are in no particular order, but each continues to provide inspiration, advice, or humor.  Please provide recommendations or comments.  I am always looking for new reads.

Critical Marathon Training: Intervals

VID_20170717_174759339.00_00_19_18.Still001When executing any training plan, it is great to incorporate speed work.  Speed work runs get you away from running for the sake of running and accruing junk miles.  Speed work has an objective other than just finishing.  Speed work gives your workouts purpose.

Whether it is interval training, tempo runs, or Yasso 800s, the focus of speed work is intensity.  For any distance race, you are training to finish the distance, as fast as possible, without burning out.  In speed work, you are familiarizing yourself with that burn out limit and pushing past it in order to avoid it on race day.

One of my critical tools in the toolbox is interval training.  I have done marathon plans that include Yasso 800s once a week, building up to 10 sets at goal pace.  But now I am experimenting with shorter intervals.  My current recipe is as follows:

  • 2 minute Warmup
  • Quarter mile or 400m as hard as possible (hard breathing, can’t talk, probably 95% max HR)
  • 1:30 jog (slower than normal run pace, trying to bring the heart rate down to 60-70% max)
  • Repeat for a total of 6-8 sets
  • 3:00 cool down

I used to dread intervals, but now I look forward to them.  In fact, now my only run that doesn’t vary the pace is my weekly long run.  After Brian Mackenzie’s advice in the  Four Hour Body, and plenty of experimentation, I believe interval training can be the best workout for distance running.

Let yourself enjoy intervals.  You can feel like a kid, sprinting all out for a quarter mile.  You can go to a track and feel like an Olympic Relay runner for each hard lap.  Try going all out at each alternating light post.  Have fun with it.  That is probably why I like the shorter distance sets.  I tend to over think my pace and level of effort when doing Yasso’s and tempo runs.  I would conserve and short change the workout just to make sure I got the desired number of sets for the day.  You can usually force a hard(ish) quarter mile no matter how exhausted you are.

Let me know your interval strategies in the comments.

Bonus:  I like to run intervals with my 2 year old son in his stroller.  He knows when it is go time and when it is rest time.  He cheers and claps to help me go hard and then we chat during rest time to help my recovery.  More on stroller running soon.

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